Sprouted Lentils

Last year I learned a new, yummy way to eat lentils: sprouted. It is easy, quick, and reminds me a little of an elementary school science project. I haven’t made them for awhile, but this week, between snow and ice, I was ready for something crisp and refreshing in the kitchen.

I learned about sprouted lentils when we were living in Michigan’s upper peninsula. We were friends with a couple from India who moved into town about the same time we did. We usually met for dinner at one house or the other. I now have a small treasure trove of great authentic India recipes!

Making sprouted lentils is simple. All you need are lentils, water, and patience. I have always used brown or green lentils, but I imagine any kind would work, the texture just might be a little different. First, decide how many lentils you want to use. I like to make small batches (about 1/2 cup) so I have time to eat them while they are still fresh. Sprouted lentils last for a little over a week in the refrigerator.

Directions: Place the lentils in a small bowl. Generously cover with water. Let the lentils soak for 24 hours at room temperature (like with dry beans). Drain the lentils. Now, to sprout, let them sit out, uncovered, for another 24 hours at room temperature. Done!

Sprouted lentils are a great snack. I like them plain by the handful. But I think my favorite way to eat them is on a salad or in a wrap. They add a nice crunch. And as a bonus, they are great for you. Loads of protein, iron, potassium, and dietary fiber.  Happy Friday, and enjoy!

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Lessons from Alaska

I have been in Alaska two and a half months. During this time, I have looked at incredible mountains, watched sunsets, seen wildlife, taken journeys I never expected, and come to understand why people love this place so much. As we move into winter, the world here is changing, and it has brought out the quirky side of this place and the people who live here. So here are five things I have learned so far:

#1. Static electricity is practically a weapon. No kidding. Remember when you used to rub your socked feet on the floor to shock your siblings? Well here, you become shock-able by walking, sitting, or maybe even just breathing. It is like having lightening bolts on your finger tips. Important Note: Ground yourself before you kiss good-night or you will get more than you bargained for.

#2. Carhartt is king. Enough said.

#3. Can you identify a log splitter? Well, Lucas and I can’t. We were driving past Lowe’s last weekend and the front of the store was crowded with winter tools. We easily picked out snow blowers (thanks, MI upper peninsula) and shovels, but as we drove past a narrow, shiny, black and red tool Lucas tells me he thinks he saw a cannon. A personal cannon. I decide it must be a civilian-size avalanche cannon. (They really do shoot rounds from avalanche cannons into the mountains in places to protect things like roads and ski resorts.) On the second drive past we are about to pat ourselves on the back for accurate guessing, until we read the sign. Log splitter. In a place where most (or at least lots) of homes are heated by wood burning stoves, this makes sense. Bonus: I can now identify a log splitter.

#4. Cars plug in. They are not electric, rather, it gets so cold here that your car battery just can’t take it. So businesses and homes have a place to plug the car into giving the battery a enough juice to start the engine. The grill of each Alaskan car it fitted with a plug sticking out. Then you need an all-weather extension cord to connect your car to meter-like plug station. It hasn’t been cold enough to try this out yet, but we have all the right tools to make it happen. I will post pictures when it is put into action.

#5. Snow mobiles are really snow machines. I have no idea why, but up here everyone calls them snow machines. And they are as legitimate for transportation as a car or a truck. You can even take your snow machine through the Wendy’s drive through window.

I am sure there are more important lessons to be learned as we move deeper into the season, but that is it for now!


Winter Continues: Little Chena River

It is snowing again. Small white dots out my windows. The weather has been up and down for the last week. Cold then warmer then cold again (I should note our warm is 30-35 degrees, and our cold is single digits.). So the roads are a mess. This weekend we wanted to drive an hour or so out of town to go for a nice long hike, but based on road conditions thought better of it. So we stayed closer to home and hiked along the Little Chena River. The river crosses under Nordale Road, where we parked our car and started up stream.

Nordale has been made famous in my mind, because, as I am told, during moose season hunters slowly drive trucks down this road with guns out the window ready to shoot. The person telling me this story assured me that they only put guns out the side of the truck that faces the woods, not across the road into oncoming traffic, as if this would make me feel better. What about bikers? But I have to say, it is very Alaska. The only way I can really picture this is like a cartoon. I see Elmer Fudd hanging out the window of a truck and a moose, standing on its hind legs, peaking out from behind a tree giggling. Fortunately, moose season is over so my image never has to become any more real than Elmer Fudd.

We hiked up river, bushwhacking along the bank. In winter this is much easier, since the snow covers and mats down most of the small shrubs and grass. The river bends and curls and was starting to ice over in the shallower rocky portions. The trees hanging over near the banks were heavy with snow, and the woods was very quiet. The setting could have been the opening of a fairytale.


Pumpkin Muffins with a Sweet Cream Cheese Filling

My obsession with pumpkin continues. As a kid the only way I wanted pumpkin was in a pie. But for some reason, now, I can’t get enough. I have been looking for ways to spice up my baking world with pumpkin as the star. And I have to say, I found a keeper. I have seen several variations of the pumpkin muffin circulating the internet, but I snagged my recipe from the blog, The Girl Who Ate Everything. This muffin has a major wow factor. The muffin itself is moist and the pumpkin really pops, while the cream cheese filling adds just the right amount of sweet. And of course I can’t forget the crumble on top; it gives the muffin a nice crunch. There is so much taste packed into each little muffin. Bonus: It made our apartment smell like pumpkin for two days. There is nothing better than coming in from the cold (think Alaskan snow and ice) to the smell of baked goods, especially pumpkin baked goods!

The recipe requires several different components, batter, filling, crumble, but each step is pretty easy and straight forward. The assembly is probably the most intensive, but it is really just about figuring our how much filling and crumble to add to each muffin. The benefit is that people think you are a genius baker when they bite into the muffin and find the filling! Smiles all around.

Pumpkin Muffins with a Sweet Cream Cheese Filling

Filling:
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 cup powdered sugar

*The filling must cool in the freezer for 2 hours so make this in advance.

Muffins:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
4 large eggs
2 cups sugar
2 cups pumpkin puree
1¼ cups vegetable oil

Crumble:
½ cup sugar
5 tablespoons flour
1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces

*The crumble made way more than I needed. I would recommend cutting this amount in half.

Filling:

Blend the cream cheese and powdered sugar until smooth. Place the mixture on a piece of plastic wrap. Gentle shape it into a log, about 1½-inches wide.  Tightly wrap the plastic around the log. Place the log in the freezer for approximately 2 hours.  The log will be firmer but should not be hard.
Muffins:

Preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Prepare the muffin pan. Combine the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, pumpkin pie spice, salt, and baking soda. Mix the dry ingredients until they are blended. In a separate bowl (or using an electric mixer), combine the eggs, sugar, pumpkin puree, and oil. Blend well. Then slowly add the dry ingredients. Mix well.

Crumble:

In a small bowl, combine the sugar, flour, and cinnamon. Add the cut butter pieces. Mix with a pastry blender, two forks, or your hands. The crumble will be course. Chill mixture until ready to use.

Assemble:

Fill each muffin well with enough batter to cover the bottom. Cut the cream cheese log into 24 pieces. Place one piece into each muffin well. Cover the filling with batter. Finally, sprinkle a small amount of crumble over each muffin.

Bake for 20 minutes. Cool and enjoy!


Winter in October

On Saturday, we woke up to wet, white snow. Winter. Locals tell us that the snow came late this year, and that it is here to stay. I am more than okay with this. I was like a little kid peaking through the blinds, hopping from one foot to the other, snow! I wanted to get out and play. I love the way it makes the world look so clean and new.

So we went to the Chena Lakes Recreation Area, a few miles from our house. It was the first time we had been to this park, and I think winter suites it. The recreation area is a maze of bike paths that run along the river, around the lake, and circle the empty reservoir used to prevent flooding. Our first stop was the river. It was time to build our Alaskan snowman. I love any kind of snow creation. As a kid, I even made a snow horse that you could sit on. So this was important. We each rolled the snow into lumpy snowballs, then stacked and decorated. He wasn’t beautiful, but he definitely looked the part. It made winter official.

After our building session, we went for a walk around the lake. The snow covered trees reflecting in the water looked like a painting. Mirror images of each other. Pretty. Pretty.

What I love most about being in the north is that it stays white. It is too cold for the snow to melt so it keeps looking fresh. Right now out my window, the bushes are still covered in a clean coat, and the window glass is a spider web of frost in the corners. I can’t wait to get back outside and play.


Alaskan Halibut

Last week we had the best halibut I have ever eaten. The fillet was massive, fresh, Alaskan, and free.  It was the kind of fish you would expect at a fancy seafood restaurant. But we got to eat it in sweat pants in our own kitchen!

The tale of my freezer being stocked with local halibut begins a few weeks after we arrived at our new home in North Pole, AK. One of my husband’s co-workers, and her husband, invited us over for dinner and to watch football (we don’t have cable). It was a nice evening and as we were putting on our shoes to leave they ask us if we liked fish, which we do. You have to take some halibut than, they said, as if it were a burden. Okay, we said. If you insist. Inside I am fist pumping, seriously. I love seafood, and Alaskan fish is amazing. They hand us a grocery sack FULL of halibut fillets. If you run out, they said, we can give you more. Yes!

It turns out they really like to fish and had gone to Homer over the summer on a chartered fishing boat. Obviously, they caught a lot of halibut, one was even over 100lbs. Serious fishing. Although I am not much of an angler myself, over 100lbs of halibut sounds like a day well spent. Homer is a mecca for serious fishing. In the summer, the harbor is full of commercial, charter, and private boats. It is the kind of town where a cooler is an important commodity.

But back to our fish. We picked out one of the fillets for dinner. We decided to keep it simple with olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. We wanted to let the fish shine, and it did. Wow. I love Alaska.

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Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls with Caramel Frosting…Yum

It isn’t fall here anymore, it snowed all weekend, but I have been in a pumpkin mood for the last few weeks anyways. I like the way it makes our apartment smell when it is baking and the warm homey taste. So last week, to fulfill my craving, I made pumpkin cinnamon rolls with caramel frosting. Amazing. I got the recipe from the blog The Girl Who Ate Everything, and I am impressed. The cinnamon roll was light and sticky (just the way I like them) and the caramel frosting added the right amount of sweet. Each bit felt like fall. They were also remarkable easy to make. My only stumbling block was the lack of a rolling pin. Our Alaskan kitchen isn’t stocked for baking. But I made due with a pizza dough kind of shaping technique and my husband said he couldn’t even tell (but maybe he was to busy eating them). Overall, a good way to brighten the week with a yummy treat.

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls with Caramel Frosting
Cinnamon Roll:
1/3 cup milk
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten
1 (1/4 ounce) package dry yeast
2 cups all purpose flour
Filling:
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons melted butter
Frosting:
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
2 tablespoons milk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 dash salt
3/4 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar
Directions
1. Heat milk and 2 tablespoons butter. In large mixer bowl, combine: pumpkin, sugar, nutmeg, pumpkin pie spice, and salt. Combine wet and dry ingredients and mix. Add egg and yeast.
2. Slowly add the flour to pumpkin mixture (about half at a time). Mix until flour is incorporated. Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, then lightly grease surface of dough.
3. Cover and let rise about 1 hour. On a floured surface, punch dough down and knead until smooth. Roll (or shape) dough into 12×10 inch rectangle.
4. For the filling, melt butter. In a small bowl, mix the brown sugar and cinnamon. Then, brush the dough with the butter and sprinkle with brown sugar mixture. Roll the dough up like a log, beginning with long side. Seal the seam by pinching. Using a sharp knife, cut the roll into twelve 1- inch slices. Place the rolls, cut side up, in greased 11X17 inch baking pan or on a cookie sheet with sides. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise about an hour.
5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the rolls about 15-20 minutes. Remove from pan and cool. Drizzle with frosting.
Frosting:
In small saucepan, melt butter. Add the brown sugar and milk. Cook over medium low heat  for about 1 minute, stirring often. Pour mixture into a small bowl. Add vanilla, pumpkin pie spice, salt, and confectioners’ sugar. Mix well and cover rolls as desired. I found this made more than enough frosting for the number of rolls. You will likely have extra.
Enjoy!