Thursday, June 30, 2011

Back Yard Bounty

Ate dinner at Summerfest today, so I didn't get to make anything.  Plus I had my braces tightened this morning, and I think those people are trying o kill me.  But I was happy to start to see things really coming up in the garden.  There are tiny cucumbers on the vine, I think I should have zucchini in a few days, the strawberries are going crazy, there are peas, and I got a kohlrabi!  I may be going to bed hungry, but it was still a good day.

Also, just starting on Food Network is Iron Chef battle "Berries" (a rerun).  I'm going to record it and hopefully learn something interesting.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Best Laid Plans...

I had a really great post planned for today.  Honest, I did.  It was all about chicken, and how chicken is my comfort food.  It was going to be great.  I had even started writing it.  I had three different chicken recipes I was going to include.  I butterflied a chicken all on my own for the first time ever and I was very proud of that.

I am sure that it will get posted some day.

But not today.  Because last night, while cooking the best and finest of my three chicken recipes - what was supposed to be Greek chicken - we had a massive grease fire.  My house is fine.  I'm fine.  My husband is fine.  The chicken was edible (barely).  The grill is dead.  Seriously.  The fire burned through metal parts. I regret for the sake of this blog that I was in too much of a state of panic to think to take pictures.  It was out of control.

So, I thought I should take this opportunity to talk a little about kitchen safety.  Especially outdoor kitchen safety.  Specifically: clean your grease trap out, people.  And not once every other year, either.

I'm fortunate because my father and step mother are Volunteer Fire-Fighters for the city of Elm Grove.  This fire was what I would refer to as a "raging inferno," and someone had to be called.  If I couldn't have called home, I would have had to call 911.  And that would have been embarrassing. 

I walked into my back yard to find black smoke pouring out of my grill and flames shooting out any cracks they could find.  My first instinct was to open the lid, my brain saying, "hey, that looks like it's on fire.  Is it really on fire?  Well say, I guess it is!"  And then I proceeded to shut the lid and turn off all the gas.  My husband had the presence of mind to turn off the gas tank as well.  And then we stood there.  Black smoke still poured out the top.  Flames still shot out any cracks they could find.  "Hey" (in my brain again) "that looks like it's still on fire.  Is it really still on fire?"  My husband opened the lid to check.  This was the WRONG choice.  Air shot in and fed the flames and the grill sent out a huge fireball which I am surprised did not burn my poor husband's eyebrows off.  My poor husband who, I should mention, graciously (and wrongfully) took all the blame and all my anger when I was SUPER PISSED that my chicken was now inside of a giant fireball.  

Here are the rules for fighting a grease fire (many thanks to Fire-Fighting Step Mom!):

  • Don't panic!
  • If fire is threatening to spread to other structures, call 9-1-1!
  • Grease fires and water do not mix!
  • If it is safe to do so, turn off the propane gas, and close the lid.  Limit oxygen, and limit fuel.
  • Use a chemical fire extinguisher if you have one.
 So, as I understand it, here are the steps I should have taken:

1. Recognize that grill is on fire.  Do not feel need to open grill to check.
2. Turn off gas burners.  Turn off propane tank at tank.
3. Continue to recognize grill is on fire, and continue to NOT open grill to check on this.
4. Allow fire to go out on its own.  Keep a hose near by and be prepared to call 911 immediately if fire spreads to any other area.
  • Misc fire facts:
    In 2004-2008, U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 7,700 home fires involving grills, hibachis or barbecues per year, including an average of 3,200 structure fires and 4,500 outside fires. These 7,700 fires caused an annual average of 13 civilian deaths, 120 civilian injuries and $70 million in direct property damage.
The one thing I was very concerned about was sparks dropping from the grease trap down onto the propane tank.  I was sure that thing was going to explode.  However, I have since learned that it is very hard to explode a propane tank.  So that was panic not well directed.

In conclusion: house = fine, people = fine, grill = dead.  But I get a new grill, so, really, that is better than fine!!

And here is your recipe:

(Really, Really, REALLY) Blackened Chicken
  • 1 chicken, any size, butterflied (because why not be fancy?) (L)
  • Seasoning if you feel like it; doesn't really matter by the end of the night (some of it was L)
  • Old ass grill
Use grill extensively and don't clean out grease trap.  Place chicken on grill and have a big roaring grease fire.  Follow steps above for grease fires carefully.  Once fire is extinguished, pull chicken off grill.  Don't be surprised if the wings and legs are burned right through the bone.  Be prepared to finish the chicken in the oven, because it's probably still raw in the middle.  Eat the inside parts, not the charred parts, because burned meat causes cancer.
    "If life gives you chicken charcoal, set a really
    pretty table."  That's a saying, right?

    Monday, June 27, 2011

    (My) First Saturday at the South Shore Farmer's Market

    This week's Farmer's Market Haul:
    • Garlic Shoots
    • Mini Pineapple Upside-Down Cakes
    • Beets
    • Garlic
    • Red Onions
    • Bread
    • Snap Peas
    • Mushrooms
    • Chicken

    The South Shore Farmer's Market has consistently been "my" Farmer's Market.  Even in previous years when farmer's markets weren't my main grocery store, I still absolutely adored them.  Fresh food is better and, usually, the farmer's market is cheap.  So, I would go to the South Shore Farmer's Market on Saturdays, because it was just a mile or so from my house and only a block away from my dance troupe director's house - meaning I could pick her up, drive her to Saturday dance class, and earn some suck-up brownie points, which I am a fan of!  Now it's just another stop on the weekly farmer's market circuit (I've got one per day except Friday and Sunday, and two on Saturday!)  The South Shore Farmer's Market has always been a late starter, and actually started two weekends ago when I was in San Francisco.  So this past weekend was my first weekend there.  

    The South Shore Market does not, by any means, have the most selection.  I would say that honor goes to the West Allis Farmer's Market.  But, the South Shore Market is a lot smaller, too, and really does have a lot for it's size.  And, it feels very family like.  I know a lot of the farmers there, and am always surprised when they remember me year from year.  Everyone brings their dogs, and - while there's still that farmer's market sense of urgency to get the best things - people seem more laid back. 

    It was also the market where I first found my chicken man.  I knew going in on Saturday that it was going to be a bittersweet adventure at the market.  And, no surprise, a new chicken man had taken his place.  Not just in terms of being at the market, but he had literally taken the spot that Farmer Jones used to occupy.  His eggs were $4.50 for a dozen which, frankly, I find to be ridiculous.  Farmer Jones's were $2.50, and the average price is $3.50.  His chicken is $3.00 per pound, which is $0.50 more than Farmer Jones, but is a good price.  I bought one, but I haven't eaten it yet so I can't report on quality.  He was chatty and pleasant, and as long as his chicken is good I am sure I will go back.  But he's no Farmer Jones!

    Anyway, I couldn't be too sad, because I got to ride my Vespa to the market and ride home with my brand new basket full of goodies bungeed to the back and a chicken bungeed to the front!

    Wednesday, June 22, 2011

    I Like Fish. Fish are Fun.

    Some people might like frozen fish sticks, but I don't.  I like actual fish.

    The title of this post is out of respect to my High School Friends.  If you don't get it, that's cool.  It's still true whether you get the joke or not.

    You wouldn't know it from reading this blog so far, but I'm actually not a big red meat eater.   I truly believed I did not like red meat until about two years ago.  My husband loves steak, and for his birthday or our anniversary or Christmas or some present, I took him to Mr. B's Steak House, a very fancy steak house in our area.  I, as I always did when we went to a steak house, got the salmon.  But, he asked if I wanted to try a bite of his steak and I did.  And - imagine my surprise - it was delicious.  Much better than the salmon which they probably only kept on the menu for losers like me.  Turns out it wasn't that I didn't like steak, it was just that I didn't like crappy steak and I had never met anyone who knew how to cook a steak.  Cooking a perfect steak is still actually a really big challenge for me.  I have this fear of over cooking it - which I learned is what made it inedible to me - and because of that it's always a little to rare.

    I actually seriously considered being a vegetarian in High School.  Not really for moral reasons, or health reasons, but because I just didn't like meat.  Also, I'm pretty sure I had a kick-ass eating disorder going on, and I was just looking for another way to control what I could and could not eat.  But that's another story for another time.

    The thing that kept me from becoming a vegetarian was seafood.  And maybe chicken wings.  But mostly seafood.

    Before I started my locavore challenge, Jeff and I probably ate red meat or pork once per week.  We had chicken twice a week, seafood twice a week, vegetarian once a week, and we ate out once a week.  We still eat a lot of chicken, but not as much because I don't have the time or the energy to prepare a whole chicken all the time.  And pieces are very hard to come by.  Even harder to find are boneless, skinless chicken breasts, which used to be a weekly staple.  And when I can find them, I don't dare stock up because they're so expensive.

    So chicken is down to once a week.  And seafood is off the table almost all together, because there is so very little, and what there is takes so much work.  Yes, my Adventure in Fish was awesome.  So awesome, in fact, that it is still one of the top read posts on this blog.  It was exciting to learn how to scale, butcher, and fillet a fish, and even more exciting when, about half way through, I actually started to get good at it!  But, if you've noticed, I haven't done it again.  Not because it wasn't awesome, and not because I am scared to clean a fish, but because it takes SO LONG.  And for so little food.  And cooking vegetarian meals hasn't been working out well because it's been winter (even though yesterday was the first day of summer... it certainly doesn't feel like summer here) in Wisconsin - which means no vegetation.  That's starting to change and I'm excited, but it's still slow going.

    So, I'm left with red meat.  And it's hard not to be excited about it, because there are so many interesting types and cuts at the farmer's market.  I like trying new things, and I like learning to cook new things.

    But I also like fish.

    So, today, instead of supporting local agriculture, we are supporting local businesses.  Specifically, the Saint Paul Fish Company at The Milwaukee Public Market.  I love these people.  Seriously.  This is probably one of my favorite businesses to go visit.  And not just because they give me fish in exchange for money.  Almost all of the employees know my name.  Even though I haven't been back regularly since March, they almost all still know what I want.  The day I had soft shell crabs, I was just in the Public Market for bread and wine, and my boyfriend the fishmonger (that's what I call him.  My husband is okay with it) came up to me and said, ever so quietly, "we have soft shell crabs."  They only have those once a year, and yet he knew I wanted them!

    When I had jaw surgery last winter, my first meal of solid food was their lobster roll.  It was the thing I most needed after 8 weeks of no solid food.  When Jeff and I were in Boston, we went to a restaurant that Anthony Bourdain claimed had "the best lobster roll in the history of ever."  It was good.  It wasn't as good as the St. Paul Fish Market's, though. 

    Today, even though they were busy, the owner took the time to shuck a dozen oysters for me, because she knows I'm nervous to do it myself.  To recap: these people are wonderful, their seafood is always fresh, and their $12.95 lobster dinner is probably the best deal in town.

    Anywho, this is what I made supporting a local business.  Not my most local recipe ever, but still delicious.  It could have used about 2 tbsp of capers!

    Clams and Shrimp in White Wine
    • 1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
    • 1 lb clams
    • 3 tbsp butter, divided (L)
    • 4 cloves garlic (L)
    • 3 small green onions, thinly sliced (L)
    • 6 - 8 stalks asparagus, chopped into bite size pieces (L)
    • 2 small turnips, sliced thinly (L)
    • 1/3 cup white wine
    • juice of 1/2 lemon
    • Salt and freshly ground pepper
    Melt  1 tbsp butter in a hot pan.  Add garlic and onions, and for about 2 minutes.  Add shrimp and asparagus and saute until the shrimp just start to turn pink on the outside, but still very translucent on the inside (don't cook them through, because they're going to continue cooking), seasoning with salt and pepper.  Add wine, remaining butter, turnips, and clams.  Cover tightly and cook over medium low heat, shaking the pan occasionally, until most of the clams have opened - about 6-8 minutes.   Discard any clams that don't open.  Add lemon juice, taste, and season with salt and pepper if necessary.  Serve with crusty bread to sop up the juices.

    Thursday, June 16, 2011

    Quick Recipies

    Very, very, VERY early tomorrow morning I am leaving for the Mecca of Locavore-ness: San Fransisco.  Not for locavore type activities.  In fact, I'm fairly certain I won't have time to eat!  I will be filming the next FatChanceBellyDance video, which I cannot express how honored I am to be in the video, and excited and all sorts of crazy emotions that I don't even know how to feel.  But I think it's going to be a very long, exhausting weekend and I'm not even bringing my laptop with.  So here are some recipes to hold you over.

    These recipes got "forgotten."  They weren't interesting enough to have their own story, but are still good and quick to make!

    Grilled Turkey Wing with Sauteed Spinach and Mushrooms and a Baked Potato:
    This is a Jeff style meal: Meat, Potato, Vegetable!

    Serves 2:
    Total Time: 30 Minutes

    • 2 turkey wings (L)
    • Salt
    • Garlic Powder
    • Onion Powder
    • Butter (L)
    • 1/4 clove garlic, minced (L)
    • 1 large bunch spinach (L)
    • 1/4 lb mixed wild mushrooms (L)
    • Fresh ground pepper
    • 2 baking potatoes (L)
    Bake potatoes in your preferred method.  I prefer microwaving for about 10 minutes.

    Season wings generously with salt and pepper.  Grill over medium high heat for about 20 minutes, turning once.

    In a large frying pan, melt 1 tbsp butter.  Add garlic, and saute for about 3 minutes.  Add mushrooms to pan and season with salt and pepper.  Allow to cook until mushrooms soften, release most of their liquid, and liquid has evaporated.  Remove from heat and add spinach to pan.  Cook, stirring constantly, until spinach is wilted.  Season with additional pepper.

    Grilled Bok Choy, Elk Steak, and Potatoes
    (This is a Kate style meal - Meat, Vegetables, and Potatoes... with a twist!)
    Active time: 30 minutes
    Total time: 45 minutes
    • Fingerling or red potatoes (L)
    • 1 tbps Olive Oil
    • 3 tbsp butter
    • 1 bunch bok choy, pulled apart and washed (L)
    • 2 small elk steaks (or any other meat) (L)
    • Salt
    • Pepper
    • Garlic Powder
    • Onion Powder

    Preheat grill.

    Cut potatoes into halves or quarters depending on their size.  Toss with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. In a grill basket, grill potatoes over medium heat, tossing regularly, for about 25 minutes or until soft.

    Meanwhile, melt butter in a small microwavable bowl.  Brush both sides of the bok choy with the butter, and season with salt.  Set aside.

    Season steaks with salt, pepper, garlic, and onion powder.  Grill over medium high heat, for about 5 minutes per side, or until they are as done as you want them to be.

    While steaks are resting, turn grill up to high and grill bok choy for about 3 minutes on each side, until stems are softened and leaves are crispy.  I have found that the back of my grill is a bit hotter than the front, so I put the stems towards the back so they get done before the leaves char off.  If you are using a gas grill with multiple burners, you could also set one to high and one to medium, and put the leaves across so the stems are over the hotter area.

    Mozzarella and Sage Stuffed Chicken Breasts

    This is a summer time staple at my house, because it is super easy and delicious!
    Active time: 10 minutes
    Total Time: 30 minutes
    Serves 2

    • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (L)
    • Salt and Pepper
    • Garlic Powder
    • Onion Powder
    • 8-10 sage leaves, whole (L*)
    • 1 8 oz ball fresh Mozzarella (L)
    Preheat grill to Medium-High heat.

    Make sure chicken breasts are 100% thawed, or this will be harder.  Carefully, butterfly the chicken breasts: Slice chicken breasts down the length of the side of the breast, almost to the end but not all the way through, so the breast opens up like a book.  Season the chicken breast inside and out with salt, pepper, garlic and onion powder.

    Open up the chicken breasts so the two "insides" are showing, and what originally was the "outside" of the chicken breast is facing down.  On one half (what will become the "bottom" half) lay 4-5 sage leaves per breast, depending on the size of the chicken breast and the sage leaves.  Thinly slice the Mozzarella, and lay that on top of the sage leaves, trimming to match the bottom half of the chicken breasts.  Fold the top half over the mozzarella, and use a tooth pick to hold the breasts closed (it should now look like the original chicken breast, except with sage and mozzarella stuffed in the middle!)

    Grill over medium high heat, until cooked through, about 8-10 minutes on each side.

    I served this with couscous, prepared using the manufacturer's directions, mixed with chopped leftover bok choy from the recipe just above this one (Grilled Bok Choy, Elk Steak, and Potatoes)

    Wednesday, June 15, 2011


    I love fresh pasta.  As stated previously, Jeff got me a pasta maker for my birthday, and it is quite possibly the best birthday present in the history of ever.  With the exception of maybe a sausage maker, which he did not get me (hint, hint), or all of my Star Wars baking accessories.  Oh yes, my friends, the most epic baking story ever will be documented on this blog eventually.

    Anyway, pasta.  What I like most about my pasta maker is that it turns the act of making pasta into an annoying job that takes all day and gets good results about 50% of the time, into something I can do while I clean the house.  Or, more realistically, while I watch TV.

    The pasta maker itself fits onto my Kitchenaid stand mixer.  I couldn't clean the house while rolling out the pasta, because I need to be there to catch it, but I could watch TV.  Before this, I had a hand cranked pasta roller that sort of half ass attached to the kitchen table and always popped off.  Also, you needed three hands - two to hold the pasta (one on each side) and one to turn the crank.  So Jeff always had to help.  Which is  why he bought me the new one!

    So the roller goes onto the end of the stand mixer, and the stand mixer turns it.  All you have to do is feed the dough on one side and out comes pasta on the other side.  It might be magic!

    Anyway, the best part is, one pasta recipe makes about 4 servings of pasta - and that's Jeff and me size servings... we eat a lot.  The rest can be frozen, and it comes back very nicely, so if you've got the time (and the pasta maker) you can make a bunch in advance and use it for quick dinners.  Or, if you're one of my friends who complain that my recipes take too long and require a kitchen, you could just buy a box of pasta.  Either way, these are both pretty darn quick to make:

    Pasta Recipe:

    3 1/2 cups flour (L)
    4 large eggs (L)
    1 tsp salt
    drizzle olive oil
    Water if necissary

    Combine flour, salt, and eggs in a stand mixer, and mix on slow using the dough hook.  As it is turning, drizzle in olive oil.  Or, if you're extra fancy, use the flour bowl method.  If you don't know what this is, you don't want to do it.  If the pasta is very dry, slowly drizzle in just enough water to get it to come together and form a dough.  Be careful, it takes a while for it to fully incorporate, and you don't want wet pasta.  Allow to mix and kneed for at least 10 minutes.

    Allow the dough to sit for 10 more minutes, then divide into four smaller balls.  Each one of these balls will be one serving of pasta.  Roll out pasta depending on your pasta roller's instructions and what kind of pasta you want.  Or, if you do not have a pasta roller, you can roll the pasta out using a rolling pin.  This will be difficult, however, as you want the pasta to be very thin.

    These two recipes look very similar, but taste very different!

    Spinach Fettuccine Alfredo
    (Makes 2 servings)
    Total Time: 25 minutes
    Active Time: 25 minutes
    • Salt
    • 2 tbsp butter (L)
    • 3 large garlic cloves, crushed and minced (L)
    • 1 large handful spinach, washed (L*)
    • 2/3 cup heavy cream (L)
    • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese (L)
    • Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
    • 2 servings pasta (L)

    Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil.  Once the water is boiling, add pasta and cook until almost al dente.  Be aware that fresh pasta cooks a lot faster than the dry boxed stuff.

    Meanwhile, melt butter in a large frying pan.  Saute garlic for a few minutes, until lightly fragrant.  Remove any stems from the spinach, and slice into about 1/2 inch think ribbons.  Add spinach to butter and garlic, and then add cream.  Allow to cook, stirring regularly, until cream just starts to form bubbles around the edges (not boiling or even simmering!!)  Add cheese, and stir until cheese is melted.  Be careful not to overcook or cheese will get stringy.  Grate in nutmeg, then stir in pasta.  Allow everything to warm together, and pasta to finish cooking, about 5 minutes.

    Fettuccine with Goat Cheese, Turnip Tops, Mushrooms, and Spicy Sausage
    Makes 2 Servings

    Active Time: 25 Minutes
    Total Time: 25 Minutes

    • 1 link smoked, spicy sausage - I used Usingers Linguica, but any spicy, smoked sausage would do (L)
    • 1/4 lb mixed mushrooms, chopped (L)
    • 1 large bunch turnip tops, chopped (just the tops.  Save the turnips for later) (L)
    • 1/4 cup heavy cream or half and half (L)
    • 2-3 oz crumbled goat cheese (L)
    • pinch cayenne pepper
    • 2 servings pasta
    Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil.  Add pasta to water and allow to cook until al dente.

    Heat a large frying pan.  Thinly slice sausage and add to pan.  Allow to cook until just starting to brown.  Add mushrooms and cook until mushrooms just start to brown.  They should still be firm.  Add turnip tops and saute until they are wilted.  Add cream, and cook until hot.  Add cheese and cook, stirring constantly, until cheese is melted.  Add cayenne and stir, then add pasta and stir to combine.

    Tuesday, June 14, 2011

    Awesome Farmer's Market Haul!!

    In no particular order:

    Mushrooms (Cremeni, Oyster, Shiitake, and Morel)
    White and Red Green Onions
    Rainbow Chard
    Pork Spare Ribs
    Flat Iron Steak

    Thursday, June 9, 2011


    So, I have started listening to this new (for me) pod cast: Chef SmartyPants.  Imagine Alton Brown (who, by the way, is my hero), only a chick, and with NPR voice.  I've been listening from the beginning, and one of her early podcasts was on radishes.  It made me want radishes.  Which is good, because usually when I crave a food it's food that is very difficult and/or impossible to come by.  For example: PF Chang's Singapore Street Noodles.  Or seaweed salad.  Not things that I can go pull out of my back yard.  Completely the opposite of radishes, which I CAN go pull out of my backyard.  Yay!! 
    Before my dad totally freaks out, I should acknowledge that I only learned to like radishes last year.  Yes, I used to hate them.  Now I like them.  My palate changed as I got older; you were right; I admit it; get over it and move on.

    I've been eating radishes right out of the garden as fast as I can, but there are really just to many.  I don't generally like pickled things that aren't pickles, but you can't really freeze a radish, so I decided try to do something with them.  I am confident that these will not be my only foray into preserving this summer.  I am getting ready to do something with my strawberries.  If everything goes right, I should have a bumper crop of strawberries very soon.

    Pickled Radishes:

    • 1/2 bulb garlic (L)
    • One dozen radishes (L*)
    • 1/2 cup champagne vinigar
    • 1/2 cup apple cider vinigar
    • 1/4 cup honey (L)
    • 2 bay leaves
    • 1 tbsp kosher salt
    • 1 tbsp caraway seeds
    Remove paper from garlic, leaving the cloves as whole as possible.  Blanch garlic in boiling water until soft, about 5 minutes.  Transfer to a bowl of ice water to stop cooking.

    Meanwhile, wash radishes and cut off green leaves leaving just a small stem.

    Combine all other ingredients in a small sauce pan and bring to a boil.  Pack radishes into a small jar, just big enough to hold them.  Pour brine over radishes.  Allow to cool, then refrigerate.

    I actually made these on Sunday and let them soak until today (Thursday).  They are good, but not everything I want them to be.  They are too sweet, and not spicy enough.  As this was my first pickling adventure, I expected that changes might me needed and only made one jar.  Next time I'm going to add some spicier spices. The thing I like best about them is they're just so pretty.

    Monday, June 6, 2011

    A Weed is Just an Unwanted Plant

    "A weed is just an unwanted plan..."

    My husband used to say this to me all the time.  Not so much anymore which means either I've convinced him to come over to my side (unlikely), or he's given up (that's the one!)

    The conversation would go like this:

    Jeff: Can I spray the yard?
    Me: With pesticides?
    Jeff: Yeah
    Me: But it's bad for the dog!
    Jeff: We'll keep him off until it's safe
    Me: What about all the other animals who don't know to stay off of it?  Like the bunnies!
    Jeff: But the front yard is full of weeds!  It looks bad.
    Me: Will it kill the violets?
    Jeff: Yes.  It will kill all the weeds.
    Me: Violets aren't weeds!  They're our state flower!!
    Jeff: A weed is just an unwanted plant!
    Me: Well I want them, therefore they're not weeds and you can't kill them.
    Jeff: (Walks away grumbling and, I assume, rolling eyes)
    My Brain: YAY!  I WIN!!!

    So, I was thinking today, if a weed really is just an unwanted plant, then all I have to do is want all the plants in my yard and I'll never have to weed again.  Housework defeated by logic!  HA!

    Unfortunately, I want my garden full of tomatoes, not dandelions and grass, so that's not going to work.  I do, however, wish that I could do more with what I'm pulling out than just throw it into the compost pile.  Yesterday, I joked that I wish I had a recipe to use up my Creeping Charlie.  It was a joke.  Honest.  But, it got a response from one of my friends on Facebook.  Apparently, she had been weeding and wondered if there were any recipes for Creeping Charlie.  And she wasn't kidding.  AND, she was specifically turning to me for advice!  So... I guess that's what I'm known for... I'm the girl who eats weeds... That's fine.  I guess it's better than being that guy who will eat anything for five bucks!!

    To be fair, it doesn't take much to send me off on a tangent.  I'm always looking for an excuse not to do what I'm supposed to do, and instead watch Food Network and search the internet for new recipes.  And one comment on Facebook is really all I need to get me started.

    So here is what I learned, mostly from Wikipedia:

    Glechoma hederace, also known as Ground-Ivy, Grill-Over-the-Ground, or Creeping Charlie has numerous medicinal uses and is commonly used as a tasty salad green in many countries.  It is native to Europe and Southwestern Asia, and is a member of the mint family.  It was imported to America by early European settlers, who wanted it for it's culinary and medicinal uses.  It was also used by the Saxons in beer brewing before the introduction of hops.

    Supposedly (I am not a doctor.  This is all from Wikipedia!  Do not take any medical advice from this blog ever!!!!  Seriously.), Creeping Charlie treats inflammation of the eyes, kidney diseases, indigestion, and bronchitis, as well as colds and coughs, congestion, and mucus.  It may also protect against the formation of ulcers.  Finally, it is an astringent an expectorant, and a diuretic.

    On sale!  Only $5.99!
    Who decides what is a weed?  I have had several people come up to me and say they would never, NEVER eat dandelions.  But I was at Outpost yesterday and they had French Dandelion leaves for $7.99 a pound.  AND, they were out!  I asked one of the employees if there was any, and she said that I was the third person to ask that day!  They would have more Wednesday, but it tended to go quick so I should consider calling ahead.  So, not only do people want dandelions, they want IMPORTED dandelions, and they're willing to pay three times more for it than regular lettuce, and it sells out on a regular basis.  That's crazy pants!  I have a hard time paying $7.99 a pound for meat!

    According to the USDA, dandelions rank in the top 4 green vegetables in terms of overall nutritional value.  They are the third richest source of beta-carotene, after cod-liver and beef-liver, and are rich in fiber, potassium, iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, B vitamins, thiamine, riboflavin, and protein - and yet we refuse to eat them.  Creeping Charlie was brought here from Europe by settlers because they couldn't be without it - and yet we refuse to eat it.  Dill, on the other hand, is just as invasive as any of these, but it's not a weed.  Rhubarb, strawberries, and raspberries - all three would take over my yard if they could, but they're not weeds.  Why?  Who says?

    I'm a plant!
    I'm the WI state flower!
    I'm a weed!

    Anyway, here is your recipe:

    Creeping Charlie Hot Toddy

    • 1/8 cup loosely packed Creeping Charlie leaves (L*)
    • 1/2 tsp fresh grated ginger
    • 3 cups boiling water
    • honey to taste (about a tbsp) (L)
    • Lemon to taste (about a tbsp)
    • 1.5 oz brandy
    I'm not sure if it was the brandy, the Creeping Charlie, or the fact that I was coming off of two days of motorcycle license classes in the hot, hot sun, but this knocked me out!  Just a warning.

    Sunday, June 5, 2011

    So... No spring this year then?

    Okay, I want to start out by saying that I have not starved to death.  I know you were concerned.  Nor have I started eating at Burger King every night.  Or ever.

    Last week was crazy busy and I just did not have time to type everything up.  But a lot has happened, and I feel like I've fallen behind!  First off, my garden is in.  Yay!  And, Wisconsin decided to skip spring and jump straight from Winter to Summer, so the garden has been growing like crazy.  Or, at least the weeds are growing like crazy.  Now it needs to rain so I can pull those weeds out.  What I need to find is a recipe that features Creeping Charlie....
    Garden shot #1.  Tomato plants, strawberries,
    and weeds

    Garden Shot #2: Herbs (in pots), radishes,
    rhubarb, and other stuff... including weeds.

    And, I finally have a lime tree!!!  After my lime tree fiasco, I did what I should have done originally and just went on Amazon.  And they sent me a lime tree... I got it within a week!  Not only that, I also got 6 other indoor fruit house plants!  Oh, but I should clarify, when I say "tree," I mean tiny, tiny stick with leaves.  I mean, they're in very good health, but most of them are shorter than a lime would be should it grow there!!  I guess I'm going to have to wait a few... dozen... years before I get a local lime.

    Pomegranate (front) and fig (back)
    Lime, Lemon, Tangelo, and Blood Orange

    I have been eating well, though.  There's not a lot that grows in WI in the spring, so the fact that it's jumped straight to summer is fine by me... food wise at least.   Very little makes me happier than a quick summer dinner on the grill.  Really, the only thing would  be if my basil would get bigger so I could have a tomato, basil, mozzarella salad.  And, back to our previous topic, meals on the grill are quick and easy!  And you don't need to have a big kitchen.  Or any kitchen at all!  All you need fire...  If you have any questions, ask your local caveman!  To be very specific: Ebony, these are for you!!!

    Oh, and thanks so much to EVERYONE who reads this getting me up over 1000 hits.  Those of you who live around here (or who want to come travel just for the fun!) I am going to arrange a trip to the Great Lakes Distillery to celebrate.  Let me know if you want to come with!!!

    Grilled Asparagus and Mushrooms:
    Active Time: 5 minutes
    Total Time: 20 minutes

    • Asparagus, bottoms trimmed (I didn't actually buy these, so they weren't local...)
    • Mixed mushrooms. (MORELS!!) (L)
    • Butter (L)
    • Salt
    • fresh ground Pepper
    • 1/2 garlic bulb, minced (L)
    • 1 tbsp fresh oregano, minced (L*)
    • 1 tbsp fresh chives, minced (L*)
    Place all ingredients onto a piece of foil and fold up so everything is sealed in.  Grill over medium/medium high heat until asparagus is just tender... about 10-15 minutes depending on how much asparagus you use and how thick the stalks are.

    Grilled Mushrooms and Morels NY Strip Steaks
    Active time: 15 minutes
    Total Time: 40 minutes

    • 2 lbs fingerling potatoes (L)
    • 1/2 lb morels (L)
    • 3 tbsp Olive Oil (divided)
    • Salt 
    • Freshly Ground Pepper
    • 2 tbsp minced chives (divided) (*L)
    • 2 New York Strip Steaks (mine were Elk!) (L)
    • 1/2 bulb garlic (L)
    Wash potatoes and slice into 1/4 inch thick slices.  Soak and wash morels.  Toss potato slices, morels, 1 tbsp olive oil, salt, pepper, and 1 tbsp chives in a large bowl, and transfer to a grill basket (my new favorite toy!)  If you don't have a grill basket, wrap the whole thing up in aluminum foil.

    Grill over medium high heat, until potatoes are soft and crispy.  If you're using aluminum foil, they might not get crispy, just soft.  Depending on how big your potatoes are, this should take 10-15 minutes.

    Meanwhile, combine remaining 2 tbsp oil, 1 tbsp chives, and garlic in a glass pan big enough to hold both of your steaks.  Add the steaks, and turn to coat on both sides.  Allow to come to room temperature, turning occasionally.  Season steaks with salt on both sides, and grill over medium high heat for about 5 minutes on the first side.  Flip, and grill an additional 5 minutes on the second side.  Obviously, times will vary depending on how thick your steak was and how well done you like it.  Allow steak to rest for 5 minutes before slicing.

    Grilled Chicken Wings with Spring Salad
    Active time: 10 minutes
    Total time: 30 minutes
    • 6 chicken wings (L)
    • Salt 
    • Garlic Powder
    • Onion Powder
    • About 1-2 cups Mixed Greens, washed (L*)
    • 6 Radishes, washed and sliced (L*)
    • 4 mushrooms, washed and sliced (L)
    • Bleu Cheese Dressing (L) (See below for recipe)
    Season wings generously with salt, garlic, and onion, and grill over medium heat until done, turning once.  About 25 minutes, depending on how thick your wings are.

    Meanwhile, combine greens, top with radishes and mushrooms, and dress with Bleu Cheese dressing.

    Bleu Cheese Dressing:

    • 2 1/2 ounces blue cheese, very well crumbled
    • 3 tablespoons buttermilk
    • 3 tablespoons sour cream
    • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
    • 2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
    • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
    • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
    • salt and freshly ground black pepper
    Combine all ingredients in a jar and shake vigorously to combine.