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

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

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Colorful Holiday Menu

A holiday feast has to have all the major colors represented:

Brown: Smoked Turkey and it's yummy gravy
Yellow: mashed potatoes
Orange: Sweet Potato and Orange casserole
Red and Pink: cranberry sauces (3 kinds - see recipes here, incl. a Pepto-Bismol-colored dish!)
Green: Brussels Sprouts or broccoli
Blue-purple: Blaukraut (German red cabbage which turns purple)
White: King crab
Black: caviar -see below

and for New Year, it's a Southern tradition to serve Black-eyed peas for Good Luck.
I've made Hopping John before, but this year we'll need to try:

Texas Caviar (Black-eyed peas)
(Recipe by Mark Walther (a.k.a. Waldo, a real Texan!)

1 lb frozen or fresh blackeyed peas
(or if you have to 2 cans rinsed)

...1 small jar chopped Pimentos
1 11oz can White Shoepeg Corn
(Green Giant makes this, it may be a regional item, try and find if you can, otherwise "Nibblets" will probably work or if you are lucky enough to have some fresh frozen sweet corn. Shoepeg is a young, small kernel sweet corn)

Finely dice the following:
1/2 cup diced green or red bell pepper
1/2 cup diced onion
1/2 cup diced celery
1 large fresh Jalepeno pepper (seeded) or the equivalent in canned.
(it is easier to control the "heat" if you use the canned, just keep adding till it gets to where you like it)

Cook blackeyed peas according to package instructions, drain and place in a medium bowl and add the chopped ingredients, corn and pimentos.

On the stove combine the following ingredients in a pan:
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup balsamic vinegar
3 TBS sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Stir to dissolve sugar and bring to a boil and cool.

When cool pour over vegetables and marinate 2 to 3 hours (or overnight) in the refrigerator. Serve as a side or with Chips for an appetizer.


Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Potatoes/ Kartoffeln

Potatoes are one of the "workhorses" of my kitchen. We get Alaska-grown potatoes in our CSA box every week, plus I (try to) grow my own every summer.

Given that potatoes are from the New World (a.k.a. America), how did potatoes become so prevalent in European cuisine? Here's a little background from
Potatoes are a large part of German culinary culture, even though they didn't appear on the German table until 1716. Their earliest introduction was a half century earlier in Bavaria, but they were thought to be poisonous, so the peasants wouldn't adopt them until Karl V ordered them to grow and eat potatoes or have their noses cut off.
My favorite potato to have around are red potatoes, which are waxy or "fest-kochend" in German, which means they are low in starch and hold together well after cooking:
think German potato salad (my recipe here). And I prefer smaller sizes to the HUGE American monsters. I save them for roasted potatoes (see my recipe here).
The most common way that a German housewife serves her every-day potatoes is:

Pell-kartoffeln (peeled potatoes, cooked in their jackets)

whole potatoes (red or other waxy), small or medium-sized, washed
water (barely covering potatoes)
optional: butter, fresh parsley

Boil potatoes for approximately 20 minutes, or until fork prick test indicates doneness.
Drain the water and return pot onto stove (without lid if ready to serves soon) to let skins dry.
Peel one potato at a time by holding on a fork while removing skin, using a small paring knife to make a cut and then remove all the peel. This is a somewhat time-consuming task right when the cook is busy getting all the other dishes ready for the table. Sooo-- this very boring but necessary task is often delegated to children, husbands or other bystanders with nothing better to do. Digression: Forgive my stab at men ("husbands and other useless bystanders")! Men are great cooks and account for probably 50% of my readers , but growing up in Germany, I never saw a man actually cook anything! In fact, when my dad retired, the only dish he knew how to cook was Pell Kartoffeln, which he likes to eat with Quark. I doubt his repertoire has expanded much -- it is still his favorite dish!

Optional: coat in butter and sprinkle fresh parsley over them.

For tips on growing potatoes, here are a couple of articles to consult come springtime:

The last is a really cool method for growing potatoes vertically:

Monday, December 27, 2010


Does a German have a good recipe for Sauerbraten?
Is the Pope catholic?

I was asked recently for my recipe, and this is a Sabbath meal from the Jewish Festival Cookbook by Fannie Engle and Gertrude Blair.

SAUERBRATEN (literally sour roast)
4 lbs brisket or chuck
4 bay leaves
6 cloves
1 large onion, sliced
1 tsp salt
2 c vinegar
2 c water
1/4 c chicken fat (I substitute a vegetable oil)
1/4 c brown sugar
1/4 c raisins (optional)
2 T Einbrenn (Browned flour, see recipe below)
4-6 gingersnaps, crumbled

1.) Use meat whole or sliced into serving sizes. Simmer next 5 ingredients (thru water) and pour over meat. Store in a cool place overnight (in the old days, tougher meats required several days).
2.) Drain sauce from meat and save. Also, replace onion with a fresh one.
3.) Brown the meat in fat.
4.) Heat the sauce from step 2 and add brown sugar and raisins.
5.) Pour sauce over the meat (I use a Roemertopf. Could use a crockpot too). Cover.
6.) Simmer (stovetop) or oven (300F) for 2-3 hrs, until meat can easily be broken with a fork.
Make sure there is enough liquid --add more water if needed.
6.) When done, transfer meat to serving dish while making gravy:
Skim any extra fat from sauce, then thicken with einbrenn (mixed first with a little water). Add gingerbread crumbs, and stir until gravy is rich and creamy. Pour gravy over meat.

EINBRENN (browned flour for making gravies)
Spread a thin layer of flour on a shallow baking pan for oven method, or heavy frying pan (I use my largest cast-iron) for stovetop method. Keep stirring to keep from scorching.
I make enough for future use -- stores well in a glass jar.
Note that Einbrenn has less thickening power than regular flour, so need to use slightly more than you may be used to...

Monday, October 18, 2010

Breakfast Stollen, Borealkitchen variation

Stollen is German for Christmas Bread, but in our household we eat this for breakfast any time of the year. Full of candied/dried fruit (reminiscent of English-style "Fruitcake"), stollen is typically eaten only during the winter holiday season -- but German housewives start making it in fall to let it sit and "mature". Nowadays, many will simply buy commercially-made stollen, often with marzipan filling-- yummy!

When I researched "Stollen" on Wikipedia, I found the following tidbit of history -- sure am glad we don't have to petition the pope to use butter!

The old name Striezel came from Strüzel or Stroczel, "awaken" (Old Prussian: troskeilis), which came to mean "early-baked loaf of bread". The shape of the cake was originally meant to represent the baby Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes.The early Stollen was a different pastry, the ingredients were very different - flour, oats and water.

As a Christmas pastry, Stollen was baked for the first time at the Saxon Royal Court in 1427, and was made with flour, yeast, oil and water. The Advent season was a time of fasting, and bakers were not allowed to use butter, only oil, and the cake was tasteless and hard. In the 15th century, in medieval Saxony (a region in the eastern part of Germany, north of Bavaria and south of Brandenburg), the Prince Elector Ernst (1441 - 1486) and his brother Duke Albrecht (1443 –1500) decided to remedy this by writing to the Pope in Rome. The Saxon bakers needed to use butter, as oil in Saxony was expensive and hard to come by, and had to be made from turnips, which was unhealthy.

Pope Nicholas V (1397 – 1455), in 1450 denied the first appeal. Five popes died until finally, Pope Innocent VIII, (1432 – 1492) in 1490 sent a letter to the Prince, known as the "Butter-Letter" which granted the use of butter (without having to pay a fine) - but only for the Prince-Elector and his family and household.

Others were also permitted to use butter, but with the condition of having to pay annually 1/20th of a gold Gulden to support the building of the Freiberg Cathedral. The ban on butter was removed when Saxony became Protestant.

Over the centuries, the cake changed from being a simple, fairly tasteless "bread" to a sweeter cake with richer ingredients, such as marzipan, although the traditional Stollen is not as sweet, light and airy as the copies made around the world.

My version is much lighter and less rich than what you get during the holidays in Germany, so perhaps it is closer to the older versions? My version for everyday has almond flavoring, reminiscent of the marzipan flavor without the calories & expense! And I use the the lowest amounts of sugar and butter, so it is more bread-like than cake-like.

Borealkitchen's Breakfast Stollen

1/2 c each dried or candied fruit (I mix raisins, cranberries and apricots)
1/2 c chopped almonds
1 T yeast, dissolved in 1 c warm milk
1/2 c+ warm water, as needed
5 c+ flour
1 t salt
1/4-1/2 c sugar
1/2-1/2 c melted butter
1 egg (optional -- ok without eggs)
flavoring: 1 t Almond extract, or lemon peel, or cardamom, or cinnamon/nutmeg
Optional Glaze: powdered sugar mixed w/ water/lemon juice (I usually skip this)

I use my Kitchenaide with doughhook to mix the dough, then finish kneading on countertop.
Let rise until nearly doubled in bulk, then punch down and form 2 loaves (I use breadforms, but traditional shape is like in the picture above.
Let rise again, then bake at 375 F for approximately 1/2 hour -- test by tapping on the bottom of the loaf -if it sounds hollow, it's done!
Let cool on rack. Keeps reasonably well. We toast ours for breakfast, spread some butter, and then sprinkle w/ cinnamon sugar.

In defense of Brussel Sprouts

I used to think of Brussels Sprouts as evil. My husband calls them "Martian heads", and they do seem a bit alien, indeed! But I'd like to make the case for this under-appreciated fall vegetable, which can be quite tasty when cooked properly.
Here's my mantra:
(1) Make sure they're fresh -- they get tough w/ age, and don't store well.
(2) Don't over-cook! Brussels Sprouts and many other members of the cabbage-family release sinigrin, a glucosinalate that smells and tastes sulphury. To avoid, steam or cook minimally.
(3) Try something new! For example, pair it with mustard & capers (recipe here), or an orange-maple-whiskey sauce (recipe here), or with chestnuts (recipe here).
(4) Simplest and best: Coat with olive oil, salt and pepper, and pan-fry or roast until fork prick indicates doneness.

Remember, real men do eat Brussels Sprouts!!!

Kohl/Kraut-Index of last night's dinner

Dinner last night was a whopping 3 on the cabbage index -- admittedly a bit high for my family. In my own defense, two of the dishes were left over from Oktoberfest (and I did not even serve the sauerkraut), plus we had a whole stalk of Brussels Sprouts in our CSA box.

Here's what I served (very colorful too -- alas, no pix!):

mashed purple potatoes
"Screaming Heads" (Brussels Sprouts gratin) -recipe here
"Blaukraut/Rotkohl" (Red cabbage) -recipe here
Coleslaw, Celeriac Slaw (left-over cold salads) -recipe previous post
Green salad

"Where's the meat?" my boys asked. "There's proscuitto in the gratin", I replied. "Trace Elements of meat hidden among Brussels Sprouts don't count!", hubby informed me!

I still think it was a smashing good dinner, even if my men merely tolerated it -- they know the high Kohl/kraut-Index is just one of those things about the fall harvest time. Soon, they hope, I will be back to serving meat and potatoes with cabbage as a mere "after-thought"...

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Simple german raw vegetable salads

Here are some recipes for some simple salads that Germans are very fond of.
I like to get these when I'm eating lunch at a restaurant in Germany and don't feel like ordering a Schnitzel & potatoes. I'm more used to a small mid-day meal of cold lunch, rather than the large German main-meal-of-the-day, so I might go for soup and/or salad. My best bet is to order the "Rohplatte" which translates to raw plate: it's a salad as a meal, often with meat or eggs for added protein.

Besides the usual salad using greens, tomatoes and cucumbers, German also make "salads" by grating root vegetables and adding a simple vinaigrette. Carrots, celeriac (celery root or knob celery), beets, even turnips. I've had a lot of these around lately, and the left-overs keep much better than your typical green salad.
A food processor is handy, but for small quantities, hand-grating works just fine. These salads, by the way, remind me of American "slaw" as in coleslaw, but they just don't contain any cabbage.

Carrot salad: finely grate carrots and add oil and vinegar/lemon juice, dash of sugar, salt.

Celeriac salad: finely grate celery root, apple, add cream, vinegar, sugar, salt.

Beet salad: finely grate beets, add either oil or cream, vinegar and horseradish (optional).

Russian-style beet salad: toss with garlic, blue cheese and hard-boiled egg.

HINT: Do not wear a white blouse while grating beets:)

these 3 salads are very pretty indeed, and can be added as a dallop on top of any green salad.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Menu for Oktoberfest

This week we celebrate our annual Oktoberfest (2 Birthdays and the return of the prodigal daughter) -- so it's time to give some thoughts to the menu.

Beer (we don't mess around -- we get a small keg for this occasion!)
Bratwurst (variety: from Knockwurst to spicy Cajun)
Sauerkraut and Rotkohl (red cabbage)
Mustard selection
Potato salad (german, so no mayo!)
green salad(s)
raw salads from grated carrots, celery root, beets
Soups: lentils, squash (curried)
Dessert: Apple crisp w/ homemade icecream

This week, our CSA box promises to contain
From local harvest: carrots, new potatoes (farmer’s choice), cabbage
From Outside: Honeycrisp apples, d’anjou pears, green leaf lettuce, garlic, sunburst squash, Rainbow chard
Possibilities: Alaskan Brussels Sprouts | Alaskan beets |Alaskan broccoli | Alaskan celery root |Alaskan turnips

This week's family menu
Meatless Monday: Bubble & Squeak
Tues: eating out after lessons
Vegan Wed: vegetable curry in coconut-ginger sauce, quinoa
Thurs: spaghetti & meatballs, salad (B-day girl sleep-over, so they got to vote)
Fri morning: Biscuits and Gravy (B-day girl's special request!)
Fri: flanks and greens over rice
Sun: Brussels sprouts gratin, turnips with bacon, purple mashed potatoes, leftover salads

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Fall special-occasion Meat Pie Recipe

I haven't posted a decent menu in quite a while.
Yes, I'm still cooking, and there's been a great variety of fall produce in our CSA box. Tonight we had a very special dinner guest: the prodigal daughter Kitchensister has returned!
(disclaimer: the photo is from last T-giving: no snow yet!!!)

Special-Occasion Cajun Meat-n-veggie Pie
Roasted baby taters w/ herbs du Provence
Roasted yams
Kale with proscuitto and honey
German Carrot salad

The pie is my variation on Paul Prudhomme's "Paulette's Wonderful Meat Pie" -- it's an unusual recipe in that it calls for grated potatoes in the meat filling, and is topped by a white (dairy) topping. I use less meat & more veggies, but it still feels rich & tasty! It's about the yummiest dish I know that uses ground meat.
This is not a dinner you can throw together in a hurry. Although it's not complicated, there are LOTS of ingredients, and you gotta start early in the day.
I make the pie crust and filling well ahead of dinner (maybe even right after breakfast) -- then all I have to do later is assemble and bake.

Pie crust
1.3 c flour
3 T sugar
3/4 t salt
1/4 c butter
1 egg, beaten
3 T milk
Refrigerate dough, then roll out and freeze in pie tin.

Meat and Veggie filling
1 # ground beef, buffalo, moose, wallaby or whatever
(original recipe called for more meat, combo of beef and pork)
tons of veggies:
green or red bell pepper
several potatoes, carrots, turnips or other root crops, grated finely
spice mix: salt, pepper, paprika, thyme, basil (make it spicy, if desired, by adding cayenne?)
liquid as needed (water or stock)

Cook the ground meat. Drain if too fatty. Set aside.
Saute onion, celery and peppers, in batches, in a little olive oil. Add spices and meat.
Add grated root crops, together with enough (but not too much!) liquid to allow them to cook, simmering on low heat. Make sure liquid is mostly evaporated/absorbed by the potatoes before removing from stove. Let this mixture cool down completely.
Hint: might want to drain the filling, using a sieve. This is the only "tricky" part of this recipe -- watch out or the pie will be "soggy".

Combination of cream cheese and plain (greek) yoghurt
Warm cream cheese slightly until you can stir this into a smooth paste --thin w/ milk if needed.
Add spices: salt, pepper, thyme (thanks, Susitna Cafe!)

Preheat oven. About 1 hour before planning to serve dinner, take out frozen pie crust, add filling and spread the topping. Bake 45-55 min, checking after about 30 min and protecting pie crust edges with shield or alu foil.

Roasted baby potatoes
Just toss them w/ oil, salt and herbs. It's so easy!!!!

Kale with proscuitto and honey

variation from a recipe in Glacier Grist

big bunch of kale, tough stems removed, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
proscuitto ham, chopped
2 T honey
1 T vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

Parboil kale for a few minutes (approx.5) -that helps take the bitterness out of them, which kale can have late in the growing season. In the spring, I might just saute them right with the onions.
Other than the parboiling, this saute goes together real quick!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The end of this year's garden

Well, gardening season is indeed over. The one and only sunflower that bloomed is all droopy now after the frost hit last week, and I've harvested what I could and started turning the soil. So, time now for the end-of-the-season account of what grew well and what didn't.

Weather note: after a nice start, this summer turned way too rainy & cloudy in July, never letting up until September.

Carrots: puny, as we had neglected thinning and weeding.
Peas: good crop
Leeks: good, worth growing again.
Celery: forget it!
Swiss chard, Kale: good crop
Kohlrabi & Brussel sprouts: got eaten by some worms, never amounted to anything.
Potatoes: love'em, easy to grow, but remember to hill them!
raspberries: did great in their first year of transplant!

early summer crops
radish: fine
lettuce: bolted
raddicchio: yum
mustard greens: did well
beets: greens did well, but didn't get roots
dill, cilantro: watch them!
squash: forget them unless guaranteed more sunshine. they just rotted away...
tomatoes (in pots): surely you jest. Got just a few, but they tasted mealy!
chickweed: excellent crop, ha ha!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Family dinners: our anchor

Tonight we were all laughing at the dinner table. Several of us had somewhat rough/blah days, but dinnertime seemed to "re-set" everybody. We all really need that time together at the end of the day.

We're a family that most always eats dinners together. It's very rare that one of us is gone -- we make it a priority to eat together, no matter how busy our lives get.

Not many American families eat dinner together regularly anymore. There have been studies correllating how well children do with how often their families eat dinner together. Statistics like that can't prove any causalities, but it sure seems reasonable to think that there's perhaps an underlying cause. Families need anchors, and dinnertime is such an important one -- it helps "center" everybody.

It's not easy to find family time with teenage kids, not when so many activities are scheduled. Especially when it comes to sports! I don't see how families manage with multiple kids in several sports. What amazes me, in a way, is the contradiction between sports (something good for health) and fast food that invariably gets eaten because nobody has time to cook (duh!).

Yes, I do spend a lot of time preparing my family's meals. It's not difficult -- just takes some planning, and an appreciative family (and I sure have one -- even if they joke, as this evening, about checking the "cauliflower index" of the meal before sitting down to dinner. We all had a hearty laugh, as our CSA box has been supplying us with a heavy dose of the Brassica family lately!

Sometimes I don't know just how time passes so quickly. Wasn't just summer? Weren't the kids in diapers not so long ago? Sunrise, sunset, swiftly flow the days...

Sunrise, Sunset
from Fiddler on the Roof

Is this the little girl I carried? Is this the little boy at play?
I don't remember growing older
When did they?
When did she get to be a beauty? When did he grow to be so tall?
Wasn't it yesterday
When they were small?
Sunrise, sunset
Sunrise, sunset
Swiftly flow the days
Seedlings turn overnight to sunflowers

Blossoming even as we gaze

Sunrise, sunset Sunrise, sunset
Swiftly fly the years

One season following another

Laden with happiness and tears

What words of wisdom can I give them?
How can I help to ease their way?
Now they must learn from one another,
Day by day
They look so natural together,
Just like two newlyweds should be
Is there a canopy in store for me?

Sunrise, sunset

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Why so much sugar?!?

I'm not anti-sugar, but really, why is American food so super sweetened?!?

Today I bought a smoothie at the grocery store (having just finished a workout and needing something to hold me over for teaching). I usually make my own smoothies, but this morning I got out of the door and sort-of forgot to eat a substantial breakfast -- and I don't go too far on just a cup of coffee w/ biscotti.

Anyway, I bought this "dairy beverage" and it was TERRIBLY sweet. Turns out to not only to contain HFCS (High Fructose Corn Syrup) but a long list of other ingredients like sucralose and other artificial ingredients I was not familiar with, and I could not get it down. Not wanting to waste food, I later tried to "thin" it down with OJ and plain (unsweetened yoghurt) -- what a waste -- I still could not drink the stuff. YUCK! I finally tossed it.

Busy day today, and for dinner Liesl made a quick pizza using a commercial pizza sauce (the one that comes in the Boboli pizza crust package) -- yikes, again, way too sweet!

I keep on cutting sugar out of American recipes -- last week I made zuccini muffins in an attempt to make a dent in our zuccini stash -- I ended up cutting the recipe's sugar in half!
Kids were happy: it was still plenty sweet.

So if you're wondering why I don't blog much anymore -- too busy gardening, working and cooking from scratch...

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Pastel de Choclo (Chilean Corn Pie)

This is a family favorite, a main dish from my youth in Chile. The word choclo is a "chilenismo" for maize or corn, probably a native indian word. The word pastel means cake, but pie would be a better translation. There are many savory-sweet pastels in Latin American cooking: the combination of sweet (sugar, raisins) and savory (meat, olives, etc) is unusual to the American or European palate, but it works!
Best made with fresh corn, frozen sweet corn works quite well and makes it a relatively easy meal if you have food processor. Since American corn is plenty sweet, I leave out the added sugar, and my family prefers if I skip the raisins that are traditionally mixed into the meat.

Pastel de Choclo
The meat part:
1 # ground beef (I use 1/2 # ground beef plus 1 can of black beans)
1 onion, chopped
1-2 cloves garlic
2-3 T cumin
1 t+ paprika or chile powder, to taste
salt, pepper
optional (traditional): 1/2 c raisins, black olives, sliced hardboiled egg

Cook meat, and drain liquid if needed. Add spices to taste. Spread in the bottom of a wide casserole dish, cover with corn topping, and bake until topping is browned slightly (approx. 3o-40 min)
The corn topping:
3-4 c corn kernels
1 egg
traditional: sugar, evaporated milk to taste

In my childhood, I remember many hours were spent grating the kernels directly from the cobs around harvest time. Now I just defrost the corn, and process into a paste together with an egg and some milk (if needed).

Monday, July 26, 2010

Tourlu -- a great way to cook up a mess of vegetables

We're soon leaving on vacation, and I've got a bunch of vegetables to use up before we leave.
Came across a great recipe in the cookbook "Real Stew" by Clifford A. Wright, by the name of Tourlu: it's a Greek version of a Vegetable Stew from Turkey. I'd even describe it as a Moussaka without the meat!

This dish is really not a stew in the sense of coking with broth; rather, it's a baked dish -- slowly roasted vegetables coated in olive oil. Most recipes call for potatoes, but the one I used tonight featured parsnips. I used neither, and substituted carrots, of which I currently have A LOT.
Plus, of course, I've got the zuccini!!!
What drew me to the recipe is not only that it called for roasting veggies coated in olive oil, but that it asked for leeks, which I adore. I also had a bulb of fennel (it did not ask for that), but I thought it might fit in perfectly.
The basic idea is to cut up a bunch of veggies, and roast them -- just up my alley. Seasoning listed were garlic (but of course!), fresh cilantro leaves, cinnamon, salt and pepper.
It's not the prettiest dish, but very tasty, and it promises that the flavors improve by the second day. I'm looking forward to munching on the left-overs.

Over dinner, when I asked the family for feedback, my son asked:
"What do you mean "next time" -- do you HAVE to cook this again?"
I just cracked up! Well, I had left out the cinnamon in fear of alienating my eaters, but they thought it should go back in (on the other hand, the fennel was not everybody's favorite), and
the general consensus was for more herbs and spices. It's not the prettiest dish, but who cares?!?

Soooo, now I'm searching the internet for more versions of Tourlou, and here's what I'll probably try next time:

Tourlou (Greek Vegetables)
Onions and/or leeks
potatoes, carrots or parsnips
bell peppers
tomatoes (fresh or canned)
optional: eggplant, green beans, okra, fennel?
olive oil
fresh herbs: either parsley, oregano, cilantro or dill (but probably not all!)
cinnamon, paprika?
salt, pepper

Toss vegetables with olive oil. Bake for 1-1.5 hours in heavy casserole dish. Serve with Greek bread and Feta cheese, or as a side dish to meat.

Photo credit:

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Smoked Cheddar and Jalapenos Dip

What to do on yet another COOL Alaskan summer day, with rain, in the 50's?
-bake Christmas cookies or a pumpkin pie
-make a big pot of stew, chili, or legumes
-bake bread or Dingo Dave's wonderful cheddar-bacon mini muffins (*recipe here)

Today I smoked me some cheddar -- that's what I do when I ran out of salmon to smoke!
It's incredibly easy to do: I buy me a big hunk of sharp cheddar at Costco, cut it up into chunks about 1.5 - 2 inches tall, place it on the highest rack of the smoker, and give it 1 panful of chips (alder/ apple/cherry) for about 2 hours of a cool smoke. (I recommend you don't do this on a very hot day -- if you don't care for dripping cheese all over your smoker -- yup, I've done that!)

Here is the RECIPE for a tasty and easy party dip that uses smoked cheddar:
1 c shredded smoked cheddar
1 jalapeno pepper, diced very finely
combination of sour cream, cream cheese, ranch dressing and/or mayo -- approx 1 c total
optional: chili powder
salt and pepper to taste

Just mix it all up, and serve with crackers and vegetables as an appetizer.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

A Trifle for dessert

Yesterday we had a potluck at work, and our resident Brit made TRIFLE for dessert.
This gentleman is famous for his desserts, and this was no exception -- it was excellent. Soooo, I decided to research the topic and find out what makes a trifle.

From Wikipedia:
A trifle is a dessert dish made from thick (or often solidified) custard, fruit, sponge cake fruit juice or gelatin, and whipped cream. These ingredients are usually arranged in layers with fruit and sponge on the bottom, and custard and cream on top... The earliest known use of the name trifle was for a thick cream flavoured with sugar, ginger and rosewater, the recipe for which was published in England, 1596, in a book called "The good huswife's Jewell" by Thomas Dawson.It wasn't until sixty years later when milk was added and the custard was poured over alcohol soaked bread (such as sweet sherry, madeira wine or port).

English Trife
RECIPE from the Brit, more or less, who says this is what's traditionally made on Mondays with the left-overs from the weekend's baking for company.
sponge cake
sweet sherry or port (alternatively, fruitjuice/ gelatin)
vanilla pudding or custard
seasonal fresh fruit: pears, bananas, grapes, cherries, berries, etc (save prettiest for top)
whipped cream, sweetened

Cut sponge cake and layer 1/3 in clear glass bowl. Soak cake with al-ki-hol.
add 1/3 of fruit, arranged nicely. Pour 1/3 of custard over fruit, and 1/3 of whipped cream.
Repeat with cake, fruit, custard layer. Lastly, decorate with fruit.

Note: Obviously you can make this without booze (and substitute juice, gelatin) -- but then the kids might want some too!

Mocha-Chocolate Trifle
now this is right up my alley!

brownie or other chocolate cake
Kahlua or other compatible alcohol
chocolate pudding (optional, dissolve some instant coffee granules in the milk)
fruit: cherries, strawberries, etc
whipped cream (flavored w/ cocoa, coffee or liqueur if desired)
optional: slivered almonds, chopped toffee bars

same idea as before.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Kitchen chores - done by house elves!

In our household, kitchen chores get done by house elves, even though our last name is not Malfoy! For those few of you who may not know what house elves are: they're servants (more like slaves) in the wizarding world of Harry Potter. Dobby (pictured), is a house elf. Beloved by many a Harry Potter fan, with his big eyes, big ears, and heart of gold, he saves Harry Potter's life numerous times, ultimately dying for him in the last book (sob!)

But back to kitchen chores, like parents all over the world, we've struggled to find a good arrangement for our young brood to help with the daily kitchen chores. Somebody's got to do the dishes, and besides, it builds character! The obvious one was for the kids to take turns: today it's your turn, tomorrow your sister, etc... And they, in turn, started referring to their assigned day as "house elf" day, reflecting the fact that in their own minds, having been assigned to wash dishes was just shy of slavery!

But there was always squabbling, and they begged us to revise the system. For one thing, each child seemed to feel very "put out" when the other did not have to do any chores on that particular day (nothing is worse than having to do chores while your sibling is watching!). SO, they kept on wanting to change the system, and after a while we reluctantly agreed, ok, why don't you come up with your own system!

Here is what they came up with -- yes, it's complicated, but they seem satisfied, and it works!
1st day (Monday): The "Clean" house elf empties the dishwasher and sets the table -- in other words, takes care of the clean dishes and helps with dinner prep. The "Dirty" house elf clears the table, helps put food away, and loads the dishwasher (not their favorite job!!!).
Next day: reverse

Simple enough, but how about the trash? To a parent that sounds like a clear-cut job for the "dirty" house elf -- but even that got more finely sub-divided: there's the actual carrying of the trash to the garage ("dirty" job"), putting in the new liner, and doing the recycling ("clean").

I admit that we parents did some eye-rolling at all the negotiating that takes place, but I now realize a couple of important things:
#1 they're doing it, with less reluctance than when we assigned their tasks point-blank.
#2 they like each other's company -- and they're often found negotiating finer points among themselves, like "If you can put that pan away and refill the ice cube tray, then I'll scrub the pancake mess off the counter, and then we can make cookies together after dinner..."
#3 there's power in self-determination- even among mere house elves!

Monday, July 19, 2010

A hankering for FRESH Salsa

Even if we can't have sun here (yup, another rainy-cloudy day here in Southcentral AK), we can at least we can pretend it's a sunny summer day menu-wise!
Salsa Fresca
4 ripe tomatoes
1/4-1/2 red onion
1-2 jalapeno peppers
lime juice
2-3 cloves garlic
1/4 c olive oil
salt, to taste

Chop it all up, mix it up, and it's ready after sitting about 15 minutes!
Serve with tortilla chips, and optionally, avocado slices

IF you lack fresh ripe tomatoes (I sure do), you can substitute fleshy fruit, such as strawberries or mangoes. Our CSA had this recipe recently with mangoes and cucumbers, and I laughed at the comment from the author. The recipe came from a recent edition of Men’s Journal: "I didn’t even know there were recipes in there! "

Why not?
Men can be great cooks, when they get trained up a bit (to borrow a phrase from Hagrid, a good friend of Harry Potter's).
Some of the best cooks I know are men!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

strawberries and other gardening news

Been harvesting strawberries from the garden -- smallish, pale-ish, but really sweet and yummy.
These are strawberries that came with the house: they grow all over my flower bed, and even on the gravelly hillside behind the house -- they're tough, and reproduce profusely by runners. This spring I did a major thinning of their numbers, ripping out about half of the plants, and now those that remain are growing bigger and better...
In other gardening news: the greens are doing well -- we got lots of chard, some lettuce varieties, kale and other members of the cabbage family growing nicely. Carrots are coming along slowly.
The peas are tall, zuccini not so much.
The weather has been cool lately -- not much in the way of sun (what sun?) -- it's not looking like much of a tomato year. In fact, I'm starting to wonder why I even bother with tomatoes...
We love to eat ripe tomatoes, but at the rate ours are growing, winter will be here long before ours produce fruit and ripen...

Photo credit:

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Rock'in Moroccan Stew, doubled

While researching recipes for dehydrated foods for backpacking, I came across a blog dedicated to cooking for the trail -- backpackingchef, where among many useful tips about processing and dehydrating veggies, fruit, even meat, I also found this recipe for Moroccan Root Stew.

I've modified it slightly to fit my needs, including what to do with the rich stock.

Step 1 (Stew for Dehydrator)
teensy bit of olive oil
onions, chopped
garlic, minced
jalapeno or other pepper, minced (depending on how hot you like it)
curry powder
cumin powder
1 can diced tomatoes
stock, as needed
root vegetable, cut in cubes of 1 inch or so: parsnips, turnips, rutabagas, carrots, beets, etc.
sweet potato or yam (cubed) -- stay away from potatoes, as they don't rehydrate well
optional: chickpeas or lentils

Saute first few ingredients until translucent, add spices, then rest of ingredients. Barely cover veggies with liquid, and cook until just softened. Let cool, then drain thru sieve. Save the stock!
Place root veggies in dehydrator (best if not touching much), and dry overnight.

When dry, package in ziploc bag, and add:
raisins or apricots
candied orange peels
dried jerky beef, chopped finely (optional)
Separately, package couscous (approx 1/2c per person)

Step 2 (Stew for home consumption)
generous amount of olive oil
onions, chopped
garlic, minced
celery, chopped
cubed meat, such as beef or lamb
stock from step 1
potatoes and/or Yams, cubed
carrots and other veggies that hold up well in stew, such as corn
optional: raisins, chickpeas
water or additional stock as needed
Sri Ratcha or other hot sauce, as desired
Oranges (see this recipe from
parsley, mint

Saute veggies and meat in olive oil. Add stock and vegetables, and cook until everything is done. This stew does well in crockpot or simmering on stove for flavors to blend.
Serve over couscous or with flat bread.

Step 3 (meal on the trail)
You can start re-hydrating stew with cold water, roughly 1 c water per cup of dried ingredients.
Or heat water, fix couscous first, then cook stew for about 1o minutes, add couscous and let sit another 10+ minutes until thickened (keep warm by keeping lidded and wrapped with something so it won't cool down).

Friday, June 25, 2010

No longer salmon-deprived

It's been a long stretch without salmon, but alas, I'm smoking salmon fillets as we speak! (For the how to of smoking (and brine recipe), see last year's post here.
My mouth is already watering at the thought of all the salmon chowders/pizzas/quesadillas, etc we'll be having soon...
Here are links to some of my favorite salmon recipes:
Smoked Salmon Souffle
Thai Curry Soup with Salmon

I admit right up front that I bought Copper River Sockeye Salmon ($7.99/# for whole fish), ouch!, rather than participating in the yearly madness of Anchorites who dash to the Kenai peninsula to "get their fish".
The Russian River, a tributary to the Kenai River, is a popular angling spot, and when the salmon are running, it looks something like this:

Photo: Alaska Fish & Game

To this scene, my (peace-and-quiet-loving) hubby says "no thanks", and I don't blame him -- that's no idea of a vacation for anyone who finds crowds stressful. So we're headed to a quiet no-name lake way up in the Alaska Range next week -- far away from the maddening crowds. And you can bet there will be pasta w/ smoked salmon on the menu!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

"Hiding" vegetables vs. creative cooking

Who hasn't come across picky eaters, esp. when it comes to vegetables?
"But I don't like tomatoes/beets/squash..." -- who hasn't heard that 100 times?

And I'm not talking about just kids either. I've come across many adults who have a long list of dislikes and refuse to eat a lot of vegetables.
I fully understand allergies to nuts or wheat. I respect people who don't eat meat. I understand dietary restrictions and wanting to stay away from processed foods such as white sugar (I try not to use too much of it myself). I even get that mushrooms are an acquired taste, and for many it's a "texture-thing", but what's there not to like about vegetables?!? Gimme a break!

O.K., the curmudgeon in me is really showing now. I was brought up traveling and living in several cultures, and one of the lessons I learned (besides witnessing poverty and how much more simply many people of the world live) is that it's generally considered bad manners to refuse food cooked for you (unless you really have no other choice, such as that it makes you sick).

Don't worry, I won't make you eat all your vegetables when you come over to my house. I try to keep unusual ingredients as a "side option" to let guests add them as desired. In fact, I do have a real problem with parents pile the food on and command their kids to "eat everything", invariably creating a power struggle. The way I look at it, offer them the food, and if the kid won't eat it, then they'll just have to go without. No fuss! But no alternatives either, esp. no treats! Just let them wait until the next meal... (Digression: our kids have made that choice only rarely when they were small, and no, they did not starve!)

But adults, seriously, you could try a "wee bit" of something. Maybe the way I cook beets (roasted, with maple syrup) will surprise you. No big deal if you don't care for it, but thanks for giving them a try! (Digression: and for heaven's sake, why do some people cover everything on the plate with salt before even taking a bite? That sure makes me feel like they assume everything I've cooked is bland.)

Back to vegetables! I know moms sometimes resort to "hiding" secret ingredients. Did you know that you can "hide" cooked mashed veggies (even spinach) in brownies? Vegetable really do make moist and delicious cakes (just think carrot cake). However, to me that's not the same as truly having the family eating their vegetables (the sugar and chocolate, in my humble opinion, makes it a dessert experience rather than one of eating vegetables as part of a real meal). Still, may I point you to an excellent recipe for Devil's Chocolate cake with beets as a secret ingredient).

Instead of hiding vegetables, first try different ways of fixing vegetables. Many people, esp. small children, will prefer vegetables raw or minimally cooked. I've been surprised by how often kids will eat fresh peas and many other veggies raw, but hate them cooked (esp. over-cooked). Get them into a garden at harvest time, or take them to a farmer's market, and they might just munch away on veggies you never dreamed they'd eat -- one of our local farmer offers slices of "snow apples" (white turnips) -- and you'd be amazed by the surprised faces of his customers. Yummy!

Remember when baby/toddler ate most everything? It's only later that they started getting fussy. "It's a phase", everybody said. And it is, to some degree -- just keep on offering them a variety, rather than letting their finickiness dictate what you cook. Most people need to try something new several times before they warm up to it -- the mistake we cooks often make is that we give up too fast.

Here are a couple of tricks I use with my family:
Winter squashes: try them in soups (curry is great) or even as part of the sauce in Maccaroni and "Cheese" casserole -- see Alison's Lunch for her recipe here.

Greens -- fresh is best, but they can be blanched and frozen. Try simple stir-fry, additions to casseroles and soups, and as pesto-like sauces, such as these greek recipes.

Cabbage -- tired of same old cole slaw? I've got several posts on what to do with cabbage, including cabbage cooked in a whiskey sauce, and of course, "Bubble and Squeak".

Add the veggie-in-question to a proven favorite:
Pizza - will hide a multitude of veggies under the cheese... start with small quanties!
Mexican - for example, my daughter makes a dang-good quesadilla (Barbara Kingsolver style, see link on sidebar) with cooked sweet potatoes, chard, garlic, basil, cheese, and black beans.

The flavor of many root crops will be intensified when roasted -- often tasting so much better than boiled! I used to hate Brussels Sprouts (boiled until mushy in my youth) -- but now I've discovered AK-grown Brussels roasted with just a light coating of olive oil and salt --what a difference!! For delicious recipes, go to this post from last fall.

Lastly, try eating local and in season as much as possible. The CSA boxes and Farmer's Markets have helped our family eat better -- just being in touch with what's in season. Why eat asparagus when it's not in season -- it's expensive, travelled a LONG ways, and doesn't even taste that good. But when it's asparagus season, the price comes down and the flavor goes up -- you can't lose! Maybe even buy extra to blanch and freeze -- how about making a blended asparagus soup base to freeze for a rainy day: just add dairy when reheating (cream & parmesan) for a quick meal in middle of winter.

By the way, I also strongly suggest not keeping secrets.
I cook it, they try it, and if they ask, I'll tell them what's in it.
But then again, if I suspect scepticism, I may be "vague" when asked what's for dinner: I'll call it a mexican casserole rather than specifying that it contains curly kale... just a bit of armchair psychology: gain their trust & don't deceive.

Picture Credit:

Monday, June 14, 2010

Zen Bars

ZEN BARS: the next generation of backpacking energy bars coming out of my kitchen! See earlier posts for a progression of recipes so far.

Why ZEN? Well, Eldest asked for the TaoTe Ching, a book by the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, and right next to it, at the used bookstore where I like to shop (and get credit for reselling our own books) were lots of these tiny books: The Little Zen Companion. Several Christmases ago, everybody probably got one in their stocking -- now they're practically free if you have paperback credit! Perfect wrapping material for a girl who's studying Taoism while munching on my bars along the PCT, I'd say.

Sooo, we're wrapping each of our little bars in cling wrap, and identifying ingredients on the back of a nice little Zen quote!

Here's my newest invention, inspired by Larabar's "Jocalat", subtitled "German Chocolate Cake", containing dates, nuts, coconut, and cocoa powder. DIGRESSION: I never got why Americans call a Chocolate-Coconut cake "German" -- it was probably all the rage around 1900 when many German immigrated here, but certainly today it's not particularly German (E.O.D.)! So, I'll probably call mine:

Mock German Chocolate Cake Bars

1/2 c honey
1/2 c peanut butter
2 c dates, and/or raisins
1 c walnuts
1.5 c shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened, either works)
2-3 T dark cocoa powder (unsweetened, I used Droste)
optional: ground flaxseed, wheatgerm, oats, or other, esp if need to thicken

Melt the first 2 ingredients, and then blend everything else in. I like to add flaxseed or other until stirring gets really difficult -- so my bars don't melt on the trail!
Press into greased pan (I use a bread loaf pan) and refrigerate overnight. Cut into bars (makes 8 4-oz bars). You probably can hardly believe that I actually measured and weighed something (!), but I was curious how my bars compared price-wise to Larabars -- I still need to calculate it, but my guess is that mine cost a third or a quarter of theirs...

Chewy Cherry Garcia Bar
7 oz marshmallow cream
3 T Peanut Butter
1 T butter
1/4 c honey
2 c oats
2 c dried cherries
1 c pecans
1/2 c chocolate chips, if desired
optional: seeds (for coating), such as sesame, flax or sunflower

Warning, this is messy! Melt the first 4 ingredients, stir in the rest, and mix by hand (oil them first!). Then press into pan, coat with seeds, and refrigerate overnight, or alternatively, bake to make firmer bars.

East Meets West Granola Bars
1 can sweetened evaporated milk
2 T Tahini (sesame paste)
2 c oats
2 c almonds
1 c pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
1 c dried mangoes
1 c dried cranberries
2 T candied dried ginger
2 T+ sesame seeds

Heat milk in pan, add tahini and blend. Add dry ingredients. Press into greased pan and bake at 250 for 30-45min, until lightly browned. Cut into bars while still warm.
Note: if you want these really crunchy, bake longer (1 hr+)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Greeks know how to cook with Greens!

We love greens here at Borealkitchen. Can't get enough of them -- I grow them in my garden, it's first thing eaten out of the CSA box, and then I go to the grocery store and buy more (and yes, we do make it thru the HUGE spinach bags from Costco). Greens are not only super healthy and good for you, they taste great IF YOU KNOW HOW TO COOK THEM!

I discovered a great website of Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska by Laurie Helen Constantino, author of the cookbook Tastes like Home. And being Greek, this woman knows and loves her greens. Not only are there lots of good recipes, she teaches you how to harvest and cook such wild greens as dandelions, fireweed and Devil's Club (you read right -- you can harvest the shoots in the springtime) -- she makes Devil's Club Gnocchi!

Here is a wonderful recipe I've got to try really soon: Plasto (recipe here), a greens & cheese pie with cornbread crust, or you could also call it cornbread with a layer of greens and cheeses -- sounds delicious, and perfect for all those greens coming up in my garden, including those dandelions!

Another yummy-looking recipe is Spinach Skordalia (recipe here), a sort of garlic-pesto-like green sauce that goes well with fish -- she pairs it with crispy salmon fingers.

And I learned you can cook the green tops from radishes in a simple dish with olive oil and lemon juice. See Radish Horta (recipe here).

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Dehydrator Woes and Recipes

In many ways, dehydrating your own food is easy with a dehydrator. The challenge I'm finding with this method (new to me) is the timing -- how long does it really take? So far, everything has taken me much longer than recipes have suggested. "Dry for 6 -8hrs" sometimes turns out more like 12 hours! Inconvenient when that ends up being in the middle of night, like tonight...
I do also wonder about the cost effectiveness of drying your own -- by the time you factor in the electricity to run the dehydrator for 12 hours, the amount of fuel it takes to get fresh fruit from where it's grown (California!) to my house, dehydrated, and then shipped back to California...
But alas, it's a LABOR OF LOVE, and some of the products are truly much better that what you can buy!

Being a novice deydratorette, I want to share my tricks of the trade I've learned so far:

1.) Start in the morning, in case it ends up taking twice as long...
2.) Take copious notes.
3.) To test doneness: cut or break pieces in two, and if no beaded moisture visible, it's done.
depending on the item and how long you plan to store it, it does not need to be "bone-dry".
4.) Package in ziploc bags, or for longer storage, vacuum-pack.
5.) For something like fruitleather or other "wet" item spread out to dry, "flip" it over half-way through -- when it can be handled and not fall apart -- this will greatly speed up the drying process!
6.) For thick liquids like bean soup or hummus, you'll end up with chips: use a food processor to chop it into a more user-friendly consistency.
7.) Don't attempt potato soups or mashed potatoes (as my daughter found out) -- something about the starch drying results in HARD TACK that's difficult to reconstitute!

Dried Fruit
This is the easiest place to start! Depending on the fruit, may need pretreatment if concerned about color. Apples, for example, can be dipped in an ascorbic acid bath to keep them from darkening, unless you don't care...
Canned fruit works too: Pineapple rings, from the can, make a great snack, and are so much better than the super sweetened ones you find at the grocery store!

Fruit Leather
applesauce, canned peaches, pears, etc... Just blend and pour onto the fruit leather tray. Dehydrate at 135 F. Flip over after approx. 6 hours, then go for another 6 hrs or so.

Pumpkin leather or Pumpkin Bark
1 15-oz can of Pumpkin
1/4 c maple syrup
2 t pumpkin spice

Vegetable Chips
Slice carrots, parsnips, beets, squash.etc. (Mandolin is nice to use for this)
Drop into boiling water for 2 minutes, remove and cool in icewater. Pat dry with paper towel. Sprinkle with salt if desired. Dehydrate at 135 F for 6 + hours.

On the trail, these can be added to pasta dishes and soups, or eaten plain like potato chips -- might even try some baked Curly Kale chips with that: coated lightly with oil, salted and baked in oven until crunchy.

Sweet Potato Chips

1 can sweet potatoes or yams (or cooked sweet potatoes)
3 T maple syrup (or 1 T brown sugar)
1/4 c apple juice or other liquid, as needed
optional: cinnamon

mash well, and spread on dehydrator sheet -- flip 1/2 way thru drying (approx after 5 hrs).
Note: When sufficiently dry, the potato sheet will easily snap into chips. Continue drying if the potato sheet bends rather than breaks.
On the trail, these can also be rehydrated as mashed sweet potatoes for dinner.

Carrot-Pineapple Salad

1 can crushed pineapple -drained, save the juice
4-6 good size carrots, shredded
1/4 c sugar
1/2 c (or more) pineapple juice

Heat pineapple juice, dissolve sugar, and soak shredded carrots in this juice.
Drain through a sieve, squeeze, and dehydrate for approx. 5 hours. Makes approx 1 c+.
Save all the the juice, incl. carrot-colored. It's nice to drink for breakfast, or use in other recipes.

NOTE: I originally found a version of this on Recipezar -- and it called for 1 whole cup of sugar, and lemon juice and zest. Figuring this was WAY TOO SWEET, I quartered the sugar. I also replaced the juice with the readily available pineapple juice, but am sure the lemon would be nice too!

On backpacking trip: soak (equal amounts water and dried food) for 1/2hr-1hr. Eat as a salad or side-dish, optionally adding nuts.

Maroccan Root Stew

Great-looking recipe here from the Backpackingchef.

photo credit:

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The search continues for backpacking "Energy Bars"

I dislike the term "Energy Bar" -- it conjures too many commercial images, everything from dieting to body-building, and many are not much more than glorified "Candy Bars". What I'm looking for is a basic energy bar that's good for you, mostly, as in providing some good nutrition without a whole lot of processed food, and does not cost an arm and a leg -- the solution: MAKE MY OWN.

So my search for the perfect home-made backpacking energy bars continues (see previous post). Not knowing what to call these in the first place ("Granola Bar" dates me back to my granola days), I did a little research on Google, and started to learn some lingo:


Meal Replacement Bar Rather than a quick burst of energy during prolonged workouts, meal replacement bars are designed more for dieting and weight loss. They are meant to provide the complete nutrition of a lunch or breakfast and to fill you up. Nutribars and Balance bars are two examples of energy bars designed to replace, rather than supplement, a meal. Each of these bars provides calories from carbs, proteins and fats in proportions that sate hunger.

Protein Bars Some energy bars, such as protein bars, are designed to help you gain muscle mass. These bars attempt to cram as much protein as possible for recovery from strenuous workouts. Pure Protein bars and most Met-Rx bars fit into this category.

Endurance Bars Endurance bars are primarily designed to be eaten before a long workout. They typically have a higher proportion of carbohydrates to provide complex, non-sugary energy that is digested over a long period of time. The most well-known endurance bars include PowerBar and Honey Stinger Bars.

Activity Bars Similar to endurance bars, activity bars focus on prolonging energy. However, they tend to focus on all-day outdoor activities that require both energy and some meal-replacement nutritional features. Clif Bar is perhaps the most prevalent bar in this category. Outdoor bars, Clif Bar included, often focus on organic ingredients and have crunchier, more granola, textures.

Organic Bars There are a new wave of energy bars that focus largely on providing energy in as natural a method as possible. Organic bars reject artificial sweeteners and inserted protein, preferring to have a compact load of simple ingredients. Larabar is particularly popular, with an ingredient list that typically includes only a few items and never adds protein, gluten or soy.

Back to why I' m searching for energy bar recipes. I make them to send to my daughter, who's currently some 700 miles into through-hiking the PCT from Mexico to Canada (for more about that crazy adventure, see my other blog, Borealkraut).

My daughter mentioned a couple of brandnames she likes: Larabar, KIND, Lunabar. She's loo king for something to replace breakfast, but obviously not as in the "dieting" type. Also, given that she's sensitive to soy and dairy, I'm trying to avoid or minimize that. And, of course, I'd like to make it reasonably healthy, tasty, and use mostly organic and/or minimally-processed ingredients.

e for a most basic Energy Bar

1 cup natural-style peanut butter
3 cups dry uncooked oatmeal
5/8 cup honey
Protein powder (optional)

Combine the peanut butter and honey in a large nonstick pot and warm over low heat until runny and mixed. Mix in the oatmeal and protein powder. Do not bake, but heat enough to mix nicely. Press into a 9×9 inch pan and let cool. Makes 16 bars.

Next, we should add fruit and nuts -- they give a lot of "bang for the buck" to the backpacker! They contain a lot of calories (fat and sugar) for their weight. I found this next recipe on an athlete's site, and I'll skip the protein powder, and play around with some of the other ingredients -- I'd like to see more seeds and nuts.

Runner's Energy Bar

  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup wheat germ
  • 1/2 cup oat bran
  • 1/2 cup vanilla protein power
  • 1 cup crunchy peanut butter
  • 1 cup raisins or dried fruit of your choice/chopped
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 cup honey or light Karo syrup
and now, ta-da, my latest invention, which turned out pretty good:
Borealkraut's ABC Bar
ABC stands for Alaska Blueberry & Cranberry

1/2 c honey
1/2 c PB
1/4 c Orange Juice concentrate (reduce to 1 or 2 T)
2 c rolled oats
1 c chopped pecans
1 c blueberries
1 c cranberries
optional: sesame seeds for coating bars, top and bottom.

Heat first 3 ingredients, then stir in everything else. Press into greased pan & refrigerate. Cut into bars.
This tasted really great, but came out rather sticky -- might want to add coconut, wheatgerm and/or ground flax.

Monday, May 31, 2010

New line of Backpacking Food for the PCT

Daughter Liesl (Youngest) and I have turned our kitchen into a production center for Backpacking Food: I'm the cook, and she designs the product names and packaging (VERY IMPORTANT!) -- she's even hiding special messages in the packaging for her big sis!
Right now we're dehydrating strawberries, bananas and kiwis, and are having tons of fun inventing and making breakfast/energy bars.

So, before I forget what went into them, here is the first set of recipes.

Move over, commercial bars, we got our own brand-names!

A-Bar: Awesome Alaska Bar

a baked bar containing oats, cranberries, pecans, pumpkin seeds, flax & sesame seeds.
I used Nigella's basic recipe from my last post.

1 14-oz can of sweetened condensed milk, heated on stove in large enough pan to hold rest.
2.5 c oats (rolled, but not instant)
1 c dried cranberries
1 c nuts - I used pecans
1 c seeds - I used pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
1/2 c flax and sesame seeds (save some to sprinkle on bottom of pan)

Bake for 1 hour. Let cool and cut into bars.
Critique: maybe a bit too much baking -- very dry, crunchy, like a traditional granola bar. Perfect with a cup of coffee in the morning or some cool water on the trail...

T-Bar: Truly Tropical Bar
contains Oats, Mango, Apricots, cashews, almonds, almond butter, honey, crystallized ginger.
I used the 2nd recipe from last post, with the melted marshmallows. Did need the butter and added extra honey to help make it all mix and stick together.
These are uncooked bars, thus chewy -- pretty good. I predict the favorite out of this batch!

2 c rolled oats
1 c dried fruit -I used mango and apricots
1/2 c almonds and cashews
1 T sesame seeds (could have used more)
1 T crystallized ginger
3 T almond butter
5 oz marshmallows, melted
2 T butter
honey as needed -- I probably added 1/2 cup

Chop everything finely. In double boiler, melt marshmallows, butter, almond butter and honey, then mix with everything else. Press into greased pan. Let cool in frig for at least 1 hour. Cut into bars.
Critique: pretty darn good!

O-Bar: Ominous* Oat-Carob Bar

contains Oats, carob, sunflower seeds, walnuts, almond butter, honey
*this name is due partially to the ominous brown color, and the fact that carob is NOT popular in this household.

Similar idea to the last: warm up the nutter butter and honey, and mix with all the other ingredients. I used my hands -- it was the easiest way to mix it all up. The carob chips melted right along with the honey, turning everything into a 1970-s looking healthnut bar.

2 c rolled oats
1 c sunflower seeds
1 c walnuts
optional: ground flax seeds (also useful for coating or hand-shaping the bars)
1 c carob chips (could use chocolate chips too!)
1/2 almond butter
1/2 c honey
more honey, maple or agave syrup -- as needed. Again, I needed something to make it all mix and stick together.

Warm up the almond butter and honey (probably needed a whole cup of honey, but not sure of the quantity actually used). Mix everything up using hands, or mixer(?), until it all sticks together. Press into a greased pan and cool in frig.
Alternatively, shape bars by hand, roll in ground flax seeds, and wrap individual bars in parchment paper or cling wrap.

Critique: I liked them, but I think I'm the only taker of carob bars in this household.
Curious to hear if any of the hikers liked them...

M-Bar: Mom's Apple Pie Bar
This is based on a $4 Rawwaylife bar I tasted when I told a co-worker about my bar-making adventures, plus reading the booklet that came with the dehydrator, on loan from Eldest, and finally being put to some good use!
I made this in the Cuisinard, chopping everything right up, making this go super-quick!

1 c hazelnuts
1/2 walnuts
1 c raisins
1 c applesauce
2 t cinnamon
1 T flax seeds (whole)
1 T flax (ground)
1/4 c agave syrup (can play around with sweeteners: honey, maple, etc)

Chop nuts. Add all the other ingredients and blend them up. Spread on the fruit-leather tray of dehydrator, and dry at 135 F for approx 6 hours, according to instruction booklet (NOTE: it's been in there 11 hours now, and still not done!!! -- let's just say "drying time varies").
Critique: A nice break from the oats-centered bars (this has no oats at all -- just fruit and nuts!)
I probably could have upped the cinnamon. I liked the chewy fruit-leatheriness. Probably the least messy (at least crumb-wise) to eat right in the sleeping bag!

That's as far as we've gotten so far, but we've got lots more ideas:

B-Bar: Bravo Blueberry Bar
similar to A-Bar or T-bar: another oats, nuts and dried fruit bar.

P-Bar: Perfect Pumpkin Bar
I was thinking of something similar to the Apple-Pie fruit leather, starting with a can of pumpkin, adding pumpkin seeds, raisins, honey and some pumpkin spices (cinnamon, cloves), then drying in dehydrator.

P-O-Bar: Pecan-Orange Bar/ a.k.a. "Southern Belle"
Here I was thinking of another fruit-leather-type bar, starting with pecans, adding concentrated orange juice, candied orange peel, dried apricots, honey, then drying in dehydrator.

Can't wait to mail them to California (I'm sure over half the ingredients were grown in California!) and find out if they pass "muster" on the PCT!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

AWESOME Breakfast Bars/ Energy Bars

The daughter hiking the PCT made this request: "Mom, if you could experiment with making some breakfast bars, that would be AWESOME: something high-energy that I can nibble on while I'm still in my sleeping bag or even while I'm hiking" -- well, there's a challenge! The remaining kids (Wolf and Pixie) and I will be experimenting and test-tasting...

Never having made anything like this, but feeling confident I CAN DO THAT, I start by searching the internet for some recipes -- ingredients fall into these main groups:
Nuts, seeds, dried fruits, oats
sweeteners and fats (honey, syrup, oil/butter, nut butters, melted marshmallows, etc)
protein or milk powders, vanilla, cinnamon, espresso, chocolate, etc

METHOD: most often the binding ingredients are heated to allow for good mixing.
Some recipes call for baking at a low temperature, others for setting in the frig.

Here's a recipe from Nigella Express by Nigella Lawson (NPR listeners will recognize the name):
Nigella's Breakfast Bars

1 14-fl-oz can condensed milk

2 1/2 cups rolled oats (not instant)

1 cup shredded coconut

1 cup dried cranberries

1 cup mixed seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, sesame)

1 cup natural unsalted peanuts, walnuts, or other

1. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees and oil a 9- x 13-inch baking pan or just use a disposable aluminum foil one.

2. Warm the condensed milk in a large pan.

3. Meanwhile, mix all the other ingredients together and add the warmed condensed milk, using a rubber spatula to fold and distribute.

4. Spread the mixture into the oiled or foil pan and press down with a spatula or, better still, your hands (wearing those disposable latex CSI gloves to stop you from sticking) to make the surface even.

5. Bake for 1 hour, remove, and after about 15 minutes, cut into four across and four down, to make 16 chunky bars. Let cool completely.

Here's another recipe I found, bound together with PB & melted marschmallows:
Backpacker's Breakfast Bars

1/3 cup sesame seeds
1/3 cup hulled sunflower seeds
1/3 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
1/3 cup chopped almonds
1/3 cup unsweetened dried coconut
3-1/2c cups crisp toasted rice cereal
1 cup dried cranberries
3 tablespoons peanut butter
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
7 cups (12 oz.) mini-marshmallows

Same idea as rice crispy treats: Melt the last 3 ingredients in double-boiler and mix into the dry. Press into brownie tin, and let cool in frig. NOTE: melted marshmallows are VERY messy & difficult to mix. I was going to leave out the butter, but it seemed that it was crucial to the mix, so I did use it. CONCLUSION: probably stay away from marshmallows in the future, or buy marshmallow cream. The crucial test, of course, will be how they hold up on the trail!!!

The rest of the recipes, plus the picture, came from an outdoor blog, Windedbowhunter:

Energy Bars- Unbaked Recipe
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup wheat germ
1/2 cup oat bran
1/2 cup vanilla protein powder
1 cup crunchy peanut butter
1 cup raisins or dried fruit and chopped
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup light Karo syrup
Mix it all well. Freeze in bar shapes

Fruity Nut Chocolate Bar
Equal measures of the following (approximately 1/4 Cup each):
Dried Cranberries
Navitas Goji Berries
Navitas Cacao
Manitoba Harvest Hemp Seed Nut
Manitoba Harvest Hemp Seed Butter

I put the first 4 ingredients in the blender, and twirled it around for about two minutes, until it was all in fairly fine pieces (rice sized or smaller). I then drizzled the honey in slowly. When the ingredients stick together, scoop them out and put on a sheet of waxed paper. I then folded the paper over it and spread it out until it was about 1/4″ thick. I did taste it at this point, and was happy with the taste. Not to sweet, and you could definitely pick up a nice chocolate flavor. The Hemp Seed Butter and Honey held it together nicely. Put in refrigerator for at least 1 hour before slicing.

Granola Nut Protein Bar Recipe
2-1/2 cups natural peanut butter
2 cups honey
2-1/4 cups protein powder
3 cups uncooked oatmeal
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup wheat bran

In a double boiler, warm the peanut butter and honey to a smooth consistency. This step can be done in the microwave as well–just heat both ingredients for 70 to 90 seconds. In a mixing bowl, stir together all remaining dry ingredients. Pour in the peanut-butter mixture and stir until completely combined. Spread uniformly into a brownie pan. Slice into 12 to 16 pieces, and then wrap each piece in plastic wrap.

Oatmeal Maple Breakfast Bar
1 Cup Oatmeal
1/4 Cup Raisins
1/8 Cup Hemp Seed Nut Butter
1/8 Cup Maple Syrup
1/8 Cup of Cashews
1/8 Cup Honey

Mix dry ingredients in blender until mixed and in smaller pieces. Add Maple Syrup and Honey and mix until everything sticks together and is ‘clumpy’. Scoop out onto wax paper, and shape into a 1/4″ thick slab. Put a thin layer of oatmeal onto a baking sheet, and then put the slab on top (prevents sticking, and gives the bars a crunchier layer. Bake at 250F for 45 minutes. Cool completely before cutting.

Pineapple-Cranberry-Strawberry-Almond Bar
1/4 Cup of each of dehydrated strawberries and pineapple
1/4 Cup Almonds
1/4 Cup Honey
1/8 Cup Hemp Seed Nuts
1/8 Hemp Seed Butter

Mix all dry ingredients in blender until everything is broken into small pieces. Add the Hemp Seed butter and Honey, mix until ingredients stick together. When the ingredients are stuck together, scoop them out and put on a sheet of waxed paper. I then folded the paper over it and spread it out until it was about 1/4″ thick. Put in refrigerator for at least 1 hour before slicing.

Did I mention, that all of these great recipes are from Leesa over at 4 All Outdoors?!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Radishes & greens in the cold-frame!

Came back from camping to a thriving garden (Thanks, L, for watering!)
Starting the "Greenhouse-raised-bed-winebottle-style" really paid off.
Here's what I did in early May: The winebottles are full of water, corked and secured with duct tape: their purpose is to provide some passive heating of the soil.

I seeded all kinds of greens: Swiss chard, Mustard greens, radishes, spinach.

Mid-May, I started adding a few bedding plants (bought, I admit), and added more chard, kale, bok choi, lettuce varieties such as raddicio. Gradually, I started replacing some of the winebottles with bedding plants!

I still covered my garden with plastic every day -- besides providing warmth (protection from wind), I needed to keep out the local wildlife: snowshoe hare!

Now it's the end of May, and I'm harvesting radishes and the first outer leaves of chard...

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Scandinavian supper

When we traveled through Denmark and Norway a number of years ago, we noticed something:
everything on the dinner plate was white (or yellow in the case of potatoes), with green being the only actual "color".
Last night, for Syttente Mai (17th of May), we celebrated Norwegian independence with:
Alaskan cod, baked in parchment with herb butter
roasted potatoes
spinach with onions and cream

Sorry, no picture -- but it did look lovely, and was rather tasty and healthy, too.
Say a great big Hurrah for Syttente Mai, and take a swig of Aquavit!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

menu for mid-May

CSA this week: Alaskan potatoes & beets.
From Outside
: certified organic Cameo apples | certified organic choice navel oranges | certified organic kiwi | certified organic asparagus | certified organic broccoli | certified organic Romaine lettuce | certified organic Lacinto red kale | certified organic red or green cabbage raab | certified organic sweet onions

Sunday (B-day): Cajun Shepherd's Pie, Rhubarb pie
Monday: quinoa - jambalaya style, with carrots & sausage
Tues: German pancakes
Wed: Pita breads filled w/ Gyros, cucumbers, yoghurt, spinach
Thurs: Salmonburgers, green salad, quinoa
Fri: mexican burritos w/ black beans, chorizo, braised greens
Sat: B-day party potluck at friends'house -- too many pasta salads, but delicious grilled salmon!

Monday, May 10, 2010

German pancakes with strawberries

Sometimes we have breakfast for dinner -- Do you?
Strawberry season is upon us, and they're so good that sometimes we just eat them at every meal!

Start the day with strawberries over homemade granola; have some for lunch in a salad or just plain, and for dinner there's strawberries over pancakes!

One of our special treats is a nutritious German-style pancake, originally made with Quark, but we actually like it best made from cottage cheese. There's enough dairy in this meal to make a decently well-rounded meal.

German Cottage-Cheese Pancakes
4 eggs, separated
1 pint cottage cheese (2 c)
approx 1/4 c milk
1 T sugar
1 t salt
1 c+ flour
butter or oil for frying

Separate the eggs. Mix the yolks with cottage cheese, milk, sugar and salt. Add enough flour to make a slightly stiff batter.
Separately, whip the egg whites until stiff. Fold them carefully into the cottage cheese batter.
Fry on griddle until golden brown. Serve immediately with sweetened strawberries or syrup.

Optional additions into the batter:
1.) Bacon bits
2.) grated apples & nuts
3.) blueberries and/or cranberries