Wedding gift inspired cooking passion

The Other Fisherman and I will be celebrating 40 years of marriage this week. We moved to California right after we married. Shortly thereafter, Mom mailed me the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook in which she inscribed “Happy honeymoon for the rest of your life!” She knew the way to my husband’s heart was through his stomach. It was the classic red-and-white checked volume, just like hers, only a more recent version.

I cooked my way through that book and it opened the doors to a lifelong passion. It makes a wonderful gift (Christmas idea!) and first cookbook, as it contains many traditional recipes and how-to instructions for making pie dough, canning and entertaining ideas. It is the gift I bring to every bridal shower and house warming. If you only have one cookbook in your kitchen, make this the one as you will reach for it again and again.

One of my favorite delicious main dish recipes from this favored book is Quick Beef Stroganoff. As we have a freezer full of moose meat, I substitute moose for beef. Not only is the Other Fisherman the best fan of my cooking, he is also a wonderful provider who fills our freezers with Alaska’s bounty, has built us a beautiful home with an amazing kitchen, and takes care of our family so very well with so much love. It is an honor and a joy to prepare delicious dishes for him and our family.

Quick Beef Stroganoff

A rich, comforting dish of Russian origin that is a perfect supper on a cold Alaska winter evening. Serves 4.


½ cup flour

1 teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1-1 ½ pounds beef tenderloin or boneless sirloin of beef, trimmed of all exterior fat and cut into 2-by-1/4-by-1/4-inch strips

½ cup (one stick) butter

½ cup finely chopped onion

1 clove garlic, minced

½ pound mushrooms, thinly sliced

2 cups beef stock or canned beef bouillon

1 cup sour cream

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

2 tablespoons ketchup or tomato paste

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley


Combine the flour, salt and pepper. Dredge the meat in the mixture.

Brown the meat in one-quarter cup of the butter in a saucepan. Remove meat from the pan and set aside.

Add the onion to the pan and sauté until transparent. Add the garlic, mushrooms and remaining butter and sauté 3 to 5 minutes longer.

Add 1 ½ cups beef stock or bouillon and bring to a boil.

Add the meat to the sauce and cook until meat is tender but not overcooked, 3 to 10 minutes, stirring often.

Combine sour cream, paprika, ketchup and Worcestershire sauce. Add the remaining beef stock to the sour cream mixture, blending well. Return to pan and heat meat and sauce, stirring. Do not boil.

Serve over buttered noodles or mashed potatoes.

Chocolate Swirl Divinity Candy

When I was a little girl, my Grandma would make a stop at Barber’s Candy Shop in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, each holiday season to purchase boxes of perfectly formed, fluffy, sweet divinity candy. I’ve made plenty of batches over the years that did not turn out though and looked like little puddles of white goo. When the stars and planets are aligned just right, my divinity turns out. Three things that bring success: the candy should be beaten with a heavy duty stand mixer and on a day when the humidity is low. Slowly add the hot sugar syrup in a thin stream to the stiffly beaten egg whites.


3 cups sugar

3/4 cup light corn syrup

3/4 cup water

1/8 teaspoon salt

3 large eggs (whites only)

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 (12-ounce) package (2 cups) real semi-sweet chocolate chips

1/3 cup pecans, chopped fine


1.Butter baking sheets; set aside.

2. Combine sugar, corn syrup, water and salt in heavy 2-quart saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, 5-8 minutes or until sugar is dissolved. Continue cooking, without stirring, 30-60 minutes or until candy thermometer reaches 260°F or small amount of mixture dropped into ice water forms a hard ball.

3. Beat egg whites in bowl at high speed until stiff peaks form. Beat at medium speed while slowly pouring thin stream of hot syrup into egg whites. Beat at high speed, scraping bowl often, 4-6 minutes or until mixture loses gloss and starts to hold shape. Stir in nuts, vanilla and chocolate chips just until chocolate melts and forms swirls.

4. Drop tablespoons of mixture quickly onto prepared baking sheets. Cool completely.

Cranberry Buttermilk Breakfast Cake

Serves 6-8

Don’t store it in the pan you plan on baking it in — store it in a plastic container of some sort, then transfer to a greased pan in the morning.


½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature

the zest from 1 orange zest

1 cup + 1 tablespoon sugar

1 egg, room temperature

1 tsp. vanilla

2 cups flour

2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. kosher salt

2 cups fresh cranberries

½ cup buttermilk


Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Cream butter with orange zest and 1 cup of the sugar until light and fluffy.

Add the egg and vanilla and beat until combined. Meanwhile, toss the cranberries with 2 tablespoons of flour, then whisk together the remaining flour, baking powder and salt.

Add the flour mixture to the batter a little at a time, alternating with the buttermilk. Fold in the cranberries.

Grease a 9-inch square baking pan (or something similar) with butter or coat with non-stick spray. Spread batter into pan. Sprinkle batter with remaining tablespoon of sugar. Bake for 35 minutes, then check for doneness by inserting a toothpick. If cake is not done, check every five minutes or so; depending on your oven it may take as long as 50 minutes, especially if you made the batter in advance and it is cool when you put the cake in the oven to bake. Let cool at least 15 minutes before serving.

Merry Christmas!

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