Sitka Kitch to host Cooking With Culture: Using Farmers To Families Food Boxes With Nalani James class April 16

Are you one in one of the roughly 1,400 families who have been getting a Farmers To Families food box each week in Sitka? Are you looking for inspiration on how to use some of the food items in each box?

Nalani James will teach a free, virtual Sitka Kitch class, Cooking With Culture: Using Farmers To Families Food Boxes class from 5-7 p.m. on Friday, April 16, using Zoom. Thanks to a partnership with Sitka Moose Lodge No. 1350, the Sitka Kitch community rental commercial kitchen will offer this class for free. Even though the class is free, we need people to register by late Tuesday night, April 13, so we can send out the Zoom link and ingredient list. Since this is a free class and we have limited space, we encourage families to register under one registration spot and share the screen.

The menu for this class hasn’t been set, since the list of items in the Farmers To Families food boxes changes from month to month. The menu will be tailored to the box contents for April, once we know what they are. In recent months the boxes have contained potatoes, apples, onions, baby carrots or cabbage, milk, yogurt (plain or flavored), sour cream, hot dogs (or canned salmon), and smoked chicken leg quarters. (UPDATE: The menu will be chicken with fun sides using carrots, onions, potatoes, plus beer-battered onion rings with a non-alcoholic version available.)

Nalani is somewhat new to Sitka, having moved here about two years ago. She occasionally had a baked goods booth at the 2019 Sitka Farmers Markets, and she became market co-manager in 2020. In March, she was one of the winners of the Sitka Food Business Innovation Contest with her egg business, Eggstravagant. Nalani loves to have ethnic foods from the regional area and works to simulate the flavors and textures of the dish. She has been cooking elaborate dishes at the age of 10 with the free will of her parents, and loves being a cooking chemist.

The registration deadline is 11:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 13. Space is limited, so register early to secure your place in the class. You can register on the Sitka Kitch EventSmart online registration page, http://sitkakitch.eventsmart.com (click on class title).

For more information about the class, contact Jasmine Shaw at 747-9440.

Joanne Michalski, Nalani James win $1,500 prizes in fourth annual Sitka Food Business Innovation Contest

One winner is making frozen mud pies while the other winner is raising chickens for fresh, local eggs to sell to Sitka residents. Congratulations to Joanne “Chef Jo” Michalski of Muddy Mermaid Mudd Pies and Nalani James of Eggstravagant, who won the two $1,500 prizes in the fourth annual Sitka Food Business Innovation Contest.

“We are happy to encourage more businesses to get into the local food system with our contest,” said Charles Bingham, board president of the Sitka Local Foods Network, which sponsors the contest. “Both businesses already are selling products, even with the pandemic, even though these are relatively new businesses. The Sitka Local Foods Network’s mission is to increase the amount of locally harvested and produced foods into the diets of Southeast Alaskans, so we hope our prizes continue to encourage local food entrepreneurs here in Sitka.”

The Sitka Food Business Innovation Contest has $1,500 prizes for each of two categories, start-ups (less than two years old) and existing businesses. This year all of the entries were in the start-up category, but since Chef Jo already owns Jo’s Downtown Dawgs and has been selling her mud pies to restaurants, her entry was moved to the existing business category so there could be two awards. “We felt both entries were deserving of awards,” Bingham said.

Chef Jo has a long association with food in Sitka, being a former chef with the Westmark and current general manager for the NMS contract with the Sitka School District. She started Jo’s Downtown Dawgs four years ago next to Russell’s, and last summer started making her Muddy Mermaid Mudd Pies. A Muddy Mermaid Mudd Pie is double layers of hand-crafted sea-salted caramel frozen yogurt, with a house-made caramel ribbon in the middle topped with home-made fudge sauce and crushed peanuts. She also has made special-occasion mud pies with crushed Oreos crumb crust, and for Valentine’s Day it was Dutch chocolate-raspberry with a ladyfinger crust. She currently is selling her Muddy Mermaid Mudd Pies through the Mean Queen and she sells retail whole pies to the public. She also sells slices of her pie at her food cart.

One of her barriers to being able to produce more mud pies is the lack of a commercial-grade ice cream maker, so she’s only been able to produce two pies at a time. She plans to use her prize money to purchase a commercial-grade ice cream maker so she can increase her production. She also will use it to buy product supplies, and to give a tip to two teenage girls who helped her last summer, twin sisters Michelle and Andrea Winger.

“My challenge at first was how to keep it frozen, and I found a ‘cooler’ that seriously keeps it frozen for 24 hours. YES!” Chef Jo said on her entry form. “The local response has been amazing, and in this time of ‘what’s next’ indulging in a slice of pie is something we all can use.”

Nalani is fairly new to Sitka, but already has been active in the local food scene as a co-manager of the Sitka Farmers Market in 2020 and vendor in 2019, and as an occasional instructor of Sitka Kitch cooking classes. (NOTE: Even though Nalani has an association with the Sitka Local Foods Network, which hosts the Sitka Farmers Market, she did not participate in the contest judging).

Nalani said she plans to use the prize money to help improve her chicken coop’s protection and deterrence from predators, such as rodents and bears. She and her family are moving to a new location in town, so she is in the process of rebuilding her coop, and wants to provide an electric fence perimeter to protect her birds. She started selling eggs through her Facebook page earlier this year, and plans to sell them through the page and at Sitka Farmers Markets during the summer. She plans to hire two intermittent employees to help her in the summer with cleaning the chicken coop and taking care of the chickens.

“Eggs will be a great addition to the fresh vegetables and fish in town,” Nalani said in her application. “There are many essential vitamins in eggs, and protein needed for children and elderly in the area. They taste better, too.”

Last year’s winners were Andrew Jylkka of Southeast Dough Company (fresh sourdough bread and fermented foods) and Levi Adams of Forage and Farm (mushroom growing and foraging). In 2019, our winners were Brittany Dumag of Castaway (food cart with Cuban pork sandwiches using Alaska pork) and Tamara Kyle of Sitka Sauers (fermented foods), with a special youth winner award for Abigail Ward of Sitka Spices (meat and fish rubs). In 2018, the winner was Hope Merritt of Gimbal Botanicals (beach greens and local teas).

Sitka Kitch to offer Cooking With Nalani James: Salmon Croquettes class March 19 using Zoom

Looking for a way to use up some leftover salmon? Do you have a lot of salmon meat scrapings that didn’t make it into the filets? The Sitka Kitch will host a virtual Cooking  With Nalani James: Salmon Croquettes class from 5:30-7 p.m. on Friday, March 19, using Zoom (NOTE, this is a date change from the original post).

Croquettes originated in France in about 1898 by the founder of classical French cuisine, Escoffier. They were originally made of beef, leftovers that needed to be used up. We will include an Alaska twist by using ground salmon for this recipe, with a couple of sides to make it a full meal.

Nalani is somewhat new to Sitka, having moved here about two years ago. She occasionally had a baked goods booth at the 2019 Sitka Farmers Markets, and she became market co-manager in 2020. She loves to have ethnic foods from the regional area and works to simulate the flavors and textures of the dish. She has been cooking elaborate dishes at the age of 10 with the free will of her parents, and loves being a cooking chemist.

The class cost is $30 for each household, with ground salmon provided as a fundraiser for the Sitka Mutual Aid program. If you provide your own salmon, the cost is $20 and families are encouraged to participate together. Other ingredients are not provided; however a list of ingredients and equipment needed will be sent to all who are registered. A link to the Zoom event also will be sent at that time.

Current (paid) members of the Sitka Food Co-op are now able to attend the online classes for $10 each (the co-op will cover the other $10 of your class fee, and in this case no salmon will be provided). Please use the Sitka Food Co-op ticket when you register and send an email to sitkafoodcoop@gmail.com letting them know you’re in the class. (NOTE, Only one person per Co-op household may use the Co-op discount per class. Please name that person when you register so the name can be checked against the Co-op membership list.)

The registration deadline is 11:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 16. Space is limited, so register early to secure your place in the class. You can register and pre-pay using credit/debit cards or PayPal on the Sitka Kitch EventSmart online registration page, http://sitkakitch.eventsmart.com (click on class title). For those wanting to pre-pay with cash or check, please call Chandler O’Connell or Clarice Johnson at Sitka Conservation Society (747-7509) to arrange a payment. This class is a fundraiser for the Sitka Kitch community rental commercial kitchen.

For more information about the class, contact Jasmine Shaw at 747-9440. We occasionally offer scholarship spot(s) per class for people with limited incomes, provided we have enough students registered to make the class happen. Contact Chandler at SCS for more details about the scholarship.

The Sitka Kitch also has a new class cancelation policy. If you register for a class, then find out you can’t attend, please email us at sitkakitch@sitkawild.org and we may be able to help fill your slot through our waiting list. If you cancel from the class at least five days in advance (eg, by Wednesday the week before for a Monday class), you are eligible for a partial refund of your class fee, minus $5 for processing (in this case, $15). If you need to cancel with less than five days advance notice, there is no refund.

Sitka Kitch offers Cooking Around The World: Chinese Lo Mein class with Nalani James

Chinese New Year is Friday, Feb. 12, and the Sitka Kitch will host a virtual Cooking Around The World class, Lo Mein with Nalani James, that day. The class takes place from 5:30-7 p.m. using Zoom.

Lo mein is a traditional Chinese dish in China that is savory and full of vegetables to get all the vitamins you need. We will add Chicken and add an American twist. You can also substitute tofu to make it vegetarian. This will be a Zoom class taken from the comfort and safety of your own home kitchen.

Nalani is somewhat new to Sitka, having moved here about two years ago. She occasionally had a baked goods booth at the 2019 Sitka Farmers Markets, and she became market co-manager in 2020. She loves to have ethnic foods from the regional area and works to simulate the flavors and textures of the dish. She has been cooking elaborate dishes at the age of 10 with the free will of her parents, and loves being a cooking chemist.

The class cost is $20 for each household, and families are encouraged to participate together. Ingredients are not provided; however a list of ingredients and equipment needed will be sent to all who are registered on Tuesday, Feb. 9. A link to the Zoom event also will be sent at that time.

Current (paid) members of the Sitka Food Co-op are now able to attend the online classes for $10 each (the co-op will cover the other $10 of your class fee). Please use the Sitka Food Co-op ticket when you register and send an email to sitkafoodcoop@gmail.com letting them know you’re in the class. (NOTE, Only one person per Co-op household may use the Co-op discount per class. Please name that person when you register so the name can be checked against the Co-op membership list.)

The registration deadline is 11:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 9. Space is limited, so register early to secure your place in the class. You can register and pre-pay using credit/debit cards or PayPal on the Sitka Kitch EventSmart online registration page, http://sitkakitch.eventsmart.com (click on class title). For those wanting to pre-pay with cash or check, please call Chandler O’Connell or Clarice Johnson at Sitka Conservation Society (747-7509) to arrange a payment. This class is a fundraiser for the Sitka Kitch community rental commercial kitchen.

For more information about the class, contact Jasmine Shaw at 747-9440. We occasionally offer scholarship spot(s) per class for people with limited incomes, provided we have enough students registered to make the class happen. Contact Chandler at SCS for more details about the scholarship.

The Sitka Kitch also has a new class cancelation policy. If you register for a class, then find out you can’t attend, please email us at sitkakitch@sitkawild.org and we may be able to help fill your slot through our waiting list. If you cancel from the class at least five days in advance (eg, by Wednesday the week before for a Monday class), you are eligible for a partial refund of your class fee, minus $5 for processing (in this case, $15). If you need to cancel with less than five days advance notice, there is no refund.

Sitka wins top market in Alaska honors for fourth straight year in American Farmland Trust Farmers Market Celebration

The Sitka Farmers Market ranked as the top market in Alaska, 25th in the Pacific region and 104th nationally during the American Farmland Trust‘s Farmers Market Celebration voting that ended earlier this week. This was the 12th year of the contest.

This is the fourth straight year the Sitka Farmers Market has been the top market in Alaska, and sixth time in seven years. The contest uses online voting, but each email address is only allowed to vote once so people can’t stuff the ballot box. Voting opened in June and ended earlier this week.

“This year, with COVID-19, we had to greatly scale back the market and make significant changes, such as stripping down to just produce vendors, using an online ordering system during the week followed by Saturday morning pick-up events at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm,” said Charles Bingham, board president of the Sitka Local Foods Network, which sponsors the Sitka Farmers Market. “Our main goal was to safely distribute locally grown produce without spreading the coronavirus. I’m glad we were able to do that.”

Sitka Farmers Market co-managers Nalani James, left, and Ariane Goudeau carry a farmers market sign to the curb in front of St. Peter’s By The Sea Episcopal Church.

This year the People’s Choice Award (the only national award) went to the Clarksville Downtown Farmers Market in Clarksville, Tenn., earning the market a $1,000 prize. Second place and $500 went to the Charlottesville City (Va.) Market, while third place and $250 went to the Boise (Idaho) Farmers Market. Rounding out the top-five markets in the standings were the 3rd Street Farmers Market in Tompkinsville, Ky., in fourth place, and the Napa (Calif.) Farmers Market in fifth place. Last year’s People’s Choice Award went to the Troy (N.Y.) Waterfront Farmers Market, which finished seventh nationally this summer.

The top market in the Pacific region was the Boise (Idaho) Farmers Market; followed by the Napa (Calif.) Farmers Market in second place; the Moscow (Idaho) Farmers Market in third place; the Vancouver (Wash.) Farmers Market in fourth place; and the Kaka’ako Farmers Market of Honolulu, Hawai’i in fifth place (last year’s Pacific region winner).

The other regional winners included the Tuscarawas Valley Farmers Market of Dover, Ohio, in the Midwest; the Ligonier (Penn.) Country Market in the Northeast; the Clarksville (Tenn.) Downtown Farmers Market in the Southeast; and the Grand Prairie (Texas) Farmers Market in the Southwest.

St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm lead gardener Laura Schmidt, left, and Sitka Farmers Market co-managers Ariane Goudeau, center, and Nalani James with baskets of produce ready for pick-up.

There wasn’t a list of Alaska standings posted, but checking individual market pages showed the Sitka Farmers Market in first place for the state, the South Anchorage I Farmers Market in second place, and the Homer Farmers Market in third place.

“We have a small market compared to others around the country, but I’m happy the people who visit our market think enough of it to recommend it in this contest,” Bingham said. “We thank everybody who came to one of our markets this summer and supported more local food in Sitka and Southeast Alaska.”

The Sitka Farmers Market also was listed on the Guide To Exceptional Markets from the Certified Naturally Grown program for the second year this summer.

Andrea Fraga of Middle Island Gardens, left, and Brooke Schafer of Raincoast Flowers with some of their products.

This year the last Sitka Farmers Market order period was Sept. 15-17 and last pick-up day was Sept. 19. Due to COVID-19, the 26th annual Running of the Boots fun run fundraiser won’t take place in late September (we usually had a farm stand at that event, which raised money for the Sitka Local Foods Network and Youth Advocates of Sitka last year).

The Sitka Local Foods Network hopes to be able to return to a full market, or a hybrid with some pre-orders and some market-day sales, next year.

“We really missed having all of the booths this year, and the feel of a real community gathering instead of just a quick pick-up of your order,” Bingham said. “One of the nice things about hosting the market is it serves as a business incubator for smaller cottage foods and arts/crafts businesses, and those folks lost a market this summer.”