Better than a Purple Cow

To our delight, a lone blackberry bush surprised us by producing some wonderful blackberries. During the extended drought some wild blackberry bushes around our pond had not produced in the last few years and finally died. The rain we had this Spring was just enough to bring back one of the bushes.
John brought me what was probably about 2 cups of the delicious berries. I know he loves blackberry cobblers but I was looking for something new to try. The Oklahoma August heat arriving in June brought a desire for something cold. I decided to explore the world of smoothies. I’m not sure why I’ve never tried making smoothies, such an easy way to get in extra fruits and vegetables. I started with this basic recipe:
2 bananas
1 cup blueberries
1/2 cup blackberries
1 cup vanilla yogurt
about 5 or 6 ice cubes

Some recipes called for additional liquid but I love the thickness, which can be adjusted by the ice cubes. No additional sweetener is needed. It’s like a thick creamy shake. It’s a wonderful way to use up the bananas that I’m buying at Aldi’s right now for .44 a pound. Peeling them first and freezing is a great way to keep them for future smoothies. This was a real hit with the grandkids who probably thought it tasted like ice cream.

I have switched out the fruit combinations using peaches and strawberries but keeping the bananas as the creamy base. I plan to add spinach or kale to the mix for a healthy green smoothie.

Because I’ve started making on a regular basis and was making trips to the store just for yogurt, I decided to pull out my recipe for no-fail yogurt. Making your own is cheap, easy and has no added sugar, so healthier.

To a crock pot I add one gallon of whole milk and put it on low for 2.5 hours. The best time to start this is in mid afternoon. Turn off the heat, leave on the lid and let it sit for 3 hours. Whisk in 6 ounces of yogurt that has live starter. Cover with a large towel and put it to bed. In the morning you have yogurt! This can be cut in half if it’s too much for your needs.

So glad I finally decided to try this simple healthy drink. It tastes decadent and refreshingly cool going down. Do you have a favorite recipe you would be willing to share with me?

Polk Salad (Salet)Annie..

If some of ya’ll never been down south too much
I’m gonna tell you a little bit about this
So that you’ll understand what I’m talkin’ about
Down there we have a plant that grows out in the woods
And in the fields looks somethin’ like a turnip green
And everybody calls it polk salad, polk salad
Used to know a girl lived down there
And she’d go out in the evenings and pick her a mess of it
Carry it home and cook it for supper
‘Cause thats about all they had to eat, but they did all right

Everyday for supper time, she’d go down by the truck patch
And pick her a mess of polk salad, and carry it home in a tow sack
Polk salad Annie, the gators got your granny
Everybody says it was a shame
Cause her momma was a workin’ on the chain gang
(A wretched, spiteful, straight-razor totin’ woman
Lord have Mercy, pick a mess of it)

Polk Salad Annie by Tommie Joe White

Some of you may have heard this song about Polk Salad Annie.  Polk Salet (Phytolacca americana)  is a wonderful tasting green, much like spinach when it’s cooked.  But don’t try to eat it raw in a salad, it can make you very sick!  A niece decided to make a salad from Polk and her family became very ill.

Early Spring brings an abundance of Polk in our areas and throughout the United States.  It grows in pasture lands, recently cleared or bull dozed areas and in woodland areas.  It can grow as high as 8 feet and in its mature stage has purple berries, which are considered poisonous.  It is generally not recommended that one eat the berries or the stalk even though some do. The greens are rich in vitamin A.

In my husband’s family, who have eaten the leaves for many years without a fatality, the recommended method is to cut the plant when it’s small, about 6 to 8 inches.  This is done in early Spring.

  • The leaves are removed from the stalk.  Cut a lot because it cooks down.  Put the leaves in a large pot and cover with water.
  • Bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes.
  • Drain water.
  • Repeat boiling and draining for three times.
  • Chop onions and cook with bacon. Add Polk.
  • Eat and enjoy
  • Freeze what’s left and enjoy this healthy green when the Polk is gone.

Anyone else have a favorite green they forage and eat?

 

 

 

Fast, Frugal and Filling – or What’s for Dinner?

I have to admit it – cooking is not my passion, even though I do cook most nights of the week, 52 weeks a year.  That may come as a surprise since women on the prairie or Pioneer Women on the Osage prairie are supposed to be great cooks, while raising a large family, homeschooling and writing blogs and books. I’m just not that talented or energetic.  I do have a meat and potato kind of guy but he tolerates my food experiments.  Tonight’s experiment was an A+ so thought I would share.

Sometimes I’ll try a new recipe but tonight it had to be fast, frugal and filling.  I opened the freezer hoping a fully cooked meal would appear and found some chicken and broth I had frozen about a month ago.  This was actually the leftovers that were boiled to pick the last goodies from the bone.  I had a small amount of Amish noodles, along with some fresh mushrooms and some wild onions in a moment of soup inspiration.

wild onions

I love creamy soups; clam chowder, cream of chicken, creamy potato but I’ve learned to start with the basic white sauce to make them. It can also be used to make a delicious pot pie.  It seems to be a lost art with so many canned soups available at the store. A white sauce is cheap and can save a last minute trip to the grocery store.  So for those who’ve never tried:

  1. 3 Tablespoons butter
  2. 3 Tablespoons flour
  3. 1 cup milk, half/half, or chicken broth

The above recipe is equivalent to about 1 can of soup.  You can add any ingredients you have depending on your soup mood.

Melt butter over low heat, add the flour and cook until absorbed by the butter.  Add the liquid while whisking.  Continue stirring until the mixture is the right thickness.

Once I had my creamy soup base, I added all ingredients except the noodles.  I brought to a gentle boil and added the noodles and cooked for an additional 10 minutes.  I had some leftover cornbread muffins and even my meat and potato guy was happy!

Soup and cornbread

There really isn’t a recipe, since I just threw things into the pot, but if there was a recipe, it would be something like this:

Creamy Chicken, Mushroom and Noodle Soup

Makes Three 1 cup servings or 2 man size bowls

  1. 1/2 cup shredded chicken
  2. 1/4 cup chopped green onions or to taste
  3. 1/2 cup chopped mushrooms
  4. 2 cups chicken broth
  5. 2 teaspoons chicken broth base seasoning (better than the cubes)
  6. 1 cup white sauce
  7. 1/2 cup dried noodles
  8. Salt and pepper to taste

Make basic white sauce. Add all ingredients to the white sauce except noodles.  Bring to a gentle boil and add noodles.  Cook according to length of time given for noodles. Enjoy!

 

Schroom Time

It’s been very dry this Spring but we recently had some nice rains with sunshine expected the rest of the week. The rain and the sunshine should produce the rare delicacy of wild mushrooms.   Hopefully tomorrow we’ll take the 4 wheeler out in the woods and began the annual ritual of mushroom hunting.  Actually this will be the first anniversary of a successful mushroom hunt.  We have lived here since 1995 but coming from the city, we were a little hesitant to eat something we could not properly identify.  If you don’t know what you are eating, it can make you very sick.  Also, neighbors do not reveal their hunting spots.

Two years ago, our daughter-in-law who was raised in this area, discovered Chanterrele mushrooms on a hillside near a creek.  We were a little leary, but she had ate many times before.  She sauteed in butter and they were quite delicious.

Chanterrelle 2
Chanterelle mushroom

The Chanterelle has a toxic look-a-like called the Jack-o-lantern mushroom.  It is a bright orange mushroom that has yellow orange meat inside.  The Chanterelle has a white colored meat. Underneath the Jack-o-lantern are gills that look like fans of pages of paper stacked together.  The Chanterelle has ridges as you can see in the picture above.  This mushroom comes out in summer.  It was my favorite. They are also high in vitamin D.

Most mushroom hunters look for the prized Morel, which is what should be popping up any day now.  Last year my husband found the mother lode underneath a tree close to his deer stand.  They love stands of Oak trees with lots of leaf cover on the ground. The picture below shows some of our first finds.  Unfortunately, later I discovered that you should not pull them up by the root.  They should be cut off at the base, leaving the root and put in a mesh bag to help spread the spores around so they will pop up next year. As you see these are coned shaped covered in ridges.  Not to be confused with the false morel. False morels can have a large dark colored head that looks like a brain and is solid inside while the Morel is hollow.

Morel Mushroom
Morel Mushrooms

If you go mushroom hunting take someone with you who can help you identify the correct mushroom!  After we picked our first batch, we had a neighbor inspect for us.  Now we know what to look for.

The next mushroom was found by a friend of my husband.  It is called Chicken in the Woods.  It can be battered and fried and the meat has a taste very similar to chicken breast.  This one weighed 5 pounds!  They are found at the base of dead trees.

chicken of the woods (2)

Do you go schroom hunting?  If so, what are some of your favorites?