Archive for the ‘#food’ Tag

Great Alaska Pizza   10 comments

What toppings do you put on your pizza? Is pineapple a real pizza topping?


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Simply Pizza

Ah, Pizza, one of North America’s food groups!

My husband and I consume pizza about twice a month. There’s a great pizza company here in Fairbanks that does a once-a-month Customer Appreciation Day. You have to pick it up, they only have mediums on that day and it only comes in cheese and pepperoni and cheese. We usually pick up two. We consume one that night and he has lunches for the next two days.

Then the other night when we consume pizza, it’s usually a weird one that I made myself.

Either way, there’s always going to be pepperoni on it because it ain’t pizza without pepperoni.

When we customize our pizza, our favorite ingredients are pepperoni, extra cheese, black olive, and mushrooms.

Libertarian Pizza

I’m libertarian, which means I don’t technically care what you put on your pizza. You do you. I will eat pineapple pizza, but I don’t make pizzas with pineapple on them and I don’t order them that way. I think pineapple on pizza is a dodgy idea. People put a lot of dodgy ingredients on pizza. A friend from Australia says Vegemite pizza is quite good. Uh….

But what you want to do with your pie is entirely your business. Enjoy. It’ll leave more pepperoni for me.

Posted October 10, 2022 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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Speaking as a Fruit Bat   12 comments

What is your favorite fruit dish? Can you share a recipe for it? Do you include food in your stories? While we’re talking about food, pumpkin, yea or nay?

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I love fruit. Growing up in Alaska, our selections were few – apples (red or golden delicious), oranges (navels), bananas – and whatever was available in the canned fruit section. I still loved it, but enough visits outside informed me that we were being gyped in the fruit department.

The construction of the TransAlaska Pipeline brought a lot of changes here, including dozens of varieties of apples, several types of oranges, melons, plums, peaches, kiwis – and etc. I love it all so much that at one of the construction companies I worked for, my nickname was “the fruit bat” and the guys knew fresh fruit was an acceptable bribe to get me to do their paperwork special. I’d say my favorite are Bing cherries, but a tart crisp apple or red grape is a close second.

Fresh fruit is still expensive here (thanks to the Jones Act), so I still use canned or frozen fruit a lot. It’s not as good, but it’s affordable. I’ll include some recipes at the end of the article.

Setting the Scene

Yes, I use food in my books because it helps to set a stage. For example, in Life As We Knew It, the one book of Transformation Project that occurs before the apocalypse gets underway, I include a lot of food that is (or was, pre-Covid) available. It conveys the richness of the world my characters take for granted and are about to be jerked from. In my latest WIP in that series, I describe a meal Shane eats. It’s simple, it’s small, it’s what a starving world considers a feast. I think food plays a similar role to clothes in world-building. It’s a condiment that must be sprinkled lightly, but makes all the difference in the flavor of the setting.

I like pumpkin, sort of. I love pumpkin pie and I have both pumpkin bread and pumpkin cookie recipes. But please don’t put it in my latte (shudders!), or my smoothie. I don’t get the attraction. There are just some culinary Rubicons I don’t wish to cross.


My absolutely favorite fruit recipe is simply cut-up fruit in a bowl tossed with a little sugar and a dash of salt or sometimes mixed with yogurt. It’s whatever is available in the produce aisle. Sometimes I add crushed walnuts for variety.

A family favorite is called ambrosia salad. Because I usually make this for the holidays when fresh fruit is limited and expensive here, I base it on fruit cocktail, preferably the chunky variety. I add apples and bananas and sometimes walnuts and it’s all folded into a bowl of homemade whip-cream, with a sprinkle of cinnamon on top.

Alaska blueberries are smaller and tarter than their Lower 48 variety. They have 10 times the antioxidants too. They grow on the hills north of town and in the bogs south of town. They’re not really the same berry, but you really can’t tell the difference between what we call blueberries and what the scientists call bog berries.

We pick our blueberries by hand from our cabin site north of town. We clean them of debris and freeze them on aluminum trays, then store them in the freezer like peas. You can pop the top on the container and roll out a handful into a bowl and put the rest back. I don’t make them into jam or jelly because I really don’t like sweet stuff and it’s too much work — all that cooking and jarring.

For me, a slice of toast with butter on it is more appealing than toast and jam — except — my husband puts our frozen blueberries on toast with honey and warms them in the toaster oven. The thawed blueberries and juice mix with the honey and — yummo.

There’s a local ice cream stand (only open in the summer, but you can buy from their factory all winter) called Hot Licks that makes Alaska blueberry ice cream. I don’t know how they make it, but I willingly plunk down $5 for a cone.

And, no, we don’t add our Alaska blueberries to the ambrosia salad because the juice turns the whip cream an unappetizing purple. We all agreed that was a bad idea that guests wouldn’t understand.

Posted October 12, 2020 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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Smorgasbord of Snacks   5 comments

Tell us about your top five junk foods or your top five healthy snacks.

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I grew up in a restaurant. My dad was a professional chef and my mother was a diner restaurant. So there was always a lot of good food around … or Dad was trying to poison us using us as his test kitchen. Ah, symmetry!

I’m pretty a pretty healthy eater and my top five healthy snacks are different kinds of fruit, sometimes with cheese. But I also really like this hummus spread I make with sour cream, two kinds of olives and red peppers. It can be used as a dip with chips or on thin toasted slices of my homemade bread.
Junk food, in no particular order, is —
French fries – I keep it simple with ketchup. I don’t add salt or pepper. I prefer crinkle cuts, but a deep-fried diner-fry works too.
Chocolate – I would probably run over little old ladies to get to chocolate. It could be dark or milk, but no nuts, crispies, toffee, etc. I just like the pure stuff.
Ice cream – Hotlicks (which is a local ice cream manufacturer) chocolate is my favorite and I could go all winter without any ice cream if it would keep Hotlicks opening every summer.  The chocolate in Hotlicks chocolate is multi-layered. You can taste the complexity and you end up feeling like a wine-snob as you compare it to the experience of some random stranger also enjoying a cone or a cup next to you.
Related imageRootbeer – technically, it’s a beverage, not a food, but it’s empty calories so I think it qualifies. I like the good gourmet rootbeers, preferably with a pronounced vanilla tone. Silver Gulch Brewery in Fox, Alaska, makes a great one that comes in growlers. We try to pick one up when we’re coming back from our land north-east of town.
Ambrosia Salad – fruit cocktail, apples, and bananas mixed in homemade whip cream (you can use Cool Whip, but I don’t). I also don’t add coconut as many recipes suggest, but that’s because I’m allergic. Nor do I add marshmallows, just because I don’t like them. This great holiday dish has got that ying-yang thing going. The fruit is healthy (I use fruit cocktail only because this is Alaska. You could get a better variety of fresh fruit if you live somewhere where fruit isn’t placed in suspended animation for a month before it arrives in the store). But then you turn this way-healthy snack into decadence by mixing it with whip cream.  I always make extra for Thanksgiving and Christmas so I (er, we) can eat it for a few days after.
Now go check out what my fellow writers have to say on the topic.

Posted May 14, 2018 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop, Uncategorized

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Setting the Table   4 comments

August 28, 2017 – Favorite Foods. What are your favorites, something you could eat weekly or more often. Feel free to share a recipe.


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My parents were restaurant workers. Dad was a chef and Mom was a diner waitress. They even owned a restaurant together for a time. So, I grew up with a tradition of bravery with food and food preparation.

Do I have a favorite dish? Wow, that would be a tough one. I have a favorite broad cuisine – Asian/Oriental. I like a smattering of dishes across the continent. I’m not fond of really hot curries, but I do like milder curries. I’m frankly nervous of sushi because raw fish done wrong will kill you, but I do eat it sometimes. Generally whatever the equivalent of pad thai is in a specific country cuisine is my go-to meal option if dining in a Asian restaurant. I figure if they get that right, I’ll come back and try other dishes at a later time.

I’m fortunate to live in one of the most diverse states in the union. Asian/Oriental restaurants outnumber almost all the other cuisines combined. Oddly, most of these restaurants are owned by Koreans, but they offer other Asian cuisine and do a good job at it. But we also have Italian, Greek, Mexican (by real Mexicans), American Pub Style, Middle Eastern, Seafood, Cuban, Fusion, and, of course, American steakhouses. We even have some vegetarian restaurants. Because Alaska is such a unique place, we have Alaskan-style restaurants which concentrate on what can be flown in fresh by Alaska Airlines. Chena Hot Springs resort also specializes in greenhouse grown veggies from their onsite greenhouses.

Image result for image chinese fried riceBut the truth is, we don’t like to spend a lot of money, so we don’t go out to a lot of restaurants. Instead, I make a lot of meals at home. So, our admin suggested a recipe.I have tons, but this is my son’s favorite.

Chinese Fried Rice

  • Make several servings of rice the night before and allow to cool. This is very important. You won’t get good results with warm rice.
  • Cube up Chinese barbecue pork (you can use any meat, but Kiernan likes barbecue pork). This should be tiny pieces.
  • Heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable or canola oil in a wok. Beat eggs with water and make a thin omelette in the wok. Remove from wok and shred into bite-sized pieces.
  • Add more oil to the wok – you could splurge and add sesame oil. Don’t skimp. You want enough oil to coat the individual grains of rice when added.
  • Add a chopped up yellow onion to the hot oil. Add enough soy sauce to double the pan liquid — you can cut it with water if it’s too salty (or use low salt soy).
  • Chop up a red bell pepper (it could be any color, but again, Kiernan likes it that way).
  • Add spices. My favorite are chile powder, ground mustard, tumeric/curry powder, cinnamon. Flavor to taste. I can’t give exact measurements, but I’d guess about 1 tsp each.
  • When the onion is translucent, the pork and a bag of frozen peas and carrots. Stir. (Using frozen makes this a simple recipe. You can use fresh, but you will need to cook before adding to the rice which turns a 15-minute meal into an hour or more)
  • Add cold rice. Break up chunks. Stir to coat individual grains with spices and oil. Add the eggs.

Let mixture warm through. Serve hot.


Now my favorite weeknight meal. It takes 25 minutes.

  • Oil in the wok. Canola or vegetable will do. I find sesame is too strong for this dish.
  • Start rice enough for who you plan to feed.
  • Add cubed up pork (could be chicken, beef or shrimp) to the oil when hot.
  • Add onions and peppers. (I buy these as a frozen mixture for weeknight ease).
  • Add soy sauce (I preferred brewed).
  • Add spices. Tumeric, chile, ground mustard, ground ginger, cumin, cinnamon. Experiment for taste. Stir.
  • When meat is almost done, add one or two bags of frozen Asian vegetables. Stir. We also like to add kale, bokchoy or mustard greens to this, but it’s not necessary and is probably an acquired taste.
  • Pour some bottled sesame-ginger sauce over the warming vegetables. (I make my own, but that’s a lot work for just one meal, and the store brand isn’t bad).
  • Put the wok lid on and turn to low. Come back when the rice is ready. Put stir-fry mixture over rice. The melt water from the veggies and the soy sauce combines with the sesame-ginger sauce to make a great sauce that soaks into the rice.

Image result for image pork stir fryIf it takes more than a half-hour to prepare, you’re doing something wrong or making brown rice, which is a valid excuse. The coolest thing about this is that you can change up the flavors with different bags of vegetables or swap the rice for thin noodles (I prefer whole wheat durum thin spaghetti over Asian noodles, but you can do it YOUR way.) Sometimes we use chow mien noddles, adding them to the top of the dish while the veggies are reducing. It gives a crunchy-soft mix to the flavors.


Posted August 28, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop, Uncategorized

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Steak and Ketchup   Leave a comment

It must have been a slow news weekend for the liberal media, and President Trump didn’t give them enough to get hysterical about, so they decide in mass to feign outrage about how he eats his steaks. Apparently, Trump likes his steaks well-done and eats them with ketchup. Look, I’m not a fan of well-done steaks and the idea of putting ketchup on a fine steak horrifies me. If I had to guess, my hunch is that Trump’s penchant for well-done steaks is likely related to his well-documented fear of germs and his desire to not see any blood, rather than his palate. The ketchup thing I can’t speak to. Maybe it’s to flavor up a burnt steak.

Image result for image of steak and ketchupThat said, the level of vitriol and posturing associated with this revelation about Trump’s eating habits lacks all sense of proportion. It’s alright to feign outrage in an obviously humorous way about such matters. A social media friend, for example, exclaimed that real men don’t eat their steaks well-done, a sentiment I generally concur with, but a lot of the reaction has not been intended as humorous. Check out these bitter invective-filled rants from A.V. Club and Jezebel for example.

The reason the President’s eating habits have the liberal culture enforcers in such a lather is because they reinforce their stereotype of Trump as an uncouth ruffian that wealth has failed to civilize. There is some truth to this characterization, and I say this as someone who is sympathetic to Trump. The problem for the liberal Trump haters, though, is that this reality cuts both ways.

I observed very early on in the campaign that the reason the Manhattan elite crowd has never liked Trump and has never accepted him as one of their own is because they view him as vulgar “new money.” While modern “old money” isn’t what it used to be with its acclaimed WASP sense of propriety and decorum, Trump still does not pass muster with the new more relaxed version. In many ways, Trump is indeed the personification of new money faux pas. The ostentatiousness. The glitz and glitter. The name emboldened on all his properties. Bragging about his net worth and business success. Etc

The overreaction to how Trump eats his steaks is an example of this dynamic at play. Ironically, much of it is coming from faux sophisticated posers who are likely struggling paycheck to paycheck like many Trump supporters but want it known that they hold all the approved opinions of the better off crowd they yearn to join. I’m sure, for example, those freelance writers at Jezebel or food editors at A.V. Club, unless they have another source of wealth, aren’t exactly bringing home big money.

Trump has long been known for his pedestrian culinary preferences anyway, conspicuously including a fondness for fast food. The feigned outrage over Trump’s choice of condiments among the faux sophisticate set just so happens to synergize with the currently raging “foodie” craze that is popular among much the same crowd. I don’t doubt that there are people who enjoy good quality food, but I’m convinced that a lot of foodie culture is, like the related and even more obnoxious beer snob culture, largely an affectation intended to signal social identity rather than a genuine interest in overpriced and small portioned food and undrinkable hoppy beers. Imagine the delight of a liberal foodie upon discovering this story. He gets to signal his culinary sophistication and dis Trump all in one fell swoop.

Trump’s status as an outsider among NYC elites has been a feature since he first became a public figure in the 80s. Spy Magazine, for example, notoriously carried on a vicious long-running campaign to ridicule Trump that was clearly motivated by personal animus and not just a desire to sell magazines. Despite moving from Queens to Manhattan, Trump’s failure to be accepted by the elite club seems to have put a chip on his shoulder which I have long sensed at least partially motivated his run for President to begin with. I definitely believe it influences his preference for wealth created by building and making things as opposed to the finance capital that is a disproportionate source of wealth among rich Manhattanites.

Much to the chagrin of Trump’s detractors, however, Trump’s obvious outsider status is the reason why plain folks in Flyover Country embraced him as one of their own instead of just another rich guy from New York City. This is really an amazing thing that deserves comment. Trump supporters are the same crowd that Pace targeted with a series of ads in the 80s and 90s threatening to hang the guy who bought picante sauce that was made in the despised “New York City.” Who can forget the call to “Get a rope?” These are the same people among whom “New York values” polled poorly enough to prompt Ted Cruz to play that card in the primary. Yet these same people embraced Trump with a fervor that they never had for McCain or Romney.

What so many liberal sophisticates continue to miss is that many of Trump’s behaviors that so appall them are what make him more relatable to his supporters. They love the Donnie from Queens who likes Kentucky Fried Chicken, puts ketchup on his steak and swills mass quantities of Diet Coke, much more than they would a Donald from Manhattan who wants to ban Big Gulps, and they don’t care what pompous food editors at pop culture websites think about it. While they may come from and inhabit very different worlds, they have the same enemies. The same people who look down their noses and tut-tut Donald Trump’s shenanigans are the same people who look down their noses at their “redneck” ways. Trump is their uncouth billionaire, and all the feigned outrage from the liberal media only reinforces this more.

Source: Steak and Ketchup

Posted March 4, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in cultural divide

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Good Eats   3 comments

January 16 – list your 5 favorite foods you could not live without

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If we’re just talking about foods … this is going to be a hard one. There are entire cuisines I would not want to live without.

Image result for image of alaska blueberriesFruit – pretty much any kind, but if I had to choose one … Alaska blueberries, which are different from Lower 48 blueberries. Much tarter and,  if regular blueberries are a superfood, Alaska blueberries are a mega-superfood.

Lamb – or mutton — I just really like sheep. Growing up in Alaska, I trained my pallet to enjoy game meat, which I can’t buy at the grocery store. Lamb is readily available in the grocery case. I actually like mutton more, but it’s hard to come by here. You have to rent a 4-H kid to raise it for you.

Broccoli – I just love it as an overall vegetable.

Chocolate – Everybody needs something that’s appeals to their sweet tooth and chocolate is that for me. I like mine straight – no nuts, nugets, caramels or toffees.

Bread – It’s the staff of life, so I can’t leave it off the list. I bake my own. It’s based on a sourdough starter, but it isn’t necessarily sour. I add a lot of whole grains and it’s very chewy and artisan, unless I want it to be light and fluffy and then I can do that too.

Posted January 16, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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Local Means Limited   Leave a comment

I have yet to buy into the “buy local” movement. My reasons are sane and solid. It’s November in Alaska and you can’t grow anything here. Fairbanks has a great potato crop in the summer, Delta manages some really nice barley, and there is hope we might someday be able to grow industrial hemp here, but the fact is that we have about a 4 1/2 month growing season at best. cold soils that limit what grows here even in the summer, and the rest of the time the ground is frozen and you can’t grow anything in frozen ground.

Image result for image of a farmers marketConversely, I am an advocate for local farms and especially for greenhouses that can grow food year-round because I am well-aware that a storm in the Pacific or a longshoremen strike in Seattle or the Port of Long Beach could see Alaskans fighting over that last potato.

But let’s be honest about the arguments for “buy local” and admit that they’re mostly fallacies.

When I sat down to draft the third book of Transformation Project, I was struck by how little Emmaus really could generate on its own. I gather things like crop yields and available foodstuffs from a real town in Kansas and I asked my mathy 17-year-old to check my figures. A farm town in Kansas would seem to be in a really good position for whether a food crisis brought on by a loss of transportation hubs … and it does have an advantage over other parts of the country that that import most of their food. My town has a lot of corn, a small amount of soy, a little bit of sorghum … and no means to process any of it from its harvested state into something useful. Even if I fictionalized and created a wheat harvest, they’d be hand-grinding wheat for flour.

Image result for image of november street in fairbanks alaska

Oh, my!

That works to my benefit for showing how ill-prepared Americans would be for the sort of man-caused disaster that I propose in the books, but it also made me well aware that the “buy local” movement doesn’t know much about reality.

Very few of the products that the Buy Local movement asks us to purchase “locally” are actually local. Here in Alaska, local produce is expensive produce. We only grow about 2% of our needs currently and then only in the summer months and the local farmers are very impressed with the quality of their goods, so $7 a pound tomatoes are the norm. Buying local artificially limits variety and increases cost.

And then there’s all of the rest of what goes into farming. The farming equipment isn’t produced locally. For the most part, neither is the fertilizer or the feed for farm animals, which themselves are often imported. The vehicle used to transport the goods to the farmers market wasn’t manufactured here and since the North Pole Refinery closed down, neither is the fuel. The bags that are used to store the produce aren’t made from a local source and the plastic produce boxes come from China.


The local “Local Market” employs a few people, selling mostly overpriced food that was shipped in from the Matanuska Valley (is 250 miles away “local”) or, in winter, from Seattle (is 2000 miles away “local”?), but nothing like the Fred Meyers does (it ships in from Seattle too), so I have to wonder if buying “local” might not put a lot of people out of jobs. Certainly truckers would need to find other employment.

Now, think about this —

If your town thinks it best to only purchase within its borders, then surrounding towns should logically follow suit. Inter-town trade would grind to a halt. In so doing, those towns would limit the number of people and the amount of money in the local economy – systematically making themselves poorer … or in the case of Emmaus, more likely to starve to death.

So, Emmaus has corn. Assuming they have the fuel to harvest it, how are they going to get the lye to nixolate it so that it becomes digestible. They have milk cows that require feed which they may or may not have once winter sets in. They might want some sort of oil for cooking and you can render oil from corn if you have the means to press it, but alas, there is no such machine in my subject town, so …. Then there’s the need for Vitamin C to ward off scurvy, but as far as I can tell, nobody grows anything much there that would provide that needed nutrient. There’s a nearby town that is growing sugar beets so if the Emausians want something sweet … but, no, if they’re going to adhere to the “local only” ideology … yeah …. Their options rapidly become very limited. My son believes about 10% of the town might survive the winter if they eat the organic corn, but then that means they have no seed for the following year. See the dilemma?

This system of restricting trade and advocating a level of self-sufficiency is referred to as autarky.  History is riddled with different examples of this economic asceticism. Like the recent case of North Korea, most were despotic in nature and left a great many people in poverty.

In Transformation Project, the solution was found in trade with other towns. There’s still going to be some starvation (it’s an apocalyptic after all), but with an active trade network, the survivors won’t be so apt to malnutrition.

The Buy Local movement promotes subsistence disguised as “social capital” and regression disguised as “conservatism.”  Throughout the course of human events, the most prosperous economies have always fled from these fallacious ideas, not because of any moral superiority, but because the alternative was much better.  People in early Europe wanted spices from Asia and the Middle East. The Japanese Meiji Restoration modernized the country by opening its borders to trade.

In America, as Desrochers and Shimizu point out in The Locavore’s Dilemma,

If modern-day activists were to cling to any consistent notion of “local” food, a truly “made in the USA” agricultural diet would be limited to turkeys, some farmed native fish and shellfish, sunflowers, blueberries, cranberries, Jerusalem artichokes, and some varieties of squash.

Don’t get me wrong. I like my local’s farmer’s market and wander through there weekly (in the summer) to see what my local farming friends have on offer, but I recognize that it’s really not local and that there are more efficient ways to get our food — provided an earthquake doesn’t take out the Port of Long Beach.

Posted November 29, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in economics

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How Government Encourages Food Waste | Baylen Linnekin   Leave a comment

Dumped cherriesCountries around the world are enacting new legislation to combat food waste. Hidden behind many of these government campaigns to reduce food waste is the frequent cause of that food waste: other government regulations.

Source: How Government Encourages Food Waste | Baylen Linnekin

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