Recipes from Bamfield: Peanut butter crackle-top cookies

by Amanda Kahn

I…I don’t even have a photo of these cookies that can go along with this post–they were all eaten so quickly.  Eric Clelland, the very capable research coordinator at BMSC, not only is great at coordinating research but, as it turns out, is a masterful cookie baker.  Eric brought in a tub of these soft, peanut buttery cookies and they were gone within the day.  Really, within the morning.  I am partly responsible.

Peanut Butter Crackle-Top Cookies:

3/4 cup margarine (175ml)
3/4 cup granulated sugar (175ml)
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed (175ml)
1 egg, slightly beaten
3/4 cup peanut butter (175ml)
1 tsp vanilla (5ml)
1-3/4 cup all-purpose flour (425ml)
1/2 tsp baking soda (2ml)
1/2 tsp salt (2ml)

Cream margarine and sugar together, add the egg and vanilla, then mix in the peanut butter.

Mix the flour, baking soda and salt thoroughly.

Add the flour mixture to the creamed mixture (a little at a time), cutting the flour into the mixture with the edge of a wooden spoon. When completely mixed, cover and chill in frig for 20-30 mins.

Preheat oven to 350-375 F (180-190 C).  Form dough into 1″ balls (about 2 1/2 tsp or 15ml per ball). Roll in sugar if desired–Eric didn’t and they were delicious. Place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 350-375 F (180-190 C) for 12-15 mins.

Yield: About 5 dozen. Recipe can be doubled (except for the soda and salt).

If I had a million dollars…

by Amanda Kahn

Sand dollars

A million SAND dollars, that is. Credit: Chan siuman, via Wikimedia Commons

Sand dollars live in aggregations.  In the time-series photos below, from research done in part by Dr. Fu-Shiang Chia, a researcher from the University of Alberta, sand dollars that were strewn haphazardly within a cleared area moved together to form dense aggregations.  These aggregations can be as dense as 600 individuals per square meter.  At that density, having a million sand dollars means having about 1.7 square kilometers of sand.  To have a million people, well, that’s about the population size of Calgary.

Birkeland & Chia 1971

Sand dollars, when strewn about haphazardly, will group together into dense aggregations over time. Credit: Birkeland & Chia 1971

Sand dollars have two modes of feeding: suspension feeding and deposit feeding.  Suspension feeders remove particles from the water, including small drifting pieces of kelp but also smaller particles.  Deposit feeding happens when the sand dollars snuffle along the seafloor, removing organic matter from around sand grains.  A neat study in 2007 observed something neat about sand dollar feeding: the proportion of time spent feeding either as deposit- or suspension feeders depended on the density of the sand dollars present!  A study published in 2007 found that as densities increased, the proportion of sand dollars that depended on deposit feeding (instead of suspension feeding) decreased.  That means greater densities had to depend on what was in the water column versus what they could scrabble together from organic material on the seafloor.

Fodrie et al 2007

The percent of deposit-feeding (versus suspension-feeding) sand dollars decreased as the population density increased. Originally from Fodrie et al. (2007), image linked from

This brings in questions about intraspecific competition, something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately.  When the sand dollars change their mode of feeding based on density, that makes it seem like there is not enough food from deposit feeding alone that can sustain them.  Instead, at higher densities, more sand dollars depend on suspension feeding, meaning food that has moved through the water column and flows and refreshes with the currents.  Looking at the figure above, it looks like even at low densities, some sand dollars preferentially rely on suspension feeding anyway.  I wonder if there is a point at which even suspension feeding cannot sustain the numbers of sand dollars (or other filter feeders) in a given body of water.  Maybe currents change and suddenly there is less food than before, or filter feeders just get too efficient at pulling food from the water and deplete it continually.

All of this thinking is making me hungry.  I think I’ll go forage now–some sand dollar cookies sound like good brain food for the train of thought I’ve been following! (Check out the recipe for the cookies below by clicking on the picture of the cookies.)

Hmm, looking back, this post wandered a bit…Getting back to the title of this post, if I had a million dollars…

…they’d probably all be suspension feeding.  And cookies are delicious.

Sand dollar cookies

I must go deposit feed for myself now…(click the image for a link to this recipe!) Credit: Mama Miss

Birkeland, C., and F.S. Chia (1971). Recruitment risk, growth, age and predation in two populations of sand dollars, Dendraster excentricus (Eschscholtz). Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 6(3):265-278.

Fodrie, J.F., S.Z. Herzka, A.J. Lucas, and V. Francisco (2007).  Intraspecific density regulates positioning and feeding mode selection of the sand dollar Dendraster excentricus. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 340(2):169-183.

Recipes from Bamfield: Earl Grey Tea Cookies

Amanda loves tide poolsby Amanda Kahn

Near the end of my stay in Bamfield, all of the graduate students decided to meet up one night, potluck style.  By this time, I’d depleted most of my food and had very little left, so it was time to get creative!  I searched online for something using few ingredients, and especially things from the pantry that I’d been having trouble finishing up.  Some time during my stay in Bamfield, I discovered that Earl Grey tea was the tea I’d been looking for all my life.  Only not all kinds of Earl Grey.  Really, as it turned out, it was the Twinings Earl Grey tea that I loved.  In the process of discovering this, I ended up with several different brands of Earl Grey, each with their shortcomings or over-seasonings.  So I had lots of boxes of unwanted tea.  And then I found this recipe, originally from

Earl Grey Tea Cookies
makes 2 dozen

1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon Earl Grey tea leaves, which equals 3 tea bags
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon water
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature and definitely not melted

Preheat oven to 375°F. Pulse together all the dry ingredients in a food processor or, if you’re in Bamfield and don’t have one, just mash things together with a fork, until well mixed.  The finer the tea leaves, the better, so bagged tea worked better than loose-leaf, just like the blog I found this on recommended.

Add the wet ingredients (vanilla, water, and butter). Mash together with a fork, then use your hands to knead out a buttery dough. Form the dough into a log onto a piece of parchment paper. Wrap the paper around and roll the log smooth. Chill in the freezer for at least 30 minutes, up to an hour.  The colder this is when you cut it, the easier it is to cut.  The dough is very crumbly, so colder is better (but don’t leave overnight…that was a mistake.  Then the dough is rock-hard and needs to be thawed).

When chilled, slice the log into 1/3-inch thick pieces. Place on baking sheets and bake until the edges are just brown, about 12 minutes. The bottoms tend to burn, so err on the side of under-cooking versus over-cooking.  Let cool on sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks.

We theorized that one could use any type of tea leaves for this: chai, rooibos, black, green, white, matcha, or herbal tea.  I opted for the original.  Also, I used Stash Earl Grey when I did it (until I finally finished those off) because it has a really strong citrus-y taste.

So, I made cookies for the potluck.  Only I made them the night before…with friends…and somehow, I still ended up with nothing to bring to the potluck.  Funny how that happens, isn’t it?  Fortunately, Bamfield has lots of wild berries growing around in summer, so I found a suitable replacement.

Salal berries

Salal berries, anyone?  Credit: A Kahn 2012

Recipes from Bamfield: Garlic naan bread

Amanda loves tide poolsby Amanda Kahn

Long days in the lab often mean quick dinners of pasta or cereal, but because many graduate students live right on-site, it’s also possible to schedule more time-intensive meals into a day full of lab work.  After a long day of working with sponges pumping water, handling sponge larvae, and staining tissue sections, a few of us got together for a delicious meal of butter chicken, complete with garlic naan bread.  We made some with, and others without, garlic–both were amazing.

Naan smiles

Naan smiles! Some of us graduate students shaping our naan bread before pan-frying it. Credit: J Mah

Recipe – Garlic Naan Bread

1 package yeast
1 cup warm water
1/4 cup sugar
3 Tbsp milk
1 egg, beaten
2 tsp salt
4-1/2 cups flour
2 tsp garlic (optional)
1/4 cup butter

  1. Check that the yeast works by adding it to the warm water and watching for bubbles or foam to form.
  2. Stir in sugar, milk, egg, salt, flour, and garlic (if desired)
  3. Knead 6-8 minutes, then cover and let rise for 1 hour at room temperature.  Maybe go check on your lab experiments, or take a walk on the foreshore.
  4. Flatten golf ball-sized balls of dough as flat as you can, either by punching it flat or using a rolling pin (or if you don’t have one in your variably stocked kitchen, a chilled wine bottle, non-chilled wine bottle, water bottle, or other cylindrical object works just fine).
  5. Heat a skillet to medium heat and melt butter in it.  Add a flattened piece of naan and cook, frequently checking the underside for doneness (golden brown or brown spots–no charring!).


Recipes from Bamfield: Kettle corn

Amanda loves tide poolsby Amanda Kahn

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving!  In the spirit of the holiday, when families get together for a delicious feast and to share in each other’s company, I’ve started a new, periodic post for the blog: Recipes From Bamfield!  In reality, and as mentioned in a previous post, it is very possible to get anything you need in Bamfield.  There are two general stores where you can ask for anything to be special ordered, you could drive out to Port Alberni in just a few hours, or you could order groceries from Safeway to be delivered on the Frances Barkley, a ship that comes into Bamfield on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.

That being said, on most days people just make do with what they have.  And one day, I had a fierce wish for some kettle corn.  There are no farmers markets in Bamfield, so no vendors that make kettle corn in huge vats.  So I looked up how to make kettle corn on the internet and discovered that 1) I had all 3 ingredients required for it, and 2) it is dangerously easy to make! kettle corn

Kettle corn! Credit: (click image to get to the recipe on the website).


1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup unpopped popcorn kernels

Heat the vegetable oil in a large pot over medium heat. Once hot, stir in the sugar and popcorn. Cover, and shake the pot constantly to keep the sugar from burning. Once the popping has slowed to once every 2 to 3 seconds, remove the pot from the heat and continue to shake for a few minutes until the popping has stopped. Pour into a large bowl, and allow to cool, stirring occasionally to break up large clumps.

Oh my gosh, it was so easy!  And perfect–popcorn kernels are available in the west side general store, while sugar and oil are available at both stores.  We ate this with lunch, then made it again in huge quantities for a movie night while watching The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, then again for someone’s birthday.  Then again.  And again…