WASILLA — Two local writers known as the “Simply Alaskan Sisters” are not connected by blood, but by potent friendship and their love for writing, collecting recipes and history from around the state and making cookbooks.
So that’s just what Cindy Smirnoff and Barbara Stallone did. They published their first cookbook last year called, “Alaska’s 49 Flavorite Recipes from the 49th State.” The two are currently touring the state and will eventually tour the Lower 48 as well.
“It’s brag book. It’s bragging about Alaska and the details of the 49th state,” Smirnoff said. “We’re just wild about selling Alaska.”
The two have known each other for many years after meeting in Big Lake. They’re neighbors who became best friends. Their kinship is clear to see when they’re in together, talking about their book. They made an effort to translate some of that chemistry into their book as they dashed little anecdotes in with their recipes.
“It’s something that we’ve talked about for a long time and thought it was the perfect time to peruse it,” Stallone said.
The recipes feature several comfort foods and Alaskan inspired dishes. All of the titles harken to the state and several recipes contain fun facts. From historical accounts to facts about Alaskan animals, there’s a little bit of everything in this book.
“We tested every single one of them because, Cindy and I, we grew up with them. Some of them are our mothers. Some of them are ours but we think that once you try it, you’re going to love it,” Stallone said.
There’s names like Palmer peanut butter fudge and baked Willow Ptarmigan breasts inviting chefs to cook up the state bird. Ptarmigan is a popular and easy target covering much of the map so most residents can find them.
“The nice part about it is, everything you find in this book, you won’t have to go out and purchase for a particular recipe. Most of the ingredients are in your kitchen already,” Stallone said.
The pair enjoys cooking for the sheer joy of it. Stallone said that’s cooking for people and witnessing their reaction is always exciting.
“That’s the fun part because we eat right here,” Stallone said, pointing to her eyes. “That’s sort of why we started this book.”
The two have lived in Alaska for many years and share an affinity for it. Stallone was born in Anchorage prior statehood. Smirnoff’s family moved to the Kenai Peninsula in the 1960s perusing commercial fishing and that’s where she spent her formative years.
There’s several kid tested recipes in the “Kidz Korner” which is filled with information like Alaska geography and definitions. She said that some Alaskan children got in the kitchen and rolled up their sleeves to test these recipes.
“It brings in the whole state. By being a Kenai Peninsula gal, being Valley and Anchorage, we really have kind of honed in on the places visitors can drive to and of course you can’t leave out Juneau and Skagway and a few of the others but we didn’t make it touristy we made it yummy. We’ve made it easy, things that you can look at and go ‘I can do that.’” Smirnoff said.
The book is just as much about cooking as it is a love letter to Alaska, according to Smirnoff. She said that they wanted the recipes to be fun and homey; and they wanted to include numerous bits of information and tributes like a state map and the Alaskan Flag Song.
“We talk about good old, mom and dad homestead ‘flavorties.’ And that’s kind of how we think of ourselves is ‘flavorite sisters’ selling Alaska,” Smirnoff said.
“Alaska’s 49 Flavorite Recipes from the 49th State” is available online on their website, Amazon.com, and even the Martha Stewart online shop. It can also be found in bookstores across the state, including Fireside Books in Palmer and Barns and Noble in Anchorage.
For more information, visit simplyalaskansisters.com
Contact Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman reporter Jacob Mann at email@example.com