Posted by & filed under Recipes.

The Lawrenceville Joy of Cookies came around again this year at the beginning of December. The weather wasn’t as cooperative as last year, though we still went through a number of cookies, including some of last year’s Kicker Doodles, peanut butter–chocolate chip (sorry, that recipe’s a secret of our pastry-chef friend), and these amazing little shortbread numbers with mango, ginger, and coconut. I bet you can’t eat just one.

Momma Rose's Mango Ginger Cookies

Momma Rose’s Mango Ginger Cookies


  • 1 c. butter
  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 oz. preserved ginger, chopped, plus 2t juice from ginger
  • 2 c. all purpose flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 oz. dried mango, chopped
  • 1-2 c. coconut flakes (optional)


Beat together butter and sugar until fluffy, then add egg yolk and ginger syrup. Sift together flour and salt and add to butter-sugar mixture. Add preserved ginger and chopped mango and stir till combined.

Optionally, spread coconut in a shallow pan.

Shape dough into a log about 1–1 1/2 inches in diameter. Roll log in coconut flakes. Wrap in plastic wrap and place in fridge to chill for 30 min to 24 hours.

Pre heat oven to 375°F.

Unwrap logs and slice into 1/4 inch disks. Place disks on cookie sheet spaced about an inch apart.

Bake in oven for 12-15 minutes, rotating your pans half way through.

For a variation replace mangos with dried pineapple. 

Posted by & filed under Recipes.

We went through somewhere over 80 dozen cookies in the Lawrenceville Joy of Cookies Tour last weekend. Fortunately, we have some wonderful friends who did the baking for us while we got everything else ready to get the shop open.

Our friend Culinary Cory made two kinds of cookies with a greenSinner theme: Devil Chocolate Chip Cookies and Minty Grinch Cookies. And Momma Rose (who you may see working around the shop with us) made these Kicker Doodles (recipe below), a spicy twist on snickerdoodles.

I can personally attest, having eaten large quantities of all three of these throughout the weekend, they’re all delicious.

Momma Rose's Kicker Doodles

Momma Rose’s Kicker Doodles

Momma Rose’s Kicker Doodles Recipe

The Kick

  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1 T. chipotle spice
  • 1 t. cayenne (or to taste)

The Doodle

  • 2 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
  • 2 t. baking powder
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1/2 t. chipotle spice
  • 8 oz. (2 sticks) butter
  • 1 1/2 c. sugar
  • 2 eggs

Beat butter and sugar together until combined. Add eggs one at a time. In a separate bowl combine dry ingredients and add to butter mixture. Mix until well combined and dough comes together into a ball.

Chill dough for at least two hours. Form chilled dough into balls and coat in “Kick” mixture. Bake in oven at 350°F for 16-20 minutes.


Posted by & filed under Flowers.

Have you ever seen those blue orchids they sell in stores? Whenever I overhear someone say, “I saw the prettiest blue orchid the other day,” I shudder. “They aren’t actually blue,” I say. I can’t help myself. “They dye them that color. If you look closely, you can see the spot on the stem where they inject the dye.”

My friend Molly knows I can’t stand these, and she takes every opportunity to goad me about “those pretty blue orchids.”

So today, this happened (via text message):

Molly: Aren’t these beautiful?!?!?!

Farmer-General: Are those f*#$ing tulips dyed blue? I hate you.

M: They were daisy type things. And they were glittery, too.

FG: Glitter?! I’m having an aneurysm.

M: I think you’re missing an opportunity. I’m going to manage a division of greenSinner. It’s just called “sin”.

FG: Sins against horticulture.


The actual plantpocalypse came last week, though. She sent me this:

Yes, that’s an actual live succulent, painted and glittered. I can still hear its screams of agony.

Speaking of succulents, I should probably be blogging about all the real things that are going on, like the succulent wedding from April, or the milk glass wedding from last week, or the ultrafun Children’s Museum wedding from this week. Or the fact that almost all of the flowers are planted. Or the fact that we were on the radio on the Allegheny Front. Or the fact that we are going to be on the Lawrenceville Garden Tour on June 16 and I still have a lot of mulching and prettifying to do to get ready.

All that will come. In the meantime, I’m just happy to say that it’s the night before a big wedding, and I’m home at 9:00 p.m. instead of 1:00 a.m.

Posted by & filed under Flowers, Weddings.

We’re in the current Whirl Wedding Guide in a feature on wedding bouquets. As part of the “Whirl Wednesdays” segment, another of our wedding bouquets was featured on Pittsburgh Today Live on KDKA this morning. Here’s the video:

It’s made of mauve duchess roses (the large roses, which are 3-4 roses put together to make them enormous), burgundy ranunculus with green buds and leaves, purple button mums, lavender and rosemary foliage (from our garden – thanks, mild winter!), pink waxflower, and succulents (Portulacaria afra ‘Aurea’, from my greenhouse, plus a little Echeveria tucked in there, too).

Posted by & filed under Live.

We’re very excited about our first full year of growing and selling flowers. But like the flowers, we’re retreating for the winter and building up our reserves to burst forth in the spring.

Last week, we regrouped from the holidays and got the greenhouse organized. For the month of January, we’ll be on hiatus from the Pittsburgh Public Market. We’ll be back in February for your Valentine’s Day needs, and again in March & April for Easter. Then we’re back in full force when spring bursts into action for the entire month of May.

What are we doing in the meantime? Well, we’re continuing our classes on topics such as terrarium building, bulb forcing, wedding planning and all sorts of other stuff, so you can still see us there. And we’re working with other partners, including Phipps Conservatory, Construction Junction, and Creative Reuse Pittsburgh to bring more new classes your way as well. We’ll also be participating in several wedding shows, including one at the Pittsburgh Public Market on February 25-26 (more details to come soon).

We’re also working on several big new projects that aren’t quite ready for the light of day yet, but I can give you a hint on one. You may already know that we have a greenhouse and workshop in Lawrenceville, and soon we’ll be inviting you to come on down and visit us there, open for retail visitors. No pictures yet, but watch Facebook and you’ll be able to see our progress as we get things ready!

We’ve added a calendar to our website so you can keep up with where we are and what’s going on. And of course, if you need an emergency plant in the meantime, give us a call or send us email!

Posted by & filed under Waste.

If you have a live Christmas tree, what do you do with it after the holidays are done? The halls are un-decked and the decorations are put away, so what happens to the naked, needle-dropping tree still sitting in the living room?

309/365 - Dead Christmas Tree

If you live in the City of Pittsburgh, don’t put your Christmas tree out to the curb. Although in past years Pittsburgh has had a curbside pickup for Christmas tree recycling, they’re not doing it this year. (So, if you put your tree out to the curb, it will just get put in the same garbage truck as everything else and go to the landfill.)

Instead, take your tree to one of the city’s recycling centers. The city accepts yard waste at four different recycling centers where they compost and mulch materials. Here are the details of the 2012 Christmas tree program (pdf) with locations. The Department of Public Works also has more information on yard waste collection. Be aware: if you take a car or SUV, drop-offs are free. But for a pickup or trailer, you pay $20 (or more for large dumptrucks, etc.), and you have to pay by money order (no checks or cash). Which is a real pain, so chop the tree into a couple of pieces, or strap it to the roof of the car.

If you live elsewhere, check with your local government for what to do with your tree. If you live in Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Resources Council is a great place for information.

You can always compost the tree yourself, as well, in your own home compost pile. To do this effectively, you’re going to have to chop it up. The easiest way is with a power chipper/shredder, but you could also do it manually with some pruners. Just cut the branches from the trunk and cut or break them into small pieces. (Leave the thick trunk out of the compost and use it for a bonfire in the spring.)

Or, you can use the tree as a wildlife habitat. I’d really only recommend this if you live in a rural area, because in urban areas you might attract wildlife that’s less cuddly and enjoyable (like rats, for example). But you can drag the tree into your yard in a wooded area and let nature take its course. The branches will provide a place for birds or small mammals to shelter, and eventually the tree will compost naturally. (Sometimes trees are also used underwater in ponds to provide similar habitats for small fish.)

Whatever you do, if you choose a live tree, make sure it doesn’t end up in the landfill, so we can have lots of happy holidays to come.


Posted by & filed under Art & Decoration, Holidays.

We’ve been doing a series of classes on Sundays at 11:00 a.m. at the Pittsburgh Public Market. Our most popular class so far has been terrarium class (next one coming up on December 11). Today we did a Thanksgiving table arrangement and several attendees took home beautiful arrangements for their Thanksgiving festivities, learned about flower arranging, and did it all for a lot less than buying a finished arrangement from a florist.

Thanksgiving arrangement class

For the rest of the year, we’re doing a variety of holiday-themed sessions. There’s a run-down below. If you’re interested, sign up for our email list. Once a week, we email with details of the class (plus some handy seasonal tips, for things like pumpkin-carving, bulb-planting, and choosing a Christmas tree).

November 27: Doorknob wreaths with Construction Junction.

Don’t settle for the same old cheap glass Christmas bulbs on your holiday door wreath. We’ll use some pieces of Pittsburgh history — doorknobs from Construction Junction and the greenSinner vaults — to decorate a live or artificial wreath (your choice), then dress them up with bows, ribbons, and bling.

Cost: Free, you pay for the materials. Basic materials will start at about $40, ranging up to $100 or more if you choose really fancy doorknobs. (Aunt Edna would choose fancy doorknobs.) 1 hour.

December 4: Finishing touches for the holidays.

It’s an extravaganza of gift-wrapping, bow-making, and all those other tiny little touches that make the holiday special. Friends, family, and crotchety Aunt Edna will marvel and envy the craftiness and style you bring to gift-giving and holiday festivities. Through demonstrations and hands-on help, we’ll walk you through making everything pretty. Bring up to 3 items with you to wrap on the spot, and take home ideas for all the rest, plus embellishments for the table, mantle, stockings, and more.

Cost: $20. 1.5 hours

December 11: Make your own terrarium.

Want to bring a little piece of nature indoors? Keeping plants in a glass terrarium is a great way to connect with nature, and they make great gifts, too. (Aunt Edna wants two, since you never call.) We’ll talk about considerations for choosing plants, accessorizing your terrarium, and successfully caring for it. Then we’ll turn you loose on a container of your choice to plant your very own terrarium.

Cost: $7 includes dirt, moss, rocks, and accessories. You purchase plants (from $3-$6) and bring your own container – mason jars, aquariums, fishbowls, and apothecary jars are all good choices. 1.5 hours.

December 18: Christmas table arrangement.

Santa’s coming, and so is picky Aunt Edna. Make sure you have flowers to impress her for your holiday table. We’ll create an arrangement of evergreens and long-lasting flowers to stay through all your holiday parties (or take it somewhere as a hostess gift). You can optionally bring your own container to build an arrangement in – anything from a basket to a soup tureen. And if you have Christmas mementos, special ornaments, or anything else you want to work in, bring them along.

Cost: $35. 1.5 hours.

December 25: No class.

We’ll be playing with our toys, and packing Aunt Edna’s bags so she can finally go home.

January 1: No class.

Champagne toasting Aunt Edna’s health as she prepares for the final year before the end of the Mayan calendar.


Posted by & filed under Gardening.

A few weeks ago, I was in New York City and found myself with a free afternoon. The weather was beautiful, and I decided to make the most of it with a visit to the New York Botanical Garden.

I highly recommend it if you get the chance to go. It’s in the Bronx (where I had never been before), but it’s right at a train station and only a few minutes outside Manhattan. There’s a wonderful conservatory, and acres and acres of outdoor gardens. I did a lot of walking, but there’s also a little train that makes a loop around to help you get where you’re going.

I enjoyed a number of the collections, including the Home Gardening Center and the Korean mums (which are new to me). I took a lot of pictures at one collection in particular, the ornamental conifers. Jimmy is enamored with what he calls “sad pine trees” — i.e. drippy, weeping evergreens — and there were a lot of great examples in this collection.

sad pine treesad pine tree 2sad pine tree 3sad pine tree 4sad pine tree 5sad pine tree 6

I also managed to catch the autumn crocuses in bloom while I was there (which I had never seen before in person). Autumn crocuses (Colchicum autumnale) are really crocuses at all, but they are a bulb with a similar flower. They are sometimes called “naked ladies” because the blossoms emerge from the ground all by themselves (the foliage emerges in the spring and dies back before the blossoms).

autumn crocusautumn crocuses

I greatly enjoyed my visit to the New York Botanical Garden. If you get a chance, go visit. No matter what the season, you’ll find something interesting!

Posted by & filed under Drinks, Local.

The Pittsburgh Public Market is running a series of “Quickie Cocktail” classes on Fridays at 5:00 p.m. featuring a variety of local ingredients. Tiffani, the events manager at the market, has been putting these together and when she started talking about cocktail classes I told her she wasn’t allowed to do them without letting me help. So today I filled in as celebrity bartender, and I talked about wine cocktails featuring the Market’s winery, Glade Pike Winery in Somerset, PA.

Wine cocktails get a bad rap, I think largely because of one single crappy drink, the white wine spritzer, which is just club soda and white wine. You know, if you need to water down your wine because it hits you too hard, you might want to stick to water with lemon or something.

But wine cocktails actually have a long history. In fact, the earliest drink labeled a “cocktail” that would be recognizable to modern drinkers as a cocktail was based on wine: the champagne cocktail. It’s just a lump of sugar doused in Angostura bitters, topped with champagne, and it’s quite lovely if you’ve never tried one.

Besides champagne-based cocktails (my favorite: the French 75 — maybe I’ll have to blog about that in a future post), most wine cocktails are based on fortified wines. Vermouth (the dry, white, French style or the sweet, red, Italian) is the most common any more, but there are a number of other aperitif-style, fortified, infused wines still around, like Lillet or Dubonnet.

Drinks based on unfortified wines are rarer, but there is one really common example lots of folks are familiar with: sangria. I do have a killer sangria recipe (also: future blog post), but I wanted to do something a little different today. Recipes below.

wine cocktails

In right-to-left order: the Caravan, Walk in the Park, In a Barrel, and as-yet-unnamed blueberry shrub cocktails.


I started with two long drinks — sangria-style but with some twists that make them a little different. The first is the Caravan cocktail. My recipe is an adaptation of the one in Difford’s Guide. Supposedly this drink originated in the ski resorts of the Alps.

The wine I used is Glade Pike’s Petit Verdot, a red. Pennsylvania isn’t really known for its reds, but this wine is really great, probably my favorite of all Glade Pike’s wines. Petit Verdot is a French grape that doesn’t grow particularly well in France (its name actually means “little green” because it tends not to ripen up), but it does nicely in the New World and has started to be used in single-varietal wines.

  • 3 oz. dry red wine (Glade Pike Petit Verdot)
  • 1/2 oz. Grand Marnier
  • Splash of Dr. Pepper
  • Pinch of sugar, if you like it sweeter
  • Garnish: brandy-soaked cherries

Mix wine and liqueur with ice in a tall glass. Top with Dr. Pepper. Add a brandy-soaked cherry as a garnish.

The original calls for Coca-cola, but I used Dr. Pepper. Actually, let me let you in on a little secret that Jimmy taught me: Dr. Pepper can fix any kind of red wine drink. If you have a sangria made with some wine that was a little too cheap, or mulled wine that mulled a little too long, or anything like that, throw some Dr. Pepper in it and it will fix it right up.

In a recipe like this, you might be a little skeptical about ruining a nice wine by mixing it with Dr. Pepper (it sounds so low-brow, doesn’t it?). But you’d be wrong. I mean, think of it this way: we often spruce up a cocktail with bitters (to add complexity), simple syrup (to add sweetness), and club soda (to add sparkle), and Dr. Pepper (or Coke) is really just a combination of all three. It’s sweetened soda water, and if you’ve ever tasted Coke or Dr. Pepper when it’s flat, you start to appreciate the complex flavors that are not so different from some bitters.

For the brandy-soaked cherries, take some fresh cherries, rinse, and dry. To pit them, if you have a fancy cherry-pitter, go for it. Otherwise, I used a paperclip bent into a hook. Just stab it into the bottom of the cherry and fish around a bit and pop out the pit. Put the cherries in a single layer shallow bowl. You can spoon a little sugar over them if they’re a little on the tart side, and then add enough brandy to just cover them. An hour or two is sufficient for them to soak it up.

Walk in the Park

The second drink is also a long drink, this one with white wine. I used the Glade Pike Vidal Blanc, which is similar in character to a Pinot Grigio (crisp, citrusy). I called this drink a “Walk in the Park” because it’s made to please most everybody: not too sweet, not to sour, not too strong — a nice refreshing summertime drink.

  • dash Angostura bitters
  • 1/2 oz. dry vermouth
  • 2 oz. semi-dry white wine (Glade Pike Vidal Blanc)
  • 1/2 oz. orange juice
  • Splash of club soda
  • Garnish: orange wheel

Mix wine, vermouth, bitters, and orange juice with ice in a tall glass. Top with club soda. Add an orange wheel as a garnish.

In a Barrel

The last wine I wanted to use was a challenge: a Niagara. Niagaras are table grapes as well as wine grapes, and they make a sweet wine with a very grape-y flavor. I’m not a sweet wine lover, and Niagara to me is like alcoholic grape juice. So how to use it in a cocktail?

Well, I wanted to make use of that great grape flavor, but balance the cloying sweetness with something else. It turned out the best way to do that was to use the wine as a syrup to flavor a cocktail that balances out the sweetness with acid (specifically lemon). This one’s best served neat in a cocktail glass, although you could do it over rocks in a highball. I called it “In a Barrel” as in “over Niagara falls in a barrel”, because after a few of these, you might feel like that’s where you’re going. They pack a punch — definitely a sipping drink.

  • 3/4 oz. Niagara syrup (see below)
  • 3/4 oz. lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 oz. gin (Plymouth)

Niagara syrup: 2 c. Niagara wine, 1 c. sugar. Heat together in a heavy saucepan on medium heat until the sugar is dissolved. Cool.

Shake syrup, lemon juice, and gin in a cocktail shaker. Strain into a cocktail glass. You could garnish with a twist of lemon zest or a frozen grape.

I used Plymouth gin in this. Plymouth is a pretty strongly flavored gin but I feel like it holds up well with the other bold flavors in this cocktail. (Sidebar: I love gin. Most of the best cocktails in the world involve gin in some way. However, I recognize that not everyone has discovered the splendor of gin, and Plymouth is a very, well, “ginny” gin. So if you want to go with something a bit milder, Hendricks or Bluecoat are gins that might go nicely in this drink as well. If you use vodka instead of gin in this drink, please don’t tell me because that will just break my heart. Seriously.)

This was definitely the winning cocktail, according to the tasters at class. It got a lot of admirers and was described as a “grape-y Tom Collins” (in a good way).

Bonus: Tiffany’s blueberry shrub cocktail

This one is still a work in progress. One of the early ideas we had with the Niagara to balance its sweetness was to use what’s called a “fruit shrub”, which is a drink made from fruit (usually berries, in this case blueberries), sugar, and vinegar. We hoped the tartness of the vinegar would balance out the sweetness of the wine, but… well, it wasn’t pretty. However, it did pair nicely with Glade Pike’s Black and Blue, a fruit wine make from blackberries and blueberries. So we took a stab at this, but no definite recipe yet. I guess that means more “research” — oh no, the horror, drinking more cocktails!

More upcoming cocktail classes

There are two more of the quickie cocktail classes coming up the next 2 Fridays:

Come and check them out! The cost is $5 which also gives you a free taste of all the cocktails. It’s a great way to close out the week and do something fun for happy hour. To register, email

Posted by & filed under Community, Flowers, Local.

We started “greenSinner” with an idea: we wanted to help people be green, in realistic ways. Most folks want to do what’s right for the environment, but getting there — or even figuring out what the “right” thing is — isn’t always easy. We started with this idea, not really sure what it would become. A blog? Yes, partially. A way of life for us? It already was. Maybe even a vocation? We hope so.

We’ve been quiet here on the blog lately, but if you saw last week’s post (or you’ve been checking us out on Facebook or Twitter), you’ve seen we haven’t been idle. We’ve opened a stall at the Pittsburgh Public Market. We’re building on our love of growing things to bring you flowers, and hopefully a slightly more beautiful world in the process.

Flowers always bring beauty. But many of the cut flowers available here in the United States are shipped from the tropics and treated with lots of chemicals to preserve them, neither of which is very good for our planet. It also limits the selection of flowers available to those that are easy and economical to ship over long distances and retain vase life after they’ve been on a plane or in a truck for a week.

We decided we want to help change that. There’s a local flower movement a-brewin’, and we’re joining in. There are already growers all over the country, and we’re glad to say we’re getting started right here in Pittsburgh.

We don’t have any land. What’s a farmer without land? Well, we’ve been very lucky to work with some great partners so far:

  • We’re working with Healcrest Urban Farm at their community garden in Garfield.
  • We’ve benefited from a very generous offer by Catherine at Prism Stained Glass in Lawrenceville to use space behind her shop for a production garden, create a display garden on Butler Street, and participate in creating some community garden space.
  • We’ve been able to forage from our own gardens, those of friends and family, and even folks we’ve met through the Public Market, like Scotty and Brenda at the Berry Patch.

We do hope in the future to have a place to create the greenSinner farm, and we’ve been working with Pittsburgh’s Urban Redevelopment Authority to utilize vacant land in the city.

So it’s very much greenSinner. Green, because we’re growing locally, without chemicals. Sinner because, well, we’re still cutting up flowers, after all. They’re fresher and so should last longer, but they’re only temporary. Still, we think it’s worth it for the beauty they can bring, and if that’s not for you, we have plenty of live plants, too.

When I recently met someone who said to me, “You must be the flower farmer,” I thought, “Yes, I am.” And it felt really good to say so.