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...