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.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The garden is IN!!!

Drizzly rainy today, but Liesl and I did finally get those potatoes planted! Everything else went in last weekend: direct-seeding as well as starts bought at the greenhouse (Bok Choi & mesclun lettuce is always a treat for early June; kohlrabi & leeks will be harvested in late summer ). I direct-seeded arugula (Rocquette), which I'm glad to say finally is commercially available in the US. Other direct-seeded greens (lettuce, kale, spinach) are up, but the carrots are slow as ever -- the radish serves as indicator where their rows are. I RESOLVE TO DO A BETTER JOB THIS SUMMER IN WEEDING AND THINNING THE CARROTS -- ok, I said it!

The only starts I started indoor myself (in the garage in early May) were sweet peas, and those did transplant well. I'm also growing container tomatoes & peppers indoors , and those will go outside soon -- whenever the sun comes back out and I get around to finish putting up my Mother's Day present:

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Green soups and "Maggi" seasoning

For some strange reason, my family only likes green soups when it comes to smooth or pureed soups. I happen to also love orange (such as curried squash or carrot soup), red or pink borscht (red beets), and even cream of mushroom soup, which, yes, comes out a rather unattractive gray. But my guys only go for GREEN.
Today they told me that their #1 green soup is my leek soup (Lauchsuppe in german).
Today I made it (without the potatoes -- more "veggie-tasting") and served it for lunch together with panini sandwiches.

Leek Soup
Lauchsuppe/ soupe aux poireaux
Wash the leeks after cutting lengthwise -- they often have a bit of soil in them.
cut into small half-rings and saute in olive oil (or 1/2 olive, 1/2 butter). Optional, saute diced onions and celery too.
Once translucent, I puree (blend) all the veggies with some water or stock. This can be filled into glass jars or tupperware for later use, labelled "Leek puree -no dairy". Sometimes I freeze the vegetable puree before adding the dairy -- it also keeps well in a jar for a week or more -- make ahead when you know it's going to be a busy week...
Later, I reheat the puree, add some grated parmesan and/or swiss cheese, dill, salt, pepper. If I have leftover mashed potatoes, or if I need to thicken or stretch the soup for an extra mouth or 2, I add potatoes.
Once thoroughly heated, I turn off the heat and add a little creme freche, heavy cream or sour cream, right before serving.
I make sure it's hot, but try not to boil it again with the cream in it.
Goes well with croutons, ham-and-cheese paninis, biscuits, baguette, etc...

another favorite green soup is
Split Pea Soup (a.k.a. Cleaning Day Soup)
non-vegetarians can start this with a ham hock -- great flavor.
Fill a pot with dried split peas, bay leaves, the optional ham bone and enough water to cover it all, and simmer on low until ready.
Again, there's not much to this -- it's as easy as, well, any legume soup.
In fact, my mother used to make this soup on Mondays, which was CLEANING DAY, the day where she attacked the household from top to bottom and did not have time to make a proper German supper of meat and potatoes. I suppose she gave it a stir every time she walked into the kitchen to refill the cleaning bucket, but otherwise this meal needs very little attention.
As a kid, I hated coming home to lentil soup (which, incidentally, my husband calls the "you got to be kidding soup), but split peas were always fine by me, as long as I could add Maggi seasoning!
Here's what Wikipedia says about Maggi:
"Maggi" is still synonymous with the brand's "Maggi-Würze" (Maggi seasoning sauce), a dark, hydrolysed vegetable protein based sauce which is very similar to East Asian soy sauce except for that it does not actually contain soy. It was introduced in 1886, as a cheap substitute for meat extract. It has since become a well-known part of everyday culinary culture in Switzerland, Austria and especially in Germany. It is also well known in Poland and the Netherlands....The original company came into existence in 1872 in Switzerland, when Julius Maggi took over his father's mill. He quickly became a pioneer of industrial food production, aiming to improve the nutritional intake of worker families. Maggi was the first to bring protein-rich legume meal to the market, and followed up with a ready-made soup based on legume meal in 1886. In 1897, Julius Maggi founded the company Maggi GmbH in the German town of Singen where it is still established today.

You may ask "What's in Maggi sauce?" -- in fact, I googled that question, and found out that it is rich in unami-flavors, very popular in Asia too, but the recipes vary quite a bit from country to country. The best discussion I found was on Eatdrinkandbemerry.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Cooking in a Römertopf (Clay Cooker)

My eldest daughter is turning 25 this week, so I gave her a Römertopf plus a couple of smoked chickens for her birthday. To our family, Sunday afternoon isn't complete without the aroma of a smoked chicken or roast coming from the oven -- at least in the cold season (which feels like most of the year, given we still have several feet of snow on the ground right now!).

Here are some recipes I translated for her from the french pamphlet inside -- who knows why they were not in German or English? But I had fun, and only had to look up 1 word! I found it funny how many of them were "Borealkraut-style" in that they gave no quantities at all!

To me, cooking in the Römertopf is the epitomy of simple home-cooking. The ingredients are nothing fancy, but the rich flavor comes from the slow cooking/steaming that intensifies in the the juices.
I've taken to picking half a dozen organic chickens at a time when I'm at Costco, which I brine (1 c each of salt and sugar dissolved in 1 qt water) and smoke. I vacuum-pack and freeze them, then take out a chicken midweek to thaw out in the frig. It's good for at least 2 meals-- we eat Roast Chicken on Sunday, then I cook the carcass into stock and serve chicken and dumplings mid-week (but I have to hide the left-overs in the frig so my husband eat them all)...

French Onion soup

6 big onions

2 cloves garlic

30 ml butter

1 ml dried thyme

310 ml beef stock

250 ml white wine

salt, pepper

6 slices french bread

250 ml freshly grated parmesan

250 ml grated swiss cheese

Soak clay cooker for 15 min. Meanwhile, sauté the onions in butter (or oil). Place in clay cooker, cold oven, and heat for approx 1 hr at 200C, checking and stirring onions occasionally, until nicely browned. Add thyme, beef stock and wine, and return to oven for another hour. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Before serving, toast the bread, place over soup with grated cheese and return uncovered to oven at 230C for 10 minutes, then increase to 290, broiling until cheese is bubbling, around 2 minutes.

Roast Beef

1 roast (your preference of cut, approx 1.5 kg)

salt, pepper





bay leaf

red wine, optional

Soak the cooker. Salt and pepper the roast. Place in cooker, together with all the other ingredients around it. Cover and place in cold oven. Bake at 250C for 40-90minutes, depending on cut and desired doneness.

Römertopf Meatloaf

450 g ground beef

250 g bread crumbs

250 ml milk

1 egg

25 ml dried onion powder

24 ml tomato paste

15 ml horseradish

5 ml salt

5 ml pepper

potatoes (optional)

Soak the cooker. Mix all the ingredients. Shape into loaf and place into the cooker. Cover and place in cold oven at 230C for 75 min. It’s good to place cut potatoes under or around the loaf to absorb the juices.

Country Roasted Chicken

1 chicken (approx 1.5 kg)

salt, pepper

1 onion


celery leaves

butter (optional)


white wine (optional)

vegetables cut small (potatoes, carrots, onions, etc)

Soak the cooker. Clean the chicken, and fill the cavity with onion, celery, salt, pepper.

Place in cooker and optionally rub with butter. Add vegetables and wine, as desired.

Cover, place in cold oven and bake approx 85 minutes at 230C.

If desiring a crust on the chicken, remove vegetables and juices (for gravy) and return to oven uncovered until browned as desired.

Potpourri of savory vegetables

Zuccini, tomatoes, onions

Salt, pepper

Parmesan cheese

Soak cooker. Peel and cut vegetables (not too small). Put all ingredients in cooker, cover, and place into cold oven. Cook at 230 C for approx 30 minutes – cooking time depends on size and quantity of vegetables.

Baked Fish Fillets

900 g fish fillets (fresh or previoulsy frozen)


lemon juice

salt, pepper


fresh chives, chopped

Soak the cooker. Spread mustard over fish fillet and place in cooker, and sprinkle remaining ingredients over them. Cover and place in cold oven, bake at 230C for 30-40 minutes until fish is done.

Baked apples

6 medium apples





pecans, chopped

125 ml white wine

15 ml rum essence

Soak the cooker. Mix sugar, cinnamon, raisins and pecan in a bowl for filling. Wash and core the apples (don’t peel). Spread butter on apples and place in cooker. Place filling in each cavity. Pour in wine and rum essence. Cover and place in cold oven and bake at 230C for approximately 30 minutes until apples are tender. Serve with the delicious juice.

(My mom's variation “Apfel im Schlafrock” or Apple in evening robe: encase each apple in phyllo dough and bake on sheet. Serve with whipped cream -- it was our favorite dessert when I was growing up!)