Writer of Soul-Searching Snark

Archive for the ‘Cooking’ Category


My lovely niece is getting married on Saturday, the first of the grandchildren to take the plunge. Yesterday, my oldest niece and brother and sister-in-law hosted an impressive BBQ and shower for the couple. Since the wedding present isn’t finished yet and probably won’t be until oh, I don’t know, December or so, I gave the happy couple a series of black and white photographs for their kitchen. I also gave them:

Tips for a Successful Marriage from Claire’s Kitchen.












Many think that love is all that is needed for a marriage to thrive, but love alone grows stale without mixing in kindness and respect.

Similarly, combining two individuals for too long can result in bitterness. Each must have their own unique time and interests before they can properly complement the other.

Apply liberal amounts of patience and understanding as needed.

Much like a making a soufflé, marriage should be handled with care and like a friendship should never be taken for granted.

Your marriage should be your home. Your home should be the place you are the most secure, the place you can be yourself without fear of judgment. Trusting one another is vital, as is sharing your dreams, hopes and fears. Caring about each other is more than a sprinkling of emotion. It comes from the soul and extends through your heart.

Approach Love and Cooking with Reckless Abandon

What are your tips for a successful marriage?


Barimisu–Barrow Version of Tiramisu

Barimisu–Barrow Version of Tiramisu.

Barimisu–Barrow Version of Tiramisu

People come and go quite regularly on the North Slope of Alaska. Personnel changes at some North Slope Borough (NSB) departments is staggering. No point in learning a person’s name unless they’ve stayed there for a year. Just kidding, we’re a friendly bunch of folk, but it is a common joke among the long-timers. When you do find work with someone you like, when they leave it can be heartbreaking.

A colleague was leaving NSB HOE (Hell on Earth) Department to obtain her master’s degree in some foreign place…I can’t remember if it was Pennsylvania or Prague. I was saddened to see her leave—very nice woman.

For her going away party, and we love going away parties—well, parties in general—I decided to concoct a fabulous Tiramisu. Graduate-school-bound co-worker loved Italian food. Certain things can’t be purchased in bush Alaska—or Booger County Arkansas for that matter. Ladyfingers would be the top of the list. Mascarpone cheese? Please!! Alcohol in which to soak the non-existent ladyfingers—not buying it in Barrow. Damp community—more on that later. And Booger County is dry.

A very wimpy substitution for ladyfingers is to bake a cake and slice it in thin slivers. As for the mascarpone cheese, I planned ahead and purchased some the week before when I was in Anchorage. You can use cream cheese. Booze? Well, admittedly, I had quite the stash. Only thing missing was the required Kahlua—funny how I can’t remember what happened to the bottle we brought back from Mexico.

After researching several tiramisu recipes and creative substitutions, I was able to concoct this recipe.


I hate to admit this bit, so Tarimisu afficiandos, please don’t cringe.

STEP ONE: Bake a yellow cake according to the directions on the box. Bake in 9 X 13” pan. Cool and slice into thin slices.

1 ½ cups strong coffee.
½ sugar
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier—which is what I had on hand—you can also replace the Grand Mariner with Kahlua.
3 tablespoons of rum

Boil the coffee and sugar for about 2 minutes. Remove from stove and add alcohol. At this point, it’s always nice to add some alcohol to your system as well. I’ve found that cooking under the influence of wine is quite enjoyable.

1 ½ cup heavy cream
½ cup sugar
2 tablespoons vanilla
16 oz. mascarpone—if using cream cheese, use 14 oz and add 2 T of cream—mix together until creamy

Whip cream and sugar and vanilla into stiff peaks. Gradually add mascarpone


Line the bottom of a 9 x 13” pan with slices of the yellow cake. Drizzle with coffee mixture and then a layer of mascarpone—REPEAT—you’ll have TWO layers of dessert—cake, coffee, cream. Cake, coffee, cream

Chill for at least 4 hours. Before serving garnish with chocolate curls.

The Spirit of Christmas Past

The Spirit of Christmas Past.

Christmas Baking

I love Christmas. Love decorating, making my house look festive. There’s the tree covered in ornaments that I’ve acquired over the years. As I place each ornament on the tree I remember where I got it or who gave it to me. In 2001, I went to Germany to visit a couple of friends and we attended every craft and street fair that was held. My biggest purchases were Christmas related. My friend, Ron, gave me a hand-blown blue glass heart back in 1999. Traditionally, it’s the first ornament placed on the tree each year. Ma crocheted angels for all of us one year. Mine is near the top of the tree.

And, of course, my favorite Christmas tradition of all is the day-after-Christmas sale at Dillards. I won’t go anywhere near civilization on Black Friday, but I’ll camp outside Dillards on Christmas night in order to be the first in the door on Boxing Day. All their ornaments at 50-75% off. My heart races just thinking about it.

In addition to the tree, I have wreaths, handmade stockings (10 this year to include all the critters,) tons of snowmen (they melt your heart, you know?) and just about every Santa made. My favorite non-tree decoration is a nativity that was made by my ex-brother-in-law and ex-sister-in-law. I like the nativity so much that I never took it to the Slope. I was afraid it would get broken. Last December when my household goods arrived from Alaska, I found the nativity. I was so excited to display it. Thrilled really. Then I realized, that maybe it wasn’t right for me to have it instead of my ex-husband. After all it was made by his family. It’s my prized possession and he didn’t even remember it. Thank God, men are clueless. I would’ve wept if I had to part with those adorable camels!

I’m sure by now, you all realize that my favorite thing in the world is cooking. Christmas is the ideal time to embrace my baking obsession. Normally, I’m done with all my baking by this time, but I was in Alaska and missed the post-Thanksgiving time that I usually devote to baking. No fear though. Yesterday I dove into the flour bin and began my quest to send all my family and friends into diabetic comas. In my opinion, you’re not baking unless you approach is with reckless abandon. You can see the results of my theory…

I should have all the dough scraped off the ceiling by the time my guests arrive on Sunday.

Eggnog Recipe

Eggnog Recipe.

Eggnog Recipe

There are a lot of good things about the holiday season: Christmas trees decorated with rows of garland and shiny ornaments, houses bedazzled with pretty lights with fake Santas residing on their rooftops (don’t get me started on those giant blow up thingies–saw one the other day with Santa in a helicopter. WTH?) and the lovely ringing of the Salvation Army bells.

It’s all beautiful; however, my favorite part of the holiday season is the opportunity to make mulled wine and eggnog. I’m not talking about that stuff that comes in cardboard cartons sold in the grocery store. I’m talking EGGNOG–from scratch.

Trust me, my friends, if you don’t like eggnog it’s because you haven’t had the real thing. So, get out every bowl you own and a couple of mixers so you can whip up a batch of this creamy, luscious delight.

Traditional Eggnog Ingredients
You can make the eggnog without alcohol. It’s just a delicious, but not quite as much fun. 🙂

12 eggs, separated
6 cups milk
2 cups heavy/ thickened cream
2 cups rum (you can also use bourbon)
1+ 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup brandy
2 teaspoons ground nutmeg

Traditional Eggnog Directions:
For those of you who don’t separate eggs that often, remember to use 2 bowls for this process. Break the egg shell, use one side to contain the yolk and let the whites pour into a bowl. Then, put the yolk in the mixing bowl and the white in the second bowl. You need to do this with every egg to assure that you don’t get any yolk in the whites because the whites won’t whip if they’re contaminated. Don’t you wonder about the person who discovered this?

In a large bowl and using a mixer, beat the egg yolks together with the sugar for approx 10 minutes (you want the mixture to be firm and the color of butter.) Seriously, we’re talking 10 minutes! It’s very important.

Very slowly, add in the rum and brandy – just a little at a time.
When rum and brandy have been added, allow the mixture to cool in the fridge (for up to 6 hours, depending on how long before your party you’re making the eggnog).

30 minutes before your guests arrive, stir the milk into the chilled yolk mixture.
Stir in 1+ 1/2 teaspoons ground nutmeg.

In a separate bowl, beat the cream with a mixer on high speed until the cream forms stiff peaks.

In yet another bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form.

Gently fold the egg white mixture into the egg yolk mixture.

Gently fold the cream into the egg mixture.

After ladling into cups, garnish with the remainder of the ground nutmeg.