Marion Owen Alaska

From whales to plants, mid-summer feeding is a must

After shutting down the boat engine we leaned against the railing to watch two humpback whales feed close to the surface. Winding slowly through the kelp bed, they created small whirlpools with their pectoral fins and tails, like a

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Libby’s Story: Fighting Cancer with Food (and a sweet recipe for moose nuggets)

When Libby McClaren was diagnosed with cancer, the doctor recommended immediate surgery to remove the tumor from her bladder, followed by chemo and radiation treatments. Libby doesn’t recall how she reacted but she needed quiet time.

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In praise of: Oranges (but not that frozen stuff)

Growing up in the rainy Pacific Northwest, winters were gray and summers couldn’t come fast enough. But tagging along with Mom to the grocery store provided some relief. Wheeling the cart along the bins of colorful fruits and veggies, she’d stop and motion for me to pick out an orange.

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Northern Lights Pumpkin Pie: A new twist to a classic recipe

It’s almost Thanksgiving and your assignment is to bring dessert. Eee-gads, what can you create that’s different, but something that even cranky Uncle Ralph will like? Allow me to share my favorite holiday pie recipe: Northern Lights Pumpkin Pie.

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How to bake love: A photo essay

Perhaps more than anything, LIFE magazine and National Geographic influenced my love for photography. Even before I could read the captions, I found the sequential and stand-alone images mesmerizing. The black-and-white photographs, whether published by themselves or in a series to illustrate an article, were story photos that taught me volumes about powerful compositions.
This series of four simple images was taken while my brother Henry made bread during a rare gathering of us siblings. His stage: The granite topped “island” in my sister’s kitchen.

You gotta feel it

“Making French bread is not about the ingredients,” he said. “That’s just flour, salt, water and yeast. It’s the feel of the dough.”

I got it.

Years ago, I worked on a research ship which employed a baker, Ralph Naughton, as part of the galley crew. “How do you know how much flour to knead into the dough?” I asked during a midnight to 4 AM shift. Ralph a quiet man who lost an eye during a bar fight somewhere in Alaska, reached over to the giant bowl sitting in a warm spot near the galley oven and pinched a little dough between his thumb and forefinger. Then he reached up with his other hand and grabbed his ear lobe and gave it a squeeze.
“That’s how you know,” he said, smiling with his eyes.
Henry spun the ball of dough and pulled it over on itself as if performing a dough-ball. I could almost hear the melody. “Many recipes say to add flour until the dough can’t take any more,” he said. “But that makes for a dry, stiff bread.”
Lifting the ball of dough in his hand, he shared a tip I’d never come across. “The dough should sag a little between your fingers.”
Bread, French, how to make bread, knead, kneading, baking, flour, homemade, baguette

The proof is in the proofing

After proofing the dough and punching it down (no magic amount of time here; we simply went for a walk), he pinched–not cut–the dough into four blobs.
Bread, French, how to make bread, knead, kneading, baking, flour, homemade, baguette

Blobs are beautiful

Then he took each blob and shaped it into a lumpy, artsy loaf, rolled it in cornmeal and gently settled it into baguette pans, like a mother would lay a baby into its blanket-lined crib.
“Let it rise a bit, then bake it in a 400 or 450-degree oven for 30 or 40 minutes, depending on the size of the loaf, humidity, or crunch factor you’re looking for.”
Me, I’m looking for a platform for butter!
Bread, French, how to make bread, knead, kneading, baking, flour, homemade, baguette
My brother Henry is a civil engineer; not a professional baker. He lives in Spokane, Washington. I live in Kodiak, Alaska. We see each other oh, once or twice a year. He makes bread as a hobby and a gift. It’s a way of saying, “I love you. It’s good to see you.”
Thank you for stopping by. That’s a gift, too.

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This fudge cake recipe disguises three veggies

Okay, this photo of cake batter might look scary and unappetizing, but trust me, the finished product makes the best fudge cake that’s ever tiptoed across your tastebuds.

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Get in the pink with rhubarb pickles

Just when you think you’ve tried all the rhubarb recipes on the planet, then comes…
Rhubarb pickles
It’s a blast to play with new recipes. Oh, sure, you can find rhubarb pickle recipes on the web, but I found most of them to be impractical, with silly ingredients and silly instructions. My motto is to keep it simple, tasty, healthy and quick, which I tried to accomplish in my last recipe, First Rhubarb: My excuse to dream up a new recipe where I make rhubarb muffins, starting with a homemade, multi-purpose, whole wheat muffin mix.

Rhubarb pickles
There’s life beyond rhubarb pie. (Marion Owen photo)

Back to the pickles > We put up many quart jars of rhubarb pickles and serve them on our Galley Gourmet dinner cruises in Kodiak, Alaska. We top salads and bake fresh salmon stuffed with the sweet and sour chunks. Guests are pretty surprised at the idea of eating pickled “pie fruit.”
Either way you serve ’em, rhubarb pickles are not only rosy-pink beautiful, they’re inspiring, prodding you to try new things. Once you get your creative [pickled] juices flowing, you’ll discover all kinds of ways to add them to dishes. They’re a pickle lover’s pickle, and you can re-use the liquid, too.
Here’s the recipe. Please share, experiment, and let me know what you think. I bet they’d be great sliced thin and packed on a hamburger! (Any takers?)

Rhubarb Pickles

2 cups vinegar (cider or white)
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons pickling spices
1 piece (1-1/2 inch) fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
Peel from 1 orange
3 cups fresh rhubarb, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces
In a non-aluminum medium saucepan, combine the vinegar, sugar, salt, pickling spices. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar is dissolved, about 5 minutes. Slice orange peel into strips and add with ginger to the pan. Cool liquid cool to room temp. Spoon rhubarb into glass jar(s). Ladle in the cooled brine mixture. Cover and refrigerate pickles for one week before eating. They will keep refrigerated for several months.

How to eat a rhubarb pickle

Let the fun begin! You can add dices and slivers to coleslaws, fruit salads and tossed greens; soups, stews and tuna salad. Slice them up for sandwiches and decorate your favorite chicken and seafood dishes (pack a salmon with sliced pickles before baking or grilling). When all the pickled bits are gone, use the leftover vinegar for an awesome salad dressing base.
Thanks for stopping by. Enjoy!

Kodiak, Alaska garden
The Alaska Marine Highway’s ocean-going ferry, the Tustumena passes by our garden in early June–rhubarb harvest time.
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First Rhubarb: My excuse to dream up a new recipe

In coastal Alaska, it’s traditional to celebrate the season’s First Salmon, usually around May 15. Well, we live in coastal Alaska (and love salmon), but we celebrate another  “first”: The First Rhubarb.

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Green eggs and waffles: A recipe my grandmother would avoid

On a rainy Sunday morning, I had a waffle epiphany: If I can add kale to smoothies, why not add it to our favorite oat-bean waffle batter? After all, kale is king these days,

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