Sunday, June 27

Caramel corn delight

A couple of weeks ago, my little brother Ben graduated form high school! I am so very happy for him but I cannot believe how quickly the time has flown. I feel a little bit old, but I suppose there is nothing I can do about that.

While home for the weekend, I was delighted to have a hand in the food preparation for his graduation party that was on Sunday. I always love cooking at home, since my kitchen at home is stocked with any possible kitchen gadget and the ingredients are supplied by my dearest mother. Though I selected many new recipes for the main dishes and sides, I chose to use one recipe that is not so new. This is, Janie's Caramel Corn recipe. Janie is our close family friend's sister-in-law. Long story short, it has been passed from hand to hand, kitchen to kitchen, for many years. Janie gave it to Beth, Beth to my mom, and my mom has since shared it with me; and now you can share it with your family and friends.
Beth's Caramel Corn
1 cup of butter
2 cups of brown sugar
1/2 cup of corn syrup
1 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon of vanilla
6 quarts of popped popcorn

1. Melt butter in a large pot. Stir in sugar, corn syrup and salt; bring this mix to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil without stirring for five minutes. After five minutes, remove from heat and stir in baking soda and vanilla. Pour over the popcorn.

2. Spread on two large cookie pans, and bake for one hour at 250 degrees. Stir the popcorn about every 15 minutes.

You can store this popcorn in airtight containers for about 2 weeks! It makes a wonderful gift, as well as a delicious snack food. Delicious and easy to make; just the way I love it.

Happy eating!

Wednesday, June 16

Mulberries to boot!

Following our foraged dinner delight, Alicia and I had an itch for more foraging! It seems that foraging has this addictive quality and the more I learn the more I am excited about the food that surrounds me. Fortunately for me, Milwaukee is filled with edibles (in fact, I have a few new foraging adventures that I will be embarking on soon). Today while planting in my urban garden bed, I noticed a peculiar tree with jewel-toned berries. The berries, like small blackberry or a long raspberry, hung off of each branch in a way that lured me in. After I finished with our meal, I mentioned this tree to Alicia; and she supposed that the tree was a Mulberry tree filled with edible berries. So needless to say, we hiked on over to the tree and examined the branches and leaves and berries. Indeed it was a Mulberry tree!
Mulberries ripen over a period of weeks, and thus can be harvested at your convenience. Keep your eyes peeled over the next month in search for these lovely little berries. It truly would be a shame if you missed this delightful berry!

A note on the leaves: all trees have a little bit of a different leaf pattern though they are all similar and all types of leaves can potentially be found on each tree. While more mature trees tend to have leaves that are less lobed, smaller and more aggressive trees tend to have more lobed leaves. Here is an example of three different leaves that we found on two different Mulberry trees:

Happy eating and foraging!

Daylilies for dinner

Landscape by day, dinner by night! I have been reading Euell Gibbon's Stalking the Wild Asparagus,  book all about foraging. If you are unfamiliar with Gibbons, he is essentially the founding father of foraging. Well, perhaps he wasn't the first to forage (in fact there were many before him) but he was one of the first to write about it in the 20th century. In doing so, he shared the art and joy of foraging with the general public. Today, I read the chapter on the daylily. Most of you are probably familiar with the daylily, as it is often used in landscaping. The daylily is unique in that it produces new flowers every day. The orange blossoms open in the morning and close at dusk. Luckily for us, their delightfulness does not end at dusk.

The blossoms of the daylily can be harvested in all three stages of bloom: as a bud, as a flower blossom and as a closed blossom. There are many recipes for each stage, but today I thought that it would be best to focus on the initial stage of the blossom's life cycle; the bud. For dinner tonight Alicia (my foraging buddy!) and I prepared battered, sauteed daylily blossoms.
Sauteed Daylily Buds
1 egg
1/4 cup of flour (or more or less depending on how many little buds you foraged!)
Chili powder
Garlic Powder
1/2 tablespoon of butter

1. Beat egg in a small dish. In another dish, mix flour with other seasonings to taste. Surely you can experiment with different spices and levels of spices. (Just a heads up, the final product tastes similar to a fried zucchini; perhaps this might guide you in the right spice direction!)

2. Dip each bud in the egg, and then in the flour mixture and set aside. In a fry pan, heat butter over medium heat. When all the butter is melted, place the coated buds in the pan and cook for about 1 minute on each side, or until the batter is browning.

We enjoyed our buds along side of some "fajita-tacos". With the remaining flour and egg, we blended them together and cooked them in the same pan we used for the buds. Then, we put the eggs in our tortillas with cooked corn, onions, bell peppers, avocado, cheese and salsa. Delicious!
Because daylilies blossom for most of the summer, I am hoping to experiment with this delightful flower for many dinners to come. Also, in my research of the daylily, I learned that there is food below the surface as well. In fact, the roots of the daylily produce edible portions as well. Again, this I will save for another foraging adventure!

Happy eating (and foraging!)

Quick biscuits

Potlucks are great. I really do love to share a meal with friends. But it seems that all too often, the day of the potluck comes around and I am completely unprepared! It is not that I don't have anything to bring, its that all the things that I want to bring would simply take too long to prepare. (A case of procrastination at its finest...)

Well, last week Liza helped to host a "bike-loc" at the Urban Ecology Center and although I was somewhat prepared, again I felt as though I did not quite have enough time. I planned to bring dandelion jelly and violet jam, as the potluck's main focus was local food and what is more local than foraged foods? However, about two hours before the potluck it occurred to me that people would probably not want to eat jellies without something to eat them on. There was not enough time for a yeast bread and a quick bread would simply be too much. Tortillas would be fine, but perhaps not the perfect addition to sweet and tangy jams.

While looking through my cookbooks, for a quick but delightful fix, I came across the perfect addition: homemade biscuits! And luckily for me, the preparation time was as short as could be and the final product was delicious.
I came across this recipe for quick biscuits in my More-with-Less cookbook.

Quick Biscuits
2 cups of sifted flours
3 tablespoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/4 cup of butter
3/4 cup of milk

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Sift together the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Then, using your clean, clean hands, blend in the butter. Add milk, mixing until the dough can form into a soft ball.

2. Knead the dough for about 2 minutes on a floured surface until smooth. Then, roll the dough until it is about 1/2 inch thick. Using a circular glass, cut even circles and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes.

So delicious and so simple, just the way I like it!

Happy eating!

Sunday, June 13

Jicama: the other white tuber

What the heck is jicama? Sounds like hiccup but don't be fooled: you are bound to love this new root vegetable. Related to the turnip, jicama is a delightful tuber with a light and refreshing flavor. The jicama, while native to Mexico, can be grown right here in Wisconsin. In fact, last summer I was fortunate enough to sample some at our farmer's market! This root vegetable is the perfect addition to a salad or can be cooked with spices like cumin or chili powder.

We enjoyed jicama raw, and cut into slices, dipped into lime-sour cream. To make lime-sour cream, simply add the juice of 1/2 lime to 1 cup of sour cream and stir. This was the perfect addition to our dinner of enchiladas! Light and refreshing.
So if you are interested in trying jicama this summer, keep your eyes peeled at the local farmer's market. Otherwise, you can sometimes find jicama in the produce section at the grocery store. If you cannot find it at your usual grocer, check out your local Mexican grocer and you will surely find it in plentiful amounts!

Monday, June 7

A Milwaukee BikeLoc

My best friend, Liza, is a wonderfully amazing person and I am so fortunate to have her in my life. Tonight, she helped to host a night of local food at the Urban Ecology Center: the focus of the night was specifically on local food, community and biking! Robert Dubois and Aaron Zueck (currently sleeping on Liza's floor, right here in Milwaukee) are biking across the country, having started in Vermont and eventually ending in Portland. Liza helped them to host a "bikeloc" which is derived from a combo of bikes, local foods, and potlucks. A special feature of Aaron and Robert's bike venture, is that in each city, town, village they bike through, they are planning local food potlucks, that work to bring light to the local food movement. I would say that tonight's bikeloc was successful in that. The tables were filled with many people, eating and sharing local food and talking about new and exciting ideas. Needless to say, my belly is quite content at the moment!
from their website

(If you are wondering what I brought, I had my dandelion and violet jams, and served them with homemade biscuits, a real hit! Stay tuned for a recipe for foolproof biscuits, coming soon!)

Who knew eating local could be so much fun?!

Thursday, June 3

Clover Jam

Ah, the joy of foraging. A couple of days ago, Lauren and I went foraging for white and red clover flowers, to make a variation of my violet jam*. We went to a park that is abandoned, just a few blocks away which was FULL of beautiful bounds of clover flowers. And we went at just the right time! The next day it was mowed to a bland empty field.
On a happier note, Lauren and my foraging adventure was lovely. Bumblebees bumbled while we foraged. I can't express the beauty of the field and the day and the moment.
*To make clover jam, replace violets with red and white clover flowers, and replace lemon juice with orange juice! As easy as that!
Happy eating (and foraging)!