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.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Menu for the March-April transition

No CSA box this week (they take one week/month off), so we eat what we still have lying around, and go to the grocery store. I'm glad to see that strawberries & asparagus are starting to show up!
So we're starting the week with breakfast for dinner -- always a big hit with the kids.

Monday: German pancakes w/ strawberries, salad
Tuesday: Pasta w/ Shrimp & veggies in white sauce, asparagus, salad
Wed: Burritos w/ choice of fillings (black beans, meat, veggies, cheese)
Thursday: Baked Polenta w/ red sauce, asparagus
Friday: Indian: Rice, leftover korma, eggs in coconut & green chili sauce
Saturday: Dinner date!, kids eat pasta with red sauce & meatballs
Sunday: Burritos (Yeah, the old standby, but good easy meal)

This week was very busy for me, culminating in a workshop we taught at the Nature Center.
Hubby took me out Saturday night at our favorite restaurant in town, and we shared our entrees: Seafood Jambalaya, Halibut, and the Maytag (Blue cheese) salad --- which I planned to imitated later in the week. YUMMM!

The children heated up Meatballs and spaghetti-- turns out son is done for now with the Vegetarian experiment. He says it was good to find out that he "could do it" (live without red meat), but was ready to eat it again! He did not preclude eating vegetarian again at some later point, but for now, he was just done...

On other notes, I overbaked the olive-oil coated roasted asparagus (my first time)-- still very tasty, but got to keep an eye on that!

DIET is a four-letter word

The Anchorage Daily News Sunday section had an article today about a local woman who had participated in the TV reality show "World Biggest Loser" -- for non-TV people, like myself who have never seen this show, let me explain: This is a TV show where participants compete for a grand cash price, and subject themselves to a grueling regiment of crash-dieting and exercising in front of TV audiences until they meet their goals (some get "eliminated" along the way). I was dismayed at what this poor woman had gone through, and how she's still struggling with her weight and self-image 2 years later (and a baby) -- it just all sounded so unhealthy, in ways even creepy and sinister!

Americans seem obsessed with dieting to lose weight. Even though 90-95% of all diets fail, that doesn't keep them from trying, dreaming of looking like those models in the magazines.
Most people who diet will gain back the weight they lost, often surpassing it. Then they try another diet & repeat the cycle. This phenomenon of Yo-Yo-dieting is probably is worse than simply staying at the previous weight while reasonably active.

I have to admit right here that I am one of those lucky people who has never counted calories or carbs. I'm certainly not skinny (heavy-boned German with hefty boobs), and would never be picked for a bathing suit commercial, but luckily I've never been HUGE. I credit lucky genes for the largest part, and simply being fairly active. But the middle-age spread is catching up with me, and I could certainly use to shed a few pounds and tighten up the flab around the midriff ... But I'm determined to approach improving my weight&health without crazy dieting schemes.

Obviously being overweight is not healthy -- it increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes, yada-yada-yada. Enough already -- we already KNOW that! But then why can we not manage to keep our bodies healthy?

America is facing a weight/health crisis DESPITE the fact that we've been told for some 35 years that being overweight increases health risks, and that we ought to eat less saturated fats. So we buy products touting health claims of "Low fat", "reduced cholesterol" etc., and are still getting fatter and fatter. What gives?

Seems like we've been replacing saturated fats with the wrong kinds of fats, and we're filling up on empty calories. And our portion sizes (even our plate sizes) are bigger -- we're indeed eating significantly more calories than before we started the "lower fat diet". And we're less active than ever before. No wonder Americans (and many Western countries are heading the same direction) are getting fatter, and so are the kids: Childhood obesity is becoming a serious problem.
There are more and more overweight children, and our society seems not to know how to help them. Just telling the kids to "eat less and exercise more" is not cutting it -- adults are not exactly good role models in that department! How do you expect kids to get off the couch & onto their bikes if the adults drive everywhere in their cars, and think of the world as way too dangerous a place to step outside your front door?

Maybe this TV-watching kid is watching the documentary Supersize Me? Maybe he's already given up? In the kid's defense, genetics do play a role too, and he's probably not exactly inherited skinny genes -- but still, it's so sad to see him embarking so young on a lifetime of health problems!

QUESTION: Do we eat to live, or live to eat?

The problem with our Western diet is that we've lost touch with real food. Our ancestors would barely recognize what's on the shelves of our stores: long lists of ingredients, many of which we can hardly even pronounce. In his book In Defense of Food, Michael Pollan advises us to eat what our ancestors would recognize as food -- that is stay away from highly processed food stuffs, and eat real food, preferably grown locally, without heavy inputs of industrial agriculture (chemicals, fertilizers, etc.) -- his description of what goes on in feedlots might make you want to puke & forgo meat altogether!
I still maintain that humans are omnivores, and eating meat is a natural part of our biology, but we're certainly not meant to eat the huge amounts of animal proteins, or the amounts of refined simple carbohydrates (white flour and sugar) that have become standard in the so-called Western Diet.
Michael Pollan's book is fascinating, and I like his 7 simple words to guide us:

Here are two other books I read last year that dealt with some of the more psychological aspects of the problems people have with eating and weight control: Mindless Eating by Brian Wansink, and Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch -- different approaches, but both very valid looks at the WHY: what goes on when we overeat, and how can we change that?
I learned a lot from both of these books. Sometimes we just eat unconsciously, or for emotional reasons. We've learned to ignore clues our own body/mind gives us about hunger or fullness. One interesting experiment that Wansick's team did was the "bottomless" bowl of soup: the bowl was being re-filled from below, and people kept on eating and eating, unaware that they were eating WAY more than usual. The comment when asked how they liked the soup was something like "That soup was really filling" -- yeah, they ate what, 4 or 5 bowls?!? But they thought they were eating their normal amounts!
The principles of eating more intuitively are also very helpful, whether you're just trying to get to a healthier weight and lifestyle, or struggling with major food issues such as eating disorders:
1. Reject the Diet Mentality
2. Honor your Hunger
3. Make Peace with Food
4. Challenge the Food Police
5. Feel your Fullness
6. Discover the Satisfaction Factor
7. Cope with your Emotions without using Food
8. Respect your Body
9. Exercise -- feel the Difference
10. Honor your Health -- Gentle Nutrition

One of the "aha" moments for me was how they explained that denying yourself certain foods (chocolate, for example) will end up making you crave that food, setting yourself up for a failure (in a "weak" moment you "cheat", then end up eating a whole box of chocolates, and feel like a total failure, your image of yourself is that you "failed" to control yourself, spiraling into further depression over food...) Instead, go ahead and give yourself permission -- if there are no "forbidden" foods, then these foods will lose that power over you, and you'll find yourself not craving it... This is such a gentler approach, and I think could really help people who are struggling with unrealistic expectations of diets and body image.

Another book I picked up recently is by Mark Bittman: Food Matters, where he advocates more "conscious eating" by eating less meat, more local produce, and reducing amount of highly-processed food -- for our health, AND for the health of our planet.
He mentions that he lost extra weight and saw a marked improvement in his health just by making these simple changes -- cutting out meat and processed food out of 2 of his 3 daily meals. Bittman writes that for him it worked well to eat "Vegan until 6pm", something it turns out also resonated with my husband, who is happily eating his veggies for lunch these days. I do wish he'd ask some whole wheat grains to that, because he he just gets so darn hungry when he gets home for dinner (I bet he'd do fine with Ramadan, where you have to wait until sundown to eat)! He has replaced his formerly high-carb midnight snack with fruit, a step in the right direction. Poor guy, he just gets so "peckish"...

For myself and my family, I'm just aiming for a greater awareness of healthy eating in our daily lives. Since we started buying our produce in CSA boxes and I started a blog (Borealkitchen) to guide me in cooking with all that produce -- well, I've noticed that my pants are sitting looser on my waist -- darn it, they won't stay up!

I think the biggest factor in eating healthier is that with more vegetables around, I eat less of other foods. I'm realizing just how easy it is to pick up processed foods -- they are everywhere! When I'm in the grocery store I try to make sure I don't shop hungry, and try to stay on the perimeter rather than in the middle isles where all the food comes in boxes. After all my reading I realize that they're full of empty calories ("refined" grains, which means the fiber and kernels are removed -- needing "enrichment" to put the nutrients back in!), and the long shelf-life was "bought" by replacing healthy (unstable) fats with unhealthy (hydrogenated) fats.

Does that mean no more OREOS for the kids' snacks?
I'm not trying out for the Ogre-mom of the Year award, but yes, I buy far less of that stuff , and try to get around to making healthier homemade treats more often instead.
It's not easy to keep our household supplied with "healthy" yet appealing snacks for the ever-hungry hordes that descend on the kitchen every few hours -- but somehow homemade baked goods or bananas with organic peanut butter is winning, and neither kid is starving or complaining too loudly. (And I have to add that both kids are thin as rails -- but so were hubby and I at their ages, the inevitable bulge around the middle did not set in until around 40!)

So I try to shop, cook and feed us healthy meals, keeping an even-keeled perspective (I see little point in getting into a religious fervor over food). I just want to stay healthy, balanced & make peace with food -- it's what keeps us alive and healthy, and we may as well enjoy it too.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Ode to Kitchen Sister

Today is my Eldest's birthday, and to my blog readers she's known as Kitchen Sister because that's what she's been calling herself when she stops by in the blog-world.
She's a GREAT cook, and I love calling her "Kit Sis" -- my daughter, who presumably first learned to cook at my apron-strings, has now surpassed me in her kitchen wizardry. She left for college in Montana, and is now the master of her own kitchen full of healthy& yummy ingredients. She reigns supreme with a box full of exotic recipes on index cards, which reflect influences from people and cuisines all over the world.
She learned over the years from friends and various jobs including a professional bakery, coffee shop, the Bozeman Food Coop. There is also her wonderful friend, "Goatlady", whom I had the priviledge of meeting briefly when I visited my daughter in Bozeman (Goatlady embraced me and thanked me for raising such a wonderful young lady -- I must say this REALLY touched me as one of the best compliments I have ever received). I wish I hadn't lost the squash & coconut soup recipe that Kitchen Sister learned from Goatlady (hint, hint -- please send!)

To honor Kitchen Sister today, I want to list a recipe that I feel signifies a real turning point in getting our youngsta's to eat veggies: Sis took care of them during her winter break 2 years ago, giving the Prof and I a wonderful get-away vacation in the Arizona desert. During Sis' reign, she managed to convert her siblings, with this recipe becoming one of their faves: at first they were sceptical of all those vegetables that were going into the pot ("Oh no, squash?!?"), and this soup is one they just LOVE. VICTORY, thanks to Sis!

African Peanut Soup

olive oil
jalapeno peppers (if using canned, rinse first) we like it spicy!
cumin, coriander, cayenne, and/or curry mix
water or stock
celery, carrots
yams or sweet potatoes
squash (summer varieties like zuccini, or if using winter squash, allow more cooking time)
tomatoes (canned ok, even salsa)
spinach or other greens (optional -- (if puree-ing soup, will make green specks)
garbanzo beans (already cooked or canned) or Black-eyed peas
peanut butter
salt, pepper

Cook legumes if you're starting from dried.
Cut up all the veggies, saute onions etc, add water & rest, then simmer until yams & squash is soft.
Puree the whole lot if you like -- my kids will only eat this as a smooth smooth soup.
Serve over a grain (rice) if desired.

If you're looking for a recipe with actual quantities, go to Glacier Grist #6 on the GlacierValleyFarmCSA website.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Smoked salmon souffle

We're so lucky to be able to eat wild-caught salmon on a regular basis in Alaska. It's healthy, delicious, and can be prepared in a variety of ways. Still, Alaskans (or at least their kids "Salmon again!?!?") can get tired of eating salmon, so it's good to have a variety of recipes at hand.

Alaskans simply go crazy every the summer! A family is allowed to catch up to 30 or so fish by net, and therefore most everybody we know has got a freezer full. Somewhere along the line they get tired of eating salmon over the winter, but come June, fishing fever is back and they're dashing out to fill that freezer when dip-netting season opens.

So the non-fishermen among us (like us) sometimes receive free salmon when their friends are cleaning out their freezers before summer. Plus, I admit (don't tell the neighbors), I do go and buy sockeye salmon when it goes on sale in the grocery store -- I buy a whole fish or 2 at a time, and then brine and smoke a fair bit of it. (You can smoke previously frozen fillets too!)

My brine is simple: it consists of equal amounts of sugar and salt (1/2 c each plus 1 quart of water) -- you can add spices, but I like to keep it simple, and add variety later when I cook. Depending on the thickness of the fillets, I will brine it for 4-6 hours or overnight. I rinse the fish, pat it dry with papertowels, and let it sit for a little while to develop a "skin" -- then it goes into my electric smoker "Little Chief" with alder woodchips. A couple of hours of smoking, changing pans 2 or 3 times, and voila, we got our own smoked salmon. I do vacuum-pack it and stick it in the freezer -- but it's fine to take on a camping trip, or in a suitcase to Germany!

We use smoked salmon on bagels, in omelettes, in dips, corn chowder, with pasta -- the possibilities are endless. But here is my family's favorite, which I think is easy to make -- but do allow enough time to bake, and then everybody needs to be ready to eat while souffle is still hot and nicely puffed up!

Smoked Salmon Souffle
butter (3-4T?)
flour (3T+?)
milk (1/2 c-1c)
grated cheese (parmesan or other hard cheese) (1/2-1c)
smoked salmon, crumbled (can also use leftover salmon, or canned -- will need to add salt)
eggs, separated (3-4)
breadcrumbs (optional)

For a recipe with measurements in metric, see Tastes-of-France here.

Preheat oven to 375 F.
Make a white Bechamel sauce, whisking flour into melted butter, then adding milk while continuing to whisk sauce. Add grated cheese and the egg yolks. Let sauce cool a bit, then let it cool down. Meanwhile, whip to eggwhites.
Prepare souffle dish by greasing and sprinkling w/ breadcrumbs or parmesan cheese.
Crumble the salmon into the sauce, gently fold eggwhites into sauce.
Pour into prepared dish, sprinkle with breadcrumbs, cheese or paprika as desired.
Bake for about an hour (no unnecessary peeking) -- test center with knife.

LOTS of other ways to cook salmon
BBQ it --try a soy-ginger marinade
Bake it -- place in aluminum foil envelope with dill, salt, pepper and lemon
Soups -- try adding it to a corn chowder
Use leftovers to make Salmon patties (or salmon burgers)

let your imagination run wild -- you can eat it breakfast, lunch and dinner! Then after a while you too will be wanting to give it away too -- and I'll be ready to take it off your hands!

Indian Cooking

Indian food and I go way back to my college days -- I hung out with a bunch of International students when I was an Granola-head undergrad at Duke University, and before you know it, I was wearing a sari and learning how to REALLY cook vegetarian food!

I'll never
forget my first lesson in mixing my own batch of curry. I had watched my various Bengali and Gujurati friends cook, and thought I was ready to give it a try. SOOOO, I started throwing in the spices into the pan, then added the vegetables. The supervisor of the day was Dhiren (later my boyfriend), and he tasted the batch right after I had added the veggies, and declared it inedible: "Many mistakes can be fixed, but not the overuse of turmeric!" He then unceremoniously dumped all the vegies into a colander, rinsed the spices off, and had me start over!

I love Indian food, and even though I now do not often have the time to cook a whole Indian meal with lots of courses, but I do enjoy cooking a feast on special occasions (Alas, not many of our American friends seem to appreciate this cuisine, being sceptical of anything too foreign or spicy -- I think they're missing out!)

My bookshelf includes Madhur Jaffrey's Foods of India, which my husband bought for me after I kept on checking it out from the library over and over -- he figured it was cheaper than paying the overdue fines... This is one of those recipe book with lots of gorgeous pictures that makes you just want to pack your suitcase and travel to that country!

And now for some recipes. First of all, there's the staple of all Asia:
rice. Cooked plain, or with just a tad of butter (ghee) and a few select spices. There's a huge variety in flavors added, such as onion, garlic, lemon, tamarind, coconut, etc. (NOT all in the same recipe, mind you!!!). But first, you gotta know the basics of cooking rice, and I point you to a wonderfully written account by my Philippine friend Megatonlove in her post entitled Prat du jour -- she's a new blogger and wonderfully talented writer!

Here's a new recipe I intend to try out soon:

Cashew Rice

A recipe from Northern India, from in

Rice 2 cups
Cashew nuts, roasted and powdered 3 tbsps.
Salt to taste
Dry grated coconut 2 tbsps.
pinch of turmeric powder
pinch of asafoetida
Mustard seeds 1/4 tsp.
2 red chillies
Oil 2 tbsps.
few corriander leaves (we call this cilantro)

Heat oil. Add mustard seeds, red chillies and asafoetida. Next add the cooked rice and the remaining ingredients. Mix well. Sprinkle chopped corriander leaves. Serve with cheese curd.

And the next couple of vegetable recipes are from --their wonderful recipes can be found in their weekly publication the Glacier Grist. Go down to the bottom of the bar on the left side and click on the issue number listed for the recipe (there is also an index to all their wonderful recipes).

Indian diced potatoes with greens (Glacier Grist #11)

Indian-spiced roasted potato salad with carrots (Glacier Grist #1)

spicy indian cabbage & yellow split mung beans (Glacier Grist #22)

Last, but not least, a new way to cook cauliflower (a vegetable that needs all the help it can get, as it is, admittedly, rather boring!)

Curried roasted cauliflower

cauliflower, cut into florets

oil (such as peanut or sunflower oil)
curry powder, salt

Toss the cauliflower with oil, then add spices. Spread on a roasting pan and bake around 400F until done.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Menu for a late March Hare

CSA box from GlacierValleyFarm this week contained:

Monday: Baked Salmon, mashed potatoes, broccoli w/ vinegrette (*)
Tuesday: Corned Beef, Cabbage, and roasted potatoes (*)
Wed: Corn Chowder, grilled cheese panini, salad
Thursday: Bubble & Squeek (*), leftover corned beef, salad
Friday: Spaghetti w/ red sauce, green salad
Saturday: Crudites: carrots and celery w/ hummus, Salmon Souffle(*), roasted Indian cauliflower (*). Roasted potatoes w/ herbs & parmesan
Sunday: Lamb in fennel-flavored coconut sauce (from Tamil Nadu, Flavors of India, p. 186), cardamon spinach, leftover Indian cauliflower, spicy Indian cabbage with dal (*GG#22), cucumber raita

Note: Wolfman is into his second week of avoiding red meat, and is sticking with it ("It's just an experiment -- I want to see what it's like" He is still not the fondest of eating the actual (green) vegetables, but loves the potatoes, grains, etc. But he's eating fish -- so he calls himself a "fishetarian" -- a.k.a. Alaskan vegetarian!
Youngest had decided to join big brother and is going meat-free too.
The Prof was starting to grumble a bit, and I appeased him with some Corned Beef on Tuesday.
I'm loving cooking and eating less red meat -- I do prefer to use meat as one of many protein sources, and to treat it more as a flavoring than a main ingredient.

Menu for a Mid-March Madness

This week, our CSA box from Glacier Valley Farms contained the following:
the Alaskan quadruplets: Yukon Gold potatoes, carrots, onions, cabbage
Organic produce from "outside": broccoli, celery, white mushrooms, collard greens, fennel, Fuji apples, navel oranges, d’Anjou pears
From Costco, we get Organic Spinach, avocados, sweet peppers, grapes.

Monday: Burritos w/ black beans, peppers, meat, avocados, salsa
Tuesday: Fried tilapia, leftover jambalaya, spinach salad
Wednesday: boys ate out, girls ate spinach raviolis, carrots and made juice(!)
Thursday: African Peanut Soup (*)
Friday: Flanks & greens (*)
Sunday: Bouillabaise with fish, tomatoes & fennel (*)

(!) Note: Boys ate in Anchorage, and Youngest and I picked up the CSA box. She had been wanting to make applejuice with our juicer (a remnant from when I lived in Colorado with a wonderful appletree in the backyard) -- and I relented. We had lots of fresh fruit in our box, and I let her juice the older apples in the fruit bowl together with some thawed out strawberries and blueberries from the freezer. It was truly delicious!

PS: I also love to make carrot juice, but that's not Youngest's favorite, and I'd rather use the carrots in other forms this week. Alaska carrots are incredibly sweet, and make a great raw snack.

Monday, March 16, 2009

New Recipes from our CSA

It feels like the night before Christmas...Actually, it's the night before our CSA box from Glacier Valley Farm arrives, and that's a lot like Christmas! Because we were gone over Spring Spring, we didn't get a box last week, but now I'm all excited about the arrival of tomorrow's, which comes with a whole new set of recipes.

I'm so tickled about how the family is on board with the CSA box and healthier eating. Eldest (off in college) is probably wishing I would have done this YEARS ago (but I don't think they had much in a way of CSAs in Alaska back when she lived at home) -- anyway, she gets credit for giving me the "push" when I was dragging my feet. Husband is also on board with my new vegetable experimentations resulting in"new adventures in eating", and he's hoping it will help him loose some of those unwanted pounds. And both of the remaining kids-at-home are becoming VERY interested in food and good nutrition -- I love how engaged the kids are getting in the selecting, cooking (and of course taste-testing) new recipes, and the many discussions over dinner about where our food really comes from.

I mentioned in my first kitchen blog post how teenage son was reading Michael Pollan In Defense of Food for Science class, and now he's reading Pollan's Botany of Desire. In fact, he's decided to give vegetarianism a try -- and that from the boy who couldn't get enough chicken wings at the potluck the other day! But I digress...

My routine for right before a new CSA box arrives:
1. clean out the frig - take out any leftovers and eat or toss, depending on its status.
2. make stock (for recipe, see my post on Making your own stock) - I use whatever meat scraps I've saved in the freezer, plus bottom of celery, onions, carrots saved in frig during past week)
3. Make soup- use anything from vegetable drawer that you know is getting replaced by this week's CSA box.
4. Plan menu - this is the fun part. Figure out what staples you may need to pick up at the grocery store to make some of those mouthwatering new recipes you plan to try with the stuff in your new CSA box.
5. Bake bread - optional, but you might just as well get a loaf rising while you're busy in the kitchen! And when the fam gets home from school/work, the chorus will be "It smells soooo good! What's for dinner?" What's better than homemade Soup with bread fresh out of the oven?

Here's some what I'm planning with this week's brand-new recipes from Glacier Valley Farm:
For actual recipes, go to Glacier grist # 21

Broccoli w/ garlicky mustard vinaigrette & toasted pepitas

cabbage and sourdough bread gratin

Fennel, tomato & potato stew

Saint Patty, Greens & Omega 3s

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!
Hope you're planning a nice GREEN meal. And I'm not talking about green food coloring in your beer or mashed potatoes, I'm talking about serving and eating more leafy greens.

We KNOW that greens are incredibly good for us, but admit it, most of us don't eat enough greens! Besides the obvious benefits of fibers, vitamins and iron, antitoxins and phytochemicals, there are the Omega-3 fatty acids, which we've been hearing about more and more in recent years. Yet somehow our western (American) diet has largely selected against Omega-3. Why is that?

It wasn't until the 1980's that scientists learned the importance of Omega-3 (If you want to read about why Omega-3 are good for us, while Omega-6 are not, I recommend Susan Allport's book The Queen of Fats: Why Omega-3s Were Removed from the Western Diet and What We can do to Replace them). Scientists think now that maybe what matters most is the ratio of Omega-3's to Omega-6 (in other words, getting enough Omega-3 in relation to Omega-6 may matter more than absolute amounts of Omega-3s).

So where do these Omega-dudes hide?

Our western diet depends heavily on seeds, primarily on wheat, corn and soy. Seeds are full of Omega-6. Where do you get your Omega-3? You guessed it, leafy greens (and the wild ones are especially good sources). Omega-3's are part of the photosynthetic process -- ergo, they hide in greens and algae! And thus they work their way up the food chain: that's one of the reasons that grass-fed beef is better for you than grainfed feedlot beef. We hear alot about how seafood is a good source of Omega-3's also, but really, fish just get theirs from seaweed and algae. Green plants is where it's at! SO to get more Omega-3, cut to the chase and eat more greens -- did I mention that greens were good for you? (This is probably one of the very few things nutritionists really agree on!)

I loved Michael Pollan's book In Defense of Food. Pollan tells of how nutritionism and "Food Science" have messed up repeatedly-- the more they've tried to reduce food into nutrient components, the less healthy our diet has become! They've been telling us for years to eat a lower fat diet, and we've gotten fatter and fatter. For example, first butter was deemed bad, was replaced by margarine and hydrogenated oils, and then it turns out those are worse than the butter! Ooops. More recently nutritionists have discovered the health benefits of Omega-3, yet because Omega-3 is not very stable, plant geneticists have actually been breeding against it (because we wanted food with long shelf-lives)..! OOOOPS again.

My personal pledge is to serve more GREENS. Regardless of what the nutritionists' latest controversies over what nutrient components are good or bad, it is clear that in it's most unprocessed form, plants (esp. greens) are undeniably healthy.

Let there be something green on our plates every day -- make every day St. Patrick's Day!

Spinach to the rescue!!!
Spinach is best fresh -- no doubt about it! After my rant against processed spinach the other day, I feel I need to make amends and extol the many uses of frozen spinach. Face it, we can't always have fresh spinach & other leafy greens on hand. Still, I NEVER use canned spinach (blech!), but I do use frozen spinach, and will even freeze my own -- esp. when I have HUGE quantities from a Costco Warehouse shopping trip and realize I can't cook it all before it starts spoiling. Or when the garden produces copious quantities and I need to harvest it before it bolts!

To freeze spinach, I just steam or blanch it briefly, and stick it in the freezer in ziploc bags, or freeze in small quantities, such as icecube trays.

For something GREEN, here is a small collection of ideas & recipes that make use of generous quantities of frozen spinach (always handy to have in your freezer) -- in other words, these dishes are good places to hide large quantities of the dreaded "Spinat"!

Lasagna, pizza, calzones, quiche
Soups (esp. blended soups which have a greenish color already)
Homemade spinach pasta (yumm!)
Omelettes, "Green Eggs and Ham"
Brownies (Honeypiehorse's trick: just blend the spinach first and replace part of the butter called for, and don't breathe a word! )

Green rice

(this is my own version, there are many)

olive oil
onions, chopped
garlic, minced
greens (spinach, etc) - fresh or frozen & defrosted
fresh herbs: parsley, chives, cilantro, etc
long-grain rice (not the instant stuff!!!)
water or stock (2x quantity of rice used)
salt, pepper
parmesan cheese, grated

Saute the onions. Add garlic, greens. Cook until wilted. Pre-measure the amount of liquid needed for your quantity of rice (2c water for 1 c rice) Transfer to blender together with fresh herbs, using enough of the water or stock to be able to blend well. Return to pan, rinse blender with rest of the liquid. Add rice, cover and and cook on low for about 20 min, or until all the liquid is absorbed. Fluff rice, and add salt, pepper, parmesan as desired.

Easy Baked Fish with spinach topping

Fillets of any mild white fish (such as tilapia)
lemon juice
spinach (fresh or frozen & defrosted)
mayonnaise and/or sour cream
salt, pepper, garlic powder
parmesan cheese

1. Place fish in a baking pan and dribble some lemon juice over it.
2. Mix spinach with all the other topping ingredients, and cover the fish fillets with topping.
3. Sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese
4. Bake at 350 F until fish is cooked (test if flaky with fork) -- 10-20 minutes depending on thickness of fish.

I therefore propose a toast to St. Patty, whom I nominate as the patron saint of green vegetables:
May you ble
ss us with lots of greens in the coming year!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Gumbo over Spaetzle, or How this family LOVES Cajun Food

Our German-Swedish-American family LOVES Cajun Food.
Since they were toddlers, the kids have been eating their Gumbo and Jambalaya (maybe that's why they're not picky eaters -- they got used to complex flavors early on...)

For us, one of the big feast tradition is to have "Gumbo and King Crab", like on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve. I admit that it's actually very "easy" (therefore stress-free on an otherwise crazy day) in the sense that I don't cook it from scratch that day. Rather, the big gumbo-making (which is a HUGE undertaking since we make a giant quantity from the left-over turkey after T-giving & Xmas) was done previously, and cleaned up previously, and the gumbo was frozen in meal-sizes.

As you can guess, gumbo is not exactly something we brought over from the Old Country, but it has become a firm tradition in our German-Swedish-American Melting Pot family --come to think of it, I could serve Gumbo over Spaetzle!

Here's how easy it is to fix that special occasion meal:

GUMBO and KING CRAB dinner

Defrost the gumbo, reheat in sauce pan
Cook brown rice
Heat baguette in oven
Melt butter in microwave (for dipping the crab)
Steam the king crab
Light the candles!

I know this is cheating, because I'm not actually giving you my husband's secret gumbo recipe. But he does make the real deal -- from scratch, with a real roux. It takes an entire afternoon, but then the freezer is full of the most delicious "fast" food you'll ever know.

Next is a quick every-day meal:

Clean-out-the-frig Jambalaya

(this too is not exactly a recipe: I never make the same twice)

Olive oil
onions, chopped
celery, chopped,
bell peppers, chopped
garlic, minced
jalapeno or other hot peppers
cajun spice mix (I make my own: paprika, thyme, salt, pepper, mustard seeds, cayenne, etc)
bay leaf
rice (I use brown basmati)
stock or water (2x the volume of rice)
tomato paste
Andouille or other spicy sausage
left-over chicken or turkey
shrimp or other shellfish
more vegetables (that don't fall apart) -- if they're somewhat fragile, add at the very end (peas)

I usually start by cooking the sausage, then saute veggies. Add spices & cook a little. Then add rice, and coat well with oil and spices, cooking a little before adding the liquid. Turn down to low and let simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.
Add fragile stuff at the end: peas, leftover chicken, shrimp (can saute shrimp first, or let cook in the last 5 or so minutes).

PS: one of my favorite quick meals with leftover jambalaya is the heat it in a non-stick pan, then make hole and fry an egg in it!
PPS: In principle, my Jambalaya is not all that different from a Spanish paella, and that's Old Country!

Menu for Spring Break (March)

We spent the first half of our Spring Break in Fairbanks, visiting old friends, and they spoiled us with wonderful (mostly vegetarian) fare. Every evening was a feast, starting with hors d'oeuvres (a.k.a. "horse's ovaries"), with an assortment of wines and cheeses, oil-cured olives, etc.

Sunday: Vegetarian lasagna, salad.
Monday: Sockeye salmon (baked in foil over BBQ), roasted potatoes, baby asparagus.
Tuesday: Szechuan Eggplant pizza, tricolor pepper pizza.
Wednesday: Mexican Restaurant in Wasilla on drive home.
Thursday: Jambalaya (*), Eggs in a Nest (*)
Friday: Potluck BonVoyage Party -- I made jambalaya w/ andouille and shrimp
Saturday: Potluck Birthday Party -- I made Spaetzle
Sunday: Flanks & Greens (*) over brown rice

Note on potlucks (I LOVE potlucks -- this American tradition is WUNDERBAR!)
The variety was wonderful at both potlucks, and there's always plenty for everybody, even those with special diets, like vegetarians, or people who cannot eat wheat, soy or dairy.
There were great salads -- I love to try all the different fruits, nuts, etc --got great new ideas!
There was a great vegan corn chowder, heavenly cheese-potatoes baked in their skins, and lots more. I also got reminded how much guys love sauerkraut & sausage, and spicy chicken wings -- that plus a brewski and they're in heaven!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Popeye and Spinach

Spinach -- I love it!
But when I was a kid growing up in Germany, Spinach was about the least favorite vegetable you could put in front of us: Creamed spinach out of a can -YUCK!

No wonder they (whoever "they" are) made the cartoon-character Popeye get his energy from slurping up huge quantities of canned spinach -- why else would kids eat the stuff?!?

I only discovered fresh spinach salad as a young adult (when venturing into vegetarianism -- see more in my introductory post What shall we have for supper?). Hey, I discovered then that spinach is actually very tasty, and it certainly beat the Iceberg lettuce served in the university cafeteria.

Only much later did I learn to actually COOK with spinach, and have since learned to cook with many other tasty greens: beet greens, chard, collard greens, mustard greens, etc. Perhaps that's more of a Southern thing, but these greens ROCK! When I lived in the Appomattox, Virginia, my 80-year old landlady grew her own vegetables, and fried them all up in bacon grease -- there's nothing tastier to even the most ardent vegetable sceptic. In Appomattox is also where I learned what all you can do with zuccini -- because when summer squash ripens, you'll be eating it for breakfast, lunch and dinner...

For a wonderful tutorial on how to actually cook spinach (don't dare boil it, just saute it in a wee bit of olive oil or butter) go to Chef Doughty -- this blog is a great approach to thinking like a chef. She teaches how the "basic understanding of fundamental cooking techniques and food so you can spontaneously create your own dishes without relying on a recipe". I really like her product-based approach, rather than a recipe-driven approach: I got a bunch of spinach here, plus a chicken -- so what can I whip up for supper?

One of my new favorite ways to cook up spinach (and other greens) is one I've mentioned before under beets:

Eggs in a Nest
(adapted from Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver)

1 onion, chopped
garlic, chopped (optional)
olive oil
several carrots, chopped fine, or grated
dried tomatoes (optional)
1 really large bunch of dark leafy greens (chard, beet greens, spinach, etc)
4 eggs

Saute onions & garlic in olive oil. Add carrots, tomatoes w/ a little water as needed. Cover with lid and let carrots get soft. Add the greens, cover until wilted. Make indentations w/ back of a spoon. Crack eggs and place into dents. Cover w/ lid, and poach for 3-5 minutes. Serve over rice or toast.

Flanks and Greens

(from Paul Prudhomme's Fork in the Road)
This makes a huge quantity -- I cut in half for my family of 4. This cajun dish is not exactly pretty, but surprisingly, it is one of my family's favorite -- I mean, even the kids eat their greens and ask for more!)

Cajun seasoning mix or spice rub (containing sweet paprika, salt, pepper, mustard, onion,garlic, thyme, ginger, cayenne)
1.5 pounds flank steak, scalloped (cut across grain, in strips)
2 c onions, chopped
12 c mixed greens, any that are not bitter (such as spinach, collards, mustard, chard, etc)
up to 6 c beef stock or combination of stock and water
5 T flour (browned -- I make big batch & keep in a jar) optional
6 c cooked rice (I use brown basmati)

1. Sprinke meat with seasoning mix.
2. Heat oil in pan (high), and brown the seasoned meat.
3. Add onions (and more seasoning if desired). Cook until well done, scraping bottom frequently.
4. Add about half of greens. Let them cook down (I cover with lid).
5. Add some stock, browned flour to thicken, if desired. (Ok to leave out the browned flour, but the dish will end up watery -- could also cheat and use other thickener like starch or gravy mix).
6. Add rest of greens, cover with lid, and monitor, stirring occasionally. Add more stock as needed -- this is a delicate balance -- it's supposed to cook down some.
7. Serve over rice.

To-Die-For Indian Spinach recipe
This is a side dish that I don't have an official recipe for --a simple & tasty side dish.

onions, cut in rings
salt, pepper
spinach - a lot

Over medium high heat, melt butter and saute the onion rings. Add spices and cook a wee little bit. Add spinach and cover pot with lid. Check often, turning over spinach until all is wilted. Serve immediately.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Swedish Sokerkake (with Cardamom), a.k.a. Courting Cake

This Swedish cake is known in our house as "Courting Cake" because my husband baking this wonderful cake is all it took! It is made without any butter -- rather, it uses cream, and is therefore super-quick to throw together.
(Hint: best to use room temperature ingredients: I like to pre-warm the eggs in a warm water bath -- this does not take long)

Swedish "Sokerkake"

2 c flour (sift if clumpy)
2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1 c sugar
1 t freshly ground cardamom
3 eggs (room temperature)
1.5 cups heavy cream (whipping cream, but not whipped), room temperature
vanilla wafer crumbs (or other cookie crumbs, such as graham crackers)
powdered sugar for dusting

1. Using mixer, blend well, scraping sides often. (Beat for about 3 minutes)
2. Spray or butter a bundt pan. Sprinkle with vanilla wafer crumbs.
3. Pour batter into pan. Bake at 350 F for 55-60 minutes until toothpick tests clean (may take longer than an hour -- keep baking, otherwise cake will "fall" upon cooling).
4. Remove from bundt pan, and let cool slightly before dusting with powdered sugar.
5. Best if eaten while still WARM! This cake does not keep well -- so indulge!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Strange and Wonderful Broccoli recipes

Here are a couple of mouth-watering broccoli recipes (which the husband would argue is an oxymoron right there -- he does not especially like broccoli -- probably the only thing he has in common with senior President Bush, who declared that when you become the President you don't have to eat broccoli anymore!) But I majorly digress, and I do like broccoli...

And I declare that I am on a MISSION to feed my family more veggies! So I'm on the lookout for recipes -- all kinds.

I have great hopes that peanut butter will lure the child who literally will eat anything with PB! And how about combining with chocolate?!? If you're desperate, and your children refuse to eat their broccoli (spinach, etc), you've gotta check out Honeypiehorse baking broccoli brownies for her girls!!! Hint: she does blend them first!

The following recipes are all from Mollie Katzen's book Vegetable Dishes I Can't Live Without, which I discovered at our Fairbanks friends' house, who by the way are excellent cooks and not afraid of vegetables one bit!

Broccoli dipped in Wonderful Peanut Sauce

1 bunch broccoli
1 c peanut butter (smooth -good quality)
3-4 T honey
1 c hot water
2-3 T soy or tamari sauce
2 t cider vinegar
3-4 t finely minced cilantro
salt, cayenne pepper, to taste

1. Blanche broccoli in boiling water for 2-3 minutes. Immediately rinse in cold water, shake dry. (Hint: If storing for future use, place in ziploc bags in frig.)
2. Place peanut butter & honey in bowl, add hot water and mash together patiently.
3. Add remaining ingredients. Peanut sauce can be stored for up to a week.
4. Serve together with with other veggies as a dip.

Broccoli with Garlic, dried Tomatoes and Lemon

1 bunch broccoli
3 oz dried tomatoes
2-3 T extra-virgin olive oil
1 t minced or crushed garlic
salt, pepper, to taste
1 T lemon zest

1. Blanche and cool broccoli spears.
2. Heat olive oil, then add all ingredients except last 2.
3. When broccoli is done to perfection, add lemon zest, salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

Broccoli, Apples, and Red Onion in Honey-Mustard Marinade
1 bunch broccoli
2 T cider vinegar
2 T Dijon mustard
1/2 minced garlic
1/4 t salt
2 t honey
5 T olive oil
3/4 c thinly sliced red onion
1 tart apple, thinly sliced

1. Blanche broccoli.
2. Put ingredients vinegar thru honey in bowl and whisk together.
3. Drizzle small stream of oil while whisking vigorously.
4. Cover vegetables with dressing & coat well.
5. Serve hot or cold -- can let marinade in frig for later (Hint: add apples when serving)

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Menu for early March

It's spring break!!!

Spring still seems a long way away here in Alaska -- but at least it's sunny & the skiing is excellent.

The frig is well stocked with produce from our CSA box. The big 4 from Alaska are potatoes, onions, carrots and cabbage. In addition, there's bok choy, broccoli, Romaine lettuce and spinach.

So here's our dinner menu for the week:

Monday: homemade Spaetzle(*) and goulash, sauteed bok choy, green salad.
Tuesday: Bubble & Squeak (*), beets (*), Mexican Quinoa salad (*)
Wednesday: leftovers
Thursday: Broccoli and beef stirfry, rice, Eggdrop Soba noodle soup with bok choy
Friday: pizza with pesto, garlic, pepperoni, artichoke hearts and feta cheese, spinach salad.
Saturday: left-overs "clean-out-the-frig"

Note to self: Teenage son stated strongly that "eggs do not belong in soup!" Otherwise, everything else on menu was a big success, even the Quinoa salad!

We're off on spring break -- North to sunny & cold Fairbanks!
Adios until next week.

Monday, March 2, 2009


Isn't the web a wonderful source for cooks? Used to be I hit the recipe books when looking for an inspiration, but when Eldest came home from college her first Christmas, she just kept her laptop in the kitchen for easy reference -- those modern kids!
Today I'm looking for some sort of a salad recipe that uses Quinoa, as I have plenty left over from a meal last week. So forget thumbing thru the old recipe books, most of which don't even have any entries in the index under Q!

First I found a delicious-looking recipe at a fun blog called Tea and cookies, but the ingredients it called for were too summery, and I want to work with what I got in the frig!
Next I came across this Mexican recipe with black beans, lime, cilantro and jalapeno on a website called the Savvy Vegetarian, she says "it's similar to Tabouleh, but quinoa is both heartier and sturdier than couscous. Quinoa black bean salad is a great one dish meal, and also goes well with crusty artisan bread or tortillas chips with salsa, guacamole etc."

Savvy Vegetarian's Mexican Style Quinoa Black Bean Salad
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 1/2 cups cold water
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 cups cooked black beans. If using canned beans, drain and rinse well
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced, OR 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 red pepper, sliced thin
  • 1 large ripe tomato
  • 1 green pepper, sliced thin
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • Dressing:
  • 2 Tblsp freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Fresh ground pepper
  • Pinch cayenne or chili powder
  • 2 Tblsp chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/4 cup chopped scallions
  • Optional: 1/2 cup sliced olives


  1. The quinoa can be made ahead of time and refrigerated
  2. Soak the quinoa 1/2 hour in cold water
  3. Rinse very thoroughly in water several times. For each rinse, pour off most of the water and finish draining through a large fine mesh strainer
  4. Place in 2 qt pot with 1 1/2 c. water and 1/2 tsp salt
  5. Bring to a boil, turn down to low, cover tightly, and cook for 15 minutes
  6. Remove from heat and allow to sit 5 minutes covered
  7. Fluff gently with a fork and set aside to cool.
  8. Saute jalapeno, fresh garlic, in 2 Tbsp oil until garlic is browned, pepper and celery are softened
  9. Add the green and red peppers and saute briefly
  10. Add the cumin and coriander, cook and stir 5 minutes
  11. Blend dressing ingredients with a whisk or shake in a jar
  12. Gently combine sauteed veggies, tomatoes, black beans, quinoa and dressing in a large bowl
  13. Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Stir in cilantro and scallions, and serve warm or cover and chill for later

Helpful Quinoa Hints:

  • Quinoa has high oil content, so should be stored in the fridge or freezer to avoid becoming rancid
  • A tight fitting lid is essential for even cooking
  • Quinoa is coated with saponin, which will give it a bitter taste unless you wash it very thoroughly - those tiny flaky bits in the rinse water are the saponin
  • Because of it's high protein and oil content, quinoa is a satisfying meal with a few nuts or beans and veggies added.
Thankyou, SavvyVegetarian, and now back to my own experiment with this meal:

I changed some of the ingredients around, using what I had at hand, but kept the basic premise of the recipe. I substituted garbanzo beans, skipped tomatoes (duh, it's Alaska in March!) but used delicious sweet Alaska carrots, added Sri Ratcha Sauce (a spicy red pepper sauce) and Maggi (ok, only a German understands this one).
The cilantro definitely makes this dish!
I also tried to slice my finger off! Yes, it was stupid -- this is a very vegan dish, after all!
But silly me tried to fancy-cut the carrot julienne-style. Lesson learned: don't be in a hurry with a sharp chef's knife!

Making Your Own Soup Stock

I make a lot of soups, especially during the cold season, which some would argue here in Alaska is every month besides July.

Making your own soup stock is really not difficult, and very rewarding. I have found that it does not take much time. Here's what I do:

Meat (chicken, beef, even fish): whatever bones, fat, or other trimmings, throw them in the freezer until there are enough to make stock. I keep a ziploc labeled "beef", another "chicken", and add to it whenever I trim something here or there. These are usually raw, but could also be the bones of a roasted chicken or turkey, or the barbecued T bones from T-bone steaks...
Vegetables (mostly roots, see "Suppengrün" below): I trim the end of the carrots, onions, etc., but that does not go into the freezer -- rather in a plastic bag in the vegetable drawer, instead of throwing them into the trash or compost. If I don't get around to making stock soon, and they get nasty, then the worms get them after all... On stock-making day, I also scour the vegetable bin for any limp carrots, celery etc., anything past its' prime!

In Germany, you can buy "Suppengrün" (literally greens for soup) at the farmer's market or in the grocery store. The French call it "mirepoix". It is usually purchased in a bundle and consists of a leek, a carrot and a piece of celeriac. It may also contain parsley, thyme, celery leaves, rutabaga, parsley root and onions. The mix depends on the region, but they are usually cold climate roots and bulbs with long shelf lives. The website proclaims that Suppengrun vegetables and herbs "impart hearty, strong flavors to the soup or sauce, which makes them perfect foils for other strong tasting ingredients such as dried peas and beans or pot roast." In other words, my husband would say, anything to make lentil soup more palatable!

Here's my recipe:

Homemade Soup Stock
Stockpot full of cold water
meat scraps, frozen or thawed (optional) -- skip if vegetarian
celery root or stalks
parslet, etc
bay leaves
Do NOT salt at this time! Wait until stock is done, or better yet, until making soup.

Bring to boil, then reduce and let simmer for several hours or all day (the big turkey carcass after Thanksgiving might go all night...). Length of time depends on the quantity and esp. the type of meat: beef goes longer than chicken, fish only 1/2 hour or so. Let cool until you're comfortable handling it. Pass through a sieve and fill in glass jars with lids. Refrigerate. A layer of fat will form on top, which acts as a seal. These will last several weeks in frig, but if you do want to freeze the stock, then remove fat and decant stock into plastic containers (leave enough headroom for expansion).
Hint: concentrated stock can be frozen in icecube trays, then transferred to ziploc bag. Then if you need just a little bit of stock for a recipe, grab an few stock-icecubes.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Homemade German Spaetzle

To me, Spaetzle ranks as one of the top contenders for "womb-food" among the carbs. Right up there with mashed potatoes and freshly baked bread with a good crust!

Spaetzle is a very German dish most commonly associated with the region of Swabia (Schwaben). It's basically fresh homemade eggnoodles, and nothing store-bought compares to the REAL THING. It's not difficult, but it is a bit messy (be forewarned, ye neat-freaks out there!), and you gotta work fast.

The Swabians are a hardworking & precise people. To give you a taste, here's an anecdote my mother told me from when she was a young mom living in a small village near Stuttgart. A neighbor informed her that it was very obvious to the townspeople that my mom was not Swabian. "How's that?" she asked. "We don't see you airing out your featherbeds (down comforters) out your window or balcony. Every good Swabian housewife airs her family's bedding every morning!" So my mom promptly started airing out the comforters every morning. But soon she was pulled aside by the nosy neighbor again. "Just so you know, a good Swabian housewife has all the beds made before the church bells ring at noon!"

There are two schools of thought on how to make the perfect Spaetzle: Swabians insist the dough be prepared at 8 o'clock in the morning, and every time the cook passes it, she stirs it for 5 minutes, so that when she gets ready to cook the noon meal, the dough will produce perfect Spaetzle. On the other hand, the Austrian approach is more to my liking: "The lazier the cook, the better the Spaetzle!" If you can still distinguish some of the flour and eggs in the dough, they say, then you're making Spaetzle right.

I'll just list the basic recipe here, but for a detailed description of the process, go to Amiexpat's blog -- she has an ongoing weekly challenge of the "Real German Cuisine", and this week it was Spaetzle. Another handy website is

Basic Homemade Spaetzle

4 c flour (calculate about 1 c flour per person)


4 eggs

1/2 to 3/4 cup water or milk

Mix ingredients well (I use a mixer). Amount of moisture needed depends on which method you use -- if pressing dough through holes, batter needs to be similar to a pancake batter, just a little stiffer. Have a large pot of salted water boiling. Add Spatzle by one of 3 methods:

1. spread dough (sticky, not too watery) thinly over wet cutting board, and cut noodles with knife. This is probably the most difficult method to master!

2. press batter through holes of a colander (large holes work best).

3. Use a Spaetzle-press or "Reibe". Here's a picture of what mine looks like: you push the dough back and forth over the holes directly into the boiling water.

Don't cook Spaetzle too long -- you'll want to take them out with a slotted spoon shortly after they've risen to the top. If you don't use them immediately, stir in some butter to keep Spaetzle from sticking together -- they will make 1 big lump otherwise!

You can serve Spaetzle with anything that calls for egg noodles. They're good with goulash or other sauces, can be used in soups, and are great tossed with pesto.

Cheesey Spaetzle Casserole


butter or oil

Swiss Cheese (Emmentaler), grated

1. Saute onion rings to golden grown. Have the oven pre-heating.

2. Layer a (buttered or oiled as needed) casserole with layers of freshly made Spaetzle, cheese and onions.

3. Bake at 400 F for 5-10 minutes until bubbly. Add more cheese and freshly grated pepper as desired.

Menu planning in late February

An Italian-American friend of mine once shared the following with a bunch of us on a girls-getaway weekend when we were discussing food: "I love eating, and I think about food all the time. When I wake up in the morning, I'm already planning in detail what I'm going to cook and eat..." Another shared that she'd rather not think about food at all, and is happy to eat most anything put in front of them, and would love not to have to cook and plan menus at all. My mother once confided in me that she found cooking family meals a chore: "Sometimes I would have to fix myself a strong cup of coffee before I could face the kitchen."

A cynic might say,
There are only 2 kinds of people (replace w/ housewives or moms?) in this world: those that plan and think about food all the time, and those that don't think about food until their stomachs growl (or their kids start whining...)

I actually fall somewhere between those extremes. I sometimes go for long periods of time without thinking a whole lot about food (especially when very busy at work, blogging, sewing or other creative endeavors), but more commonly I do think about food and meals frequently. I have to (!) as a mom, plus I enjoy eating, and I get grumpy when my blood sugar drops too low.

Can you remember what you cooked & ate this past week?
Do you know what's for dinner this coming week?

I don't usually plan meals in great detail, but now that we're getting our weekly CSA boxes, that is forcing me to become a little less haphazard in my menu planning. And by writing this blog, I'll hopefully have something to return to when I run out of ideas/ inspiration...

I started this past week with the overdue job of defrosting the big freezer, and discovered how low we were getting on meat. We're down to our last 2 packages of salmon (Wild Alaskan Sockeye), but I still have some of my smoked fillets left. It's good to eat all your harvest before going into next spring/summer, so I defrosted some salmon for us to eat.

Here's the emailed list of what our CSA box contained:

from Alaska’s Glacier Valley Farm and VanderWeele Farm:
Alaskan Yukon Gold potatoes | Alaskan carrots | Alaskan green cabbage | Alaskan onions

from Outside:
certified organic bunch beets with their greens | certified organic bok choy | certified organic leeks | certified organic broccoli | certified organic Fuji apples | certified organic navel oranges

Dinners this past week (* denotes recipe is posted on blog)
We always eat salad or other raw food (crudites such as carrots, etc) -- but I don't list them here.

Monday: Bubble & squeak (*) with turkey breakfast sausage.
Tuesday: grilled salmon marinated in ginger-soy sauce, quinoa, broccoli w/ hollandaise sauce.
Wednesday: leek & potato soup (*), panini w/ cheese and prosciutto ham.
Thursday: Eggs in a Nest (*), brown rice, beets w/ horseradish dressing (*).
Friday: Burritos w/ refried beans, beef & red pepper fajitas, cheese & avocado.
Saturday: Salmon chowder (made w/ leftover salmon, carrots, bok choy, corn).

Tonight I was going to make homemade Spaetzle and goulash, but we spent the afternoon skiing on the frozen river, and I admit to taking a delicious nap after skiing, so I just reheated some Chili con carne, and tried a new recipe for coleslaw. Recipes to follow soon...

Potato dishes

The lowly potato!
One of my favorite staples, being a good German Hausfrau (NOT)!!!

The Kartoffel is versatile, nutritious, and EVERYBODY in the family likes them!
So here are a couple of recipes that are popular in this Haus:

Roast Potatoes

Firm potatoes, such as red
other root vegetable: turnips, carrots, sweet potatoes (optional)
olive oil
salt, pepper
rosemary (optional)

Cut all the root vegetable to uniform size (approx. 1 inch cubes). Coat with olive oil and spices. Bake at 375 F until done (approx. 1 hour) -- We like to bake them uncovered, and let them get a good crust on!

Garlic Mashed Potatoes
potatoes (optional: leave the skin on)
milk or half-half
black & white pepper

I like to leave the skin on (much to my German mother's chagrin!) Wash the potatoes well, using a brush to get all the soil off. Remove any brown spots or where they begin to sprout. Boil potatoes in salt water until soft, drain. Heat butter and saute garlic. Mash potatoes with generous amounts of garlic butter, milk, salt and pepper. Remember, garlic is a vegetable, not a spice!

Heaven and Earth (German: Himmel und Erde)
This is a favorite dish from the Rhineland (Koeln), where my father and I were born. The name of this dish comes from the combination of apples, which are from above (heaven) and potatoes from below (earth). It's basically potato pancakes fried in butter, often served along with sauteed liver, roast lamb or mutton.

leftover mashed potatoes
salt, sugar, vinegar (to taste)

The original recipe is basically to mix it all together, and serve with browned butter on top. In our family, I often make mine more like Reiberdatschi or jewish potato latkes (like those pictured on the left), and serve with applesauce and optional sourcream. Yummy!

Bubble and Squeak
Traditionally served in England on Boxing Day (December 26th) with leftover meat.
Hint: Known to appeal to people who don't normally care for cabbage!

leftover mashed potatoes
other leftover veggies, mashed
onion, chopped
olive oil
green cabbage, thinly sliced
parsley, thyme & dill, salt

1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and ½ teaspoon salt and sauté until golden, about 10 minutes. Then add garlic, and herbs and cook until softened, about 10 minutes.
2. Add the cabbage, another ½ teaspoon salt, and ½ cup water. Cover and cook slowly until the cabbage is tender, about 15 to 20 minutes, turning it occasionally. Add more liquid as necessary. When tender, uncover and raise the heat to evaporate some excess moisture, but it’s OK if it’s a little soupy.
3. Stir in the parsley and season with salt and pepper.
4. Mix the cabbage in with the mashed potatoes, and then fry in some olive oil.

Leek and Potato Soup
Leeks, washed well
spinach or other dark leafy greens (optional)
stock (chicken, beef, vegetarian) or plain water
grated cheese (Parmesan, Romano, or other)
salt, pepper
cream or half-half (optional)
instant mashed potato flakes (optional)

1. Cut leeks in rings and saute in butter (I save the ends and darker ends & outer leaves for making stock -- I'll post something on making homemade stock soon!).
2. Add potatoes, remaining vegetables and stock. Cook on low until potatoes are soft. OK to let it cool at this stage. I often do this part early in the day, and finish soup later.
3. Puree in blender. Reheat.
4. Add grated parmesan cheese and spices to taste.
5. Shortly before serving, add some cream if desired (don't boil).
6. If some thickening of the soup is desired, add some instant mashed potato flakes -- it's an easy way to add substance to a soup without needing to use flour or starch.