foraging, The Great Outdoors

Foraging for Blackberries & Elderberries {and what I made with them}

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Ah berries. One of summer’s sweetest, yummiest and healthiest gifts. Berry picking in the summer always brings back wonderful memories for me.

Did you pick berries in the summer as a child? If so, you probably remember the sweltering heat, berry stains on your fingers, pesky bugs and sneaking some fruit before it made it into the bowl.

And when you take the berries home…oh then the fun begins. Party with the berries! Haha. There is really nothing that compares with those fresh, juicy treats.

What to do with them?

I’m really into foraging (I’m sure you haven’t noticed 😉) Foraging in itself is great fun. Even better is a chance to preserve that harvest a bit longer and turn it into something scrumptious.

The photos below show the progression of the elderberry tree from flower to fruit.

The elderberries pictured are from harvest #1 and the blackberries are from harvest #2. And there are still more berries! It’s good to leave some for the “critters” anyways ☺

 

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Now I had some berries. I had nearly 2 cups total and then I did a little research.

Ugh.

Many of the elderberries I had painstakingly plucked were not ripe enough. None were green, but some were red and I didn’t want to make anyone sick by using underripe berries.

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Ripe berries are on the left, unripe on the right. The difference is subtle but important enough to take note of. ⤵⤵

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After properly separating the berries, I decided on making a syrup as per the recipe for Elderberry Syrup on the blog Wayward SparkI loosely followed the recipe and ended up with a tasty finished product. 😋

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Here’s what I did. I ended up with a little less than 1 cup of ripe berries. I had a few blackberries in there after *cough* eating some.

They were then mashed a bit, boiled, simmered and strained through cheesecloth.

At this point I had a bit less than 1/4 cup of juice. I neglected to add water at the beginning so I added a bit to make it a full 1/4 cup.

I added a small splash of lemon juice and 1/8 cup of raw honey to the warm juice and then froze attempted to freeze it.

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Psyche! Honey won’t freeze. Good try though I guess. *pats self on the back* I tried to make an apple and elderberry jelly earlier this week and I ended up with caramel-elderberry flavored candy! 😰 Boo. I like these results better.

There it will sit, in the freezer. I’ll take a bit as a tonic now and again to keep colds and flu away. Isn’t it awesome that elderberries can do that?

Ever wondered why?

This article from Huff Post says that the pigments, or “molecular chains known as anthocyanins…[are] capable of preventing viruses from reproducing and infecting new cells. They also kill many of the bacteria that cause chest and respiratory infections.”.

Cool, eh? Nature’s little wonder, the humble elderberry.

Hope you guys are having a good summer ☺ Have you had a chance to go berry picking yet this season?

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A few helpful references for you

https://www.talesfromthekitchenshed.com/2016/09/harvesting-elderberries-picking-preserving-recipes/

(Lots of info on harvesting and preserving.)

http://waywardspark.com/2013-food-preservation-season-elderberry-syrup/

(Recipe I followed.)

Food, Snacks

Super Easy Peanut Butter, Oat & Cinnamon Cookies {no-bake, gluten-free, dairy-free and no refined sugar}

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These cookies have taken me for a stroll down memory lane. You can relax though…no long stories (today that is haha).

I remember eating these cookies when I was pregnant with my daughter (she’s now 2). I needed a quick snack with some protein to get me through some of those rough days. (Pregnancy isn’t all rainbows…sometimes you hate eating protein and can’t stand around a hot kitchen for long…oh the fun.)

Nowadays I have different nutritional needs. I’ve recently been trying to go gluten-free because I’ve been noticing some food sensitivity after eating wheat products.

This morning I wanted toast so much. I haven’t jumped into the gluten-free bread melee just yet. So gluten-free bread there was none.

But I thought hmm…maybe I can whip up some breakfast cookies.

So I hopped on Pinterest and looked up the No Bake Healthy Breakfast Cookies, from Chelsea’s Messy Apron.

I changed things up a bit and the result is the recipe that you will see below.

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Super Easy Peanut Butter, Oat & Cinnamon Cookies

Prep/hands on time: 15 minutes or less

Difficulty: Easy

Serves: 4-6 (maybe 😉)

 

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup natural creamy peanut butter
  • 2 Tablespoons raw honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • a few sprinkles pink Himalayan salt
  • *1/2 cup plain cheerios, crushed
  • **1/4 cup oat flour
  • 1/2 cup quick oats

*I put some cheerios in a ziplock bag and crunched them up with a heavy glass cup.

**I like to make a bunch of oat flour in the blender so I don’t have to make it every time. Then I sift it through a mesh strainer to get a fine texture.

Directions

  1. Place cheerios, oat flour, quick oats and salt in a medium sized bowl. Set aside.
  2. Measure the peanut butter, honey, vanilla and salt into a medium saucepan.
  3. Set heat to medium high and stir till melted and thoroughly mixed. (Or you can use a microwave to melt the ingredients.)
  4. Pour and scrape the melted peanut butter mixture into the bowl you set aside and stir it into the dry ingredients until thoroughly mixed.
  5. Shape into 16 or so small balls.
  6. Place on a plate and dust with cinnamon.
  7. Flatten and criss-cross with a fork.
  8. Eat!

 

Price Breakdown:

It cost me $1.54 to make 16 of these cookies. That’s only a little under 10¢ per cookie!

Enjoy!

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foraging, The Great Outdoors

More Spring Foraging Fun: Dandelion, Violet and Skunk Cabbage

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Dandelions

There are a ton of things that can be done with this common “weed”. You can use all parts of this plant. Blossoms, leaves, roots.

I’ve blogged about my experiences with roasted dandelion root tea. And as I’ve been expanding my garden this year, I’ve saved all the roots I’ve found for tea making.

I’ve also added some greens to my salads. They are best (I feel) when they are very tiny. Otherwise they are a bit too bitter for my liking.

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This time of year, I’m concentrating more on the blossoms. A few days ago I (with help) picked a ton of flowers. Why so many, you ask?

Here’s a few reasons:

  1. Dandelion wine
  2. Dandelion salve
  3. Dandelion bath blend
  4. Baked goods with dandelion
  5. Dandelion jelly

I (again, with help!) picked the petals from enough flowers to get 3 quarts needed for wine-making. Then I filled up my dehydrator and dried as much of the rest as I could. (5 hours @ 135ºF.)

I picked the petals from those flowers and stored them away for later use in salve and bath blends.

 

Violets

Aside from their obvious beauty, here’s another reason, nutrition-wise, why violets are so awesome….

According to Euell Gibbons in his book Stalking the Healthful Herbs, just one half-cup of violet blossoms have as much vitamin C as 4 oranges!

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I haven’t done a lot with violets thus far aside from eat them in salads. But I would like to try to make a violet syrup, as well as dry some for bath blends and tea.

 

Skunk Cabbage

For the record, I did not eat any. Just want to get that out there haha.

Story time. There is a creek bed not far from my home that has these absolutely gigantic plants that fill the area, beginning in early spring.

I have been dying to know what they were. I knew they looked like cabbage. I asked everybody. I asked google. I asked my grandma. Could not find out…what it was.

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And then I read a very entertaining chapter (again from Stalking the Healthful Herbs, by Euell Gibbons) all about skunk cabbage.

I smelled a fresh cut leaf. It did have a bit of an odor, but not as intense as I thought. It did smell a bit like actual cabbage and a bit skunky. My husband agreed with the verdict.

How about you? Have you seen any interesting looking plants about?

Happy Spring everyone!

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foraging, The Great Outdoors

Two Ways to Eat Chickweed {spring foraging fun}

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It was about 2 weeks ago and I decided it was time. After a long, dreary winter that never seemed to want to stop…it was time to commence spring foraging.

I’ve been watching, waiting…observing the subtle signs that spring whispers to those who choose to listen.

Robins. Little green sprouting things poking through the earth.

Buds forming on the trees in my backyard.

Geese flying through the sky.

The sweet spring sun has come. Easter has passed and brought joy in so many different ways.

I’ve always seen Easter as the tipping point for the winter season. February is that first ray of hope and then it’s Easter and I think, “Almost. We’re almost there. Full blown spring is quite close”.

And it’s a time of celebration and joy and thanks for newness of life. All of nature brought together to celebrate the victory of life over death.

Ah me. I’m turning reflective. When this post is to be about foraging. Haha. Continuing.

One of the earliest plants to grow and really thrive in my backyard is chickweed. I’ve recently learned to really love the stuff.

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Until recently, I’ve really only looked at chickweed as a flat spreading weed with tiny leaves and pretty little white flowers. I never considered the benefits of chowing down on it.

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I’ve purchased a few foraging books over the winter. They are:

  • Stalking the Healthful Herbs, by Euell Gibbons
  • Midwest Foraging: 115 Wild and Flavorful Edibles from Burdock to Wild Peach, by Lisa M. Rose.

From those books I learned a myriad of things about the plant in question but mainly:

  1. It is called chickweed because baby chickens/small birds love to eat it.
  2. It has a ton of vitamin C.

It’s easy to find. It’s free. And super-healthy. It has a bland spinach-like taste, but not quite as strong.

Ok great. But how to eat it? Glad you asked 😊 Lately I’ve had 2 ways I love to fix chickweed.

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First off, salad. Here I combined beet greens, a bit of chickweed and some baby dandelion greens. Then I topped it off with some cucumber and radish slices.

It was pretty good and a nice way to get a mixed greens salad without buying a big container of expensive organic salad that I can never seem to finish.

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Next I decided to use a handful of chickweed as the greens in my smoothie. It accompanied frozen bananas, strawberries, quick oats, cocoa powder and almond milk.

And I threw in a few pieces of cantaloupe because I wanted something different.

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And it was! But in a good way. 😊😊 I loved adding in super fresh greens in place of my usual spinach leaves.

**I will post the recipe tomorrow for you guys. 😊🍓🍌🌱

Thus concludes my adventures with chickweed…for now…..

Do you enjoy foraging for spring plants? Any particular plants or recipes you wish to try?

Let me know, I’d love to hear about it. Everyone’s foraging experience is unique and I love learning from others. 😄😄

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Global Eats

Global Eats: Morocco (Part 2,Condiment)

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On Wednesday (2 days ago) I mentioned that my next post on Moroccan food would be a condiment.

And so here we have…

Preserved Lemons!

I was really super intrigued by this idea of preserving citrus. I had read about the process in a preserving book last summer but didn’t attempt it, due to the fact that I had no real use for or ambition to use preserved lemons.

However, in reading through a lot of recipes for Moroccan tagine (slow cooked stew), almost all of them call for a bit of preserved lemon.

I was thinking, “What’s the big deal? Why does it need to be preserved lemon? Can’t I just use lemon juice or something..you know…easier?”.

But what I’m going for is that authentic Morroccan flavor. And as I learned last time with oyster sauce in the recipe for Philippine Ginisang Togue, flavor and authenticity is key.

And so I set out to find a recipe.

And ran into a problem.

Preserved lemons take 4 weeks to make. What?? Yeah. Regarding my time frame I had for the series, I did not have time to make it that way.

The Recipe

And luckily, I found a recipe for Quick Preserved Lemons, from myrecipes.com which has been a lifesaver.

And so I made the preserved lemons, because I was so wanting to make a tagine.

(Bear with me…my picture settings are being glitchy and not allowing me to write captions.)

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I got 2 organic lemons from the store, cut them into quarters and added 2 Tablespoons sea salt (subbed for Kosher salt) and about 1 cup of water.

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Afterwards. Looked kinda gross but smelled heavenly.

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Right after I made it. I imagined the peels would soften as they sat in the salt and juices. (And they did.)

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After sitting in the fridge for a few days. It looks oily but I think that’s just the mix of lemon pulp and saturated salty lemon juice.

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All that remains here is the peel…the actual fruit part is super soft, almost like a cooked onion.

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Lemony Thoughts

I didn’t actually try the lemons themselves but I did try a bit of the..(sauce?) they were preserved in. And I made a face. Because it was super-salty. And super-sour. Big suprise, right?

But it smelled heavenly. The most amazing, sunny and beautiful lemon fragrance.

And now I think I’m beginning to understand why preserved lemon had value. It’s just a way to prolong the harvest of a plentiful seasonal fruit. Much like we make applesauce or strawberry jam here in the U.S.

And I can also see how these lemons will add a bit of the sour in the sweet & sour cooking that is common in Morocco.

Stay tuned for my main dish post next week! It will hopefully be up on Tuesday.

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Food, Global Eats

Global Eats: The Philippines (Part 3, Sauce & Side Dish)

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Welcome to Part 3 of my Global Eats series! This has been a series of posts focused on the food and culture of the Philippines.

Previously in this series I shared:

Post #1-Global Eats: The Philippines (Part 1, Intro)

Post #2-Global Eats: The Philippines (Part 2, Main Dish)

Check it out if you wish! Post #1 will give you a bit of background if you are not familiar with the food/culture of the Philippines.

Today’s post is all about…..

Banana sauce!

I talked a little bit about banana sauce (also known as banana ketchup) in post #1. I mentioned 3 foods unique to the Philippines: ube (purple yam), calamansi (citrus fruit) and banana sauce.

I’ve read that one of the things that banana sauce goes really well with is rice. 

Ok. No problem.

I made the banana sauce first. (Recipe from Serious Eats) It wasn’t too difficult to make. There were quite a few ingredients and about 20 minutes cook time but nothing too hard.

I did leave out the jalapeno and substituted the rum for water. And after cooking, cooling and blending I got this:

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I think it looks like peanut butter.

Then I made up some brown Basmati rice. I think steamed rice is more of a thing in Asian countries but I don’t have the proper equipment for that so the rice was cooked my usual way.

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And you know, I won’t lie…I was fully expecting to not like this.

The sweet banana flavor, mixed with savory, salty, tomato paste, vinegar and ginger? Plus seasonings like allspice? I was not too sure about this.

But you guys…guess what?

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It was incredibly delicious. I had 2 bowls. Seriously.

I’m not sure what it was. It truly did have a ketchupy taste to it. The sweetness I could taste right away, then a combination of flavors, the vinegar and then I could definitely taste a tiny bit of the cloves in the aftertaste.

It is amazing. On its own it was ok. But with rice somehow it was really delicious.

What a cheap and easy way to spruce up a cheap bowl of rice, right? I usually just have butter and salt on mine, or the usual serve it with stir-fry (the Americanized version) or whatnot.

Yum.

Ever had banana sauce on rice? 100% recommend 😄

Stay warm out there!

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p.s.-Next post (and last from this country) will be a special Filipino style dessert 🍮 I’m planning on having it up on Tuesday. Enjoy your weekend!

Food, Snacks

Easy Strawberry-Apple Fruit Leather

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Howdy ya’ll 🙂 Just checking in on this fine Wednesday evening from my beautiful corner of the globe here in the midwestern U.S. Its been super cold lately…one evening it was even -16 with the windchill. Way too cold.

Some of you guys might have even colder winters than that though. I follow a Canadian blogger who said it was like -34 where she lives. What?? How do you even?! Yikes. It’s no wonder people are so incredibly happy come Spring.

Oh Spring! Come early this year! Please do!

Alright enough of my belly-aching and onto the real stuff.

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I don’t know if you remember my post on preserving apples, but in it I included the above picture.

Know what I did with all the peels and leftover bits of puree? Yep I put it all in the blender, made a puree and froze it.

Because I knew I wanted to make fruit leather with my dehydrator.

However…I couldn’t at the time because I had lost my fruit leather tray and was too lazy to find/think up/buy a replacement. So I found it. Yay! That’s what happens when you deep clean 🙂

Now I could finally make some! I took a big tub of apple puree and added it, along with some frozen organic strawberries to my blender to mix it. My ratio was 3 cups apple to 1 cup chopped frozen strawberries.

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This is the puree about halfway through the 4-6 hour drying process.
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Dry texture ontop when finished.
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Shiny texture on bottom when done. My edges were a bit too thick and didn’t dry properly.
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Cut off the underdone parts and the remainder into strips with kitchen scissors.

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These make for a super-delicious snack. My almost 2-year-old daughter agrees. And why not? These fruit strips taste just like candy. They store well too. But that point is irrelevant because they won’t last long!

Do you like fruit leather? Have you ever tried it or maybe made your own at home? If so, what flavors are your favorite? I’d love to try some different flavor combos 😋 🍏🍓🍑🍒

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Beverages, Food, Reflections

Roasted Dandelion Root Tea {First Impressions}

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The foraging adventures continue! I wanted to harvest some dandelion roots this fall with the intention of making roasted dandelion root tea.

It sounded interesting. And every single source said the health benefits of the plant were numerous.

According to learningherbs, dandelion roots are good for liver health. And because the liver affects many other parts of the body, dandelion root helps with a lot of different things. (The recipe I used can be found through the above links as well.)

As livestrong mentions, dandelion root has a lot of potassium and “It also contains high levels of iron, boron, calcium, silicon [and] vitamin C.”

Super-healthy? Sign me up. I can get it for free from my own yard? I’m on it.

And so I grabbed my shovel and I wandered about outside looking for some good-sized dandelion roots. The kids were mostly good enough not to wander too far from sight 🙂

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Here are some of the largest roots from some of the biggest plants. I harvested about 7 or so roots total.
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After scrubbing, chopping and air drying the roots completely they were ready to roast.
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The finished product. I sorted the pieces and discarded the blackened ones. I had exactly 2 Tablespoons the recipe called for.
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Here you can see the difference in color.
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After simmering the dandelion root for about 20 minutes I had a very dark tea, similar in shade to coffee and somewhat similar smelling.
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I blended the liquid with about a Tablespoon butter as directed.

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And then I took a sip. I immediately made a face. It was very bitter. As I expected. Somewhat like coffee but not as…warm? Flavorful?

I had to add things to it to make it drinkable. First, a bit of vanilla, cinnamon and honey.

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It was still too bitter. More honey and a lot of unsweetened vanilla almond milk were added. And then I ended up adding a spoonful of coconut palm sugar before I was happy with the taste.

I’m trying my best to avoid refined sugar. It’s been hit-and-miss so far. But this time…victory 🎉

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Afterwards…heavy on the sweeteners and milk.

Oh my it was so bitter. But tasted rather good in the end.

I couldn’t help but think about bitterness as an emotion, as opposed to a taste.

I remember my son when he tasted cocoa powder for the first time. It smelled like the chocolate he loved but left a bad taste in his mouth.

“Grace given when it feels least deserved is the only antidote for bitter rot.”

from Uninvited, chapter 7, by Lysa TerKeurst.

But tempered with sweetness and mixed into the cookies he loved, the bitterness was transformed. It was the same for the tea. Bitterness transformed was a pleasant thing instead of a thing almost poisonous to swallow.

As I battle bitterness threatening to overwhelm me, this lesson hit quite close to home. I’m grateful for the lesson so gently revealed.

And I enjoyed my cup of tea 🙂

Any coffee drinkers out there? Have you ever tried roasted dandelion root tea? If so, what was your impression?

~Rachel

Food, Main Meal

Delicious Beef & Root Vegetable Soup

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This is a simple supper recipe that I cooked up on Thursday. It turned out surprisingly well. Such is not always the case with my food “experiments”.

And yes, it is hot outside lately. Eat the soup slightly warm with a cold side dish and you have it made. It works.

My family might as well be hobbits. We don’t have hairy feet but we do like to eat a lot. The little ones more so. And we crave simple flavorful food.

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I love simple. I love easy. Sometimes I don’t want to share any recipes ’cause I’m like, “Nah. That’s too easy. Not interesting”. But seriously. This one is surprisingly flavorful and good. I say that because the only seasoning is salt and pepper, yet it tastes like there is more.

We all loved it, except for J, who tends to be a trifle finicky. At least he loves raw carrots. (Suprises me greatly.)

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Work with what you’ve got. I had potatoes, carrots and onions so I used those. Any root veggies typically blend well. Ground turkey is a good sub for ground beef as well. Use what you’ve got. You might be suprised at how well it turns out.


Delicious Beef & Root Vegetable Soup

Ingredients:

  • 2 large white baking potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled, halved and sliced.
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1/2 lb. ground beef
  • 2 beef bouillon cubes (I use Massel 7’s brand)
  • s & p

Directions:

  1. Boil potatoes (cover with at least 2″ of water).
  2. Add the carrots.
  3. Cook the ground beef with the onion until the onion has softened (slightly translucent). While cooking, season with s & p.
  4. Add beef bouillon cubes to soup pot. Dissolve, then add meat mixture.
  5. Let cook 5-10 minutes, or till reduced and tender to your liking.

 

Happy cooking with the po-ta-toes!

~Rachel