In Alaska, winter solstice is kind of a big deal. It’s the shortest day of the year. In Anchorage we had a little under five and a half hours. It becomes part of the daily winter grind. The sun doesn’t rise until well after you arrive at work and it’s already set when you drive home for the day.
After December 21 we will gradually gain more daylight. It’s a celebratory time for Alaskans.
Recently a friend of mine got married and decided to have her reception around solstice time. When I was hired to make some centerpieces for her I was thrilled to create more wintery pieces.
Purple and lavender carnations, white chrysanthemums, eucalyptus and spruce sprigs were all I needed to bring some winter cheer to her reception.
The couple loves Italy so it was fitting that many of the bud vases were little limoncello glasses.
Welcome, Hallmark Channel fans! If you’re looking for answers about Garland, Alaska feel free to read my post about it below. I do hope you’ll find it informative and I encourage you to poke around my site for fun recipes, crafts, tutorials and more.
I don’t pay much attention to what people search for to find my blog, but for the past year something has consistently caught my eye.
At least twice a week someone finds my site by searching “Garland Alaska.”
In fact, it was the most searched term on my site in 2016. More than 10,000 people found my site in 2016 because of Garland, Alaska.
Sometimes people look up “Is there a Garland, Alaska?”
I was mystified, so I finally did some Facebook crowd sourcing.
About three minutes later I had my answer. Turns out there was a Hallmark Channel made-for-TV-movie in 2014 called “Christmas Under Wraps,” which takes place in a fictional remote town of Garland, Alaska and stars Candace Cameron Bure (most famous for her role of D.J. Tanner on “Full House”).
Fictional, folks, fictional. There is no town in Alaska with that many brick buildings or with leaves on the deciduous trees in the middle of winter. But if there’s one thing the film got right (and I finally did watch it), it’s that shipping things to Alaska is often a huge hassle!
And for the record, Santa lives in North Pole, Alaska. You can send him your wish list here.
Here’s a photo I took last time I visited North Pole:
Happy Easter! It’s currently snowing here in Anchorage, which makes today’s pattern just perfect.
I was scrolling through some old knitting patterns on my blog and I came across my Chunky Ascot Pattern, which included a terrible Hipstamatic photo (before Instagram existed). I decided it was worth making a new ascot just to update the photo.
This pattern uses chunky yarn or you can knit two strands of worsted weight yarn together. It takes very little yarn, so it’s a great way to use up any leftover high quality fibers. I used Malabrigo and Manos de Uruguay worsted alpaca.
The Aspen Ascot is just right for a chilly spring morning when you don’t need a bulky scarf. The two spade-shaped ends create a lovely bow look.
The pattern isn’t difficult, but it does require thinking outside the box. You’ll use three double-pointed needles for the part where you create the loop. The instructions sound sort of whack, but trust the way it’s written and it should make sense in the end.
The Aspen Ascot – a free knitting pattern from Alaska Knit Nat
One ball of chunky alpaca, or two strands of worsted knitted together
3 size US 10 double-pointed needles
M1FB — make 1 stitch in the front and 1 stitch in the back of the same stitch, thus increasing the piece by 1 stitch
k2tog— knit two stitches together
Cast on 2 stitches. M1FB of the first stitch, K the next stitch.
Continue to M1FB of the first stitch of every row till you have 16 stitches.
K 12 rows in garter stitch. I slip the first stitch of every row to keep the rows neat and even.
Next row: *Knit the first stitch, transfer the second stitch to the third double point needle.* Repeat * to end of row. You should have 8 stitches on each needle.
Starting with the needle that has the working yarn, K1, P1 for 9 rows. Cut yarn, leaving a 6-inch tail.
With the other needle holding 8 stitches, leave a 6-inch tail and K1, P1 for 9 rows, but don’t cut the yarn when done.
Next row: *Knit the first stitch from both the front and back needles together, then knit one from the front and one from the back.* Repeat * till there is 1 stitch on each needle. Knit these two stitches together. You should now have 12 stitches on one needle.
Knit in garter stitch till the work is long enough to go around your neck and touch the loop you just created, about 12 inches.
Next row: *K1, K2tog* Repeat * to end of row. You should now have 8 stitches again. K1, P1 for 9 rows.
Next row: M1FB in each stitch. You should now have 16 stitches.
Knit in garter stitch for 12 rows.
Next row: K1, K2tog, K to end of row. Repeat the last row till there are 3 stitches remaining.
Bind off. Weave in tails. Sew on decorative button to one side of the loop if you desire.
I realized that lately I’ve only been writing cooking-related posts and I just wanted to reach out to all my fellow knitters and crocheters. I’ve been a busy little bee with my needles and hooks, so stay tuned. I’ll have something for you soon!
Last week I demonstrated a couple of recipes from Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute’s new e-cookbook “Alaska Style — Recipes for Kids.” Jack and I made it on the local news. Check it out. Click on the photo below.
When I told my best friend I was making bagels today, she first asked if they were hard to make and then asked if they were fried. The answer to both is no, and I’ll clear up this bagel mystery by saying they aren’t too difficult to make, it’s a fun process and if you’ve made bread and boiled water, you can make bagels.
Today was pumpkin cooking day with my friend Kelly, so naturally I needed to make a pumpkin bagel. I’m not one for sweet flavored bagels so I thought adding rosemary to the dough and sprinkling them with kosher salt would please me. And it did.
I did not have any wheat flour so I used only white and I really like the texture.
4 cups white flour
4 tsp. yeast
1 cup warm (not hot!) water
1.5 tsp. salt
2 Tbs. chopped fresh rosemary, extra for sprinkling on top if you like
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
1 tsp. ground allspice
2 tsp. cinnamon
Combine the yeast, rosemary and two cups of flour in a large mixing bowl or the bowl to your KitchenAid mixer. In another mixing bowl combine the water, salt, sugar, pumpkin and spices. Add the wet to the dry and thoroughly combine. Slowly start incorporating the remaining flour. I switched to the KitchenAid hook and let the machine go for about 3 minutes.
Remove the dough and knead on a floured surface till you have an elastic, smooth ball. Place in a bowl and cover for 15 minutes.
Divide the dough into eight equal balls. Make them as round and smooth as you can and punch a hole in the center of each ball. Dust each hole with a little flour. Use your thumbs and fingers to shape the hole evenly so it’s two inches in diameter. Place on a lightly greased baking sheet. Cover with a towel and let sit for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, turn on your broiler and set two big pots of water on the stove to boil.
Why boil bagels, you ask?
Well…according to thekitchn.com, boiling them is what gives them that signature crust and also helps with the classic chewiness.
Now you know! Let’s continue with the bageling.
Place your bagels under the broiler for 1.5 minutes. You could turn them and broil the other side, but I didn’t do that and they turned out fine. Next, place two or three bagels at a time into the boiling water. Let them boil on each side for one minute. While this is going on, whisk your egg in a bowl and set aside.
Using tongs, gently place your boiled bagels back on the cookie sheet. Brush with the egg and sprinkle with chopped rosemary and kosher salt.
When all the bagels are boiled, egged and sprinkled, bake them for 25 minutes or until the tops are nicely brown.
Let cool on a rack. Serve with cream cheese and revel in the fact that you just made bagels.
We recently spent two and a half weeks in Mexico where I spent a good deal of time watching the housekeeper cook. She used to run a restaurant from her home and one of her specialties is a dish called chilaquiles. It’s fried corn tortilla strips steeped in a red chile sauce. I thought the sauce would transfer well to an enchilada dish. I made a few twists and it turned out almost as well as Moña’s in Mexico. I wasn’t able to find the exact same dried chiles she used, but I used the kind from the Hispanic food section of the grocery store and it worked just great. Add in a little bit of slow-cooked beef, some rice, black beans and cheese and you’ve got yourself some amazing enchiladas.
Oh, and if you’re totally lazy, you could buy the sauce and just follow the enchilada recipe below. That’s what I did to obtain this pathetic photo. Trust me, it’s waaaaay tastier than it looks.
3 plum tomatoes
4 medium-sized dried red chiles
3 cups water
2 cloves garlic
2 Tbs. olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped fine
3 Tbs. flour
2 cups chicken stock
1 Tbs. chile powder
salt to taste
1 Tbs. chiles in adobo sauce, chopped finely
Break the tops off the dried chiles and toss as many of the seeds as you can. Bring the water, tomatoes and chiles to a boil in a saucepan. Boil for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat, cover and let sit for 20 minutes.
Place one clove of garlic in a blender. With a slotted spoon, add the tomatoes and chiles, cover the blender and start blending. Slowly add the water from the saucepan and blend on high for a minute or so.
Mince the remaining clove of garlic. Heat olive oil in a large saute pan. Add the onion and garlic and cook till onions are tender, about 5 minutes. Add the flour and mix into a paste. Cook over medium heat for a couple of minutes.
Turn down the heat and add the blended mixture, chicken stock, chile powder, chiles in adobo sauce and salt. Bring to a simmer, turn to low and let bubble for 10 minutes or so. The sauce will be thinner than gravy.
If you prefer it thick, make a slurry with 1/2 cup chicken stock and 1-2 Tbs. flour and pour it in. Stir and let simmer for five minutes or so till it thickens.
Store in a jar in the fridge for up to a week.
Recipe for beef enchiladas
1 thin, cheap cut of beef; about 1/2 lb.
salt & pepper
1/2 onion, roughly chopped
1 can black beans, partially drained
2 chiles in adobo sauce, seeded and chopped fine
leftover brown rice (optional)
1 cup cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, grated (for the top, optional)
tortillas (flour or corn)
Coat the beef in olive oil and sprinkle both sides with salt, pepper, paprika and oregano. Place in a slow cooker and add the onions. Cook on low for 5 hours or so. It’ll be so tasty you might have a hard time getting it into the enchiladas. Shred the beef and set aside.
When it’s near dinner time, preheat the oven to 375′. Add the beans to a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Mash with a potato masher and add the chopped chiles and some salt. Cook for five minutes or so. Heat up your leftover rice, if using. Coat the bottom of a square or rectangular baking pan with enchilada sauce.
Pour about a cup of sauce in a pie pan. Set up a little assembly line with the tortillas, sauce, work surface, beans, beef, rice, cheese and baking pan. Soak a tortilla in the sauce and place it on your work surface. Add small amounts of all your ingredients, roll up the tortilla and place it seam-side down in the pan. Repeat till the pan is full. Pour a cup or so of the sauce all over the enchiladas. I never put enough and they end up drying out on the edges, so really saturate the baking dish. The tortillas suck up a lot. Top with remaining cheeses. Place, uncovered, in the oven for 30 minutes, or until it’s all bubbly.
Remove from oven and let sit for 10 minutes before serving, or, if starving, risk lava-hot amazingness.