We recently talked about one of my favorite ways to eat dandelions. Now let’s talk about another beautiful, edible wildflower: violets!
Our first spring at our house brought hundreds thousands of violets. And what would we do with them besides figure out if we could eat them?
Upon seeing this glory spread through our front lawn, we first made sure that we did indeed identify the plant correctly. Next, we checked on its edibility. The flowers and leaves are edible, but the roots and seeds can make you sick. So make sure you only pick the tops, please, and always double check your plant identification and edibility when foraging.
I found a recipe for violet jam on the blog Emergency Outdoors. J has always been eager to help gather flowers, so this project was a welcome excuse to get a bowl and get picking.
We washed our flowers and got ready to make the jam.
After sanitizing my canning jars and lids, we blended up the ingredients as per our recipe, and ended up with this lovely lavender gel:
This was a sweet, floral jam that pairs well with lemon poppy seed muffins or a light springtime bread. The color made me think to give it away for Mother’s Day. While I prefer jams with less sugar, it was still very satisfying to prepare a treat from wild food growing in our yard.
Emergency Outdoors provides all the details for this violet jam recipe. You will also find a wealth of information on violet there, including edible, medicinal, and perfumery uses- not to mention recipes for violet vinegar and violet syrup. Yum!
While we enjoyed trying the jam, I’d like to branch out this year and try using violet in other ways. I’ve compiled a list of violet recipes & resources that I’d like to try:
The Common Blue Violet– Common Sense Homesteading shares a violet jelly recipe (for those of you who prefer a clear spread), and shares various medicinal uses of violets.
The Health Benefits of Violets– From the Herbal Academy of New England. This amazing website provides a thorough review of violet and her medicinal uses. Check out her instructions for several different violet teas for health.
Let’s Talk About Violet- Amber of Pixie’s Pocket is bursting with enthusiasm for the little purple blooms that fill her yard each spring. Visit her blog for information on using violets for warts and acne, as well as a few links to wild violet recipes- like adding them to a wild greens pesto? That sounds delightfully different!
How to Make Wild Violet Syrup– ABCs & Garden Peas shares a method for making violet syrup- without heaps of sugar- and some ingenious ways to put it to use. I may have to try this to change up our maple syrup habits for springtime.
Five Uses for Violet Vinegar- I’ve seen a few recipes for violet vinegar, but always wondered what in the world you used it for. The Nerdy Farm Wife takes out the mystery and gives you five concrete ideas to get you started.
And of course, you can just plain eat them. They go well in salad, and the flowers are a wonderful outdoor playtime snack. The kids think it’s tons of fun to sit and munch flowers with mama. The novelty masks the health benefits, so they consume the blooms without hesitation. 😉
At the end of deer season, we had a friend text us early in the morning: “Could you use any venison? We got an extra deer and don’t have space for it all!”
What followed was a somewhat humorous scramble to say yes to the deer meat. Moving around stuff in the freezer, looking up YouTube videos on how to process venison, staying up til 2 am trying to make cuts out of a quartered deer… you get the idea. Complete novices working hard to save meat without a clue what we were doing.
However, we ended up with a freezer full of some of the best meat you can get– free range, organic, pesticide free– you name it, this was healthy, wild meat to feed our family.
Enter the pot roast recipe. We actually used the deer neck for our roast, based on an internet recommendation. (Do let me know if there’s other parts suitable for a good roast!)
The nice part is that this is a “set it and forget it” type recipe- just dump the ingredients into your slow cooker unceremoniously and leave it for several hours. You’ll have magic when you get back.
Easy Slow Cooker Venison Pot Roast
1 large bone-in venison neck roast
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, diced
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
Salt & pepper (enough to generously rub the surface of the meat.)
2 cups water
This is SO easy. Just put all the ingredients in the crock pot, rub the Venison with salt & pepper, and cover with water. Put a lid on it and cook on high for about 4 hours.
I served mine with oven-roasted potatoes & buttered carrots and peas. I’m sure you could easily put vegetables in the crock pot with the meat if you prefer a one-pot meal.
Another great part about this meal is that it makes its own broth. After we ate our pot roast, I made venison stew the next night with the leftover meat and broth. It was absolutely delicious.
If you’ve never tried venison before, this is a great way to begin! It tastes very similar to a beef pot roast. The meat is soft and falls apart under the fork. No tough, dry venison stereotype here!
This post should be called “potato patties, a.k.a. heaven in a pan, gently heated to a golden crisp.” Or at least something like that.
Potato patties are, in my mind, the absolute best way to use up leftover mashed potatoes. Sure, you could reheat them in their original state or put them atop of a casserole, but why do that when the angels could be singing over these glorious beauties?
Of course, in order to make delicious potato patties, you must start with delicious mashed potatoes. Now is the time to bid farewell to any mashed potato powder in a box. No longer will you tolerate the texture of pasty bland fluff. You are moving on to truer and purer things.
The process for great mashed potatoes is simple:
Peel potatoes & chop into 1-2″ chunks
Place chunks in boiling water
Boil for about 15 minutes, or until potatoes are fork-tender.
Add REAL butter, milk, salt, & pepper. How much? That’s up to you, but I’m pretty generous myself. I usually add a whole stick of butter for about every eight medium potatoes, then pour in a little milk at a time while I mash until the consistency is right. Next, I salt and pepper it and taste it til it’s yummy. I might even double dip. (Shhhh…)
Mash with a fork or potato masher. Blend them with a beater if you must, but I prefer my taters a bit chunky.
That’s it! Real mashed potatoes are very simple to make and far surpass any box you could buy. The only problem with making them yourself is that you’ll no longer take joy in most restaurant mashed potatoes because your own are so much better.
Now, for the best part of mashed potatoes: the LEFTOVERS!
Here’s how you make The Ever Glorious and Delightful Golden Potato Patty. It’s even easier than the mashed potatoes.
Heat 1-2 tablespoons of butter in a cast-iron skillet. Make sure the pan gets thoroughly heated.
Drop rounded spoonfuls of leftover mashed potatoes into the skillet. Flatten to about 1/2″ thick with the back of your spoon.
Flip when the bottom of the patties is turning golden-brown and crispy.
When both sides are golden, they’re ready to eat!
Potato patties are delicious with eggs in the morning, as part of lunch or dinner, or as a late-night snack. They really do make me deliriously happy. Don’t we all need a little bit of that in our lives? 😉
I owe my pumpkin chili to my friend Alexis. She introduced me to this glory about three years ago at her daughter’s birthday party. I was there early and was helping to throw ingredients into a crock pot for her when she asked me to add a can of pumpkin to the onions and peppers cooking up in the bottom.
Pumpkin?!? In chili?
The idea seemed novel to me then. However, in the three years since I tried it, I’ve never gone back to making pumpkin-less chili.
I began making my own rendition of pumpkin chili, and it’s one meal that my whole family generally gobbles up. (I can’t make promises for the toddler.) We have some variation of this chili almost every week through the winter!
If you’re hesitant about the pumpkin, fear not. It gets an extra vegetable in and rounds out the flavor nicely, but it doesn’t scream “YOU’RE EATING SQUASH!!!” from the pot. I took this chili to a chili taste-off once, and I had a few comments something to the effect of, “I really hate pumpkin and if I had known it was in this I wouldn’t have tried it but I didn’t know and I tried it and I really like it and good job sneaking in the pumpkin.” Except maybe they didn’t speak in run-on sentences. 😉
You can decide how you like your chili: meatless or meaty. I started out making this as a vegetarian chili, and it stands alone as a very hearty meatless meal. Over the years, however, we’ve discovered that the recipe is very flexible. Beef is another obvious choice for this chili, but we’ve recently been enjoying it with chopped venison. Absolutely delicious.
(Some of the veggies for the chili. I added some random kale this last time.)
Please feel free to add or subtract ingredients according to your personal preferences. Here it goes…
Your choice: 2- 3 cans of beans (I like to use a mix of black beans, kidney beans, pinto beans, and/or great northern beans), 1 pound of ground beef, OR 1 lb of chopped or ground venison.
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1-2 bell peppers, any color
2 garlic cloves, diced
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp oregano
Salt & pepper to taste
1-32 oz. can tomatoes, diced or stewed, with juices.
1-15 oz. can pumpkin
1- 15. oz can corn
If you’re using beans: drain and rinse beans and set aside.
If you’re using beef: cook beef over medium high heat until brown. Season with salt and pepper. Drain fat and set aside.
If you’re using venison: cook over medium high heat with salt, pepper, and butter or olive oil. You won’t need to drain venison. Set aside to add later.
(Browned venison, ready to go in the pot!)
Now, for the rest of the chili:
Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in large pot. Saute onions, peppers, and garlic for about 5-10 minutes or until tender. Add spices and cook for just a minute til fragrant.
Add tomatoes, pumpkin, and corn. (You can throw in other veggies too if you like them.)
Add beans or meat of your choice and let simmer for 20 minutes or longer.
Give it a taste after a while. You may find that you want to add another teaspoon of one spice or another.
If this chili is too thick for you, you are welcome to add vegetable or beef stock if desired. However, I love a good, thick, chunky chili, so I leave mine as is. Here’s a bad cell phone picture of the bean version:
As you can see, it’s delightfully chunky even without the meat!
There you have it, folks. A simple, healthy, and delicious dinner for a fall or winter warm-up. Make it one of your staples!
Happy New Year! Now that it’s 2017, let’s all eat healthy, spend less, exercise daily, and tackle the world. 😉 I know one of my big goals is to whittle down my grocery bill a bit. Of course, that’s easier done when there’s a little inspiration to help a sister out.
To start off your new year right, I present to you, a month of frugal meals! The following round up includes:
6 breakfast ideas
4 meat recipes
5 chicken meals
11 soups & stews, with and without meat
2 miscellaneous meatless mains
9 extras (snacks, bread, drinks, etc.)
That means that this one post has 28 meals. There. Considering that you’ll likely eat out or eat leftovers for at least a few nights, your budget-friendly meal planning for the month of January is DONE. Am I right?
Some of the posts have more than one meal idea (easy chicken meals on the fly, homemade cereal recipes, etc.), so you can be flexible with them. If you don’t eat meat, many of these recipes can be made with a substitution.
I haven’t really enjoyed myself in the kitchen for a very long time.
Dinner has become a horrific, daunting monster that I try to beat back with a spatula every afternoon around 4 p.m. All of those tasks that usually motivate me– making sourdough, cooking everything from scratch– have become massive, ugly beasts that leer at me from my brown and yellow, disgusting 70s mess of a kitchen.
Burn-out. It makes me cranky and ungrateful. I don’t want to live like that.
Of course, the problem isn’t the cooking itself. It’s that I’m trying to do too much and I don’t have the time and love to put into the kitchen that I used to have. So I decided that I needed to treat the kitchen like therapy instead of an enemy. That sounded much nicer.
I tried to think back. What made me love the kitchen in the first place?
My childhood- baking with my mother. Sitting on the counter, carefully measuring scoops of flour, baking soda, and sugar, watching mountains of drifted snow build in the bowl and delightfully sticking my finger in it to draw lines and faces. Grilling hundreds of Welsh cookies together for a fundraiser. Singing a silly song about looking for a loaf pan that I still remember 25 years later.
My first jobs- discovering how dinner really becomes a reality. Exploring new tastes and flavors and shedding my pickiness. Tandoori chicken, portabella mushroom paninis, formal tea parties with tiny sandwich triangles. My experience as a sous chef and short-order cook, learning to move like lightning in the kitchen and come out smiling and calm to my waiting customers. Even waitressing– I loved it all. The clinking of dishes, the steam off the griddle, the delicious smells and morning coffee and noise and hustling of the workplace. I’d honestly still be very happy working in a restaurant.
My early married years- learning how to cook my mother’s secret recipes. Calling my mom-in-law to find out how she made her famous chicken cutlets. Figuring out how to “cook by the look” and not the book. Kitchen mishaps along the journey– exploding a Pyrex dish in the oven, trying to cook a chicken and not finishing it until 10:30 at night, lumpy loaves of bread and burnt pasta. For some reason I kept coming back to try to do more of it.
The kitchen holds a fond place in my heart. But I’ve succumbed to frustration and tiredness in recent years, and I don’t wanna cook no more.
My grandmother bought me a tiny trivet when we first got married that reads, “Kissin’ don’t last. Cookin’ do.” I’ve kept it all eight years because it makes me smile.
A photo posted by Abigail Zieger (@theyrenotourgoats) on
Thankfully, I have a really awesome husband that will still kiss me, and even cook for me too. He makes the most delicious eggs of anyone I know. This has earned him the title of official breakfast cook.
You want to know the secret to the best scrambled eggs?
First, turn on the radio and make sure the kitchen is pleasant. Get the radiator nice and warm in the winter, or fling the door wide open in the summer. Start some coffee brewing and heat a cast iron pan with bacon grease. Chop a clove or two of garlic and throw it in the pan.
Meanwhile, set your children to playing something purposeful. Wash some dishes, clear the counter, get some steam and dish-clinking going on. Trust me, it makes the kitchen happier. Add onion and whatever chopped vegetable you have to the pan. Let them soften over medium-high heat. If the pan gets dry, add a splash of water, cover it, and turn the heat down a little. Allow the onions and vegetables to caramelize.
Meanwhile, beat the eggs and milk in a bowl. Stop to hug your husband and ignore the bickering children in the other room. Make sure you can hear your rooster crowing if you have one. Once the stuff in the pan is properly soft and browned at the edges, pour in your eggs and give it a stir. Quickly add chopped or grated cheese of your choice.
Let the eggs sit just a couple minutes on medium-low heat- don’t stir the life out of them. Drink some coffee. Scratch a back. Gently go around the pan and turn the eggs over. Give them a couple more minutes. Stretch and set the table. Turn the eggs one more time if necessary, ensuring that the eggs are cooked but not dried out.
Call everyone to the table. Light a candle. Eat your eggs with bread or biscuits or bagels or nothing at all. Try sauerkraut on your eggs. Sit around in your pajamas for a little longer if you can. Talk about your day and get a plan. Read the paper. Ask your kids questions and take interest in each other. Clean up together when you’re done.
We have our favorite way to make scrambled eggs- but the best way to do it is with time and music and togetherness.
Clearly, love is the key to reclaiming the kitchen AND the secret ingredient in great scrambled eggs.
Salad sprouts are so tasty and good for you. They’re also rather pricey. $4 and up for a teeny box of half-dead grocery sprouts? No thank you.
This post contains affiliate links.
Thankfully, growing your own sprouts is easy and fun to do. You need very little- a screw-top jar, some water, and, of course, sprouting seeds! Sprouting seeds can be purchased online or from a local health food store, and they come in many different varieties. While $12-20 for one bag may sound like a lot, the bag will give you way more sprouts than what you could purchase pre-grown for the same amount.
Here’s how to do it:
Put 2-3 tablespoons of sprouting seeds in a mason jar, covered with about four times as much water. (You could do more or less seeds, depending on how much you’ll eat at one time.) Screw on the lid and leave for about 12 hours at room temperature.
Drain the seeds through a fine mesh colander or cheesecloth. Rinse very well with water. I like to spray mine with the hose attachment on high. Make sure seeds are well drained from the rinse.
Put seeds back in the jar and cover with a paper towel and rubber band, or other loose covering that allows for air flow. Leave at room temperature for another 12 hours.
Every 12 hours or so, re-rinse and drain the seeds. By the second day, you’ll see the beginning of little white sprouts. By day 2-3, the sprouts will grow longer and they are ready for eating.
When the sprouts are ready to eat, rinse and drain one final time. Store in the refrigerator.
What happens if I accidentally skip a rinsing? One skip probably won’t hurt. Don’t make a habit out of it, though. You don’t the sprouts growing mold.
How long can I store sprouts? I’ve never gone more than a week or two before eating them all, but I’d say to use your best judgment. If they start to get slimy, grow mold, or otherwise seem questionable, then toss them. Hopefully you’ll eat them before then!
How do I eat sprouts? Any way at all! Try sprouts in salads, on a sandwich, in your eggs, or as an appetizer topping. Use your imagination and see what you come up with!
Have you ever made your own sprouts? What’s your favorite way to enjoy them?
I wrote this post a while back, but I’m realizing my own need to revisit it regularly. It’s easy to get frustrated with kids in the kitchen, and to just want to do it yourself to save time and hassle. I often forget the reasons why I so want them to learn to cook in the first place! So, here’s to you and me both working towards this goal together. Press on, parents of sous chefs.
(This post contains affiliate links.)
Kids should cook.
Kids should know where food comes from. They should know food preparation basics. They should have the basic skills they need to cook a simple meal. And, ideally, they should enjoy doing it!
(J cooking his own egg for lunch. He’s able to do it from start to finish- with supervision at the stove, of course.)
“Anyone can cook, and most everyone should. It’s a sorry sign that many people consider ‘from scratch’ an unusual and even rare talent. In fact, cooking is a simple and rewarding craft, one that anyone can learn and even succeed at from the get-go.” –How to Cook Everything: Simple Recipes for Great Food, by Mark Bittman.
I don’t want my children to grow up without a clue as to how to perform simple cooking tasks for themselves. I don’t want them to rely on microwaves and fast food joints. I’d hate for J to one day get his own apartment and stare at his stove in dismay, not knowing where to begin.
Why? Part of it is about life skills. A little home economics goes a long way for kids these days, especially when the push for more convenience and less labor is growing ever stronger. But more importantly, I want my kids to have a healthy relationship with food: to know where it comes from, to know what they’re putting into their bodies, to make moderate and nourishing choices when possible, and to be grateful for what they have.
How do we get started on this process? It can seem daunting at first, especially if you don’t cook too much yourself.
There are lots of kid’s cookbooks available, but these resources can be either a blessing or a curse. Sometimes they actually teach kids a simple recipe. Other times, however, they just teach children to microwave chicken nuggets and make a special dipping sauce out of three different condiments you already have in your fridge. Really? Is this cooking? Is this what we want our children to have in mind when they think of preparing a meal?
Look, I’m not a great cook, but I do an awful lot of it. And from the time my kids are very little, I have them in the kitchen with me, helping with simple tasks. Is it always easy? No. Do I get frustrated and fed up with them making a mess of things? Yes. Do I push them to do it perfectly? No. Do you end up with carrots in the silverware drawer? Yes. Is it worth it to teach them? Yes.
You can do this.
For the youngest children, just having them “work” alongside you is great. If you’re making bread, give them a small piece of dough to mold while you knead the big loaf. Give them a small amount of flour to draw in. Yes, it will get on their clothes and the floor. Can it be cleaned? Yes, and maybe you should invite them to help wipe it up with a towel.
For 2-3 year olds, have them try simple kitchen tasks. Scooping cups of flour. Mixing ingredients in a bowl. Cracking eggs. Washing the potatoes before you peel them. Mashing the apples you’re cooking down into sauce.
For preschoolers, try having them begin sequencing tasks. For muffins: First we mix the dry ingredients, then the wet, then we gently put them together. Or, for an omelette: heat the pan, add the chopped veggies, whisk the eggs and milk, then pour the mixture onto the hot pan. Top with cheese while it’s cooking. Cooking is a homeschooling mom’s dream lesson- it’s great for beginning math (counting, adding, etc.), science (how does baking soda work?), and general life skills.
You can have elementary aged children practice skills that require more coordination. J (not quite 5) is already practicing proper knife skills with a butter knife. Once your children are older, you can teach them to use a real knife- always supervised, of course. Older children can try recipes that require a little more finesse- like using a double boiler, or trying to cook eggs in different styles (over-medium, sunny-side up, hard-fried, etc.). Older children can read recipes themselves, plan a meal, and learn proper safety precautions for using the stove or oven.
My sister-in-law has each of her teenage children take a night of the week cooking, and they can make great meals for the whole family. The younger ones always have responsibilities to fulfill for the meal as well. Imagine what a good foundation they will have for when they leave the home!
While it’s true that I’ve spent a lot of times pulling my hair out while trying to guide my son in helping, we’ve had just as many times that cooking together has been an encouraging and bonding experience. Yes, it can be a lot of work at first, but the memories we have created are wonderful, and I am proud of all that he is learning in the kitchen.
All that work is starting to pay off! J just made his first full meal for us last night- tuna burgers and toppings on homemade buns, with homemade ice cream for dessert. I had to help him with measuring (he can’t read yet), shaping the buns (he just needed a break from prep), and flipping the burgers (we don’t want burnt little hands!), but he did everything else himself. The resulting meal was delicious, and he was proud of it. In fact, he doesn’t even like tuna- but he ate it because he cooked it himself and wanted to take part in his meal.
Kids can cook, and they probably should too! A little energy and patience put into teaching them cooking skills will set them off on the right foot for healthy eating, independence, and food appreciation- for life!
Would you like a little help to guide you on the way? The Kids Cook Real Food course from Katie of Kitchen Stewardship looks like a wonderful resource. It’s definitely on my list to try!
Radishes! We just harvested a bumper crop of these ruby beauties last week.
There are few ways I really enjoy eating my radishes: roasted radishes, fermented radish pickles, and this glorious creation: radish butter.
My radish butter is a spin-off of this great recipe from Grow It Cook It Can It. That one is splendidly delicious too, so if you have fresh fennel and marjoram I encourage you to give her recipe a try.
However, alas!- I was lacking some of those fresh ingredients, so I have come up with my own version. This is a mini-recipe, using only a half a pound of butter, so feel free to double or triple it as you feel is appropriate.
(As a side note, you can save the radish tops as an edible green. I like to dehydrate mine and grind them up into super green powder. Give it a try.)
Garlic-Fennel Radish Butter
1/2 cup salted butter, softened
2-3 radishes, finely minced
1 large garlic clove, finely minced
1/2 tsp dried fennel seed
sprinkle of black pepper
Simply prepare & mix up the ingredients. That’s it.
A little spicy, deliciously savory, and strangely addictive.
Store your radish butter in the fridge, or freeze it for a few months at a time to thaw out for later.
There you go. Now you, too, can sing this song to yourself repeatedly when rhubarb comes into season.
However, today, I am not going to talk about rhubarb pie or give you a recipe for one. (Though I might sing about it still.) Rhubarb pie is delicious, but let’s face it. There’s already a gazillion and one recipes for it out there and you don’t need mine too.
What you do need, however, is fermented rhubarb. If that makes you want to gag, you should first read about the awesomeness of fermentation. If you’re still with me, then you need to try this. Honestly, fermented rhubarb doesn’t taste terribly different from regular rhubarb. Besides that, it’s easy to make and it’s good for you. So there. 🙂
Simply mix all ingredients together and put in the fermenting vessel of your choice, leaving about 1″ headspace if you’re fermenting in a jar. Use a weight to ensure that the rhubarb stays beneath the brine. Install an airlock or properly burp your jars each day to allow for the venting of CO2 that builds up during the fermentation process. Allow to sit on the counter at room temperature for 4-7 days, then move to cold storage.
I use a Fermentools kit any time I ferment. It’s one of the least expensive kits out there, and you don’t need special jars or crocks because they fit on top of any wide mouth mason jar. It takes the guesswork out of fermenting for me. Less mistakes= money saved in the long run.
And of course, I promised you a Rhubarb Lemonade recipe too. This is super simple, and should use about half of the fermented rhubarb you just made, leaving you the other half to experiment with or eat straight from the jar. 🙂
Probiotic Rhubarb Lemonade
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup water
2 cups chopped fermented rhubarb & its juices
3/4 cup lemon juice (preferably fresh squeezed)
More water to make a quart
Mix sugar and water in a small saucepan. Heat and stir until sugar dissolves to make a simple syrup. Let cool and chill.
Mix simple syrup and rhubarb in a quart sized mason jar or other container. Add cold water to make a quart total.
And that’s it! You’ve got the good juices from the fermented rhubarb in your lemonade, so you’re getting a dose of probiotics with each sip. I haven’t tried this with a “double brew” technique as you would with kombucha, but if you’re feeling adventurous, give it a go.