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, 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!