On the Grill: Smoky Maple Rubbed Wild Chignik Salmon and Lemon Garlic Fireweed Shoots

It’s not yet the official start of summer, but nothing feels like the season more than sitting outside in sunshine grilling our supper.

Some people say Chignik River salmon are The Best. Who are we to argue? The vacuum-packed fish we caught last fall taste like we just pulled them out of the water. We love these salmon. They are fun to fish for, delicious and are a beautiful part of this environment. We feel fortunate to have them as part of our menus at least four times a week. Yesterday, we thought we would try a smoky maple rub we were gifted awhile back. It worked perfectly on the grill, giving a nice smoky, sweet layer of flavor while still letting the salmon shine through.

The star of the meal were the fireweed shoots. If you’ve never tried these beauties, now is the time to do it. Around here, they are popping out of the ground in a plum-colored frenzy. Early in the season, the shoots can be picked and used just like asparagus. The leaves are tender and the stems have a satisfying crunch. Later in the summer, the plants will produce fuchsia-colored flowers that climb up the stalks like a calendar of the summer passing. These flowers are edible, as well. We’ve used the pink blossoms in tossed salads and have stirred them into homemade honey ice cream for an added visual pop. But I digress…

Preparing the fireweed shoots is simple. Give the shoots a thorough rinse to remove any dirt. Then mix together soy sauce, lemon and garlic to taste. Toss the mixture with the fireweed shoots. Place a couple of pats of butter beneath the shoots and another couple on top. Grill in foil until the butter is melted and the mixture is bubbling. We like our shoots pretty crunchy, so we only grilled them for about 4 minutes. And if you’ve prepared a baked potato on the side, any extra sauce from cooking fireweed the fireweed makes a delectable topping. Bon Appétit!

Better Than Butterfingers Bark

Crispy, crunchy, peanut buttery and topped with chocolate. No hydrogenated this or that. No artificial flavors or colors. What’s not to love? 

Recently, Jack and I have cut way back on the sugary treats. But we’re not crazy, we haven’t cut them completely out. We’ve been trying out a new eating style which is working really well. It’s not a fad diet. It’s simply mindful eating. Everyone knows it is healthy to eat a diet with lots of veggies, legumes and whole grains. We’ve been employing a strategy to eat a great variety of food at every meal with an emphasis on those healthy food groups. Jack’s goal has been to serve meals with at least seven different foods as the ingredients. It’s been a delicious experiment that has us feeling fueled up and satisfied.

Do sweets still fit in to this mindful eating plan? Absolutely! I have always enjoyed having something sweet at the end of dinner. I’ve been experimenting with different kinds of natural sweeteners as well as different portion sizes. Rocky Road fudge and Monster Cookie Freezer fudge were a couple of the first hits in the lineup. Aside from natural sweeteners like maple syrup, honey and dates, I still used a tried and true pantry item – granulated sugar. As long as the portions are kept small, sweets will always be part of my repertoire.

One of our favorite candy bars has always been Butterfingers. We both love the flavor combination of chocolate and peanut butter and especially love the crispy crunch that only Butterfingers have. In my quest to use up all the items in our pantry, I came across a recipe for homemade Butterfinger bars. What?!? How is possible to make that crispy crunch at home? I always thought that magic could only be created in a cauldron, or maybe a factory. 😉 Turns out, the recipe is quite simple. Katie over at Chocolate Covered Katie figured out the basics. I’ve adapted her recipe to be even simpler. No shaping bars or dipping technique needed. It’s a few minutes of stirring, some time chilling, a little bit of melting, and a moment of spreading melted chocolate and Voila! – best tasting Butterfinger bark you’ve ever made – guaranteed!

Better Than Butterfingers Bark


  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 3 1/2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 2 cups flake cereal (I used whole grain frosted flakes)
  • 2/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips


  1. Line a baking sheet with foil. Grease foil with butter. Set aside.
  2. Combine honey and sugar in a small saucepan.
  3. Over medium heat, bring mixture to a boil.
  4. Boil for a minute while stirring continuously.
  5. Remove pan from heat and stir in peanut butter. It will look like a paste when it’s done.
  6. Fold in flake cereal. Stir well to coat.
  7. Turn mixture out onto the foil-lined baking sheet.
  8. Press mixture until it is about 1/2 inch thick.
  9. Place bark in freezer for 30 minutes.
  10. Melt chocolate chips in a double boiler.
  11. Spread melted chocolate mixture over bark.
  12. Place bark back in freezer to set.
  13. Cut bark to portion as you like.

Recipe adapted from chocolatecoveredkatie.com

Grandma’s Secret Is Out or Cabbage Roll Soup Meets the Alaska Bush

The tang of tomatoes, the zip of lemon, and the hint of sweetness from a bit brown sugar all mixed in with cabbage and some of Alaska’s best game meat – moose. Grandma’s secret is out!

My strongest memories of my grandmother are connected with food. She lived in Queens. Meanwhile my family was bouncing around from Brooklyn out to New Mexico and back to Albany before finally ending up in California, and so we only got to see her once in a while. When we did, I remember heartily enjoying all of her culinary creations – Jewish staples like kugel, brisket, blintzes, and of course, stuffed cabbages. I don’t know if she intended to keep her recipes secret. Maybe she thought I was too young to understand them. Maybe she thought – well, I don’t know. I could only guess. Unfortunately she passed away when I was still only in my 20s. Over the years, I have tried to make a few of her standards, producing what I think have been successes. I was particularly pleased with a crock pot recipe for cabbage rolls that I came across many years ago which I thought tasted just like hers. The problem with that recipe was that it took For Ever.

Fast forward to now. Jack and I have entered a favorite time of year. It’s the time when we look in our freezers and pantry and try to use up whatever we have on hand a la the show Chopped. With bunches of carrots, heads of cabbage, a few pounds of ground moose, and way too many onions, I thought of stuffed cabbage. It’s really a perfect recipe for the bush. We lucked into a healthy amount of moose this year. (Half a moose was flown into our village from a hunting camp earlier this year…another story.) Cabbages, carrots, and onions ship reliably through the postal service from Anchorage. Even if they get stalled at our mail hub in King Salmon for days in a row, which happens regularly, these items arrive relatively unmarred. The best stuffed cabbage is made with big, beautiful leaves. That wasn’t what I had. And time. I didn’t have that, either.

I started to think about what made my grandmother’s stuffed cabbages so good. I liked the rolls. But what I especially liked the flavor, and I liked what was left on the bottom on the pot when the cabbages fell apart. Why not make just that? Turns out, this recipe has the exact flavor of my grandma’s “secret recipe” but the time and effort is cut down – way down. With a few minutes of prep, and 45 minutes of “simmer time,” this recipe is a keeper!

Stuffed Cabbage Soup


  • 1 lb. moose meat (substitute lean ground beef)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium sweet onion, like Walla Walla, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 4 cups beef bouillon (we like Penzeys beef soup base)
  • 12 ounces tomato paste reconstituted with 2 cups hot water
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 cup uncooked long grain brown rice
  • 5 cups green cabbage, chopped large
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 1/2 tbsp lemon juice


  1. Use a large soup pot. Place olive oil and meat in the pot.
  2. Add onions.
  3. Sauté until meat is browned.
  4. Add garlic and stir.
  5. Add broth, reconstituted tomato paste, brown sugar, salt, oregano, pepper and rice. Mix well.
  6. Add cabbage and carrots. Stir to mix.
  7. Place bay leaves in pot.
  8. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cover the pot. Cook until rice is tender, about 45 minutes.
  9. Remove pot from heat and stir in lemon juice.
  10. Let soup rest for a few minutes before serving.

Powering Up With Freezer Fudge: Rocky Road and Monster Cookie Recipes

I suppose you should wait a few minutes for these bites to thaw a bit before diving in…but who are we kidding? They are satisfying straight out of the freezer!

I was late to the banana ice cream party. It was only a few summers ago that I discovered that blending frozen bananas has the taste and texture of delicious creamy banana ice cream. I added all sorts of flavors to this fantastic base to help us keep cool during warm air conditioner-less summers in Mongolia. As a newcomer to this confection, and back on a serious workout regimen, it only just occurred to me to take this dessert and transform it to a pre or post workout snack. The new base has a combination of frozen bananas, peanut butter and maple syrup. After that, add what you like. The idea is to keep it simple, flavorful, and leaning toward healthy choices. Ahem, a few itty-bitty mini marshmallows or M&Ms won’t kill you!

I used my silicone mini muffin pan to initially freeze the treats. The cookies pop out easily and you’re ready for another batch. Simply store your freezer fudge in a freezer-safe container lined with parchment paper, and your workout snacks will be ready when you are.

Rocky Road Freezer Fudge


  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1 overripe banana
  • 2 tbsp real maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup Dutch Processed cocoa powder
  • pinch salt


  1. Use a stick blender or a food processor to combine and smooth all ingredients.
  2. Scoop out tablespoon-sized portions and place in a silicone ice tray or mini muffin pan.
  3. Place tray or pan in freezer until confections are solid.
  4. Pop out the confections and place them in a freezer-safe container lined with parchment paper.
  5. Power up with a couple of these before a workout, or reward yourself after for a job well-done!

We are huge fans of monster cookies, especially monster-sized monster cookies. This freezer fudge flavor is a nod to those not-so-healthy-but-oh-so-good treats. The peanut butter base is perfect with a stir-in of the same candies that give monster cookies their famous flavor and look.

Freezer Fudge a la Monster Cookie


  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1 overripe banana
  • 2 tbsp real maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp M&Ms candies
  • 2 tbsp white chocolate chips
  • 2 tbsp semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • pinch salt


  1. Use a stick blender or a food processor the combine and smooth peanut butter, banana and maple syrup.
  2. Fold in M&Ms and chocolate chips.
  3. Scoop out tablespoon-sized portions and place in a silicone ice tray or mini muffin pan.
  4. Place tray or pan in freezer until confections are solid.
  5. Pop out confections and place them in a freezer-safe container lined with parchment paper.
  6. Power up with a couple of these before a workout, or reward yourself after for a job well-done!

A Snack That Can’t be Beet – Bright Magenta Beet Hummus

beet hummus n

Healthy? Yes, but more importantly beautiful and delicious! Imagine this wine-colored spread on crispy crackers or as part of a vibrant plate of garden-fresh crudités.

This hummus is just as creamy and smooth as my white bean hummus recipe. My favorite thing about hummus is the flavorful marriage of garlic, lemon, and cumin. Inspired by a couple of beets in the fridge, I decided to do what beets like best – roast them. Roasting brings out the sweetness in this beautiful root vegetable. I substituted beets for the white beans in my original recipe and was really happy that the main garlic, lemon, and cumin flavors still shine through. The beets add a subtle earthy, sweet flavor. Best of all, they take the presentation through the roof with their color.

Roasted Beet Hummus


  • 2 medium beets
  • 1 15 oz. can garbanzo beans
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • a few dashes hot sauce. We like Cholula.
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • pepper


  1. Preheat oven to 375° F (190 C. Remove the stem from the beets. Scrub and wash them with cold water.
  2. Place beets in foil, drizzle with olive oil, wrap tightly and roast for one hour or until the tines of a fork pass through without resistance. They should be tender. Let cool slightly.
  3. You should be able to rub the skin off of the beets. Otherwise, use a paring knife to peel off the roasted skin.
  4. Cut beets into chunks. Place in deep bowl.
  5. Rinse and drain beans. Add to bowl.
  6. Combine lemon, cumin, garlic, hot sauce, salt and half of the olive oil with beet mixture. Use a stick blender to mix and purée hummus. This can also be done in a food processor.
  7. Process mixture until smooth, adding more olive oil to reach desired consistency.
  8. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and a crack of black pepper.


Pretzel Dogs – or Finally, a Food Post!

Chewy, soft pretzels with a not-so subtle just-right hit of salt, stuffed with your favorite hot dog – a recipe for a delicious lunch easy to take with or one to stay in with on a snowy spring day.

Many years ago, actually just approaching ten, we decided to move to Alaska. There are many different Alaskas within this beautiful state. The one we chose to move to was the Alaska Bush, a place we knew would be challenging, fascinating and exciting and a place where we knew we would need indoors hobbies to entertain us during cold and dark winters. One of my first goals was to become a baker. To set myself up for success, I sent out hundreds of pounds of different flours, sugars, flavorings, pans, cutters, and a beautiful tapered rolling pin with inlaid bamboo for inspiration (a lovely gift from Jack).

As my baking skills improved, I graduated from bread-in-a-rice-cooker to a a bonafide bread machine. As I continued to improve my baking, I ditched the machines and really dug into the whole process of baking. During my initial education, I enlisted the help of The Great Courses and chef Stephen Durfee from the Culinary Institute of America (via the online class). For six Sundays in a row, the three of us dutifully watched these classes and then baked – with feedback from countless taste-testers. We learned how to create lattice-crusted pies, ganache-topped éclairs, and mousse-filled many layered chocolate cakes. That was just the start. By the way, if you’ve ever wanted to really learn how to bake, I highly recommend the Baking Pastries & Desserts class from the Great Courses. I also highly recommend sharing the experience with friends. It was a lovely introduction into serious baking.

Of course, spending this much quality time with friends can only make friendships grow. After completing our class, my friend Reba and I continued to bake together, share recipes and swap tastes of new creations. Pretzel dogs always remind me of Reba and those baking days in Point Hope. This recipe produces an agreeably light, airy roll and is part of my permanent rotation. Thanks to Reba for the spiral wrapping style!

Pretzel Dogs


  • 1 3/4 cups milk
  • 2 tsp instant yeast
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 10 good quality hot dogs
  • coarse sea salt
  • 1/2 cup baking soda
  • 16 cups water


  1. Whisk milk and yeast together in a large bowl. Let stand for a few minutes until yeast starts to foam.
  2. Stir in oil.
  3. Stir in 1 cup flour and mix until well combined.
  4. Stir in salt.
  5. Mix in remaining 3 cups of flour.
  6. Turn dough out onto floured surface.
  7. Knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes.
  8. Place dough in an oiled bowl, covered with plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled, about 1 ½ to 2 hours.
  9. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  10. Cut dough into 10 equal pieces.
  11. Roll dough pieces into long snakes. Coil dough around each hot dog, pinching the end pieces of the dough to secure it.
  12. Let pretzel dogs rest while you prepare pretzel bath.
  13. Preheat oven to 400° F.
  14. In a large pot, boil 16 cups water and salt.
  15. When water is boiling, stir in baking soda.
  16. Place 2 pretzel dogs in boiling water for 30 seconds. Flip and continue to boil for 30 more seconds. Remove from water with slotted spoon and place on parchment-lined baking sheet.
  17. Repeat with remaining pretzel dogs.
  18. Sprinkle each pretzel dog with coarse salt.
  19. Bake for 20 minutes. Pretzel dogs are finished when they are a rich dark brown.
  20. Let cool for a couple of minutes on baking sheet. 
  21. Serve warm with Dijon or another good quality deli mustard and a delicious red ale.

Easy, healthy, but most importantly – Delicious Chocolate Cranberry Almond Oat Bites

Whether you are getting ready to get on the treadmill, go for a hike or maybe just need a little sweet, these are the cookies – a satisfying bite packed with flavor! Good-bye chocolate chip cookies, hello packed oat cookies!

There is something quite inspiring in completing a major fitness challenge. Jack and I returned home from our 1,300 mile bike trek in Hokkaido revved and looking ahead to The Next Big Thing. With roads outside often treacherously icy and the fact that wild animals in these parts make the whole village nervous if anyone is seen going for a run, we’ve pieced together a gym in our living room. (By the way, all ice is definitely not created equal. Chignik Lake has the slickest ice we’ve ever experienced).

Our gym which is comprised of a treadmill, a stationary spinning cycle, a set of Powerblock dumbbells, and a TRX resistance band. These four pieces of equipment take up very little space and gives us plenty of variety with which to accomplish our fitness goals. Plus, a spin on a bike or a run on a treadmill goes by fairly painlessly with a view of the lake out the window. (Yesterday a group of river otters was playing and fishing on the ice.)

Of course, when we work out, we have to eat – a golden opportunity to get in the kitchen and bake something. In Point Hope, I baked us batches of homemade granola bars to fuel us. During our bike training last year, I made little bites of tahini fudge speckled with coconut and chocolate chips. This time, I wanted to try a granola type creation that would be more like a cookie. These two-bite cookies are packed with oats, dried cranberries, chocolate chips, and almonds -and no processed sugar. They have the texture of a soft cookie and tons of flavor. Better still, they are easy and super quick to make. I’ve been making batches and keeping them in the freezer. After they thaw, they have the same texture and flavor as when they’ve cooled out of the oven. Perfect!

Chocolate Cranberry Almond Oat Bites


  • 1 cup quick oats
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour (I use Bob’s Red Mill Whole Wheat Pastry Flour)
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • pinch salt
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup coarse-chopped almonds


  1. Preheat oven to 325° F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
  2. Whisk together oats, flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl. Set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together melted butter, egg, vanilla and maple syrup.
  4. Pour maple syrup mixture into oat mixture. Stir until combined.
  5. Fold in cranberries, chocolate chips and almonds.
  6. Using a small cookie scoop or tablespoon, scoop out dough and place balls on prepared baking sheet. The cookies will not spread much. Slightly flatten cookies.
  7. Bake cookies for 12 minutes. Let cookies cool on baking sheet for 10 minutes before transferring them to wire cooling rack.
  8. Store cookies in airtight container for a few days. Cookies will freeze well.