Homemade “Playdoh”

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My daughter loves to be outside. She also hates snow/mud/wet/icky/cold. This can be a problem during the winter months here in the mountains.  While she did receive many a lovely  flashing, plastic plaything from various well- meaning relatives in December, one of her favorite things to do is help mom in the kitchen. Together we mixed up a batch of homemade “playdoh” for her to “knead” while I knead my bread. It was great fun, and I used ingredients I already had on hand. This recipe I found on the back of a Cream corn starch box. You could also add food coloring and even spices (think cinnamon) to liven it up. While its non toxic, you may want to save the coloring and spices for the over 5 crowd, as yummy smells and colors may encourage nibbling.

  • 1 1/2 cups corn starch
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 cup salt
  • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 cups water

mix all ingredients in a sauce pan. (obviously, this next step is for grown-ups only) Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture gathers on the stirring spoon and forms a dough, about 6 minutes.  Let mass cool on wax paper until cool enough to handle, then knead until pliable. Store in closed container. This should alow for about 2 pounds of “playdoh”

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Mexican Style Slaw

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I hate wasting food, so when I have odd leftovers that need to be used up I tend to do one of two things: create a new recipe, or make soup.  The soup usually works out, but every once in awhile I come up with a recipe thats pretty good. This is a recipe I made up using leftover cabbage, cilantro, and citrus that were on the shorter end of their shelf lives . I served this slaw with pork carnitas with the pork being from a loin roasted earlier in the week and the corn tortillas already in the pantry. I think it would be equally good with burritos or even, as they do at the River Pub in Marlinton WV (super great place, check it out if you are ever in the area), pulled pork BBQ. I’m not exactly sure of the recipe they used but I borrowed the basic idea and used ingredients I had on hand. Here it is.

  • 1/2 head of cabbage, shredded
  • 1 small purple onion, sliced thin
  • handfull of cilantro, chopped
  • 1tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • fresh ground pepper, to taste
  • 1Tbsp apple cider vinigar
  • juice of 1 small orange
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 tsp orange zest
  • 1 clove garlic, pressed
  • 1/4 cup mayo
  • 1/4 cup sour cream

In a large bowl combine vinegar, orange and lemon juice, orange zest, salt, pepper, and sugar. Add onion, cabbage, and cilantro and toss to combine. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix mayo, sour cream, and pressed garlic in smaller bowl, set aside. After 30 minutes, stir sour cream mixture into cabbage mixture and allow to rest, covered and refrigerated 1 to 24 hours. As with all cole slaw, the longer it sits, the better the flavors will meld. Enjoy!

On the Cheap Pet Dewormer

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My pets are a random assortment of abandoned creatures that have wandered onto our property and have never left. While they were all taken to the vet for a first round of shots and a general checkup, I can hardly afford a hundred bucks a pop every time my cats eat a rat, or the dog finds some gnarly carcass left behind by hunters.  Like most men, these guys are only interested in a big ‘ol rack.  Anyway, as you can imagine, my pets often come down with worms. Enter food grade diatomaceous earth!  It is completely organic, and kills fleas, ticks, worms, mites, ect. by physical action rather than chemical. The sand-like diatoms scratch the waxy coating of the infesting parasites surface, leading to dehydration and death.  When fed as a supplement to pets or livestock, worms are naturally eliminated with out chemicals of any kind, it’s cheap, and easy to feed. Simply mix wet food or a treat your dog/cat likes  with the  amount of diatomaceous earth best suited to your pets wieght for 4 days. Repeat as necessary every 2 weeks.  CAUTION: YOU MUST USE ONLY FOOD GRADE diatomaceous earth, not the stuff found in drywall, ect. Food grade diatomaceous earth can be found at just about any feed and seed store, or may also be obtained on the internet. We buy ours from Southern States, and I believe it’s around 9.00$ for a four pound bag. As we have small pets, this bag will last quite a long time.  Mix as follows:

  • Lrg cats-1tsp
  • kittens-1/4 tsp
  • dogs 100 ibs and up-1-2 Tbsp
  • dogs 50-100 ibs-1 Tbsp
  • under 50 ibs- 1 tsp
  • miniature breeds 1/2 tsp

The “spirited” child and the great outdoors

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When my daughter was born, she was completely unlike any baby I’d ever known. And no, I’m not going to launch into some diatribe about how beautiful and special EVERYONE (not just me) thought my child was, blah,blah,blah.  Every parent thinks their baby is destined for greatness, so I’ll spare you that.  Lulu was what the nurses kindly refered to as a “high needs” baby. Her Pawpaw called her a “handful”.  Hub and I jokingly (kind of)  nicknamed her “Lucifer”. Now, it wasn’t that she had colic or some other sort of medical issue, this kid was just Bored.  This was not the kind of baby contented to lounge in her bouncy chair, ride in a car seat, or spend any amount of time on the floor. Tummy time? Not so much. She preferred voicing her shrill little opinion over any sort of pacifier. Toys did not amuse this one.  The only thing that kept her happy was strapping her into the Baby Bjorn and taking a walk in the wide, wide world. Otherwise known as the back yard.  Well she’s 2 now and nothing much has changed, with the exception that she can walk and holler more or less intelligible phrases.  She’s since graduated from “high needs” to “spirited”, but is certainly no more easygoing. Her greatest delight is still the outdoors, a kingdom all her own where she can impose her will on the surrounding countryside with little intervention. As always, she rules with an iron fist. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cheap stock

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I enjoy making my own stock, but I’ve recently been able to stretch this already money-saving pantry item even further.  Here’s the deal: I save EVERYTHING. Lately I’ve been buying bone in chicken or even whole chickens and deboning them myself. Not only is it  much more cost-effective to buy this way, but I also prefer a minimum of corporate processing in anything I put into my or my families mouths. Hope fully by next fall we’ll be harvesting and processing our own backyard poultry, but that’s another post altogether.  So…..after deboning, I save the bones, necks, backs, and wing tips in a ziplock freezer bag. In another Freezer bag I save the ends of carrots, onions, and celery, as well as potato peels, mushroom stalks, kale and swiss chard ribs, ect. when making salads and other dishes. When both bags are full, I make stock. Nothing is wasted. One thing, though. My stock makings are always fresh, I don’t use scraps that are better suited for the compost pile.  Also, I usually don’t use strong veggies like asparagus or broccoli.  Are there any money saving tricks you use to keep your families groccery budget in check? I’d love to hear ’em!

you can eat that?-Learning to forage

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O.k., so just in case sh*# does hit the fan, economically speaking, it might be a good idea to brush up on some of those ol’ lost arts. Plus, wild plants, unlike their cultivated cousins,  have much more in the way of nutrition and tend  naturally  to be organic. Unless you happen to enjoy spraying your yard regularly with sevendust or gathering them on a freeway (which I wouldn’t recommend.) However, some plants can make you sick or even kill you. DO NOT EAT ANY WILD THING IF YOU ARE NOT ONE HUNDRED PERCENT POSITIVE THAT YOU KNOW WHAT IT IS.  IF YOU ARE NOT A  PROFESSIONAL SCOUT, OR OTHERWISE TRAINED IN  WILD EDIBLES,  DO NOT EAT ANY BERRIES OR MUSHROOMS EVEN IF YOU HAVE BROUGHT ALONG A GUIDE BOOK. SOME OF THESE HAVE LOOKALIKES THAT ARE DEADLY TOXIC. I would also recommend bringing along a guide or knowledgable friend the first couple of times you go out. My community hosts “walk- alongs” with trained guides who help you to identify wild edibles and their poisonous lookalikes. Be safe.

Dandelions, the bane of most people’s back yard. This little plant is not only extremely common but also very edible. Young leaves and flowers are great in a salad, while the larger, tougher leaves can be parboiled in lightly salted water and eaten warm. Some people enjoy the medicinal properties of these mature leaves steeped to form a tea, and the bloom is often used to make dandelion wine.  The only part of the plant to avoid would be the stem of the flour and the milky fluid it secretes. This fluid isn’t toxic, but it is very bitter.

 

 

 

Cress, or shotweed, is in the mustard family.  Its young leaves are great in salads, older leaves may be steamed until tender.

 

 

 

 

 

Here are some cleaned cress greens I found right outside the front door. These were young and tender enough to mix other salad greens for lunch.

 

 

 

 

 

The plantain, not to be confused with the fried bannana-like things served in Cuban restaurants, can also be used as a ‘pot herb’, although only the very young leaves are eaten due to their stringy texture. These are usually simmered 15 minutes or until tender.

 

 

 

 

The burdock is used for both food and medicinal purposes. The ‘bur’ of the burdock is frequently used to make tea, purportedly helping to ease a variety of ailments including exema, colds and infections, and diabetes. The root of the burdock plant is commonly eaten as any other root vegetable, however it is best harvested in spring from the first year of the plant. Once you see the burs form, the root is in its second year and more or less unpalatable. The first year burdock will have a rosette on leaves with a small shoot in the middle, looking like this.

image from wildmanstevebrill.com, click for link

 You will not be ble to pull this by hand, it’s much stronger than it looks! Grab a shovel. The roots should be white and somewhat pliable.

 Roast them with a mixture of other root vegetables and tubers, or chop and throw into a pot of soup.

 

 

Aptly named quickweed, this garden demon is apparently quite tasty. The young plants are simmered in salted water for 15-20 minutes and served warm with butter or sometimes vinegar as a dressing.

 

“Uh, yeah…..that’s a pine tree. I don’t think I’ll ever be forced to eat conifers barring some Survivor Man-esq hiking incident.” Seriously, though, they are edible and actually not bad. Really!  When eaten raw it’s best to gather the bright green new needles in spring, they’re surprising tender and un-piney tasting.  I like to make tea from the needles year round (Christmas tree tea!), especially when I’m ill. Conifers are extremely high in vitamin C. The settlers used to use pine to ward off scurvy. Most pines also have edible nuts inside the cones come late summer to fall.

 

These are just a couple of edible plants that can be found in my area. I ‘d love to hear about edibles in other regions or maybe even some recipes.  Happy hunting!

 

 

 

 

 

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I love chicken pot pie! This recipe take advantage of  chicken thighs, which can often be had on sale. Although it calls for boneless/ skinless, it’s really easy to do yourself  and it’s generally cheaper than buying the already processed kind. (I’m assuming most readers purchase poultry from some kind of groccer, if you process your own backyard chickens all the better, but then I doubt you’ll need a deboning tutorial.)  Also, feel free to experiment with whatever seasonings you have on hand.

  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 2 Tbsp flour
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 med carrots, sliced
  • 2 stalks celery, sliced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 1/2 ibs boneless/skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 tsp dried parsely
  • in 5-6 quart slow cooker, whisk together stock, flour, seasoning, salt and pepper
  • add chicken and vegies, stirring to coat. Cook on low 6-7 hours or high 4-5 hours.

I served this mixture with fresh biscuts for the “crust”, and a green salad.