May 16, 2014

Dandelion Burgers

Finally it is Spring! Can you believe the Winter we had this year? We all thought it would never end! Granted we are still experiencing some wacky weather, one day it is 87 degrees and today temperatures hit maybe 60 degrees. But Spring is here bringing with it one of the best wild culinary delights, Dandelions! I can almost hear some of you shudder at the mention of them, yes, you know who you are. You are the "Lawn Lovers." The ones with the perfect green grass, sporting a small sign stating  "do not walk on grass, just treated" with not a weed in sight. Now do not be upset, no judgment here, really, I appreciate your hard work. In fact I hoping that maybe after you read this, maybe just maybe, you will come to realize that Dandelions are not public enemy number one. In fact many of the plants we think are weeds are really wonderful plants full of medicinal and nutritional properties. Dandelions are full of vitamin C, help with liver detox/and function and so much more.

Many years ago I participated in classes in foraging. The classes were from early Spring to late Fall. They were a blast. We learned, foraged, and then came back to the kitchen and prepared all of our "Volunteer Vegetables" as my teacher called them. (Great nickname for wild edibles don't you think?) Because the subject of foraging is in itself a complete blog entry, heck a book for that matter, I wanted to just focus on one of the easiest wild edible to identify, The Dandies! For this recipe I used the actually flower. 

Before I begin let me tell you a few hard rules about foraging. 1. Never forage close to roadways, or any place that may have been chemically treated. Keep at least 75 feet from any of those areas. 2. know exactly what you are picking 3. Always leave some of the plants in their natural habit.


For Dandelion Burgers be prepared to collect a lot of flowers. I even pick enough and freeze for future recipes. For one burger, I had about 30 flower heads. I usually have my kids help in this process. Grab a bag and pick, great family activity. After you have gathered enough flowers, it is important to rinse them well. You still have to make sure they are clean. I usually soak them for about 15 minutes and then drain them in a strainer. The next step is a bit time consuming. Remove the yellow flower part from the green. I just peel back one part and scrap out the flower. If you do get some of the green part in, don't worry, that part is also edible. Try not get too much though, the green parts of the Dandelion are bitter. 

Once you have separated the flowers, discard the remaining greens. Take the flowers and place them in a towel and pat the excess water off of them. Place them in a bowl. 

Next you are going to add:
(for 30 heads of flowers)
1/2 c. of flour
Heads of 30 flowers
1 egg
1 garlic clove
salt and pepper
2 Tablespoons of minced onion

*Honestly, I add seasoning to taste, and use  whatever I am in the mood for. Dandelion flowers have a slight sweet taste, but take on the taste of what you spice them with.

Take your flowers and add the egg, flour and spices. Then you basically mix it until you get a good consistency that you can form a patty.

In a skillet, add olive oil, about 2 Tablespoons. Fry the patty for about 1 to 2 minutes, or until golden brown.

Form into a ball and make a patty.



 You may need to add flour to get the mixture to hold. Just add it a little at a time. When you do that remember to add a bit more spices to balance it out.

B-B-Q Volunteer Veggie Style!
Once you have your burger cooked, top it with whatever your heart desires. For mine, I use tomato, baby Kale to pump up the nutritional value, whole grain bun and garlic sauce. Yum!


July 31, 2013

Pierogi Recipe

It does not matter how you spell it, these little Polish sides are a popular comfort food in my family. My cousin and I decided to try our hand at them. We have seen our family make them, but never did them ourselves.

Pierogi Adventure:

They are not difficult to make. Especially if you are just making a small batch. But if you are going to make them, go big! They are great to make and freeze for later. Plus once the word gets out that you made them, you will be giving some away. When doing a large batch you will need to have someone help. It makes it go faster. So I drove out to my cousin's house and we had a pierogi fest! We made 8 dozen and split them. If you do not want to make 8 dozen, I will give the base recipe that we used. This will give you about 12 finished Pierogi.

 Traditionally pierogi were filled with cabbage/sauerkraut and onion or potato and onion. But don't stop there, these can be filled with just about anything. For me I stick to the traditional fillings. For ours we did Potato and Onion filling and then a batch of Potato, Onion and Sauerkraut. I found that to save time, prepare your fillings the day before.

Filling Ingredients: 

Potato and Onion
1 1/2 cups of butter
4 cups of onion, chopped
Salt and Pepper to taste
5 medium Potatoes, boiled and mashed. (For our huge batch, I used a whole 5 pound bag of potatoes and had extra.)

Peel and cut potatoes. Boil them until soft. Meantime, dice your onions. Saute the onions in the butter until they are clear. When potatoes are done, drain water. Mash the potatoes. Add the onion and butter mixture to them. Stir to together. Yields filling for 12 to 15

Saurkraut and Onion Filling
*You can use cabbage. You just need to shred it, mince it up and saute it with butter and onion, but to save time we used sauerkraut.We love Sauerkraut!
2 cans of sauerkraut, drained, and minced
1 cup of butter
1 cup of onions, chopped

Drain your sauerkraut. Mince it on a cutting board. Melt butter in a large skillet, add onions and saute them until they are clear. Add your minced sauerkraut, Cook for about 5 minutes.

*Side Note* 
Since we had left over Potato filling, we decided to add our Saurkraut filling to it, mixing it together. Can I just say Yum!

 Now for the dough...

Pierogi Dough

2 cups of Flour
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 large egg
1/2 cup of Sour cream
1/4 cup of butter

Whisk eggs, add sour cream. Mixing it together until smooth. Add the dry ingredients to the egg/sour cream mixture. Combine until dough is not sticky. Next lightly flour your work surface. Knead the dough to further smooth. Next roll out the dough to 1/8 inches. Use a large cup about 3 1/2 inches to cut out circles. Put a Tablespoon of filling onto the circle. Fold dough in half, using a bit of water on your fingers, rub the edges and pinch edges closed. Place onto wax paper. Continue until  the steps until all the dough is used up. Cook or freeze.


After you are finished, boil a pot of water. Once the water is boiling, add pierogi. When the Pierogi float to the top of the water, they are done cooking. Drain. You may eat them boiled or you can pan fry them after you boil them. To pan fry your boiled pierogi, add a bit of butter and some chopped onion in a fry pan. Once both sides are a crispy, brown remove. Serve. (See photo below) Some people enjoy adding a bit of sour cream to them.

Now some potential problems you may encounter. But do not let them stop you from making pierogi. Once you get your rhythm going, you will have it. It is good to do a "mock up." Meaning once you get a few done, cook them up and see how they turn out. Then adjust. O.k. problems...

1. Not rolling the dough thin enough will cause the pierogi to be thick and "doughy."
2. Do not overfill, they will bust open.
3. Sealing is important. Too little water they will not seal.
4.  Freezing. Do not put them in a bag or container with out flash freezing them first. They will freeze together as a big ball.(we learned the hard way.) Another idea is to wrap them individually in wax paper, then placing them in large freezer bags.

IF you are not scared off and want to make a big batch, here is the dough recipe for 8 dozen.

Dough for 8 dozen:
16 cups of flour
4 teaspoons of salt
8 eggs, good thing my cousin and I raise chickens!
2 cups of butter
4 cups of Sour cream

Since I did all my dough mixing by hand, I worked the recipe a half at a time. A bit more time consuming however, can you imagine mixing and rolling all that dough at one time?

For the fillings as I said before, I used a 5 pound bag of potatoes. For the sauerkraut, we used six cans. I am a "by taste and eye cook." If I think it needs more or less I adjust. Lucky for me my cousin is the same way, so we adjusted onions and salt and pepper and butter by taste for this large batch and the results were awesome.

Good luck!

July 5, 2013

Happy Birthday America! A four day celebration.

Yes, "technically" the holiday was yesterday. However, our new town, well actually it is a village,  celebrates the fourth of July for a total of four days. The festivities started on Wednesday and ends tomorrow with a firework show that I am told is awesome. What is even better is that we can sit on our back deck and watch them. The boxes from the move are unpacked, (well mostly) the house is in order, perfect timing for our official first party at our new "country digs!"

Of course I had to do a bit of decorating for the holiday/party today. Just something fun to utilize some of the items I already had laying around in my arts and crafts stuff. It is amazing what you find when you pack up a whole house to move!

A fun banner on the fireplace using scrapbook paper, burlap ribbon and embellishments. The center rosette is made from my collection of cupcake liners. (Kate from Farmhouse 38 and I share a crazy fetish for them. Right Kate?)

Banner at a distance. Sorry about the glare, I have two windows that are on both sides.
Toilet paper roll firecrackers. Who does not have a bunch of these? Especially if you have kids. Super easy to make! See how I did it below...

To add the wire I just combined a few pieces together, poked a hole into the circle and taped it to the bottom. Then I curled the wire and added silver star sequins.

May 31, 2013

Never Fear, I am still Here!

Yes, Yes I am! You would think that I fell off the face of the earth, but I have not. Sigh, I blame the warm weather. All winter I could not wait for Spring. Well here it is and I feel like I am on a roller coaster.

Scary, exciting, unsure of what is around the next hill but in the end it is fun, exhilarating. That is what Spring has brought me. The kiddos have field trips, fun days and only few more days until school is out. The Memorial Day weekend brought parties to go to every day. My husband's cousin, bless her heart, lost her two year battle with breast cancer, so a period of mourning. A wedding next weekend and our a move. We have two weeks until our move, one that as a family we are excited for. Despite living around boxes, eating off of paper plates, drinking out of Solo cups, we are very ready for our new adventure!

So buckle your seat belts, keep your arms and legs in the car at all times, and join me as we continue on this crazy roller coaster ride!

April 30, 2013

Mother Nature Teaches Patience.

Being a patient person has not always been one of my virtues. I would like to think that after all these years I have achieved some strides in this department. However, just when I feel I have mastered this trait, I am given another lesson. I am the student. This time Mother Nature is my teacher.

For the last two months now I have been in gardening mode. I have been ready!  The seed catalogs are riddled with post-it notes, highlighted, and are now badly tattered from hours of  reading. Seeds have been ordered, all heirlooms. From those ordered seeds, seedlings have been started, and have now been transplanted into bigger containers. The garden beds, all beautifully composted and tilled twice sit waiting for their new occupants. See I told you I was ready, well more than ready, it has almost turned into an obsession!
But all my preparation has came to a screeching halt. What? Why? It is the end of April right? The Farmers Almanac and the seed packages say that some things can be planted by now. Yes, Yes, in theory. By now our cold crops would be in the ground.  But ours are still sitting tucked in their packages, waiting.

Patience: The capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.
 *Yikes! Maybe I have not mastered this virtue...

This year we have had a very cold, wet Spring. Temperatures have been way off to say the least. One day warm, sunny and Spring like, next day cold, freezing and even snow!

  Granted it was not much in accumulation, but you get the picture. Brrr!

Last week one of the local farmers was on the news stating that they are two weeks late with Spring planting! With the first of May less then two hours away (well for us Eastern time zone folks) let's hope the weather stays nice as it has been for the past two days. I see the end of the lesson! Yippee! What? I still have to wait?

Despite the warmer days/nights, we have another "snap-foo." We are possibly moving in June. We have been searching for the perfect place, for us it is OUT of the city limits. Granted my pick would be to a farm, but I am happy enough with the place. It is a small town out in the country. I grew up in a small town and love the fact that my kids will get to now. However, remember I said "June?" As a gardener most of the veggies would be the ground by then. At the moment I have 19 heirloom tomato plants that will need to be transplanted a second time, seedlings of broccoli, cauliflower, eggplant, Brussels sprouts, Sweet peppers that will more than be ready for the earth by then. Remember my beautifully composted, tilled garden areas? They will not nourish my plants. I will be starting fresh.  So today I headed up to the local garden center and purchased larger pots, soil for transplanting these babies for their future move. Grumbling to myself, I might add, how this, again, this was not on my "Spring Agenda, This is NOT part of the plan I made!" Do not get me wrong, I am beyond happy to be moving, as much as you can. It is moving, right?

Maybe good old Mother Nature knew something that I did not when I sat under my quilt, seed catalogs and gardening journal sprawled all over my lap this Winter/Spring and made my "Master Plan." Yes, yes she did and that would be that I needed more lessons in Patience. 

April 1, 2013

Russian Blini

Spring Break is here for our children. This means that breakfast does not have to be a "rush job." We can actually cook and enjoy our first meal of the day. Today my daughter requested that I make our Russian Blini recipe. We do not have Russian roots, but received this recipe from our son's Russian language instructor.

A Blini is a thin pancake, resembling a crepe but thicker. Traditionally they were filled with sour cream, or caviar. They can be filled with any type of filling. Or you can eat them as a stack. Whatever tickles your fancy.

The recipe that we use:

Russian Blini

2 eggs
1 Tablespoons of  White sugar
1/3 teaspoon salt
1 Cup of flour
1 1/2 cups of Milk
1 Tablespoon of butter, or vegetable oil.

In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, sugar, and salt. Once that is combined, add the flour and milk into mixture. Mix until batter is smooth. The batter should be thin, like this:

Next, heat your pan or griddle. Add the butter, or oil to coat the pan. Once pan is heated, Pour 2 Tablespoons of batter in the pan. Tilt the pan to spread the batter out evenly. When the edges are crisp looking and the center of the blini appears dry, flip over and cook for 1 minute. Remove the Blini to a plate. Continue this process to finish up the batter. Stacking them as you go. (this requires a watchful eye so that you do not burn them. They cook fast!)

To serve, spread desired filling, fold in half and fold in half a second time. Today we used mixed berries that I cooked down. The only thing missing was a bit of whipped cream!


March 22, 2013

Hippity Hoppity DIY Crayon Bunnies

This project just screams "oh, do me!" If you have any children in your life, you know that eventually you will have crayons that get tossed aside and that are no longer used to color with. You know the crayon that has been colored down where the nice little factory point is nothing but a nub?Then to be discarded never to be used again? Admit it we all like using the ones with a point!  Well, do not throw them away, they are treasures. (Yes, I am a crayon hoarder) You can reuse the old crayons for a lot of things, but our favorite is to make new crayons. Especially when they can become cool shapes, like bunnies!


Here is how to do this project:

 For the project you will need a metal pan. I used a Wilton Rabbit cake pan. I have seen these crayons made in cupcake pans. However, using shapes makes for more fun!  Sometimes you can find these pans at thrift stores or garage sales. Re-purposing is the best!

 Collect old crayons. Peel off the paper wrapper. This part is a bit tedious and your fingernails will be multicolored and sore. I usually employee my husband or kids to help in this effort.

Once all the paper is removed, break the crayons up into as pieces. This is when your creativity comes in! Group like colors and hues. You can also place the crayons in desired ways you want them to turn out, for example a rainbow that is layered.

 Fill the crayon pieces as much to the top of the pan as possible. But do not go over. See the above photo for the right amount. You want enough crayon pieces to create a thick crayon, but not have it spill over.

The final step is to melt them. Because I used a metal pan, I used my oven. Set your oven as low as possible, I had mine at 200 degrees. Put your pan into the oven and allow the crayon pieces to melt. This does require a watchful eye so as to not burn the wax. As soon as all the wax has turned into liquid, remove the pan. Set in a safe place to cool down.

Once the wax is cooled, you just pop out the new bunny shaped crayon! If the wax does not remove well from the mold, try to gently tap on the back of the pan, or use a butter knife to loosen the sides. Don't use too make force, or you will break your crayon mold. But if that does happen, just break it up and use it for another bunny crayon.

Of course to give as gifts you have to put them in cute little baggies and use fun Easter tags!