Category: Natural

Quick and Simple Strudel Topping

Quick and Simple Strudel Topping

This quick, easy to do strudel topping is a magical accompaniment to many classics: cheesecake desserts, muffins, pumpkin pie custard, yogurt, whipped cream and berries…the possibilities are limited only to your imagination!

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup brown swerve/sugar
  • 1/2 cup almonds
  • 1 cup pecans
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon

Directions:

Combine in food processor and pulse until smooth. Sprinkle on desired dessert and enjoy!

Crockpot Pumpkin Custard for Thanksgiving

Crockpot Pumpkin Custard for Thanksgiving

I loooooooove pumpkin pie. Seriously. It evokes fond memories of Thanksgivings and Christmases from years past, always at my grandma’s house.

Honestly, though, sometimes I don’t feel like baking a pie. It’s easier to put it all in a crockpot, add some toppings, and be done with it. Plus, with the addition of an easy strudel and whipped cream or yogurt, I don’t even miss out on the pie! I won’t lie and say that it’s as good as pie, because let’s be honest, nothing is as good as pie, but it’s very close.  

It’s also nice to have the oven free to prepare other dishes. I don’t know about you, but my family always has a ton of dishes waiting in line to go in the oven.

I use a small crockpot for this. If you want to serve this for a large gathering, simply double the recipe. 

Ingredients:

  • 1 can pumpkin puree
  • 6 eggs
  • 8 tbsp avocado oil, or melted coconut oil, butter, ghee, other cooking fat of choice
  • 1 cup granulated sweetener (stevia, erythritol, monkfruit) 
  • 4 tbsp honey (optional)
  • 1 tbsp molasses 
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • 1 tsp vanilla or maple extract
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice or 1 tbsp cinnamon + 1/8 tsp allspice + 1/8 tsp nutmeg 

Directions:

  1. Grease crockpot.
  2. Whisk or blend eggs until thick and foamy.
  3. Beat in sweetener.
  4. Add vanilla/maple extract and pumpkin puree and beat. 
  5. Add coconut flour, spices, salt, and oil. Beat until well mixed.
  6. Optional: At this stage my kids are starting to get mad and impatient that they can’t eat it for hours. Scoop a small amount into a microwave safe container (such as these silicon ramekins) and microwave for 1 minute and serve to the impatient ones. 
  7. Pour mixture into crockpot and wiggle a little to distribute evenly. Insert a paper towel underneath the lid to collect condensation. Set crockpot on low.
  8. Cook 2:30-3:00 hours. Mine usually takes 3xaround 2 hours and 40 minutes.
  9. Serve with this strudel, this whipped cream, a dollop of vanilla ice cream, yogurt, or kefir. 

I know my spice blend isn’t technically pumpkin spice, but I prefer it in some ways. I like the cinnamon to be prominent and here’s some heresy for you: I don’t really like the overpowering notes of ginger or clove in some traditional pumpkin spice mixes.

Remember to Love

Remember to Love

Valentine’s day is fast approaching, and a lot of us have LOVE on our minds because of it. Many of us have a spouse, partner, child, parent, friend, classmate or coworker in mind to share the spirit of the holiday with–which is wonderful(obviously). Love is wonderful.

Don’t forget, though, to show love to everyone else that you meet. We’re all brothers and sisters, after all–we’re all here, in this same brief moment in time on this same planet earth together. And we all get this one chance. One chance to smile at the stranger as you walk by. One chance to say hi. One day, one time, one life to see the beauty of every single moment and every single person and live in it.

What is life without light, without sharing love and hope?

In the words of the Beatles, “All you need is love.” Or the Youngbloods:

“Come on, people now,

Smile on your brother

Everybody get together

Try to love one another right now.”

Seriously, take a step back outside of yourself and look at the big picture here. What the heck are we doing here on this big, beautiful planet besides destroying itself and each other? Why have we chosen destruction of ourselves and one another? And, perhaps most importantly, what is it all going to lead to–what’s going to happen to everything and everyone around us continuing down this path?

That’s just insanity. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

Electing a president isn’t the answer. Drawing illusory lines, putting up walls, running away, not the answer. Only One thing will rectify the chaos.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”

This year, 2020, year of clarity, perfect vision, dig deep inside and find your light. Find your fountain of neverending love. We all have it. Love yourself, love your family, love thy enemy. Love thy neighbor as thyself–there’s no difference except for the flesh and blood that you perceive.

Follow the light within, it will not lead you astray.

Series: Natural Sugars (Part 2)

Series: Natural Sugars (Part 2)

This week we’re going to take a look at a ton of natural sugar alternatives. These substances are caloric and contain sugar in natural forms.

Natural sugar options can be complicated. On one hand, they’re sugar, and sugar is sugar no matter where it’s coming from, but on the other hand, some of them have benefits. Let’s take a look.

Honey, raw honey, hackberries, pomegranate, and Texas persimmons.

Honey

Most of us know of honey’s antimicrobial properties. It’s therapeutic uses are enough for me to keep a large jar of raw honey in my pantry. Raw honey has antioxidants, minerals, vitamins, amino acids, and enzymes that processed honey doesn’t. Raw honey also has a much lower glycemic index than processed–30ish vs 75ish–and tastes much better (that’s just my opinion).

When someone has a sore throat in our house, they either get hot tea with honey in it or a special slushie with honey. It can be used for other purposes, too. I’ll be honest (and gross), I’ve even used manuka honey for a drawing salve for staph with good results.

Maple syrup

Most of us can agree that maple syrup is delicious. I haven’t had it in a while, but it’s one of my favorite sugars flavor-wise. It’s got a moderate glycemic index, mid 50s. Nutritionally it’s got a few minerals. I usually steer clear of it, mostly because I still have lots of weight to lose and health to gain. If I were in great shape and super healthy, though, I would probably keep a bottle around.

Coconut sugar/Palm sugar

These seem to be pretty popular in the Paleo stratosphere. The GI is fairly low, 30s-40s, and the nutritional value is decent. Honestly, though, I tried it a few times and just wasn’t into it. I’m not even really sure why, but I certainly don’t think I’m missing out by avoiding a sugar that I didn’t enjoy using.

Molasses

Molasses is the byproduct of extracting plain white table sugar from sugar cane. The good thing about this is that molasses contains all the nutritional value that table sugar doesn’t, including iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, copper and zinc. The flavor of molasses is pleasant, both complex and earthy. We keep a bottle of it around for homemade BBQ sauce, pulled pork,  and other various recipes. We don’t use it often, but when you need it there’s not really anything great to substitute for it.

Agave nectar 

Okay, here it is: agave nectar is AWFUL! I remember the “health” world going crazy for it a while back, which is just nuts. It’s got nothing going for it nutritionally, the natural glycemic index of it is midline 50s, and processing techniques increase that. It’s 85% fructose–that’s higher than corn syrup, for goodness sake! Agave nectar is a prime example of the fact that not everything touted as “natural” is better or healthier. Like, honestly, there’s no reason to ever eat this stuff, it’s going straight to your liver.

Fruits

Oh, man, fruits are so tough. On one hand, they’re delicious, but on the other, they’re sugar. I know that when I’m eating fruit I want more fruit (sugar addiction and craving cycles!) and my kids are the same way. Honestly, I let my kids have fruit about once a week. Usually we stick to whatever we can get high nutritional value from, such as berries. Dates have a great nutritional profile, too. We have been foraging for wild Texas persimmons and hackberries lately, which is great fun and the kids really enjoy getting to eat what they collect. I’m all about that nature stuff, y’know.

Yacon syrup

Yacon is a little known, fairly new thing. It doesn’t raise blood glucose, but contains fructose. Supposedly it tastes similar to caramel. The nutritional profile is supposedly pretty good. There’s not a whole lot out there about it yet. When I lose a bit of weight I’ll have to give it a taste–the fructose is obviously not ideal, but it’s low enough that I would consider trying it once.

SA Outdoor Adventures for Kids

SA Outdoor Adventures for Kids

Hey, hey, hey! Today, as with many August days here in San Antonio, it’s nice and sweltering. Sure, it may get down to 90, but you’d never know it with the humidity. Of course, the heat keeps us indoors in an attempt to avoid it a lot of the time, but it’s still important to get out and go somewhere. I’m a serious believer in the importance of exposure to nature for so many reasons, so we always try to go out and explore outside a couple of times a week.

Here’s my personal list of what makes something a great day (morning or afternoon) destination:

$$$–is it cheap, or even better, free?

Will my small children be happy there?

Safety, weather, and you know, preparedness things

We moved back in February, so I have certainly not scoped out the hottest mom spots in San Antonio by any means, but here’s our favorite spots to kill some time outside with the kid monsters!

1. Guadalupe River State Park

Okay, so not in the city, I know. But hear me out! This beautiful state park is easy to get to, just a drive up Blanco Road to 46. In addition it’s extremely family friendly: they have camping, hiking, a playground (currently closed, boo), a children’s discovery center, a ton of picnic tables, and of course, swimming. There’s deeper water for parents and older kids, but for smaller children there’s also a wonderful section of shallow water. My water-timid 3 year old gets to play and splash around without being worried here. We like to take a big mat and lounge in the shade. Hands down my favorite spot to cool off.

$$$–We have a state parks pass so it’s worth it for us to go. If you don’t, you will have to pay a day use fee.

Happy kids? Very. Always have a hard time leaving.

Preparation–sunscreen (please use a non-toxic kind!), swimsuits, shade, water, snacks, water shoes (don’t underestimate how painful river rocks can be on bare feet), and whatever water safety devices you feel appropriate.

2. Phil Hardberger Park

If you’ve never been to Hardberger Park with your kids it’s definitely worth a trip. This place is huge and even has two entrances, one on Blanco Rd and one on Military. There are dog parks and playgrounds on each side near the parking lots. In addition, the hiking trails just can’t be beat. There’s a large picnic area on each side, benches on some of the trails, and even a large overlook. We go hiking here a couple of times a week and always have a great time. Sometimes we do nature scavenger hunts here while hiking to engage the kids.

$$$–free

Happy kids? Usually. Sometimes a kid gets mad that she has to walk or ride in the stroller instead of being carried.

Preparation–sunscreen (or sun hat and sleeves), water

3. San Antonio Zoo + Brackenridge Park

We purchased zoo memberships as soon as we moved. It was a no brainer for us, we went to the LA Zoo all the time in California, and it wasn’t even particularly close! The girls absolutely love it. And with all the fun enclosures (sorry, animals) and features I can’t blame them. Plus, summer animatronic dinosaurs! You can take a (very short) ride on the carousel, see the pigs and goats at the petting zoo or ride the train. You could spend hours in the splashpad area. There’s all sorts of outdoor things over in the kid’s area, including adorable mini benches. There’s even a small discovery center for the kiddos. If that’s not enough (and let’s be real, you might be beat, but the munchkins have some magical reserve of energy just for moments like this) Brackenridge park is right outside!

$$$–just buy a membership. If you go twice it’s worth it.

Happiness factor? Kids always enjoy it. Even Matt and I are usually glad we went. Exhausted, but glad.

Preparation–sun protection, water

4. Eisenhower Park

I really enjoy this place. There are more difficult hiking trails if that’s what you’re looking for, easy paved trails if you need something simpler. There are nice, wooded trails, too. I like taking the double stroller here. There’s a nice little playground and a large climbing wall for older kids.

$$$–free

Fun level–decent. My kids are always happy if they get to play on a playground.

Preparation–sun protection, water

5. Orsinger Park

Now you should have a very good idea of where I live! This is our basic time-killing place. It’s got a large pavillion for events, bathrooms, a sandbox, and a very large, nice playground. Karissa is obsessed with the sandbox, but Madilyn always has to be coaxed into playing in the sand. There’s lots of lovely cedar elms and picnic tables scattered throughout the grove behind the play equipment. We always go for a little walk through the trails, too.

$$$–free (ca-ching!)

Happy? Oh, so very happy.

Preparation–a diligent parent might bring hydration? I usually don’t…eek. It’s okay, though, because water fountains.

Big Kid Bonus: Tom Slick Park

I’ve only been here once, but the playground was awesome. It was definitely better for older kids, but the play equipment was shaded and I was impressed. There’s a lake with a nice, easy trail to walk, exercise equipment, and what I’m pretty sure was a baseball diamond. This one is on the west side but was a really fun adventure.

$$$–free

Happiness–thumbs up

Preparation–sun protection, water

 

Luxury Multipurpose Body and Hair Oil (and Makeup Remover!)

Luxury Multipurpose Body and Hair Oil (and Makeup Remover!)

Okay, so I don’t really do makeup much. I’m not well-versed in the cosmetics and beauty scene. However, I do like herbs and I like making my own stuff, so sometimes I make my own skincare products.

This can be used as a general facial cleanser with cotton pads. It can also be used as a natural makeup remover.

When I wipe my face with cotton pads after applying, it’s amazing to see how mich comes off on the pad. I don’t know how everyone else’s skin works, but if I have something like a pimple on my face and use this stuff for a day or two it clears right up.

Supplies:

  • A carrier oil (olive oil or coconut oil are great)–I really prefer coconut oil because I like the solid set at the end for easy application.
  • Dry herbs or essential oils: I like calendula, rose petals, chamomile, lavender, and jasmine flowers. Some other great additions include clove, thyme, sage, rosemary, and peppermint.
  • A way to slow-heat your oil. I use a  double boil technique with a glass bowl on the stove.
  • Cheesecloth
  • A small mason jar

Steps:

1. Select your oil and dry herbs. I like using ingredients that are well known for their anti-inflammatory properties, as well as cleansing and nourishing.

2. In a glass bowl, combine oil and dry herbs. Place inside a small pot or pan with about an inch of water. The water should not be touching the bowl.

3. Heat until water boils. Allow herbs to infuse for as long as you can possibly wait (mine is usually 1-2 hours, simply because I’m not patient). Make sure the pot always has water.

4. Remove glass bowl from pot. Remove from heat. Using your cheesecloth, strain the herbs out of the oil into your mason jar.

5. Add some essential oils if you like. Make sure to do this after the oil is off the heat, since essential oils are volatile.

6. Enjoy your new, luxurious oil!

Top Ten Baby Shower Gifts

Top Ten Baby Shower Gifts

We are just emerging from baby territory into young kids and it wasn’t long ago that we were having gifts showered upon us in preparation for an entire new phase of our lives.

Karissa is officially a kid and Madi, sadly, is no longer a baby in many ways. It’s a very bittersweet thing. But because we are fresh out of baby phase, I definitely still know what my favorite baby products are.

Disclosure: some of the supplies linked are affiliate links, meaning that, at no additional cost to you, I will receive a commission if you use this link to make a purchase. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

1. Diapers

This is the practical parent in me speaking! Unless someone is doing EC, they’re going to need a ton of diapers. Why not give them a bit of a head start! We were given many, many different varieties and sizes of diapers at our baby showers for Karissa, and we didn’t have any left over. My favorites at the time were the Honest Company, they seemed comfortable enough, baby friendly, lots of cute prints/patterns, and most importantly (in my opinion), they didn’t leak like a lot of the other natural brands did. Since our kids are older now, I’ve actually changed to cheaper diapers, HEB store brand or Pampers depending on where we’re shopping.

2. Animal Pacifiers

I’ve written in depth about my experience with losing my breastmilk when Karissa was young. Because of this, she used a pacifier as a soothing mechanism frequently for a few months while we adjusted to the situation. I was bound and determined not to use pacifiers in our lives, but let’s be honest, sometimes life doesn’t care about our plans.

It only seemed natural to make sure that Madilyn had a pacifier that she liked, just in case. We settled on this cute moose pacifier  pretty quickly, and she loved it! Neither of my kids used pacifiers for long, maybe 2-4 months, but Madi still carried it around as a dear toy and chewing device for a long time. Worth every cent.

3. Books

We have a million books in our house. We have so many, in fact, that recently I made some cardboard bookshelves to try and keep them from being thrown across the floor every day. Which didn’t work, by the way–now the kids just take pleasure in removing them from the shelves to peruse and then toss on the floor. Argh.

Anyway, books are a great way to get a child interested in learning! I try really hard to read to the girls every day, and when I’m just not feeling it thankfully their dad steps in and handles things.

Some of our family favorites include: Little Yellow Bee, the GruffaloBlue Hat Green Hat, Dinosaur Dance (most Sandra Boynton), Hand Hand Fingers Thumb, Mr. Paint Pig, Karen Katz lift the flaps, If You Give A Mouse A Cookie

4. Baby Carrier/Sling

Hands down the number one most used item in my day to day life every day for the last (almost) three years is a ring sling. A family member gifted me a wonderful Maya wrap for Karissa’s baby shower and I was instantly in love. I actually ended up buying a second one, a lightweight summer sling, and a water sling.

Matt and I both tried many varieties of carriers and the ring sling is what we were both most comfortable with. The learning curve is so-so, but once you figure out how to comfortably sit baby in one it’s so fast and easy. I personally couldn’t do any of the front carriers well and I had a Moby wrap that I genuinely tried to get the hang of, but the way she sat in it always felt unstable for me. User error, surely. A big plus to the ring sling for me was that the kid sits on one side/hip, so my dominant hand and other side remained largely free. Usually it’s helpful for doing whatever work I’m trying to do or carry the other kid.

5. Multipurpose Healing Balm/Diaper Ointment

We use Kuumba Made salve for EVERYTHING. Any cut, rash, itch, or skin problem at all gets this salve slathered all over it. It’s just wonderful to not have to worry about having multiple tubes of stuff for different purposes when one great concoction will do the trick.

6. The Nosefrida

The Nosefrida is the modern parent’s solution to the uncomfortable problem of snot and congestion. This wonderful device replaces a traditional bulb syringe and is, in my opinion, easier to use and easier to clean.

7. Toys: Manhattan Toys, blocks, musical Caterpillar

This ridiculous caterpillar lived in our house until the batteries finally died, and then for a year after that, that’s how popular he was. As babies the girls both just loved the little mirror and the tune he played, and frequently it was the only thing that would calm them down when upset.

Some other wonderful toys for young ones include almost anything from Manhattan toys: we had the winkel rattle, classic baby beads, skwish classic rattle, and bababall. The bababall is still very popular with everyone for throwing because mom doesn’t get mad if soft toys are thrown in the house. These blocks are also still very popular. Blocks are really great. We used Megabloks for a while but swapped them out for Duplos now because I really like the size and options better.

Now that the kids are older, this LeapFrog music player, dubbed “the green thing”, is the most popular toy around. Someone gave this to Karissa when she was really young and soon after Madilyn was able, they began to fight over it. We actually bought a second one, which I kid you not to my horror perished in an open cup of water about two weeks after we bought it. We finally replaced the one that we lost with a pink one, which is now the “pink green thing”. The original one, now nearly 3 years old, is on it’s last legs, so I am both amused and embarrassed to admit that serious talks have begun on whether or not to buy another “pink green thing” to replace the original. I am probably making a mistake in revealing the most popular toy in our house, because we seem to heavily rely on Amazon’s stock of these and may rely on it until our kids turn 18 and move out of the house.

 

8. O Ball

My aunt gave us the O Ball  when Karisssa was 3 months old and uh honestly, I wasn’t all that excited. I mean, I got the concept of it, but it seemed really lackluster. So very, very wrong. This wonderful contraption mounts onto strollers, carseats, rockers, and probably bouncers (don’t know, never tried one) and so many things can be attached to it! This was a wonderful distraction for a year or so for Karissa, and then about 3 months for Madi because her sister would come over and take the toys that were hanging away from her.

This pairs wonderfully with the musical caterpillar from earlier. There were many, many hours of musical caterpillar hanging on O Ball when Karissa was small.

9. Rocker or bouncer

A lot of hours were also spent, for both of my girls, in a rocker a lot like this one. I can’t find the actual one that we used, I guess the latest and greatest model has replaced it. Any time I needed my hands free I could put them in here, usually with the O Ball to play with, and feel confident that they were comfortable and secure. Some naps were even taken in here, huzzah!

10. Money

I know, money is such a lame gift, but if you don’t know what they need they will be ever grateful for the donation.

Bird Seed Sensory Play

Bird Seed Sensory Play

Well, sometimes it’s hard to keep your kiddos actively engaged, isn’t it? My younger daughter loves cups and pouring, usually with water, but sometimes I don’t want to deal with 2 soaking wet girls when it’s all over.

HEB had a coupon for a free bag of bird seed, which is just perfect for playing with! We can go sit outside and play as long as we like with it, then just sweep it into the yard when we’re done. No worries.

Supplies:

Bird seed

Buckets, cups, spoons, shovels, whatever else you think might be fun to play with

Kids

Steps:

Kind of a no brainer here. Just divide up your bird seed into small tubs or buckets and distribute play equipment. Being outside is a good idea. My older daughter doesn’t share well, so I have to split everything evenly.

Have fun with this relatively messless sensory activity!

Educational Nature Scavenger Hunt

Educational Nature Scavenger Hunt

Learning about nature and understanding the outdoors is an important and often underestimated component of a well rounded education. My children love to be outside, but on the rare occasion that they need a little bit of motivation to get moving, this is what we use!

A nature scavenger hunt is an ideal way to get kids outdoors, moving, and engaged in the world around them. It encourages development of motor skills, spatial awareness, and identification skills. I am always astonished at their ability to identify and remember information about plants and animals that we do this with.

My girls are 1 1/2 and 2 1/2, so short and simple works best for us right now. If your children are older a longer list will work better.

You will need:

Paper (I use standard 8 1/2 x 11)
Colored pencils, clip art, or printed pictures

Google for some quick facts

Pen or dry erase marker

(Optional) Laminator or water protective sheet cover and tape

Making the List:

Choose the objects, plants, or animals to be found. I enjoy doing plant hunts, so a plant themed list for us might look like this:

Acorn

Catbriar

Elm leaf

Oak leaf

Dewberry leaf

Wood sorrel

A mixed list might look something like this:

Squirrel

Cactus pad

Sunflower

Flint

Cardinal

Butterfly

Have fun and be creative. The more fun you have the more they will enjoy it, too.
Hand draw, insert clip art, or print pictures and place them on a sheet of paper as a visual guideline. I like to hand draw, even though I’m not the best at it, because it helps demonstrate that what you’re looking for will not always look the same and encourage critical thinking. Print the name of the object next to the image.

On the back it’s great to include some information about the things that you’re looking for. Hit up google or Wikipedia for two or three interesting tidbits. I find that engaging in conversation about the hunt really excites my 2 1/2 year old and stimulates her curiosity much more than just telling her what to look for. So, for example, I might put:

Acorn: Nuts of oak trees. Can be processed to make flour.

Catbriar: climbing vine with tendrils and thorns. Soft tips can be eaten.

Elm: Grow very tall. mistletoe likes to grow on elm trees.

Oak: Oak trees grow acorns. Wood is used for building.

Dewberry: small, thorny shrub. Relative of blackberries. White flowers turn into edible berries.

Wood sorrel: commonly mistaken for clover. Has heart shaped leaves. Leaves and flowers taste like lemon.

Laminate:

Laminate the scavenger hunt page if you have access to a laminator so that you can check the list off with a dry erase marker as you go. You can forego laminating if you want to use a plastic sheet protector and tape the top. I like to reuse these, and they can be customized appropriately for your location. In California, for example, we found pine cones and sweet gum seed pods, but in central Texas those things are notably absent, so they’ve been replaced with local flora.

I skipped this step because I do not have a laminator and can’t find my sheet protectors.

The Hunt:

Take your (hopefully) eager participant out into the great outdoors and turn them loose.

If you are on private property it’s really fun to collect the items that are collectible as you go. Afterwards we set the page down, lay the objects on top over the pictures, and talk about everything we found. This is a great way to engage in active learning with the kids–lots of times I’m learning along with them!

If you’re in a state park or other similar location, however, you may have to simply check your list off as you go and take pictures if you can. My daughters really love talking about everything we saw on our walks, so I highly encourage you to review afterwards.

Safety Tips:

I do think that a list of things to be cautious of is very important to cover at some point. Snakes, scorpions, ticks, wasps, and centipedes are obvious dangers, but some inconspicuous aggressors may lurk in the underbrush. Plants that might be listed include poison ivy, oak, or sumac, cactuses, agave, giant hogweed, and hemlock. Things like lilies, oleander, datura, and azaleas are commonly used in landscaping and are lovely, but toxic. Children as well as adults should be aware of this.

Use caution with any kind of foraging/edible information with kids. I’ve had problems with my older girl wanting to eat stuff outside when I’m not looking, so I’ve been withholding that kind of stuff for now or only under supervised situations.

It’s always a good idea to have a safe word for when you’re out and about. We use “hot” as an all-encompassing signal for danger. (This was a tip from Merriwether at http://www.foragingtexas.com/)

Happy Hunting!

Originally written as an Instructable: https://www.instructables.com/id/Educational-Nature-Scavenger-Hunt/

Succulent Spring

Succulent Spring

It’s my first spring in Texas in years, and I am brimming with excitement just witnessing the bluebonnets and indian paintbrushes bursting with color.

I’m a firm believer in natural living–food, medicine, housekeeping, cosmetics, and whatnot. I also tend to follow an evolutionary-style diet consisting of meat, nuts and seeds, plants, eggs, and some dairy. I shouldn’t eat dairy, really: we know that it hinders weight loss, interferes with hormones, exacerbating hypothyroidism, and most adults can’t digest it properly. These are just the reasons why I personally sshouldn’t be eating it, but my tastebuds oftentimes win that battle.

I digress. One thing I really feel is important is being involved in growing or procuring your own food. When we can hunt and keep chickens we plan to (right now it’s just not possible). We have a few hanging baskets and boxes right now for our temporary setup.

But here’s some food for thought: what is more natural than the food already growing outside your door? The weeds that many people seek to eradicate can often be a wonderful and free food or medicine. Truth be told, this is the real reason that spring makes me feel so invigorated. What else can make you feel so primal as foraging the woods for food (perhaps hunting and fishing)? I’m going to share a few easy, basic foods that can be found right now. Quick disclaimer: never eat something that you cannot 100% identify, people make themselves incredibly sick or die doing this.

Dandelion

Dandelion in our front yard

Dandelion means “lion’s tooth” from the deeply toothed leaf structure it bears. They thrive in disturbed soil and cracks and crevices. The hairless, smooth leaves can be eaten raw or cooked, but are best before flowering occurs. Flower petals can be sprinkled in salads for color and flavor or be fried, steamed, or boiled. Some even use flowers to make a wild wine. The root can be used as any cooked root vegetable, and is sometimes roasted and ground up for use as a coffee subsitiute. There are no toxic look alikes.

Yucca Flower

Yucca without flowers

I love yucca flowers, they’re definitely one of my favorite wild foods. My favorite edible part is the flower petals, which are best picked when they first open. I love to throw them in anything that I’m stir-frying. The flavor can vary depending on the variety of yucca–I’ve eaten spicy, horseradish-like petals and mild, cauliflower-like petals. The unopened flower bud and the fruit of some varieties are supposed to be edible as well, but I have never tried this.

Wood Sorrel

Growing between rocks

Oh, wonderful, lemony oxalis. My 2 and a half year old calls this plant “lemon taste,” and it’s a fight to keep her away from it. The entire plant is edible and tastes like lemon. It is commonly mistakenly called clover. Wood sorrel has beautiful flowers that add great color to salads. One day I plan on using these as a topping for something like lemon cake, I think that would be delightful. Contain oxalic acid, so do not eat more than a few leaves at a time. The tubers can be used like carrots. Note the heart shaped leaves, which help identify this plant.

Dewberry

Dewberry leaves and flowers

It isn’t quite the season for these yet, but the vines and flowers are sprawling. Now is the right time to make a mental note of everywhere you see the beautiful white flowers so that you can go back for berries later! I grew up picking these off of vines in our field, taking them home to wash, and devouring all that I could.

They are like scrubby, lanky blackberries. They are ripe when they turn black, but can usually be found easily among red, unripe berries. Be careful for the thorns! They also sometimes tend to grow where poison oak or poison ivy like to grow as well. I do believe that you can probably make tea out of the leaves, but I have never tried.

Agarita

Agarita leaves

Another addition that isn’t quite ready for harvesting yet but I just had to include is the thorny-foliaged agarita bush. This unique plant protects it’s bounty with spiked leaves in bunches of three–anyone who has encountered one knows exactly what I’m talking about. The yellow blossoms exude an intoxicating sweet scent in the spring before turning into little green berries that ripen red. The ripe berries are edible, though I remember them being a bit tart (I haven’t had one in nearly 20 years, but I’m going all out this year). They supposedly make great wild jam. The wood and root of agarita contain a compound called berberine which is medicinal.

Knowing your environment and understanding everything that surrounds you is such a lost art. I want my children to understand where their food comes from–it doesn’t magically appear in a grocery store. Someone grows it, someone raises the chickens that lay those eggs, someone else slaughters the animal that we eat. Having a hand in growing and procuring your own sustenance is something that every human should be involved in. Anyway, I’m not going to preach any more, I just think that free, wild, nutritious food is something to be considered. If it does happen to interest you there are some great resources out there (I’ve included some below).


Mark Vorderbruggen, aka Merriweather, is one of the nicest guys I’ve talked to and really knows his stuff. Texas area: http://www.foragingtexas.com/?m=1

Green Deane is based in Florida but is knowledgable all around, and very famous because of it. Extremely thorough with his plant profiles: http://www.eattheweeds.com

Samuel Thayer, genius in the field: https://www.foragersharvest.com

Steve Brill was arrested for eating a dandelion in Central Park! I really love how well his website is laid out: https://www.wildmanstevebrill.com

Christopher Nyerges was featured on the first season of Doomsday Preppers (don’t hold it against him), which is how I heard of him. We took an acorn processing class with him when Karissa was young and he is great. Southern California area: http://www.christophernyerges.com/index.htm