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

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

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Menu for last week of July

Sun: stirfry pork and snap peas in sweet-sour sauce, brown rice
Mon: Paulette's Wonderful Cajun Pie, Brown rice, mess of sauteed greens, salad
Tues:salmon/ham-burgers, XiaoMing Salad, garlic-roasted potatoes, green salad
Wed: Potluck Party: grilled halibut & lots of great dishes, the Brit's sinfully good cheesecake
Thurs: Leek-potato soup, Pasta w/ loads of veggies, rhubarb crumble
Fri: camping-- Red Beans and Rice w/ sausage and kale
Sat: camping-- lentil soup with ham

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Making Yoghurt

I've recently acquired a yoghurt-maker, and love making my own.
Turns out you don't even need a fancy machine -- you can just make it using a thermos or cooler, or in your oven if you can keep the temperature around 100 degrees Fahrenheit, such as a gas stove with a pilot light.
But given how cold it can get in the house during winter (and the fact that my electric oven does not have a low setting), I do think my new yoghurt-maker will be a nice convenience for consistent batches of the white stuff.

I'm, shall we say, an imprecise cook, and after the initial measuring and checking temperatures, I now make my yoghurt as follows:

Homemade Yoghurt
1-2 qtMilk (I like whole milk rather than reduced fat-- it's often on sale at the Grocery Store)
1-2 T plain yoghurt (Greek is my favorite)

Heat up milk on stove or microwave until it's warm enough for a baby bottle (test on back of hand -- if it's nice & warm but doesn't hurt, then that's good!) Officially, it's supposed to be 110 F, and most recipes call for scalding milk first (180F) and then cooling it back down, but with already pasteurized milk that is not necessary.
Add a little of the milk to your starter, mix it well until there are no clumps, then return to big container of milk.
Then put it all into the yoghurt-maker, or if you're using a cooler -- just bed your container (closed) down in such a way that it stays nice and warm (insulate by wrapping in towels, etc).
Keep it warm overnight (minimum 4 hrs), and all the little bacteria will go to work and multiply happily!
Do not disturb while culture is forming.

To get the nice thick creamy stuff, I send the final product through a cheese cloth or coffee filter for a couple of hours to get rid of the whey (liquid)--- the remaining yummy thick yoghurt doesn't have any of the carregeenan or other gelatenous thickening agents used in commercial yoghurt, and it's delicious!

Some uses for homemade yoghurt

sustitute for sour cream, mayo
Simple dessert (yohurt -sweeten slighty if desired, strawberries, sprinkle w/ granola)
Smoothies (yohurt, banana, OJ, etc)
Tsaziki (cucumbers, yoghurt, dill, salt & pepper)
Frankfurter Gruene Sosse (*recipe on one of my potatoes posts)
Chicken Tikki Masala (and the related Murgh Tikki Masala), go here for recipe.

photo credit:

Monday, July 27, 2009

A mess of Greens

The garden is producing well -- right now it's snow peas (those oriental flat peas), and lots of greens. Today I harvested kale and Swiss Chard: just the outer leaves, so the plants keep on producing. Been doing that for at least a month now, which was well worth the price of the starter plants this spring.

The beets that I started from seeds are looking really nice, and are starting to form their bulbous bases -- can't wait until those are ready -- I love beets! For right now, I like to harvest an occasional outer leaf from the beets to throw in with the other greens -- very colorful to have an occasional red leaf among all the greens on your plate!

I often just cook up a simple side dish of:

Mess of Greens
mixed greens, washed and tough stems removed
oil or butter
garlic or onions (optional)
liquid: water, broth and/or wine
salt, pepper

Heat oil in pan, throw in greens and saute just long enough until they're cooked. (May need to add a tiny bit of water and close lid on tougher leaves, such as kale). Add S&P as desired.
(On a previous post about Spinach, I have a very simple Indian recipe that is very similar to the above, with the tiny addition of freshly-ground cardamom -- it's heavenly!)

There are lots of recipes out there using greens, such as Barbara Kingsolver's wonderful "Eggs in a Nest" from Animal Vegetable Miracle.
Or try one of the southern dishes that start out with bacon -- now there's a way to counteract the sinfulness of cholesterol-laden bacon grease with super-healthy Omega6-rich greens!

Last, but not least, add (=hide) greens in pasta dishes, lasagna, casseroles. The possibilities are endless, and if chopped up small enough, unsuspecting children won't even know they're eating something wholesome!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Forensic Motherhood, and Black Beans recipe

Envision yourself coming home from an afternoon of shopping (dad gives mom of three kids a well-deserved break), and as mom walks up to her house, she finds it deserted. BUT, there is a trail of blood leading up the stairs, and the front door is wide open. What happened? Who got hurt? Where did everybody go?...
This happened to my mom some 40 years ago -- before the days of cell phones, or, apparently, before the days of pencil of paper. My mother nearly went out of her mind until my dad finally arrived back from the hospital, where my little sister had gotten stitches on her forehead, after having run into my brother on the swing (remember those wooden boards with sharp edges -- this was before someone smart designed the soft butt-hugging type that does not require surgery when you rammed another kid...)

Nothing that scary happened to me, but the other day I got home from work to a rather strange scenario, hubby having taken the kids to their music lessons in town.

Door is wide open...
I walk into the kitchen: there are 4 cereal bowl with the remains of milk and granola. I only have 2 kids living at home, so how is that possible? Easy, teenage son probably ate 3 bowls, and the 4th belongs to his little sister.
I need to get some dinner started, so I turn to the stove. There is a black liquid oozing out from under the stove, and a yellowish-red powder dusting the counters and floor. Several pots and pans are on top of the stove, with various blackish-graying substances on them. Ahhh, now I remember, they had wanted to cook black beans for burritos -- Son had declared that he was tired of PB&J, and wanted to learn how to make burritos, from scratch!
I had soaked some black beans overnight. Instructions were to "cook until soft", mash them with a potato masher for "Refritos", then add spices. Turns out the pot of beans boiled over, explaining the black ooze. There was an attempt made to mash the beans BEFORE they were soft, which caused quite a few chunks of gray-black matter decorating my kitchen. Lastly, Son attempted to grind the spices -- problem was that he opened the lid while the blade was still spinning....

There are days where I would have been mad at the mess, but that day I only chuckled, being rather proud of myself for having figured out what happened. This is as close to CSI (=Crime Scene Investigation, which Germans would call a "Krimi" ) as I'll ever get -- I love watching the TV series -- the scientist in me enjoys a bit of detective work that goes into figuring out the clues left in the evidence...

Ahhh, the joys of forensic motherhood!

Now for how to cook Black Beans (pay attention, Son!)

Soak beans overnight.
Change water.
Boil on LOW until soft (they will be very mushy, and fall apart!)
This will take a LONG time, like, several video games worth.
Keep an eye on the beans -- don't let them boil over, or let them boil dry...

Refritos de Frijoles Negros
(=Refried Black Beans)

cooked beans (make sure not too watery -- drain first, if needed)
oil, onions, garlic
spice mix: cumin, coriander, black pepper, red pepper flakes

Heat oil, cook onions and garlic. Add beans, mashing with a potato masher (or use the bottom of a glass). When nice and mushy, add salt and spices "to taste"
Optional: if you want really spicy MANLY refritos, add chorizo that's been fried really HARD.

Photo credit to for the blood spatter picture,
and for the beans picture.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Menu for midJuly

Last week went by so quickly: busy getting ready and then doing the BIG Crow Pass backpacking trip -- more on my other blog,, whenever I get the pictures posted...
Mon: Flanks & Greens (*) over rice
Tues: Baby rack of ribs, corn-on-the cob, left-over pasta w/ chevre, green salad
Wed: eat out (lessons in Anchorage)
Thurs: burritos on the run to catch a Youth Shakespeare play
Fri-Sun: Hubby & kids are left to their own devices, because MOM and girlfriend have gone on BIG backpacking trip (read about it on other blog:

Got back from Crow Pass Hike, happy but exhausted, and the kids cooked dinner!
Meanwhile, Liesl's garden plot is producing LOTS of oriental peas, and I harvested Kohlrabi and the very first baby potatoes...
CSA box comes on Wed full of Alaskan-grown produce: strawberries, tomatoes, broccoli, English cucumbers, radishes, lettuce, zucchini, green onions, Russet potatoes.
Sooo, this week I need to some more serious planning to eat all these goodies!

Sunday (kids cooked!): spaghetti & meatballs, bread w/ aioli
Mon: Stir-fry chicken w/ oriental peas (own harvest) over rice
Tues: Baby taters and carrots in cream sauce, shish-ka-bobs of chicken & red peppers, big green salad
Wed: veggie Lasagna w/lots of zuccini, grilled eggplant, pork chops and garlic bread, green salad
Thurs: something w/ mashed potatoes, kohlrabi, shephard's pie?
Fri: Pasta w/ chevre & chockfull of broccoli, peppers, pinenuts, big green salad
Sat: invited to friends' house -- salmon, perchance?!?!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Menu after 4th July

The 4th July week was spend camping in the hinterlands (AK interior: Alaska Range), where we ate well on a mixture of boxed "Easy" meals with generous additions of fresh vegetables and smoked sausage --your basic eccentric menu of this & that...
Now we're back home, and enjoying LOTS of fresh produce from our garden and CSA box, featuring lots of GREENS!
Here's the menu:

Monday: grilled Halibut, rice, steamed veggies
Tues: Thai soup with bok choy and halibut (*)
Wed: eat out (music lessons in Anchorage)
Thurs: Corn-on-the-cob, burrito w/ black beans, beef, avocado, salsa & cheese
Fri: grilled skirt steak, boiled potatoes with german "Gruene Sosse" (*), grilled bread, braised collard greens, quinoa salad, green salad
Sat: Xiaoming salad (noodles, thinly-sliced steak, peas), salmon burgers, green salad
Sun: Feast for 10 (visit from Fairbanks friends who were on their way back from fish camp on the Kenai, bringing with them some yummy freshly-caught salmon): grilled salmon with garlic and olive oil, pasta w/ chevre & vegetables, roasted cauliflower, big green salad, rhubarb crumble & homemade vanilla icecream.