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, 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.

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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...

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