Locals Only Giveaway

Hey everyone I love to support businesses in and around my hometown of Palmer Alaska. I've been working hard to get a giveaway together to spotlight some local artists, entrepreneurs and businesses, and I think it's finally here. Well, I know it's finally here.

Here's the run down on what you could win:

  • Hot Soup and Sandwich at North Star Bakery--did you know they're NOT just making cakes an pies? I didn't, but I do now...
  • Furnace Inspection by HVAC Alaska--great local business and they've got sale going on, 20% off furnace maintenance now until the end of May so if you don't win give them a ring anyway
  • 4 mini beehive votive candles from Holy Archangel Candles--if you haven't ever burned a per beeswax candle you're in for a real treat
  • 4oz Facial Oil Cleanser and a 1oz Olive Squalane Moisturizer from Hunnibee Skincare--oil cleaning for skin in the new thing and Olive Squalane is also called face lift in a bottle
  • A deep conditioning treatment and a haircut from Shear Fire Design in Palmer--ever had a deep conditioning treatment? Your hair will thank you for it
  • An It Works Body Wrap from Skinny Wraps with Skye--feeling jiggly? She can help!
  • A 40 dollar custom gift basket from Hunnibee Gift Solutions--you can customize a gift basket and make gift giving a breeze
  • a set of painted seed packets and gift bag by Karen Whitworth--Need I say more??? 

A basket by Hunnibee Gift Solutions

Show a little love and enter below. One lucky person will win it all, maybe it's you?

This giveaway is for locals in the Matanuska Susitna Borough and the winner must have a valid local address or be available to meet in person. All prizes were provided by the individual businesses. Must be 18 to enter.


A Beer and Cheese Tasting Party

I didn't need a reason to have a few friends over but getting a nice box of Cabot Creamery Cheese left on my front porch was the perfect excuse to take a break from spring clean up and have a little fun. Seeing the selection inside reminded me of the Beer and Cheese tasting I went to last fall and how I kept saying "I want to do that!" So we did that, a little beer and cheese with friends.

First let's talk about Cabot Cheese, since I was pretty clueless I went straight to their website and read up on them. Everything about their story is inspiring, it started with farmers and extra milk, it tells the tale of being able to grow, diversify and change with the times. In 1919 94 farms banded together to make butter, they bought the town's creamery and got to work. From there they've expanded their products to include cheese, yogurts, cream cheese and whipped cream, they've also grown to now include 1200 farms in Vermont and New York.

And their cheese is extraordinary, really it is. I received an 8 pack of cheese, behold!

2 Alpine Cheddar, 2 White Oak Reserve, 2 Farmhouse Reserve and 2 Seriously Sharp

The Seriously Sharp was, hands down, my favorite but I love a tangy cheese, plus a little goes a long way flavor wise, if you're counting calories. A second for me was the White Oak Reserve which is a wonderfully balanced slightly sharp cheese with an amazingly smooth texture. All the cheeses we tried were wonderful, none were distasteful, c'mon it's cheese!

On to beer AND cheese.

I discovered a few things while figuring out what cheese to pair with what brew, thought I'd share those with you.

  1. I'm not the first person to do this so I didn't need to reinvent the wheel. I could look up what other people recommended and go from there
  2. I like beer and cheese
  3. most cheeses go with most beers so you really can't go too wrong
  4. the bubbles in beer cleanse your palette making the true flavors really shine through

With all that being said we started looking at pairings based on the cheese we received and looked up what might go with them. This was our final list when beer shopping. I'd like to mention that once you've got your cheese picked out go from their, if you have an IPA you love try it with your cheese, we chose Session IPA because we love Session Black and really wanted a reason to try the IPA. We could have chosen any of the dozens of IPAs available to us. Choose what YOU like, you probably won't go wrong!

  1. Session IPA paired with Cabot Farmhouse reserve
  2. Alaska Summer Ale (kolsch style ale) paired with Cabot White Oak Cheddar-we originally planned to use our local breweries Maiden Mild beer but when a guest showed up with Alaskan Ale we ran with it
  3. Newcastle Nut Brown Ale paired Cabot Alpine Cheddar
  4. Arkose Brewery Bitter Earth ESB paired with Cabot Seriously Sharp-the pairing was not the best choice see my note below

So as I said you can't really go wrong with beer and cheese but one beer wasn't quite strong enough to live up to it's pairing. #4 the Arkose Brewery Bitter Earth and the Seriously Sharp, it was good but we soon discovered that a darker beer would have been better something along the lines of a porter possibly. Lacking a porter we tried out a Session Black with the Seriously Sharp and it was a MUCH better pairing, they worked well together. I'd like to add that my all time favorite beer IS the Arkose Brewery Bitter Earth, it was a blow to find out it didn't go as well as I wanted it to with my favorite of the cheeses, but soldier on I did.

I received the Cabot Creamery Cheese box as a prize, I was not paid for writing this or for my opinions. (I give those for free!)


Roasted Artichokes

Are you still boiling artichokes?? You're doing it wrong! There is a better way to cook an artichoke my friends and it produces superior tasting artichokes. It's actually probably easier than boiling artichokes too.

I recently received a case of artichokes that I won last fall from Ocean Mist Farm during Fresh Summit, man have we loved those artichokes. First I boiled a few and served them with snail butter. Then I steamed a couple and served them with just plain butter. I finally roasted the remaining few last week and served them with nothing. I'd totally forgotten to get butter out to thaw and we didn't have mayonnaise so I served them just roasted and plain. They were far and away the tastiest of all three batches of artichokes. The roasting just brings out the best of the artichokes, it seems as if the flavor intensifies during roasting somehow. And they were dry, which is nice, when you boil or steam there's always water in them and they get drippy and, duh, watery.

To roast artichokes is very simple.

  1. Trim the stem off so they sit flat
  2. Trim off the tips of the leaves to get off the little claw hook
  3. Cut off the top third or so of the leaves
  4.  Voila done and ready to roast. I've heard you can go a step further and pull out the fuzzy choke inside and then cook them but I've never done it. 
  5. place them in a small baking dish
  6. cover with foil
  7. pop in a 350˚ oven for 60 minutes or so
Obviously, if you need to be thrifty with your gas or electric bill, then make these when the oven is already running or use your toaster oven. 
Serve with any dipping sauce you love to love, make snail butter you won't regret it! 

Oh should add these were a PRIZE I won at Fresh Summit last fall, I was not paid to write about them.


Thrifter Share

A post to share your thrifted finds, whether you plan to give them, keep them or sell them, share them here first.

Sometimes you find exactly what you want in the thrift store, sometimes you finds exactly what you need, sometimes you find squat and sometimes you run across things you didn't even know you wanted or needed but once you see it you know.

Prime example here:

For Christmas our boys got one big gift to share and several smaller, thrifted gifts. One of the thrifted gifts was a tub of snap circuits and all the books for building a gazillion different projects. I purchased several smaller sets, one bigger set with the books and random pieces all year long to fill a tub. My goal was to give them enough pieces that they could both use them at the same time and not feel like the other one "was taking all the pieces" Epic fail, my kids will argue about who go the last brussels sprout so I don't really know what I was expecting.

 The tub is great and well loved but as it goes with these things some of the modules were fragile and quit working after several weeks of intense use. I went to the website and the broken pieces were selling for 5 dollars and some were just plain not available. Darn. I looked them up and kind of decided "meh, we're good for now, maybe I'll wait for more pieces to break..."

And then I rolled up on this box in the thrift store, multiple pieces we needed, some replacements and others pieces we just didn't have. And I got them all for 4 dollars. Considering each module sells for roughly 5 bucks and we got 19 of them I think I got a great deal.

I haven't bought anything for kids in so long they were a little stunned when I plopped the box down in front of them one afternoon when it was too windy to play comfortably outside. Hours of not so quiet play ensued and many radios, alarms and music boxes were made.


Chinese 5 Spice Beef Lettuce Wraps

You know I love a good lunch, right? I'm always looking for a lunch recipe idea that will fill me up and keep me going until dinner. It has to be easy, healthy, tasty and usually low in carbohydrates because I like my carbs in the form of popcorn thankyouverymuch. I made this twice last week and I've already had it once this week, it may be my new favorite whole30/paleo/watching what I eat lunch.

I have kosher salt sprinkled on mine!

I've been in the habit of making lettuce wraps since I was a kid, back then we'd have tuna tacos
for lunch at least once a week. It's a habit that's stuck with me through my adult life, if I can wrap in lettuce I will do it. Now don't get me wrong I love a good crusty bread made into a sandwich but I also truly enjoy having more filling if I don't eat bread. As I've been exploring the grain free life I keep coming back to "I want a sandwich" but I realized I don't really want a sandwich I want something I can pick up and eat. With these Chinese 5 Spice Beef Lettuce Wraps you can do that.

Chinese 5 Spice Beef Lettuce Wraps
serves 2

8 ounces of ground beef
1 teaspoon Chinese 5 Spice powder--start with only half this amount and then add to taste
2 TBSP water
2 carrots-shredded
2 stalks of celery chopped
1 teaspoon of minced fresh ginger-optional
1/2 tsp sesame oil
salt and pepper to taste
splash of chili oil-optional
2 hearts of romaine separated into about 16 or so boats and chop or tear the rest into salad size bites

cook the beef in a large pot over medium high heat until browned-I use a large pot to avoid spattered grease
once the beef is browned drain the grease
return the pan to the heat and add the Chinese 5 spice powder and the water
stir to combine and let it cook over medium heat for 1-2 minutes or until the water is mostly gone
add the carrot, celery and sesame oil to the pan cook another 1-2 minutes
taste for salt and pepper, add if needed
place the chopped romaine salad in two bowls
pour the hot beef over the lettuce in each bowl and stir to combine, add a splash of chili oil if using
serve hot with romaine lettuce boats/wraps
serves 2

A few notes
* so these make variable amounts, if you have big huge romaine leaves you may get less wraps, use your judgment on how much lettuce to use as wraps and how much to chop-I had around 1cup of chopped lettuce per person
*add 1/2 the 5 spice powder and let it cook once it cooks down a bit taste and add more as desired, you may discover you like a lot more flavor in your beef
*Chinese 5 spice powder can be found in most grocery stores, here's a 5 Spice on Amazon (affiliate link, I earn a few pennies if you click it and buy the product) or you can make your own by grinding fennel, cloves, white pepper, cinnamon and star anise
*Chili Oil can also be found in most grocery stores, if not try this Chili Oil(affiliate link), we were given a bottle made for us by my husband's wonderful parents, it is so good, but remember a little goes a long way!
*add more or less of any of the spices in the recipe
*another stellar addition would be fresh cilantro


An Imaginary Coffee Date with the "Food Babe"

Have you been watching/reading the slowmo meltdown of the Food Babe?

Oh my, she kind of lost it, didn't she?  The self proclaimed Food Babe made a name for herself 'educating' people about their food, using what some call (and rightly so) sketchy "computer research", while others straight up call it pseudo science. Here's a brief write up of her rise to fame and subsequent collapse. While reading that piece and several others including the notable "The Food Babe is Full of Sh*t"  I couldn't help but wonder what kind of a friend would she be? Could she drop the Food Babe act and just be? Or is she a warrior through and through? After reading how she has responded to people proving her wrong again and again I have a sneaking suspicion that she keeps up her Food Babe persona all the time, that must be exhausting!

I wonder about this because while I am champion of real food and I write about it a lot, I am not above tossing back junk food, guzzling cheap beer and occasionally pushing my children out of the way so I can take a swig of whipped cream straight out of the can too. I know what's good for me and yet I gleefully enjoy all kinds of food because I live in the real world with real people. Opinions are great, I have a lot of them and they're just that, opinions. Opinionated pseudo science paraded as truth to people who don't have the time to know better can be very dangerous.

So in my head I kept having this (opinionated) scenario wherein the Food Babe in warrior mode and a friend go out for coffee.

hey Food Babe how's it going?

Oh hey _____ , it's good, you know? I'm fighting the good fight, as always.

Great to hear! I already ordered a cup of coffee, so if you want t

you ordered coffee? without me? what did you get?

oh I ordered a vanilla soy latte you know the...

vanilla? is it real vanilla? because you don't want to drink any beaver a$$! It has to be made from real vanilla beans not beaver butt you know. I'm not sure I can stand the thought of you drinking a beaver butt this morning. That's so gross.

oh well I didn't as..

and SOY? seriously that stuff will rot your guts out, make you grow horns and a mustache and give the next five generations of males in your family BOOBS. Did you know that? Why would you want your boys to have boobs? I can't believe you want your boys to have boobs! Didn't you know that? I told you that last week.

I don't want my boys to have boobs, I just wanted to switch up my coffee this week. So I tried soy. I've never read any true resear...

pshh! You should only drink raw milk, it's the only kind of milk that's acceptable to drink. Ever.


well it's hard to get raw milk in a coffee shop. 

Just bring it in a glass bottle from home and have the baristas steam clean their foaming pitcher and then use your milk. Tell them you're allergic to their milk and they'll use your milk! See? Easy solutions! You can also bring in your own vanilla bean too and have them use that while they're at it, you know foam it in the milk and wow so easy. No beaver a$$ for you!

Are you going to have coffee? 

yes. I brought mine from home though because I didn't want any cross contamination with oxidane here. It's just so gross and I'm over it.


Did you know oxidane is the number one ingredient in urine? it's also in the COFFEE they make here. IN THEIR COFFEE. They should really label that

But isn't oxidane just

Are you questioning me?

No, but oxidane is just

Why do you need to question me? I've done all the research on everything that is bad for you, I have a list right here. Look, see oxidane, right here on the list! It's in urine you don't want to drink pee do you? Because they use oxidane to make their coffee here you know. God I can't believe you want to drink pee. They really need to label their products.

Food Babe! Oxidane is only

Fine, you know what, obviously you don't trust me and my computer research enough to listen to what I am saying. Oxidane is in pee and it's in coffee and you can't admit it.
I'm done.
We're done.
Give me my jar of organic raw milk I'm out of here.
You're banished from my life. It's over. Do you understand me? We're done.

Wow. Ok. Well just so we're clear Food babe Oxidane is the formal name for water. Did you know that? Food Babe?

I can't hear you because I've blocked you from my life. Forever.
You drink pee.
And beaver butt.
Later loser.


Thrifter Share

A post to share your thrifted finds, whether you give them, sell them or keep them, share them here first.

Well in true Laura form I've let an entire week slip without updating the 40 bags in 40 days post. Sigh. Can I at least defend with I was sick for most of the week? Nope didn't cut it for you and I should do it and get it over with? Fine. Consider it done. Soon.

I did go out thrifting. I dropped off a box and 2 bags of stuff and came home with 2 books. Someone commented here that's it's a good policy to donate FIRST and then shop. So I try to keep that in mind, drop and shop. I'm kind of notorious for getting boxes IN the car and then heck I could leave them for a month, so making that conscious decision to get it out is important to me. I need to move to the drop and run model, not stopping at all. But having kids means you always need something so those days are a long time off for now.

I picked up these beauties the other day.

I was surprised to see them as two paperbacks I always figured they book would be one and a hardback. Looking them up I see you can get both paperback and hardback edition. I don't think paperback novel sized books would be good for cooking with in the kitchen, at least with a bigger cookbook you can lay it open but this would have to be bookmarked, or? I don't know, has anyone else used this size of book to cook with before? How?

Well regardless I've enjoyed reading them, they are literally JAM packed with recipes and because they are novel sized they are easier to read. I do think once I've read them I'll donate them back though and pick up a large single hardback copy sometime. And I'll definitely be looking to upgrade to a modern version. But still all in all good reading, good inspiration and an enjoyable size for reading.

Link 'em up! And consider following and pinning from the Thrifter Share Board?

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