Harvesting Sunshine

Yesterday we had snow on the ground in the morning.  Today it was warm and sunny.  Ok then.

Here’s the view of our garden area, which soon will be tilled.  (I hope.)  That’s the barn in the background.

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Today, the kids and I gathered (more) dandelions to make syrup.  This was the result of our picking:

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Based on what I’ve read from various recipes, all you have to do to make dandelion syrup is pick a gazillion dandelions, rip the petals off, and cover them in water.  Boil from anywhere from 30 seconds to 5 minutes, depending on what recipe you read.  Then allow to steep overnight.  That’s what’s going on right now.

In the morning, I will strain the liquid and measure it.  Then I will boil it with equal parts sugar until it is completely dissolved and, hopefully, thickened.  That’s about it!  Some recipes tell you to add lemon juice or spices, but that doesn’t seem to be required.  This needs to be kept in the fridge for sure.  I’ll tell you how it turns out–if it’s half as good as the dandelion jelly I still need to tell you about, it will be a success.  The jelly is like eating sunshine.

Next up is our mint/mullein scalp tea for my daughter.  Last week, I made mullein tea for my daughter’s itchy scalp, and IT HELPED.  I can’t tell you how many remedies we’ve tried for her itchy head, but the mullein tea worked.  I just poured it on after washing her hair.  Anyway, mint is also good for scalp ailments, and she asked if she could try mint tea instead since we have an abundance of mint growing near our house.  I said, why not use both?

Here are her herbs waiting for the tea pot to boil.

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And here’s mullein growing wild, just for reference.  Please note that I am NOT an herbalist or expert and I’m just learning all of this.  So don’t take my word for it.  Do some of your own research or ask a real expert before being sure you have identified a plant.

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Last, but definitely not least, we have a mystery plant growing in our garden!  I was hoping it was parsnip.  Nope, not parsnip. Rutabaga?  Nope.  (Thank goodness. Then I would feel compelled to actually prepare it.)  So, what is it?  My next guess is an overgrown radish.  What do you think this is?

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I am really hoping it is something edible, since there are a lot of them growing.

My Menu Board

If I only made half the things I pinned on Pinterest… Well, I’d have a lot more things like this:

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It’s my take on the menu boards I’ve seen.  I took an old bulletin board I got at a thrift store for $1 and decopaged it with scrapbook paper.  I painted the clothespins and hot glued them to the board.  The little pockets are boxes from medicine and yogurt starter–any lightweight box that size would do.  Decopage and hot glue, and there you have the little card holders.  One holds blank notecards, and the other is for ones that have dinner items written on them.  Rather than try to make fancy, decorated menu cards, I think the plain notecards fit my style.  I can make new ones easily and even erase.  My menu board was supposed to give me freedom by not having to decide what to make for dinner at the last minute, not constrain me by which recipes I have made into fancy cards.  I’ve been using it for a week and it really works for me.  The organic zucchini in the fridge will not spoil because I forgot it was there–it’s scheduled for dinner tomorrow.  So far, I love this system!

The Best Chocolate Chip Cherry Cake EVER

It just might be the best cake ever.

I found this recipe on pinterest and I modified it.  It is a vegan recipe, and I’m not vegan.  I had eggs in the fridge, and no flax, so I used real eggs instead of a flax “egg.”  I also used all white whole wheat flour because that’s what I had. And I used frozen pitted cherries because I didn’t have fresh ones.  And I did not bother to cut them in half. See rule 497 for baking: don’t be afraid of recipes if you don’t have all the ingredients on the list.

So here’s the recipe with WranglerMama’s flair!

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce (or 2 4 oz jars of random fruit baby food if that’s what you have….)
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup frozen pitted cherries (no, you do not have to defrost them!)
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips

Instructions:

  1. In a biggish bowl, beat the egg, brown sugar, vanilla, and apple sauce.
  2. Don’t bother using a separate bowl.  Add the baking powder, salt, and flour to the mixture and mix it all together.
  3. Stir in cherries and chocolate chips.
  4. Spread in a greased 8 or 9 inch pan and bake at 325 for
  5. Add cherries and chocolate chips to your mixing bowl, and stir until combined.
  6. Spread evenly in a greased 8 inch square baking pan.
  7. Bake for 30 minutes at 325 degrees or until it starts to get golden brown.  Cool about 10 minutes before slicing.
  8. Watch how quickly it disappears.
  9. Make another one a day or two later and this time double the recipe. (Who, me???)

A “Cranky Hour” Tip and a new recipe

It’s nearing dinner time.  You have to make dinner.  But first you have to wash the pile of dishes that are in the way.  The kids are whining and fighting with each other.  Take out or a frozen dinner is sounding like the only feasible option.  Sound familiar?

That was me this afternoon.  However, I had no money for take out, and the only frozen meal we had on had didn’t sound appetizing.  Then I remembered my ultimate trick to stop the whining.  I have been doing this ever since the Blue Dragon was itty bitty and teething, but it works to pacify non-teething cranky toddlers and preschoolers too.

“Who wants frozen blueberries?”

The lion cubs shrieks ceased and his sweet baby voice returned.  “Berries!”

The Blue Dragon’s complaints stopped and her princess manners appeared.  “Oh!  I can get the bowls!”

The kids sat at the table and stuffed their faces with frozen blueberries while I did the dishes and cooked the frozen ravioli.  Okay, so it was still a frozen meal, but I get bonus points for what follows.

I herded the munchkins outside to pick the basil for my first ever pesto making experiment!

I made some alterations to this recipe, and this is what I ended up with as my recipe:

  • About 45 fresh basil leaves
  • A generous sprinkling of garlic powder
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup of grated Romano cheese, kind of packed into the cup
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • enough lemon juice to help it blend in the food processer (a few tablespoons?)

Put all ingredients into a food processor and blend.  YUM.  This made enough to put on a 24 oz bag of cheese ravioli.  I had to add a little water when I was mixing it with the pasta.  Even the kids liked it!

Sorry for the blurry pic.  It’s all I got today.

Here it is! The Baked Oatmeal recipe!

Every time I make this, I get rave reviews.  I have promised the recipe to many people and they are starting to get restless.  They want their oatmeal!

I owe thanks to my friend Lisa for passing the recipe my way.  It is a staple in my house!

Here is the basic recipe:

3 cups oatmeal (old-fashioned or quick cook)

3/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup margarine or butter

2 eggs

2 cups milk

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 375.   I usually melt the butter in the microwave first thing.  Mix all ingredients together and pour into 13 x 9 greased pan (either use cooking spray or grease it and flour it).  Bake for 25-35 minutes until it starts to look brown on top or around the edges.

Now, I never just follow that basic recipe.  I usually add fruit (fresh or frozen–IT DOES NOT MATTER), nuts, or both, and reduce the sugar to 1/2 cup, and I use white or brown sugar (or raw, or honey, or whatever!) depending on what else I am putting in it.   Here are some of my favorite variations:

White sugar, sliced strawberries, 1 tsp vanilla.

White sugar, blueberries, ground flax-seed (I don’t measure.  I just dump some in), 1 tsp vanilla, sliced almonds.

brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, raisins or canned pumpkin or both.  Or you can substitute 1/2 cup molasses for the sugar.

Get creative–I’ve never had it turn out badly!  Tell me when you try this and what you do to it to make it especially delicious.

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