In search of healthy and fun meals to feed my family, with an eye toward sustainable living.

Here you'll find recipes & ramblings about keeping my family fed with what's available in Alaska between local produce, a little bit of wild harvest, and the modern grocery store.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The garden is IN!!!

Drizzly rainy today, but Liesl and I did finally get those potatoes planted! Everything else went in last weekend: direct-seeding as well as starts bought at the greenhouse (Bok Choi & mesclun lettuce is always a treat for early June; kohlrabi & leeks will be harvested in late summer ). I direct-seeded arugula (Rocquette), which I'm glad to say finally is commercially available in the US. Other direct-seeded greens (lettuce, kale, spinach) are up, but the carrots are slow as ever -- the radish serves as indicator where their rows are. I RESOLVE TO DO A BETTER JOB THIS SUMMER IN WEEDING AND THINNING THE CARROTS -- ok, I said it!

The only starts I started indoor myself (in the garage in early May) were sweet peas, and those did transplant well. I'm also growing container tomatoes & peppers indoors , and those will go outside soon -- whenever the sun comes back out and I get around to finish putting up my Mother's Day present:

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Green soups and "Maggi" seasoning

For some strange reason, my family only likes green soups when it comes to smooth or pureed soups. I happen to also love orange (such as curried squash or carrot soup), red or pink borscht (red beets), and even cream of mushroom soup, which, yes, comes out a rather unattractive gray. But my guys only go for GREEN.
Today they told me that their #1 green soup is my leek soup (Lauchsuppe in german).
Today I made it (without the potatoes -- more "veggie-tasting") and served it for lunch together with panini sandwiches.

Leek Soup
Lauchsuppe/ soupe aux poireaux
Wash the leeks after cutting lengthwise -- they often have a bit of soil in them.
cut into small half-rings and saute in olive oil (or 1/2 olive, 1/2 butter). Optional, saute diced onions and celery too.
Once translucent, I puree (blend) all the veggies with some water or stock. This can be filled into glass jars or tupperware for later use, labelled "Leek puree -no dairy". Sometimes I freeze the vegetable puree before adding the dairy -- it also keeps well in a jar for a week or more -- make ahead when you know it's going to be a busy week...
Later, I reheat the puree, add some grated parmesan and/or swiss cheese, dill, salt, pepper. If I have leftover mashed potatoes, or if I need to thicken or stretch the soup for an extra mouth or 2, I add potatoes.
Once thoroughly heated, I turn off the heat and add a little creme freche, heavy cream or sour cream, right before serving.
I make sure it's hot, but try not to boil it again with the cream in it.
Goes well with croutons, ham-and-cheese paninis, biscuits, baguette, etc...

another favorite green soup is
Split Pea Soup (a.k.a. Cleaning Day Soup)
non-vegetarians can start this with a ham hock -- great flavor.
Fill a pot with dried split peas, bay leaves, the optional ham bone and enough water to cover it all, and simmer on low until ready.
Again, there's not much to this -- it's as easy as, well, any legume soup.
In fact, my mother used to make this soup on Mondays, which was CLEANING DAY, the day where she attacked the household from top to bottom and did not have time to make a proper German supper of meat and potatoes. I suppose she gave it a stir every time she walked into the kitchen to refill the cleaning bucket, but otherwise this meal needs very little attention.
As a kid, I hated coming home to lentil soup (which, incidentally, my husband calls the "you got to be kidding soup), but split peas were always fine by me, as long as I could add Maggi seasoning!
Here's what Wikipedia says about Maggi:
"Maggi" is still synonymous with the brand's "Maggi-Würze" (Maggi seasoning sauce), a dark, hydrolysed vegetable protein based sauce which is very similar to East Asian soy sauce except for that it does not actually contain soy. It was introduced in 1886, as a cheap substitute for meat extract. It has since become a well-known part of everyday culinary culture in Switzerland, Austria and especially in Germany. It is also well known in Poland and the Netherlands....The original company came into existence in 1872 in Switzerland, when Julius Maggi took over his father's mill. He quickly became a pioneer of industrial food production, aiming to improve the nutritional intake of worker families. Maggi was the first to bring protein-rich legume meal to the market, and followed up with a ready-made soup based on legume meal in 1886. In 1897, Julius Maggi founded the company Maggi GmbH in the German town of Singen where it is still established today.

You may ask "What's in Maggi sauce?" -- in fact, I googled that question, and found out that it is rich in unami-flavors, very popular in Asia too, but the recipes vary quite a bit from country to country. The best discussion I found was on Eatdrinkandbemerry.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Cooking in a Römertopf (Clay Cooker)

My eldest daughter is turning 25 this week, so I gave her a Römertopf plus a couple of smoked chickens for her birthday. To our family, Sunday afternoon isn't complete without the aroma of a smoked chicken or roast coming from the oven -- at least in the cold season (which feels like most of the year, given we still have several feet of snow on the ground right now!).

Here are some recipes I translated for her from the french pamphlet inside -- who knows why they were not in German or English? But I had fun, and only had to look up 1 word! I found it funny how many of them were "Borealkraut-style" in that they gave no quantities at all!

To me, cooking in the Römertopf is the epitomy of simple home-cooking. The ingredients are nothing fancy, but the rich flavor comes from the slow cooking/steaming that intensifies in the the juices.
I've taken to picking half a dozen organic chickens at a time when I'm at Costco, which I brine (1 c each of salt and sugar dissolved in 1 qt water) and smoke. I vacuum-pack and freeze them, then take out a chicken midweek to thaw out in the frig. It's good for at least 2 meals-- we eat Roast Chicken on Sunday, then I cook the carcass into stock and serve chicken and dumplings mid-week (but I have to hide the left-overs in the frig so my husband eat them all)...

French Onion soup

6 big onions

2 cloves garlic

30 ml butter

1 ml dried thyme

310 ml beef stock

250 ml white wine

salt, pepper

6 slices french bread

250 ml freshly grated parmesan

250 ml grated swiss cheese

Soak clay cooker for 15 min. Meanwhile, sauté the onions in butter (or oil). Place in clay cooker, cold oven, and heat for approx 1 hr at 200C, checking and stirring onions occasionally, until nicely browned. Add thyme, beef stock and wine, and return to oven for another hour. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Before serving, toast the bread, place over soup with grated cheese and return uncovered to oven at 230C for 10 minutes, then increase to 290, broiling until cheese is bubbling, around 2 minutes.

Roast Beef

1 roast (your preference of cut, approx 1.5 kg)

salt, pepper





bay leaf

red wine, optional

Soak the cooker. Salt and pepper the roast. Place in cooker, together with all the other ingredients around it. Cover and place in cold oven. Bake at 250C for 40-90minutes, depending on cut and desired doneness.

Römertopf Meatloaf

450 g ground beef

250 g bread crumbs

250 ml milk

1 egg

25 ml dried onion powder

24 ml tomato paste

15 ml horseradish

5 ml salt

5 ml pepper

potatoes (optional)

Soak the cooker. Mix all the ingredients. Shape into loaf and place into the cooker. Cover and place in cold oven at 230C for 75 min. It’s good to place cut potatoes under or around the loaf to absorb the juices.

Country Roasted Chicken

1 chicken (approx 1.5 kg)

salt, pepper

1 onion


celery leaves

butter (optional)


white wine (optional)

vegetables cut small (potatoes, carrots, onions, etc)

Soak the cooker. Clean the chicken, and fill the cavity with onion, celery, salt, pepper.

Place in cooker and optionally rub with butter. Add vegetables and wine, as desired.

Cover, place in cold oven and bake approx 85 minutes at 230C.

If desiring a crust on the chicken, remove vegetables and juices (for gravy) and return to oven uncovered until browned as desired.

Potpourri of savory vegetables

Zuccini, tomatoes, onions

Salt, pepper

Parmesan cheese

Soak cooker. Peel and cut vegetables (not too small). Put all ingredients in cooker, cover, and place into cold oven. Cook at 230 C for approx 30 minutes – cooking time depends on size and quantity of vegetables.

Baked Fish Fillets

900 g fish fillets (fresh or previoulsy frozen)


lemon juice

salt, pepper


fresh chives, chopped

Soak the cooker. Spread mustard over fish fillet and place in cooker, and sprinkle remaining ingredients over them. Cover and place in cold oven, bake at 230C for 30-40 minutes until fish is done.

Baked apples

6 medium apples





pecans, chopped

125 ml white wine

15 ml rum essence

Soak the cooker. Mix sugar, cinnamon, raisins and pecan in a bowl for filling. Wash and core the apples (don’t peel). Spread butter on apples and place in cooker. Place filling in each cavity. Pour in wine and rum essence. Cover and place in cold oven and bake at 230C for approximately 30 minutes until apples are tender. Serve with the delicious juice.

(My mom's variation “Apfel im Schlafrock” or Apple in evening robe: encase each apple in phyllo dough and bake on sheet. Serve with whipped cream -- it was our favorite dessert when I was growing up!)

Friday, May 13, 2011

Spring has Sprung!

Just turned the corner, so to speak, on Spring. The leaves on the trees are out -- there's that definite tinge of green as you look at the hillside. Birch are always first, but some of the smaller cottonwoods have opened up their leaves. The BIG cottonwoods haven't leaved out yet.

Gardening news:
Around the May 1st I started direct-seeding mustards, kale and spinach. On Mother's Day I seeded carrots w/ radishes as markers. Been keeping these covered these beds with plastic.
Today, Youngest and I planted some more: Arugula, Mache, dill, and a few flowers.
We've had some clear cold nights in the beginning of May (so far, last frost was May 9th -- we had to scrape the car in the morning!)
Indoors, I've got 2 pots planted with tomato plants. "why bother?" Because one of these years we may actually get enough sun in the summer to grow some decent tomatoes... Hope springs eternal!

Another exciting news: got a shipment today from Fungi Perfecti! I'll be growing shiitake mushrooms indoors, and pearl oyster mushrooms by spiking cottonwood logs with inoculated "plug spawn". New adventures in gardening !!!

Baking scones


1.5 c all-purpose flour

1 Tbsp baking powder

½ tsp salt

½ c brown sugar

¾ c butter, cold, cut into pieces

1 c rolled oats

½ c dried blueberries

1 egg, lightly beaten

¾ c buttermilk or milk


2 c all-purpose flour

1 Tbsp baking powder

½ tsp salt

½ c sugar

1 tsp grated orange peel

¾ c butter, cold, cut into pieces

½ c chocolate chips

1 egg, lightly beaten

½ c orange juice or milk

Measure dry ingredients into bowl. Using a pastry cutter, cut the butter in until it resembles coarse meal. Add berries or chips. These can be stored in a closed jar, refrigerated, for a couple of weeks.

Add wet ingredients until just blended. Drop by spoonfuls onto baking sheet, or roll out on a floured surface and cut into triangles. Bake approx. 20 minutes, until golden brown. Cool on rack.

Optional: dust with powdered sugar or simple glaze of powdered sugar with water or lemon/orange juice.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Recipes for Alaskan Barley

This week our CSA box contains Alaskan-grown barley!
Here are some recipes, thanks to Glacier Valley CSA.

The barley is naturally hull-less, which is handy, since it doesn’t have to be hulled in a grain mill. Just use the barley as you would use pearl barley, but I don’t think it will get quite as creamy as pearl barley does. You can cook it up and use it in place of rice or other grains, adding it to soups or muffins, for example. Arthur made a beef & barley soup out of it, and said it turned out great! I don’t have a recipe for that, but I have used it successfully in breakfast porridge. (Recipe for the porridge follows.)

Here’s a couple of basic ways of cooking it, as if you were going to eat it in place of brown rice, for example:
Cook 1 cup of barley in 3 cups of water, (and 1/2 teaspoon of salt, if desired). You’ll need to bring it to a boil, and then cover and simmer it for 1 1/2 hours, or until tender, to get it fully cooked. If you soak it overnight, you can cut the cooking time down—but I’m not sure by how much. (Sorry.)

Another way to cook it is to simmer it (covered) in plenty of water, as if you were cooking pasta, until it’s tender (probably about 90 minutes), and then drain it. Put it back in the hot pot and cover it to let the remaining moisture absorb into the grains.

barley & apricot porridge

I like this breakfast porridge with barley, inspired by a recipe from Mollie Katzen’s breakfast cookbook: Sunlight Café. Her recipe is for a traditional Turkish dish called Anooshavoor.

½ cup barley
1 cup water, plus more as needed
1 ½ cups apple juice
¼ teaspoon cardamom (or 6 cardamom pods)
¼ teaspoon salt
10 or more dried apricots, sliced
1 tablespoon honey, or more to taste
optional toppings:
milk, soymilk, or yogurt
toasted almonds, chopped
more honey

1. Combine the barley and water and apple juice in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer, add the salt and cardamom, and let cook, covered, over low heat for about 1 ½ hours, or maybe more, stirring occasionally and adding more water as necessary to keep the porridge a bit soupy.
2. When the barley is tender, check the consistency. If you want the porridge soupier, add more apple juice. Add the apricots and honey, stir, remove from the heat and cover the pot. Let stand for 10 minutes to let the apricots soften and blend into the barley.
3. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature. Top with your choice of milk, almonds, and more honey.

Borealkitchen's Beef Barley Soup
Our family often eats soup in the winter. This one is simple but satisfying -- great for preparing ahead and putting in the crockpot for a busy day. It makes a meal with some hearty wholegrain bread and a salad. The key is to use home-made beef stock from scratch (my recipe here) -- after defatting, it keeps well in the freezer.
Note: can easily make this without meat pieces, only stock

beef (round or other) -cut into small pieces
barley (if not pre-soaked, allow well over 2 hrs until cooked!)
other rootcrops as desired (turnips, potatoes)
bay leaf
salt, pepper

Monday, March 21, 2011

New Favorite: Rye-Buckwheat Bread

Made another loaf of Sourdough Rye-Buckwheat bread, and we love it. It's a dark firm loaf with a super crust! Better write down what I did, before I forget!

First of all, I've been experimenting with feeding my sourdough a whole-wheat diet (I use King Arthur brand) instead of the commercial unbleached All-purpose (White) Flour. I knew to change their diet slowly, given that my sourdough pet is a bunch of live microbes, and sudden changes in diet can be hard on any organism. At first I thought I had a reasonably bubbly ("active") sourdough. But lately I've notice less activity and quicker development of the "Hooch" often within half a day -- a sign that my sourdough is not at its prime. My solution, for now, is to change its diet back to half white and half wheat...

Sauerteig Roggen-Buchweizen Brot (Rye-Buckwheat Bread)
inspired by post on The Fresh Loaf blog by Hanseata, whose recipe is for a yeast bread rather than a sourdough bread. My recipe works without commercial yeast.

Sourdough starter:
1 c sourdough (can be fed with white, wheat or rye flour), active*
1 c rye flour

*sourdough is at 100% hydration, been fed for at least 3 days and kept at room temperature, NOT the refrigerator.

Final dough:
all of the starter above
1 c warm water
1 T molasses
2.5-3 c flour (combination of whole wheat, AP and buckwheat flours)
I used 1 c whole, 1 c white and 1/2 c buckwheat, plus 1 T Gluten flour
1 t salt
1 t each fennel and anise (optional)
1-2 T flax seed (optional)
1-2 T sunflower seed (optional)

For starter, mix sourdough with flour. Forms a sticky dough -- let rise, covered, in warm place for 4-6 hrs (I preheat my oven w/ pizza stone for 1 minute, then turn it off).
For dough, cut up the sourdough starter and soak with water and molasses. Using paddle attachment, I mix it in my Kitchenaide (careful of splashing -- don't expect a smooth integrated dough). Start adding flour. Switch to dough hook once paddle can't handle it anymore. After all ingredients are in there and dough has pulled from the side, transfer to floured board and knead dough (not too much -- just stretch and fold). Let sit a few minutes (up to 1omin ), esp if still very sticky -- the gluten will develop and absorb more of the liquid.
For retarding step, place dough in the frig, covered, overnight (up to 3 days).
On baking day, take dough out of frig, knead and form into loaf. Let rise in banneton or loaf pan, in warm place, until risen (to roughy twice). Bake in preheated oven at 415 F on pizza stone with initial steam, for 1 hr+.

Last a rather ugly picture of a comparison of the pure sourdough bread with the one where I added 1 T commercial yeast in step 2 (in this case, I did also retard in the frig, and it's definitely over-risen -- probably could have done with half the yeast). For school sandwich purposes, the kids prefer the lighter version, but for a hearty German-style bread to go with soup or as a snack smeared with creamcheese and smoked salmon, I prefer the denser version!