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.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Spring has Sprung!

Just turned the corner, so to speak, on Spring. The leaves on the trees are out -- there's that definite tinge of green as you look at the hillside. Birch are always first, but some of the smaller cottonwoods have opened up their leaves. The BIG cottonwoods haven't leaved out yet.

Gardening news:
Around the May 1st I started direct-seeding mustards, kale and spinach. On Mother's Day I seeded carrots w/ radishes as markers. Been keeping these covered these beds with plastic.
Today, Youngest and I planted some more: Arugula, Mache, dill, and a few flowers.
We've had some clear cold nights in the beginning of May (so far, last frost was May 9th -- we had to scrape the car in the morning!)
Indoors, I've got 2 pots planted with tomato plants. "why bother?" Because one of these years we may actually get enough sun in the summer to grow some decent tomatoes... Hope springs eternal!

Another exciting news: got a shipment today from Fungi Perfecti! I'll be growing shiitake mushrooms indoors, and pearl oyster mushrooms by spiking cottonwood logs with inoculated "plug spawn". New adventures in gardening !!!

Baking scones


1.5 c all-purpose flour

1 Tbsp baking powder

½ tsp salt

½ c brown sugar

¾ c butter, cold, cut into pieces

1 c rolled oats

½ c dried blueberries

1 egg, lightly beaten

¾ c buttermilk or milk


2 c all-purpose flour

1 Tbsp baking powder

½ tsp salt

½ c sugar

1 tsp grated orange peel

¾ c butter, cold, cut into pieces

½ c chocolate chips

1 egg, lightly beaten

½ c orange juice or milk

Measure dry ingredients into bowl. Using a pastry cutter, cut the butter in until it resembles coarse meal. Add berries or chips. These can be stored in a closed jar, refrigerated, for a couple of weeks.

Add wet ingredients until just blended. Drop by spoonfuls onto baking sheet, or roll out on a floured surface and cut into triangles. Bake approx. 20 minutes, until golden brown. Cool on rack.

Optional: dust with powdered sugar or simple glaze of powdered sugar with water or lemon/orange juice.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Recipes for Alaskan Barley

This week our CSA box contains Alaskan-grown barley!
Here are some recipes, thanks to Glacier Valley CSA.

The barley is naturally hull-less, which is handy, since it doesn’t have to be hulled in a grain mill. Just use the barley as you would use pearl barley, but I don’t think it will get quite as creamy as pearl barley does. You can cook it up and use it in place of rice or other grains, adding it to soups or muffins, for example. Arthur made a beef & barley soup out of it, and said it turned out great! I don’t have a recipe for that, but I have used it successfully in breakfast porridge. (Recipe for the porridge follows.)

Here’s a couple of basic ways of cooking it, as if you were going to eat it in place of brown rice, for example:
Cook 1 cup of barley in 3 cups of water, (and 1/2 teaspoon of salt, if desired). You’ll need to bring it to a boil, and then cover and simmer it for 1 1/2 hours, or until tender, to get it fully cooked. If you soak it overnight, you can cut the cooking time down—but I’m not sure by how much. (Sorry.)

Another way to cook it is to simmer it (covered) in plenty of water, as if you were cooking pasta, until it’s tender (probably about 90 minutes), and then drain it. Put it back in the hot pot and cover it to let the remaining moisture absorb into the grains.

barley & apricot porridge

I like this breakfast porridge with barley, inspired by a recipe from Mollie Katzen’s breakfast cookbook: Sunlight Café. Her recipe is for a traditional Turkish dish called Anooshavoor.

½ cup barley
1 cup water, plus more as needed
1 ½ cups apple juice
¼ teaspoon cardamom (or 6 cardamom pods)
¼ teaspoon salt
10 or more dried apricots, sliced
1 tablespoon honey, or more to taste
optional toppings:
milk, soymilk, or yogurt
toasted almonds, chopped
more honey

1. Combine the barley and water and apple juice in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer, add the salt and cardamom, and let cook, covered, over low heat for about 1 ½ hours, or maybe more, stirring occasionally and adding more water as necessary to keep the porridge a bit soupy.
2. When the barley is tender, check the consistency. If you want the porridge soupier, add more apple juice. Add the apricots and honey, stir, remove from the heat and cover the pot. Let stand for 10 minutes to let the apricots soften and blend into the barley.
3. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature. Top with your choice of milk, almonds, and more honey.

Borealkitchen's Beef Barley Soup
Our family often eats soup in the winter. This one is simple but satisfying -- great for preparing ahead and putting in the crockpot for a busy day. It makes a meal with some hearty wholegrain bread and a salad. The key is to use home-made beef stock from scratch (my recipe here) -- after defatting, it keeps well in the freezer.
Note: can easily make this without meat pieces, only stock

beef (round or other) -cut into small pieces
barley (if not pre-soaked, allow well over 2 hrs until cooked!)
other rootcrops as desired (turnips, potatoes)
bay leaf
salt, pepper

Monday, March 21, 2011

New Favorite: Rye-Buckwheat Bread

Made another loaf of Sourdough Rye-Buckwheat bread, and we love it. It's a dark firm loaf with a super crust! Better write down what I did, before I forget!

First of all, I've been experimenting with feeding my sourdough a whole-wheat diet (I use King Arthur brand) instead of the commercial unbleached All-purpose (White) Flour. I knew to change their diet slowly, given that my sourdough pet is a bunch of live microbes, and sudden changes in diet can be hard on any organism. At first I thought I had a reasonably bubbly ("active") sourdough. But lately I've notice less activity and quicker development of the "Hooch" often within half a day -- a sign that my sourdough is not at its prime. My solution, for now, is to change its diet back to half white and half wheat...

Sauerteig Roggen-Buchweizen Brot (Rye-Buckwheat Bread)
inspired by post on The Fresh Loaf blog by Hanseata, whose recipe is for a yeast bread rather than a sourdough bread. My recipe works without commercial yeast.

Sourdough starter:
1 c sourdough (can be fed with white, wheat or rye flour), active*
1 c rye flour

*sourdough is at 100% hydration, been fed for at least 3 days and kept at room temperature, NOT the refrigerator.

Final dough:
all of the starter above
1 c warm water
1 T molasses
2.5-3 c flour (combination of whole wheat, AP and buckwheat flours)
I used 1 c whole, 1 c white and 1/2 c buckwheat, plus 1 T Gluten flour
1 t salt
1 t each fennel and anise (optional)
1-2 T flax seed (optional)
1-2 T sunflower seed (optional)

For starter, mix sourdough with flour. Forms a sticky dough -- let rise, covered, in warm place for 4-6 hrs (I preheat my oven w/ pizza stone for 1 minute, then turn it off).
For dough, cut up the sourdough starter and soak with water and molasses. Using paddle attachment, I mix it in my Kitchenaide (careful of splashing -- don't expect a smooth integrated dough). Start adding flour. Switch to dough hook once paddle can't handle it anymore. After all ingredients are in there and dough has pulled from the side, transfer to floured board and knead dough (not too much -- just stretch and fold). Let sit a few minutes (up to 1omin ), esp if still very sticky -- the gluten will develop and absorb more of the liquid.
For retarding step, place dough in the frig, covered, overnight (up to 3 days).
On baking day, take dough out of frig, knead and form into loaf. Let rise in banneton or loaf pan, in warm place, until risen (to roughy twice). Bake in preheated oven at 415 F on pizza stone with initial steam, for 1 hr+.

Last a rather ugly picture of a comparison of the pure sourdough bread with the one where I added 1 T commercial yeast in step 2 (in this case, I did also retard in the frig, and it's definitely over-risen -- probably could have done with half the yeast). For school sandwich purposes, the kids prefer the lighter version, but for a hearty German-style bread to go with soup or as a snack smeared with creamcheese and smoked salmon, I prefer the denser version!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The BEST Homemade Sourdough buns

Today I managed to make some excellent buns, if I may say so!
So I'll write down what I did, so I can reproduce them -- 'cause I ain't buying grocery store buns for burgers no mo!
This went relatively fast, since it does not take long to rise, and does not require ageing the dough. But I do start out with a good active sourdough starter or "Mother".

As a starting point, I used the recipe for "Quick and Easy Sourdough Bread" (p.91) in Ruth Allman's book Alaska Sourdough.

1 c sourdough starter (mine is fairly hydrated, and pours like pancake batter)
Important: sourdough is at room temperature, and well-fed within a day or two.
1 T yeast (active, granular)
2 T sugar
1.5 c warm water
5-6 c flour (unbleached, white)
1/2 t salt
1/2 t baking soda

1.) Stir the sourdough well and measure out 1 cup. (I go ahead and feed the mother starter w/ equal amounts of water and flour at this time, and set it on the counter with a loose lid).
2.) In the Kitchenaide with regular paddle attachment, mix water, sugar and yeast. Let sit until you can see that the yeast is alive and well -- starts bubbling at bit.
3.) Add the sourdough, and mix well.
4.) add 4 c of the flour and salt. This will be sort of soft and sticky, not something you can knead!
5.) Lightly grease a large bowl, and transfer the sticky mess into it.
6.) Cover with a clean towel, or a lid ( I use a glass bowl with lid).
7.) Place in a warm place (such as warm oven, turned off), and let double in size --approx. 1 hour.
8.) Mix soda into 1 c. flour, and add to the dough.
9.) Knead on floured board until satiny and springy to the touch. (Warning to self: do not incorporate too much flour making dough stiff -- instead keep this very "soft". If still a little sticky, stretch and fold the dough, and let it sit for 10 minutes to let the flour absorb some more of the moisture.
10.) Shape about a dozen buns. Let them rise on a floured towel or board, covered, for 30-45 minutes, while heating up the oven w/ baking stone at 400 F.
11.) Transfer buns onto hot stone, and bake 20 minutes + until golden brown on top.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Cajun Shepherd's Pie with Very Hot Sauce

Cajun food does not always have to be super spicy. This is a good example: the pie itself is not especially spicy, but the sauce is, and so everybody can control the hotness of their own portion.

This favorite family recipe comes from Paul Prudhomme's Louisiana Kitchen, and it makes good company food. I like to make the 4 different parts ahead, assemble it, then throw it in the oven when company arrives.

Part 1: Meatloaf
2 pounds ground meat (usually beef, but could use 1/4-1/2 ground pork, turkey, moose, etc -- note that the leaner the meats are, the drier it will be, so may want to add some other fats)
1-2 eggs, slightly beaten
1/2 c bread crumbs
oil for sauteing veggies:
1/2+ c each onion, celery, bell peppers
1 T+ minced garlic
1/4 c milk (regular, evaporated or half-half)
seasoning (leave out the spicier stuff if desire it mild):
1 T Worcester sauce
Tabasco or other hot sauce, cayenne pepper (I usually leave these out, as the sauce has them too)
1 T each black and white pepper
3/4 ground cumin
1 t dried thyme leaves
1 t salt (or 1.5)

Saute the veggies, let cool slightly, then mix all the ingredients (I use my hands!)
Bake in 13x9" pan for 30 min, uncovered. Drain any liquid and set aside (I de-fat this and use when making the sauce). If not proceeding with next steps, cover meatloaf and store in cool place.

Part 2: Vegetable layer
olive oil for sauteing
1.5 c carrots, julienned
1 c onion, sliced
1-2 c summer squash, julienned
ok to substitute other veggies, such as green beans.
1/2 t salt
1/2 t pepper
1/4 t each garlic and onion powder

Saute everything, in batches as needed, and pile on top of meatloaf

Part 3: Mashed potatoes
2 pounds potatoes, boiled
1/2 c milk (regular, evaporated or half-half)
1-2 T butter (optional)
1 t each salt and pepper (mix or white and black pepper is great for potatoes!)

Part 4: Cajun Very Hot Sauce
1/2 c each onions, bell peppers, celery
1/4 c minced jalapeno peppers
1 t minced garlic
1-2 c stock (or water, also use de-fatted dripping from meatloaf) Note that the original recipe calls for 3 c stock, but then boils it back down.
1/4 c oil (I use light olive oil that can handle the heat)
1/4 c flour
3/4 t ground red pepper (cayenne, or for milder, use Hungarian Paprika)
1/2 t each black and white pepper
Tabasco sauce or other hot sauce, as desired (I use SriRatcha)
Bay leaf

First make a light-brown roux. Using a whisk, mix flour (little at a time) into hot oil, stirring constantly until desired color is reached (approx 2-3 min). Add vegetables and seasoning (I switch to a spatula here), and cook until veggies are softened. Slowly add stock (watch for splashing! -- best to remove pot from heat, add liquid, then reheat to thicken, simmering on low for 10-15 minutes).

Assemble parts 1,2,3 and bake for 20-30 min or until thoroughly hot (this depends on how warm things were when assembled). Serve with VHS (Very Hot Sauce) as you would a "gravy".