April 26, 2011

Noatak [and Kotzebue], Alaska

I traveled to Noatak, Alaska, for a site visit with EJ, a grantee in Kotzebue, AK. Having been to Kotzebue a number of times, I had never traveled to a village in the area. Interestingly, EJ is originally from and grew up in Noatak.

We traveled from Kotzebue via Bering Air, an airline based out of Nome, Alaska, that charters flights to villages and communities in northwest Alaska. 

We flew in a Navajo, a twin-engine aircraft that can seat up to nine passengers and cruises at about 220 miles per hour.

Kotzebue from the window. You will notice that Kotzebue and northwest Alaska still has plenty of snow. 

The flight from Kotzebue to Noatak took about twenty minutes. The view of the arctic was incredible.

The Noatak River, a National Wild and Scenic River since 1980, flows westward to the Chukchi Sea at Kotzebue Sound. The entire course of the river is 330 miles and runs completely north of the Arctic Circle.

Noatak! Where temperatures were a brisk eight degrees and sunny.

After hauling our boxes off the plane, we put them in a sled to be transported to the school; a sled that was pulled by a snow machine. Almost everyone in Noatak (and Kotzebue) travels by snow machine or a four-wheeler.

The village of Noatak.

The village school is where we spoke to and educated community members about the negative health risks of using tobacco. 

Community members included school children. Although tobacco use rates are decreasing overall among Alaskans, children in many rural villages and communities as young as seven and eight are using tobacco, specifically smokeless tobacco. 

In Noatak, it was more common for high school youth to use tobacco than to not use tobacco. These youth are using both cigarettes and smokeless tobacco. A significant number of the smokeless tobacco users are girls. 

EJ sharing information about tobacco and second-hand smoke with youth.

More views of Noatak.

 When the day was over, we loaded the sleds up with our boxes and headed back to the airport. 

The village of Noatak seen from the window of the Navajo.

Inside the Navajo.

Heading back to Kotzebue.

Kotzebue in the distance.

The Chukchi Sea via the Kotzebue Sound. In the forefront is a newly built boardwalk.

Another picture of the Chukchi Sea, a marginal sea of the Arctic Ocean, which is navigable only four months out of the year. The southernmost tip of the Chukchi Sea is formed by the Bering Straight, connecting to the Bering Sea and the Pacific Ocean. 

One of two restaurants in Kotzebue. The Bayside Inn and Restaurant specializes in Chinese/American food. 

The Nullagvik Hotel is the only hotel in Kotzebue.

However, a new hotel is being built and is scheduled to be completed in the fall of 2011.

The streets of Kotzebue at 18 degrees.

I hope you enjoyed this glimpse of northwest Alaska.

Thank you for reading.

Overnight Banana Cashew Pudding

I love bananas and incorporate them into almost every breakfast I have. When I saw that Leanne had a recipe for a banana pudding, I was so excited to try it for breakfast.  Leah was my guinea pig and agreed that this banana pudding passed the test. It was gooey, slightly sticky, but still healthy. We are already looking forward to another helping tomorrow morning after our swim. 

Luckily, I already had all of the ingredients needed to make overnight banana cashew pudding. In the Ball jar is cashew butter...recipe to come!

In a sealable glass dish, mash two bananas.

Add cashew butter (any type of nut butter will work - almond, peanut, etc) and flax seed.

Add any type of nut milk to the bowl. I used unsweetened almond milk which provides a nutty flavor without the extra sweetness of other nut milks.

Stir all ingredients together in bowl, cover and put in refrigerator overnight.

The overnight banana cashew pudding can be eaten cold or warm (Leah and I chose to eat the pudding cold). When the pudding comes out of the refrigerator, it will look slightly brown due to the bananas. Don't worry. The pudding will taste magnificent. 

Stir the pudding and prepare with additional toppings. I used homemade granola, chopped walnuts, coconut and more almond milk. Leah ate her pudding with just homemade granola.

Overnight Banana Cashew Pudding
(makes two servings)

2 bananas
1/2 c almond milk
1/4 c flax seed
2 Tbsp cashew butter

Combine ingredients in glass dish, seal, cover and place in refrigerator overnight. Enjoy the pudding right from the fridge or heated for 45 seconds in the microwave.

Additional toppings can include homemade granola, coconut, nut butter, dried cherries, raisins, chopped nuts, nut milk, honey

Let me know what you think. Enjoy!

April 24, 2011

What to eat...

When I travel to communities and villages in Alaska such as Kotzebue (as was the case this past week), Dillingham, Wrangell, Noatak, Kasigluk, Bethel, etc, the options for a healthy breakfast/lunch/dinner can be slim (especially because "continental breakfast" means pastries, muffins, pastries, and muffins). I usually bring my own breakfast items so I can be confident my day will  start off with a punch.

After a few items have been taken away from me in airport security, I've nailed down a typical (and safe) travel bag of food items.

Using the hot water from either the "continental" breakfast hot water pot or the coffee pot in my hotel room, the staple of my breakfast is usually rolled oats. I pour about 1/2 c oats into the coffee pot from my hotel room (nice and sturdy) and then add 1 c very hot water. If a coffee pot is unavailable, a couple plastic or Styrofoam cups will do justice. 

Toppings include walnuts, banana, coconut and Justin's Nut Butter snack packs. These snack packs are great for traveling because they slide right through airport security (I've had my jar of almond butter taken away from me before...courtesy Juneau airport TSA).

At this point my taste buds are usually going crazy. With a cup of coffee, this breakfast keeps me full for about four - five hours, perfect when lunch can be questionable.


April 23, 2011

Homemade Granola

I love the crunchiness and munchiness of granola.

Considered a "healthy" food, granola is usually very high in calories, while sugar (or some form of sugar) is often times listed as one of the top three ingredients on granola nutrition labels.

I was in the mood to experiment with my own version of granola.

On my "want" list: low sugar content, nutritious, filling, crunchy and flavorful.

Mission accomplished. 

Not too sweet, not too sticky. Just right.

Homemade Granola 
4 c. rolled oats 
1 c. chopped walnuts 
1 c. chopped almonds (I used sliced) 
1/2 c. sunflower seeds 
1/2 c. ground flax 
1/2 c. shredded unsweetened coconut 
1 tbs cinnamon 

1/2 c. honey 
1/4 c. applesauce 
1 tsp vanilla

Add oats, walnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds, ground flax, coconut and cinnamon in a large bowl.

Mix together.

Combine honey, applesauce and vanilla in a saucepan on medium heat, bring to a boil and simmer for about a minute. Remove from burner.

Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix well. The mixture will still look dry. If you want the granola to be sweeter and crunchier, double the wet ingredient mixture and add to dry ingredients.

Spread the mixture in a single layer on a lightly sprayed baking sheet (parchment paper can also be used) and place in a 350 degree preheated oven.

(You may need two baking sheets)

Bake granola for about 15 - 20 minutes, stirring the mixture every 3-5 minutes to prevent from burning.

Let granola cool and pour into sealed container.

My breakfast the next morning = granola, walnuts, coconut almond nut butter, 1/2 banana, coconut and almond milk.


April 19, 2011


Spring in Anchorage means melting snow, 40 - 50 degree temperatures and long(er) and sunnier days.

All were true last weekend...

...so Matt and I went for a mountain bike ride around Anchorage, utilizing the great trail system that makes it easy to navigate the city.

We began on the east side of Anchorage near Bicentennial Park and then passed through the University of Alaska at Anchorage campus trails. These trails led us to the Chester Creek Trail, which guided us toward Midtown Anchorage. 

The melting snow was evident on the trails.

We stopped for a quick snack at Westchester Lagoon and watched the ducks.

We decided to head toward south Anchorage, following C street, International, and Old Seward before catching the Campbell Creek Trail system.

Still sunny and bright at 6:30 PM, we met Leah at Gallo's Mexican Restaurant for dinner.

When we were all finished, Matt and I continued riding for another 30 minutes before heading for home. At 8:00 PM we were still riding with lit skies. 

Matt and I had a great day riding our bikes while enjoying a beautiful spring day in Anchorage.