Friday, April 17, 2009

Friday Recipes: In Honor of Earth Day

Earth Day is next week, on April 22nd to be precise. In honor of that, I want to share some tasty recipes that come from Mother Earth, lots of veggies and even some edible flowers in this post!  

Also, be sure to check at the end of this post for some helpful articles on edible and not so edible items. There are a few helpful links as well, so be sure to check them all out. 

Hope you enjoy them, have a great weekend! We are in for some great weather here in the midwest, hope you are too!

~ Amanda

Dandelion Salad with Cooked Dressing

4 slices bacon, cut in small pieces
approximately 2 c. chopped new dandelion leaves
2 hard boiled eggs, sliced or chopped
2 Tbsp. chopped onion
1/4 c. butter
1/2 c. cream or milk
1 egg, beaten
1/2 tsp. salt
dash of pepper
1/4 c. cider vinegar
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. flour

Toss together chopped dandelion, chopped onion and fried bacon pieces. Set aside. In skillet warm butter and cream until butter melts. Beat egg and then add salt, pepper, vinegar, sugar and flour. Blend the egg mixture into the slightly warm cream mixture. Increase heat and cook, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens. Pour hot dressing over the greens and toss gently. Add eggs before tossing. Serve at once. Gather the dandelion leaves early in the spring before the plants flower or they will be bitter.

This is what Shirley told me. It is considered a delicacy in Europe. The long tap roots of the dandelion have a substance in them that is used as a natural laxative. The roots are also roasted and ground, then used as a coffee substitute.

Dandelion Salad Vinaigrette

This is Shirley's recipe for the dressing her grandma made.
Salad Vinaigrette
Makes approximately 2/3 cup

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (I love oil from Tuscany for its peppery flavor)
3 Tblsp. red wine vinegar
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. dry mustard
1 large peeled and smashed garlic clove
Freshly ground pepper

Put all ingredients into a jar with tight fitting lid. Shake well and let steep at least an hour before use. This will keep under refrigeration for a week. Bring to room temperature before using. You may wish to add a sprig or two of fresh herbs as available. Occasionally substituting fresh squeezed lemon juice for the vinegar makes a pleasant dressing, especially in the summer.

Edible Weed Salad

3 cups mixed greens such as lettuce, spinach, kale, Swiss chard.

1 cup mixed weeds such as:
-dandelion leaves
-chicory leaves and flowers
-chickweed leaves and flowers
-lamb's quarters leaves
-purslane stems and leaves
-shepherd's purse leaves

Toss all the ingredients together in a large bowl along with olive oil, vinegar, salt, pepper and a few to many crushed garlic cloves depending upon your personal preference. Make sure you use the young, tender leaves of any weeds you will be adding to your salads and other culinary creations. Older leaves tend to turn bitter, tough, and stringy.

>>See more edible weeds here

Herbed Croutons

Day old homemade or bakery bread
Olive Oil
minced fresh herbs of your choice

For every 2-3 cups of cubed bread, drizzle olive oil over the cubes and sprinkle with about 2 tablespoons of minced herbs (or 1 tablespoon dried) on a cookie sheet. Bake at 400 degrees, stirring and watching often, about every 5 minutes until crispy. Use in salads and soups.

Easy Focaccia

Premade pizza crust (or try this homemade crust)
Olive Oil
Parmesan Cheese
Fresh, minced herbs

Preheat oven according to crust directions. Drizzle the crust with olive oil, sprinkle with a tablespoon of minced herbs. Rosemary also works well by itself but use sparingly! Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and bake. This can be used with a meal, or as a snack.

Mini Focaccia

1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup fresh thyme sprigs
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt, if desired
Dash pepper
1/4 cup oil
1 (12-oz.) can refrigerated biscuits (in the tube)
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Heat oven to 400 degrees. In blender container combine basil, thyme, garlic, salt, pepper and oil. Cover; blend until finely chopped, scraping down sides if necessary. Separate dough into 10 biscuits. On ungreased cookie sheets, press each biscuit into a 3-inch circle. Make several indentations with fingers in tops of biscuits. Spread about 1 teaspoon basil mixture evenly over each biscuit. Sprinkle each biscuit evenly with cheese. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until biscuits are golden brown. Serve warm.

Salsa Mexicana

1 1/2 white onion, finely chopped
4 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and finely chopped
2 to 4 chiles serranos, seeded and finely chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
salt to taste
juice of 1 lime
2 tablespoons olive oil

Combine onion, tomatoes, chiles, and cilantro in a bowl. Season with lime juice, salt and olive oil. Stir and allow to marinate for at least 1 hour before serving. This may be made the day ahead and refrigerated.

Here are some wonderful articles that you may enjoy:

Harvesting and Storing Herbs
Safe and edible flowers

While the Earth does provide many edible plants, there are also some that aren't. Be sure to read about poisonous flowers and plants you should not ingest.

And these Spring Bug Cupcakes are just too cute to pass up!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Thrifty Thursday: Making Meatballs Less Tedious

My husband loves Spaghetti and Meatballs, in fact it's his favorite meal. I hate making it. Putting the meat mixture together is ok, but rolling all those meatballs! Ugh. 

Well, I've changed the way I make my meatballs now and I'm so much happier. No more rolling forever. You see, I normally make a batch big enough for 3-4 meals, hence why so much rolling. However, what I've started doing recently is making the meat mixture and then placing the meat into four separate zipper sandwich bags. I freeze them flat and can then stand them up or stack them flat in the freezer.

When I'm ready to have meatballs for dinner, I thaw out a sandwich bag, cut the bag away from the meat, leaving the meat in a flat square, then cut the meat mixture into 16 equal squares. Roll each square and voila! Meatballs without all the hassle. :)

If you would like to try my recipe for meatballs, you can visit Amanda's Cookin', my recipe blog.

So what makes today's post so thrifty? Anytime you create a short cut for yourself or find something that saves you time, you are also saving money.

Be sure to stop by Thrifty Thursdays to see what others have shared!


~ Amanda

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Questions & Answers: Recipes Found

Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there someday. ~A.A. Milne

Today I have answers for some readers who were looking for lost recipes.

I've been looking for years for a recipe for hermits-soft cookies, cut in squares made with raisins. I'm also looking for a recipe for date and nut bread. ~Eileen

This is a good classic recipe to try:

Hermit Cookies or Bars
From King Arthur Flour

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 cup sugar, white or brown (or a combination)
1 teaspoon salt
2 fresh eggs, well beaten
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup dark, unsulphured molasses
4 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup dried fruit such as raisins, currants or chopped apricots
1/2 cup chopped nuts or sunflower seeds

Plump the dried fruit in a cup of water, and set aside. Preheat your oven according to the way you plan to shape the hermits: 375 degrees F for cookies or 350 degrees F. for bars or squares. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Add the salt, eggs, buttermilk and molasses. In a separate bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder and spices. Stir in the fruit and nuts. Blend the dry ingredients into the wet. For Hermit Cookies: Drop the dough by the spoonful onto a greased cookie sheet. Bake 12 to 15 minutes. This will make about 6 dozen. For Hermit Bars or Squares: Spread the dough in a large (13 x 18-inch) greased baking pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until the top is firm. Cut while still warm.

I am looking for a recipe for Chester Cake which my mother used to make from old stale cake. It had pastry top and bottom and the old cake crushed in the centre. It was then iced on the top. ~Gail

Chester Cake

225 gram shortcrust pastry (8 oz)
110 gram plain flour (4 oz)
15 gram baking powder ( 1/2 oz)
225 gram stale cake, crumbled finely (8 oz)
175 gram treacle or golden syrup (6 oz) (or corn syrup)
Currants or raisins
pinch ground ginger
1 egg, beaten with 2 tablespoons milk

Line the bottom of a square baking pan with the pastry. Sift the flour and baking powder. Add the cake crumbs, a few currants and a little ground ginger. Mix with syrup, making a fairly stiff dough. Spread evenly over the pastry and cover with the remaining pastry. Brush with beaten egg and milk and use a fork to prick small holes to mark the cake into squares. Preheat the oven 200 degrees C or 400 degrees F. Bake about 20 minutes. When cooled, cut with a sharp knife, following the prick marks made earlier. Serves 12.

I have heard that in Scotland they stuff their chickens with an oatmeal stuffing. It isn't the flaky oatmeal that we eat, that you use for this stuffing. Can you come up with a recipe. ~Janet

In Scotland they no doubt use a good old fashioned oatmeal. One to look for is "steel cut oats". Bob's Red Mill sells it, and this brand can often be found in the baking section at the grocery store or health food stores. The recipe below is a good basic one to follow. Though I am sure the shortening is a substitute for lard when it was made long ago.

Oatmeal Stuffing

5 cups old fashioned oatmeal
1 small or medium onion, diced
8 tablespoons butter or margarine
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
1/2 teaspoon rubbed sage
1 garlic clove, minced
salt and ground black pepper

In a large bowl mix oatmeal, salt, pepper, sage, onion, and garlic. With a large wooden spoon work in the shortening, then half of the butter. Add more of the butter until the mixture forms a clump--it shouldn't be loose. Before stuffing your chicken or turkey use a fork to loosen the mixture so it isn't so packed together. Place in the cavity of the bird and bake according to directions on the poultry package.

On OFL we have recipes for barn raising food!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Cooking & Kitchen Tips: Another Hodge Podge

There are so many great cooking and kitchen tips out there it's really hard to decide what to post about each week! This week, i've decided to feature a bunch of great ideas shared by the forum members of our friends at

  • When you chop onion for a recipe, use half the onion and chop the rest and freeze it for another day. The frozen onion is fine if you intend to cook with it~ it just has a little more moisture than usual at the start. Throw in the pan frozen.

  • To keep cucumbers fresh longer, wrap them in plain old newspaper.

  • The pointed end of a beer can opener is the perfect tool for deveining shrimp.

  • Easy homemade slushies: Pour prepared kool-aid into a clean milk jug and put lid on tight. Put in freezer. Every 30 to 45 minutes, give it a shake. 

  • Cutting Pineapple: Cut off top, now the sides and bottom. Now slice crossways (not length ways). Use an apple corer and put it right in the middle of the pinapple slice over the core and push. You have nice little triangles of pineapple without the core

  • Sometimes I use a toothpick to dip round candies such as truffles and peanut butter balls into melted chocolate. Other times I use a meat fork that has the tines curved up a little.

  • When freezing casseroles that contain pasta, don't cook the pasta completely before assembling the casserole. It will finish cooking when you heat the casserole later.

  • If you run out of sour cream for tacos, add some cream cheese to the taco meat.

  • Break each egg individually into a separate container. If you happen to have a bad egg, you've only lost one - not the whole dish.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Garden Tips: Buying and Caring for Herbs

Today I have some tips on buying and caring for herbs. I grow herbs for culinary use and many ornamentals as well. They are one of my favorite things to grow.

When buying herbs examine the plants for wilted, yellow or curling or mutated foliage. All of these could be signs of a problem. Be sure to also turn over the leaves and check for pests. Look for plants that aren't overgrown--either in the root area or otherwise. They are most likely stressed out and won't do as well. My only exception to this is if they are marked WAY down in price to where it is worth taking a chance. Also remember that though it's tempting to buy that lovely big plant with the flowers in full bloom, it is better to buy the one that has the most BUDS--it will last longer and do better for you.

How do you do pinch your herbs? You can either pinch off the foliage with your fingernails or snip with a garden shears. What you are doing is removing the ends of stems that have grown longer/higher than the other stems. Try to follow the shape of the plant--snipping off in various areas, not only the top. If the plant has become very tall you can take 4 or 5 inches off and harvest it. Otherwise take smaller inch to two inch pieces off. Do not let your herb plants bloom! Exceptions are nasturtiums, borage, calendula, chives etc. These are herbs which you use the blooms as well as the leaves to add to recipes. BUT do harvest all of the flowers-which is harvesting and deadheading at the same time.

Some herbs can be dug up in the early spring or fall and divided as you would many perennial flowers. Some are chives, oregano, yarrow, mints and lemon balm. Also, if you are growing mint in the ground, go out after a good rain and pull up the runners. They can spread VERY quickly, so you want to pull it now! I just did this with my chocolate mint I'd brought from our other house and it's really easy to pull up and the scent is lovely too!

Tips on growing herbs in your vegetable garden: