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.