Cold-weather foods nourish body, soul

Posted: Friday, October 19, 2001

With Jack Frost already nipping at the noses of Kenai Peninsula residents, warm fires are sure to bring a glow to the dark winter ahead.

And, according to local cooks, those fires aren't just roasting chestnuts. They're cooking meals that are delicious, as well as healthy.

"We serve nutritious foods only," said Jennifer Hubbard, child-care advocate at Sterling Head Start. "We facilitate healthy eating habits with children and their families, so they don't get things such as hot chocolate."

Instead, the Sterling staff's first response to overcome winter's chill is bowls filled with thick, warm soups, such as cream of tomato or chicken noodle.

"And no sweets," Hubbard said. "We make treats with muffins sweetened with honey and applesauce."

For beverages, there's lots of milk, juice and water.

And after meals? The children brush their teeth.

Soup also tops the list at the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank, according to Pam Olson, administrative assistant. Lunch is prepared by three cooks, Monday through Friday, from 11:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m.

"It's open to the public," Olson said. "Anybody is welcome."

What kind of food does Jan Fena, executive director of the Soldotna Senior Center, think of when the temperatures start dropping?

"Chicken and dumplings," she said. "We had that just last week. Another one is moose stew with buttermilk biscuits or corn bread. And baked custard, of course. That's a yummy thing."

Fena said that chilly weather requires heavier foods to "stick with you."

From Monday through Friday, the center serves lunch to approximately 40 Soldotna seniors. The center's "meals on wheels" program provides lunch to 20 homebound individuals every day of the week.

Cooking delicious lunches three days a week is Margaret Phelps. She has lived on the peninsula 20 years, retired from the Central Peninsula General Hospital after cooking there for 14 years and has been with the Soldotna Senior Center for the last four years. Each month, Phelps prepares meals according to a menu prepared by the seniors. This month, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game donated an illegally killed moose.

"It's good meat," Phelps said. "Really good meat. By cutting it up ourselves, we knew exactly what we got."

The Kenaitze Indian Tribe prepares lunch for its elders twice a month, under the watchful eye of Bonnie Juliussen, community health representative and elder advocate. Anywhere from 20 to 50 of the tribe's 150 elders show up to visit and eat the delicious lunches which, on really good days, consist of traditional foods.

"We are lucky to have a tribal member that's a chef," Juliussen said. "She prepares the lunches so we get a good variety. If there's moose meat or fish available, she fixes that. The next luncheon, we're having moose liver and hooligan. Now isn't that something that sounds good?"

Mary Lou Bottorff, the Kenaitze Salamatof housing director, said she often brings in a dish from home to share with her coworkers. Like others, she said soup is a good item this time of year. She happily shared her recipe for corned beef chowder.

"They call it 'hangover soup' here in Kenai," said Bottorff, who has lived in Kenai since 1971.

Corned Beef Chowder

From Mary Lou Bottorff, Kenaitze Salamatof housing director

Boil diced potatoes, carrots and celery together.

Add canned tomatoes that have been chopped up.

Add canned corned beef that has been chopped up.

Add chopped up fresh garlic.

Add salt, pepper and garlic salt to taste.

That's it!

Chicken Enchilada Soup

From Cheryl Morse, cook, Kenai Peninsula Food Bank

1 chicken

1 cup chopped onion

1/2 cup chopped green peppers

1 can corn

1 can kidney or black beans

1 can chopped tomatoes

1 large can enchilada sauce

2 cups tortilla or corn chips, crushed

Salt and pepper to taste

Boil chicken in water until fully cooked and tender.

Remove bones and skin, and chop the meat.

Combine chicken, onions, green pepper, corn, beans, and tomatoes to chicken broth.

Simmer until the veggies are cooked.

Add enchilada sauce and crushed chips.

May also add green chilies or jalapenos, to taste.

Serve with cheese, sour cream, salsa, olives and additional chips.

Moose Stroganoff

From Gale M. Texeira, guest cook, Kenai Peninsula Food Bank

2 pounds of meat

1 large sliced onion

1 small clove of garlic, chopped

Sliced mushrooms

6 cups of chicken or vegetable broth

Salt and pepper to taste

Cooked rice or noodles

1 medium-sized carton of sour cream

Saut mushrooms in butter.

While still a bit frozen, slice meat thinly,

Dredge through cornstarch and saut in olive oil (as in stir-fry) with the onion and garlic.

Turn low, cover and cook until the meat is no longer pink.

After 10 minutes, add broth.

If you desire a cream style sauce, add sour cream.

Serve over rice or noodles.

Add steamed cabbage and some hot rolls or freshly baked bread and you have a hearty warm meal.

Moose Stew

From Margaret Phelps, cook, Soldotna Senior Center

Dice moose into stew meat.

Add chopped garlic and chopped onions to raw meat; bake uncovered until nice and brown, stirring every once in awhile.

Cover it with water, put a lid over it and continue cooking in the oven for an hour to an hour and a half. A little bit of beef soup base can be added during this time, but it is not necessary.

Then add carrots and potatoes.

Thicken it with cornstarch or flour.

Continue cooking until vegetables are done.

Serve with biscuits, cornbread or dinner rolls.

Egg Custard

From Margaret Phelps, cook, Soldotna Senior Center

4 eggs

1/3 cup sugar

2 cup milk

Combine the ingredients.

A little touch of vanilla or other flavor, such as almond, may be added.

Put in a cake pan and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 40- to 60-minutes, or until a knife inserted into the custard comes out clean.

This recipe serves two. Using the same ratio for ingredients, it can be made to serve more or less.

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