Tag Archive | cooking

Boxed Dinners ~ Activities for Foodie Couples

imageIf you haven’t heard about these blessings in a box, they are called Meal Delivery Services, and they are being shipped to most locations worldwide. I think they are an awesome idea for folks wanting to learn how to cook, learn new meals, save money and time, stuck in a ‘food rut’ (us), along with dieting or even just eating better!  We’ve batted this idea around for a bit… Having fresh ingredients arrive at our door to make meals for a few nights a week. I wasn’t sure if it was going to be a savings or an expense. My husband really took a hold of this idea and ran with it. He compared many of the Dinner Box companies that deliver in our area. He decide Blue Apron was the best fit for us. They source the food as local as possible to me. I love supporting my community.

When he told me about the future box coming, he had sparkles in his eyes. He was genuinely excited to cook these meals! He then tells me the most mushy, lovey-dovey thing… “I can’t wait to spend time with you in the kitchen cooking these meals.” Awe! What a Sweety-Pie!!! I love you, honey.

Our first three meals arrived on a Friday. We picked Friday, so we would have more time to cook the meals over the weekend. The part I really like is that the amounts are per-determined, and there is no waste or leftovers. I feel like we waste too much food here. Another huge pro for going with this arrangement.

There are also beautifully done recipe cards with photos for most of the steps in the recipe. If there is something missing on the card, you can always go to their website to learn how to reproduce the technique they are asking you to do. There are many how-to videos, other recipes and comments from other Blue Apron clients.

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Lemon Caper Catfish, Chicken Paillard and Bucatini Pasta Bolognese, were our weeks choices. In plain English: Lemon catfish w/kale, Chicken & potatoes & Spaghetti w/meat sauce. There are generally 3 meat meals and 3 vegetarian meals, for a total of 6 meals to choose from for a week. Blue Apron only offers 3 meals a week, whereas other companies do offer 2 -7 meals a week. As I am a carnivore, the veggie meals are somewhat wasted on me. Yes, roasted cauliflower sounds yummy, but that is a side dish, not the centerpiece of the meal.

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The Chicken Paillard was to die for! I have never roasted a fennel before and I have been missing out! If you’ve never done it, buy one in the next grocery run. They are amazing roasted. We figured even if we didn’t like some part of the meal, it would introduce us to other types of food and how to cook it. A con was the size of the potato. It was smaller than my fist, and we had to split it. I get it. It’s called PORTION CONTROL 😉 Fatty-Fat-Fat!

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Sometimes we had to read the directions 10X to wrap our minds around something. The directions for the Bucatini Pasta Bolognese had us cooking veggies and sauce before we cooked the meat in the veggies. Huh? I’ve generally always cooked the meat first, then added other ingredients. This recipe also had us adding chopped brussels sprouts near the end of the process. In the end, it was a super yummy meal. I still like my spaghetti sauce better (I use pork shoulder), however I will now add carrot, celery and chopped brussels sprouts to mine!

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Here is the Lemon Caper Catfish. The catfish was great. It was on a bed of lentils and kale. I like many veggies, but you lost me at both lentils and kale. Blech! I can say that the lentils were not the same kind my Mom used for soup. These were called the ‘caviar of lentils’ and even resembled it. They were actually pretty good. Not the texture of dirt, like my Ma’s. The kale was kale. There was no helping it. In the end, I would just do this recipe with spinach and call it a day.

My hubby and I are very pleased with our choices, the turnout and the amount of fun we’ve been having in the kitchen. I’d really have to wait for more data, however the total amount of groceries and the Blue Apron box were even last week, thus it is a wash, budget wise. YEAH!! I would highly suggest trying one of these services out! Even if it’s just for a week here and there. I love that we don’t have to argue about ‘what’s for dinner?’ or spend time making a list or being pissed that we forgot something at the store!! I feel like this may take a lot of stress away from us, which makes it worth its weight in gold.
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I can’t wait for our next box and our next foodie adventure!!

© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

99 Edible Plants for the Midwest Forager

I got another request from a fellow blogger (Dr. Laura – Bipolar For Life) about edible plants in the woods. Now, I know she is very capable of plant ID, she’s even identified a morel mushroom for me that I will go back for this spring!! However, here’s the standard warning ~ Kids, don’t try this at home! Go out in the forest and give it a try!! 😉

About 25 years ago, I stopped at a bookstore and saw this beauty on the $5 table, United States Air Force Search & Rescue Survival Manual. I HAD to have it! I’m not much of a fiction reader, unless I was in between boyfriends and a new Fabio romance would come out… Aaanyway. I loved reading encyclopedias,  The World Almanac and Book of Facts, National Geographic and my favorite, Uncle John’s Bathroom Readers. This survival manual fit right in with my reading habits.

I have read it cover to cover many times. There’s some really good information in there that can help anyone stay on this side of the grass longer during a bad situation. (BTW – There is an app for this for $1.99) There are two chapters dedicated to plants alone. Only one for food & water procurement, respectively. Plants can be your best bet for long term survival or your short ride to being plant food. Here’s another wonderful site: Plants For a Future that lists over 7,000 plants and their medicinal purposes, really really great stuff going on there.

Chapter 9 of the United States Air Force Search & Rescue Survival Manual discusses the Universal Edibility Test:

1. Test only one part of a potential food plant at a time.
2 Separate the plants into its basic components—leaves, stems, roots, buds, and flowers.
3 Smell the food for strong or acid odors. Remember, smell alone does not indicate a plant is edible or inedible.
4 Do not eat for 8 hours before starting the test.
5 During the 8 hours you abstain from eating, test for contact poisoning by placing a piece of the plant part you are testing on the inside of your elbow or wrist. Usually 15 minutes is enough time to allow for a reaction
6 During the test period, take nothing by mouth except purified water and the plant part you are testing.
7 Select a small portion of a single part and prepare it the way you plan to eat it.
8 Before placing the prepared plant part in your mouth, touch a small portion (a pinch) to the outer surface of your lip to test for burning or itching.
9 If after 3 minutes there is no reaction on your lip, place the plant part on your tongue, holding it there for 15 minutes.
10 If there is no reaction, thoroughly chew a pinch and hold it in your mouth for 15 minutes. Do not swallow.
11 If no burning, itching, numbing stinging, or other irritation occurs during the 15 minutes, swallow the food.
12 Wait 8 hours. If any ill effects occur during this period, induce vomiting and drink a lot of water.
13 If no ill effects occur, eat 1/4 cup of the same plant part prepared the same way. Wait another 8 hours. If no ill effects occur, the plant part as prepared is safe for eating.
CAUTION
Test all parts of the plant for edibility, as some plants have both edible and inedible parts. Do not assume that a part that proved edible when cooked is also edible when raw. Test the part raw to ensure edibility before eating raw. The same part or plant may produce varying reactions in different individuals

Tips to keep you alive and well while foraging:

  • Be extremely careful when collecting mushrooms. Mistakes can be fatal.
  • Avoid collecting plants in commercially fertilized areas or where toxic herbicides or other chemicals may have been sprayed. This means avoid collecting under power lines, right of ways, in unfamiliar weedy lawns, beside commercial crop fields, or close to roadsides. Better to error on the side of caution!
  • Be grateful. Before picking, plucking or digging, pause for a moment and give thanks to the plant that is giving itself to you. Collect with consciousness. Make the area look as though you were not there. Take what you need, leaving plenty for wildlife and future years.
  • Once the food is collected, clean and sort it ‘in the field’. It is much easier there. No cook wants a sink full of muddy roots mingled with grass blades and half an anthill.
  • Before you eat a food, be sure to prepare correctly. Many plants can be mildly toxic and may require cooking or parboiling (and then discarding) the first and second ‘waters’ before ingesting.
  • Learn to blend wild produce into a meal in subtle ways. Often the flavors are quite strong. I like to use garlic mustard in my tomato sauces. It gives a light garlic taste.

*There is special preparations needed eat it.

** Caution this plant either has parts that are toxic or a poisonous look-alikes

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Amur maple – Acer ginnala

Acer spp. –  Maple ~ The inner bark & seeds

Allium spp. – Wild Onion/Garlic/Leek ~ The bulb & leaves

Amaranthus spp. – Amaranth ~ the seeds, shoots & leaves

Apios americana – Groundnut ~ The tubers (roots)

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Arisaema atrorubens – Jack in the Pulpit

Arisaema atrorubens – Jack in the Pulpit ~ The corm (well dried)*

Armoracea lapathifolia – Horseradish ~ The young leaves & roots

Asarum canadense – Wild Ginger ~ The rootstock

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Asclepias syriaca – Common milkweed

Asclepias spp. – Milkweed ~ Young pods, before they set seed*

Asimina triloba – Pawpaw ~ fruits (I’m dying to try these)

Artium spp. – Burdock ~ The root

Barbarea spp. – Winter Cress ~ The young leaves & flower

Betula spp. – Birch ~ The sap, inner bark, twigs

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Alliaria petiolata – garlic mustard

Brassica spp. – Wild Mustards ~ The young leaves, flowerbuds, & seeds

Capsella bursa-pastoris – Shepard’s Purse ~ The young leaves, seedpods

Carya spp. – Hickory and Pecan ~ Yummy nuts

Castanea pumila – Chinquapin ~ nuts

Celtis spp. – Hackberry ~ The fruits

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Cercis canadensis – Redbud seedpods

Cercis canadensis – Redbud flowers~ The young pods

Chenopodium album – Lamb’s Quarters ~ The young leaves and tops

Cichorium intybus – Chicory ~ young leaves & root

Cirsium spp. – Thistle ~ The young leaves, inner stem (pith) & 1st year root

Chrysanthemum/Leucanthemum – Ox-Eye Daisy ~ The young leav

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Leucanthemum – Ox-Eye Daisy

Claytonia spp. – Spring Beauty ~ corm**

Commelina spp. – Day Flower ~ The young leaves and stem

Corylus spp. – Hazelnuts ~ Yummy nuts

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Crataegus phaenopyrum – Washington Hawthorn

Crataegus spp. – Hawthorn ~ The fruits

Cyperus esculentus Chufa – Nut Grass ~ The tuber

Daucus carota – Wild Carrot ~ The root**

Diospyros virginiana – Persimmon ~ The fruits*

Erechtites hieracfolia – Fireweed ~ The young shoots and leaves

Fragaria spp. – Wild Strawberry ~ The fruit, leaves*

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Galium aparine – Bedstraw

Fagus grandifolia – Beech ~ nuts

Fraxinus spp. – Ash ~ The fruits

Galium aparine & verum Cleavers – Bedstraw ~ The young shoots/leaves

Gleditsia triacanthos -Honey Locust ~ The fruits

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Helianthus tuberosus – Jerusalem artichoke

Helianthus tuberosus – Jerusalem artichoke ~ The tuber

Hemerocallis fulva – Day Lily ~ The young shoots, flower, flower buds, tuber

Heracleum maximum – Cow-Parsnip ~ The young stems/ leafstalks, seeds, root**

Juglans nigra – Black Walnut ~ Yummy nuts

Lactuca spp. – Wild Lettuce ~ The young leaves

Lamium amplexicaule – Henbit ~ The new tips

Lepidium spp. – Peppergrass ~ The young leaves & seedpods

Lycopus spp. – Bugleweed ~ The tubers

Malva neglecta – Common Mallow ~ The young leaves & green fruit

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Matricaria matricarioides – Pineapple-Weed

Matricaria matricarioides – Pineapple-Weed ~ The flowers

Medeola virginiana – Indian Cucumber ~ The root & tuber

Mentha, spp. – Wild mint ~ The leaves (Did someone say Mojito?!)

Mitchella repens – Partridgeberry ~ The fruits

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Mulberries = Yummy If you like raspberries..

Morus, spp. – Mulberry ~ The fruits

Nasturtium officinale – Watercress ~ The young leaves and stems

Nelumbo lutea – American Lotus ~ The young leaves, seeds & tubers

Nuphar, spp. – Yellow Pond Lily ~ The rootstocks, seeds

Nymphaea spp.- Water Lily – The young leaves, flowerbuds, seeds & tubers

Oenothera biennis – Evening Primrose  ~ 1st year taproots, young small plants

Opuntia humifusa – Prickly-Pear ~ young leaf pads,* fruit & seeds

Oxalis, spp. – Yellow Wood-Sorrels ~ The leaves & fruit

Pastinaca sativa – Wild Parsnip ~ The taproot

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Phragmites communis – Phragmites

Phragmites communis Reed – Phragmites ~ The young stem, seeds & rootstock

Physalis spp. – Ground-cherry ~ The fruits

Phytolacca americana – Pokeweed  ~ The young leaves**

Plantago spp. – Plantain ~ The leaves

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Podophyllum. peltatum – May-apple

Podophyllum. peltatum – May-apple, Mandrake ~ Only the mature fruit**

Polygonum cuspidatum – Japanese Knotweed ~ The new bamboo-like tips

Pontederia cordata – Pickerel Weed ~ The shoots & seeds

Portulaca oleracea – Purslane ~ The stems and leaves & seeds

Prunus americana – Wild Plum ~ The fruits

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Pteridium aquilinum – Fiddleheads

Prunus spp. – Wild Cherry (Choke, Black) ~ The fruits

Pteridium aquilinum – Bracken fern ~ The fiddlehead

Pteretis pensylvanica – Ostrich Fern  ~ The fiddlehead

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Malus – Crabapple

Malus spp. – Crap Apple ~ The fruits

Pyrus, spp. – Chokeberry, Chokecherry ~ fruits

Quercus spp. – Oak ~ acorns*

Rhexia virginica – Meadow Beauty ~ The tender leaves, tubers

Ribes spp. – Gooseberries, Currents ~ fruits

Robinia pseudo-acacia – Black Locust ~ The flowers (only)

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Rosa spp. – Wild Rose hips

Rosa spp. – Wild Rose ~ petals, fruits (hips)

Rubus spp. – Brambles ~ Fruits Blackberry, Raspberry, Dewberry, etc.

Rubus typhina and spp. – Staghorn Sumac ~ The fruit**

Rumex acetosella – Sheep (or Common) Sorrel ~ The tender leaves and stems

Rumex crispus -Dock, Curled and Yellow ~ The young leaves

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Sagittaria latifolia – Common arrowhead

Sagittaria spp. – Arrowhead ~ The tubers

Salix spp. – Willow leaves ~ The inner bark

Sambucus canadensis – Elderberry ~ The flower clusters, ripe fruit**

Sassafras albidum – Sassafras leaves ~ The root (for tea)

Scirpus spp.- Bulrush ~ The shoot, pollen, seeds & rootstock

Smilax spp. – Catbrier, Greenbrier ~ The young shoots and leaves & rootstock

Solidago odora – Sweet Goldenrod ~ The leaves and flowers

Stellaria spp. – Chickweed ~ The tender leaves and stems

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Taraxacum officinale – Dandelion

Taraxacum officinale – Dandelion ~ The leaves and root

Tilia americana – Basswood ~ The leaf buds and flowers

Tradescantia spp. – Spiderwort  ~ The shoots

Tragopogon porrifolius – Salsify, Oyster-Plant  ~ The young leaves and root

Trifolium pratense – Red Clover  ~ The young leaves and flowers

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Trifolium – Clover

Trifolium spp. – Clover ~ The young leaves, flowerheads

Typha spp – Cattails ~ The young shoots and stocks (inner core), immature flower spikes, pollen & root

Urtica dioica – Stinging Nettle ~ The young shoots & leaves*

Vaccinium, spp. – Blueberry, Huckleberry ~ The Yummy fruits

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Viola, spp. – Violet

Viola, spp. – Violet ~ The leaves & flowers

Vitis, spp. – Grapes  ~ The tender leaves and fruit***

© – Ilex Midwestern Plant Girl

Póg Mo Thóin!

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I thought this wine was a great pairing with the pickles I was about to make. Alas, it is green, just like my pickles. Many folks might not understand my wine pairings, to which I then let them have some Póg mo thóin!

I love a little Póg mo thóin when I’ve had a bad day. I love to tell others when they have caused my bad day to enjoy some Póg mo thóin also. Sometimes I love to shout to the world Póg mo thóin! You all! Póg mo thóin! is the best wine around to enjoy on a Friday.

I hope you have a wonderful Friday, if not, you can Póg mo thóin!
© Ilex – Midwestern Plants

Homegrown Garlic Scapes, Broccoli and Tilapia

My garlic has started to ‘flower’ which most folk call scapes. These are a bit lighter tasting than the garlic bulb and can be made into a pesto, put in soups or just sautéed.

The Brook Cook also has a great recipe for these: Seared Pork Chops with Garlic Scape Chimichurri

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I wasn’t feeling that creative and it was getting late in the day to eat. Tilapia was on sale at the store and I had fresh scapes and broccoli from my garden. Yum!!

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© Ilex – Midwestern Plants