Saturday, July 28, 2007

Recipe: Pork with napa cabbage

We managed to get through most of the items we got from our share from Pearl Creek Farm last week, except for the napa cabbage and a few other things. I tried out a recipe I saw on Joelen's blog (she is on one of the web boards I sometimes visit). It is very good, we'll make it again, especially since I foresee more napa cabbage in our CSA share future.

Joelen's pork & napa cabbage stew:

1 medium onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 lbs pork, diced
1 cup soy sauce (is that a typo? I used 1/2 c)
1 cup chopped tomatoes
2 cups water
1 teaspoon: salt, garlic powder, onion powder. black pepper
1 small head of napa cabbage, sliced in ribbons
1 oz enoki mushrooms (these she used for garnish, I skipped them)

In a dutch oven, place about 2 tablespoons olive oil.
Heat dutch oven over medium heat.
Add sliced onions and garlic.
When onions have softened, add pork.
Add seasonings and stir, browning pork.
When pork has browned, add water and soy sauce.
Stir and add tomatoes.
Allow sauce to reduce to half.
Turn off heat and toss in napa cabbage.
Before serving, garnish with enoki mushrooms, with thick stems cut off.

Visitors to west ridge

Friday we ate lunch outside of the building where we work, and got to see a few people not typically seen there anymore: Dorte with Kasper (though they can often be seen on the trails next door, just typically not by the actual buildings of the university), and Ryan, visiting from Europe. Kasper enjoyed a carrot from our garden. Martin asked whether Kasper can walk, because he only seems to run. In the twenty minutes we chatted with those guys, Kasper ran the entire time. And unlike Sonja, he enjoyed the carrot.

Sonja's typical food is white, though she too can have fun with it.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

More recipes: Blackened salmon ceasar salad

Tonight, we had a visit from potential housesitters for next year. Martin made one of the few last remaining pieces of salmon left from last year's dipnetting season in our freezer. For a relatively hot sumer day, he likes it relatively simple: grilled blackened salmon, over a simple ceasar salad. Unfortunately the grill conked out on us, so he just did it in a pan.

Here is the mixture used for blackening, gotten somewhere off the web a few years ago, plus the recipe for the ceasar dressing, gotten off a few months ago.

Cajun blackening powder
1 c paprika
2 1/2 Tbs cayenne pepper
2 Tbs each salt and garlic powder
1 1/2 Tbs each blackand white pepper
1 Tbs each oregano, thyme

Ceasar dressing
1/3 c mayo
2-3 Tbs lemon juice
3 Tbs grated parmesan
1/4 tsp each worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper

Mix the above ingredients together, coat lettuce with the dressing, top with more grated parmesan, if desired.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Apricot cake and Cauliflower gratin

Two recipes that we made tonight, both favorites of ours that we have made numerous times before: Apricot cake that Martin's mom makes and that we really really like, and cauliflower gratin with feta cheese.

Apricot cake
Martin's mom's recipe. Can be made with plums or other fruit also. Yup, european units, one of these days I will figure out how many cups of flour and sugar that is.
300 g flour
100 g sugar
2 eggs
130 g butter (I just use 1 stick)
some baking powder (may be 1 tsp?)
Mix all of the ingredients together into a dough. If it is too dry, add a tiny bit of milk. The dough should be relatively dry though, so that it can be rolled out easily. Split the dough into roughly 2/3 and 1/3. Roll out the larger piece and line a 10" (or so?) springform with it, including the sides. Roll out the smaller piece, which will be the top.
some hazelnuts, coarsely chopped (may be 1/2-1c?)
1 kg (2 lbs) apricots, pitted, and cut into chunks
100g sugar
Put the chopped hazelnuts on the bottom, top with apricots, and poour the sugar over the fruit. Fit the top piece of dough on top, seal the sides. Make a few holes in the top to vent the steam. Brush an eggyolk over the top dough, so that it will get nice and golden while it bakes. Bake for 1 hour in 350F (I think) oven.

Cauliflower gratin with tomato and fresh sheep's milk cheese
from every night italian cookbook.

1 large head cauliflower
1/4 c chopped onion
3 Tbs butter
2 c canned tomatoes, chopped, with the juice
3/4 c grated parmesan
6 oz sheep's milk cheese (feta)
  • Boil the cauliflower, quartered, until tender, about 20 minutes.
  • In the meantime, cook the onions in 2 Tbs of the butter until light caramel flower. Add the tomatoes, cook until the sauce no longer looks watery, 15-20 mins. Take off heat and stir in parmesan.
  • Heat the oven to 375F.
  • Drain the cauliflower and cut into bite-size pieces, and add to the tomato sauce.
  • Layer half the cauliflower/tomato mixture into a baking dish, top with half the sheep cheese, cut into thin slices. Repeat with remaining cauliflower and cheese. Dot with last 1 Tbs butter.
  • Bake about 15 mins until cheese melts. Serve hot or lukewarm.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Golden Days 2007: Parade and Red-Green River Regatta

This weekend we went to see the Golden Days Parade, and the Red Green River Regatta, both part of the Golden Days in Fairbanks. Neither Martin nor I have ever gone to either of these, but they are very nice family events.

For the most part, Sonja enjoyed the parade. She really didn't like the sound of the fire engines, the horn was a bit loud, and she got scared. Once those passed, she enjoyed looking at the cars and people. As noon approached, she did get tired, so we never ended up seeing the entire parade - we left to walk back to the car, and Sonja fell asleep on the way home.

Here are a few sights:

Today, we watched the start of the Red-Green River Regatta. The main rule is the following:
"Every vessel must contain at least ONE roll of duct tape in its construction."

The Regatta started downtown Fairbanks and continued onto AlaskaLand (aka Pioneer Park these days). It was a fun sight to behold. Sonja really enjoyed splashing in the river. (Check out the guy with the dog - the dog does have a comfy seat.)

Monday, July 16, 2007

A few pictures taken at home

Currently blooming: Blue bells and the only cultured delphinium by our house (all the other delphiniums are wild, and have smaller flowers).

Saphira was going wild this evening when I was taking pictures of the flowers, but none of the pictures managed to capture her, at least not in focus. Some did not capture anything but a blur. Here is a picture when she finally stopped.

On Saturday, our little artist was busy painting the entire family, and gave Mica the portrait. Then she decided to add a few finishing touches to the picture. That was the last straw for Mica, she left shortly thereafter.

Martin busy balancing his many duties, much to the delight of Sonja.

After the bath tonight:

And after putting Sonja to bed, time to dig a little deeper, towards the water tank.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

A walk by the Tanana River

Yesterday morning we dropped off Regula and Thomas at the airport. They had kept pretty busy on their 3 week vacation here.

Today, we went for a walk with the dogs by the Tanana River by the airport. With Sonja, we went there last weekend too, and the river was quite high. It looks like a new flow pattern has developed around the bend, because the "beach" (ok, most people would call that a mud flat) was significantly changed from last week. Luckily the river itself was lower too, so more of the beach was exposed. The dogs - both ours and that of several other people who were there, whom I sorta know from skijoring, loved chasing each other all over the beach and the surrounding bushes. Just a blur of black - the one white dog in the group was injured and hanging out with the humans, the other five black dogs (Mica and Saphira among them) were often just a blur of black.

Sonja threw a few sticks into the river for Saphira, who will retrieve them if they are within about one foot of the shore. Overall, considering the very rainy morning, we really enjoyed the walk by the tanana.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

More books to read

Here is what the New York Times book review had for the fiction portion of the "10 best books of 2006".
  • Absurdistan by Gary Shteyngart
  • The Collected Stories of Amy Hempel
  • The Emperor's Chidlredn by Claire Messud
  • The Lay o the Land by Richard Ford
  • Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl
And the non-fiction:
  • Falling through the earth, a memoir. By Danielle Trussoni
  • The Looming Tower, Al-Quada and the Road to 9/11. By Lawrence Wright.
  • Mayflower, A Story of Courage, Community, and War. By Nathaniel Philbrick.
  • The Omnivore's Dilemma, A Natural History of Four Meals. By Michael Pollan.
  • The Place in Between. By Rory Stewart.
This way at least I can throw out that page that I have saved for the last eight months :). I did try to find the Calamity Physics at our library, but at that time it must have been checked out.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Stopping junkmail: a few links that might help

Here are a few links to follow up in order to reduce the junk mail arriving in our mailbox, especially since we'll be gone next year. Hopefully most of them are legit.

Direct Marketing Association : Getting Off Mailing Lists (here)

Do it yourself: stop junkmail etc (here)

Privacy rights: reducing junk mail (here)

Sunday, July 8, 2007

4th of July

Sonja and I spend the 4th of July by ourselves, because Martin and his sister and her boyfriend were finishing their Chatanika float that day, and were not in town. I was hoping to go to Ester for the parade at noon, but first Sonja and I and the dogs went to Will and Anne's, mainly to get Sonja acquainted with Anne. We went down to the slough with Anne, her friend Vanessa, and the little dog Rosie. The water level in the Tanana was very high, but one "beach" still remained, and that's where we went. I say "beach" since it is more like a mud flat, made up of the silt deposited by the river, as opposed to sand.

Sonja loved it. She played with Anne at the water's edge, digging and trowing rocks and sticks into the water. The dogs loved it too. Saphira kept chasing Mica. Mica kept trying to find a safe haven, and thought it might be in the vicinity of people. At some point, I tried to deflect Mica and Saphira away from Sonja, which of course meant they just bumped into her, and she fell into the water. So much for my idea. We stripped Sonja naked, and she continued to play happily in the sun and the silt and the water. At one point, though, she wanted her socks back on, so for a while she was naked except for the socks, and those ended up matching in color the beach, since they were wet. At times, her bottom and legs, and back, also matched the beach in color. :)

After a while, Will joined us with their second dog May, and a bit later, Will and Anne's neighbors Lane (sp?) and Dorothy came walking the path too, and they started chatting. Since it was approaching noon, I got Sonja dressed in the wet shirt and wet pants and wet rubber boots, and we made our way back up to the house. To my surprise, Sonja was happy to be helped (and later carried) by Lane. She sometimes plays shy, but not on that occasion.

Will and Lane chatted about the worms infesting the spruce trees on this side of the town. From an article in the paper earlier, it was the spruce budworm, but Lane also thought some of it might be the spruce coneworm. Either way, our spruce trees are in for a suffering, if they make it at ll - all of this year's growth has been eaten by these insects. And I mean all. From far away, the parts of Chena Ridge area that have a large spruce population have reddish tint to them, which is what you see close by too. Around our house, not a single tree is unafeected, and every new growth has been eaten - literally, an infestation.

We got to Will and Anne's house, Sonja had a snack, and then we got into the car and left. The sun and water took their toll on her though, so as we headed out in the direction of Ester, Sonja fell asleep. Well, we might make it to the parade one of these years. For pictures from the parade, you can check out the subarctic mama blog.

After Sonja's nap, which she finished at home, we headed to Pioneer Park ( formerly Alaskaland). While I hardly ever visited that place before, except for the Fairbanks summer folk festival, it is a favorite place for Sonja to go, both to swing and slide, watch all the other people around, and watch the choo choo train. We must have been there a dozen times this year already. One set of swings is close to the train station, and that day they had both the regular train and the steam engine running, so she was content to swing for a loooooong time since she got two for the price of one - swinging together with watching the trains. At least she was partly in shade :)

Then it was time to go home to grab a bite to eat, and head out to Murphy Dome to pick up Martin et al. Those guys finished their float trip earlier that day, put the canoe into the bag (it should make it to town for some nominal fee in the car of the guy who owns that place where they stopped), and hiked the seven miles to the top of Murphy Dome. Our plan was to meet at 7pm, or 8pm, or 9pm, and I was going to see if there were any blue blueberries in case they didn't make it at 7pm (plenty of green blueberries everywhere). Apparently they got lucky though, because some 4-wheelers stopped and asked if they should take their backpacks, which they gladly did - after all, it was all uphill. So at 7pm they were already waiting for us at the top. But didn't seem in any hurry to load up, much to my chagrin - I still planned on bathing Sonja that evening and trying to get her to bed not too much after than her 8:30 bedtime. Apparently they did see some blueberries down by the river, but when we looked on the way back from Murphy Dome, in a place we often go, those blueberries still needed another week or two.

When we got home, Martin bathed Sonja, out on the deck, and then we eventually managed to get her to bed, though of course having once again a full house was rather exciting for her.

Martin has some nice pictures from their canoe trip, and he said it was an excellent float, so if anyone needs an easy 3day float trip, he can recommend starting at the Elliot Highway bridge and flaoting down, and stopping at the "1st Alaska Outdoor School". One can even drive to that place from the top of Murphy Dome, a 14 mile road, though the going on that would apparently be rather slow.

Smoothie and portuguese kale soup

Berry season is here! I had a few blueberries on the granite tors trail - something like five of them, but hey, they were blue, and then a week later not too far from our house, a couple dozen of them. What that means is that I better try to get rid of the frozen ones in our freezer, fast! Since sometime this past winter, our hand-held blender got submerged under water while it was being washed, and stopped functioning, I decided to stop by Fred's and get a mixer, in order to make smoothies (the other choice was to bake something, but in this heat, the motivation to use the oven is far far away). The first mixer I saw was $142, quite a bit more than I was planning on spending. Luckily a few feet further were the cheaper models. I just need to make enough smoothies to justify the $30 I ended up spending, but I think that won't be a problem, given that I liked the first recipe I tried.

Smoothie (Recipezaar recipe number 21661)
1/2 c milk
1/2 c plain yogurt
1 banana
1 Tbs honey
1/2 c fresh fruit or frozen fruit
Mix all ingredients together in a blender.

The other recipe I tried earlier this week, in order to get rid of the kale and half of the cabbage we got in our share from the Basically Basil farm, was the Portuguese kale soup. Recipezaar recipe number 107443. Since the copy-and-paste doesn't do as good a job as I would like, and I am lazy to transcribe it, I will leave it at that, except to say the soup is very good. Not for vegetarians (it has some sausage in it), and makes an enormous portion, more than Sonja and I can eat. But hopefully it will keep frozen. Then, when Martin gets back from fieldwork, I can feed it to him too :)

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Odds and ends (ex-Fairbanksans, Belfair, Chatanika, ...)

Well, it has been a busy week or two, as well as very social time. Adam and Carrie, with Megan, were in town, on their way home to Texas after visiting Nome. We had them over for dinner, and since Eran, whom they knew from Juneau, was in town too, he also came. Megan is just a few weeks younger than Sonja, and it was fun to see those two interact. Initially not so well - Sonja got possessive of her rocking horse though of course she has not rocked on it fo the last month, but then later they shared.

Two days later was a potluck at Keith and Susan's, so that we could meet all of the ex-Fairbanksans together. Adam and Carrie stayed for that, and Tina and Alain, together with Anthony, were back from their float trip up north on the Canning river. Ellie and Andy made it in from Boulder. Asking Tina what are some must-have's for a float trip up north, she said hip-waders are good (better than regular rubber boots, to drag the raft easier when needed), and bug jackets too. One of the youngest Fairbanksans also joined the potluck - Laurel, daughter of By and David, made her debut.

(That day, Thursday, we also had to pick up our share from the Basically Basic CSA, I took a pic of Martin there but will have to wait until he gets back from canoeing to download that picture... it was a busy day)

Two days after that was the Belfair wedding, one of the reasons that many of these people were in town in the first place. Great wedding. Special touches included their own wine (with wine labels designed by Inari, who also painted the picture hanging now in Sonja's room), flower dogs instead of girls, Princess-Leia-like dress for Sharon, carhart attire for many invitees (per request of the bride and groom), Pinatas hung from the upper story afterwards, etc. Sharon and Lars did an excellent job writing their vows. Many a story I am not familiar with must be behind - Lars promised to clean up chicken poop and other yucky and smelly things, even if in unusual places. And to tell of failed projects. If asked. Lars's friend did a speech a bit later, where he read from some of the emails from Lars. Sounds like ostriches were at some point on the list of projects too.

They got one of those inflatable castles for jumping delivered and set up right after the ceremony. It was a huge hit. Sonja initially didn't want to play in it, because she had problems standing and walking, but once she got a hang of it (at a time when some smaller kids were inside, who couldn't make the whole thing move as much as the adults could), she was almost unstoppable, and wanted to "skakat" (jump) the entire evening.

I guess we're now in the time of our generation when people do have kids - Sigrun and Chris, visiting from Arizona, are due a month after we are, and Michelle and Evan, acquaintances, have a young kiddo also.

The next day, Sunday, Martin and Regula and Thomas were heading out to float the Chatanika, down from the Elliot highway, for three days. Since they were going to start very late in the day, I thought we could join them at the campground at the road with Sonja and the dogs, and head back in town Monday morning. Well, it did not quite work out. First, to get there, the car could not have been more full - between four adults, a kid in a carseat, two dogs, a collapsible canoe, life vests, gear for Martin and company, and gear for myself and Sonja, it would have been difficult to find a place for a mosquito in the car. We got to the former campground at Chatanica, put up the tent, then Martin went fishing while Sonja played in the river, throwing rocks and sticks in (always walking a foot into the water, so she was really wet when done). Then we had some sausages and meat grileld over fire. All this time, the dogs were enjoying running around.

The problem started afterwards: I tried to take Sonja into the tent and get her to fall asleep. Fat chance. After more than an hour, I asked her whether she liked camping or whether she wanted to go home. Home it was. We packed up the big tent, Martin put up his small tent, and with Sonja and the dogs I headed home. Thirty five minutes later, home we were, though of course it took Sonja a bit more to unwind and fall asleep.

The last two days were beautiful. Sonja had her bath on the porch yesterday, and also an impromptu one today: she went with me to the garden, where we realized someone vandalized the greenhouse, and then we went to throw rocks into the Chena. As before, she was standing in the water to throw the rocks, and her shoes and socks were drenched. When we got home, she went to play in the sandbox. Well, wet shoes + sand mix together very well, into a substance which is best gotten rid of by soaking, so soak in the rainwater we did.

Tomorrow, 4th of July, Sonja and I and the dogs will head out to pick up those guys again, this time at the top of Murphy Doam. Martin figured out that they can stop at the wild-named "1st Alaska Outdoor School", and for some money, that guy will transport it to Fairbanks. In the meantime, Martin + company were going to do the 7 mile hike to the top of Murphy Doam, where the road ends, and where I can thus pick them up. We'll see if they make it. In the morning, we'll go play in the Tanana by Will and Anne's, and, depending on how Sonja does, may be go to the Ester 4th of July parade.