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

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

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Hearty salads

I love having good salad choices in the frig for lunches & hunger attacks.
And I don't mean a mere lettuce salad, but something hearty, where there's a grain/starch and even some protein involved. When it's hot & I don't feel like heating up the kitchen, I serve one of these salads plus meat and veggies cooked on a grill for dinner.

Start with leftover rice, noodles, bulghur, quinoa, lentils.
HINT: Toss with some oil to keep from sticking!
If I make a big batch to keep around for several days, I leave out any soft ingredients that don't keep well (lettuce, cucumbers, cut tomatoes, avocados, etc)

raw vegetables: green onions, scallions or red onions (trick for taking out the "bite": cover with boiling water for 30 seconds, then drain), sweet peppers, radish, carrots, etc.
blanched veggies: green beans, broccoli, etc
protein: cooked beans, cheese, cold chicken, tuna, etc. Also good: serve with nuts.
fruit: orange slices, mango, etc.
Dressing: lots of choices of course!
spicing it up: olives, capers, fresh herbs such as parsley, cilantro, etc

Xiao Ming Salad (steak and noodle salad)
Named after a chinese classmate of mine, this is a family favorite!

left-over steak, thinly sliced
noodles (thin spaghetti or Soba buckwheat), cooked then rinsed with cold water
oil to coat noodles, to keep from sticking together
scallions or red onions, diced
snap peas
red, orange or green sweet peppers, diced
fresh cilantro (really makes this dish!)

sesame oil
soy sauce
wine vinegar
grated ginger
Hot pepper sauce (like SriRatcha)
salt, pepper, to taste

Lentil Salad
recipe inspired by Jane Brody's cookbook. I like lentils, but it's not a family favorite -- so I make a small quantity and eat it for lunches, etc.
Addendum: Easy French has a nice lentil salad recipe which calls for adding goatcheese (such as feta) -- I'm gonna have to try this! Plus she gives measurements!

1-2 c lentils, cooked until just tender (20-30min), then drained and rinsed.
scallions or red onions, diced
sweet peppers, cherry tomatoes, olives
1 T extra virgin olive oil
2 T balsamic vinegar
salt, pepper, spritz of Maggi
1 t dried oregano & basil
fresh parsley, chopped -- this is an important ingredient, in my opinion

other salad ideas:
Tabouli (Bulghur) Salad: find a recipe here
Quinoa and black bean salad: from a previous post of mine
Southwest Caesar Salad w/ salmon & pepitas: find recipe at GG#26 (great dressing!)
I bet this would be good as a pasta salad too!
Mango and chicken salad (perhaps add rice?): find recipe by Honeypiehorse here

Menu for Apri-May transition

This week's CSA box contains from Alaska: potatoes, carrots, onions.
Organic produce from Outside: romaine lettuce, cilantro, collard greens, cauliflower, Braeburn apples, Navel oranges, ruby grapefruit.
From Costco & Fred Meyer Grocery Store: strawberries, watermelon, sweet peppers, avocados, mustard greens, spinach
From the freezer: turkey & broth, skirt steak, flank steak (already sliced thinly), shredded pork for burritos, last ziploc bag of blueberries

Monday: Turkey & dumplings, strawberry shortcake for dessert!
Tuesday: Skirt steak, potatoes, lentil salad (*), spinach & avo salad
Wednesday: boys eat out, girls eat wafffles w/ strawberries!
Thursday: Flanks and Greens (*), brown rice
Friday: Mexican swine flu burritos, homemade blueberry icecream for dessert
Greek beans baked with carrots and tomatoes (GG#25), roasted curried cauliflower(*), hashbrowned potatoes, spicy sausages, carrot salad
Sunday: potluck/B-day celebration

Monday, April 20, 2009

More bread-baking

Today my bread rose under a towel by a window in the sunshire! NO more woodstove, no siree.... It's a warm spring day, and the house is getting nearly too warm -- we have to open windows (the snow is just about all melted, and the first mosquitoes are out!)

My family has been so positive about the homemade bread I've been baking.
I overheard the kids on the weekend telling Papa what a "gourmet" day it's been: German pancakes for breakfast, sandwiches on homemade bread for lunch and turkey & dumplings for dinner, and homemade icecream for dessert -- that's the life!

So today I played around with 2 recipes. The first was just like my last whole wheat bread, but I replaced the wheatberries with SPROUTED wheatberries (Haven't cut this one open yet-- verdict is still out).

The second bread I baked today I shall call
Specked Nut-Oat Bread
1c warm milk (plus extra warm water as needed)
1 T yeast
1-2 T honey
2 c all purpose flour
1 c whole wheat flour
1 c oat flour
1/2 c oat bran
1 T flax (ground)
1 T flaxseed (whole)
1/2 c pecans, chopped finely

Kids had some Banana Bliss (see recipe here) for snack, and LOVED the bread!

Another bread the fam loved was a simplified version of my daughter's recipe below.
I had skipped the eggs, and replaced the raisins with garlic cloves baked in olive oil -- delicious!
It made a nice light bread.

Pane de Ramerino (Rosemary and Raisin Bread)

Mix together:
2 t. yeast
1 c. warm water or milk (if using milk, omit powdered milk)

Combine in a large bowl:
3.25 c. flour, up to 1 c. of it can be whole wheat
1 t. salt
2 T. powdered milk (unless milk used)

Mix into softened yeast:
3 eggs
1/4 cup olive oil
(I like to add 1-2 T honey/agave/brown sugar)

Mix some flour into the wet ingredients, along with:
1 T. fresh rosemary
1 c. packed raisins

Mix flour and wet ingredients together, knead, let rise 2 hours, punch down and shape (typically 4 small loaves), let proof 1 hour, top with salt wash, score (typically a cross), bake on pizza stone for 30 or so minutes at 400 (although I'm thinking of decreasing that temperature, when I made it at Easter the top was dark brown before the inside got cooked through).

Menu for the third April week

This week's CSA box is greatly anticipated, esp. since we went without one last week!

It contains Alaskan russet potatoes, carrots & onion, and from Outside:
Organic romaine lettuce, scallions, cremini mushrooms, radishes, celery root, Braeburn apples, Navel oranges, Asian pears

At Fred Meyer I found European-style WHITE asparagus on sale, and we treated ourselves to some steak from Mike's Meats.

Monday: BBQ steak, roasted potatoes, white asparagus w/ hollandaise sauce, salad (Comment: white asparagus was stringy -- family prefers green asparagus)

Tues: Mexican night: Tamales, black beans w/ chorizo, spanish rice

Wed: Boys eat out, girls eat left-overs (smoked turkey, etc)

Thurs: Baby lima bean soup, biscuits w/ cheese & parsley, salad

Friday: Mexican pizza w/black beans & chorizo spread, sweet peppers, onions, olives, cheeses

Saturday: Eat out -- Nature Center Auction!

Sunday: Xiao Ming salad, spicy brats, roasted potatoes, roasted celery root (Comment: I like the roasted celery root as a substitute for potatoes)

Friday, April 17, 2009


I grew up in Germany's Saarland, which borders the French regions of Lorraine, and the cuisine of the border region has elements of both cultures. Similarly, neighboring Alsace sits across the Rhine from Germany and the Black Forest), and its cuisines are also very intertwined - you can find regional dishes on both sides of the border. When we were kids, we'd hike over to France for Sunday brunch, and in school, our first foreign language in school was French.

Photocredit for pictures: (Tour 2006: Obernai, Alsace and Black Forest village)

In the Saarland, and especially in Alsace-Lorraine (or "Elsass-Lothringen" in German), Flammkuchen or Tarte Flambee is a very popular item on the menu of restaurants. It is basically a thin-crusted pizza with a quiche-style topping, baked in a very hot oven. The history is that baking it was a test for the old wood-burning oven -- if hot enough, then the flames would barely char the edges while the center comes out perfectly...

I had not made this in ages, but today the theme was somewhat FRENCH (I had fish and fennel, so I made bouillabaise) -- which more sophisticated than saying we ate fish soup and pizza! I was also inspired by Kim who writes the blog Easy French Food and Cuisine -- she had recently left a message on my cabbage post (which had Choux in the title) -- and she's an American living in France with a great philosophy on food! Hubby suggested I cook something french: so here we are! But alas, Kim does not have a recipe for Tarte Flambee.

My first mistake in tonight's Flammkuchen was to make a yeast pizza dough, and it should have been yeast-free to keep it very thin and crisp. I also learned I shouldn't have been afraid of getting the oven too hot -- it definitely needed to be hotter to make it crisp. (My track record this week was to burn parts of dinner not only once, but twice -- hubby called last night's attempt at garlic bread "carbon-county toast")...

Good recipe and discussion can be found here. The author blogs about German & American food from the perspective of a professional cook. I just stumbled across tonight and really enjoyed -- check it out if you're interested: -- and she has a search engine too!

pizza dough -- very very thin
onions, cut in rings
optional: other veggies if desired - tomato, leeks, etc.
salt, pepper

Fry up the bacon, remove with slotted spoon & set on paper towel. Using either the bacon grease or olive oil and saute onion rings until nicely caramelized. Let cool.
Mix eggs and cream, add salt & pepper.

Roll dough out very thinly and cover with bacon bits and onion rings. Roll up the sides of the dough to help make a wall for the egg topping. Pour egg mixture evenly (not too thick).
Bake in HOT oven 400 - 450F, for 15 minutes or so, keeping an eye on it!

Serve with salad and wine! Voila.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Mexican Meals

Hola! We sure enjoy Mexican food around here -- it's versatile & fun!

Enchiladas a la Jerry Garcia
This recipe is from my hubby's brother-in-law, great cook & musician too (but not of Grateful Dead fame!)

Chicken or turkey, diced, cooked or baked
jalapenos, canned ok
olives, chopped (optional -- but they really are good in here)
cheese, grated (cheddar or variety of Mexican melting cheeses)
salt, pepper, garlic
corn tortillas
enchilada sauce (green is our favorite, not mild either!)
more cheese

Cook the poultry if needed: bake with spices in the oven. Smoked turkey is excellent!
Cover bottom of casserole with enchilada sauce.
Mix first5 ingredients in bowl. Fill tortillas (I first microwave them briefly under a wet paper towel to soften them -- otherwise they rip easily). Arrange rolls in the casserole dish, cover generously with enchilada sauce & cheese. Bake until cheese bubbles. This dish may be very watery at first, but will absorb moisure if you let it sit a while (Make ahead & reheat if you prefer it more firm).

HINT: add other ingredients -- lots of veggies, beans, etc
GlacierValleyCSA has a vegetarian version using kale in GG#22?

Breakfast-Lunch-or-Dinner Burritos
Flour tortillas (we like the uncooked ones from Costco you cook up yourself)
Black beans, already cooked & mashed (I make big batches & freeze them; or use canned)
onions, chopped
peppers, chopped
garlic, minced
spice mix (1-2 T cumin, 1 T coriander, a few dried poblano peppers, 1 t salt) -I grind my own
potatoes or rice, left-over
Meat (optional)
Eggs, scrambled
cheese, grated (Cheddar or other mexican)
lettuce or sprouts
good salsa

Saute onions, peppers, garlic. Add spice mix (divide if need some for meat or potatoes).
Add black beans & make "Refritos".
Heat up tortillas, and place warm ingredients on half the tortilla. Add cheese.
(If making from leftovers, microwave w/ cheese if needed, but not eggs).
Add cold ingredients (lettuce, salsa & avocado). Roll em up. If saving for later, wrap in waxpaper.
These make great cold lunches.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Yummy sandwiches we love around here...

All that good homemade bread, so here are some of the sandwiches we make:

Avocado Sandwich
I grew up on these in South America!
slice of w.w. bread (I also like WASA or Ryevita)
avocado, sliced
salt, pepper

Banana Bliss
Big sister came up with this one, and her siblings love it.
They are very particular about the bread: Absolutely NO white bread or WONDER BREAD allowed!!!
1 slice of REAL bread, baked by MOM or a real bakery
organic peanut butter
banana slices
cinnamon sugar

Smoked Turkey Sandwich
slice of w.w.bread
mayo and/or mustard
left-over smoked turkey
cranberry relish, optional
lettuce, sprouts and or avocado

Eggsalad Sandwich
slice of w.w. bread
egg salad (see recipe at Alisonslunch with homemade mayo)
lettuce or sprouts

Oui-oui ha-ha (French Dip -- get it?)
French roll or baguette
garlic butter
roast beef, sliced thinly
Au Jus (thin gravy)

Butter the 2 halves of the rolls & grill them. Generously fill sandwich with roast beef, cut at an angle for better dipping, and serve with individual bowls of hot au jus. For years, our kids thought that the official name really was "oui-oui" -- a name that my husband and his first wife made up -- this was many many years before french fries were temporarily renamed "freedom fries"...

Sausage-burger sandwiches
slices of pumpernickel or other rye bread
swiss cheese
fried sausage, in patties or crumbled
onions, cut in rings
sauerkraut, optional, but really good!

Fry up sausage, set aside, then saute onions. Add sauerkraut if using, making sure it's to drain liquid well. Meanwhile, butter one side of the bread slices. Place on griddle with butter side down, then layer with swiss cheese, onion rings and sausage, topped by second slice of bread with buttered side facing up. Cook until bottom is golden, then turn (carefully) to cook other side. Panini pan works well here!

Panini with Proscuitto and cheese
olive oil
bread slices (ciabatta or sourdough is excellent for this)
cheese (a good melting cheese: pick your favorite, just not soft)
proscuitto, or other ham (cappacola, Schinken, etc)
grilled italian veggies (zuccini, tomato, eggplant) optional

Brush bread with olive oil on one side. Assmble sandwich with oil on outside. Grill in panini pan.

Baking bread

I've got bread rising on the woodstove.

King Arthur's Honey-Wheatberry Bread
Our kids love it when we give foods unique names, and I was inspired by the brandname and artwork on the whole wheat flour that I started to buy when my son was majorly into his medieval sword-fighting phase.

2 c whole wheat flour
2 c unbleached white flour
1/2 c bran
1 c wheatberries (already boiled)
alternatively: any leftover hot cereal, such as 9-grain, oatmeal
1 T ground flaxseed
1 t salt
1 T butter/oil
1 c warm milk
1 T yeast
1-2 T honey
extra warm water, as needed

Place all the dry ingredients into bowl of Kitchenaide mixer, equipped w/ dough paddle.
Dissolve yeast in warm milk with butter & honey. When yeast is bubbling, add to flour with paddle running. Add more warm water if too dry.
Finish kneading on counter, place back into bowl for rising & place in warm location, covered, until doubled in bulk. (If you're like me and use the woodstove: turn down the damper and watch it! It's easy to over-rise, esp. when you're blogging :)
Punch down dough, place into greased loaf pan, and let rise again. Bake at 350 until done, approx 30-40min. I test it by tapping the bottom of bread, and if it sounds hollow it's "done". Place on a rack to cool, resisting the temptation to cut right into it!

A Homesick German's Rye Bread
Germans have got to have their "Graubrot" -- which sounds unappetizing translated as Gray bread -- but it just means there's some wholesome (darker) grains in there! I love freshly-baked dark or light Roggenbrot with a good crust on it, and to me, a little caraway is an important part of the flavor.

Total of 4 c flour, at least 1 c rye flour
The rest: whole wheat flour, oat flour , and/or white
1 t salt
1 t caraway seed, crushed or coarsely ground, optional (alternately, fennel seed, crushed)
1 T molasses (makes it darker, or use honey, sugar)
1+ c warm water
1 T yeast

Same as the other bread: Mix, knead, rise twice, bake.
This recipe makes good dinner rolls to go with a heart soup, such as lentils or beans.
After first rising, divide dough into small balls, wet them down and sprinkle with (or roll in) mixture of seeds, such as poppy, sesame, crushed caraway or fennel. Use a sharp knife to cut a slit into each roll, then let rise before baking for 20+ minutes, depending on size.

HINT: Use a pizza stone, and add a cup of hot water into the oven if you like your bread custy.

Menu for tax week (mid April)

No CSA box this week, but we're still well supplied with carrots, taters, onions, etc. Youngest was rather disappointed when I picked her up from school that we weren't heading into town for box pick-up. I miss it too, and wish now I hadn't opted for every other week. Alas!

Bought a turkey right after Easter , and brined & smoked it: the bird of many meals!!!

Monday: Gimme-more mutton pie (*), left-over pilaf, green salad
Tuesday: Smoked roasted turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes (a mini feast!)
Wed: Boys eat out (Moose's Tooth after cello lesson), girl went shopping and had left-over turkey (yumm) plus artichoke. Then we baked a lemon cheesecake!
Thursday: Mexican corn chowder, smoked turkey enchiladas a la Jerry Garcia(*)
Friday: Bouillabaise, Flammkuchen/Tarte Flambee (*), salad
Saturday: salmon burgers, roasted potatoes, asparagus, green salad
Sunday: Smoking-good turkey soup with dumplings

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Dreaming of gardening...

It's mid April, and we're still getting the occasional snow showers: we woke up to 2 inches of new snow on Easter Monday (an official holiday in Germany, but here we had to drudge to school & work & dentist!), but it was all gone by the time I had my brand-new gold tooth!

Be glad I'm too lazy to post pictures right now -- it can be a pretty ugly sight around here: dirty piles of snow on the side of the road, covered with road grime. People are starting to find many long-lost treasures (?!?) in their yards, like presents from the canine friends... In some parts of Alaska the melting snow reveals an assortment of old cars and refrigerators...

This last week pretty much all the snow cover in our yard finally melted away. I see DIRT, and dirt means gardening -- but I can't really get started yet. My attempts at starting seeds indoors have not worked out the best in past years: besides the fact that I get extremely busy with teaching in the spring, I lack the space, lights, warming mats, etc and do a good job. All I get are spindly little things that I can't seem to harden off properly -- so I end up buying starter packs in May anyway....
So instead, I dream, reading about gardening, late at night while sipping some wine! I also have several notebooks full of notes from previous years -- my old gardening journals full of notes, and I review my dreams and failures from past years.

What might my garden look like this summer -- ideally I'd finally build myself a bunch of raised beds, and the moose would voluntarily make a wide path around them -- right?

Raised beds and container gardens are definitely the way to go around here, given the late start we get on warming the soil. NOTE: These pix are from an extension service -- I"m just dreaming...I got rocks and weeds where my dreamboxes would go. It will not be until well into May that we can even plant vegetables into the ground, but I like to start a couple of tomatoes plus all my herbs in late April: I baby them -- keeping them inside until the really nice days arrive, but always bringing them back in when nights are cool, or the wind starts blowing... Once it's nice (June, July?), my tomatoes pots grace the front entrance on either side, making me look like a more successful gardener than I really am!

Last year I did built a make-shift raised bed over a part of the septic system -- that's where I had successfully raised potatoes the year before, and I was really excited. SOOO, my daughter and I dug up rocks, and put a bunch of work into it -- only to have to be torn apart when we had to call a backhoe to dig up and fix a disconnected septic connection. SOOOO, once again, that part of the yard is just mud and rocks! (At least from a distance, they do look a little like freshly turned-up taters...)

We have close to 2 acres of land, but alas, most of it VERY steep and completely overgrown with alder, etc. The little bit of the yard that is flat is dedicated to a raised sand filter septic system, which is not exactly working as it should -- so it makes no sense to put a garden on top of that right now, even though it would be the ideal location!

In front of the house I have some garden beds that do quite well -- lots of flowers, but also rhubarb and strawberries. Other than snipping chives for potato salads, Rhubarb pie is my first harvest from my garden every year. Right now, I see a tiny bit of red on the rhubarb, and the tulips are just poking up a little bit of green. It seems a little later than past years -- but as my husband the weatherman points out, most people tend to have a poor memory of weather -- I may remember the kids looking for Easter eggs in the grass, wearing short sleeves (while other years it snowed, don't forget!), but then the actual date for Easter varies from year to year! Time to dig out my gardening journals & see what I recorded in past years:

Entry from April 19th, last year
This past Wednesday we had our 3rd big snow of April -- but most of the new snow is gone now. Rhubarb leaves are starting to uncurl -- just within the last few days.

Entry from April 25, 2005
Rhubarb leaves are the size of an adult's hands. Tulips are a foot high, and chives (overwintered) are ready to harvest.

I'll keep you posted, and will present you with a European recipe for the best rhubarb pie!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Left-over roast of mutton

For Easter dinner, we had a lamb roast -- but on account of our youngest guest who arrived with her favorite stuffed purple "lambie", we just said we were having "mutton" for dinner, and despite a few slip-ups by the adults "pass the lamb/er mutton", Little One never questioned the origin of the roast at the table.

Having leftover meat is one of those things where I'm in need of inspiration. And a few years ago I stumbled upon this set of recipes -- the first based on a real dish, the second entirely my creation.

Miner's or Cornish Pasties

(pronounced with a soft "a")
from Chef Paul Prudhomme's Seasoned America, based on the recipes from Cornish miners who settled Michigan's Upper Peninsula.
ASIDE: I also found a much simpler recipe for Finnish Miner's Pasties (Lihapastaejat) in Beatrice Ojakangas The Great Scandinavian Baking Book. She tells how miner's wives would bake these fresh in the morning with beef, potatoes and onions at one end, and apple filling at the other end for dessert. The traditional recipe calls for the potatoes to be sliced and added raw, but it also works to use cooked.
I make this with leftover corned beef or whatever I have at hand, and I prepare all the steps ahead, until assembly time. These also make great lunches!

Seasoning mix: 1 teaspoon each salt, onion powder, garlic powder, thyme, basil, black pepper.
optional, add ground savory.
(I found that was more than I ended up using, but was able to use it easily in other cooking)
2 c flour
1 t seasoning mix
6 T butter
7-8 T cold water

Use pastry cutter, or Cuisinart to mix dough. Form ball and refrigerate 1 hour.

up to 1 pound meat (lean, chopped very finely), or left-over roast or corned beef
seasoning mix, to taste
2 c onions, chopped
1 c celery, chopped
1-2 c turnips, finely sliced
fresh garlic
potatoes, sliced thinly

If using raw meat, sprinkle it with seasoning mix, and work in by hand.
Heat oil and saute vegetables, add meat, more seasoning if desired. Add small amounts of water as needed. Let it cool completely (frig) before assembling pasties.

Divide dough into 5 balls and roll out (circa 9 " diameter). Place filling (plus raw potato slices, if using) onto half, fold over (after brushing edge with water to help seal), crimp the edges.
Optionally, brush with egg-wash (scramble an egg with 1-2 T water), and bake for about 1 hr at 350 F.

Gimme-more Mutton Pie
Same idea, invented by moi, named by the huz & kids!

2 c unbleached white flour
1/2 c whole wheat
1 stick butter (cold, cut into pieces) = 8 T
1/2 c cold water, about

I use the cuisinart: first use pulse setting until get crumbly mix, then slowly drizzle water while blade is running. Mix into ball and refrigerate in waxpaper for 1 hr. Roll out dough, top and bottom.
Prebake bottom for 10-15 min, using pieweights.

Same idea as Miner's pasties above. Any good leftovers can be used that way. If ingredients are very dry, add some gravy. You can also grate a raw potato into the filling to help absorb liquids if too moist!

Assemble pie, cut shapes or slits into top to let steam escape.
Bake for 45 min-1hr.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Cabbage, Kohl, Chou

How can I write a German/ Alaskan blog with the word KRAUT in it, and not list TONS of recipes for produce from the Brassica family? The Brassica family (botanical name for the "cabbages" or "Mustards") was formerly called the Cruciferae, and is a very interesting family which includes many fast-growing weeds as well (no wonder humans domesticated them so easily!)

In alphabetical order, here's some of the many species we humans eat from this versatile family: Bok Choy, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Collards, Kale, Kohlrabi, Mustard, Rape seed, Rutabaga, Turnip.

Now if you're looking for inspiration for recipes, don't look here, but go to Alisonslunch -- she's got great recipes and even has a search engine on her blog. I'm looking forward to trying many of her recipes throughout the seasons, esp. next fall and winter, when we once again will be inundated with cabbage!

Here are just a few of my favorite ways to cook cabbage:
BLAUKRAUT or Braised Red Cabbage
"Blaukraut" translates to "blue cabbage", and that's what they call it in Southern Germany, while in the North they call it Rotkohl or "red cabbage". Go figure! The confusion probably derives from the fact that cabbage is red when raw, turn bluish when cut, and the dish turns a brilliant purple when the cabbage is cooked together with the acidity of vinegar. Here's the traditional non-vegetarian version, but you can easily substitute vegetable oil in the first step, and it tastes just fine!

2-3 pounds red cabbage, sliced
2-3 T bacon fat (or oil)
1 T sugar
1 large onion, sliced
1 firm apple, peeled and diced (optional)
4 T vinegar (red wine vinegar is nice, but a cider vinegar will do)
water or stock as needed

Heat fat, add sugar and stir until lighltly browned. Add onion and apples, saute for few minutes. Add cabbage, and toss until all is mixed well. Add vinegar and cover pot. Braise about 10 minutes until cabbage turns blue/purple. Add water as needed to cook until tender. Add salt as desired.
(Some German cooks add preserved lingonberry or currant jelly!)

Savoy Cabbage and Potatoes with Pesto from Alison's lunch -- this looks so good! Inspired by pasta dish, but using cabbage instead, very unusual!

Indian Dal with cabbage - another of Alison's recipes, bublished in the Glacier Grist (GG#22)

Bubble and Squeak -- a British dish mixing potatoes and cabbage - see my post on potatoes.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Strawberries -- the Grim Truth

We love strawberries, and it's a rite of spring for our family to treat ourselves to a breakfast of German pancakes topped with strawberries. Our May birthday is celebrated with Swedish "Blotkake" (literally Blood cake) with layers of cake, whipped cream and fresh strawberries.

Today I was listening to a science & technology program on NPR about the heavy use of a soil fumigant (methyl something or other), which is used on something like 80-90% of commercial strawberry farms in the US. I had no idea! I know from my nerdy love of soils how terrible the practice of killing all the soil organisms is. And I immediately realized the need to look more closely at the labels and origins of strawberries I buy -- in the past I've often been sceptical when organic produce costs WAY more (I can see 50%, but balk at anything approaching double the price)-- I'm not exactly made of money and got to watch the bottom line.

I learned on the radio program this afternoon that those big strawberry producers feel they can't get away from fumigating for a number of complicated reasons -- the crop is so high in value yet the risks of failure are high, and they can't get financing/insurance if they don't practice fumigation...
Yet this methyl-fumigate is terrible stuff, and there's a movement to outlaw it in the US -- not only is it terrible stuff for the health of any farm workers who come in contact with it, but it also contributes to the destruction of the ozone hole.
Now I feel guilty -- my love of strawberries is destroying the planet below-ground and in the atmosphere too!
Now some good news: researchers at the University of Sonoma (if I remember correctly) are experimenting with application of ground up mustard seeds as an alternative to fumigation. BRILLIANT -- I just love it! Good old natural remedy -- turns out the mustards not only work as a deterrent to the bad fungi that can hurt the strawberry plants, they also help the good symbiotic bacteria that help the roots. BEAUTIFUL.

So now I'm REALLY looking to the strawberries in my garden this summer, and this week's CSA box, which will have organic (=guiltfree) strawberries.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

What to do about "Picky" Eaters?

What, alas, to do about picky eaters?

Interestingly, parents tend to fall into 1 of 2 opposite camps: either they think their kid is the pickiest eater ever to have walked on this earth, or, they don't see their own kid as picky at all, just other people's kids!

I came across an interesting blog discussion recently on "Eating Well" about how to get "veggies down" picky toddlers and kids. Check out the moms discussing how they get their kids eating veggies, including quite a bit of trickery. One of the funnier ones was a mom who swears that if you tell kids a dish is special "only for mom & dad, you kids would not like it", then the kids will REALLY want to try it too. LOL. I also liked what Daytona wrote about her family's experience: "Growing Greener Broods" -- It got me thinking about parents' role in their childrens' eating habits.

Here's some free and unsolicited advise.
My qualification are merely that I'm a mom of 3 children range from 11 to 22, so I've been there done that... Even though I don't have toddlers anymore, and we don't really have any major food "issues" these days, I realize that I still have a huge influence on the two children remaining at home. I hope Eldest will comment on this post!

#1. Don't make eating a battle.
This one sounds simple, but I see food battles between parents and kids all the time. Many kids go through picky stages (most notably during toddlerhood) -- and you and they will get thru -- but please don't set the stage for them to have food issues for life...

#2 Model good eating behavior.
You need to eat your veggies too! Don't snack on empty calories between meals, in the car, etc...

#3. Keep on offering new foods alongside the regulars. Look at the bigger picture -- don't make it about the green beans at tonight's dinner. It's not that important, and they may just be "off" their feed tonight (or this month, or this...?) Keep some perspective: it's o.k. if they don't eat the green beans-- keep calm, and serve another healthy dinner tomorrow.
Variety is a good motto-- just keep on offering lots of choices. Intersperse new foods with their old stand-byes, so you don't fall into a rut of "same old". Kids can only expand their horizons if you offer it to them -- don't give up on them.

However, don't give in with junk food -- you can offer other healthy choices, but not junk foods, esp. not SWEETS!

Most importantly: Remember NOT to make mealtimes into power struggles.
And kids can be Masters at power struggles : then they control you (hee hee!)
If you make a big deal about how they won't get any dessert if they don't eat their green beans, and then later, after a lot of fussing, you give in and let them eat dessert, then the kid has WON. Lesson learned is "they may threaten me with no dessert, but in the end, I do get what I want!"

If they're still really young (toddlers), and they're putting up a real fuss at the dinner table: "Food up, Kid down." In other words, the kid's meal is over (end of discussion)-- they'll get a chance to eat in another hour/couple of hours. No, they won't starve, I promise.

Remember, you (the parent) can only control what goes on the table, but not what goes in the mouth! So don't go there! Choose your battles carefully, and give ultimatum ONLY if you (backed up by your spouse) can be consistent. (HINT: Let natural consequences work, rather than artificial punishments -- going hungry until the next meal is a natural consequence, getting sent to bed early while the other kids get to go play outside is not.)

If they're older, stay positive. "Thanks for trying that new dish. Sorry you didn't like it -- what would you do to make this tastier? If you're still hungry, there are some carrots/ apples..."

It could be that the particular food dislike is one they'll never end up liking (just think, are there foods that you just can't stand? Sauerkraut? Haggis?) Your kid has a right NOT to like a food, and needs to learn to deal with this politely -- teach them to say "No thank you" instead of "Yuck", and if you're lucky, the # of items on the Disliked-foods list will shrink as they get older...

Why I love getting my CSA box

I wish I had not dragged my feet so long before signing up for a CSA box.
First of all, I wanted it to be Alaskan but year-round, and I thought that was impossible given our long winters. But then I found GlacierValleyFarm CSA, and they supplement local Alaskan produce with shipments from the West Coast during winter, and I was sold!

Anyway, here were my original doubts/excuses, --so I add TRUE and FALSE with a comment on how I see it now...

1. It costs a lot of money.
TRUE but FALSE: I pay $30 for a box now (and it's going up to $35), but I'm sure I would have spend at least that much if I'd gone and bought the same (organic!) produce conventionally. But the hitch is, I probably would have talked myself out of a fair bit of that produce when standing in the grocery store with "do I really need to spend this much on organic"... in other words, I would not have ended up with the quantity and variety I get from the CSA box. IT MAKES US EAT HEALTHIER THAN WE WOULD OTHERWISE.

2. We'll get more produce than we can eat.
FALSE. At least for us that's not been a problem. At first it took a change of thinking to find ways to incorporate it all (hey, it's why I started this blog!), but we do eat it all!
If push comes to shove, I'll make soup, or freeze it.

3. We'll get produce we don't like.
Again, not been a problem for us. And some of the things I thought the troops would rebel against, turn out not to be a problem. We got to try new foods, new recipes, and it's been a wonderful process of discovery for our family -- and I'm grateful for the opportunity to "expand" our eating horizons -- it's a great way to get out of a rut of "same old"... Like I said before, IT MAKES US EAT HEALTHIER THAN WE WOULD OTHERWISE.

3b. What if we miss produce we used to buy, and it doesn't come in the box?
SIMPLE - just go and buy it! I do still buy some produce at the grocery store or Costco warehouse. For example, we like avocados, grapes, clementines, sweet peppers... So I buy them!

4. The kids won't eat it.
Again, try it! Kids (and husbands, too) might surprise you! Cook it and ask them to try "just a bite", but do this without a power struggle. Studies have shown that children will start eating unfamiliar food somewhere after the 3rd-5th time it's served -- it's no longer "strange" then. And involve the kids in lots of aspects before serving the meal-- picking up the box or going to the Farmer's Market; let them smell & taste; pick recipes & help cook... I bet they'll surprise you, and become more flexible than some adults you know!
And if the kids don't eat it, don't let that stop you. I've spend years not cooking foods I love (eggplant, mushrooms, just to name a few) because nobody else likes them -- well, no more! I'll cook them now & then (there'd be other choices too), and I'll enjoy the leftovers for lunch, etc.

4. I'd rather go to Farmer's Market, and grow my own.
More power to you!
Yes, I grow a few of my own veggies in summer (hopefully more this summer), and I love going to Farmer's Markets (here that's June-Sep only).
CSA boxes can complement during the leaner times, and/or you can just order less when you expect the other sources to start coming in... You just have to plan ahead.

5. It will take too much planning -- I don't like planning ahead.
TRUE, it takes planning. But that's not a bad thing necessarily, is it?
Spontaneous (bordering on haphazard) meal-planning is o.k. occasionally, but really, that's how we often end up eating less than healthy meals, and wasting money (and sometimes, food!)
TRUE, you will end up spending more time planning and cooking from scratch, but that's the point, at least for me.

I may sound like a broken record, but for our family, the CSA box MAKES US EAT HEALTHIER THAN WE WOULD OTHERWISE.

Menu for April: Easter Week

This Wednesday, our CSA box had Alaskan potatoes, carrots and onions.
From "Outside", we got organic strawberries, D’Anjou pears, Navel oranges, Fuji apples, cauliflower, Lacinato kale, arugula, radishes
We still had red cabbage left from the last CSA box.
From the grocery store & Costco, we had avocados, fingerling potatoes, little peppers, eggplant, and a pair of organic whole fryers (chickens).

Monday: Miner's pasties (*), Potatoes, Blaukraut(*)
Tuesday: biscuits and gravy for hubby & kids (I had to work, and nibbled on leftovers)
Wednesday: Chicken and Dumplings & homemade bread
Thursday: Baked chicken & bulghur casserole, roasted fingerlings, asparagus
Friday: skirt steak, grilled eggplant, roasted potatoes, Indian cauliflower(*)
Saturday: Chicken korma, rice, sauteed kale, fried plantain
Sunday: Roasted Leg of Lamb, pilaf, asparagus, big lettuce & Arugula salad w/ pears, blue cheese