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Reading the North: Iditarod adventure; Cannabis cookbook

Fast Into the Night

By Debbie Clarke Moderow; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 320 pages; to be published Feb. 2; $25

The blurb: At age 47, a mother of two, Debbie Moderow was not your average Iditarod musher, but that's what she decided to do. But less than 200 miles from the finish line of the 2003 race from Willow to Nome, her dogs decided they didn't want to run anymore. After all her preparation, after all the careful management of her team, and after their running so well for more than a week, the huskies balked. But the sting of not completing the race after coming so far was nothing compared to the disappointment Moderow felt in having lost touch with her dogs.

"Fast Into the Night" is the gripping story of Moderow's journeys along the Iditarod Trail with her team of spunky huskies: Taiga and Su, Piney and Creek, Nacho and Zeppy, Juliet and the headstrong leader, Kanga. The first failed attempt crushed Moderow's confidence, but after reconnecting with her dogs she returned and ventured again to Nome in 2003, pushing through injuries, hallucinations, storms, flipped sleds and clashing personalities, both human and canine. And she prevailed.

Excerpt: After an eight-hour rest in Unalakleet, we get back onto the trail. It's 6 p.m., the sky's glowing orange, and Lil' Su's in single lead. Soon after leaving the checkpoint, we're navigating a series of sloughs on the Unalakleet River. The first is covered with a skim of snow, and then we come to another. This slough is a mirror: one hundred yards of polished ice fit for a figure skater.

"Straight ahead!" I call.

The dogs take 10 careful steps, then a few more. I wish I hadn't bootied them -- they're having trouble gripping the ice. Piney's front legs splay and she slips. Teton freezes in a wide-legged stance, and the others pull her along. Juliet slows and picks up her feet in an awkward prance. Nacho's ears flatten. Lil' Su looks back.

"Straight, Lil' Su, straight ahead!" I plead, thinking that if we can just get halfway across, they'll scramble toward the security of tall exposed grasses on shore. Lil' Su hears me and tries to move, but Nacho sits and so does Roulette. Before I draw another breath, they all stop. Ten dogs wearing crimson coats sit on a mirror of ice beneath a sky the color of salmon. The reflection teases with beauty, but the reality stings.

Focus, Debbie, focus.

I need to make a good decision. My huskies can't move, and if I try to slither up the line and lead them forward, there's a good chance they will tangle. So I decide to take off their boots. Maybe better traction will repair their lost confidence. This is no easy task, to get from my sled to the dogs. I slip and fall but manage to get the job done. When I ask them to go, they don't budge.

Daylight is fading when I decide to unhook each husky. I'm confident they won't run away; once they're loose, surely they'll run to the security of shore. Then I can push the sled to the grassy edge of the slough.

One by one I set each dog free. Nacho claws his way to the grass. Creek and Lil' Su go together, shoulder to shoulder, as if they are still on the line. When they reach decent footing they play like young pups, romping and rolling on their backs like they do on summertime hikes. Roulette sees things differently; she curls up in an immovable ball. And Spot and Juliette choose the nearest security. They jump on top of my sled and sit down as if seated on a throne.

The Cannabis Kitchen Cookbook

By Robyn Griggs Lawrence; Skyhorse Publishing; 262 pages; $24.99

The blurb: Cannabis is one of the hottest ingredients to hit the culinary world, and cannabis-infused food is an evolving art and science. Chefs in the know from Amherst to Anaheim share their secrets for infusing everything from oil and agave to soups and cocktails with this once-taboo ingredient.

Covering every meal from brunch to late-night cocktails and snacks, "The Cannabis Kitchen Cookbook" approaches cannabis as yet another fine ingredient to be studied and savored, like a great wine, a premium cigar, gourmet chocolate or single-malt scotch. With more than 100 fully tested recipes from experienced professional chefs, the book guides readers through the process of making fresh, tasty and healthy home-cooked meals using cannabis as the main additive.

The cookbook also provides step-by-step instructions on preparing cannabis for use in the kitchen as well as advice on personalizing dosage for different tastes. Tips for trimming, processing, storing and preserving cannabis are included along with a "buyer's guide" that sheds light on the many varieties of cannabis flavors, showcasing strains based not only on feel-good levels, but more importantly, taste-good levels.

Excerpt: Cannabis Cream: Rowan Lehman has never infused cream any other way because she's always had success with this secret family recipe (from relatives in Alaska, where cannabis is now legal so the recipe doesn't have to be secret anymore). Rowan simmers an eighth of an ounce of finely ground cannabis flowers and a pint of heavy cream in a double boiler with a slightly cracked lid for about two hours and lets it sit overnight in the refrigerator before straining for a potent, consistent cannabis cream she can rely on when she cooks. Rowan uses only heavy cream because its high fat content makes the cream more stable and less likely to curdle if it simmers than milk or light cream. (Heavy cream will curdle if you let it boil, so watch your pot closely.) The fat also sucks up fat-soluble THC from the cannabis, which is good to remember if you're stirring this cream into coffee or substituting it for non-infused cream in recipes.

Makes about 2 cups

1/8 ounce cured, well-trimmed cannabis flowers or trim

1 pint (2 cups) cream

Double boiler

Fine-mesh strainer

Cheesecloth

Airtight glass container

Using a wooden spoon, combine cannabis and cream in a double boiler.

Bring to a simmer, watching carefully so the cream doesn't boil. When it has just about reached boiling, reduce heat.

Cover with a lid, leaving a slight crack, and simmer on low for two hours.

Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.

Label pan and place, covered, in refrigerator overnight.

The next day, place cheesecloth inside a strainer and pour cream through the strainer into a bowl. Squeeze cheesecloth and compost cannabis.

Store cream in a labeled airtight container in the refrigerator until the cream's expiration date.

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