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.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Menu

It's New Year's Eve, and I've been cooking up a proverbial storm.
First of all there's the tradition in our family to turn the last of the Christmas turkey leftovers into a tasty batch of GUMBO, which usually is done by the dear husband -- but I made it today while he napped on the couch... Sooo, I won't be revealing any of HIS secrets of Gumbo-making, merely my own (albeit probably inferior, or at least less fiery) version.
New Years Gumbo

left-over turkey, cut into small pieces
turkey stock -lots!
oil, such as canola, sunflower, or other oil that can handle being heated
For starters, the trinity of cajun vegetables:
onions, chopped
celery, chopped
bell peppers, chopped
jalapeno peppers (or other hot peppers), chopped
optional meats: ham, sausage
garlic, crushed
pepper (both black and white, best if freshly ground)
ground cumin (a goodly amount)
cayenne pepper (to taste, or other hot pepper, ground)
ground paprika (smoked is great for flavor!)
thyme (generous amount -- this is a signature of cajun cooking!)
oregano, basil
onion powder, garlic powder
stewed tomatoes, canned ok, with liquid
bay leaf
water or stock
sweet potatoes, cubed
other veggies, such as green beans, okra, carrots, turnips...
salt, to taste
tabasco sauce
oil and flour, roughly equal amounts, for making roux
optional: seafood, such as shrimp

Note that I do not list quantities, because it's (a) a function on what you happen to have at hand right then -- in other words, clean-out-the-frig, and (b) it's a matter of taste -- give your creativity free reign: no 2 batches of gumbo should ever be the same!

I start by heating the defatted stock in my largest stockpot, adding the turkey and all other ingredients as I saute them in my biggest cast-iron frying pan: First, I sautee the onions, celery & peppers, adding the spices and cooking a bit. After they're done, dump that into stockpot, add more oil to the frying pan, and sautee the next batch: sausage, ham, etc... The sweet potatoes onward do not need to be sauteed -- they go directly into the stockpot.

While the big pot is bubbling away (on low), make the roux:
This takes some skill & confidence, but most importantly, the knowledge that it can splatter and burn you! I heat the oil in the cast-iron pan, and add flour while whisking it continuously. Heat and keep whisking until the flour turns dark, but don't burn it.
Remove from heat and spoon roux into the stockpot in small batches -- it's VERY hot and can splash when it hits the liquid -- it really helps to have a spouse or older child there who will stir the big pot after each addition of roux. Simmer the stockpot, letting flavors mingle and gumbo thicken, but keep an eye on it, stirring occasionally. If I want to add shrimp, I do it at this stage.
Note: this freezes very well -- but don't add shrimp or other seafood until thawing and re-heating.
Serve gumbo over rice.

Note on roux-making: another approach commonly seen is starting with the roux. Heat oil, add flour and whisk until dark. Then add the veggies and spices and cook, stirring. Add stock, stirring... Note that this approach requires all your ingredients to be ready to go, and you do a lot of continuous stirring, and my wrist/arms need breaks -- so I do like to do this in batches.

For a recipe (with actual quantities), go here for a Paul Prudhomme gumbo.

Next, I cooked Hoppin' John, which is a Southern tradition, made from Black-eyed peas (a.k.a. cowpeas), and I made both a vegetarian and traditional version.

Hopping John
tradional version: cook cowpeas with ham, hamhock or bacon
my own vegetarian creole version:
black-eyed peas, soaked in warm water for a few hours or overnight, drained
onions, chopped
celery, chopped
bell peppers, chopped
garlic, crushed
pepper (both black and white, best if freshly ground)
cayenne pepper (to taste, or other hot pepper, ground)
ground paprika (smoked is great for flavor!)
thyme (generous amount -- this is a cajun staple)
optional: onion powder, garlic powder, mustard powder
bay leaf
water or stock
salt, to taste
greens, such as kale or collard greens.

Heat oil and saute the veggies. Add garlic and all spices, cooking for a little while, then add the drained black-eyed peas, bay leaf and enough water/stock to cover. Cook until peas are soft. Add salt.
While legumes are cooking, prepare the greens: wash, remove tough stems, and cut. Add into peas when they are nearly all the way cooked. Serve with cornbread.

Lastly, as I type on my new laptop (in the kitchen, isn't that nifty!!!), I've got 2 different versions of poached pears simmering on the stove. I posted the recipe yesterday, but here's what I've learned today when I found this treatise on How to make poached pears (go there if you want actual measurements!):
  • This works with Asian pears too!
  • Keep those pears covered with some parchment paper
  • there are lots of flavors you can add: vanilla, cloves, allspice, etc
  • try replacing some of the water with wine
  • add some dried fruit to the poaching liquid at the end
  • serve hot or cold, by itself or with a sauce
  • it's a great way to preserve fruit you can't eat fast enough...

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

QUARK: a staple of German dessert-making

If you've never heard of QUARK, you're not alone. It does not have a translation in English. It's a fresh (or white) soft cheese similar to queso blanco or Indian Paneer. The closest I can come to describing this dairy product is to call it a cross between sour cream and ricotta cheese, or cream cheese and cottage cheese-- sort of like the Italian mascarpone. I occasionally treat myself to a tub of "real" Quark, available in Anchorage at New Sagaya Market. I've got one in my frig right now, and am trying to decide what special German dessert to make with it.

Wikipedia defines Quark (pronunciation "qvark") as a fresh curd cheese of East European origin (from the slavic "tvorag"). It is soft, white and un-aged, similar to the french fromage frais. It usually has much lower fat content (about the same as yoghurt) than cream cheeses and has no salt added.

I grew up eating Quark both savory and sweet: we spread it on bread, and ate it as a simple dessert with fruit. And it is the best for making German cheesecake! As a substitute, you can create your own from buttermilk (link here) or by using a yoghurt cheese (strain unflavored yoghurt through a cheese cloth). Even simpler is to substitute mascarpone, or blend 9 parts ricotta w/ 1 part sour cream, or use a blender to make you own mix of cottage cheese, cream cheese and/or yoghurt, depending on how much creaminess you're after...
Suesser Quark mit Frucht
Blend quark, sugar or honey and berries -- it's so easy a five-year old can be in charge of this! Probably the first dessert I ever made.

Poached Pears with cheese & berries
I learned this recipe from Eldest daughter (Kitchensister). You can use quark, mascarpone or ricotta cheese. several fresh pears (not super-ripe)
ginger, sliced real thin
ground cinnamon (1/2 -1 tsp?)
honey (1/2 cup?)
water, as needed (may substitute partially with wine)
berries (can be frozen) - 1 or 2 cups
quark or ricotta or mascarpone cheese - 1 tub

In a sauce pan, heat the honey/water/wine mixture with cinnamon and sliced ginger. Add pear slices and simmer with just enough liquid to cover the pears. When pears are soft, remove them and set aside. Discard the ginger.
Boil the liquid down until there's barely any left (watch that you don't burn this!).
Stir in the cheese.
Separately, make a berry compote ("soup") from berries -- simmer in a saucepan, adding sweetener if you feel it's needed.

Serve this dessert by placing a few slices of pear on each plate, spooning sweetened cheese over it, and drizzling with berries.

Streuselkuchen mit Quarkfüllung

2 c. flour
1/2 package dry yeast (1 heaping teaspoon) or 1/2 cube of fresh yeast
1/2 c. lukewarm milk (110°F)
2 T. butter
2 T. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
5 T. butter
1 tsp. lemon zest
6 T. sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 c. Quark or yogurt cheese
2 T. cornstarch
optional: berries or other fruit

Streusel Topping:
1 1/2 c. flour
2/3 c. sugar
1/2 c. butter
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cinnamon


Make the yeast dough: Place the flour in a bowl and create a hollow in it with the back of a spoon. Crumble fresh yeast or sprinkle dry yeast in the hollow, fill with the lukewarm milk, add a pinch of sugar and mix a little to incorporate some of the flour. Let the sponge sit in a warm place for 15 minutes.

After the yeast is activated and showing strong growth, add the butter, salt and sugar to the milk and mix the dough, incorporating the flour as you go. You may also use a stand mixer for this step. Continue mixing until the dough is smooth and forms a ball. Add a little more flour if necessary. Form dough into a ball, place in a greased bowl, turning once, and cover. Let rise 15 to 30 minutes.

Roll out on a lightly floured board to a 9 x 13 inch rectangle and transfer to a 9 x 13 inch baking pan. Press towards the edges gently, creating a lip (like a pizza crust). Let this dough rest while you mix the filling and topping.

Make the filling: Cream together butter, sugar and lemon zest for 2 minutes. Add the egg and beat until light and fluffy, scraping down the bowl as you go. Add the Quark or yogurt cheese, mixing until smooth. Sprinkle the cornstarch on top and mix to incorporate. Spread over the yeast dough.

Optionally, add fruit at this stage (something not too watery, such as berries).

Make the streusel topping: Mix 1 1/2 cups of flour, 2/3 cup sugar, salt and cinnamon. Using your hands or a pastry mixer, cut 7 tablespoons butter into the flour mix until you have course crumbs. Sprinkle these crumbs on top of the Quark filling.

Bake the cake at 350°F for 30 minutes, or until cake is lightly browned and filling is almost set. Filling will set up more as it cools.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Menu for last week of December

It's that wonderful week after Christmas, when the frig is full, but the calendar is not!

We're about cookied-out, and I find myself craving mostly fruits and vegetables. Perfect for all that wonderful produce from the CSA box: carrots, taters, celery root, cabbage, pears, apples, oranges, greens, etc.
At Costco I bought 2 special treats: King Crab, and Leg of lamb, imported from Australia.
The lamb will last me a few month: I cut it up into chunks and freeze it in 1-pound portions, plus I make stock from the scraps...) I love making an indian feast with lots of vegetarian dishes plus lamb korma or lamb stew!

An old Southern tradition is to eat black-eyed peas and greens on New Year's Day -- so we're adding this to our family tradition. My Swedish-American husband is the force behind our family's predeliction for CAJUN food -- every year for the last 17 we turn the turkey left-over into a great big batch of GUMBO. It freezes very well!

SAT "Boxing Day": leftover turkey, mashed pototoes, etc.
SUN: Polenta w/ red sauce, super-garlicky garlic bread, big green salad
MON: Cajun Flanks & greens, over rice, oven-roasted celery root
TUE: Bubble & Squeek (potatoes and cabbage)
WED: Cardamon Lamb Curry (recipe from Dingo Dave Downunder), other veggies & rice
THUR: Gumbo and King Crab (more here)
FRI: Cajun black-eyed peas, mess of greens, cornbread
SAT: Corned beef, potatoes & cabbage

Recipe for Hot-buttered rum MIX

For the holidays this year, we made, and consumed, large quantities of this:

Hot-buttered Rum Mix
1 stick butter (1/2 cup)
2 c brown sugar
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t nutmeg
1/4 t cloves
1/4 t cardamon (optional) a favorite spice in our household

Mix it all together & store in jars.
No need for refrigeration.

To use, put 1-2 teaspoons in a mug, add hot water and rum to taste.
Can also be used to flavor hot cocoa, coffee or tea.

BUTTER BEER (Hogwarts-style)
Hot version: Add mix to hot water, and optional, stir in vanilla icecream, too.
Cold version (rootbeer-float style): Add mix to cream soda, stir, then add icecream.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Baking European Christmas cookies

I did a bit of baking today, trying to catch up -- cookie tins are once again empty on account of maraundering teenagers...

I challenged myself to bake (which I love) a variety of cookies (a must at Christmas-time) without a whole lot of dish-washing (which I don't care for)... it's all in the name of efficiency, don't you know!

So, without washing any mixing bowls, spatulas, etc until the end of the exercise, here's what I figure can be made one after the other without looking at the sink until the very end:

Zimtsterne (Cinnamon stars, German)
Spritz (cookie press cookies, int'l) or Scottish shortbread cookies
Spekulatius (very thin spice cookies, German/Danish)
Rokkekager (literally translates to "Rock cookies", Scandinavian)

ZIMTSTERNE (Cinnamon stars) -this is completely wheat/gluten-free
3 egg whites
1/2 # granulated sugar
3 t cinnamon
2 c grated almonds (save approx 1/4 c for dusting pastry board) -- I grind my own, blanching them first
1/2 t almond extract

Beat eggwhites and as they start foaming, slowly add sugar. Set aside some of this for topping.
Transfer to another bowl where you carefully mix in the remaining ingredients. Keep adding nutflour until dough holds together enough to be rolled out on dusted pastry board. Cut star shapes, brush w/beaten eggwhites, and bake on greased cookie sheet at 300F for approx 30 min, until golden brown and slightly chewy.
PS: mine never turn out looking as nice as this picture I found on google...

SPRITZ (Cookie press)
there's lots of recipes. Basically calls for butter, sugar and flour, plus egg yolks, which is why I make them after Zimtsterne, where I have leftover egg yolks! Just use same mixing bowl that the eggwhites were beaten it -- (in case of nut allergies, be sure not to use any tools that touched nuts)...
Typically this dough needs to chill, so move on to the next recipe, without washing that bowl!

Here's my version (based on Joy of Cooking -adjusted to use up the 3 egg yolks)
1.5 c butter, softened
1 c sugar
3 egg yolks
1.5 t vanilla or almond extract
3 c to 3.5c flour
3/4 t salt
optional: add ground almonds as well -- adjust flour as needed

again, butter, sugar, flour, plus spices. Keep on using the same bowls to soften the butter, mix the dough, etc...

1/2 # butter, softened at room temp
1 # sugar
2 eggs
grated rind of 1 lemon
4.5 c flour
2 t cinnamon
1/2 t ground gloves
1/4 t ground cardamom
optional: slivered almonds
(some recipes call for ground almonds as well)

Cream butter and sugar, then add eggs, one at a time. Fold in all dry ingredients. Chill dough (instructions are for overnight), but my Alaskan trick is to stick them outside, already spread 1/8th inch thick on the greased cookie sheet (I cover w/ plastic wrap first).
Traditionally, Spekulatius are "relief-printed" cookies (often w/ windmills or other designs), but sure could bake them plain.
Sometimes they have a thin glaze of eggwhite wash, and perhaps sprinkled w/ a bit of sugar.
Bake at 350F (I've even seen lower temps, like 300) until lightly golden.
As soon as you remove them from oven, cut them apart into squares.

From The history of Springerle is quite interesting. It is said that a effigy of an animal was used in place of an actual animal sacrifice for those who could not afford the real thing. These imprints were used during pagan midwinter festivals at which people prayed for an early spring. They were commonly exchanged instead of Christmas cards and Biblical scenes on the cookies served to educate the illiterate in the middle ages. For more on the history, check out

ROKKEKAGER (Rock cookies)
1 c butter
1.5 c brown sugar
3 eggs
2.5-3 c flour
1/2 t salt
1 t baking soda
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t nutmeg
1/4 t cloves
1 t vanilla
3 c mixed candied fruit and/or raisins
1 c each hazelnuts and pecans/walnuts

cream butter and sugar, add eggs. Add dry ingredients & fruit & nuts.
Drop by the spoonful onto baking sheets. Bake 8-10 min at 375F. These store well (but beware if you find them at Easter -- then they may resemble Hagrid's rock cakes!)

Phew, now better get to some dishes...

Thursday, December 17, 2009

How to make one chicken stretch for a week

Our family recently rented the DVD of Food, Inc.
An excellent movie -- I highly recommend watching it! Much of it is based on Michael Pollen's work (In Defense of Food and Omnivore's Dilemma) and Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation.

Our family has been switching over to organic food more and more, as we learn more about where our food comes from, and as we see that yes indeed, we afford it! At first glance, going organic seems to cost significantly more, but I'd say that as we're doing this we're not going bankrupt, and not only are we eating healthier, but also we consume less bad stuff.
Take meat, for one. We just don't need to eat all that much. We're not vegetarians, but we're buying better meat and stretching it further. We still get plenty of protein -- such as from legumes, etc... AND THEY ARE CHEAP!
My daughter and I have been splitting the Costco 2-pack of whole organic chicken every couple of weeks (comes to about $10 per chicken). She roasts hers whole and then gets a week's worth of chicken-enriched meals out of that.
My approach is to divide & conquer: I plan several meals around it.
First you gotta actually CUT the bird up, and like many women my generation, that's something I never officially learned. Most women I know buy meat all cut up -- if the recipe calls for chicken breasts, well, they go and buy chicken breasts neatly wrapped with plastic on a styrofoam tray.

I learned to cut a whole chicken from my mother-in-law (#2), when I was a bride in her 30's!
I'm sure she was appalled that I did not know how to do this, but she was a kind woman, and patiently showed me. I'm grateful, for not only did I learn how to save money (Hubby and I were poor graduate students, and buying whole chickens sure is cheaper!), but it also taught me not to be afraid of dealing with bird's anatomy.
Aside: This skill came in later when we moved to Alaska, and in the first week a grouse flew into our window killing itself -- I called hubby at work, and he said "Great, let's have it for dinner!" And I did indeed cook it. I've even learned to fillet fish, but that's another story, and takes way more skill than cutting up a bird. (EOD, End of Digression)

So back to the whole chicken sitting on my cutting board (plastic, not the wooden one!).
First, I make sure I have a sharp knife! And my hands are very clean (trim those fingernails).

I remove the skin, and harvest the 2 breasts (Images from Food,Inc of commercial chickens run thru my head -- breeding for large breasts has gotten so extreme that the poor chickens can hardly take a few steps! Good thing they haven't bred us womenfolk for larger breasts! EOD)
I save the 2 breasts for a meal (it used to be I felt a need to serve each family member one chicken breast each, but I found that those 2 breasts feed the 4 of us just fine!)

Next I remove the leg-thigh ensemble. It does involve finding the joint and cutting through that -- after a bit of twisting till it "pops". Not difficult, just do it. Those 2 legs go into another dinner -- often I will bake those in a casserole with grains (such as rice) and lots of veggies. Once cooked, the dark meat just slides right off...

Now it's time to attack the carcass. I get rid of as much of the skin as I can (if needed, use a papertowel to grab the skin --this really helps when pulling it off the legs). Then I try to find all the meat that's left: using my fingers mostly plus a small knife, I harvest what I can. All those small pieces will go into the first dinner of this chicken -- something ethnic perhaps, like stir-fry, indian curry, Thai Tom Ka Kai, or filling for a Mexican burrito. Again, by stretching this meager assembly of meat with lots & lots of veggies, we get the flavor and protein, but not the heaviness of big chunks of meat.

Last, the chicken carcass (and don't forget the neck and other innards that came in the little bag) goes into the big stockpot. I also add any onion & celery "butts" I may have laying around in the frig, or any sad-looking turnips, carrots from the back of the produce drawer.
I let the stock go for several hours. Often I do the chicken butchering in the morning between when kids have gone to school & I need to get ready for work, and leave the stock cooking on LOW -- I prefer not to have to deal with the butchering in the late afternoon when it's time to cook dinner. Everybody is too hungry, grumpy, etc to wait around for me to do this...
I find it helps me tremendously to plan ahead -- the key to eating less processed food is using fresher ingredients, but they do require prepping...
Remember to clean counters & tools, and make sure the cutting board gets scrubbed, bleached and/or goes thru the dishwasher.

Anyway, the stock is poured into jars, placed in the frig, and defatted. I use the stock in so many recipes -- for example, boil bulghar wheat or quinoa with stock instead of plain water, or use it as stock in a mostly vegetable-based soup.

So here is a sample menu for a week
MON: stir-fry chicken w/ loads of veggies, or Chicken tacos/enchiladas
TUES: White Bean soup, made with chicken stock
WED: Rice, broccoli and Drumstick casserole
THURS: Bulghar pilaf with lots of veggies, plus oven-roasted squash & root crops
FRI: Cajun breaded chicken breasts, rice, and vegetable side dish
SAT: Pizza night - build your own (left-over chicken goes well on pizza)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Mid-December Menu

This week in our CSA box: Alaskan potatoes - farmer’s choice | Alaskan Brussels Sprouts | Alaskan carrots | Alaskan onions | Alaskan cabbage | Alaskan celery root. From Outside:certified organic Honeycrisp apples | certified organic kiwi fruit | certified organic pears| certified organic red romaine lettuce, cauliflower| certified organic garlic

I also did the big Costco shopping trip, and came home with a box of japanese Mandarins (a favorite for lunches), 5 pack of avocadoes, organic whole chicken, scallops and king crab for Christmas eve!

Monday: butternut squash-filled ravioli in a sauce with red peppers and scallops, green salad w/ beans, etc
Tues: It was going to be a roast, but hubby and kids ate in Anchor-town on acct of crazy roads due to snow -- so I had some delicious left-overs...
Wed: stir-fry with chicken, broccoli, carrots, bean sprouts, brown rice, spring rolls (from Costco's freezer section, not home-made)
Thurs: Coconut-curry squash soup, pizza, raw celery & apple salad, green salad
Fri: Gimme more pie, potatoes, Brussels sprouts
Sat: chili night - white chili & red chili, cornbread, salad
Sun: salmon? bubble and squeek (potatoes and cabbage)

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Roasted veggies

My new favorite way to fix veggies is to roast them. Flavors are intensified when veggies are roasted instead of boiled.

Here are a few simple recipes -- perfect for this time of year when I love to bake, and the oven is a welcome source of heat and good smells!

Note: Use oils that can take the heat: I use "light" olive oil-- not the extra virgin which smokes when heated -- I save that for salad dressings and drizzling.

Roasted Red Potatoes w/ Garlic
(Wolf's Favorite)
Red potatoes, skin on, washed, dried and cut into quarters
Olive oil
Salt, pepper
fresh squeezed garlic
Rosemary, optional

Toss the taters with oil and spices, then roast in 375/400F oven for a good long while (depends on how done and shrivelled you like them -- at least 30 min, preferrably 45.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes
sweet potatoes or yams, peeled and cut into cubes
S&P, as desired
Optional: slivers of either onions or orange, for extra flavor

Toss and roast in oven --takes a little less time than potatoes.

Roasted Carrots
carrots, cut into big chunks
butter (or mixture of butter and olive oil)
balsamic vinegar, optional
brown sugar or maple syrup (Thanks, Patty P!) -- add near the end to prevent scorching

Toss and roast in oven. This takes less time than you think (less than potatoes) -- check w/ fork.
Note to self: don't bake in cast-iron pan -- gets too hot and burns.
Here's a great description from Chef Doughty on how to glaze carrots on the stove-top for a similar result. Carrots never tasted this good in the old days of boiling...

Roasted root veggies and sausage
Olive oil
carrots, turnips
celery root
green beans or other green veggies that don't go mush!
Optional: sausage, such as Kjelbasa or Reindeer sausage

Cut up veggies, not too small. Potatoes can be smallish cubes, but keep faster-cooking veggies sized a little larger. Fry up the sausage, using oil as needed. Add veggies, coating well with oils.
Roast for 30 minutes or so...

Roasted cauliflower
Cauliflower, cut into florets
olive oil
curry spices

There are lots of other veggies that do very well roasted:
Jerusalem Artichokes
Brussels Sprouts
squash (summer or winter varieties --cooking times vary greatly)
Celery Root

Toss with a good oil (light olive oil or one of the nut oils, such as walnut or hazelnut), and experiment with spices (oregano, thyme, basil, fennel, even wasabi or mustard) -- but often best plain.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Cranberries at Thanksgiving

We like our cranberries here in the North, and this year there will be not just one, but 3 sauces at our Thanksgiving table.
First, the traditional, standard
Cooked Cranberry Sauce
2 c whole cranberries
1 c sugar
1 c water

Combine in sauce pan and bring to boil. Reduce heat, stirring occasionally, and cook for 10 minutes. Keeps well.

Next, NPR's Susan Stamberg shares this recipe every year at Thanksgiving, and I've always wanted to try this unusual Pepto-Bismal pink relish!
Mama Stamberg's Cranberry Relish

2 c whole raw cranberries, washed
1 small onion
3/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons horseradish from a jar ("red is a bit milder than white")

Grind the raw berries and onion together. ("I use an old-fashioned meat grinder," Stamberg says. "I'm sure there's a setting on the food processor that will give you a chunky grind, not a puree.") Add everything else and mix. Put in a plastic container and freeze.

Early Thanksgiving morning, move it from freezer to refrigerator compartment to thaw. ("It should still have some little icy slivers left.") The relish will be thick, creamy and shocking pink. ("OK, Pepto Bismol pink.") Makes 1 1/2 pints.

Last, if not least,
Cranberry Orange Relish
1 medium orange, washed, preferrably organic
2 c cranberries
1 c sugar
cinnamon, optional

Cut oranges, skin and all, into sections, and remove seeds.
Chop all ingredients in food processor. Serve raw, or you can cook this too.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Three Sisters: Corn, beans and squash

November & Thanksgiving time is a good time to plan meals around indigenous American vegetables -- and the 3 sisters are perfect! They all store well, and not only do they complement each other well in the garden (see below), they also complement each other well nutritionally:

CORN - in its unprocessed form, corn is a great staple, but it lack two essential amino acids - lysine and tryptophane - as well as riboflavin and niacin. However, these are supplied by beans.
BEANS - good carbohydrates, low in fats. Most beans contain at least 20% protein, and provide essential B Vitamins and Iron.
SQUASH - are rich in carbohydrates, great source of vitamin A, and their seeds provide quality vegetable fats that corn and beans lack.

Here's a description of Native American "Three Sister's Garden" from the Gardening101 website:

Women of the village would hill up the soil and plant corn (maize) in the center of the hill. Once the corn came up, probably about two weeks, they would then plant the beans around the corn seedlings followed by the squash seeds at the furthest distance from corn seedlings.

This form of growing these three vegetables worked very well because the three plants complemented each other and made great companions. The corn gave beans a place to climb, the beans provided nitrogen to the corn roots and the large squash leaves provided shade and living mulch which helped to deter weeds and hold moisture in the soil.

For recipes combining all 3, I had to search a bit.
But 2 out of 3 is easy: think of how many Mexican dishes combine corn and beans!
Here are some other ideas: look for Stuffed Squash recipes -- there are plenty -- bake a winter squash with a filling of wild rice and beans.

Combining all 3 sisters is usually in the form of a stew or soup.

Three Sister's Stew

(from the website Vegetarian Kitchen by Nava Atlas)
  • 1 small sugar pumpkin or 1 large butternut or carnival squash (about 2 pounds)
  • olive oil
  • onion, bell peppers, celery, garlic
  • can diced tomatoes, with liquid
  • 2 cups cooked or canned pinto beans
  • 2 cups corn kernels
  • 1 cup homemade or canned vegetable stock, or water
  • 1 or 2 small fresh hot chiles, seeded and minced
  • 1 teaspoon each: ground cumin, dried oregano
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro

Cut the pumpkin or squash in half lengthwise and remove the seeds and fibers. Cover with aluminum foil and place the halves, cut side up, in a foil-lined shallow baking pan. Bake at 400F for 40 to 50 minutes, or until easily pierced with a knife but still firm (if using squash, prepare the same way). When cool enough to handle, scoop out the pulp, and cut into large dice. Set aside until needed.

Heat the oil in a soup pot. Add the onion and sauté over medium-low heat until translucent. Add the garlic, other vegetables, and pumpkin and all the remaining ingredients except the last 2 and bring to a simmer. Simmer gently, covered, until all the vegetables are tender, about 20 to 25 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

If time allows, let the stew stand for 1 to 2 hours before serving, then heat through as needed. Just before serving, stir in the cilantro. The stew should be thick and very moist but not soupy; add additional stock or water if needed. Serve in shallow bowls.

There are many other soups based on squash and beans, such as the Chilean national dish
Porrotos Granados
1 pound cranberry beans (traditional) or other beans
1 winter squash or pumpkin
2 c frozen corn kernels
olive oil
onion, bell peppers, garlic, carrots, chopped
fresh basil
paprika or ground chili
salt & pepper, to taste
water or broth
"Pebre Sauce" optional

Soak beans overnight, drain and cook until nearly tender.
Separately, saute onions etc in olive oil, add cubed squash, corn and beans. Cook on low until squash & beans are done. Shortly before serving, add spices.
This may seem like an ordinary soup, but wait till you've added a good helping of this fiery green
Pebre Sauce
(keeps in frig for 1 week+, good also on grilled meats, fish, eggs, etc)
2 T olive oil
1 T wine vinegar or lemon juice
1/2 c water (* or less)
1/2 c cilantro, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, pressed
1/2 t salt
4-6 habanero chiles, finely chopped

Combine all ingredients, and allow to sit for a couple of hours.
*If using pre-processed cilantro, then don't need much water (I sometimes use a cilantro paste by "Gourmet Garden", available in the produce section at Safeway).

Last, but not least, don't forget about serving some simple baked squash, beans, and cornbread with your next meal.
Simple Corn pudding
3 c corn kernels
2 eggs
1 c milk
1c grated cheese (gouda, cheddar)
2 tbs parley
1 tbs marjoram
S & P to taste

Combine and bake for 25 minutes.

Martian Heads (a.k.a. Brussels Sprouts)

My vegetable of the week :

Most people I know, my own kids included, will make funny faces when you announce Brussels Sprouts for dinner. It is truly an under-appreciated vegetable, and when overcooked, frozen or tough, it is indeed one of those "suffer thr0ugh the veggies to get to dessert" foods.

But Brussel Sprouts can be delicious, really.
First of all, let's have some fun re-naming them. My kids get a giggle out of their dad calling them "Martian Heads", and this first recipe's name sure got their interest piqued. All these are new recipes I'm planning on trying this week (after all, I got a whole stalk of them in my CSA box this week!)

screaming heads

(recipe from Glacier Valley CSA's newsletter GG#46)

Not your basic gratin by any means. And it is a little caloric heavy, but it is fun to splurge every now and then. This comes from and was featured on their Thanksgiving special.

Brussels sprouts with mustard & caper sauce

(recipe found at GG#45)

This recipe is based on a recipe from Deborah Madison’s Local Flavors, from Alison and Dan’s Rise and Shine Bakery website. It is a great resource not only for whole grain bread featuring Alaskan ingredients, but fantastic recipes!

Roasted brussels sprouts with dijon, walnuts and crisp crumbs

(recipe found at GG#44)

The mustard-Worcestershire seasoning is a tangy counterpoint to the sprouts. You can do the crumb topping hours before serving. This is a version of a recipe out of Cold-Weather Cooking by Sarah Leah Chase.

photo credit:
where I also learned a great deal more about these miniature cabbage heads:

The forerunner to the modern Brussels sprout was probably first cultivated in ancient Rome. Brussels sprouts, as we now know them, were grown as early as the 1200s in what is now Belgium. The first written reference of the Brussels sprout dates to 158 7. During the sixteenth century they were popular in the southern Netherlands and eventually spread to the cooler parts of Northern Europe.

They grow like buds in a spiral array of 20 – 40 on the side of long thick stalks th at are 2–4 ft in height. The stalk matures ove r several weeks from the lower to the upper part of the stalk and averages about 2 pounds per stalk. In the ho me garden, "sprouts are said to be sweetest after a good, stiff frost."

Whatever cooking method is employed, care must be taken not to overcook. Overcooking releases the sulphurous smelling glucosinolate and, sinigrin. This is the reason many people profess to dislike Brussels sprouts; only ever having tried them overcooked with the accompanying sulfuric taste and smell. Generally 6–7 minutes boiled or steamed is enough to cook, without overcooking and releasing the sinigrin.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Hurrah for Northern vegetables!

After a summer of shopping for produce at the Farmer's Market and growing our own garden, we're now back to getting the CSA box again! Here's what came this week:

From Alaska’s Glacier Valley Farm, VanderWeele Farm: Alaskan beets | Alaskan Brussels sprouts | Alaskan onions | Alaskan parsnips | Alaskan carrots From Outside: certified organic Red Canal pears | certified organic Cameo apples |certified organic cremini mushrooms | certified organic red kale | certified organic Honeyboat delicata squash | certified organic parsley

The CSA box comes with recipes (also available on-line), and there once again, there are some fantastic recipes!

Here's what this week's Glacier Grist #47 holds:

acorn or delicata squash filled with wild rice, golden raisins, & pine nuts

beet roesti with rosemary

parsley salad

honey glazed roasted parsnips and carrots

sauteed kale

I already made the squash with left-over quinoa instead of rice, and it was delicioso: the fennel flavor is wonderful! I also highly recommend the honey-glazed turnips & carrots!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

In search for the perfect Northern Meal

In honor of Eldest return from Germany, we searched for the perfect welcome-home-to-Alaska dinner. And then we said: "Duh, SALMON!"

Here's a couple of delicious dinners that are, in my book, perfect combinations of foods grown or caught (but hopefully not mined) in the North.

Baked salmon, roasted potatoes, braised greens
BBQ salmon, Bulghar wheat pilaf w/ cheddar cheese, glazed carrots
Salmon souffle, "Screaming Heads" (Brussel sprouts gratin from GG#46)
Halibut tacos (gotta get this recipe from Mountainpulse!!)
Kale and sweet potato Quesadilla a la Kingsolver from Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

Here's the pilaf & cheddar recipe, given to me by a dear friend: it's easy, and a crowd pleaser!

Bulghar Wheat Pilaf w/ cheddar
1 c bulghar wheat (a.k.a. cracked wheat)
1.5 c liquid (water, stock, wine, or combination)
butter or olive oil, for sauteing
optional: onions, mushrooms, garlic
salt, pepper
1/2 c. cheddar cheese, cubed (optional)

Saute veggies and cracked wheat in butter or oil.
Add liquid and spices. Cover and cook over low heat until tender (about 25 minutes).
When done, poke cheddar cheese cubes into dish & let it melt.

Pork Tenderloin

Tonight we tried a new recipe that turned out scrumptious delicious!
Last week my hero (husband) did the shopping, and came home with a smoking deal on pork tenderloin, and I, never having cooked such a beast before, consulted the Oracle "Google" by typing in: pork tenderloin. And since I have a half-dozen jars of homemade apricot jam in the pantry,which did not do the "jam" thing (did not "gel"), this recipe was a perfect choice!

Recipe from the website
My only adjustment was to use less BBQ sauce, only about 1 Tablespoon.

Chili Rubbed Pork Tenderloin With Apricot Ginger Glaze

  • 2 (1 pound) pork tenderloins, trimmed
  • Spice Rub:
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Glaze:
  • 1 1/2 cups apricot preserves
  • 1/2 cup barbecue sauce
  • 1 teaspoon grated ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
  • 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
  • 1 lime, juiced
  1. Place chili powder, garlic powder, sugar, salt and pepper in a jar; shake to blend. Rub spice mixture onto pork tenderloins. Cover tenderloins and refrigerate for 2 to 24 hours.
  2. Prior to grilling, melt apricot preserves in saucepan over medium heat. Remove pan from the heat and stir in remaining glaze ingredients. Place half of the glaze in a serving bowl and hold for service.
  3. Prepare grill at medium-high heat. Grill pork tenderloins for 15-20 minutes, or until the internal temperature of the pork reaches 160 degrees F. on an instant-read thermometer.
  4. When approximately 4 minutes of cook time remains, brush the pork tenderloins with the apricot glaze remaining in the pan. Cook for 2 minutes, turn the pork tenderloins and brush glaze on other side. Cook for an additional 2 minutes. Remove pork from the grill and let set for about 5 minutes before slicing. Serve with reserved glaze.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Halloween foods

Halloween is a good excuse to come up with some fun foods. As I'm planning for the Nature Center's Halloween party, I've been searching the web and came across some great recipes.

Gotta love these fingers -- this came from, where you also can see hot-dog-mummies, graveyards cakes and deviled-egg-eyeballs...

Since I'm looking for healthy, I love these apple-bites dentures where the teeth are almonds. I found them on

These cute eyes looking out of their mummy wrap are probably just oreos & icing -- I found these and much more on a site called recipecommander.

That reminds me, I should see if I have any jello around -- I'll make a batch and mix those with gummi worms - yummers!

Perhaps not specifically Halloweenish, but cute as can be are edible Penguins made from hard-boiled eggs, olives and carrots on Mountainpulse. Check them out -- they are sooo cute!

Taxing sugar???

Americans eat (and drink -- in the form of sodas) way too much sugar: refined & high fructose corn syrup is showing up more and more in processed foods from breakfast cereals to salad dressings. In small quantities, these may be harmless, but the trend in our increasing unhealthiness among Western nations is alarming.

Obviously, just as it's not healthy for us to eat loads of fats, we should not consume all this sugar that's hiding in much of our food, and it contributes heavily (pun intended) to childhood obesity, heart disease, diabetes, etc. I wrote about this on a previous reflection post, entitled Diet is a Four-letter Word.

Recently, I got to thinking about something I heard on the radio one morning while barely awake when the alarm came on: a proposed tax on sugar in drinks, a penny per ounce on sugary drinks. Is that a good idea???
It would make us more aware of how much sugar we're consuming.

Some people would indeed change their habits.

The pinch in the pocketbook is not a hardship to the extend that sugary sodas are not nutrition we need: they're not "food" we need to sustain us (in other words, real food is not being taxed).

The money collected in taxes could be used for a good cause (education about dangers of childhood obesity, for example).

Diet drinks are not necessarily any healthier. Maybe they should be taxed too?!? For more info, here's more about the link between diet sodas, weight gain and diabetes.

Taxation for behavior modification is controversial -- would it really change behavior, or would people just start getting used to it after the initial "shock", and keep up the unhealthy habits..?

Would "natural fruit juice" start replacing refined sugar in most drinks, allowing manufacturers to charge a higher price, yet without significantly affecting the desired outcome, i.e. people still end up just as overweight on fructose as they do on sucrose...

Would the government end up being a "sugar police"? Is sugar the last legal drug...?

Hey, we're evolutionarily programmed to like sugar: we all know our early human ancestors had a better chance of surviving (and escaping the sabertooth tiger) if they found foods high in calories. But that's not the situation we're in, now is it?

I admit that I love dessert as much as the next person -- but I believe it should remain a special treat, rather than an abused substance!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The British Isles

This week's theme seems to be evolving into the cuisine of the British Isles. We have a ton of potatoes (after finishing our own harvest of red potatoes, I stocked up with a big sack of Valley-grown, organic, absolutely delicious "German Butterballs"). There's lots of cabbage around, of course, and there have been repeated calls for Bubble & Squeak, a British dish that combines potatoes and cabbage.
I had to promise the Prof that there would be no Haggis, but maybe Bangers and Mash..?

We started with corned beef on Sunday. From the left-overs, I made a family favorite: Gimme-More-Pie, my own invention, and named by a bunch of kids calling "Gimme more pie" at the dinner table several years ago...

Gimme More Pie
any good piecrust, doubled, so there's a top too!
left-over meat, cut into small pieces (roast beef or corned beef)
left-over vegetables, cut up (carrots, potatoes, other firm vegetables)
left-over gravy
onions, spices (garlic & onion powder, thyme, etc), salt & pepper

If I don't have enough left-overs to put into the pie, I add more as I cook this!
Saute onions, add vegetables and meat, spices, and gravy (if necessary, I cheat and use a gravy mix). Taste, and add spices as needed or desired. Let filling cool.
Prebake piecrust, if desired.
Fill pie and cover with extra crust. Cut slits for steam to escape (if you want to get fancy, cut our shapes with cookie cutter). Bake at 375 Fahrenheit until crust is done (approx 35-45 min).

Other main dish pies that come to mind are Shephard's Pie -- similar idea, but replace the topping with mashed potatoes (sometimes cheese is added).

Yorkshire Pudding
Bread-like accompaniment for British main meals. These are made from a batter similar to pancake batter (flour, eggs, milk) and cooked in hot grease or meat drippings. It really is very similar to what Americans call Popovers.
My recipe is:
1 cup flour
1 c milk
3 eggs, beaten
optional: grated cheese, such as Parmesan
melted butter for muffin tins

Bake 1/2 hour in hot oven (400 F), no peeking!

Irish Stew
An Irish stew would have beef (or mutton) and lots of root crops: potatoes, carrots, celery, onions, turnips, etc.
Making stew is so easy, and so satisfying -- use good stock (see here for my post on homemade), and don't forget the bay leaves!

Irish Soda Bread
Soda Bread recipe from
3      cups          Unbleached white flour
2 teaspoons Baking powder
2 cups Raisins
1 teaspoon Baking soda
1 Egg
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/2 cup Honey
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) sweet butter, cold
1 cup Buttermilk

Makes 1 large loaf.

Preheat oven to 350F.

Sift the flour, baking powder, soda and salt into a large mixing bowl. Cut
the butter into small pieces and add. Cut it into the flour with a pastry
blender until the mixture is the size of peas. Add the raisins and toss to
distribute evenly, using two forks.

Beat the egg in another bowl until very frothy. Beat in the honey. When
it is well blended, beat in the buttermilk.

Gradually pour the liquids into the flour, tossing all the while with a
fork so the mixture gets evenly moistened. Continue tossing lightly with
two forks until the batter comes together; it doesn't have to be completely
mixed and should be very rough and lumpy.

Butter a heavy skillet or casserole, 10 to 11 inches in diameter and 2 to
3 inches deep. Round is the traditional shape. Spoon batter out into the
pan and push it gently to fill the pan. It can mound up somewhat in the
middle. Bake at 350 F about an hour or until the middle is set. Cut out a
piece to test if necessary.

Cut into wedges and serve warm from the pan.

The Garden Way Bread Book From the collection of Jim Vorheis

Menu for last week of October

The theme seems to be potatoes & cabbage -- very proper for a blog by a "kraut".

Sunday: Corned Beef, with potatoes and green beans
Monday: White Bean soup with ham, biscuits
Tuesday: Gimme More Pie, mashed potatoes, braised kale
Wednesday: Salmon soup, Bubble & Squeak
Thursday: Beef Stew with Irish Soda Bread
Friday: Shepherd's Pie, cabbage & bacon
Saturday: Papa's cooking?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Hot German Potato Salad

This weekend we're hosting our annual Oktoberfest to celebrate 2 family birthdays: 12 years ago our youngest pixie arrived exactly one week before her Papa's Birthday "the best Birthday present I ever got", as he's fond of telling his little girl!

Of course, there are about as many potato salad recipes in Germany as there are Germans, and they vary widely from region to region.
Here's a recipe from Paul Prudhomme's Seasoned America cookbook for
Hot German Potato Salad
seasoning mix:
1 t dry mustard
1 t onion powder
1 t garlic powder
1 t white pepper
1/2 t black pepper
1/2 t salt

20 unpeeled small red new potatoes
4 hard-boiled eggs
8 slices bacon, chopped
1 c onion, chopped
1 c celery and/or bell peppers, chopped (my addition -- I like lots of veggies in this)
1/4 c flour
1 c chicken stock
3/4 c distilled vinegar
1/2 c sugar (I use a little less -- just check the taste as you make this)
1/2 c green onions or chives

Boil potatoes until just tender (about 5 minutes from when water starts to boil). Drain, cool and slice into large bowl.
Meanwhile, saute bacon. Remove bacon with slotted spoon, and saute onions & veggies.
Add seasoning mix and whisk in the flour. Slowly add the chicken stock (careful about splashing), vinegar, sugar. Stir and cook until thickened to desired consistency (Turn on the fan!)
Pour hot sauce over the potatoes and fold it in. Add chopped hardboiled eggs, reserved bacon and green onion/chives.
Best when served warm or at room temperature, not cold!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Goulash and Paprikash

These are dishes of Hungarian origin, but Germans are fond of their Goulash and Paprikash dishes -- it's probably one of the more spicy ("sharf") dishes in a typical German housewife's repertoire, albeit not by cajun standards!

Goulash is typically made from beef, and does not contain much, if any tomato sauce. Rather, it's pieces of beef in a rich dark brown gravy generously spiced with paprika powder and other spices. Goulash can be made either as a soup or thick stew.
Paprikash, on the other hand, which can be made with chicken or even mushrooms, is reddish-pink from the addition of heavy cream or sour cream. Both dishes are often served with noodles -- I like to serve them over homemade spaetzle (click here for my recipe).

Beef Goulash
1-2 onions, finely chopped
oil or lard
2 pounds cubed beef
several cloves of garlic, minced
3+ T paprika powder
chili powder (to taste)
1 t thyme
beef stock or water, to cover
2-3 bay leaves
caraway seed (optional)
salt, pepper
root vegetables (carrots, turnips, potatoes)
oil and flour for making a roux, if desired
tad of tomato paste, if desired
wine or wine vinegar, if desired

Saute onions and set aside. Brown the beef in hot oil. Add spices, onions, garlic and cook for a few more minutes, then cover with stock or water. Add bay leaves, and caraway seed (crush first) if desired. Let cook on low for several hours --a crockpot is ideal.
In the last hour, add root vegetables -- potatoes especially will help thicken the stew.
If desired, make a dark roux to thicken. Taste and adjust hot spices, salt and pepper.

Chicken Paprikash

whole chicken, cut up
(alternatively 4 chicken breasts, cubed)
spice rub for chicken:
1 tsp each salt, onion powder, thyme
1/2 tsp each garlic powder, basil, black and white pepper
2 onions, chopped
2 green peppers
1/4 c paprika powder
1 c tomato sauce or tomato paste and chicken stock
1/2 c sour cream or heavy cream

Rub the chicken with spice mix, then saute in oil until browned. Add vegetables and cook until translucent. Add remaining ingredients -- be sure to control the level of liquids by either not adding too much water, or evaporating by longer cooking.
Immediately before serving, fold in the cream.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Zwiebelkuchen (German onion tarte)

Zwiebelkuchen is a simple german vegetarian meal -- although it is often made with speck (saltpork or bacon).

It is often served at this time of the year, and is especially popular when the new wine, or "Moscht" comes out a few weeks after the grapes are crushed.
I like to use my Alaskan "Ulu" knife for cutting pizza and tartes.

Zwiebelkuchen (German onion tarte)
dough: use a yeast dough (same as for pizza)
Preheat pizza stone at 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Topping: Saute 3-4 large onions in oil or bacon grease until translucent and caramelized, but not too brown. Place them on the pizza dough (with sides raised), and cover with custard topping:
blend together 2 eggs, 1/2 c cream or creme freche, salt, nutmeg and caraway (optional).

Bake 25-35 minutes until crust is golden brown and custard set. Serve with potatoes, salad and wine. Guten Appetit!

Menu for German Week (Oktoberfest)

Sonntag: Zwiebelkuchen, Kartoffeln und Salat
Montag: Huehnchensuppe mit schwaebischen Eiernudeln, Roggenbroetchen, Selleriesalat
Dienstag: Paprikash mit Spaetzle, Gruener Salat
Sauerkraut mit Wurst und Kartoffeln, oder Himmel und Erde
Mittwoch: Goulash und Kartoffelknoedel, Gruener Salat, Rote Beete
Donnerstag: Linsensuppe mit Wurst, Vollkornbroetchen, Moehrensalat
Freitag: Sauerkraut mit Wurst und Kartoffeln, oder Himmel und Erde
Samstag: Koenigsberger Kloepse, Rotkohl und Kartoffeln

I'll be translating this gobbledigook, plus post recipes as the week goes by...

Thursday, October 1, 2009


I'm declaring this week's culinary theme to be German.
I've been negligent on writing on this blog for a while, busy with all kinds of stuff in preparation for Eldest daughter heading to Germany, where she's going to be catching the very end of Munich's Oktoberbest this weekend!

Here's a good saying that sums up food and drink in Germany:
"Iss, was gar ist,
trink, was klar ist,
und sprich, was wahr ist
:" Translation:
Eat what is well cooked,
drink what is clear,
and speak what is true.

How do you describe German food? Well, there's my first husband's grumbling summary: "Everything is some sort of a product of fermentation: beer, bread, cheese, sauerkraut..." This same husband (yes, I do number them!) also did not care for the sad state of overcooked vegetables at my mother and grandmother's house.
Current husband (a.k.a. #2) is much more tolerant of German food, with the exception of chicken still on the bone when served. He still raves about the food and all the tortes served at my brother's wedding (an amazing assortment all baked by the bride's mother and her friends) -- they sure beat the pants off your run-of-the-mill american wedding cake, which is typically pretty to look at, but making up in sugariness what it lacks in flavor. But I digress...

Well, there's meat: what a variety just in sausages alone, and what a central part meat plays in German cuisine! There are vegetarians, of course, but most Germans, my own mom included, feel very strongly about the nutritional need for meat -- you need something to "stick to the ribs".

Bread, I daresay, has an even more central role than meat. Germans take their breads very seriously -- the variety is mind-boggling, and it's got to be fresh, made with whole grains, and have a decent crust on it: none of this squishy Wonderbread stuff. Can you tell I'm biased?!? To me, the lack of decent bread was the hardest thing to get used to when I moved to this country 3 decades ago -- american bread back then was truly appaling! But again, I digress...
Coldcuts of cheeses and meats arealways served with bread, and there's usually a wonderful variety...

Starches at the main meal of the day are either potatoes or some sort of noodles or Knoedel.
I still think of a "real" entree as consisting of a meat, starch and vegetable, perhaps accompanied by a sauce or gravy. Before the entree, there's a salad tossed with a simple oil & vinegar dressing, and after the entree, there's usually dessert (Nachtisch in German, which translates literally to After-table).

My daughter flies to Germany as I'm writing this, and my thoughts are there as wel. So I shall get out the German cookbooks. Time to set aside garlic and Louisiana Hot Sauce, and get out the mustard and horseradish -- and serve us up some Wuerstli!

Filling for Humitas

Been searching for a good recipe for the corn-pudding-like filling for humitas, which I recently declared as one of my favorite childhood foods from Chile.

Humitas are basically vegetarian versions of mexican tamales, and I found this recipe for the filling at a website called

This is a sweet and savory, creamy corn filling used in the Chilean tamal called humita, and the casserole called pastel de choclo. It employs a Chilean sweet corn called choclero which I believe is unknown in the U.S. Choclero is distinguished by its stout ears and fat, semi-milky kernels. It is harvested just as the kernels have reached maximum size and turned from white to golden yellow. The popular American sweet corn hybrids are characterized by long, slender ears, and small, very sweet, milky kernels. This recipe has been adapted to account for the extra sweetness and moisture of American sweet corn, primarily by the addition of polenta. (In Chile, the cornmeal, or grits, made from the choclero is called chuchoca, which is Chilean polenta.)

Buy the corn fresh and unhusked, if possible. Reserve the husks for the humitas.

You will have to play with the milk and polenta to acheive the right consistency. It all depends on the moisture content of the corn. Some chocleros are so dry, a cup of milk (and no polenta) will be necessary, while fresh American silver queen may require no milk and up to a cup of polenta. You can even use both, and you won't do any damage.

6 large ears of corn
2 shallots, chopped
8 leaves of fresh basil, finely chopped
1 t salt
3 T butter
½-1 c milk, or
½-1 c polenta or cornmeal, depending on kernel consistency

Remove kernels from ears of corn using a grater. Or cut off kernels with a knife and process very briefly in a food processor (do not liquefy). Melt the butter over medium heat in a large saucepan and sauté the chopped shallots.
Add the corn, chopped basil, and salt, and cook over medium heat, stirring. If the mixture is too dry, add the milk little by little, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens. The amount will depend on the moisture content of the corn. Stop adding milk when the mixture begins to lose consistency.
If too soupy, add the polenta gradually, stirring constantly until the mixture begins to thicken. It should be creamy, not soupy nor thick. Cook over low heat for 5 minutes, let cool, and chill overnight.

Another recipe on the internet added squash, bell peppers and parmesan cheese.

Also: if substituting frozen corn kernels, use about 3-4 cups.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Viva Chile!

As a child I spent six wonderful years living in Chile. This week Chileans celebrate Dieciocho on the 18th, which commemorates when Chile gained Independence from Spain.
My childhood memories of the Dieciocho holiday involve our family cramming into our little Volkswagen Beetle and driving to the countryside for a long weekend to celebrate with friends. Chilean flag were decorating everything, there were parades and dancing, and we would stop at the roadside to buy empanadas or humitas (steamed packets of corn pudding encased in corn husks), -- this was my absolute favorite food , seconded only by corn on the cob-- imagine my disappointment when we moved back to Germany, where corn is not sweet, and fed to pigs! I missed corn so much that I'd beg my mom to buy baby corn in cans, the only form of corn ever eaten there... but I digress...

Here are some other wonderful foods that I remember from my childhood:

Empanadas, meats fresh off the grill, queso fresco, pastel de Choclo (a meat and corn casserole), porotos granados (Bean-vegetable stew), and dulce chileno (a sweet), and of course lots and lots of seafood, such as congrio and langostinos.

Here are some recipes, most are taken from South American cooking by Barbara Karoff

any good piecrust or flaky pastry (2 c.flour, 1 c lard, salt, icewater)
1/2 # ground beef
olive oil, onions, garlic
3-6 serrano or jalapeno chilies
1 T ground cumin
Salt, pepper
2 T parsley
2 T cilantro
2 tomatoes
1/2 c raisins
pimiento-stuffed olives, cut in half

Saute all ingredients (except the olives), let cool.
Roll out approx 20 circles of dough. Place 1/2 olive and spoonful filling. Seal w/ tines of fork.
Bake at 375 for 25 minutes.

Pastel de Choclo
The filling can be either ground beef (similar to empanadas above, with raisins and olives), or chicken, or both.
6 c corn kernels (freshly grated, or frozen kernels processed in food processor)
1/3 c milk
1 egg,
1 t sugar (optional) for sprinkling on top

Bake in a casserole dish, with the topping spread over the meat.
I like to serve this with rice, but potatoes would be authentic too.

photo credit:

September Menu (South of the Border)

This week we're heading SOUTH - to Chile in South America where I grew up, by way of Mexico and other Central/South American dishes.

Sun: Carne asada, black beans, rice, tomatoes, avos, all rolled up in a tortilla
Mon: White chili, corn muffins, salad
Tues: eat out -lessons
Wed: empanadas, porotos granados
Thurs: Pastel de Choclo (*)
Fri - Sun: they're on their own while I'm in Homer on a mini-vacation with Eldest daughter.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Greek cooking

What image does Greek cooking bring to your mind?
To me, it's colorful, delicious food: lots of feta cheese & yoghurt, olives and olive oil, tons of vegetables (sun-ripened tomatoes, cucumbers & eggplant, which I love), stuffed grapeleaves, wine, and, of course, garlic!

In college I once met a Greek student, and what I remember most vividly is the smell of GARLIC seeming to come from every pore! A bit overwhelming for a German who grew up in a garlic-phobic home, and at first I pitied his girlfriend, but then I realized it was the wonderful food she fixed that caused his unique odor -- I'm sure they'll both live to be 110 years old!

SO, on to Greek cuisine.
Of course, I've got to make Moussaka, the traditional casserole of ground meat, eggplant (or other veggies such as zuccini, potatoes) covered with a bechamel white sauce and cheese, au gratin.

THEN, there are some wonderful Greek chicken recipes, often marinaded in lemon juice, then baked surrounded with vegetables. I know this wonderful greek recipe for a lemony chicken egg-drop soup, but I think I might spare my son who feels fervently about eggs not belonging in soup...

Here's an intreguing chicken dish I might just have to try:
Chicken with a cream sauce flavored w/ ouzo
  • 1/2 pound of skinless chicken breasts
  • 2/3 cup of carrots, coarsely grated
  • 2/3 cup of zucchini, coarsely grated
  • 6 1/2 tablespoons of heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons of ouzo (or other anize-flavored liqueur)
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground pepper


Cut the chicken into large square chunks.

Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed frying pan. When hot, add the chicken and sauté for 4 minutes. Add the carrots and zucchini and continue to sauté 3 minutes longer. Add the ouzo, cream, salt, and pepper and cook 2-3 minutes more until the sauce melds.

Next, I found these recipe on a "A Dash of Life", who writes about her life as a doctor in Greece, and wrote several interesting posts about the greek cooking and benefits of olive oil. Since I adore leeks (and grew some for the first time in my garden this year), I've got to try these!

Prasoryzo (Rice with leeks, tomatoes and lemon)

This is supposedly served alot all over Greece, a sort of "comfort food". I changed the recipe slightly from the original (I was pressed for time), and it turned out yummy, albeit perhaps not quite authentic.

Olive oil (I used my homemade garlic-infused, see recipe here*)
Leeks, cut up
chicken buillon cubes, or stock
stewing tomatoes from can (I skipped these)
rice (I used brown rice I had already cooked)
Salt & pepper to taste
Lemon juice

Saute leeks in olive oil. Add water and/or chicken stock and rice. Watch water level-- don't let it boil dry. Add lemon juice immediately before serving (tastes ok without lemon too!)

photo credit:

September menu (Greek week)

The mediterranean theme is continuing this week -- too good to move away from, esp. with missing several days with us gone camping over the long weekend (Labor Day)...

Mon: return from camp trip -- threw together a meal of grilled meat (carne asada), baked potatoes, mess of greens, and freshly-grated carrots from Liesl's garden!
Tues: eat out at Nino's (lessons in Anchorage)
Wed: chicken-orzo soup w/ fennel, Greek-style burgers w/ onions & feta, fresh tomatoes, salad
Thurs: Indian Take-out (let's just say it was a CRAZY day!)
Friday: Prasoryzo (leeks & rice), Greek-style baked chicken, greens
Sat: Moussaka w/ potatoes and eggplant
Sun: something on the grill or Chicken w/ ouzo and cream sauce over rice, steamed veggies

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Menu for September (Italian Week)

Lots of stuff from the garden is going into our dinners now.
Carrots, potatoes, kale, and even zuccinis are producing well right now. And the tomatoes growing in containers on the porch are ripening too -- yummy!

This week is Italian week. A nice change of pace and less work for me than last week's menu.

Mon: BBQ ribs, new potatoes in cream sauce, fried zuccini, tomato & mozarella salad
Tues: Baked ziti w/ veggies and pepperoni, cucumber & tomatoes w/ oil & balsamic vinegar
Wed: Lasagna, sauteed kale, green salad
Thurs: Spaghetti w/ Clamsauce, broccoli, carrot salad
Fri: Pizza at Moose's Tooth
Sat: Camping over Labor Day Weekend!
Pasta w/ kale, soup & panini w/ pastrami & provolone

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Ethiopian dinner

The final meal of African week featured Ethiopia: what a rich cuisine!
I wish we could take our children to an Ethiopian restaurant, but alas,
there are none in Alaska!
Instead, I made a pathetic attempt at cooking us an Ethiopian meal --
I admit that I cheated and did not actually make my own spiced butter and
Berbere sauce! But still, son judged it the best meal of Africa week. Meanwhile,
hubby felt it could have been spicier (do I hear an echo somewhere?)...
All recipes are from

Ethiopian Lamb with Cardamon

3 Cups Thinly Sliced Onions
1/2 Cup Spiced Butter -- * See Note
2 Lbs Lean Lamb -- Cut In 3/4″ Cubes
1/4 Cup Berbere Sauce -- * See Note
1/4 Tsp Ground Cumin
1 Tsp Freshly Ground Cardamon Seeds
1 Tsp Grated Fresh Ginger
2 Cloves Garlic -- Crushed
1/2 Tsp Freshly Ground Black Pepper
1/2 Cup Dry Red Wine
1 Cup Water
Salt To Taste

Heat a large frying pan and saute the onion in 1 tbs of the butter,
covered, until very tender. Use low heat so that the onion and butter are
not browned. Remove from the pan and set aside. Heat the pan again and
brown the lamb over high heat with another tbsp of the butter. Set meat
aside. Place the sauteed onions along with the remaining butter in a
heavy 6 quart saucepan. add the Berbere sauce, cumin, cardamon, ginger,
garlic, black pepper and wine. Bring to a simmer and add the lamb. Bring
to a simmer again and add the water. Cook, covered, until the lamb is
very tender, about 50 minutes, stirring several times. If the sauce is
not thick enough, cook uncovered for a few minutes to reduce and thicken.
Add salt to taste prior to serving.

Injera (Ethiopian Flat Bread)

1-3/4 c flour
1/2 c self-rising flour
1/4 c whole wheat Flour
1 pk dry yeast
2-1/2 c warm water
1/2 ts baking soda
1/2 ts salt

Combine the flours and yeast in a ceramic or glass bowl.
Add the warm water and mix into a fairly thin, smooth batter.
Let the mixture sit for three full days at room temperature.
Stir the mixture once a day. It will bubble and rise.
When you are ready to make the injera, add the baking soda and
salt and let the batter sit for 10-15 minutes.

Heat a small, nonstick 9″ skillet.
When a drop of water bounces on the pan's surface, take about 1/3
cup of the batter and pour it in the skillet quickly, all at once.
Swirl the pan so that the entire bottom is evenly coated, then
return to heat.
The injera is cooked only on one side and the bottom should not
When the moisture has evaporated and lots of “eyes” appear on the
surface, remove the injera.
Let each injera cool and then stack them as you go along.
If the first injera is undercooked, try using less of the
mixture, perhaps 1/4 cup, and maybe cook it a bit longer.
Be sure not to overcook it. Injera should be soft and pliable so
that it can be rolled or folded, like a crepe.

Here's another version, without yeast, which uses Club Soda!
INJERA (flat bread)
4 c self rising flour
1 c whole wheat flour
1 ts baking powder
2 c club soda
Serves 6-8

Spiced Collard Greens with Cheese
2 Cloves Garlic -- Chopped
1/4 Cup Spiced Butter -- * See Note
1/4 Tsp Freshly Ground Cardamon Seeds
Salt And Freshly Ground Pepper -- To Taste
1 Lb Dry Curd Cottage Cheese -- Or Farmer's Cheese
2 Lb Collard Greens, Stems Discarded -- Leaves Chopped
1/2 Cup Water
1/2 Tsp Cayenne
1/2 Tsp Freshly Ground Black Pepper
1 Tsp Crushed Garlic
1/4 Cup Spiced Butter -- * See Note
3 Tbsp Coarsely Chopped Yellow Onion
salt to taste

Cheese: saute the garlic in the spiced butter for a few minutes. Add the
cardamon, salt and pepper. Remove from the burner and allow to cool.
Stir this mixture into the cheese.

Greens: cook the collard greens covered in a 4 quart saucepan along with
about 1/2 cup water. Add the cayenne, black pepper, garlic, spiced
butter and chopped onion. Cook covered until the greens collapse. All
the greens to cool a bit and salt to taste.

To serve: Drain the greens a bit and place on a platter or on Injera
bread (recipe included in this set). Spoon the cheese over the greens and
serve. Alternate: mix the greens and cheese together before placing on
the platter or bread. Either way is delicious.

Niter Kebbeh (Spiced Clarified Butter)

1 lb Unsalted butter
1/4 c Chopped onions
2 Cloves garlic, pressed
2 ts Fresh gingerroot, grated
1/2 ts Turmeric
4 Cardamom seeds, crushed
1 Cinnamon stick
2 Cloves
1/8 ts Nutmeg
1/4 ts Ground fenugreek seeds
1 tb Fresh basil
- or 1 teaspoon dried basil

In a small saucepan, gradually melt the butter and bring it to
bubbling. When the top is covered with foam, add the other
ingredients and reduce the heat to a simmer. Gently simmer,
uncovered, on low heat. After about 45 to 60 minutes, when the
surface becomes transparent and the milk solids are on the bottom,
pour the liquid through a cheesecloth into a heat resistant
container. Discard the spices and solids.

Covered tightly and stored in the refrigerator, Niter Kebbeh will
keep for up to 2 months.

Berbere Sauc
2 Tsp Cumin Seed
4 Whole Cloves
1/2 Tsp Cardamon Seeds
1/2 Tsp Black Peppercorns
1/4 Tsp Whole Allspice
1 Tsp Whole Fenugreek Seeds
1/2 Cup Dried Onion Flakes
3 Oz Red New Mexican Chiles -- Stemmed And Seeded
3 Small Dried Long Hot Red Chiles -- Seeded
1/2 Tsp Ground Ginger
1/2 Tsp Freshly Ground Nutmeg
1/4 Tsp Ground Turmeric
1 Tsp Garlic Powder
2 Tsp Salt
1/2 Cup Salad Or Peanut Oil
1/2 Cup Dry Red Wine
Cayenne to taste

Yield: 1 1/4 cups

Mix together the cumin, cloves, cardamon, black peppercorns, allspice and
fenugreek seeds. Place in a small frying pan over medium heat. Stir
constantly until they release their fragrance, about 1-2 minutes. Do not
burn or discolor the seeds. Cool completely.

Combine the toasted spices and all the other ingredients except the oil
and wine in a spice grinder or electric coffee grinder in several batches
(I use the coffee grinder) and grind to fine consistency. Place the
spice blend in a bowl and add the oil and wine. Add cayenne to taste
(Jeff starts with 1 tsp and adds more as necessary). Stir until thick and
store in a covered plastic container in the refrigerator.