January 27, 2013

Apple Butter

I confess...I'm completely obsessed with apples right now. Matt and I have a fruit bowl and the apples are definitely taking over. The bananas...well they are sitting next to the fruit bowl and have probably felt neglected recently. I even found an uber ripe banana in the bottom of the fruit bowl that hadn't been eaten. oops! I quickly cut up the banana and put it in the freezer. Luckily, bananas freeze very nicely.

A couple months ago I posted an applesauce recipe. Having made a couple more batches and eating it all, I decided to turn my next batch of applesauce into apple goodness butter. Yes, apple butter....spreadable and delicious on bread, in oatmeal or just eaten with a spoon right out of the jar.

Apple Butter

5.5 lbs apples (I mixed gala and honey crisp)
1 tbsp cinnamon (a couple cinnamon sticks work well, too)
1 tbsp lemon juice

Core and slice apples and put in slow cooker. Heat apples on low 8-10 hours or until apples become soft. Blend with hand held immersion blender or food processor to smooth out the apples. Add cinnamon and lemon juice. Replace lid and cook on low for another 10 hours (consider going to sleep).

When I made the apple butter, I didn't feel like peeling any apples. Instead, I cored 5.5 lbs (about 14 apples) and put the slices in the crock pot. 

Having worked this recipe a couple times, I found it better to heat the apples on low for about 8-10 hours rather than on high for four hours, which is what I read in a few recipes.

Once the apples become soft, I used a hand held immersion blender to smooth out the apples (You could also use a regular blender by transferring the apples to the blender and then back to the slow cooker). I then added the cinnamon and lemon juice and replaced the lid and continued to cook the apples for another 10 hours.

Yes, this really is a long process but the results are amazing and the scent that is left in the house is wonderful. You'll want to invite all of your friends over. Seriously though, the effort is minimal. During the first 8-10 hours, I slept and during the next 10 hours, I ran errands around town. When I came home, the butter was super creamy and was deep brown in color. I felt like the butter was condensed enough, but if you wanted to condense the butter even more, you could take the lid off the butter and then turn the slow cooker to high for about 45 minutes to an hour.

The apple butter is similar to applesauce but with a much smoother consistency and slightly richer taste. Like I mentioned above, the butter tastes excellent on bread. The great thing about apple butter is that it lasts forever in your refrigerator and becomes more rich and thick with time.

Don't be scared to try this recipe. This is a great "no added sugar" version of a popular treat.


January 25, 2013

National Peanut Butter Day

Thursday, January 24 celebrates one of the most tastiest delicacies (okay...maybe it is not a delicacy) in the world.


A comfort food for many...a nostalgic association for some, Eat This, the food and nutrition section of Health Diaries, states that peanut butter was first made by the Aztecs hundreds of years ago using just peanuts. Although many brands of peanut butter on the market today include additional ingredients such as sugar and added oils, peanut butter with no added ingredients is the most healthy. 

Peanut butter also has tons of health benefits for those that can tolerate peanuts. It contains both protein and healthy monosaturated fats, which can provide you with energy; fiber, which can reduce bad (LDL) cholesterol; iron, which can maintain good circulation; and antioxidants, which have shown to reduce the risks of cancer. I know I am not an expert in health; however, when a food has all of these benefits, I don't mind including it regularly in my diet. 

To honor a day that honors peanut butter (sorry I am a day late on this post...but being in Barrow, I have an excuse, right??), I am going to share a couple previous recipes I have posted that highlight peanut butter.

Peanut Butter Smoothie

Peanut Butter Banana Ice Cream

Now, go enjoy some peanut butter...and consider using these healthy recipes!

January 21, 2013

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day!

Today we recognize a man who was an American clergyman, activist and leader in the civil rights movement, a man who won the Nobel Peace Prize for combating racial disobedience using non-violence, and a man who continued forward when times were most difficult.

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy." Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I also wanted to share with you a soup I will be making this week. Although I haven't had a chance to try it out, I've been looking for a black bean soup recipe and I am hoping this recipe hits the mark. The greatest thing about this recipe? The soup is made in a crock pot. Sweeeet!

Crock Pot Black Bean Soup 

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
3 Garlic cloves, chopped
2 cans black beans (or 2 cups dried beans soaked over night) 
1 32 oz Chicken Broth or Vegetable Stock, low sodium
1/4 Cup Cilantro, chopped
2 Bay Leaves
2 Tsp Kosher Salt
1 Cup Water

Heat oil in sauté pan over medium heat and sauté onions for about 4 minutes. Add chopped garlic and sauté an additional minute. Place the onion garlic mixture into the crock pot along with the rest of the ingredients and stir to combine. Cook on low for 8-10 hours.

Using either a hand blender or traditional blender, puree the ingredients to your desired texture (I like to get it so a few pieces of beans are still visible so the soup is thick and still has a bit of texture). Top with a dollop of greek yogurt or sour cream.

I hope you had a nice weekend. While most of Anchorage has the day off, I'll be working. Yay!

Happy Monday!

January 14, 2013


It's been raining in Anchorage for about three days straight...and the temperature has braved its way into the mid-40's. Very uncommon for Anchorage, it has been difficult to do anything enjoyable outside. Although I'm a fair weather outdoors person, I do appreciate my fair share of cold weather xc ski runs throughout the winter...not 40 degree slop fests.

Matt on the other hand, is pretty oblivious to the conditions and will go skiing and/or running no matter the weather...not only for his own contentment, but to keep his favorite companion in top notch shape. After a wet run in the rain this weekend, I was greeted at the door by my most favorite furry friend and I couldn't resist sharing this photo with you.

I hope you had a lovely weekend.


January 13, 2013

A good cup of Coffee

For me, having a cup multiple cups of coffee in the morning is less about a vehicle for caffeine and much more about a warm beverage I can enjoy with my breakfast...and sip throughout the morning. Unfortunately, finding good tasting coffee can be a challenge...especially if you don't want to splurge on freshly roasted whole coffee beans from a skilled local roaster, which are very limited in Anchorage.

A few tips for finding that perfect coffee at your local grocer? The Atlantic Food Channel gives a few tips on buying coffee at the supermarket and I have highlighted of few of those below...

"Purchase whole beans for the freshest flavor. Ground coffee is never as fresh...

"Few grocery stores date their bins, so stay away from bulk coffee beans. If coffee is properly packaged in a valve bag (the bags with the internal buttons and little slits), the coffee will taste fresher than bulk coffee, which has been exposed to atmosphere...

"There are a few supermarkets and wholesale clubs that roast coffee in the store. That should be freshest, but evaluate the skill of blending and roasting. Roasting requires skill and experience. If you live far from multiple sources of roasters, the freshest of in-store roasting may override other, more subtle taste considerations...

I personally will spend more on locally grown, fresh produce at the grocery store and think coffee should be no different. I admit that I am definitely not above the occasional jumbo bag of Costco brand coffee (Columbian is my favorite...and actually tastes pretty good), but sometimes, I do like to splurge on a local roast or pay the extra change for a really fresh bag of beans...and I ALWAYS grind and brew my coffee because I do think the difference is quite substantial.

So, what beans have I been enjoying lately?

Local Roast: Kaladi Brothers Coffee - Big Wild Life Blend

Kaladi Brothers Coffee is a local roaster in Anchorage that claims to employ a mix of arts and science to create the standard by which all coffees are judged. Kaladi strives to maintain freshness and quality. Kaladi was born in Anchorage in 1986 and cranks out about 1 million pounds of coffee per year.

When I want a local roast, this is what I pull off the shelf.

Best bang for the buck: Kirkland Signature (Costco Brand) Columbian Supremo Whole Bean

Truly one of the cheapest beans/pound varieties at Costco,  the coffee is smooth and has a nice, rich taste. The beans are 100% arabica and claim to be specially selected and handpicked.

Most of the time, this is the coffee found in my cup.

Trader Joe's: Bay Blend (current selection...Christmas gift from Matt's mom and dad)

Although there is not a Trader Joe's in Anchorage (I wish!!!), having tried many different varieties, the Costa Rican Tarrazu and Bay Blend are definitely my favorites.

In no way am I a coffee connoisseur, but I do know that I like a relatively good cup of coffee in the morning to get my day started. Whether I decide to spend a little more cash on a fresh, local brew, or go for value, I do spend some time choosing which coffee bean to purchase based on taste.


January 06, 2013

Winter vacation.

I was lucky enough to be able to spend about 12 days in Iowa over the Christmas holiday. Matt had to work so he could not join me, but Rio was happy to have a friend around to keep her company.

It was so nice to have some time off from work and enjoy the company of my wonderful family and friends. 

After a huge winter storm blew across the state, Leah and I drove down to central Iowa to visit with some very good friends...and some of my college friends. 

My parents then met us for a Mannheim Steamroller concert. 

Having listened to Mannheim Steamroller with my mom since I was little while cleaning and putting up Christmas decorations (I'm pretty sure she has every holiday cd), it was fun to see the band in person. I had been so excited to see this concert since I was told almost two months ago that my parents had purchased tickets. Mannheim Steamroller put on a great show...highly recommended. 

After a couple days at home baking Christmas goodies and relaxing, everyone finally arrived on Christmas day. I was so excited to see my nieces.

My mom prepared a wonderful meal that night that really got us all in the holiday spirit. The table was decorated beautifully.

The next few days were spent enjoying time with each other and visiting extended family. After saying goodbye at the airport to my mom, dad and Leah...

I grabbed a table at Ike's on Summit for the Vikings vs. Packers game (the game the Vikings won...not lost)...and enjoyed a Summit Horizon Red Ale from Summit Brewing Company.

Time always goes so fast when I go home, but it was nice to know that Matt and Rio would be waiting for me when I returned to Alaska. Because New Year's Day fell on a Tuesday, I had a couple days to relax before getting into the normal swing of work.

On New Years Day, Matt and I celebrated Christmas and enjoyed a nice meal (sorry, no picture)...and a lovely Cabernet from Hagafen Cellars.

Rio hopes you had a terrific Christmas season and are off to a great start in 2013! 


January 02, 2013

January 01, 2013

Happy 2013!

Here is to a Happy New Year...wishing you all love, happiness and success in 2013.