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.

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.