In our family, home is where the kitchen is. This week we are visiting family in Pittsburgh. My kid sister just moved into a cavernous brick home in Lawrenceville, coincidentally the neighborhood where my husband was born.
Her kitchen is absolutely Pinterest perfect and I couldn’t wait to cook in there.
This evening we stopped by a farmers market full of squash, zinnia bouquets, goat cheese and apple cider. We picked up some green tomatoes and made them as a light dinner.
Here’s a quick post about how my sister prepares them.
Fried Green Tomatoes
4 medium green tomatoes, sliced into 1/4 thick slices
1/2 cup cream of wheat
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 tsp chili powder
1/8 tsp cayenne powder
Pinch of salt
In a shallow bowl, mix together the Cream of Wheat, paprika, chili powder, cayenne, pepper and salt. Whisk the eggs in another shallow bowl.
Add half a fingernail’s depth of oil to a cast iron skillet and turn heat to high.
Dredge the tomatoes in the egg and then in the breading.
When oil is glistening, add tomatoes in one layer in the pan. You may need to fry them in three or four batches.
Fry for a few minutes on each side, till browned. Place on a paper towel-lined plate. Sprinkle lightly with salt.
Serve as-is or with a yogurt dipping sauce. Recipe below:
Yogurt Herb Dipping Sauce
1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/4 cup sour cream
1/8 tsp. smoked paprika
dash of garlic powder
1 tsp. chopped fresh herbs such as oregano, basil or parsley
salt and pepper to taste
Mix together all the ingredients. Serve with fried green tomatoes.
Last month I got to create wedding flowers in Arctic Valley. Today I was at the top of Alyeska. What a fun experience! My assistant and I got to cram all the flowers into the tram and ride to the top of the mountain. Audra and Chris are tying the knot at Seven Glaciers Restaurant, a dining experience with unparalleled views of Alaska.
The bride selected white hydrangeas, ivory garden roses, white tulips, football mums and blush vadella roses. What a perfect palette for a mountain top soirée — especially since it started snowing as we were setting up!
I’m thrilled to introduce fellow Anchorage blogger, Ashley Taborsky, in this week’s “Harvesting Anchorage.” Ashley is the woman behind Alaska Urban Soil Project where she aims to create an “online community of fellow urban hippies who want to get into Alaskan backyard farming.”
This gal is diving deep into Alaska gardening and I admire her for her tenacity and willingness to try new things.
Throughout the summer I’ve been blogging about how I interact with the wild foods of Anchorage and Alaska, but you’ll notice that I don’t garden. It’s partially due to my hectic working mom/florist/other stuff schedule, part laziness and also that I don’t have an easily accessible water source in my yard (ok, this equates to laziness. I just don’t want to stretch my hose to the other side of my lawn where we actually get sun).
Ashley is obviously more determined than I am to produce her own food and it appears that she is succeeding. This is why I thought she would be a great guest to talk about how she harvests Anchorage in her own back yard.
Check out her site for lots of DIY projects and recipe ideas. Today I’ll be passing the mic to Ashley to let her talk about pickling and canning her homegrown beets.
I know it’s a superb fall when I close my eyes at night and all I see behind my eyelids are lowbush cranberries.
Blood-red jewels hug the mossy ground in my secret south Anchorage picking spot. It must have been the warm May weather that caused patches of usually dormant cranberry bushes to produce large, pea-sized berries.
What my family calls lowbush cranberries are, in fact, lingonberries. These short plants can be found in most Anchorage forests. They have round, shiny leaves and if there’s enough sunlight during the summer they bear tart, red berries.
I prefer these to highbush cranberries, which are more watery and have a big, oblong seed in each berry. Lowbush cranberries are opaque and have no seeds. They are also firmer than the highbush variety.
Cranberries are my favorite wild berry to pick because they are durable, highly nutritious and they freeze well. They can also be substituted for any recipe that calls for commercial cranberries.
I once again refer to my mama for this segment of “Harvesting Anchorage.” She’s a pro when it comes to cranberry marmalade. The cranberries have so much natural pectin there is no need to add any of the store-bought kind. This simple marmalade is a perfect addition to any breakfast table.
Cranberry Orange Marmalade
3 oranges (or 2 oranges and 1 lemon)
1/4 tsp. baking soda
8 cups wild lowbush cranberries
4 cups sugar
Remove the skins of the oranges in quarters. Cover rinds with water and boil with baking soda for 15 minutes. Shave off as much of the white pith as you can from the rind and slice rind very thin.
An alternative method is to use a vegetable peeler to peel off the rind and slice it. If you choose this method you won’t need to boil the rinds since they are so thin.
Meanwhile remove the membrane from each orange segment and reserve the pulp in a bowl. Take the membranes in your hands and squeeze the remaining pulp and juice into the bowl. Discard the membranes. If you’re really lazy you could probably use a couple of cans of mandarins, drained and rinsed. I’ve never tried it, but it could work.
Combine pulp, rinds with their water, cranberries and sugar in a saucepan. Boil, stirring often, skimming off any foam.
Let the mixture boil down and thicken, about 15-18 minutes. Take a spoonful of the mixture and pour it back into the pot. If there are lots of frequent droplets, the mixture isn’t ready yet. If the drips are slow and turn into one big droplet, then it’s ready (that’s called “sheeting”). Turn off the heat and place a tablespoon of liquid in a bowl and place it in the freezer for about 3 minutes.
Remove sample from freezer and tip it slightly. The sample should stay put. If the jam slides around the bowl it means it’s not ready yet. Bring the jam back to a boil and continue stirring constantly for another 5 minutes.
Ladle jam into sterilized canning jars with brand-new lids. Fill leaving about 1/4 inch of space at the top. Add the lids and let cool. When you hear little pops that means the lids have sealed. If you’d like more details about canning I recommend this thorough tutorial from The Alaska Urban Soil Project.
Our son starts preschool this week, which means I’ve got to mom up and start making snacks and lunches. I don’t plan on being some sort of super mom who prepares intricate bento boxes with pandas made out of cheese wheels and olives, but I do hope to serve my son healthy foods. Ok, I admit, we did buy fruit snacks and granola bars during our epic Costco run yesterday. I’m not perfect!
Here’s a recipe I came up with for healthy mini muffins. Apples, dried apricots, wheat bran — who cares what’s in it as long as it’s mini?
Apple Apricot Bran Mini Muffins
Makes about 48 mini muffins or 24 regular muffins
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1.5 cups wheat bran
1.25 teaspoons baking soda
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups of milk + 1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup honey
3 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
1 cup finely chopped apples, peeled
1/2 cup finely chopped dried apricots
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a mini muffin tin.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the flours, bran, baking soda, sugar, salt and cinnamon.
In a one-quart liquid measuring cup combine the milk, vinegar, molasses, honey, egg and coconut oil.
Pour the wet ingredients into the mixing bowl. The mixture should be like thick pancake batter. Stir in the apples and apricots. Spoon batter into muffin tins. Bake for 13 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool on a drying rack.
Store in an airtight container or freeze and defrost as needed.
Most Anchorage residents would tell you that autumn is here. It arrived last Tuesday, to be precise. There was a nip in the air this morning as I made my way up the windy dirt road to Arctic Valley for my last gig of the wedding season.
Cara and Tyler chose a rustic theme for their wedding, which was fitting against the wilderness surrounding the Arctic Valley chalet. Burlap table runners dressed with vintage lace and slabs of raw birch logs surrounded by moss were just the right touch.
Cara chose pink, blush, white and sage green for the floral arrangements. The shabby-chic color palette complimented the rest of the decor perfectly.
I had the pleasure of working with feather-light garden roses, the color of rosy cheeks on a crisp autumn day.
The mother of the bride requested a garland over the birch tree wedding arch, which I was looking forward to creating. It was my first try at a garland and I constructed it sort of like a giant flower crown. I put the garden roses in water tubes and wired them in just before hanging to ensure the blooms lasted as long as possible.
What a truly wonderful close to my wedding season. This was a challenging, fun summer. I learned a lot through my experience of being a new florist on my own and I’m grateful to the brides who put their trust in me. I can’t wait for next summer!
Last weekend I had the pleasure of spending time in Seattle. Despite the smoky air, I made it a point to get outdoors and do some urban foraging. Blackberry brambles are abundant around the city. My best friend, her boyfriend, my sister and I headed out to Discovery Park and found several briars laden with sweet blackberries.
This wasn’t my first blackberry rodeo. Although it was a hot day I made sure to wear pants, shoes and socks. There’s good reason Sleeping Beauty was surrounded by a thick wall of brambles — these bushes are brutal! My friend Matt didn’t heed my pants advice.
We picked a quart of berries in about half an hour. I got a few unbelievably ripe, juicy peaches at Pike’s Market and we knew that pie was on the horizon.
I’m not a baker and I’ve probably made one pie in my life, but I was inspired by the blueberry pie at South Restaurant + Coffeehouse. I tasted it the other day and noticed a subtle, unusual ingredient: pink peppercorns. I don’t know if the pepper was in the crust or the filling, but I found a pretty cool recipe from the L.A. Times that incorporated blackberries, nectarines and pepper. I wanted to try it.
A big thanks to my best friend Jess for her pie lattice expertise because this pie was a winner inside and out!
We used 3 cups of blackberries and two cups of peeled, sliced peaches. We used honey instead of corn syrup. The ground pepper was incorporated into the crust and gives the pie a bit of zing.
After placing the bottom crust in the pan, we set a circle of parchment paper on the crust and used some dry beans as pie weights. Then we baked the bottom crust for about 15 minutes in the preheated oven, let it cool for about five minutes and added the filling.
We brushed the lattice with milk and sprinkled cinnamon and sugar on top.