Feb 23, 2017

Foraging for Chickweed

It may not officially be spring, but the plants in my neck of the woods are acting like it is. And that means (among other things) that a lot of wild spring edibles are popping up. In fact, I seem to find a new forage-worthy weed every day. That makes me happy.

One edible weed I recently discovered on our property is one you're just as likely to find in the city as in the country, on the West Coast as the East Coast, and in the U.S. as elsewhere in the world: Chickweed (otherwise known as Starweed, Chickenwort, Winter weed, or Stellaria media).
Chickweed's 5 petals look like 10.

Identifying Chickweed

Chickweed grows in a wide variety of areas, including lawns and mow strips - and it grows prolifically. It has tiny white flowers with 5 petals each - but the petals are so deeply split, at first glance, it appears the flowers have 10 petals each.

The stems of chickweed are distinctive in that they have a line of white "hairs" on one side. They also do not contain a milky sap - something that differentiates chickweed from similar weeds. Chickweed's smooth leaves are oval with pointed tips.
Chickweed's stems have a line of fine "hairs."

The plant is easy to spot because it grows in clumps or masses that creep along the ground. It tends to
grow most abundantly in the spring and fall, when the weather is cooler and moist, and generally prefers damp and shady areas.

One final test to know whether or not you've got chickweed: Bend a stem and turn each part of the stem in the opposite direction. Gently pull; the outer part of the stem will break and separate, but an inner part will not break. In fact, it will stretch a little.

Chickweed has two poisonous lookalikes (Scarlet Pimpernel and spurge), but if you look for the 5 petals that look like 10, the line of hair on the stem, the lack of milk in the stem, and the stem with the inner stretchy part, you can be sure you have real chickweed.
An important test to make sure you identify chickweed correctly.

There is also mouse-ear chickweed (cerastium vulgatum), which is edible, but only when cooked. It's distinguished from regular chickweed by it's very dark green, mouse ear shaped leaves that, unlike regular chickweed, are covered with fine hairs.

NOTE: Do not consume any plant you cannot positively identify.

Eating Chickweed

Chickweed leaves, stems, and flowers are all edible, either raw or cooked. And it's a superfood! Chickweed is packed with nutrients, having 6 times more vitamin C than spinach, 12 times more calcium, and 83 times more iron.  It also contains Omega-3 fatty acids, bioflavoinoids, beta-carotene, B vitamins, folic acid, niacin, thiamine, magnesium, potassium, manganese, and zinc.

Try chickweed in a salad, or add it to a sandwich, like you would sprouts. It also makes a nice pesto or can be added to soups, omelettes, quiches, or pretty much any dish where you'd normally use spinach. In fact, cooked chickweed tastes similar to spinach. Raw, it tastes like a mild lettuce.
Chickweed grows in a clump.
Mouse Ear Chickweed is distinguished by it's hairy leaves. Courtesy
Stefan.lefnaer and Wikimedia.

Chickweed Medicine

Chickweed has long been used in herbal medicine, too. Taken internally in the form of tea or tincture, it's used for complaints such as stomach and intestinal problems, arthritis, asthma and other lung ailments, kidney disorders, and vitamin C deficiency. In addition, chickweed can be used externally to treat eczema, psoriasis, minor wounds, boils, abscesses, burns, itching, and joint pain.

WARNINGS: Those who are allergic to daisies should not eat chickweed. Never eat any wild food you cannot identify 100%.

I am not a doctor, nor should anything on this website (www.ProverbsThirtyOneWoman.blogspot.com) be considered medical advice. The FDA requires me to say that products mentioned, linked to, or displayed on this website are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The information on this web site is designed for general informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for qualified medical advice or care. There are no assurances of the information being fit or suited to your medical needs, and to the maximum extent allow by law disclaim any and all warranties and liabilities related to your use of any of the information obtained from the website. Your use of this website does not constitute a doctor-patient relationship. No information on this website should be considered complete, nor should it be used as a substitute for a visit to, consultation with, or the advice of a physician or other qualified health care provider.  

Feb 20, 2017

Creamy Chicken Garlic Recipe - Low Carb, Keto

low carb recipe, keto recipe
I've been debating whether or not to post keto recipes on this blog. Ultimately, I decided that while not everyone will want them, they are a vital part of my family's life now, and may help others - therefore, in my mind, I ought to blog them.

One of these days, I'll blog about why the keto diet is so healthy for everyone - and why it's the best thing for diabetics. But today, let me just say that you should not be afraid of fat. Healthy fats are so good for your heath, and they make weight loss so much easier! In fact, before the obesity epidemic, people ate lots of fat. (Things that make you go hmm...) And did you know your body does not require you to eat carbs - that it can create them itself through a process called gluconeogenesis? On the other hand, did you know you absolutely must eat fats to stay healthy?

That said, here's one of my family's favorite keto (low carb, high fat) recipes. It's really delish and I make it frequently. In fact, it tastes a lot like the topping on Papa Murphy's Creamy Chicken Garlic pizza!

https://sites.google.com/site/proverbs31womanprintables/creamy-chicken-garlic-recipeCreamy Chicken Garlic Recipe
Serves 3. (I usually double the recipe for my family of 4, and end up with some leftovers.)

1 1/2 lbs. boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 tablespoons+ bacon drippings or coconut oil
1/2 cup beef stock
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 cup heavy cream
1 large tomato, chopped (or use grape or cherry tomatoes cut in half)
2 cups baby spinach
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

1. Cut the chicken breasts into 1/2 inch  wide strips and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

2. Place a large skillet over medium high heat and add the bacon drippings. When the drippings are melted and the pan is hot, add the prepared chicken. You may need to work in batches. Cook about 5 minutes on each side, or until the chicken is cooked through and lightly browned. Remove cooked chicken to a plate and set aside.

Cooking the chicken.
3. Remove the skillet from the burner and add the stock. Scrape the bottom of the pan to bring up and bits of chicken that remain on the bottom. Add the garlic, garlic powder, and Italian seasoning to the skillet, stirring until blended. Place the skillet back on the burner; when the mixture bubbles, add the heavy cream. Bring to a boil. Whisk frequently until the mixture thickens slightly.
Making the garlic sauce.
4. Add the tomato, spinach, and the cooked chicken to the skillet. Stir to combine. Sprinkle Parmesan over the mixture. Cook until spinach is wilted and Parmesan is melted. 
Mixing everything together.
Estimated Nutrition, per serving, according to SuperTracker: Calories 794; Carbs 8 g total (7 g. net); Protein: 76 g.; Fat: 51 g.; Fiber: 1 g.

DIY Italian Seasoning

Why make your own? It's cheaper, for sure. But it also means you don't have to worry about any added, unwanted ingredients, like preservatives.

2 tablespoons dried basil  
2 tablespoons dried oregano
2 tablespoons dried thyme
2 tablespoons dried marjoram
2 tablespoons dried rosemary
2 tablespoons dried sage

Mix ingredients together. For a finer texture (more like what you'd buy bottled), run through a food processor or clean coffee grinder for about a minute, or until desired texture is reached.

Feb 16, 2017

How to Winter Sow Seeds - a Video

I've typed before - both on the blog and in my book Seed Starting - about winter sowing and how I think it's the easiest seed starting method around. Now I'm showing you how to do it on video. You even get to see my face (most of the time), thanks to my 11 year old! Check it out:

Feb 14, 2017

16 Tips from the Great Depression that are Still Useful Today

Whether you're struggling to make ends meet or you just want to save more of your hard earned money for the future, history provides some of the best ideas for doing so. Since the days of Genesis, people have struggled through financially difficult times - but perhaps no time is easier to apply to our modern days than those of the Great Depression. Fortunately, many of the ways our grandparents or great-grandparents used to survive those difficult years still apply today. In fact, you may find that following these guidelines makes your life happier and more fulfilling, even if you aren't strapped for cash. I know I do.

1. "Use it, Wear it out, Make do" was the motto of the Depression and WWII. Patch clothes, make do with household items that aren't perfect but still get the job done, and never replace an item you can fix.

2. Reuse, reuse, reuse. This is especially true of containers. If you buy a jar of food, save the jar for storing something else later. You know the old joke about Grandma's house not having Tupperware, but being full of old margarine tubs? Yep, do that. And if my grandmother had Ziplock bags back in the 30s, you'd better bet she would have washed them and reused them until they fell apart.

3. Don't use convenience foods like frozen French fries or jarred spaghetti sauce. Make your own! It really doesn't take much time, but it saves a lot of money - and the homemade versions are usually healthier, too! (Learn how to make some convenience foods here.)

4. When looking for entertainment, do what's free (or cheap). Instead of paying $18 or more to go to the movie theater, get a Redbox rental. Better yet, check out a movie from the library. Go on hikes. Have a family board game night. Have a neighborhood potluck. Often what costs least is the most fulfilling.

5. Grow or raise your own food, as much as possible. This is cheaper and healthier!

6. Eat your weeds. Weeds are a free source of food that are high in nutrition. One of the most commonly eaten weeds during the 1930s and 40s were dandelion leaves.

7. Stretch meat with beans. Lentils, in particular, are cheap, take on the flavor of what's around them, and easily blend in with ground meat. Grab more ideas for stretching your meat budget here.

8. Learn the difference between real needs and wants. One trick to help: Imagine someone offering you cash instead of the item you're considering buying. If you'd pick cash over the item, you don't need the item.

9. Before you buy, consider how many hours you have to work to pay for that item. It may make you reconsider. (More here.)

10. Buy used. Lots of things - maybe most things - we need can be purchased used for a fraction of the cost, and work just as well as new. Cars are an excellent example. So is furniture. Clothes, too, if you live in a fairly affluent area. Even kitchen items.

11. Use up everything. Use your soap scraps. (Tip: Just lay them on top of a fresh, wet bar of soap and they will stick there.) Dip down into your lipstick tube and get every last bit. Scrape the sides of food cans and bottles. It may feel inconvenient, but over time, you'll save money. Plus, it feels better not to be wasteful.

12. Don't use credit cards. It's good discipline, and will save you a huge amount of money in interest.

13. Use leftover meat and veggies in stews and soups. Plan on having soup or stew at least once a week.

14. Never throw away vegetable and fruit scraps. Most veggie scraps can be added to the pot when making stock or broth (learn how here), and all veggies and fruits can go into the compost bin. Vegetable and fruit scraps are also excellent feed for animals like chickens.

15. Eat simple food. That doesn't necessarily mean eating high carb foods like beans, rice, and pasta. Even just paring down to a palm-sized piece of meat, plus a side of veggies, will reduce your grocery bill (and make you healthier).

16. Stash away cash. Even if the amount seems insignificant - those little amounts do add up over time. I remember reading about a lady who took small amounts of cash - sometimes just a dollar or two - to her bank to pay off a loan there. The clerks often raised their eyebrows at her, but she paid off her loan many months in advance, saving a lot of money in interest. The principle is the same if you're saving money. A dollar a week may not seem like much, but in a year, you'll have $52 more dollars saved than if you hadn't stashed that cash.

You May Also Like:

* How I Lowered Our Natural Gas Bill by Hundreds
* The Easy Way We Save Thousands Each Year
* Saving Money on Garbage Fees
* How We Homeschool on a Shoestring Budget
* Make Your Produce Last
* Top 12 Tips for Saving Money on Groceries

Feb 11, 2017

Weekend Links & Updates

In which I share my favorite posts from this blog's Facebook page.

This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information. Thank you for supporting this site!

"Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you."

Deuteronomy 31:6

It's been very windy. Our large, main living windows often flex in the wind. A little scary! So sometimes I put tape across them...just in case.

* Happily, my blood sugar is now regularly in the 80s and 90s - normal. And I've lost 18 lbs. since going on this super-low carb keto diet right before Christmas. Yay!

* Another pet food recall.

* Have you seen Ball's new spiral canning jars? Pretty! I think they'd be great for gifts.

* Do You Truly Cherish Your Husband?

* Dealing with Sibling Fighting and Rudeness. 

* The Link Between Gut Bacteria and Your Child's Behavior Just Got Stronger.

* How to Adopt for (Almost) Free.

* How to prepare a home inventory, in case of fire or other disaster.

* Want to make your own natural cleaning products? Here's a great resource for getting started.

* Spring is nearly here, and with spring, come nettles - a natural, free superfood. 

* How tending a garden is good for your health. 

* How to prune blueberries for a larger harvest.  

* Have you seen the crazy news story about feeding cattle Skittles? It's true! And they've been doing it for years. Poor qualify feed = poor quality meat. 

* First GMO apple going on sale.

Oldies But Goodies

* How to tell if old seeds are still good.

* How to lead your children to Christ - with a free lesson plan.

* Keeping your marriage spark on Valentine's Day and every day.

* Make your own seasoning mixes to save money and eat more healthy.

Feb 9, 2017

Choosing Seeds for My New Garden

Honestly, I'm trying not to get stressed about my garden - or lack thereof. Because as of this moment, the vegetable garden doesn't exist. We still need to remove a few trees around the yard and set up the garden beds. Thankfully, I do have the greenhouse and a few small raised beds (tall square pallets and an old bathtub or two) that the previous owners left behind. Still...my dream garden it ain't. So...I'm reminding myself that getting the garden up and proper is gonna take time.

In the meantime, I've tested my old seeds to see if they are still viable, and have placed my seed orders. There are some "old reliables" coming my way, as well as some fun new varieties to try. Here are a few of the notables that (I hope!) will appear in my 2017 garden.

(Please note: None of the links are affiliate.)

Autumn's Choice butternut squash.
* Autumn's Choice Squash. It's hard to beat a good butternut squash: So tasty, and stores all winter long just sitting on a shelf. This year, I'm trying this new-to-me variety because it's said to have a strong resistance to powdery mildew - always a problem where we live. It's also got a slightly shorter growing season than many other varieties (85-90 days), and has unusual and pretty skin. I bought my seeds at Territorial Seed.

* Morris Heading Collards. Greens are an important crop for me, since we eat them a lot because they're an excellent source of nutrients. My whole family loves collards, which we mostly eat sliced thin and sauteed (usually with garlic and salt, and maybe some chopped bacon). This variety is one I've grown for years. It's reliable, tasty, and slow to bolt (go to seed). It also grows pretty quickly and is an heirloom. I bought my seed this year at Baker Creek Seed.

* Brunswick Cabbage. I've grown other varieties of cabbage, but I always come back to Brunswick cabbages because they are large and relatively fast-growing (90 days). This variety is also especially cold hearty and stores well. I buy my seed at Baker Creek.

Bull's Blood beet.
* Bull's Blood Beet. This is my favorite beet to grow because the roots are tasty - and so are the tops. I love the large red leaves for sauteing, and my family loves the roots for borscht and pickling. This year, I bought my seeds at Territorial.

* Catskill Brussels Sprout. Homegrown Brussels spouts are far superior to bitter store bought ones! And I keep coming back to this variety because the plants grow so large. (A friend once said of their size, "Those aren't any ordinary Brussels sprouts. Those are old growth Brussels sprouts!") I get mine at Baker Creek, even though they claim this is a dwarf variety.

* Amazing Cauliflower. I've never had much success growing cauliflower, but since we eat a lot of it, and since our new homestead is  more friendly to this cool season crop than anywhere else I've lived, I'm hopeful. Supposedly, this variety matures in 75 days and gives good flavor. I bought my seeds at Territorial Seed.

* Hollow Crown Parsnip. This is the best parsnip I've ever grown. It's sweet after a good frost, and stores well in the soil. (P.S. The crown of the parsnip isn't actually hollow.) You can buy this seed at Baker Creek.

* BeaverLodge Slicer Tomato and Silvery Fir Tree Tomato. To be honest, I've never had a lot of luck growing tomatoes from seed. This is because our growing season isn't long and warm enough to grow them from seed without some artificial lights (for the seedlings) - and I have yet to acquire those lights. But while our growing season is technically rather long here, our weather is also generally cool, which makes tomato-growing a challenge, even with the unheated greenhouse. So I'm really striving to find short-season tomatoes that don't mind a little cooler temps. I chose Beaverlodge because it matures in about 55 days, and is supposed to be abundant. I bought my seed at Territorial. Silvery Fir matures in about 58 days, and is open pollinated. You can also buy this seed at Territorial, too.

Double Purple Orach.
* Double Purple Orach. At our old homestead, I always had a tough time growing spinach; the plants grew, just not abundantly. I should have an easier time with spinach at our new homestead, but it's always nice to have orach on hand, too, because it's less fussy and tends not to bolt (go to seed) as quickly as spinach. The flavor is similar. I've never tried this variety before, but I like the idea of getting some purples into my greens, because the nutrients are slightly different. I got my seed at Territorial.

* Double Yield Cucumber. This is a new variety for me, but promises to not only produce abundantly, but to provide good cucumbers for both pickling and eating fresh. I bought my seed at Territorial.

* Fortex Bea. Beans are among the easiest things to grow, and I've always been pleased with my choices, including Dragon Tongue and Golden Gate. But this year, I'm trying this new-to-me variety, which is supposed to be tall and vigorous, with large bean pods. I bought my seeds at Territorial.

Wild Garden Kale.
* Miner's Lettuce. Miner's lettuce is supposed to grow wild in my general area...but I've never been able to find any. It's high in vitamin C and extremely cold tolerant; it will grow year round in my area. I got my seed at Territorial.

* Wild Garden Kale. We eat a ton of kale, and this mix from Siberia is a real winner in my garden, year after year. There are some nice variations in color (light green, purple, red, and blue-green) and leaf shape - and while all kale is cold tolerant, this mix is especially so. I buy the seed at Territorial Seed.