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.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Halloween foods

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

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

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

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

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

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

Taxing sugar???

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

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

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

Some people would indeed change their habits.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The British Isles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Makes 1 large loaf.

Preheat oven to 350F.

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

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

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

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

Cut into wedges and serve warm from the pan.

The Garden Way Bread Book From the collection of Jim Vorheis

Menu for last week of October

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

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

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Hot German Potato Salad

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Goulash and Paprikash

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

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

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

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

Chicken Paprikash

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

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

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Zwiebelkuchen (German onion tarte)

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

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

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

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

Menu for German Week (Oktoberfest)

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

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

Thursday, October 1, 2009


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Filling for Humitas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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