Friday, July 30

This Week's Recipe--City Ham

OK--if I was going to name this recipe I'd have to go with something like 'Gingersnap Ham' or 'Company Ham' or maybe get straight to the point with 'Kick A$$ Ham'. Alton Brown however, calls it City Ham. And since it's his recipe, I guess he gets to name it!

Now, if you decide to make this be sure you have a pair of pants with an elastic waistband on when it comes out of the oven. It's that good! Even my kids wanted seconds!

The Recipe
Printable version available here.

City Ham

Recipe courtesy Alton Brown

Prep Time: 15 min
Inactive Prep Time:
Cook Time: 6 hr 0 min
Serves: 10 to 15 portions, depending on ham size

Ingredients

  • 1 city style (brined) ham, hock end*
  • 1/4 cup brown mustard
  • 2 cups dark brown sugar
  • 1-ounce bourbon (poured into a spritz bottle)
  • 2 cups crushed ginger snap cookies

Directions

Heat oven to 250 degrees F.

Remove ham from bag, rinse and drain thoroughly. Place ham, cut side down, in a roasting pan. Using a small paring knife or clean utility knife set to the smallest blade setting, score the ham from bottom to top, spiraling clockwise as you cut. (If you're using a paring knife, be careful to only cut through the skin and first few layers of fat). Rotate the ham after each cut so that the scores are no more than 2-inches across. Once you've made it all the way around, move the knife to the other hand and repeat, spiraling counter clockwise. The aim is to create a diamond pattern all over the ham. (Don't worry too much about precision here.)

Tent the ham with heavy duty foil, insert a thermometer, and cook for 3 to 4 hours or until the internal temperature at the deepest part of the meat registers 130 degrees F.

Remove and use tongs to pull away the diamonds of skin and any sheets of fat that come off with them.

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.

Dab dry with paper towels, then brush on a liberal coat of mustard, using either a basting brush or a clean paint brush (clean as in never-touched paint). Sprinkle on brown sugar, packing loosely as you go until the ham is coated. Spritz this layer lightly with bourbon, then loosely pack on as much of the crushed cookies as you can.

Insert the thermometer (don't use the old hole) and return to the oven (uncovered). Cook until interior temperature reaches 140 degrees F, approximately 1 hour.

Let the roast rest for 1/2 hour before carving.

*Cook's note: A city ham is basically any brined ham that's packed in a plastic bag, held in a refrigerated case and marked "ready to cook", "partially cooked" or "ready to serve". Better city hams are also labeled "ham in natural juices".

Andrea's Kitchen
I had a pretty good-sized ham and it really did take me about 6 hours. I didn't have bourbon, so at the advice of one of the reviewers, I just skipped it. I also didn't have brown mustard, so I used dijon.

I also made my gingersnaps from scratch. I don't have Gma Paul's recipe (although I'll get it before I make them again!) so I just used the one from my trusty Better Homes and Gardens cookbook. Then I ground up two cups worth of crumbs in the blender and took the rest to church. I didn't bring any home, so I guess they turned out alright!

The Verdict
I *may* have eluded to the verdict above, but just in case you missed it, we LOVED it! I ate way too much of it. Some reviews talked about the crumb coating becoming inedible after refrigerating leftovers. I found no such thing to be true! The leftovers were every bit as delicious! And (because I bought a ham roughly equal to half of my bodyweight) we had LOTS of them!

Wednesday, July 28

The Weather 'Round Here

OK...if you want to save yourself 5 minutes and 23 seconds, just skip reading this post! It's purely drivel...apparently I'm unable to come up with anything of real interest to type today! But since I've gone to the trouble of writing it and I like the picture I'll go ahead and publish it. Hopefully you don't fall asleep before you get to the picture!

Ohhhh! The weather outside is...surprising!

I know I've lamented to people many times about the forecasting here. If you haven't heard my theory, here it is. The weatherfolks here in Alaska use a dartboard when creating the forecast. Each section of the dartboard has some vague weatherese. So on the "summer" dartboard there are things like "showers in the AM, intermittent rain in the PM, possible clearing late" and "partly cloudy in the morning, with a chance of rain or showers". The winter dartboard is filled with phrases like "snow showers in the morning, chance of snow or clearing in the afternoon" and "windy at times, intermittent snow showers after 11AM". The seasonally appropriate dartboard is then hung at one end of someone's hallway. First thing in the morning (or maybe right before bed??) s/he stumbles down the hallway, throwing a dart. The dart is the retrieved on her/his way to the computer where s/he types the totally meaningless drivel into a weather forecast and publishes it.

The dartboard phrases are vague enough to be considered "accurate" about 50% of the time. The other 50% we get surprised. Maybe it's a March blizzard, or maybe it's a random sunny day like yesterday! On Monday the forecast for our area included the words 'rain' and/or 'showers' for every one of the next 7 days. Then we woke up to partly cloudy on Tuesday! Go figure!

Regardless of how we get it, we try to take advantage of any halfway decent weather. It's becoming more difficult with the absurdity of the bug population, but we try! So do the bees...here's one at work at the school playground yesterday afternoon!


Monday, July 26

Crafting Lately

Well, now that Lily's home I've been crossing a few things off the old to-do list!

1. Beanbag booster seats from One Yard Wonders. I made a 'rough draft' of these while my dad was up. The book calls for oilcloth which I couldn't find in my limited time in town. The 'rough draft' cushions worked OK, but were always landing on the floor. When Mom (aka Fabric Depot Fairy!) arrived with some yellow gingham oilcloth I was in business! I redid my cushions, added beans for weight and a chunk of non-skid shelf liner. They boost the girls up to a good table height and I haven't picked the new oilcloth ones up off the floor once...yipee!

Yeah, yeah...someday I'll be brave enough to attempt recovering the backs of the chairs, too!

2. Evie's birthday present. Even though she can't read, her mama can (and does!), so I'll keep quiet on this one until it arrives at their place. Yes. It's late. Sorry!

3. Tops! I have discovered that many tops in my wardrobe are too big nowadays. I am *way* too cheap to want to get rid of them all and get new ones, so I'm working on taking them in. Today at naptime I managed to take two t-shirts from the 'too big' pile to the 'just right'. Very rewarding!

No picture here...you've all seen me and you've all seen a t-shirt!

4. New beanbag cover! The old one was faded and tired. And leaking! I zig-zagged the old one closed where it had developed weak spots, then made a new cover from two twin-sized sheets from Wal-Mart. I love that it's a bit brighter and no more beans float out when the girls jump on it. Our beanbag is rarely used for sitting...mostly used for landing!


5. Doll pillows. The girls and I did this project this morning. Since I didn't buy the Crayola fabric markers that I saw at JoAnn's on Saturday, I had the girls color on paper. Then I scanned it and printed their drawings onto iron-on transfer paper. We then transferred their artwork to some scraps, picked some other scraps for the backs of the pillows, stuffed them with scraps of batting and sewed 'em shut. The girls seemed to really enjoy this project!


And that folks, wraps up the little bits I've been squeezing in here and there!

Friday, July 23

This Week's Recipe--Oatmeal Blueberry Muffins

This week's recipe is one that I started using last summer after I had packed my cookbooks but was still cooking! Poor planning, but it did help me find a few new 'keepers' to add to my recipe box! I made these while my mom was here and she liked them, too! Oddly, they aren't rated very highly on Better Homes & Gardens website, but everyone I've served them to has liked them.

The Recipe
The recipe can be found in a printable version here.

Ingredients
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup rolled oats
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup cooking oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3/4 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

Directions

1. Grease twelve 2-1/2-inch muffin cups or thirty-six 1-3/4-inch muffins cups, or line them with paper bake cups; set aside. (If you don't have enough muffin pans, bake half the batter at a time. Refrigerate remaining batter.)

2. Stir together flour, rolled oats, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. Make a well in the center of the mixture.

3. Combine egg, milk, brown sugar, oil, and vanilla in another bowl. Add egg mixture all at once to flour mixture. Stir just until moistened (batter should be lumpy.) Fold blueberries into the batter. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups, filling each three-quarters full.

4. Bake in a 400 degree F oven for 16 to 18 minutes for 2-1/2-inch muffins or 10 to 12 minutes for 1-3/4-inch muffins or until done. Cool in muffin cups on a wire rack for 5 minutes; remove muffins from cups. Serve warm.

Makes 12 regular-size or 36 small muffins.

Andrea's Kitchen
I have stuck with the recipe on this one! As I was re-reading this recipe for the post, I thought I might try some applesauce in place of some oil and maybe some whole wheat flour, too. Experiment, experiment, experiment!

Sooo...it's blueberry season (not quite up here, but soon!). Try 'em out!

Wednesday, July 21

Life in the Car

pint sized ballerina feet


Wowza! The days just fly by when you're in the car as much as we've been this week! The drive to Anchorage is right at an hour, after you get through the tunnel. The tunnel is usually a 10-15 minute adventure, depending on if and how long you have to wait. So to Anchorage and back is about 2.5 hours round trip. Today was day 3 making that trip! Tomorrow is the final day of ballet...a mixed blessing, I'm sure. The trouble is that I have raised homebodies, so as much as they enjoy going to do something, they don't enjoy the leaving part. They don't like their play and their routine interrupted. So getting them out the door has been a challenge, but they have fun once the get there. I think we'll all be glad to stay home on Friday, though!

Now--off to sew! I took my machine in (her name is Lily in case you wondered!) for her first ever servicing. She's 10, so according to the technician she was about 5-8 years overdue! I'm anxious to see how well she works now, and to finish up some unfinished projects (like Evie's birthday present for her 1st birthday. Which is tomorrow. Yikes!). So, ta-ta for now!

Monday, July 19

Ballet Camp

After a bit of a nervous start


The girls had fun at their first day of ballet camp today. We're doing it Monday-Thursday this week at the Spenard Community Center in Anchorage.


Lots of driving and lots of fun!

Highlights of a Visit From Grandma Fishie

Boy! We had so much fun last week that it will be a challenge to write it up succinctly, but I'll give it a try!

On Monday the sun shone in Whittier, so we showed Grandma some of the sights around town. She saw the city park, the school playground, and salmon run. We enjoyed a picnic lunch (and narrowly avoided being lunch for mosquitoes!) and fresh halibut from Scott's fishing trip on Sunday.

On Tuesday it rained, so we headed down to Seward. We took the girls to the Alaska Sealife Center. Their first visit had been in May with Auntie Shelly and they'd enjoyed it so much they had wanted to go back. Again, the touch pools were the favorite attraction. We spent the night at the Exit Glacier Lodge which turned out to be a hidden gem.

On Wednesday we hit the Seward Park and then headed over to Seavey's Iditaride. What a hoot! Mom and I couldn't decide if it was more fun to participate or to watch the girls have fun participating! We spent about 45 minutes with two litters of puppies and learning about dog sledding. The other 45 minutes or so was a dog-cart ride. Very, very, very fun! After a picnic lunch we headed back to Whittier. On the way home we stopped by the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center where the bears were out and showing off. What a treat!


Thursday brought a trip to the dentist for the girls. Let's just say this: I'm glad I had some help and all's well that ends well! We also visited a park to burn off some energy, as well as McDonald's.

Friday found us in Whittier, enjoying the dry weather. We had fun trying out the new "circle cycle" at the school playground. Friday night Scott and I got to go out to dinner while Gma and the girls enjoyed a kiddo favorite, Kraft macaroni and cheese! Friday evening Mom and I hiked the Portage Pass trail to the point where you can see both Prince William Sound and Portage Lake and Portage Glacier. Breathtaking!


Saturday was cruise ship day, so the girls and I took Grandma for a walk to the harbor to see the ship up close. Grandma also headed out on Billy Goat the quad with Scott up to see the waterfalls and sights on the way to second Salmon Run. Then we all headed to Girdwood to the park and dinner at Chair 5.


And then it was Sunday and we all wondered where the week had gone! Already it was time to say goodbye. Hopefully Mom enjoyed her trip!

Sunday, July 18

A Visit From Fishie Grandma




Hello, dear readers! I took a brief vacation from the blog last week while my mom (aka Fishie Grandma) visited. We had lots of fun...stay tuned for the highlights!

Friday, July 9

This Week's Recipe--Baked Beans

I've been searching and searching for a baked bean recipe to make from scratch. From soaking the beans to the baking.

The bad news: I haven't found it yet. The good news: I'm getting there!

I've tried a number of them, and so far these two are my favorite:

Boston Baked Beans from Hillbilly Housewife and

Once and Future Beans from Alton Brown

What I really like are the Bush Brothers Maple Cured Bacon beans, so that's the flavor I'm going for. Of course, neither of these recipes used maple syrup, so no surprise they missed the mark on that one.

So I'll keep trying...but in the meantime, do YOU have a great baked bean recipe to help me on my way??

PS--I haven't forgotten your pork taquitos suggestion, Wendy! I think we'll try some while you're here so I can include your expert opinion! :-)

Thursday, July 8

Got a Kitchen Aid? You *NEED* this!

In case you didn't hear, I broke the dough hook for my Kitchen Aid a few weeks ago. How do you break a dough hook you ask? I'm still not sure! For a while I considered buying a new mixer...perfect excuse, right? But in the end, when I could replace the dough hook for about $15 or buy a new mixer for $300 plus I went with the replacement dough hook, which a purchased through one of my favorite online retailers, Amazon. I love Amazon because Amazon loves Alaskans! They honor their free shipping offer up here. Not very many people do, but that's another whole post!

image from Amazon.com

Lucky for me, Amazon also stocks this wonderful invention, the Sideswipe. I first saw the Sideswipe over at No Pattern Required. She does the Mid-Century Menu on Wednesdays, which always delights me! Just this week she made Mincemeat Cupcakes. Come on--you've always wanted to try that, haven't you?!?!

Anyway...as long as I was ordering the new dough hook I ordered myself a Sideswipe. They arrived this afternoon and right away the girls and whipped up a batch of cookies. It's genius I tell you! It swipes the sides and bottom of the bowl while it mixes. If you're a Kitchen Aid owner, you know how you have to constantly be scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl when you're mixing. The stock paddle just doesn't do the job!

Just in case you wondered, I'm not getting any sort of kickback from anyone...although maybe they should after reading my glowing recommendation!

Tuesday, July 6

Denim Love

We love denim around here for a number of reasons. Number 1, it's fairly durable (nothing like denim of days gone by, but...) and Number 2, it goes with anything. When Kelsey turned two and started dressing herself, I realized that either we'd be fighting over it constantly, or she'd be wearing lots of denim. This winter she had a pair of red pants. People around here can tell you about the many times she wore them with shirts that didn't go. She felt particular love for a yellow shirt with the red pants. I could only think "ketchup and mustard." But I digress. Back to the above choices...constant arguing or lots of denim. I chose lots of denim. Preferably, fairly plain denim. That way she can choose a red shirt or a pink one and it will look fairly decent together.

The challenge is that Kelsey is skinny. The kid has a visible six-pack of abs for goodness sake! It's ridiculous. As a result of her physique, jeans don't fit. Thankfully she lives in the times of adjustable waist kiddo jeans. The best kiddo invention. Ever. Her next batch of jeans (size 5T...what happened to my baby??) I scored on clearance at Wal-Mart for $7 per pair, which around here is cheaper than used jeans at the consignment store. The problem is...no adjustable waist. Then I found this tutorial and realized that (insert forehead smack here) I could fix that! I got my elastic from a seller on EBay and was on my way.

Here's the stack of denim that I altered today...7 pairs of jeans and a skirt!


I just re-read this post before hitting 'publish' and almost deleted 99% of it! Unfortunately for you, I didn't. Who knew I could write so much drivel about denim???? Clearly I need to get outside for some fresh air!! :-)

Monday, July 5

Photoshop and I

A few days ago I mentioned how I have been playing around with Photoshop and Picnik. I loved the effects that are available on Picnik, but having to upload the photo to edit it and then download it to save it is a pain. And I have Photoshop and I *want* to learn to use it. It's just not intuitive to me...I don't know enough about it. Enter Pioneer Woman!

If you're not yet obsessed with Ree from the Pioneer Woman then I don't know if we can still be friends! Really though, her blog is entertaining AND educational. At least for me. She has a cooking section (Tasty Kitchen) and a photography section in addition to the other areas of her blog.

Lucky for me, Ree is a Photoshop genius and long (LONG!) ago learned about Photoshop actions. As I understand it, a Photoshop action is a way of putting several techhy Photoshop photo editing steps into one 'action' and it creates a button for you to push to apply the action to your photo. Ree has generously created two groups of Photoshop actions that are available for free download from her site. Once I figured out how to download them, unzip them, and then load them into Photoshop I was good to go. Now I *look* like a Photoshop whiz, thanks to her hard work behind the scenes. Scroll down to view the evidence!

original image

after PW boost action
after PW old west action
after PW vintage action

after PW heartland action

See...aren't I a genius? No? OK, well then at least I read the blogs of geniuses! :-)

Reflecting

This is something I've been wanting to do for awhile, but haven't. Finally yesterday I remembered *and* had time! Sooooo...here are the girls' reflections on their favorite part of the 4th of July.

Kelsey's reads "My favorite part of the day was DAD STA HOM." If you're not a primary teacher, that translates into "dad stayed home". We sounded out the words together and she came up with the letters needed. She's not able to write all of the letters 'on demand', so had to write a few for her to remember what they looked like. Oddly, no matter how much I stress lowercase letters, she often writes in all caps!
Stacy's reads "My favorite part of the day was fire." Which means that her favorite part was riding in the firetruck. I find it curious, because if you ask her she didn't want to ride, she wanted to watch--even though she chose to ride! Her picture is of the time we spent in the afternoon, drawing on the sidewalk with sidewalk chalk. Amazing how they're growing up! Hopefully we'll be able to do this sort of regularly and I'll be able to share more from the minds of little ladies!

Sunday, July 4

Happy Independence Day!

Happy 4th of July, everyone! Excitement is high here...the Whittier Parade begins around noon and the girls cannot decide if it will be more fun to ride in the fire truck or watch. There's some debate about missing out on candy...Kelsey pitched a possible solution. She'll ride and throw the candy to Stacy and I. That way she'll get to ride, but she'll also get some candy, too!

I'll post pics later on! For now, here's a shot of the fireworks last night...Whittier does theirs at midnight on July 3. It was a very nice display, though I was the only one in the family who was awakened by it.


Friday, July 2

This Week's Recipe--Amish Country Strawberry Pie

This week's recipe isn't new, but it's delicious! This is a recipe that I grew up with my mom making and has become a favorite around here. It's perfect for the California strawberries that we get up here because it sweetens them up a little bit. I don't know the origins of the "Amish Country" portion of the title, but when you google the title a recipe like this with less cream cheese comes up. Don't fall for it though...you want all of this cream cheesy goodness, I promise!

The Recipe
1 baked 9-inch pie shell
4 tablespoons confectioners sugar
8 ounces cream cheese
1 1/2 quarts whole strawberries, sliced
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons white Karo syrup
1 cup water
3 tablespoons dry strawberry gelatin (or 1 T if using sugar-free gelatin)
pinch of salt
3 tablespoons cornstarch


Beat cream cheese with sugar. Spread carefully over bottom of baked pie shell. Arrange berries in shell.

Cook all remaining ingredients except the gelatin powder over medium heat until thick. Add gelatin powder. Cool before pouring over berries.

Let it all set up in the fridge for a few hours and then dig in!

Thursday, July 1

Clamming on Sunday

This post will wrap up the week long recap of our weekend! Just in time for another weekend! One can only hope I won't bore you all week next week with drivel about our weekend! :-)

Sunday we headed back down to Ninilchik for another batch of clams. The girls' boots were still a little damp, so we rode the whole way with the heater on high and the boots under the vent at my feet. Scott and I nearly had heatstroke in the front seat, but our parental sacrifice paid off--the boots were mostly dry and WARM when they put them on, so we started off on the right foot...literally! We were also a little more careful about how we secured the rain pants--OUTSIDE the boot and SECURELY around the ankle. As a result of the pants/boots combo and our constant warnings to watch out for holes, all 4 little feet were still dry and mostly warm when we called it a day this time. For our next trip I'll add our latex-dipped gardening gloves to the mix. Cold hands were the major complaint.


We dug clams the clam gun broke, netting another 53 for a total of 105 for the weekend. After sandwiches and re-loading the car we headed home. The girls slept most of the way, waking up about 45 minutes before we hit the tunnel. They were clearly done riding at that point!

When we got home there was the cleaning...a monumental task that Scott took care of. With help!

Overall it was a very fun weekend for everyone! We had clam linguine for dinner on Monday...it turned out so-so. Clam chowder is on the menu soon, and we'll have enough for one more meal...what will it be???