Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Cottage Cheese Loaf

One of my favorite meals is Cottage Cheese Loaf!

I know, I know, you can hardly stop salivating. But trust me, you'll love this and it's a fantastic Meatless Monday option for all you carnivores who decide to take one day off each week.

Before I dish out the recipe let's start with a bit of history. Food and history - I'm rockin' your world today!

Cottage Cheese Loaf came to the Vegetarians of this family the way most great recipes do - through family. My Aunt Lonnie used to make our tummies purr with this dish. A few points of clarification before I continue:
1. Aunt Lonnie wasn't really my aunt but a dear friend of my mom's...I will stop with that because tears and Steamdot Bee-ena's don't mix. What is a Bee-ena you ask? Stop distracting me!
2. Eventually I discovered Aunt Lonnie used Cottage Cheese Loaf to clean out the fridge. All leftovers were game. Who knew? Who cares? Still love it!
3. My brother is not a fan of the nuts in this recipe. His distaste for nut-inclusive casseroles began at a young age and continues to this day. Sad, I know. Do not be dissuaded, Cottage Cheese Loaf is delicious with or without the nut component.

Recipe time!

Cottage Cheese Loaf


  • 1 box of corn flakes
  • 1 to 1and 1/2 cups walnuts/almonds/pecans
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 envelope dried onion soup mix
  • 1/4 cup milk ( if needed for correct consistency)
  • 1 large carton of cottage cheese

How to make it

  • Into BLENDER put the 4 eggs. nuts, and dry onion soup mix
  • Process until completely combined and smooth.
  • In large mixing bowl put complete contents of carton of cottage cheese
  • Then use the cottage cheese carton as measure for the cereal
  • Fill carton TWICE...pour both into mixing bowl
  • Now pour in the contents from the blender, and the oil.
  • Mix well.
  • Add enough milk to make the mixture pliable - not soupy
  • Grease a 13x9 pan
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes or until knife inserted comes out clean
  • I don't worry about over baking - the crispy edges are the best part
  • Let rest for 10 minutes before eating
  • Enjoy!
Note: You can add anything you want to this casserole, as per Aunt Lonnie. Just ensure you adjust your corn flakes or milk to get the texture to pliable - not soupy.

I'm guessing I'm not the only one who grew up eating Cottage Cheese Loaf. So let me hear it! Love it? Hate it? I look forward to your Cottage Cheese Loaf stories!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Hello world! And GUNS!

Hello world!

Wow! it’s been awhile since I’ve been here and how I’ve missed it. There’s nothing quite like putting your thoughts down on a page. Ah the gift of writing. Releasing thoughts into the universe to land where they may...

Enough philosophy.

News flash! This Canadian woman is not fond of guns. I know, I know, all you Alaskans are shocked and horrified. I’d say I’m sorry, but I’m not. So I won’t.

I understand guns serve their purpose - lions and tigers and bears! Oh my! I’ll even be the first to admit there are probably situations I could find myself in that I’d like to have a gun and know how to use it safely. So far, I’ve succeeded at avoiding those situations.

Those of you who have read my blog in the past may recall the post titled “Eskimo-Spoused Vegetarian Moms of Canadian Origin” in which I bemoaned my stress about the No. 1 son visiting the gun range. It was then I discovered the discussion of my children firing weapons gives me an irregular heart rate and causes me to sweat profusely. Now that I think about it, perhaps it induces a stroke!

Needless to say, I was relieved when the hunter’s education test was finished and gladly returned to my blind hope that the topic would never re-emerge. Ah, the bliss of naivety!

My bliss came to an end during an unsuspecting drive to the orthodontist last week.

“Hey Mom,” says the No. 1 son, “do you think we could find a way to get me an inside tour of the crime lab armory so I can see all the cool guns they have?”

Now I’m a cool mom, so naturally my response involved the onset of hyperventilation accented by the stuttering of half words.

“Wh...wh...ho...wh...wh!” I sputtered.

This, I believe, was an intelligent response. Not only did I include the five W’s of journalism, but I stayed conscious and didn’t cause an accident! 

The No. 1 son knew exactly the effect his question would have and quickly followed it up with, “Actually, I’m just wondering if I can go to the gun range to shoot hand guns with my uncle.”

I might have had a stroke at that moment but cool mom kept it together.

“Uhhhhhh... we’re at the orthodontist,” I intelligently responded.

This is a good time to mention that my husband is a genius.

Naturally I told him about the conversation with the No. 1 son and about my cool mom response. He didn’t once sigh, shake his head in dismay, or interrupt me. (See, genius.) He simply allowed me to finish my story and embark on a rant about gun control. He listened attentively the entire time and when I was finished he assured me it would all be ok and we didn’t need to think about all of this right now.

Hello again blissful naivety! How I’ve missed you!

I assure you I’m marginally embarrassed to admit my inclination towards avoidance on this topic, but there it is.

How do I balance my desire for them to actively participate in cultural activities like fall moose hunting with my sheer terror of them touching a firearm?

When I figure it out, I’ll let you know!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Dutch Oven Roasted Porcupine Recipe

When camping, many Alaskans prefer to gather and catch their dinner.  The gathering part is clearly the vegetarian portion of the feast. Fiddlehead ferns, fireweed shoots, berries, spruce tips, rose hips and mushrooms (chosen with great care).

The Eskimo half, however; is usually composed of some kind of small game. Fish is the obvious choice, but, in case you are tired of fish, there are other options available to you. 

Birds, there are several species you can enjoy, the problem is you have to catch them. This process is complicated by their flying and such. Less air-borne options include rabbit or squirrel. Let’s face it though, the first is too cute and the second is EWWW!

Turns out there is an additional option which is just ugly enough to bear killing for dinner; the lowly porcupine. These beasts are slow, easy to hunt, and have enough meat on them to feed a small crew of campers.

Clearly, I’m not speaking from experience. This recipe was gleaned from our good friends, Dustin and Alasha Brito. Truth is neither of them is Eskimo or vegetarian, but they are Alaskan through and through! Additional truth, my Eskimo husband has never eaten a porcupine. But it’s worth noting he would never tire of fish so it wouldn’t be necessary.

Hence, if you plan to camp in rural Alaska but don’t feel like fish for dinner, go with Dustin and Alasha! Or try your hand at the recipe they’ve provided.

Dutch Oven Roasted Porcupine

1 porcupine (no-known vegetarian substitution)
2 - 3 potatoes
3 - 4 carrots
1 - 2 onions
olive oil
salt and pepper

Locate a porcupine. Once located, no need to waste a bullet, porcupines are slow. Just find a large stick and treat it like a fish; whack it on the head till it stops twitching.

Use said stick weapon to transport your kill back to camp so as not to quill yourself. Build a fire. Drop your catch in and roll it around with earlier-employed stick to singe the quills. They’ll shrivel up like hair. There are other methods of ridding the beast of its quills, but they are not nearly as interesting so I’ve left them out.

Clean it, quarter it; don’t ask me how. Just find someone who can do it, or take a field dressing guide with you and go for it!

Back to your fire, build it up big and let it burn down to coals while you prepare your meat.

Cut root vegetables into large chunks and place in the dutch oven.

Rub the quarters of porcupine with olive oil and season with salt, pepper and garlic. Place meat into the middle of the dutch oven with vegetables surrounding it. Drizzle with additional olive oil and sprinkle salt, pepper and garlic on vegetables to taste.

Place the dutch oven deep into the coals of the fire. Shovel coals onto the top of it. Keep the fire going and move additional hot coals as needed to keep dutch oven hot.

Check for doneness after 45 minutes. Cut into a thick piece of meat to see if it’s browned through. It will likely take 60 - 90 minutes to cook.

Pull dutch oven out of the fire. Serve and (ah-men) enjoy.

Next camping trip: Porcu-bacon!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Eskimo-Spoused, Vegetarian Moms of Canadian Origin Support Group

There should really be a support group for Eskimo-spoused, vegetarian moms of Canadian origin whose 12-year-old sons are taking their hunters education test! I realize this is a narrow demographic, but today I’d make good use of it!

At 8:20 this morning I sheepishly signed a document which basically stated - I’m paraphrasing here - the two florescent-orange clad men you see before you, whom you have never met, are here-by allowed to spend the day teaching your son how to handle and fire a gun.

Really?! Kripes!!!

I signed it.

The email I received two weeks ago was supposed to be reassuring. Don’t worry, it stated,  there’s no need to bring your own gun, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game has 22 rifles your child can use. And fear not, there will be a very thorough permission slip for you to sign releasing us of all liability from injury to said child. 

Oh yeah, feeling much better now!

This might just be me, but I’d really like the instructors to bear some responsibility for the welfare of my child! And, by the way, when they say they have 22 rifles for them to use, are they referring to quantity or type? Because I only saw two instructors, so I’m thinking there should really only be two rifles!

This is a culture-melding experience that is particularly difficult for me. Growing up, while I came from an incredibly outdoorsy family, I don’t recall ever seeing a gun. I knew some were around, but I never had to look at one, much less fire one. Now that I find myself living in a place where bears show up across the street. Suddenly a gun seems like a decent addition to the household.

Then there’s the cultural factor. My husband’s family has been hunting for survival as long as time itself. Getting a moose each fall may not be necessary for survival anymore, but it’s definitely a very important way to support the community. Hunting and fishing in the Yupik culture isn’t done for just your own family. The able bodied hunt for those who can’t. That is still the practice today.  

How could I not further a cultural value of supporting others? Hence, when my 12-year-old son (who, by the way, is also a vegetarian) tells me he wants to learn how to hunt so he can go with Dad and Uppa, I say yes. I’m not going to lie; while my eyes filled with tears of joyful pride, my heart rate increased and I began employing the same breathing technique I learned in childbirth class. But I still said yes.

So here I sit. Drinking my coffee, writing to you, watching the time creep by as I wait for 2 PM - the hour my son will be returned to my care. There will be much rejoicing! 

In the mean time, hee-hee-who-who, hee-hee-who-who, hee-hee-who-who...

Friday, February 17, 2012


Hello. My name is Denise and I am an Ancestry.com addict.

I feel so much better getting that off my chest! My addiction runs deep. So deep, in fact, that it has kept me from my blog! Actually I don't even want to be writing this right now. I’d rather be on Ancestry.com!

The obsession began innocently enough; a brief conversation with my aunt that started me thinking. Hmm... One thing led to another and the next thing I knew I surfing the Ancestry wave! There I was clicking on those little leaves and getting a rush. I’m not proud but I’m jonesin’ for a little Ancestry just describing it to you.

Trust me when I say I could go on for a very long time telling you about the things I’ve discovered in my family’s background. There are civil and revolutionary war veterans; heroes even, from the North and the South, Loyalists and Patriots. There are ministers of every variety of protestant denomination - a common thread throughout our family - including a profound number of Quakers. There is a band of outlaw brothers who are referenced in nearly every history book that addresses the revolutionary war. I blame them for everything that’s wrong with my family! There’s even a decent quantum of royal blood. That line dead-ended with a man born in 1440 named Sir Lancelot! I’m just sayin’!

Investigation of the “vegetarian” side naturally led to the same for the “Eskimo” side. That was a short-lived effort. I did find reference to my mother-in-law by way of a census when they lived in Washington and... that was about it.

I’m not surprised. There aren’t many early Alaskan records, and that is compounded by the fact that records of Alaskan Native populations were even more sparse than that of the white population. In addition the obvious and already-stated complications, there is the fact that my husband’s grandfather was the first generation to use more than one name.

You see, in the world that was early 1900s rural Alaska, there was no need to have a first name and a surname. People lived in isolated regions with those they’d known for generations.

That all changed, however, when the missionaries arrived - a lot changed then but those are different stories for different times. Call it an egocentric world view, the selfish desire to be able to call people by names familiar to them, or a method of stripping away the identity of an indigenous population - for several reasons “Christian” names were assigned. In turn, in the case of Gary’s grandfather, his Yupik name became his surname. Hence my husband’s grandfather and all his brothers have different last names. In other words, if you find a Chythlook, they aren’t just related to us, they are very closely related.

Imagine my surprise then when I located a WWII draft registration card written for a 54-year-old man named Nikita Chythlook living in Aleknagik, Alaska. This record provokes several questions. First off, neither my father-in-law or my mother-in-law know who this is. Secondly, in 1942 there were only 5 Chythlooks in existence to our knowledge; my husband’s grandfather and his wife, along with my father-in-law’s 3 older siblings, the oldest of which would’ve been about 8. Finally, all these Chythlook’s lived in Togiak - not Aleknagik - at the time.

One clue about the record is who filled it out: a man named Frank Waskey; who my in-laws know. Frank Waskey was a friend of my husband’s grandfather - the first Chythlook.

Commence pointless, yet amusing, speculation:
It is possible there was another man, living in Aleknagik, with the given name Chythlook, which would’ve then become his surname. The name Nikita, having Russian origin, is one that Russian orthodox missionaries may have given. If this is the case, this man, along with any possible descendants died before our Chythlooks moved to Aleknagik just a few years later because they have no memory of them. This possibility is unlikely though, seeing as these two areas were connected through hunting and fishing. The chances of them not knowing of each other is slim.  

A second possibility is that this man was related in some way to my husband’s grandfather but had not been given a “Christian” first name, and thereby would not have a surname. Frank Waskey may have simply assigned him “Chythlook” in order to fill in the “Last Name” box and have some kind of reference about who the person was. 

Thirdly, there is a chance that Frank Waskey didn’t know very many men with a last name and - in honor of his friend - he simply gave this person the last name of Chythlook!

Naturally I asked my in-laws to shed some light on their ancestral tree. Those of you who just laughed out loud know that’s easier asked than understood. The family tree has so many limbs going in each and every direction it’s more like a bush! In fact, I have decided that Ancestry.com may not be able to keep up with the “Eskimos” of the Vegetarian-Eskimos!

So where does that leave my ancestral hunt? Well, filling in the details of name and place may be difficult but it doesn’t matter. I know the answer to my original question.

The Chythlooks are Yupik Eskimos from the Bristol Bay region - the place that’s always been - having lived there longer than any record would show. They are a people who have successfully adapted to a harsh and ever-changing environment to thrive for thousands of years. They are leaders in their community; past, present and future. But most importantly,  they knew who they were before I ever thought to ask the question and I am overwhelmed with the honor of being a Chythlook. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Fabulous Fireweed and Fiddleheads

The Alaskan summer has arrived in all its glory! There’s nothing quite like watching the grass go from brown to green almost overnight, the buds appear on the trees in what seems like the blink of an eye, and daffodils and tulips pop up in my friends' yards who, unlike me, had the forethought to plant them last fall.
This is truly my favorite time of the summer. My Steamdot view still includes snow on the mountains in the distance, but now also has hints of green close up. School is nearly out – next week, in fact – so the kids are going crazy, staying up late and, in Grant’s case, running around naked in the front yard!
Now that summer is here, the urge to harvest is creeping in. The buds are coming on the trees and the grass is green. Birch sap has been collected – although not by me this year – and pretty soon the fireweed will turn red and the fiddleheads will show up! By the end of the summer the berries will come on and we’ll be heading for the fall. Yes, yes, I know there are fish that come around during the summer too. That’s Gary’s department.
So today I’m planning my summer harvest. This year it’s all about fireweed jelly and pickled fiddlehead ferns. I thought I'd share my plans in an attempt to ensure I actually follow through with them!

Fireweed Jelly
8 cups fireweed blossoms (no stems!)
¼ cup lemon juice
4 ½ cups water
2 pkgs Sure Gel (or other powdered pectin)
5 cups sugar
·         Pick, wash, and measure 8 cups of fireweed blossoms (flower part only!)
·         Add 1/4 cup lemon juice and 4-1/2 cups water.
·         Boil 10 minutes and strain.
·         Take the strained juice and heat to lukewarm. Add 2 pkgs Sure Jell (or other powdered pectin) and bring to boil.
·         Add 5 cups sugar and bring to full boil.
·         Boil hard for 1 minute. Pour into hot clean jars and seal.
·         Process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
Now for the fiddleheads! These ferns are quite reminiscent of asparagus when pickled. Fiddleheads are also known as trailing wood fern. Pick them when they are still coiled together. Covered with brown coating that is removed before eating. They should always be cooked before eating.

Pickled Fiddlehead Ferns
Fiddlehead Fern, Raw 1 Gallon
Garlic, Raw 8 Cloves
Dill Weed, Dried 1 Cup
Red Pepper 1 Cup
Water 2 Quarts
Apple Cider Vinegar 6 Cups
Pickling Salt 1/2 Cup
·         Pick and clean about one gallon fiddleheads (best with about 3 inches stem and before they curl out).
·         Leave soaking in water until just before using them. Place in a colander to drain.
·         Sterilize jars and lids
·         In large pan, pour 8 cups water, 6 cups apple cider vinegar and 1/2 cup pickling salt. This mixture has to be boiling when poured over fiddleheads.
·         Take sterile jars out of water and sit on thick towel. Place equal amounts of garlic in each jar. Place approximately 3 stems of dill weed or about 3/4 tablespoon of store bought dill weed and 1/2 teaspoon of crushed red pepper in each jar with garlic.
·         Stuff drained fiddlestick on top of garlic, dill and peppers. I try to pack mine tight by pushing the fiddleheads down into the jars, otherwise they tend to be bulky and take up a lot of space.
·         Pour boiling vinegar mixture over fiddleheads leaving a small space at top of jar. Quickly cover with sterile lid and ring and tighten immediately. I do this one jar at a time to prevent cooling prior to a good seal.
·         Place all sealed hot jars aside on thick dry dishtowel and cover with potholders and dishtowels to prevent rapid cooling. After jars cool, check that they have sealed properly. Label and let sit in pantry for a month or two.
·         They are best if served chilled.

Another way to prepare fiddleheads is to marinate them. For short term use give this recipe a try!
Marinated Fiddlehead Ferns
4 cups cleaned fiddleheads
12 oz. wine vinegar
5 Tbls Pickling spice
1 cup molasses
2 tsp white pepper
1 cup oil
1 clove garlic
1 tsp onion powder
·         Steam fiddleheads 3-5 minutes. Drain and set aside in gallon glass jar or ceramic crock.
·         Place vinegar, pickling spice, molasses, white pepper, oil, garlic and onion powder in a stainless steel pan and bring to boil
·         Pour mixture over fiddleheads and let stand 2-3 days.
·         Strain and serve.
Happy harvesting!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Some Things Just Aren't Funny

I can't be funny today. There is simply no humor in my topic. I began the morning thinking I'd write something amusing about one idiosyncrasy or another. But then I took a few minutes to check Facebook before I began.

Admittedly I was looking for inspiration so I shouldn't be upset with what I found. Still, I am upset - sad, is really a more appropriate a description. I saw this link, courtesy of my friend Terzah, which I've included here to a Globe and Mail story.  Realizing I hadn't exercised my Canadian in awhile, I clicked it.

Upon beginning the article I nearly abandoned it. My eyes were brimming by the end of page one. But, rather than giving into the temptation of avoidance, I pushed on. After all, I'd gone to Facebook for inspiration.

I sat in my Steamdot corner reading and crying, crying and reading. Be advised it is not for the faint of heart. There is death, violence, abuse, hopelessness and much more; but there is also LIFE. Not just life, but hope as well. Granted, it is only a glimmer of hope, but it is there because where there is life (altogether now) THERE IS HOPE.

The story is a cross section of life in Nunavut, Canada. While Alaska is in no way Canada, and native people groups are not "all the same" - quite to the contrary - still the similarities are unavoidable. I see Dillingham, I see Kotzebue, I see many of Alaska's rural communities that are suffering a similar situation.

Like all overwhelming problems, there is no easy solution.  The government can't fix it, the church can't fix it, the community can't fix it, the family can't even fix it. These are personal/spiritual issues. The community, as a whole, can only create an environment in which people can heal and thereby the issues will be fixed.

Don't misunderstand, I'm not here to preach. This is not my mission. This is my life.

I am, by proxy of my husband and my children, Alaska Native. You can argue with me. You can say I'm white, I'm a vegetarian, I'm urbanized; the list can go on forever. But if you say those things then I say; you don't know me, you don't know my marriage, you don't know my home.

I am not the only person out there who doesn't look the part but feels this connection deeply. We're everywhere and some of us didn't even marry into it.

So today this is what I have to offer. I promise, next week, to focus once again on smiles.

The trials of Nunavut: Lament for an Arctic nation