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Mars Dessert Research Station

Living far away from friends and family on another planet, isolated from all the comforts of home, dealing with easily handled problems on Earth in a Martian environment can all be frustrating and draining on one’s energy level.

One of the ways to uplift spirits, besides a good game of Guesstures, is cooking or baking treats that remind us of home. When we arrived at our desolate location, we expected to have such staples as flour and sugar, but unfortunately were left with almost nothing in the pantry to prepare meals and desserts with. It has been my challenge this mission to put meals together out of what seems like just the Martian dirt and rocks.

Back home, I particularly enjoy baking cookies and cakes. What to do here without much flour or sugar… what to do… My first attempts were to use Bisquick and different powders, such as cheddar powder, to make biscuits like cheddar garlic or tomato and herb. Mike’s 21st birthday was on the first Monday we were here, and I made a chocolate cake using egg white powder, vinegar, some sugar, and very little flour. As you’ve read in previous blogs, it was a “flaming” success.

Mike's Famous 21st Flaming Birthday Cake

Mike's Famous 21st Flaming Birthday Cake

Each day I look in the pantry hoping for more ingredients to magically appear. I want my crew to be happy. A few days ago, I found an unopend can of pumpkin pie puree (hiding behind some nasty science experiment in the refridgerator) and whipped up a cake, throwing in some raisins and a box of graham flour that I found behind all the spices in our cabinet. Edible, and boy did the cinnamon pumpkin spices make the Hab smell almost like Thanksgiving time at home. Such a nice change from the smell of stinky toilet water that repulsed us the first day, but we’ve gradually become accustomed to.

Oatmeal Craisin Cookies

Oatmeal Craisin Cookies

Monday was my toughest challenge. How to make oatmeal cookies without butter or applesauce, with only 1/3 cup sugar and ½ cup flour. I decided to rehydrate some chopped up pears and do a makeshift “applesauce” to help pull the batter into a recognizable form. And, after a few hours of baking in this very tiny, easy-bake oven, we had edible oatmeal craisin cookies.

Pantry cleanup for the next crew

Pantry cleanup for the next crew

Today, I took on the daunting task of cleaning out and organizing our pantry and spice shelves in the kitchen, and also the attic catch-all for our larger pantry type items.
Pantry cleanup in the loft

Pantry cleanup in the loft

Crouching low under the loft ceiling, I rearranged boxes and labeled them as Kiri took note of the inventory. We hope this will help the next crew, and it certainly looks a lot cleaner! Although this was a dirty task, I was rewarded with a large treasure….. a can of condensed milk! What a find! After the sorting and cleaning was done, I whipped up Fudgy Mocha Brownies with the highly valuable condensed milk and some coconut thrown on top. I hope the team likes it, as it will be tonight’s dessert.
Mike and Kiri lick the bowl clean

Mike and Kiri lick the bowl clean

Fudgy Mocha Brownies in our Easy-Bake Oven

Fudgy Mocha Brownies in our Easy-Bake Oven

I have definitely earned a degree in the art of Martian cooking on this mission, substituting egg white powder, Ghee butter, rehydrated fruits, and just having to be creative in general on the ingredients at hand. I’m just happy that I can produce something that puts a smile on my crew members’ faces after a long day of engineering checks, spacewalks, and endless cleaning of the Hab of Martian dirt.

5 Comments

  1. Luis Saraiva says:

    I bet I speak for all of our crew when I say that we are haaaaaaaaapppppyyyyyy to eat Carla’s delicious baking experiments end results. Yes, we love ‘em more and more

  2. admin says:

    Oh boy, those fudge brownies were fabulous! Carla, your ingenuity and creativity continue to amaze me on a daily basis!

    - Kiri

  3. From my own blog, because I should’ve mentioned something earlier… Don’t worry though, as you’ll still get a full post of your own.

    Once I sat at the table, I was greeting with a great dinner, and not just because I partially helped make it. The tofu didn’t taste that bad, the couscous was pretty good, and the dessert was the best part! Carla had somehow concocted another great dish from basically no ingredients (and you can read about more of her exploits here), and they were great! I’ll probably cut off another piece tonight before we cross over to the second-to-last non-cooking day in the Hab. I don’t even really like coconut, which was the main topping, and they were still amazing! Thankfully, Carla is collecting some (or all?) of her recipes that she’s made up here so that I don’t have withdrawals when I head back to State and have to cook for myself every day.

  4. Kristine Ferrone says:

    I know exactly what you are going through, Carla! I faced some of the same challenges at FMARS (although I had flour and sugar to work with, which made things much easier….), but creativity in baking and cooking different types of meals with the limited, dried, and sometimes WEIRD ingredients on hand is definitely good preparation for a Mars mission. I am proud of us JSC DO girls for having the creativity and the guts to TRY these recipes at the risk of wasting the precious ingredients. :) You should ask Brian about the birthday pancakes and pineapple upsidedown cake I tried to make at FMARS. hahaha Best of luck for the remainder of the mission, let’s get together for some tasty Earth food when you get back :)

  5. [...] another great dish from basically no ingredients (and you can read about more of her exploits here), and they were great! I’ll probably cut off another piece tonight before we cross over to [...]