As Alaska Knit Nat enters its seventh year, I thought it would be fun to dig into the archives and pull up some of my favorite posts from years past.
I started Knit Nat AK in November 2010 with the intention of cataloging my craftiness.
“It’s mainly for my own benefit,” I wrote in my first-ever post. “I make so much stuff I can’t keep track of it all. In addition to knitting (hence the Knit Nat title), I cook, sew and repurpose things. This blog is a catalog of all things Craft.”
When you grow up in Alaska you become accustomed to lackluster produce: flavorless cantaloupe, dry lemons, grey tomatoes and often unsweet corn.
At the beginning of our long weekend we had dinner up at my parents’ place and my dad served the best grilled corn I’d ever had. He’s always got a few culinary tricks up his sleeve and this recipe is no exception.
Sweet, caramelized, and just the perfect amount of char – this recipe is just what you need for your Memorial Day barbecue.
Memorial Day Recipe: How to Grill Corn on the Cob Without the Husks
Have you ever tried grilling husk-on corn on the cob? Tastes great, but what a mess you make of your grill what with all the pieces of black, burnt husk which get over everything, including the burgers or franks you’re going to grill next.
There’s no other time that I feel as though I’ve failed at life as when I hard boil eggs. It seems like a simple endeavor: boil eggs, cool them, peel them. But usually my eggs are impossible to peel.
When I asked my friends on social media why I can’t seem to successfully peel an egg, I got all sorts of egg-cellent suggestions from running them under water as I peeled them, to shaking them vigorously in a jar of water (totally didn’t work). The most frequent response I got was I was using too-fresh eggs.
I dutifully tried every suggestion but got no closer to a peelable egg. Finally, I heard a new one: steam the eggs.
I tried it. It worked. Here’s how to make the perfect hard-cooked egg. *note: after trying this method three times, the only successful batch was when I steamed 4 eggs. When I tried to steam 12 they didn’t get cooked through enough — but they were incredibly easy to peel!
What you’ll need:
A steamer basket
Fill your pot with about an inch of water and bring it to a boil. Place your eggs in a steamer basket and lower them into the pot. Cover, turn the heat to medium and steam for 13 minutes.
A couple of minutes before the eggs are done, fill a bowl with ice and cold water. Transfer the eggs to the bowl and let them cool for 15 minutes.
They peeled perfectly!
Yay for life hacks.
Looking for a good egg salad recipe? Try my chicken salad but substitute eggs!
The kitchen is the heart of our family. My dad would spend the weekends making vats of marinara sauce and in the late summer my mom would be canning blueberry jam. Back when apples were cheap we’d make gallons of applesauce with the food mill and mix in low-bush cranberries for color. Most of my childhood memories are centered around cooking.
One staple in our family is sausage. I remember waking up early on Saturday morning to the loud humming of my dad’s homemade motorized sausage grinder. I was thrilled to stuff hog intestines with meat — I was the best sausage stuffer in the family thanks to my deft, friendship bracelet-making hands.
My dad owns one of the most popular sausage-making sites on the Internet, sausagemania.com (yes, that is really the name). People from all over the world come to his site for his detailed recipes and tutorials.
When we decided to make 100 pounds of Italian and breakfast sausage this morning at 7:30 I thought it would be the perfect time to make my own tutorial for my little DIY audience.
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.
This summer my goal is to gather or harvest at least one plant a month. Usually I gather fiddlehead ferns and fireweed shoots in May, pick wild strawberries in June (I can’t disclose my secret spot!), hunt for boletes in the mid/late summer and harvest berries in the fall.
With just a little hardware and a whole lot of stove time, you can have your own homemade birch syrup (I still haven’t reached syrup state, but you’ll see what I came up with in the meantime if you read below). I didn’t take step-by-step photos only because they would be pretty boring. It’s a lot of boiling. Follow this handy guide for a complete explanation.
Please keep in mind that I’ve never done this before, so I have no idea whether I’m doing it incorrectly. The instructions below is what worked for us. Let me know if you use a different/better technique!
Birch Tree Tapping in Anchorage
2 or more 7/16″ birch tree spiles ($5.99 each at Alaska Mill & Feed)
Taco night is always a big hit in our family and one of the most requested ingredients from our son is beans. Sure, canned beans are convenient and inexpensive, but there’s often a bit of sodium in them and when you reheat them, they can easily be overcooked.
Many are hesitant to cook dry beans due to lack of experience and convenience, but with a little planning and minimal effort, you can easily cook creamy, flavorful beans to accompany many food genres. And they are much cheaper than canned beans!
Makes about 3 cups
One cup of dried beans such as pinto, great northern or black
1 Tbs. salt
The morning you want to have beans for dinner, toss your dry beans into a mesh strainer and rinse with cold water. Add beans and salt to a medium saucepan. Fill with water so pan is about 2/3 full. Cover and let sit all day, about 7-9 hours.
Put pan on stove, still covered, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and gently simmer beans for 1.5-2 hours. Be sure it’s not at a full rolling boil as the beans can get torn up if overly disturbed. Drain and serve.
*Beany tidbit: If your beans appear shriveled after soaking them it means they are past their prime. They will still taste all right but you may want to buy new beans next time.
Eggplant is a foreign food to me. I’ve only cooked with it once before when I made eggplant parmesan a long time back. They looked so irresistible today at Costco — so purple and shiny without a single flaw. I added a $5 rotisserie chicken, mini heirloom tomatoes and mini bell peppers to my cart and knew I’d be able to throw something together.
I made stuffed eggplant almost like a meatball recipe. They turned out flavorful and not too soggy, thanks to a quick technique inspired by America’s Test Kitchen.
Chicken Stuffed Eggplant
2 medium eggplants, sliced down the middle
2 Tbs. olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped fine
3 mini orange and yellow bell peppers, chopped fine
1/2 stalk celery, chopped fine
1/4 cup diced tomatoes
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tin of anchovies, minced (about 3 filets)
1/2 cup cooked chicken, diced
2 Tbs. fresh parsley, chopped
3 Tbs. Italian breadcrumbs
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
salt and pepper to taste
Carefully scoop out the flesh of your eggplants without breaking the skin. Chop the flesh into small pieces. Lightly salt the flesh and hollowed out eggplants. Place eggplant shells in a foil-lined casserole dish and set aside.
In a saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high flame. Add the onion, peppers, celery and tomatoes and cook till onions are soft, about five minutes. Add the garlic, basil and oregano and cook another two minutes.
In a mixing bowl, combine the egg, chicken, anchovies, parsley, breadcrumbs and sautéed vegetables. Place the eggplant flesh in a microwave safe bowl and microwave for 30 seconds. Pat dry with a paper towel. This removes excess liquid from the eggplant and makes the filling less soggy. Add the eggplant to the mix and salt and pepper to taste. Add 3 Tbs. of parmesan cheese, mix well and add filling to the eggplant shells. Lightly press the filling and create small mounds in the shells if needs be.
Sprinkle liberally with parmesan cheese and bake for 45 minutes or until browned.
I’m trying to eat more healthily these days and thanks to Quaker Oatmeal’s relentless heart-healthy advertising campaigns I am pretty sure oatmeal is on the good-foods list.
I tire of oatmeal. It’s texture and flavor rarely vary and since I don’t own a microwave these days (only because mine broke), oatmeal makes for a crusty, annoying pot to clean every morning.
So, I decided to try out the healthy hipster refrigerated oatmeal trend. Look it up on Pinterest and you’ll find endless recipes for this dish, beautifully displayed in glimmering Mason jars. I used a plastic Rubbermaid container, but what I discovered was a simple way to prepare breakfast that was creamy, tasty and healthy. It doesn’t have the same texture as traditional oatmeal, but I was surprised how soft the oats became and how much liquid they ended up absorbing.
Feel free to substitute whatever milkish liquid you prefer, but I went with good ol’ milk.
Overnight Refrigerated Oatmeal
1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats (not the quick-cook kind)
2/3 cup milk
1 single-serving container of Chobani greek yogurt, flavor of your choice.
Agave nectar or honey to taste
In a container combine the oats, milk and yogurt. Mix well. Cover and refrigerate overnight. In the morning, stir in sweetener of your choice and any other toppings you like such as cinnamon, bananas or berries. Healthy yum!
What is your favorite way to prepare oatmeal? Leave me a comment!