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Sunday, May 13, 2012

poached eggs Florentine

eggs on toast w/ spinach

Mother’s Day Brunch

I’m not really sure if this is the right name for the delicious dish I ate for Mother’s Day brunch this morning, but I think that “Florentine” in egg dishes generally means it contains spinach. Dan and Meredith asked what I wanted, and I requested poached eggs on toast, with fresh eggs from my friend Mara’s chickens. But I was dreaming of a layer of creamy yummy spinach in between the buttered toast and the perfectly cooked (runny-yolked) poached egg. So I pulled out a recipe from Crescent Dragonwagon’s Passionate Vegetarian for country spinach that I’ve made before, and modified it to make my breakfast fantasy a reality. I didn’t have hollandaise sauce, but I didn’t need it, because of the runny yolk and the creamy spinach. YUM!! This recipe is really not that time-consuming, and it’s really healthy, too! It would make a great, speedy dinner!

eating my egg!

runny yolk

Poached Eggs Florentine

The Spinach

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
About half of a large 2.5-pound bag of spinach from Costco
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt (or drained regular plain yogurt)
Salt, pepper, and grated nutmeg

The Egg & Toast

Fresh eggs
Whole-grain bread for toast
Butter (optional)

Heat a medium saucepan of water to the boil (this will be for the eggs, later.) Slice your bread. Heat the olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add the onions and sauté until golden. Add the garlic and sauté for another minute.  Turn the burner up to high, and add as much spinach as the skillet will hold, and stir and flip the spinach over until it has wilted enough to add more spinach. Keep doing this until all the spinach has been wilted down. Stir and cook for a little while until most of the liquid has evaporated—maybe 3 to 5 minutes. Turn the heat off, and stir in the Parmesan cheese and yogurt . Season to taste with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Cover the spinach to keep it warm while you make the eggs and toast.

Poach your egg in just barely simmering water so the middle is still runny, and toast your bread at the same time. Butter your toast if you’d like. Put the toasted bread on a plate, layer a thick pile of spinach on the toast, then perch the poached egg on the top. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and serve immediately.


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Monday, April 30, 2012

green pea spread

green pea spread

biking to girdwood

The first bike rides of the season always feel like a gift, especially after a long snowy winter!

On Sunday we drove to Indian and parked across from the Brown Bear Saloon, intending to bike the Bird to Gird trail. We found the trail was still piled with snow in the shady patches, though, so we ended up biking on the shoulder of the highway. On the tandem, Dan captained and Meredith stoked, (Check out the child’s stoker kit on the bike!) and I rode my own bike. There wasn’t too much traffic, but we did battle against a stiff headwind. Kudos to Dan for being able to draft off me even with Meredith’s irregular pedaling. (Her game is sporadic sprinting.) We enjoyed a picnic lunch in the Girdwood playground, then rocketed back to the car, propelled homeward by a well-deserved tailwind.

I remembered my camera, but when I pulled it out to take a photo of Dan and Meredith pedaling along Turnagain Arm, I realized that my battery was dead.  ARGH! So I made them get back on the bike when we got home and ride up and down our road so I could get a few shots—if not the scenery, at least the bike riders! 

tandem ride

green pea spread

I came up with this recipe last fall when I had a lot of fresh Alaskan peas, but you can make this dip with frozen peas, as well. I wanted to make some kind of a dip or spread for vegetables, like my carrot dip. Combining fresh peas with dried, cooked split peas gave me a nice thick consistency, and I decided to use Japanese flavorings. It’s great with cucumbers, especially when topped with a little pickled ginger and toasted sesame seeds! You can freeze this spread, so I’d make a double batch and freeze it in small containers (labeled!) for an easy appetizer whenever you need one. No point in making only 2 cups of split peas!

1 ½ cups dried split peas
4 cups fresh or frozen peas
1 teaspoon salt
the green parts of 4 scallions, sliced into thick pieces
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons pickled ginger (Find this in the refrigerated section in many grocery stores, near the sushi supplies, or in the produce section.)
pinch of cayenne

1. Simmer the split peas in a small pot of water until they are very soft. This could take up to an hour. Drain the peas well.
2. Bring a pot of water to a boil, add salt, and the fresh peas. When the water comes back to a boil, cook the peas for a minute or so, just until hot through. Don’t overcook them. Drain them and spread them out on a dishtowel to cool and dry.
3. Put all the ingredients into a food processor and process until fairly smooth. You’ll need to taste for salt, sugar (the pickled ginger) and spice, and add more seasonings as necessary until you get a nice balance of flavors.
4. if the dip seems watery (and it will, after you’ve refrigerated it for a while, or frozen and thawed it), put it in a sieve for a few minutes and let the extra water drain out.
5. Serve on cucumber slices, topped with slices of pink pickled ginger and sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds. (Toast them in a skillet for a minute or two until roasty and light brown.)

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Saturday, October 29, 2011

roasted carrot dip with sunflower seeds and cumin


The Carrot Challenge

On the last day of September, I got a message from my friend Amy Pettit at the Alaska Division of Agriculture, advertising their new Farm to School program. The Division wanted to raise awareness of their new program by offering lots of neat prizes for schools to participate. I forwarded the message to my first-grade daughter’s teacher at Rabbit Creek Elementary School, Mrs. Duprow, and told her that I would love to help her out with a project, if she wanted to plan something.

Mrs. Duprow jumped right on it, emailing the Division with her idea to do a taste-testing of our local Alaskan carrots vs. carrots from the Lower 48. She asked if a farmer could come and talk to her class, since they are learning about soils, and maybe they could include the whole school by bringing carrots to the cafeteria.  Before I knew it, the project had grown to a carrot taste-testing for the whole school!

On National Food Day (October 24), Ben VanderWeele delivered a huge bale of his farm’s Alaskan carrots to the school. Here’s a great YouTube video about how the carrots were harvested!

Johanna Herron from the Farm to School program came from Fairbanks with a method for counting votes, along with prizes for the students; Diane Peck came from the Alaska Obesity Prevention and Control Program with the rival carrots (the ones grown Outside) and little plastic shot glasses to hold the carrot samples; Alaskan food promoter Chef Clayton Jones came with a big hotel pan of delicious caramelized carrots for Mrs. Duprow’s class to eat while he talked about using local food in his restaurants; and I came as general dogsbody: carrot peeler, provider of kitchen equipment, and guide to show people where the cafeteria was.

What a fun event! It was a blind taste test, with orange cups for the Alaskan carrots, and clear cups for the Lower 48 carrots. Reporters showed up from the newspaper and television news, so luckily, the kids really COULD taste the difference between the Alaskan carrots and the Lower 48 carrots. The Alaskan carrots won by more than a two-to-one margin! Our carrots really ARE sweeter and juicier!

Click on the links for the Anchorage Daily News photo gallery and the KTUU Channel 2 News piece on the project. Thanks, Eric Hill and Rhonda McBride, for such great coverage of the event! The funny thing was, of all the people who put this project together, my picture ended up on the front page of the newspaper—and I hadn’t done much of anything! I want to take this opportunity to thank the folks who really DID make it happen: Christine Duprow, Johanna Herron, Diane Peck, Amy Pettit, Ben VanderWeele, Clayton Jones, and the staff at Rabbit Creek.

Clayton, Johanna, Diane and I peeled a LOT of carrots—and at the end of the day, there were about eleven pounds of extra peeled Alaskan carrots. I brought them home, knowing just what I would make! You might already have tried my carrot dip with sunflower seeds—I put that recipe on the blog in August 2009. But since then, I have come up with an even more delicious way to make it. Instead of just boiling the sliced carrots, then pureeing them with the rest of the ingredients, I roast the peeled carrots, halved lengthwise, with a little olive oil and salt. When they are roasted, the carrots make an incredibly rich and delicious puree, and the dip is creamy and fantastic with just the little bit of oil the carrots were roasted in. If you’ve tried it and liked it the other way, try it this way. And if you haven’t yet tried it, buy yourself a couple of big bags of ALASKAN carrots and go for it!


carrot dip with sunflower seeds & cumin

This recipe is loosely based on one in Veganomicon.  It’s fantastic spread on whole grain toast, or crackers—but I like it best scooped up with celery sticks.
I’ve given you a recipe for a large amount, for these reasons:
1) Even though it looks like a lot, 4 pounds of carrots will roast down to half that weight,
2) Keep some in the refrigerator to eat within the week, and freeze the rest in small containers (carefully labeled) for later. It makes a wonderful appetizer, and if someone shows up at the last minute, you can just pop it in the microwave to defrost it, and you’re good to go.
3) If you just want to make a regular batch, you can halve the recipe.

4 pounds carrots, peeled if the skins are bitter
2 to 4 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup sunflower seeds, roasted or raw (if you have salted roasted seeds, just use less salt and adjust to taste)
4 small cloves garlic
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon salt
2 to 4 tablespoons fresh lemon or lime juice

1. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.
2. Cut the stem ends off the carrots and slice each one lengthwise into two long pieces. In a large bowl, toss the carrot halves with 2 to 4 tablespoons of olive oil and about a teaspoon of salt.
3. Spray a couple of rimmed cookie sheets with Pam (or grease with olive oil).
4. Lay the carrot halves out on the cookie sheets. If you have time to put the cut sides down on the cookie sheet, you’ll get more caramelization, and better flavor, but if you are pressed for time, just spread them out in more or less a single layer and put the cookie sheets in the oven. Roast them in the oven until they are tender when stabbed with a fork, and getting lovely and golden brown around the edges. Check them after 30 minutes, scoop them around on the tray to get other edges exposed to the pan, and check them every 10 minutes or so after that.  They might take up to 50 minutes to cook all the way and get roasty and toasty. Take them out of the oven and set aside to cool a bit.
5. If you have raw sunflower seeds, turn your oven down to 350 degrees. Toast the sunflower seeds on a clean cookie sheet in the oven for about 10 -12 minutes, until golden-brown and fragrant. Check on them and give them a stir if they are getting too brown in spots. (If you have toasted sunflower seeds, just use them as is.)
6. Peel the garlic and toss it in the food processor to mince. Then add the sunflower seeds and process into fine crumbs. Then add the cumin, salt, some of the lemon juice, and as many carrots as you can fit, and blend until smooth, scraping down the sides of the food processor as you go. If you couldn’t fit all the carrots in, transfer the first batch to a big bowl and puree the rest of the carrots with some more lemon juice. Scrape the remaining carrot puree into the bowl, and mix thoroughly with the sunflower seed/garlic puree.
7.    Taste for salt and adjust the lemon. Transfer to a covered container and refrigerate until ready to use. This dip tastes wonderful right away, but even better after it’s had an overnight in the refrigerator. I like to serve it at room temperature, so give it a little chance to warm up before serving if you can—or pop it in the microwave for 30 seconds or so and stir it up before putting it on the table.
8.  Serve with crackers, celery sticks, or on toast. If you have even more carrots on hand and want to use some roasted carrot slices as garnish, you can—but it’s not necessary!

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

toast with collard & green olive pesto


Meredith’s first backpacking trip

The big news around here is that five-year-old Meredith and I did our first ever backpacking trip together! We’ve been discussing it for a long time, mulling over our route, destination, equipment, and most importantly, the menu. We settled on Rabbit Lake, a gradual climb of about four and a half miles from the trail head on the upper hillside of Anchorage.

It’s been at least seven years since my last backpacking trip—a long time, considering Dan’s and my enthusiasm for remote adventures before pregnancy, infant and toddler stages. We’ve been enjoying car camping and skiff camping trips since Meredith was born, but Meredith is old enough now to hold her own on hiking day trips. It was time to break out my pack.

So last Saturday after selling our bread at the farmers market, I rummaged around in the basement and ran up and down the stairs all afternoon, unearthing the necessary gear and then testing things out in the sunshine on the lawn. I explained to Meredith that I really did NOT want to discover that I had forgotten the tent poles when we arrived at Rabbit Lake. Or that my trusty WhisperLite stove’s plunger had dried up and wouldn’t pressurize the fuel can. Meredith got so excited about all this testing that she could hardly bear to break down the tent to pack it. Unfortunately, the weather report for the next few days looked rather ominous—especially for Sunday-Monday. Monday-Tuesday looked marginally better, and was our only other option.

Sure enough, we woke to a steady downpour and wind on Sunday, so we decided to postpone for a day and hope for the slight change predicted in the weather report. I PROMISED the distressed Meredith that we would go the next day, rain or shine. It looked like we would get wet no matter what, but we’ve got trips and day-camps and visitors for the next few weeks, so it was now or never. Anyway, we’re tough! We’re Alaskan! If you don’t camp in the rain in Alaska, you never camp!

So… Monday morning at the house was not raining, just overcast and gloomy, but as Dan drove us up to drop us off at the trail head, it began to rain…  so we donned our rain gear and hiked our way up in the wind and rain. Turns out that Meredith and I can hike nearly the same speed, as long as I’m weighed down by everything we need—clothes, food, kitchen, tent, and sleeping gear! By the time we neared the top, the wind was howling and it was raining sideways and freezing cold, so we didn’t want to stop for lunch—we just ate our apples on the hoof.

When we got to the lake, we found a slightly protected spot near the lake and set up the tent. Meredith was a big help with the tent in the wind and rain—and I was reminded afresh how demoralizing it is to set up one’s tent in a downpour (those huge drops splatting on the parts that are supposed to be DRY), but we managed. We changed into warm dry clothes and huddled inside our tiny tent, eating our yummy cheese and avocado sal-wiches (Can you see the green smears on Meredith’s face in the photo, below?), and then snuggled into our sleeping bags to get warm. I will forever be grateful that Meredith actually offered to let me put my frozen hands on her warm little tummy to warm them up. Am I a lucky mom, or what?

Lo and behold, the rain let up a bit, so after our lunch snuggle we set out for a little adventure around the lake and on the tundra in a mild drizzle. We had hot chocolate at tea time. By dinnertime it had all but stopped raining, better luck!! We boiled up our Annie’s mac & cheese with green beans, and then we both fell into our sleeping bags after a story and some card games. Meredith went to sleep right away after dinner, but then woke up again at 8pm and couldn’t go back to sleep for a long time because of the bright daylight—so I read more chapters of our book, she ate a bowl of leftover mac & cheese, and finally she conked back off. 

On Tuesday morning we woke up to a brighter overcast day, which was lovely.  We enjoyed our morning hot chocolate, then oatmeal with raisins for breakfast, and then hiked back down to meet Dan, on his way up the trail to meet us. I’m so proud of Meredith, hiking like a trooper and enjoying her first backpacking trip even in marginal weather!

The recipe below has nothing whatsoever to do with our hiking trip, except that I came up with the recipe just today, the day after we returned. It’s made with Alaskan collards and tomatoes from our CSA box. I LOVE IT. What a fabulous way to eat your greens!

image image

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toast with collard & green olive pesto

This pesto recipe is based on one I found on, submitted by Danny Toma. He uses Parmesan cheese in his recipe, and twice as much olive oil—but I found that with the rich olives, I didn’t need the cheese or the extra oil!  What a fun way to eat your greens!! I spread the pesto on toast, but you can also use half this amount on a pound of cooked pasta. Just freeze what you won’t use in three days. (A ziploc bag works well.)

slices of hearty whole grain bread
collard & green olive pesto (recipe below)

Make the pesto. Slice your tomatoes. Toast your bread. Apply pesto in thick mounds (remember, it’s your vegetable!) and top with tomatoes. Enjoy, with a napkin at the ready.

collard & green olive pesto

1-3/4 lb collard greens (you can use kale, instead, if you want)
7 to 12 large brine-cured green olives (2-1/4 ounces), pitted
2 garlic cloves
1/4 to 1/3 cup water
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, cut stems and center ribs from collard greens and discard. Slice greens into strips and stir collards into water, bring back to a boil, and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until tender, 8 to 15 minutes. Drain collards in a colander, pressing on greens to extract excess water.

2. Blend olives and garlic in a food processor until finely chopped. Add collards, water, vinegar, salt, cayenne, and pepper and pulse until finely chopped. With motor running, add oil in a slow stream. Taste and add more salt if needed.


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Saturday, August 15, 2009

broccoli with golden raisins and carrot dip with sunflower seeds and cumin


Julia’s Lunch

Last week I got a call from Julia O’Malley. Yes, THE Julia O’Malley who writes that great column in the Anchorage Daily News. She said she wanted to talk to me about local food and farmers markets, and asked if I would cook something local and seasonal with her. Of COURSE I would! Did she want to come over for dinner? “How about lunch?” she asked. Perfect. We settled on Wednesday, when we could also visit the farmers market at the Dimond Center.

It wasn’t that I was exactly nervous about this meal—but I really wanted it to be great. I waffled about the menu for several days, turning over many different ideas and then rejecting them. I knew I wanted to make a broccoli dish—the farmers markets are swimming in broccoli now, and it’s so sweet and delicious. But what should I serve alongside? Avocado toasts? No, not local enough—only the onions are Alaskan. Lightly sauteed tomatoes on toast? Nope. Last Saturday, I was so busy selling bread that by the time I had a chance to shop at the farmers’ market, they were gone. Carrot salad with currants & mint? Nah…  I didn’t have any mint and I didn’t want to go to the grocery store.

So I finally settled on making a menu that I would have made for any friend that came over. “Don’t knock yourself out,” I told myself. “She wants to meet you, not Martha Stewart.” (Well, maybe she does want to meet Martha Stewart, but that would have to be another time.) I would serve something new, broccoli with golden raisins, fresh from the farmers market and hot out of the skillet. And then I would pull something out of the freezer for an accompaniment: carrot dip with sunflower seeds and cumin. I’d made it late last fall when I had way too many carrots on hand, and it would be the perfect thing to serve on toast with the broccoli.

Even though I’d settled on a menu, I was still a little bit nervous on Wednesday morning. I wanted everything to go smoothly and I hoped I wouldn’t stick my foot in my mouth…  But my remaining anxiousness evaporated as a smiling Julia hopped out of her car, joking about the long drive to the wilds of Lower Hillside. I asked if she’d gotten her passport stamped; I understand many urban Anchorage-ites rarely travel south of Tudor Road.

We got to work right away on lunch. As I peeled the broccoli stems and chopped the stalks, sauteed garlic and added the raisins and red pepper flakes, Julia and I talked about farmers markets, local food, and cooking the river of fresh ingredients that can turn into a flood this time of year. (She was videoing the whole cooking process with her flip camera.) We enjoyed our lunch outside on the deck, and got a little heady discussing the benefits of local food; beyond just fresh and delicious, buying local benefits our community in so many ways! Suddenly it was 2:30 and we needed to hit the farmers market before it closed at 4pm! Luckily the vendors still had plenty of produce when we arrived at the market, and she got a chance to talk with them, too.

I had a wonderful day with Julia! Not only is she a gifted writer, she’s engaging and smart and funny. I went into our day with the expectation of an interview, and came out with a new friend! Thanks, Julia!!

Oh—and here’s the link to her story



broccoli with golden raisins

I love this broccoli recipe—I love it hot as a side dish, at room temperature as a salad, or even cold out of the ‘fridge as a snack. It’s loosely based on a recipe in Peter Berley’s Fresh Food Fast, one of my favorite cookbooks for vegetables. I posted this recipe in my blog once before, but in honor of Julia’s lunch, I’m re-posting it.

1 ½ pounds broccoli, tops cut into bite-sized florets, and stems sliced into ¼” slices (peel the stems first if the skin is tough)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
½ cup golden raisins
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
sea salt or kosher salt
optional toast:
4 slices thick whole-wheat bread
extra olive oil for the toast

1. Put about an inch of water in the bottom of a pot that you can put a steamer basket in. Cover the pot and bring the water to a boil. When the water boils, put the golden raisins in the steamer basket and steam for 5 minutes. Remove the raisins, but keep the water in the steamer.
2. Put the broccoli stems into the steamer basket, and steam for 4-6 minutes until barely tender. Check them every minute after 4 minutes, poking with a sharp paring knife. Remove the stems, drain them, and immediately spread them out in a single layer on a baking sheet spread with a dishtowel. (This cools the broccoli quickly and allows it to dry out.)
3. Put the florets in the steamer, and steam for 3-5 minutes until barely tender, keeping a close eye on them. Remove the florets and spread them out on a dishtowel as with the stems. When they are cool enough to handle, chop the florets and stems a bit finer with a large chef’s knife.
4. In a large skillet over high heat, warm the oil. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the broccoli, stems, raisins, and red pepper flakes and sauté until the broccoli is quite tender, and the flavors are nicely combined—about 5 minutes. Season with plenty of salt—it will need quite a bit.
5. If you want to serve the broccoli on toast, toast the slices of bread until golden, and drizzle with olive oil. Pile the broccoli on top.

carrot dip with sunflower seeds & cumin

You pretty much need a food processor for this recipe, and with it, this dip is SO FAST to make.  It’s much quicker and easier than hummus, for example, since the carrots cook so much more quickly than chickpeas. But it’s rich and delicious and flavorful—and such a beautiful color! Not to mention nutritious!

This recipe is based on one in Veganomicon.  The original recipe called for oil, but I think the dip is rich enough just with the ground sunflower seeds. If you prefer a richer spread, by all means add a tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil!

It’s fantastic spread on our toasted seed bread, or crackers, or our regular 100% whole wheat levain. But it’s also great scooped up with celery sticks!

1 pound carrots, peeled if the skins are bitter
¼ cup roasted sunflower seeds (if you have salted roasted seeds, just use less salt and adjust to taste)
2 small cloves garlic (or 3 cloves, if you like things garlicky)
½ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon salt
1 -2 tablespoons fresh lemon or lime juice

1. If you have raw sunflower seeds, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Toast the sunflower seeds on a cookie sheet in the oven (the oven works well if you’re making extra seeds) for about 10 -12 minutes, until golden-brown and fragrant. Check on them and give them a stir if they are getting too brown in spots. Or, you can toast the seeds on a skillet over medium heat until golden-brown and toasted.
2. Bring a small pot of water to a boil and add a little salt.
3. Slice the carrots.  I do this in the food processor—just cut the stem ends off the carrots and shoot them through the feed tube, pushing with the little pusher cup, small end first.
4. Boil the carrots until soft, 7 to 10 minutes. Drain in a colander when done.
5. Meanwhile, when the sunflower seeds are toasted, peel the garlic and toss it in the cuisinart to mince. Then add the sunflower seeds and process into fine crumbs. Then add the cumin, salt, lemon juice, and carrots, and blend until smooth, scraping down the sides of the food processor as you go.
6. Taste for salt and adjust the lemon. Transfer to a covered container and refrigerate until ready to use (at least 30 minutes).

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

toast with nut butter and raspberries


the berry bug

Our neighbors called just as we were finishing dinner and invited us over to pick golden raspberries. It was almost Meredith’s bedtime, and not long before my own… but we couldn’t resist! Meredith has been at Blueberry Camp with her preschool class all week, so she was especially jazzed.  “I’m a better berry picker than you, Mom, since I’ve been practicing on blueberries all week!”

Just between you and me, she would be hard pressed to be a better berry picker than I. I inherited a berry-picking compulsion (or is it a learned behavior?) from both of my parents, so I have a hard time dragging myself away from a bush (or a hillside or forest, for that matter) if there is still a berry left. Three summers ago, when Meredith was but a small and tiny mite, there was a banner blueberry year in Kachemak Bay. In a couple of weeks, I picked 40 gallons of blueberries (high-bush), mostly during Meredith’s morning and afternoon nap-times, all around our cabin where I could hear her cry when she woke up. Not that I’m obsessed or anything. Ha.

Even so, I didn’t dissuade Meredith from her delusion that she might be a better picker than I am. I humored her, because I want to encourage this sort of behavior, not crush her with my berry-picking ego. Berry picking is soothing and contemplative, and I love it. I do hope Meredith catches the berry bug, too. It’ll serve her well in the future: filling the freezer and emptying her mind, all at the same time.

THANK YOU, Kari & Wade, for letting us pick your raspberries! As you can see, we enjoyed the berries for breakfast on toast with nut butter. Meredith got especially creative with her design!


toast with nut butter and raspberries

Not exactly a recipe…  just a wonderful breakfast this time of year, when the raspberries are ripe in backyards. It also makes a fabulous afternoon snack! We always use our own Rise & Shine bakery whole grain sourdough pan loaves for the toast, but any sturdy whole-grain bread will work just fine.

And here’s how I like my almond butter. I love roasted almond butter (not the raw kind), and I like it a little bit salty, like peanut butter. Most almond butters don’t come salted—but it’s easy to mix in salt when you’re stirring in the separated oil when you first open the jar. If you don’t prefer almond butter, use peanut butter, instead! That’s what Meredith had this morning.

slices of whole wheat sourdough bread
almond butter (I prefer roasted and salted) or peanut butter

Toast the bread, and spread it with nut butter. Get in touch with your inner pastry chef and decorate the nut buttered toast with raspberries. Eat with more raspberries on the side, if you like. Sip tea or coffee between bites. Enjoy pure bliss.

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Monday, June 22, 2009

grilled southwestern salmon with guacamole on crispy toast



You probably already know that I sell my Rise & Shine Bakery bread at the South Anchorage Farmers’ Market during the summer. As the farmers’ market reporter, I also write the weekly email newsletter that gets posted on our website.

A couple of weeks ago two women from Trout Unlimited contacted me about holding an event to promote Bristol Bay salmon at our farmers’ market. The event, “Eat Wild!,” is to be held this Saturday, June 27, and is designed to build consumer demand for wild salmon. By building support for the fishery, they hope to help protect Southwest Alaska’s Bristol Bay watershed from the threat of large-scale mining. Trout Unlimited, partnering with our Arctic Choice Seafoods, will be giving away free samples of grilled Bristol Bay sockeye salmon along with recipes and information about Bristol Bay and the risks this fishery faces.

They asked me if I wanted to submit a recipe for their event—and I just happened to have a great recipe ready! At the market last weekend I picked up a glorious sockeye salmon filet so I could make it again and take a photo for you. YUM! I’m definitely planning to pick up another salmon filet this Saturday! You can feed yourself like a King (pun intended) and get yourself on the moral high ground—just by buying wild Alaskan salmon!

The event is from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Arctic Choice Seafood booth at the South Anchorage Farmers Market, at the Subway/Cellular One Sports Centre near the corner of Old Seward Highway and O’Malley Road. More information is available at



grilled southwestern salmon with guacamole on crispy toast

This recipe is inspired by the wonderful fresh local salmon at the market!  You grill the salmon with a yummy southwestern rub, then toast a slice of hearty whole-grain bread until crisp. Spread the toast with a thick layer of guacamole, stack the salmon on top, and sprinkle with a little garnish of red onions. Serve with a simple green salad, topped with toasted green pumpkin seeds. And wouldn’t a margarita taste good with this meal? Especially if we have a sunny day and you can eat it outside on the deck!

Even if you have your own guacamole recipe already, you might want to give this one a try—it’s modified from a recipe from a Cook’s Illustrated magazine from several years ago, and I really do think it’s a good one.

For the southwestern spice rub, I really like the choices at Summit Spice & Tea Co. (at 1120 E. Huffman Road). I’d recommend their southwestern blend, or the Slammin’ Salmon, or the Coho Mojo. You could also just use prepared chili powder if you don’t have any of these blends handy.

1 large filet salmon
southwestern spice rub
canola oil (for the grill)
1 small red onion, minced
guacamole (recipe follows)
4 slices hearty whole-grain bread

1. Make the guacamole, cover it with plastic wrap (pressed directly onto the surface to keep it from browning) and refrigerate.
2. Skin the salmon filet and sprinkle it all over with the spice rub, rubbing it on to cover all surfaces. 
3. Heat your grill on high heat, and when the grill racks are very hot, scrub them clean with your grill brush. Just before you’re going to grill the salmon, fold a paper towel into a 3” square, and soak this pad in a small dish of canola oil. Swab the grill racks thoroughly with the oil-soaked pad, then immediately set the filet on the hot, oiled rack with the skinned side up (pretty side down).
4. Turn the heat down to medium and cover the grill. Cook the salmon on that side until it has nice grill marks and will release from the grill without sticking, about 4 minutes.
5. While the salmon is grilling, toast the bread on the grill or in your toaster.
6. Use the same paper towel to oil the nearby grill space, and then carefully flip the salmon onto the newly oiled patch. Cook for another couple of minutes until it’s done to your liking. We like it pretty rare, but keep in mind that the thinner tail section will cook faster than the thicker sections. You can either cut the tail off when it’s cooked and let the rest of the salmon cook a bit more, cut the tail section off before you grill it and cook it separately, or just let the tail part get more well-done than the rest of the filet for those in your family who prefer it that way.
7. Remove the salmon from the grill to a plate while you prepare the sandwiches.
8. Spread each slice of toast with a thick layer of guacamole, top with the salmon, and sprinkle with red onions. Serve immediately with a margarita or a cold beer!

I buy bags of avocados all year ‘round at Costco. Here’s how to ripen and store the avocados from Costco so they don’t get overripe and go to waste. Buy a bag of them when they are rock-hard, and set them on your counter. Every day (you must be vigilant), squeeze them very gently to see how soft they are getting. When they have just begun to get soft (don’t wait until they are squishy), put them in the refrigerator RIGHT AWAY—this will more or less arrest their further ripening, and you will have a treasure trove of perfectly ripe avocados for a week or more.

¼ to ½ cup minced onion (to your taste)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1-2 jalepeno peppers, seeded with a spoon and minced
¼ cup minced fresh cilantro (optional)
¼ to ½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cumin (optional)
3 ripe avocados
2-3 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1. After mincing the onion, scoop it into a glass or bowl and cover with cold water and let it soak while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.  (This takes away some of the bite of the raw onion.)
2. Put the garlic, jalepeno, cilantro, salt, and cumin in a medium bowl. 
3. Halve, pit, and peel the avocados.
4. Drain the onion well in a sieve and add to the bowl, stir with a fork.  Put one avocado into the bowl and mash the flesh with the onion mixture.
5. Cube the remaining 2 avocados into ½” pieces and put the pieces into the bowl.  Sprinkle the lime juice over the diced avocado and mix entire contents of bowl lightly with a fork until combined but still chunky.  Adjust seasoning with salt and lime juice. Try not to eat the entire bowl while you’re testing it.
6. You can cover it with plastic wrap, pressed directly onto surface of guacamole, and refrigerate it for a few hours before serving, if you like.


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Saturday, June 06, 2009

skillet cornbread


Farmer Boy

I’m reading Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Farmer Boy to Meredith again. She’s only four years old (well, almost five) and this is the third time I’m reading it to her. You might assume this is because Meredith loves it so. You’d be right… but the more salient reason is because I love it so. Somehow I grew up without reading this book! I read all of the other Laura Ingalls Wilder books, starting with Little House in the Big Woods (which I think is my favorite, actually), but somehow missed this one, the story of Almanzo Wilder’s boyhood in upstate New York. When I read it to Meredith the first time, I was utterly captivated… and as with all books I love dearly, I felt quite bereft at the end. Luckily I have a willing audience for repeat readings, and having just finished it for the second time a couple of weeks ago, we started all over again at the beginning.

Since the Farmers Market is just starting up in earnest, it’s an especially good time to be reading this book. It’s the story of all the work 10-year-old Almanzo can already do, and what he aspires to do, on his father’s farm…  milking the cows, feeding the stock, breaking his team of young calves to the yoke, helping cut ice for the ice house, collecting sap and boiling maple syrup, driving the plow horses to harrow the fields, planting the crops, shearing sheep, weeding the vegetables, picking berries, harvesting the crops, threshing the wheat, and hauling wood from the wood lot.

This vast amount of constantly changing and physically demanding work makes for very big appetites, and Almanzo’s mother is an amazing cook! (I add here, that in addition to all the cooking and baking for her family, she cheerfully does all the other work expected of a farm wife: spinning and knitting and weaving their sheeps’ wool into wonderfully warm and durable cloth, sewing all the family’s clothes and linens, doing the washing and cleaning, making soap, candles, and butter, storing the vegetables, and so on.)  Anyway, every day, with the help of Almanzo’s two sisters, Almanzo’s mother puts three huge and fantastic meals on the table. These meals are often described in mouth-watering detail, and these sections are Meredith’s and my particular favorites.  Meredith will often say after an account of a particularly wonderful meal, “I wish I was Almanzo!” So do I! Here are a few of our favorite sections (and these aren’t even the Thanksgiving or Christmas dinners!).

Almanzo ate the sweet, mellow baked beans. He ate the bit of salt pork that melted like cream in his mouth. He ate mealy boiled potatoes, with brown ham-gravy. He ate the ham. He bit deep into velvety bread spread with sleek butter, and he ate the crisp golden crust. He demolished a tall heap of pale mashed turnips, and a hill of stewed yellow pumpkin. Then he sighed, and tucked his napkin deeper into the neckband of his red waist. And he ate plum preserves and strawberry jam, and grape jelly, and spiced watermelon-rind pickles. He felt very comfortable inside. Slowly he ate a large piece of pumpkin pie. [from “Winter Evening”]

[Almanzo and his older brother, Royal] worked so hard [packing ice with sawdust in the icehouse] that the exercise kept them warm, but long before noon Almanzo was hungrier than wolves. He couldn’t stop work long enough to run into the house for a doughnut. All of his middle was hollow, with a gnawing inside it.
He knelt on the ice, pushing sawdust into the cracks with his mittened hands, and pounding it down with a stick as fast as he could, and he asked Royal:
“What would you like best to eat?”
They talked about spareribs, and turkey with dressing, and baked beans, and crackling cornbread, and other good things. But Almanzo said that what he liked most in the world was fried apples’n’onions.
When, at last, they went in to dinner, there on the table was a big dish of them! Mother knew what he liked best, and she had cooked it for him.
Almanzo ate four large helpings of apples’n’onions fried together. He ate roast beef and brown gravy, and mashed potatoes and creamed carrots and boiled turnips, and countless slices of buttered bread with crab-apple jelly.
“It takes a good deal to feed a growing boy,” Mother said. And she put a thick slice of birds’-nest pudding on his bare plate, and handed him the pitcher of sweetened cream specked with nutmeg. Almanzo poured the heavy cream over the apples nested in the fluffy crust. The syrupy brown juice curled up around the edges of the cream. Almanzo took up his spoon and ate every bit.
[from “Filling the Ice House”]

When Almanzo trudged into the kitchen next morning with two brimming milk-pails, Mother was making stacked pancakes because this was Sunday.
The big blue platter on the stove’s hearth was full of plump sausage cakes; Eliza Jane was cutting apples pies and Alice was dishing up oatmeal, as usual. But the little blue platter stood hot on the back of the stove, and ten stacks of pancakes rose in tall towers on it.
Ten pancakes cooked on the smoking griddle, and as fast as they were done, Mother added another cake to each stack and buttered it lavishly and covered it with maple sugar. Butter and sugar melted together and soaked the fluffy pancakes and dripped all down their crisp edges.
That was stacked pancakes. Almanzo liked them better than any other kind of pancakes.
Mother kept on frying them till the others had eaten their oatmeal. She could never make too many stacked pancakes. They all ate pile after pile of them…
[from “Sunday”]

So… I tried to think of something that I make that is like Almanzo’s mother’s wonderful meals..  I surely don’t have a farm family to feed, and while I don’t make cornbread as often as Almanzo’s mother does (and she makes it so often she just tosses the ingredients together in a bowl, never needing to measure them), I do love it! I hope you enjoy it, too.

If you haven’t already read Farmer Boy I hope you’ll check it out; it’s inspiring and heart-warming and wonderful. And then I hope you’ll take the time to visit a farmers market in your neighborhood! I’ll bet the wonderfully fresh produce will inspire you to cook and eat wonderful meals with your loved ones!


skillet cornbread

This recipe is based on one from a long-ago issue of Cooks Illustrated. I love this cornbread—it doesn’t call for any grain but cornmeal (no wheat flour), so it’s got GREAT corn flavor and a fantastic dense, moist texture with a crispy crust that you will love. It’s not sweet, cakey, or fluffy, though—so if you like that kind of cornbread, you should stick with your regular recipe. The other reason I love this cornbread so much is because years ago, my mom gave me her grain grinder attachment for her KitchenAid Mixer (when she stopped making her own bread). So I can use absolutely freshly-ground cornmeal. I’ve read that it makes a difference to use freshly-ground corn, since cornmeal goes rancid quite quickly, and that gives it a bitter flavor. So…  if you don’t have your own grain grinder, try to get the freshest cornmeal you can, and store it in the freezer, maybe—and use it up as quick as ever you can!

The original recipe calls for a cast-iron skillet, but I just use a regular 8-inch oven-proof skillet. When I want to make a bigger batch of cornbread, I make a double batch and bake it in my biggest skillet—it’s 11 inches across.

1 tablespoon melted butter and 1 teaspoon olive oil (or, substitute all olive oil)
1 cup yellow cornmeal, preferably freshly-ground or stone-ground
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon table salt 1 teaspoon baking powder 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup water (rapidly boiling)
3/4 cup buttermilk (or substitute half plain yogurt, half milk)
1 large egg , beaten lightly

1. Heat oven to 450 degrees.
2. Measure 1/3 cup cornmeal into medium bowl. Mix remaining cornmeal, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in small bowl; set aside.
3. Pour boiling water all at once into the 1/3 cup cornmeal; stir to make a smooth, slightly thick mush. Add more boiling water if necessary to make a mush, rather than a stiff chunk. Whisk in buttermilk gradually, breaking up lumps until smooth, then whisk in egg.
4. When oven is preheated, set 8-inch oven-proof skillet with butter and olive oil in heating oven. Let it heat for 5 or 10 minutes, until very hot and butter is completely melted.
5. Stir dry ingredients into cornmeal mush mixture until just moistened. Carefully remove skillet from oven. Pour hot fat from the skillet into the batter and stir to incorporate, then quickly pour batter into heated skillet. Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and instantly turn cornbread onto wire rack; cool for 5 minutes, then serve immediately.


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