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

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

Monday, 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

Rhubarb Pie for the Birthday Boy!

It's May, and we had our first Rhubarb Pie, on special request by Birthday Boy! I actually went and BOUGHT some rhubarb at the grocery store, since the rhubarb in the garden is not ready for harvest quite yet -- but what mother can resist her child requesting Mom's specialty on his birthday! Aren't we moms just suckers for praise?!?

For my special best-ever recipe for Rhubarb Pie, go here.