Back in the Kitchen

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What a year this has been.  We are in the process of moving to a smaller abode - yes, smaller than the 20×15 space we’re currently in, and it doesn’t even have a kitchen!  Yikes!  However, the nearby building we will be using for bathrooms, shower, laundry, and food preparation has a huge kitchen that is quite an upgrade from the tiny quonset hut.

Yes, the oven door is broken and doesn’t open or close properly, but really, these are minor details.

We have counter space!  Gads of it.  I already have my Kitchen Aid mixer set up.  Already I’ve made pizza dough, apple pies, chocolate chip cookies, and jalfrezi curry. And that’s just in the last 4 days.

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So I’m excited to do more.  I need to get this move finished, though.  A few more days and we’ll be done, and I can get more into the cooking/baking photography routine that I’ve been neglecting in the tiny hut.  No space means place to photograph my food.

When the food box comes this Thursday, we’re planning on trying a variation of this recipe from Taste Williams Sonoma.  I won’t have fresh shitake, but I do have dried shiitake and porcini that I could try to reconstitute, although I’ve found that that they rehydrated mushrooms work better for cooking than eating raw.  Also, I don’t have peanut/canola oil here, so we’ll be using either sesame or olive.  Lastly, I doubtfully will have mint sprigs, but we hopefully will get some cilantro in the farm box from Full Circle, and I am starting some red lentil sprouts today that should be read for use on Friday.

Hee haw.

Where is she?

She is languishing is Chicago.

Well, I’m not actually “languishing” anymore, as I am recovering, but in late October, back in Barrow, I hurt my back.

Herniated L5/S1.  Ouch.

Herniated L5/S1. Ouch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With no MRI available in Barrow, I truly did languish for 3 weeks before amassing enough Vicodin to board a 12 hr flight to Chicago where my parents live, and I’ve been here ever since getting medical care.  I’m in my 10th week of PT now, and I’m doing much better.

Sadly, though, the Tundra Kitchen is closed until I’m back in Barrow in April.  Here in Chicago, I am on Day 6 of a 14 day detox juice cleanse that I designed.  Don’t worry – this is not a crazy Master Cleanse-type fast – just a detox cleanse.  For 14 days, I’m on a whole foods, high fiber, nutrient dense, vegan, GF, and mostly raw eating plan.  Berry smoothie in the a.m., green veg juice throughout the day plus solid snacks of fruit and nuts and homemade chips and salads and other tasty treats, and a light meal at night that has some whole grains and yummy veg.  No hunger, no calorie deficit — this is not a diet… I’m just trying to cut down on dairy, wheat, and oils for a spell and up my intake of nutrients.  My hope is that cutting down on some of the inflammatory foods I eat will help my back, but I’m not noticing a difference in my back so far.  I do feel great otherwise, and I’m thinking of returning to vegan full time bc of the difference in my skin.    The cleanse came about because my brother asked me about a detox cleanse – his NY resolution was to work on eating healthier, so I steered him away from the crazy starvation cleanses sold online for hundreds of bucks, developed a whole foods eating program for him, developed some recipes, put together a cookbook and shopping list to following, and voila – a cleanse was born.  I made it vegan and GF for him – that’s a huge stretch from his carnie ways, and then for me, since I have a juicer, I’m skipping the noon meal and having veggie juice – as much as I want, plus the breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks if I want them.  His cleanse is about 2200 cals a day, and I’m only taking in about 1600-1800, but I’m a girl and smaller. I’d get fat on his cleanse. :)

Since I’m on my back for the bulk of the day except when at the gym doing PT or in the pool, I’ve been looking at more food blogs than usual (so that’s A LOT) and getting tons of recipe ideas to try back in the Tundra Kitchen when I’m on my feet again.  I love the recipes and photos at What Katie Ate and Licking the Plate.  Food blogs that inspire me to try something new are the best.

So now you know – I’m not gone, just taking a mandatory break.

Winter Is Nigh

I’ve been absent for over a month, namely because I’ve been traveling.  I was in Fairbanks running a marathon the 2nd weekend of September, and then I left for Chicago for another marathon and some family stuff the 4th week in September.  I just returned the other night admidst great sadness, and I’m off to Chicago again shortly for more family stuff as soon as I’ve caught my breath here.  I’ll be back in early December, and I’ve got mad plans for a Gingerbread Quonset Hut Ghetto.  Can’t wait!

I did restart my Full Circle subscription this week, though, and I am looking forward to some fresh vegetables.  Until that box gets here on Thursday, there’s absolutely nothing to eat in the house in terms of vegetable or fruit, except the frozen berries and bananas I have in the tiny freezer.  I would have liked to have done a bunch of canning at the beginning of the semester for weeks like this, but with the move and teaching the new food course, there just wasn’t time.

We went for Chinese last night.  Crazy expensive and not so good.  The leftovers today were ok, but when I think of how much it cost, it’s ultimately depressing.

Polar Bears, Pasta, and Pepper Potato Soup

I was crazy productive in the tundra kitchen today.

Crazy productive.

I’ve come to the conclusion that despite the tiny kitchen in this quonset hut, as long as I have my Kitchen Aid small appliances and as long as Full Circle keeps servicing Barrow, then I’m going to be able to be happy here.

Sure, things like warmer weather and year round sunshine would be nice, too, but you can’t have it all at the top of the world.

I’m lucky for what I’ve got!

The morning started as it always does with my green smoothie (berries, banana, almond milk, pomegranate juice, a handful of spinach, wheat germ, flaxseed, and 6 green supplements). From there I moved on to making kale chips and beet green chips in the oven.  I burned the kale chips, but the kale was wilted anyway and kind of yellow/browned, and I was going to toss them, but I thought I’d try and salvage them.  They were a no-go, but the beet greens, which I baked separately, turned out PERFECT with just a dash of olive oil and a bit of sea salt.  Yum.  I am always surprised when people tell me they throw out beet greens because they are so bitter.  MAKE CHIPS!  MAKE CHIPS!  Guilt-free chips, too, full of Vitamin K and calcium and other good stuff.

Next, I roasted the beets.  I’m not sure what I’m going to do with them, but they are in the fridge now, ready to be made into something delicious. I was going to make borscht, but R announced she is no longer crazy about borscht.  I then suggested a salad with goat cheese and walnuts and she grimaced.

She really did.  So the beets are tabled until tomorrow, and she doesn’t turn that frown upside down, then I’m just going to eat them all myself.

Next, I made a dish I call Pasta Liliana because someone named Lillian once gave me the recipe, though I’ve tweaked it over the years.  It’s basically a raw tomato sauce made with blanched tomatoes chopped into a bowl of EVOO, loads of fresh basil, an inadvisable amount of chopped garlic and a hot pepper of some sort.  I used a jalepeno today. Let it sit for a bit at room temperature.  Cook your pasta, and while that’s cooking, chop up a big hunk of fontina cheese.  It has to be fontina.  Don’t ask me why, but I’ve tried this dish a million different ways, and fontina just has that something something that works so well, both texture-wise and flavor-wise.  Make sure the pasta is al dente – overcooking it will ruin this dish.  As soon as you strain your pasta, scoop a couple TBs of the tomato/EVOO mixture on the pasta to lubricate it, then dump the fontina in and stir it around.  Do it quicky.  This part is crucial.  Wait for the pasta to cool down, and the chunks of cheese won’t melt.  Then, once the cheese is stirred in, add in the rest of the raw pasta sauce.  The heat of the noodles warms the sauce and continues to melt the cheese, and OMG this dish is DIVINE.  It’s best, I’ve found to use a noodle with some texture that will scoop up the little drips of sauce and cheese.  A rotini or fusili is best.  Spaghetti or fettucine are not so good because there is nowhere for the sauce and cheese to hang on.

However, I’m in Barrow, Alaska, and beggers can’t be choosers, and I had a box of some crappy store bought spaghetti on the shelf, and that’s what I used.  The sauce was great, but I couldn’t help but thinking to myself, “What a waste of fresh basil!”

Let’s face it.  No matter how good your sauce is, no matter how fresh your ingredients, crappy pasta can ruin any dish.

So I called a friend to come over and we made a batch of fresh pasta with my Kitchen Aid mixer.  Sometimes I do things out of order.  I have the KPEX attachment set that makes ravioli and some flat noodles and spaghettis, but I still don’t have the KA Pasta Press Attachment (This is at the top of my Xmas list, by the way) to make rigatoni or fusili or some other fun shapes.  So we made a little of everything because my friend’s hubby likes an assortment of noodles in his bowl, she said.  Cool beans.

Whole Wheat Pasta

Recipe:

  • 1 cup white flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 T EVOO
  • a bit of salt.

Put everything in the stand mixer and mix it up good for a minute.  Switch to the dough hook to get it into a ball, and then put on your mixer’s roller attachment.  Pinch a bit of the dough ball off (not too much or you get pasta that is way too long to handle), and flatten into a patty with your hand.  Put a bit of flour on either side to keep it from sticking to the rollers.  Run through the roller a few times at the widest setting, and then tighten the roller, fold the dough, and run it again through the next setting a few times.  Repeat this until you are at the desired thickness. The pasta gets longer and longer, so you have to be careful the thinner it gets that you don’t let it rip. Love your pasta.  Play gently.  When you’ve got what you want, lay the strip down on a lightly floured surface and then lightly flour the top, too.  It’s probably too long to put all the way through, so cut it now to the desired length.  Remove the roller, put on the pasta cutter of your choice, and run the sheet through.

Hang on the drying rack.  The pasta can go right into the boiling water when you’re done.  It only needs a few minutes to boil (the thinner it is, the less time it needs).

After my friend left and I cleaned up, I started on dinner.  Not pasta – despite having good fresh stuff on the rack, I had the yucky boxed stuff for lunch and didn’t want pasta twice today, plus R wanted soup, so I made a roasted red pepper potato soup.

Soup in the blender

Recipe:

  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 3 red potatoes
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1 yellow onion
  • cayenne
  • 1 T butter
  • 4 C vegetable broth
  • salt & pepper to taste

First, put the red pepper under the broiler.  While that’s getting charred as all get out, chop up the onion and the garlic and potatoes.  I didn’t peel them, but I scrubbed them well.

Put 1 T butter in a big pot, turn the heat to medium, and add the onions. Give them a few minutes on their own, and then add the garlic, and then the potatoes.  Turn the heat down.

Check out that red pepper.  Is it done?  Is it black and beautiful?

Peel off the skin, remove the seeds, cut it up, and add it to your pot.  Turn the heat back on and stir the red pepper in.  Add 4 C of veggie broth (I cheat and add 4 C of water and 4t of Veggie Base), and simmer with the cover on until the potatoes are softened.

Put the mixture in the blender and puree it, and then add your cayenne and salt and pepper to get the desired spiciness.

Voila.  The soup is done.  And it’s delicious.  If you like more heat (we always do), I’d recommend adding a jalapeno or habanero back in the beginning when the garlic goes in.  I didn’t think of it, which is silly as I have a bunch of peppers just getting redder and redder and redder and they need to get used before they are no longer legal.

I’m not sure what I’m making tomorrow, but I’m craving scones or another fruit crumble.  I’ve been on a fruit crumble kick lately, and I’ve made about 3 this week, perfecting my recipe.  I’ll let you know when I’ve got it just right!

I’m not sure what it is about living on the tundra, but boy, do I have an appetite lately.  It could be the wide expanses in every direction I look, or it could be the fact that I’m marathon training and my runs are at their apex right now.

It could also be the fact that there’s not a whole lot else to do besides cook and worry about polar bears.  The sea has been rough and there were 3 bears in town today.   Until the water calms down again, they won’t go back to sea.  Since the weather looks rough for the next few days, that means I’ll probably be doing a lot of cooking in the interim.

Ah…life on the tundra never tasted so good.

Challenges of cooking in a Barrow quonset hut

I’m here in Barrow finally, and the quonset hut we’re living in is TINY.  There isn’t a real kitchen to speak of – no countertops!  But we’ve got a work table in place and that is going to be the countertop and the workstation for baking bread and the pasta-making station.  The fridge leaks, the oven heats up the whole hut so much that you need to strip down to shorts and tshirt if you want to bake anything, and there is very limited shelf space.  However, we will make due because what choice do we have, right?

The food in the groceries is beyond expensive, and they have nothing organic, and the produce never looks very fresh.  We’ve opted to have food delivered from Full Circle, a CSA in Washington that services Alaska.  We get a box of veggies and fruits each week for $65.  So far, Full Circle delivery has been good but they are having issues with getting hte food up here.  I just received an email that for the 2nd week in a row, the delivery will be Friday instead of Thursday, so here I am, Thursday afternoon, and I’m out of food.

Since my food was already shipped from Washington and is in transit somewhere, you can bet that my greens will be slimed from getting too chilled in some freezer room with the freight company, that a good portion of the fruit will be bruised and/or molded, and the greens that aren’t slimed will be wilted.

Full Circle is good about giving credits when this happens, but that won’t do me much good since I’ll have to wait another week for the next food delivery.

So far, though, we’ve been faring well with what we’ve got, and I’ve started a tiny windowsill basil garden. I’m proud of what we’ve done so far.  We will have to get really good at planning our meals out – if we are missing an ingredient, it can take weeks to order it from Amazon, or if something spoils on the trip up with Full Circle, we are out of luck til the next shipment.

Flexibility, lack of options, and a tiny workspace are going to be the main challenges here.

Oh, and lack of alcohol.  Did I mention that Barrow is a dry village???

I’ll post some pics and recipes soon.  I just wanted to get this page up and running before it gets overwhelming here with work in the next 7 days.