Wednesday, May 4, 2011

If you can't beat the weeds, eat them...

...Well, eat the Lamb's Quarters at least. It is also known as Fat Hen or Goosefoot. It's proper name is Chenopodium album L. See  the USDA plant profile page for here.
 (happily growing in my garden this year)

Anyone familiar with gardening in my neck of the woods has seen it and probably yanked it out or mulched over it. It spontaneously generates wherever the soil has been disturbed. It's new growth tends to have a powdery green color much like the powdery look of blueberries in the southern heat. The stem may get purple streaks as the plant gets older. The plant is very distinctive lacks any local lookalikes.

Up until the past year I was ignorantly yanking, trampling and cursing this plant.  It was growing in my garden where I wanted my veggies to grow, it was growing in my pastures where I wanted grass to grow.

I wish I could remember which issue exactly but some time in 2010 South Carolina Wildlife Magazine featured an article with Rudy Mancke's daughter on foraging. Along with discussing the fruit of Maypops/Passion flower vine which I had always known were edible it discussed Lamb's Quarters. They wrote that it is perfect spinach substitute. There is no taste to aquire for it. If you like spinach you will like this equally well.

So this spring not only have I not yanked Lamb's Quarters up, I have carefully avoided trampling them. I sampled them raw earlier in the season. They were very mild though not quite as wet or strongly flavored as spinach. Even the kids (Isaac, Alyssa and Katie) ate the leaves. I think the kids were eating them only because the idea of eating weeds directly out of the yard was an idea too good to pass on.

Monday, I gathered a substantial enough quantity of Lamb's Quarters to be worth cooking in a pan. I melted a pat of butter and then tossed the leaves in to wilt the same as I would cook spinach. The result? It was DELISH. Tasted and looked just like spinach. Maybe a hint nuttier. If someone had handed me both on plate I probably would not have been able to tell the difference. Why not just grow spinach? I have planted spinach but the Lamb's Quarters grows much better and does well in the heat when the spinach is miserable sickly. While the bugs will chew it, its prolific enough that there is enough to share and no need for pesticides.

Here is the nutritional analysis.

Monday, April 25, 2011

My little easter chicks

Baily squealed with delight over the chicks and got several squeezes in before her little photo shoot was over. Not to worry, the chicks are all fine is spite of a little extra love. 

Monday, April 4, 2011

Lentil Loaf

Lentils! Its whats for dinner! Does your mouth start watering when you hear the word? Oh well, pooh.

Now you should know that my dear husband is very much a carnivore. He's not full until he's had meat with his meal.Wanting to expand my legume horizons I delved into lentils last year. We had them in stew, we had them as sprouts but the best way to have them was as meatless loaf.

I naturally had to research meatless loaf for just the best recipe. They all called for some random ingredient that I am apparently just not granola-crunchy enough to have in my cabinets. Having a newborn and a two year old a the time this lentil cooking urge hit, hunting down random culinary ingredients was not an option. Finding dried lentils with the kids in tow was achievement in itself. So, I consolidated several recipes into one that contained standard to my kitchen ingredients.

 I'm using the term "loaf" loosely because actually I spread it out in 9x13 pan about an inch or so thick for quicker baking. It will look like something that the cat hacked up. Fear not. It will look like meat loaf once cooked. Even the meat eaters will eat this. Lentils has its own taste that I would describe as spicy but not hot. Between the lentils and the mushrooms it is satisfying like meat even if it doesn't taste like ground beef.

  • 2 cups dry lentils boiled until soft and lightly mashed
  • 1 cup cooked brown rice, (or my dad loves this with black rice)
  • 1 cup oat flour (stick rolled oatmeal oats in your blender--voila, oat flour)
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 package mushrooms
  • 1 bell pepper (optional)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp salt (more or less to taste)
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp rosemary
  • 2 tbs Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 tbs vinegar

cook drain and mash up lentils a bit
chop and saute veggies
mix all ingredients and bake in greased dish at 375 30 min
then top with catchup and finish baking until well set 

My dad doesn't digest ground beef well anymore. I've shared the recipe with him and now it is one of his favorite. He uses, french lentils, black rice and he adds cheese at the end to melt on top. 

Sunday, April 3, 2011

In Search of Perfectly Peelable Boiled Fresh Eggs

Boiling eggs really ought to be just one step above boiling water in the cooking department. Alas, with farm fresh eggs it is not! That is, if you actually want them to peel out in one piece. What is it about store bought eggs that lets them peel with careless ease while the ones fresh from the hen house do not? Are the industrial eggs treated with something during washing? Could they really be that old? Does the breed of chicken matter and perhaps I need production layers rather than dual purpose type hens?

I've had more than one egg cook tell me boiling eggs is easy. Then I gave them a batch of eggs to cook. Sadly, the eggs were chucked in the trash after succumbing to the experience a raggedy, shell stuck mess. The cook returned to store bought eggs for their boiled egg needs. More than one backyard chicken keeper has suggested abandoning boiled eggs for fried and scrambled. 

Being the typical backyard chicken keeper I soon found myself drowning in excess eggs. How could I justify paying a premium for store bought eggs to boil when I had ten-dozen in my refrigerator?

A wealth of opinions circulate the internet on how to properly cook these eggs.

Some have suggested aging the eggs since store bought eggs can actually be quite old and are not dated until they are packaged for market. I was told the eggs should be at least 3 days old. "No problem," I thought, shoving them to back of the fridge to save for a couple weeks. I optimistically retrieved them after their appointed time and once more attempted boiling. Again, they were a shell stuck mess. My mother suggested aging them more since a farm fresh egg truly does keep a long time and store eggs can be O_L_D. So I carefully saved one box of eggs a full six months. I boiled them just as my Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook suggested. I even tried adding vinegar to the pot as several internet sites suggested. And again, my hopes were dashed as my blood pressure rocketed picking apart raggedy boiled egg from shell..

After spending much more time than I care to admit on backyardchickens reading the 17+ page forum discussion on the topic I have now successfully boiled and peeled fresh eggs. The trick is to cook but absolutely don't overcook your eggs--and that is a small window.

How to boil farm fresh eggs:
  • Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil.
  • With a spoon drop your eggs into the boiling water (unless you like burnt fingers)
  • Set a timer for 7 minutes to gently boil away
  • Pull them off the heat and cover for another 7-8 minutes  (no more no less)
  • Then drain and cool them immediately with cold running water and ice to stop the cooking.
  • You can peel them right away or store in the refrigerator for future use.
The eggs will be cooked solid all the way through, not runny and not green rimmed either. They will peel with no more effort than a store egg!
This has worked well with medium, large and extra large eggs. Because I have different breeds of chickens I get a variety of eggs sizes each day and I've had no trouble cooking them all at once.

If this blog saves one batch of eggs from the trash it has done its job =)

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Thank You Mom and Dad

Thank you for understanding that to a child quality time occurs in the context of quantity time. Thank you both for believing time with my mom was more valuable than a newer car, nicer home, fancier clothes and high-end vacations. Thanks Dad for supporting my mother in "staying home" to raise me despite incredibly tight finances. Thanks Mom for giving me the best hours of your day everyday. Thank you Mom for demonstrating through your actions that I was worth your time. Thank you for operating with the assumption that I would value our time together more than an immaculate house. Thank you Mom for investing in the person I would become before investing a career that would have paid better than a house with four kids. Thank you for turning a deaf ear to the rude comments of people who thought our family was too large.  Thank you for teaching me to appreciate the "happy noise" that children make rather than deriding it as a motivation for birth control. Thank you both for teaching me the difference between needs and wants and value of things that money doesn't buy.

Monday, September 27, 2010

"Japanese White Sauce"

I made Hibachi style fried rice, veggies and chicken the other night. It was just delightful and I was thoroughly enjoying it UNTIL it occurred to me that the white sauce was missing. Boo!
So it appears that Japanese white sauce is hotly debated internet topic. Its apparently an American invention for Japanese steak houses.  It also goes by the names "shrimp sauce" and "yum yum sauce."

Many of the recipes I was reading called for ketchup or tomato paste along with a sizable dose of paprika. This was definitely not going to recreate the sauce that is served at our two local Japanese steak houses as the sauce is white and not pink at all. After reading lots of recipes, and thinking not any of them were quite it, I just took the plunge and decided to combine the parts of different ones that seemed right.

1 cup REAL* mayonnaise
2 TBS Butter melted
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp honey
dash of cayenne pepper
1/4 cup lemon juice

Many of the recipes that I read were calling for Hellman's Mayo specifically or Japanese Mayo. I wasn't going to run out and buy name brand when IMO real mayo is real mayo...its eggs, oil, vinegar, sugar and salt folks. Heaven help me if I went looking for Japanese mayo at my little local southern grocery store. We're cooking on a budget so store brand mayo was just FINE.

Some recipes called for water AND lemon juice or vinegar. In experimenting I decided it would be best to save the water for last because it was just a thinner.I nixed the vinegar because I think the overly mayo flavor some people were talking about was probably actually the vinegar flavor from the mayo. No reason to add more and make it worse.

I mixed everything together but the lemon juice and it was definitely too mayo-ish still. Adding the lemon kept the tang while getting rid of the overly mayo flavor. The lemon juice also thinned it to the consistency that I was looking for without needing water. You could add water if is still thicker than your liking.

Everyone also was writing about how the sauce just HAD to sit overnight to taste right. Nah! This stuff tasted right to me fresh out of the bowl and just a good the next day too.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Natural Childbirth

My thoughts on my First Natural Childbirth

Oh the pain!
True labor hurt but actually not so much as I expected. Lucky me, I guess. In the midst of it I did tell my sister she sucked for generally not feeling much until her water was broken at 7-8cm with her 2 inductions. I guess she is luckier.

What did it feel like to me? A REALLY bad stomach bug. Like cramps before the cold sweats. I'm probably unique in my crazy thoughts while in labor (or any time for that matter) but I thought back to the 20/20 episode on “orgasmic birth.” I would have laughed had I not been in labor. Why? Because only only if you enjoy stomach bugs would this be a good time. Honestly, even if I could have an “orgasmic birth” I think that would weird me out and I would have to decline. Who am I to judge? If that's your cup of tea then, by all means, go for it.

Now I do suppose everyone's labor experience is different. I then thought about people who love water births. Now, prior to being in labor this sounded like an OK idea. People rave about how great it is. My though was “I most definitely would drown if put in a tub right now.” I did try lots of positions. My IV was put in while I stood and leaned across the raised hospital bed. I bounced on the wasn't so awesome really. I tried all fours. It was OK...briefly. Oh, how about having your back rubbed? Um, I really couldn't stand to be touched, thanks. No, not even hand holding was good. I signed up for this, I wasn't mad. But, please don't touch. Walking wasn't so great either. Other than the every 2 hour potty break I scheduled for myself I was happy to not walk.

What did I prefer? To lay on my side and hold on to the cold bed rail. Occasionally switching sides with someone to move my pillows for me. P.S. Hospital pillows are worthless. Just had to sacrifice a nice one of my own. Its worth it. My upper body felt like it had been through a workout for a couple days after since I pulled with all my strength on the rails during contractions. Oh, cold cloths on the head were nice too.

I know some people are all about free eating and drinking during labor. And more power to you if that is what you want. I think it is unreasonable the way it is restricted. That said, I had no desire to eat either. I did have half a bagel before leaving for the hospital. I was trying to plan ahead in case they decided to starve me and I wasn't 100% sure I was in labor at that point anyway. I think I would have been just as happy without it. I had a few sips of contraband Coke during labor (which is especially refreshing when you've generally denied yourself all pregnancy long).

I'd also like to comment on those who say they feel the baby moving down and coming out. Now maybe, being a 9lb12oz sack of potatoes, she cut off nerve sensation much better than a 6lb lightweight. I did not feel her moving down. I was told it will feel like you need to have a poo. No, never felt like I needed to poo. I felt a reflexive need to push similar to reflexive need to throw up. I never felt the “ring of fire” or burning. It all felt the same as low cramping labor pains (like the worst stomach virus ever) and that was it.

So, who knows? It could all be different next time. But that is how it was for me