December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas on this very special day when we remember the reason of the season...the birth of Jesus Christ. 

I hope that your day is truly enjoyable.

December 16, 2012

5 things to share.

Five things have happened in the past few weeks that deserve sharing...

1) I went to Ketchikan, Alaska...

2) I came home from Ketchikan to find my rear tire as flat as a pancake...

3) I purchased four brand new tires and one new rim for my car (the previous tires were almost ten years old and rim was as old as the car...a young 18 years old)...

4) I went to Talkeetna, Alaska...

5) It snowed!!!

Pretty exciting, eh? More details to come but I thought I'd give you a glimpse of what occurred.

beautiful Ketchikan, Alaska... tire + new rim = excitement...

...this is downtown Talkeetna, Alaska...enough said....


I hope you had a great weekend!!

November 27, 2012

Herb Infused Pizza Dough

Sunday nights is often pizza night for Matt and me. I've used a traditional homemade crust recipe for a number of years and decided to switch it up a little bit by adding more flavor to the crust itself. I jumbled a bunch of ideas together to come up with this whole wheat herb infused pizza dough and after watching the following video, really feel like I have nailed down how to make a good pizza dough...finally!

Herb-Infused Pizza Dough

2 cups whole wheat flour + 3⁄4 cup flour, divided
3⁄4 tsp salt 
1 tsp white sugar 
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil 
2 tsp yeast
3 tbsp oil 
2/3 cup very warm water 
More flour for surface when kneading

In a large mixing bowl, mix together 1 cup of the flour, salt, sugar, herbs and yeast.Stir well. Quickly add 2/3 cup of very warm water along with 3 tbsp of oil. Stir well. The dough will be very sticky.

Add in 3⁄4-1 cup more flour, gradually, as youstir. Once all of the flour has been added to the dough, place the dough on a floured surface. Knead the dough for 5-10 minutes, adding more flour if the dough or surface gets sticky, until the dough is not sticky.

Form the dough into a ball and place in a large, oiled bowl. Cover the bowl with a towel and let the dough rise for 1-2 hours, punching the dough down half way through.

For best results, make the dough the day beforehand and place in an oiled and sealed plastic bag in the fridge. Allow the dough to come to room temperature on the counter before forming into the pizza crust. Add sauce and toppings. Cook on stone in 500 degree oven for about 15 minutes. 


    November 23, 2012

    Spicy stuffed mushrooms

    We have spent Thanksgiving with the Siemens family for almost every Thanksgiving since Leah and I moved to Anchorage. The first Thanksgiving was spent with our own family, who visited from Iowa (my parents) and Portland (my brother and sister-in-law) for the long weekend. Since then, the Siemens' have welcomed us to join them for the holiday.

    This year I was asked to bring an appetizer for everyone to enjoy. I asked Matt what he wanted and he said stuff stuffed mushrooms is what I brought.

    Since I knew we would be likely experiencing a high dose of carbs for the main course, I went for a low carb version of stuffed mushrooms and added some spice to make the mushrooms more satisfying.

    Spicy Stuffed Mushrooms

    24 large white mushrooms, cleaned
    2 tbsp olive oil
    1 lb spicy chicken sausage (any italian sausage would work)
    1/2 c sliced scallions
    4 cloves garlic, minced
    1/2 tsp dried oregano
    1/2 tsp dried basil
    1/4-1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
    1/2 c + 2 tbsp mozzarella cheese, shredded
    2 tbsp grated parmesan cheese

    Heat oven to 400F. Remove stems from mushrooms and chop finely to equal 1/2 cup (save or discard leftover stems). Place mushroom caps in bowl and toss with 1 tbsp oil. Arrange caps, gill side up, on baking sheet.

    Heat 1 tbsp oil over medium heat in skillet. Add sausage, scallions, garlic, seasonings and mushrooms stems. Stir and break sausage into smallest pieces possible until cooked through, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Add 1/2 c mozzarella and 2 tbsp parmesan cheese; stir just until cheese melts.

    Stuff mushroom caps with mixture. Sprinkle with 2 tbsp mozzarella.

    Bake until cheese has melted and mushrooms are tender; about 10-12 minutes.

    The mushrooms were a hit and Thanksgiving was a wonderful day. Matt and I are truly blessed to have people that care so much about us in Anchorage...where we are so far away from our own families.

    For the rest of the evening, we relaxed and spent some quality time with Rio. I think she was pretty tired because she dosed off pretty quickly. Such a cutie.

    I hope you all had a great day!

    November 22, 2012

    Happy Thanksgiving!

    Give thanks to the Lord for he is good and his mercy endures forever...

    Have a wonderful day with family and friends.

    November 16, 2012

    I went to Kinnick!

    On Saturday, Matt and I were treated to a Hawkeye game at Kinnick Stadium. Although the Hawkeyes Purdue (ouch!)...the game was still fun...

    ...we enjoyed one of "Iowa's Largest Brats" from Jerry & Margie's Catering on the way to the stadium. They were delicious.

    The day was perfect for a game...65 degrees and sunny...definitely different than the 8 degree weather we left in Anchorage...

    Iowa is a smoke-free campus!

    Kinnick Stadium was "blacked out" for Family Weekend...

    ...and in celebration of Veteran's Day, the players were wearing throw back jerseys.

    It was so fun to watch the game with Leah and my mom...

    Matt's parents met us at Eric's house after the game to take us to Omaha. The time I spent in Iowa City was great, and I am looking forward to another trip home in December.

    Happy Friday!!

    November 14, 2012

    I went to Iowa.

    Matt and I took a long weekend vacation to visit our families...first my family in Iowa. After flying into Chicago, we headed straight for Iowa City.

    My nieces were there to greet us. I was so happy to see them.

    It was the first time Matt had met them and they bonded well...

    I was super excited when Leah came home from work. It was so good to see her after three months of being apart.

    On Friday, I showed Matt around Iowa City. We walked around downtown and on the University of Iowa campus.

    My mom and Leah fixed a wonderful Thanksgiving meal Friday night. We all enjoyed sitting at the table and talking, but called it an early night because we had an Iowa Hawkeye football game to attend in the morning... 

    More to come...

    November 07, 2012

    Keep Goin.

    One of the most interesting things about living in Alaska is that before voting closes in our state, the U.S. Electoral College has determined the next president. Before I went to bed last night, Mitt Romney congratulated President Obama on his victory and it was determined that Republicans would again control the House and the Senate would be led by Democrats. 

    Mitt Romney defined classy in his election concession speech last night. He stated that "although our country is in a time of great challenges, I pray that Obama will be successful in leading our nation." Romney expressed the importance of bipartisanship among our leaders and how, as citizens, we must rise to the occasion - to testify of the enduring principles upon which our society is built: honesty, charity, integrity and family.  

    Like Mr. Romney, I believe in America and I believe in the people of America. I have faith in the political system.  

    While I was struggling to theorize why the people of our country chose to continue to move "forward" under the same agenda as the last four years, I was reminded of the following bible verse. It reminded me that with the sustaining power of God's hand and love, we will carry through and prosper.  

    "We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted but not forsaken, struck down, but not destroyed." 2 Corinthians 4: 8-9

    In other, much more positive and exciting, news...Matt and I are headed to Iowa and Nebraska tonight. We are more than thrilled to celebrate an early Thanksgiving and watch an Iowa football game in Iowa City with my family, and then head to Nebraska to spend a couple days with Matt's family. 

    Happy Wednesday!

    November 06, 2012

    Happy Election Day!

    Did you vote today? 

    October 30, 2012

    Winter is here!

    The snow has fallen...and my view from work was glorious today.

    I hope you're having a great week.

    October 26, 2012

    Baked Apples with Cinnamon Oatmeal Stuffing

    Yes, another apple recipe. I'm obsessed with apples right now. When I went to Costco last week, I purchased 5 pounds of Honeycrisp favorite. These apples are so sweet and crunchy...perfect for a quick snack.

    Looking for a dessert recipe that would be easy, low in sugar, but still satisfying, I knew I wanted to utilize my apples in a way that would bring out the yummy flavor of the Honeycrisp Apple rather than masking the flavor or using the apple as a sweetener.

    What did I come up with?? BAKED APPLES!

    This recipe was so easy...and luckily, with a few slight modifications, I had all of the ingredients in my cupboards.

    Baked Apples with Cinnamon Oatmeal Stuffing

    2 large apples (I used Honeycrisp), cored
    1 cup rolled oats
    1tsp cinnamon
    1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
    4 medjool dates or a 1/4 c raisins
    1 tbsp chia seeds
    1/4 cup walnuts
    1 1/2 cups milk
    1 tsp vanilla
    1 tbsp maple syrup

    1. Preheat oven to 350F. Wash and core apples. The hole in the apples should be large enough for the stuffing (about an inch in diameter). Place the cored apples in a lightly oiled rimmed baking dish.

    2. Whisk together the rest of the ingredients in a bowl.

    3. Fill apples with the oatmeal mixture (pack it down slightly) and then spoon the leftover oatmeal + all liquid into the dish, surrounding the apples.

    4. Bake, uncovered, for approximately 40 minutes. The apples should be fairly soft when done and the milk should be absorbed into the oatmeal. 

    The apples can be served with a drizzle of maple syrup and/or a scoop of vanilla or cinnamon ice cream.

    The baked apple made a perfect dessert for Matt and me. Enjoy!

    October 12, 2012

    Banana Nut Muffins

    Overly ripe bananas + no more freezer space to freeze the bananas = must bake something with bananas.

    Since Matt would be eating most of what I baked, I asked him what he wanted me to make with the bananas.

    His answer = banana nut muffins. Perfect. He makes decision making soooo easy.

    So, with his request in mind, I did my typical research by looking up a few recipes online, checking out a few blogs and then coming up with my own modifications to make a recipe that was slightly healthier and more desirable than a typical recipe. I added nuts, used whole wheat flour and added spices to give the muffins more of a punch.

    The result...a muffin with a moist interior and a crunchy outside that has a little bit of spice. Exactly what I was hoping. Matt approved.

    Banana Nut Muffins

    1 c whole wheat flour
    1/2 c white flour
    1 tsp baking soda
    1 tsp baking powder
    1 tsp cinnamon
    1/4 tsp nutmeg
    1/4 tsp salt

    3 very ripe bananas, mashed
    1/4 c white sugar
    1 egg
    1/3 c butter, melted
    1 tsp vanilla

    1/3 c roughly chopped walnuts

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Use cooking spray to grease muffin pan. Combine dry ingredients and set aside.

    Add sugar to the mashed bananas and use a fork to combine. Stir in egg, melted butter and vanilla. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients. Stir just until the mixture becomes moist. Do not over mix the batter. Fold in chopped walnuts.

    Evenly distribute batter into muffin pan.

    Bake for 25 minutes. Eat at least one muffin right out of the oven, being careful not to burn yourself. Place muffins on cooling rack until completely cooled. Store muffins in zip lock bag or glass container.


    October 10, 2012

    Healer by Carol Cassella

    What am I reading right now?

    A good friend lent me Healer by Carol Cassella. A really great book, I have been finding myself going to be a little bit earlier so I can read more before falling asleep.

    An intriguing book about a doctor trying to keep her family together after fortune and loss, Garth Stein gives Healer the following review on Amazon:

    It's tough to follow a spectacular debut like Oxygen, Carol Cassella’s striking first novel, with an even stronger second novel, but she’s done it with Healer.

    Claire, Jory and Addison Boehning find themselves strapped to a runaway train of personal financial collapse, with only each other to cling to, and only each other to blame. Their precipitous fall from the rarified air of security and prosperity is the consequence of Addison's brilliant but risky shot at developing a cutting-edge cancer drug. With their old life in shreds, Claire, who abandoned a medical career fourteen years earlier, is forced to redefine her entire life: yesterday, she was the wealthy wife of Seattle's hottest biotech wizard; today, she is the heart and soul--and breadwinner--for her foundering family.

    With Cassella's dynamic novel, something is always lingering under the surface; her narrative develops from a story of marital love and strife into a suspenseful, gripping story that is both provocative and gratifying. She leads the reader into unfamiliar and intriguing worlds peopled with vivid, complex characters. There are no blatant good guys and bad guys in Healer, no simple blacks and whites. Cassella's characters come in myriad shades of gray that make up the complex psyche of all human beings. And when money competes with good intentions, Cassella doesn't shy away from negotiating the murky ethical areas where profit and altruism collide, weaving questions of immigration, health care, and the power of big pharma into a page turning drama. I highly recommend this compelling new book by this remarkable author.

    I strongly suggest Healer, which can be purchased for cheap by visiting Amazon or my Amazon store in the right hand column of this blog.


    October 07, 2012

    Making Strides.

    On Saturday morning I joined a couple friends and about 100 other people for the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk, a powerful and inspiring opportunity that honored breast cancer survivors, raised awareness about steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of getting breast cancer and to raise money so the American Cancer Society can continue to fund breast cancer research and increase access to mammograms for women who need them. 

    Making Strides began 20 years ago, and since then, breast cancer death rates have declined more than 32 percent...and more women have been able to celebrate more birthdays.

    We began the morning with some coffee and Zumba. It was about 40 degrees, so these activities were very helpful in keeping our bodies nice and warm.

    It had been constantly raining in Anchorage for about 48 hours prior to the walk. However, Saturday morning, it was NOT raining...and, although damp and wet, we stayed dry for the entirety of the walk. A few pockets of blue peeked through the clouds, which made the walk quite enjoyable.

    The walk started in downtown Anchorage and ventured out onto the Coastal Trail before looping back around a residential area and finishing back downtown...

    ...for a total of four miles, I thought about the many more birthdays I have been able to celebrate with my grandma thanks to the funds raised by events like Making Strides.

    Say cheese!

    We finished!! ...and all agreed that the morning was well spent supporting a great cause.

    October 05, 2012

    Happy October!

    Can you believe it is October?! That means only 3 more months in 2012.

    I have been frequenting Twitter a lot lately...I love the immediate up-to-date information and the quick conversations you can have with people across the country who share your same interests and hobbies.

    One interest of mine is finding what items are made in the USA. Why not support local business, right? :) This topic is definitely trending on Twitter. Over the weekend I began to think about October...and all of the good things that come with this month. Pumpkins, the changing of colors, apple orchards, cold(er) weather...and HALLOWEEN...and what comes with Halloween? Candy!

    I became inspired by a series of 'tweets' about Halloween candy manufactured in the United States. After doing some of my own research about the topic (as my interest level continued to increase), I found that many manufacturing facilities are very vague about where their products are actually made. I was also surprised to read about companies that didn't manufacture their candy in the USA (Sees Candy, Hershey's, Nestle'), instead making their candy in countries like China, Mexico and Switzerland. 

    Listed below are types of candy that I remember finding in my Halloween bag as a child and that exclusively make their candy in the United States.

    Hot Tamales, Mike & Ikes, Peeps: Hot Tamales were my go-to 50 cent candy at football and basketball games when I was little. My dad would give me 50 cents to spend and this is what I purchased...until I realized I could get popcorn for 25 cents, and profit from keeping the other 25 cents. :) These little chews are made by the Just Born Corporation in Pennsylvania. You can take an online tour of the factory on their website!

    Tootsie Pops, Tootsie Rolls, Junior Mints, DOTS, Charms Blow Pops, Sugar Daddies: Not a huge fan of tootsie anything...these brands of candy are obviously a very popular find in Halloween sacks. The Tootsie Roll Headquarters is in Chicago and Junior Mints are made in Massachusetts.

    Mary Janes: Chewy candy that tastes like honey...made in Massachusetts by NECCO (New England Confectionary Company). Similar to Bit-O-Honey, which is made by Nestle', Mary Janes can be purchased with American-made confidence.

    Candy Corn: I was so pumped to realize that two brands of this candy are made in the USA...Jelly Belly, who has Headquarters in California and a distribution facility in Wisconsin, and Zachary Confections, who makes several different flavors of candy corn for a number of different companies (Target, for example). Zachary Candy is made in Indiana. I usually have a bowl of this tri-colored candy on my table all month...and I remember going to my grandma's house, where she always had a bowl of the little candy pumpkins (hopefully made by one of these two brands).

    Dum Dum Lollipops: Eeewww! I hated Dum Dums, but a popular Halloween candy and loved by many, Dum Dums are made in Ohio by the Spangler Candy. In browsing their website, I noticed that you can tour their facility on the Dum Dum Trolley and visit the Spangler Museum. They even list 5 reasons why Dum Dums should be handed out on Halloween.

    Twin Bings: Not really a Halloween candy, I had to add Twin Bings to the list because they are made by the Palmer Candy Company in Sioux City, Iowa, and because my dad loves this candy. He went to college in Sioux City and became a fan of Twin Bings. During my freshman year of college, my dad turned 50 and Leah and I went to a college near Sioux City. We decided to give him 50 Twin Bings (which is actually 100 individual "bings") for his 50th birthday...and since then, I'm not sure he has loved them as much as he used to. :)
    As you start shopping for Halloween candy, perhaps keep a few of these ideas in mind.


    A big shout out to Tracy Hanson from Green Living for the inspiration for this post.