Meal-planning is hailed as the number one tip for saving money in the kitchen and avoiding food waste. And it really does do both of those things! But I find that when everything is coming in the garden, it becomes rather difficult to plan far ahead.
Why? Well, it’s hard to know sometimes whether the zucchini will be ripe by Tuesday or Thursday. You can’t predict whether or not an insect will come along and wipe out those kale leaves you had in mind for tomorrow’s meal. And beyond that, food preservation calls regularly during garden season. More time on preservation means less time on meal planning or cooking. You just can’t do it all in one day.
Strawberries are one of the few fruits we reserve for an annual U-pick farm trip. Why we haven’t grown them ourselves yet, I’m not sure! However, the trip to our local farms makes for a fun tradition. What’s more, the kids are getting better at actually getting some in the bucket each year.
The following is a “guest” post from my hubby- the guy who really knows his plants around here. We recently thought we spotted elderberries at a friend’s house- but Tim’s discerning eye second guessed our initial identification. Read on to find out how to distinguish these two look-alike plants from each other.
This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #roofeditmyself #CollectiveBias
Spring always puts a literal spring in my step. After all, the season is filled with so much life and vibrancy. Spring means new flowers, garden planting, baby chicks, and extended hours outdoors. For our family, it also means planning for summer projects.
If you’ve been following along with us, you know that our first major project has been building the chickens an upgraded home. The new digs is a spacious open-air coop that just might be nicer than my bedroom. Our chicken villa will accommodate many more birds than our previous one, provide access to the neighboring field for free-ranging, and give us space to keep the feed in-house.
The kids have been our quality control supervisors, carefully monitoring each step of the way through the spring rains and summer heat.
In the early spring, we sent off several of our eggs to a homeschooling family for use in a science project. The kids wanted to compare and record the hatch rate between different chicken breeds. So, they purchased an inexpensive incubator and mothered the eggs diligently for several weeks.
Since chicken keeping is not allowed in their municipality, it wasn’t long before thirteen chicks were sent back to us. Seven of the chicks were our own hens’ progeny; six were purchases from tractor supply after the first batch of eggs failed.
Foraging for plants in your neighborhood. Fermentation and bubbling jars. Homemade concoctions and kitchen experiments. Community. Joy! Can the combination get any better?
I received a free copy of the Craft of Herbal Fermentation Course in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links.
If you’ve been reading for the past few months, you may know that I was gradually working my way through the Craft of Herbal Fermentation Course from Herbal Academy. Today, I wanted to follow up on my previous posts and sum up my experience with the course.
When we bought our house, I had dreamy visions of gardening, egg-collecting, and happily tending to our chores as a family. It will be perfect, I said. We will homeschool and homestead and my children will learn how to live a nature-filled life that carries the perfect balance of freedom and self-discipline.
As you may imagine, it isn’t always as dreamy as I had originally hoped.
Reality: My sink runneth over and so does the poop. I change diapers and clean coops. The rabbits escape and we have to choose whether we should chase the bunnies or the babies. Decisions, decisions.
I was lamenting the truths of our less-than-ideal scenario to my sister-in-law, and wished aloud, “I just hope the kids get something out of all this.”
“Isn’t that how all parenting is?” she replied.
The revelation struck me. I really want to see character development in my kids, especially in relation to all of our homestead efforts. But I must remember that most character development doesn’t happen overnight, or even over months or years. It’s the nitty gritty, day-to-day stuff that forms a person.
How important it is that I don’t give up too quickly.
Asparagus grows more like a shrub than a quick garden plant. If you plant it from seed, it takes about three years before you can harvest it. But once it’s coming- oh my!- those fresh stalks are so delicious and tender. I hardly get them inside because I’m usually eating them straight from the ground.
If you happen to have some fresh asparagus in your yard, count yourself blessed and go pick some for this recipe. If you don’t, take advantage of seasonal sales to bring some home from the store this spring!
One of the reasons I enjoy asparagus is that it’s pretty versatile. It can easily be eaten in eggs, on a sandwich, or as a dinner side. It can be dressed up or down, depending on the occasion. And when it’s really only fresh for a few weeks in spring, it makes it all the more special to use it frequently at this time of year.
Roasted asparagus is super simple to make, and it’s one of our very favorite ways to use this seasonal treasure. My son discovered it this year, and now goes back for seconds and thirds of it. No joke.
He also likes to get into my attempted food photography:
And he likes to do his own food photography. 😉
And add things to my beat-up old baking pan…
My apologies… this will be a cook by the look, not by the book recipe. But it’s so easy that you’ll soon adjust it to your tastes.
Note: We love it with the almonds on top- it’s so simple and earthy tasting, and pairs perfectly with the asparagus. However, if you don’t eat nuts, it can easily be made without! Likewise, you can play with different seasonings if you have a flavor profile that you’ve been waiting to try.
You will need:
1 bunch of asparagus
Chopped almonds (I generally use about 1/2 cup)
Lotsa butter (about 4+ Tbsp)
Salt & pepper to taste
Set oven to broil.
Break off the woody ends of the asparagus. (I actually don’t always do this when the asparagus is fresh from the garden because I don’t mind chewing through the thick stuff. Do as you will.) Lay asparagus stalks out in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet.
Sprinkle chopped almonds over top of the asparagus.
Slice butter and place over top of the asparagus.
Sprinkle with salt & pepper.
Roast under the broiler until tender, about 4 minutes each side. You will need to take it out and turn the asparagus spears once, making sure to distribute the butter evenly.
This one-pan, simple side is easy, crowd pleasing, and SO yummy. We hope you enjoy it as much as we do.
Did you try it? Like it? Let us know in the comment section & share it with your friends!
Lacto-fermentation is a hot trend right now. However, though it may seem like a new thing for young, health-conscious weirdos, the practice has been around for thousands of years. In fact, for about as long as there have been people, there has been fermentation. As it turns out, it’s also been a huge part of culture and community for all that time.
This post contains affiliate links.
Preservation & Food Safety
Fermentation is a fantastic way to preserve food without refrigeration. How does it work? While methods vary from food to food, generally the process is the same. Fermentation occurs when the naturally occurring bacteria on food is combined with some sort of culture: whey, wild yeasts, or, in modern days, a purchased strain of starter culture. Keep the fermenting food away from oxygen and leave it at room temperature. The good bacteria will grow, and the food will transform into a tangy, bubbly treasure that can safely be stored in a cool environment for months.
You can imagine how helpful a process fermentation would have been in the days without refrigeration, freezers, or dehydrators. Food could be thrown in a vessel with some salt, covered, and safely fermented for long-term storage. Vegetables became pickles, milk became cheese- you get the idea.
You can also imagine how this would have improved food safety. How did people drink without access to clean water? You guessed it: beer and wine. The fermentation process eliminates any bad bacteria and creates a nutritional drink that can be safely consumed.
Every culture has foods that are traditionally prepared through fermentation. Some of them are easily recognizable; others I’ve never heard of. Here are some examples:
Fermented condiments, chutneys, etc.
The list goes on and on… Some of these foods have geographically specific origins; others have been made across so many regions that it’s hard to tell where they started. Regardless, it’s safe to say that fermented foods are wide-spread and common across cultures and times.
Celebrations & Traditions
Food has always been a part of almost any celebration. It seems that the craft and time taken in preparing fermented foods only adds to the sacred nature of a special occasion.
I was absolutely fascinated by a lecture on “cultural topsoil” by Marc Williams, ethnobiologist and teacher of the herbal mead brewing portion of the Herbal Fermentation Course. Marc writes:
“Brewing herbal mead can be much more than simply making an alcoholic beverage. Indeed, for me, brewing herbal mead is a ritualistic journey of celebrating community—honoring the people, places, and plants that have provided guidance, knowledge, friendship, or support throughout my life. In fact, brewing herbal mead is one method, among many in the realm of fermentation and food production, that can even be used to honor the changing of the seasons, times of year, or memorable milestones in your life and the lives of those in your community.”
How true that so many foods- fermented and otherwise- can play into our cultural traditions and celebrations.
Think about it. It’s a holiday in your house, and you’ve pulled out your great-grandmother’s special recipe that has been passed down through the generations. You may only make it once a year, but that makes it all the more special.
I know a lady who makes friendship fruit cakes every Christmas- she begins the process in November, ferments her cake batter for 30 days, then bakes them and shares both the cakes and the starters with friends.
The joy of fermented foods in particular is that they take so much time and care to create. Cabbage fermented from your own garden feels much more connected, grounded, and personal than a can of dead sauerkraut from the grocery store. An herbal ale or mead made at home from foraged plants speaks of craft, thoughtfulness, and nourishment- not drunkenness and foolishness. The fermented cake recipe from my friend tastes strongly of tradition, love, and generosity. After all, I know she’s been culturing, baking, and sharing from the same starter for years on end.
Not only can fermented foods be a big part of special occasions, they can also be a beautiful part of community building. I’ve seen it over and over again: someone hears about what’s bubbling in my kitchen. She’s interested, so she wants to try a little bit. I share my creations and pretty soon she’s giving it a whirl too. I may not know her all that well, but we now have a common bond: a three year old sourdough starter (or kefir grains or kombucha scoby) that’s in both of our kitchens, actively functioning and feeding both of our families.
It’s not long til that food-sharing inspires more connections. We get together again to share another kitchen experiment. Maybe we pass it on to another person, and maybe that person shares it with someone else. It’s funny how a fermented food can become a conversation starter, an inspiration, and a friendship builder.
Culture Your Culture
Give it a try. Venture into fermented foods and see how culturing food can play into your cultural traditions. Pull out a fermented food or beverage at a special occasion and watch to see the interest it sparks. Build new connections with people who you may not know too well. Share a scoby, a bottle of kombucha, or a loaf of sourdough. Watch to see how the foods can become part of your traditions and the connections made can foster generosity, friendships, and cultural richness.
My husband and I rarely see weeds as mere yard infestations. Usually he’s the one asking, “Can we eat it? Make something from it? Use it for some medicinal purpose?” It’s no different when dandelions begin popping up everywhere in the spring. (By the way, the violets in this picture are edible too.)
Dandelions are one of the most common intruders creeping into yards everywhere. While many people spend time, work, and money trying to keep their lawns free of the brightly colored visitor, others spend just as much time and work (though rarely money) to find uses for the golden weed.
Dandelions have been used for human consumption in many different ways. Dandelion leaf salad, dandelion root tea, and dandelion wine are just a few examples to get you started. Today, I will share a recipe with you that my good friend Alexis taught me how to make: fried dandelion heads.
They taste very much like fried chicken cutlets- only the “meat” inside is free from your yard!
Ready to get started? You will need:
About 2-3 C Dandelion heads
White Vinegar (just a splash)
Olive Oil as needed (try starting with about ¼ C)
About 1 C Plain Bread Crumbs
1 Tbsp each Garlic, Italian Seasoning, & Parsely (or to taste)
Salt and Pepper to taste
Unfortunately, the above amounts are just estimates. Depending on how many dandelion heads you have, you may need to alter this recipe accordingly. The nice part about breading & frying is that you can always add more oil to the pan or more bread crumbs & seasonings to the mix if you run out.
1) Collect and Wash Dandelion Heads! This is a great time to get your kids helping you. J loves it when I send him on flower-picking assignments.
* Make sure that you haven’t been spraying your yard with anything toxic if you’re out foraging for weeds!
Pick just under the bloom, where the head easily snaps off. Rinse them off well through a colander if you’re not into eating bugs.
2) Coat your dandelions. First, mix your dandelions with a splash of white vinegar. Next, set up your assembly line for coating. Beat egg into one container. Combine dry ingredients in another. It should look something like this:
Heat oil on stovetop over medium heat until it’s shimmering. Dip your dandelion heads first into the egg, then into the bread crumb mixture, making sure that they get completely coated at each step.
3) Fry ‘em up! Carefully place the dandelion heads into the hot oil using tongs or some other such tool. (Or jump back as you drop them so you don’t get splattered.)
Turn them partway through frying to get both sides nice and golden brown. This step won’t take more than a couple of minutes if your oil is good and hot, so watch them carefully to avoid burning them.
4) Drain and enjoy! Remove the dandelion heads with tongs and place them on a plate lined with paper towels to absorb the oil. Once they’ve sat a couple minutes, you can eat them up immediately!
You’ll most likely keep popping them til they’re gone. If by some chance you don’t finish them, it’s always fun to pack leftovers for lunch and relish in telling your co-workers you’re eating fried weeds. And besides, they’re yummy, I promise! Hope you give them a shot. 🙂