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What’s Cookin….Lamb’s Quarters

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I thought I would continue with the wild edibles this week because that is what we are learning about in our homeschool, what we can eat from the world around us. The kids have really enjoyed this and lamb’s quarters is a new one for them so that is even more exciting.

Lamb’s quarters is a lovely little plant also known as goosefoot because of the shape of the leaves.The leaves often have a powdery white coating. This wild edible is a good source of  Niacin, Folate, Iron, Magnesium and Phosphorus, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Protein, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Thiamin, Roboflavin, Vitamin B6, Calcium, Potassium, Copper and Manganese. So overall a power packed food.

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Gathering

Lamb’s quarters can be found in disturbed areas like newly dug garden beds and open soil where trees have fallen down are two examples. I found mine next to a park where some cable wires had recently been put in the ground so the soil had been dug up. We collected the stems and leaves of the youngest most tender plants in the group. When you are harvesting always leave more than half behind even if people think it is a weed 🙂

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Cooking

Besides goosefoot and lamb’s quarters this plant is also known as wild spinach so you can use these wonderful leaves any way that you use spinach. For example:

Use fresh young leaves in a salad

Steam them toss them with salt, pepper, and olive oil for a side dish

Use them in quiche

Lamb’s quarters and peach green smoothie

Lamb’s quarters and shells

Lamb’s Quaters Bread and Chickpea Salad

1/2 loaf or a little more of day old Italian bread

1 cup cooked or canned chickpeas

2 ribs celery

1 1/2 cup lamb’s quaters

1/2 cup olive oil

2 garlic cloves finely chopped

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

4 oz parmesan or feta cheese

1 tsp cumin

salt

pepper

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1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees

2. In a large bowl combine 1/4 cup olive oil, garlic, and cumin. Add bread and toss.

3. Season with salt and pepper to taste and spread on a baking sheet. Bake until toasted.

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4. In the same bowl  you mixed the bread add the chickpeas, celery, cheese, vinegar, and remaining olive oil.

5. Bring a pot of water to a boil and add lamb’s quarters, cook for two minutes and then drain. Put in ice water to stop cooking.

6. Drain the lamb’s quarters and add to the main bowl then add the bread. Toss and let stand 1 hour.

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Perfect lunch on the front porch!

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The next day we added lamb’s quarters to a veggie chickpea stir fry.

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Enjoy!

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Project Simplicity…More Than A Clean House

This week we had tacos for dinner and while I was shredding some cheese my husband walked into the kitchen. He looked at me funny and said, “Why are you doing that?” And of course I said, “For the tacos.” He laughed and pointed at the sign that hangs in my kitchen, it says simplify.

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He told me that shredding cheese by hand does not look simpler than the shredded cheese in a bag I usually buy. Well, in some ways this is true. I have been buying the shredded cheese in a bag for a long time because of, well, the convenience. It does take less time to pull out a bag and sprinkle cheese on what ever you need. But this week I decided that maybe I don’t want the extra things that come with shredded cheese and what kind of cheese is really in the bag anyway? So, I bought a cheese from a Wisconsin Dairy and shredded it myself and truthfully, it did not take very long at all. I chose to do some processing myself for a better product. And this kind of thinking is part of a simple life as well a time saving decluttering frame of mind.

The reason I am decluttering my house is to make is easier to find the things I need, to put things away, and keep the house in good working order. Less stuff means less work and more time for other things. So other things are part of simple living as well. What do I really want to be doing with my time? One thing that is important to me is cooking with real and local food when ever I can. I want good tasting healthy simple food for my family to eat everyday. But simple does not always mean easier or shorter it means in this case less processed. We have slowly been moving away from processed food from the store. You can see that in some of my other posts about crackers, yogurt, and granola. So part of project simplicity is finding time to do what is important to me and cooking real food is important to me.

 

Here is a recipe we made yesterday for homemade pretzels. I got the recipe from the Kind Arthur Flour recipe page.

2 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour

1 tsp salt

1 tsp sugar

2 1/4 tsp instant yeast

1 cup water

 

1. Combine all of the ingredients in your mixer bowl and beat until well combined. Knead dough by machine for 5 minutes until it is soft and smooth.

2. Flour the dough and place in an loosely sealed bag to rest for 30 minutes.

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3. While dough is resting mix one cup boiling water with 2 Tb baking soda until dissolved in a flat bottomed bowl. Set aside to cool.

4. Preheat oven to 475 and grease a baking sheet, set aside.

5. Remove dough from bag and knead until smooth. Divide the dough into 8-12 pieces depending on the size you would like your pretzels. I did 12 because I find that the kids waste less.

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6. Roll each piece out into a long rope and then shape into pretzel form. When the kids are helping they can make any shape they want. We have even gotten out cookie cutters. Let them be creative.

7. Place each pretzel in the water and baking soda mix for 30 second – 1 minute. Then let extra drip off into pan and place on prepared baking sheet.

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8. Let rise for 10 minutes and then bake for 7-9 minutes.

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This was our lunch yesterday, pretzels and nettle soup!

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Yum Yum!

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And with my decluttered kitchen I can not only make simple food but I will have time to clean up the kitchen as well.

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And if you are wondering if the kids really eat the food we make. I think this will answer your questions 🙂

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What’s Cookin’…Nettles

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Nettles, one of my favorite greens to eat. Most people I know stay away from this plant because the little prickers on the stems sting and irritate your skin when you brush against them. While, these plants can cause irritation of your skin they are also very healthy for you to eat. Nettles are rich in calcium, iron, protein, and many vitamins and minerals. Besides being a healthy they can also reduce symptoms of PMS, allergies, and hay fever. They help the circulatory system, reduce chronic headaches and arthritis pain when the stingers are rubbed on the joints. This is not just food, it is medicine.

Below is my patch of nettles growing in my garden. The kids all know what it looks like so they know to be cautious. They are very good at pointing out when the plants start to grow on the path so I can pull them out. Besides in my garden, I find nettles along the edges of woods, paths in the park, and near wet areas.

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Gathering Nettles

When gathering stinging nettle we usually wear gloves to protect our hands. I don’t always wear gloves when picking a small amount but if you are picking a large amount wear gloves, otherwise your hands will get very irritated and itchy.

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When gathering you want to pick the top 4 to 6 leaves. This is the newest growth and the most tender. This also allows the plant to keep growing and you can harvest again and again all through the summer.

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Preparing Nettles

Once you have your nettles, put them in a cold water bath. Use your hand to agitate them in the water. This will clean the leaves and many of the stingers will fall off as well. After the rinse put them in a salad spinner to dry. It is safe to eat the stingers as they loose their power a while after the plant has been picked or after the leaves have been cooked.

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Nettles can be used the same as spinach so they are very versatile. Here are some of my favorite ways to eat nettles:

Saute with onions and mushrooms for a side dish or over eggs

Put them in an frittata

Dry the leaves for tea, nettle and mint go great together

Nettle Soup

Nettle Lasagna

 

Today I made Shepard’s Pie with nettles and it turned out delicious. Start with:

2 carrots

1 onion

2 cloves garlic

olive oil

1 pound ground beef

1/2 cup beef broth

1/2 cup tomato sauce, marinara, or the tomato sauce of your choosing

4 cups of nettles

salt and pepper to taste

3 cups mashed potatoes

 

1. Heat olive oil in a pan and add onions, saute until clear. Add carrots and garlic and saute another 5 min.

2.  Add ground beef and cook until cooked through.

3. Add in broth and tomato sauce then simmer until it reaches the thickness you desire.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

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4. Boil a little water or broth and add chopped nettles. Cook for 2 minutes and drain.

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5. Pour meat mixture into a 9×13 pan. Layers nettles on top.

6. Spoon mashed potatoes over the top and bake in a 400 degree oven for 25 minutes.

7. Enjoy!

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Don’t forget to have a cup of nettle tea before bed, with lots of honey 🙂

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What’s Cookin’…Dandelions

Yes, I said it, dandelions! Last year the kids and I started cooking with this common lawn and garden weed and man, were we happy. They get to pick as many as they want and make great food too. We also learned that dandelions are good for your health.

Dandelions are a good source to calcium,potassium, vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, and they are also a good source of protein. You can eat the leaves, flowers, and roots of this vitamin packed plant.

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Harvesting

I bet that most of you can find a large supply of dandelions at this time of year. I picked mine from the empty lot next door but you can also look in parks, your yard, or anywhere you see lots of yellow. Just make sure that you find a place that does not use , herbicides  pesticides, or have other contaminants such as dog feces. Once you find a good spot pick away. I usually gather flowers or leaves and make something fresh, right away.

 

Eating

We picked these flowers to make dandelion jelly. Here is an easy recipe.

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We added food coloring to get the golden yellow color and  it tasted like honey, yum.

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Delaney eating dandelion jelly on an English muffin.

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We also made dandelion pesto this year. We used the dandelion leaves to make this yummy condiment.

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Here is how we made the pesto. I got this recipe from 6512 and Growing

3 cups young dandelion leaves

1 cup roasted pecans (roast in oven at 250F for 20 minutes.) You could also use walnuts or almonds

1/2 cup olive oil

juice of 1 lemon

2 cloves garlic

salt

Put everything is a food processor and blend.

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You get a little bitter taste from the leaves and a sweet taste from the pecans. I put this on everything. My favorite way to eat this pesto is to put it on eggs and toast.

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There are many other ways to use dandelions for example,

Use dandelions in salads

Saute them with onions and add to mashed potatoes

Boil them with the flowers buds and eat with butter and salt

We have also tried these recipes in the past.

Dandelion Fritters

Dandelion Lemonade

Dandelion cookies

Enjoy!

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What’s Cookin’….Granola

Well last week I showed you how to make yogurt. This week I will show you how to make something to put on your yogurt, granola! My kids love granola,  me too, but it is really expensive to buy. This recipe is easy, inexpensive, and you can make as much as you want. I make this recipe once a week but you could make more if you have a larger family or really like granola.

Granola

2 cups rolled oats and 2 cups quick oats, or any combination

2 cups shredded coconut

1 cup chopped pecans, or any nuts you wish. (optional)

1 cup dried fruit (optional)

1/4 cup melted coconut oil

3/4 cup maple syrup

1/2 tsp salt

 

Here’s how you make it!

First mix the dry ingredients: oats, coconut, nuts, salt, dried fruit.

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Next melt the coconut oi. Mix the oil and maple syrup into the dry ingredients.

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Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Spread your granola onto two pans and put into warmed oven. Stir every 10-15 minutes until brown and crunchy. about 25-35 minutes. I keep checking and taste some to get the right doneness. When it tastes and feels right I take it out. Let it cool and then put in an air tight container. It will be good for about a week.

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Eat and enjoy!

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What’s Cookin’…Yogurt

For the last year I have been making yogurt instead of buying it and it is one the of easiest things I make. My kids love yogurt and I used to buy two large quart sized containers every week, which got expensive. My sister Tessa showed me how to make my own and I haven’t turned back since. This method has worked every time except one and it was only because I over heated the milk by a lot. I would highly recommend trying this if you have yogurt lovers at your house.

Start with buying a good quality plain yogurt, I use Stoneyfield Farm. Next buy a half gallon or gallon of milk. I prefer organic whole milk because it makes thicker yogurt. If you use organic milk make sure it is only pasteurized.  Ultra-pasteurized milk does not make good yogurt. I found that organic milk in half gallon containers is ultra-pasteurized so I buy a whole gallon and use the rest in baking, in cooking, or I let the kids drink it. Buying the whole gallon is still cheaper than buying two quarts of organic yogurt from the store.

Once you have the yogurt and the milk decide how much you want to make. I make four pint jar a week which is half a gallon.  I measure out four pints of milk into a pan.

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Turn the heat onto  medium and put in a candy thermometer. Let the milk warm up to 180 degrees. Do not go over or your yogurt will have a funny texture. I usually do this while I am making dinner so I can keep an eye on it and still do other things. After the milk reaches 180 degrees, so all the bags bugs are killed, take the pot off the heat and let it cool to 110 degrees. This takes a while so just check on it every 15 to 20 minutes. I also stir the milk some times during heating and cooling so it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.

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When the milk it almost to 110 degrees I get my cooler ready. I use a small cooler and fill it part way with water that is 110 degrees. The water and cooler keep the yogurt at the right temperature while incubating. I turn the faucet onto hot and put the hot water+

into cooler. I check the temperature with a thermometer and then adjust by adding warm or cold water to get it just right. I want the water to go most of the way up the jars so water amount depends on your cooler.

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Now I prep my jars. I put 1/2 Tablespoon of yogurt into each of the four pint jars. If you are using quart size jars use 1 Tablespoon per jar.  In this picture I am using yogurt from my last batch. Once you make yogurt you do not have to buy it again. If you save a few Tablespoons each time you make yogurt it starts the next batch. I only bought yogurt once in the last year because I went on vacation and cleaned out my jars. You can keep it in the fridge for over a week but try to use it every week to keep your yogurt culture active.

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Now I pour the 110 degree milk into each jar and give it a stir.

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When I am done stirring I put on the lids and place them in the cooler. I put the cooler in a place where it will not be moved or bumped and leave it 8-24 hours.

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I leave my jars in the cooler over night and in the morning, voila, yogurt!

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And how do we eat our yogurt? Well, today we had it with a little it of jam stirred in. There are many things you can add to make it exciting, so be creative and enjoy!

 

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Winter Fun

King Winter has once again graced us with his presence. So what do we do on a snowy day besides play in it, make a snack with it. Today we were inspired by Laura Ingles Wilder and my friend Jen to make some molasses candy.

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First we gathered snow in pans. Each child got their own pan to fill with clean fresh snow.

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We heated up 1 cup of molasses and 3/4 cup of sugar in a pan over medium heat until it reached 245 degrees F. Then I poured out the mix into a measuring cup.

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The kids each poured some onto thier snow and then we put them back out on the porch for ten minutes.

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Time to enjoy, yum!

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All of the kids enjoyed the molasses candy. It is sticky on your teeth, I think we will need a good brushing later 🙂

 

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What’s Cookin’…Crackers

I recently finished my on line cooking class Whole Food Kitchen. It was such a wonderful class and many of the recipes have made their way into our everyday life. An easy recipe that taste great is crackers. Of course when I made them I was missing some seasoning ingredients but they still turned out great. Here is a modified version of the original recipe.

Ingredients:

2 cups whole wheat all purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

2 tsp garlic powder

3/4 tsp sea salt and more for sprinkling

1/4 tsp pepper

1/2 cup water

3 TB extra virgin olive oil

2 tsp honey

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1. Preheat oven to 375

2. Mix flour, garlic powder, baking powder, salt and pepper together. Then add water, oil, and honey. Mix until dough comes together. If dough is dry    add a little more water. Divide dough into two balls.

3. Roll dough very thin, cracker thin. Cut dough with a pizza cutting into square shapes. Transfer dough to non stick baking sheet.

4. Sprinkle tops with sea salt and press into cracker slightly.

5. Bake crackers for 12-15 minutes, or until golden brown. Crackers will crisp up when cool. If they are still soft put them back into the oven for a few minutes.

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Killian got in the holiday spirit and made a cracker man. It turned out very crispy and good.

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Our snack after the crackers cooled down.

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Everyone enjoyed the crackers. We will continue to make these often.

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What’s Cookin’…Sprouts

Recently I have tried sprouting some beans to use in my cooking. I have been reading about how sprouted food is easier to digest and increases the amount of enzymes and vitamins.  I used the method in this post to sprout my beans. We started with chickpeas. I put the beans in a jar and covered them with water, then I let them sit for two hours. Then I drained and rinsed the beans and put a piece of nylon stocking over the jar opening and put the metal screw top on. I put the jar in a bowl upside down to let the water drip out and then put it in the dark pantry. I rinsed the beans twice a day for three days and this is what they looked like.

Afterward we roasted the chickpeas and had a yummy snack. And yes this little one is dipping his roasted chickpeas in peanut butter.

Next we moved onto sprouting lentils. I used the same method as above to sprout them. I only sprouted them for two days instead of three. The kids were eating them raw and loving them.

After eating some raw we used the rest to make a lentil stew. I got the recipe from a wonderful cooking class I am taking called the Whole Foods Kitchen.

!Here is the meal we had for lunch that day,lentil stew, broccoli, and homemade sauerkraut. The kids all tried it too. Liam at it all, of course, and the other two liked the lentil but not the kraut. Oh well, at least they tried it.

After this experience I think we will be seeing more sprouting in our future.

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What’s Cookin’…Kraut

Well, I dove into the world of fermentation this week and I am really excited. I have been reading about the health benefits of fermented food and am happy to give it a try. This is actually the second food I am turning into fermented kraut. I used spinach in the spring using this recipe and it was delicious. I used it as a topping for eggs and chicken.

This time I used purple cabbage and apples for my sauerkraut. I used the book Wild Fermentation as my guide. I started by chopping up one apple and one head of cabbage. I mixed them together and added 1 tablespoon of salt. I mashed it all up and let it sit for about 30 minutes.

Next I put the mixture into a quart jar and pushed everything down until it was covered by the juices. Then I put a metal two piece lid on.

Everyday I would open the jar to let any gasses escape and then replace the lid. Look at the bubbles in this picture, cool huh! On the third day we tried it and it was yummy. Liam liked it so much he was licking the spoon and asking for more, he will eat anything. I let it sit out for two more days and then we tried it on a curried lentil dish. It was very good mixed together.

I have started another kraut using bok choi and I am excited to try it. Tomorrow I am going to put some on my eggs.

So there it is, kraut. Truthfully I have never liked sauerkraut but making it myself it tastes really good. I don’t know if it because it is really good or because I chopped everything myself. I have a feeling it is a little bit of both.

 

 

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