LemonGrass Lotion Bars

It’s the middle of what seems to be a never ending cold spell this winter. The fire crackles away and here we sit…ok so I can’t just sit still. Winter air is always dry and with the wood stove in the house it seems worse this year.

I made some awesome lotion bars to pass some time. I don’t like how greasy my hands feel after using regular hand lotion, to the point that I look like a fool only rubbing the backs of my hands together to rub in the lotion. Greasy fingers drive me nuts. The lotion bars I can use on both sides of my hands (Yay!) because it soaks in quickly and doesn’t give me greasy fingers (or sticky feeling like some bars I’ve tried). I can rub some extra on my cracked knuckles without looking like a fool! (another Yay!)

Lotion Bar

I have a few available for sale in my Country Market if you want to give them a try.

*Prices include shipping;

**If your lucky enough to live in the Bemidji and can get me to come to town I can take the shipping cost off (if you live in town contact me directly, ordering online will charge shipping.

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Scratch Baby Food

Scratch Baby Food

There’s a few different schools of thought when it comes to feeding a baby. I will explain mine, in doing so I need to say I am not a doctor, nutritionist, or dietitian. Quite simply a mother who is concerned about her family’s and her own health. I do a lot of research to find what will best fit my families needs.

I planned to nurse through the first year because I don’t trust what is put in  formula. This didn’t happen because I had to take some medication (which I don’t agree with either) so I quit and switched to formula. There a multiple studies stating breast milk is better than formula and vise versa. So pick the studies to sway your way. Bottom  line is nutrition. If mom gets adequate nutrition baby will too. If not, formula can be just as good. (This doesn’t make me feel much better about it. But that’s the way it goes)

Now were are ready for starting solid foods. Yay! This, I have been waiting for. We are in the very beginning of the transition so I will start there. As we move forward I will write about the next stage.

I am doing things a little different in today’s standards. We are not going the cereal route. I find no real good in it. We don’t eat white starches (aside from the occasional potatoes), such as white rice, white flour and refined sugars. By reading the ingredient list on the baby cereal box it may look relatively harmless. Going deeper into how the body digests these food it looks a little different. In the most basic terms, the body turns these starches and carbohydrates into sugar before absorbing. So a bastardization would be baby cereal is more sugar then nutrition. Have you ever had a stack of pancakes with lots of syrup and orange juice for breakfast? Did you notice that that day you craved more sugary foods? How about the day you had bacon and eggs for breakfast? Less sugar cravings that day? I bet if you kept track you would see the pattern. For this reason I don’t want to start the little Mister on cereal.

Again I don’t plan to buy baby food. I don’t feel you get what you pay for. The finished product of store bought baby food is almost void of nutrients, not to mention your can guarantee the quality of ingredients they started with. Have you ever tasted baby food? It’s not good. If you wouldn’t eat it why would you feed it to your children?

Making baby food is just as easy as taking a bit of what you made for yourself and pureeing it. Of course, this again assumes you are eating a highly nutritious diet as well.

Baby’s digestive system isn’t fully developed until 28 months. So you need to be somewhat careful what you feed them and when. Starting at about 6 months (give or take) your baby is ready for some “real” food.

They are able to easily digest fats and protein at this stage. Mothers milk is usually about 50-60% fat. This is a good thing fats are very necessary in baby’s development. Coconut, olive oil, butter and animal fats are best. Have you ever seen a vegetable with natural oil aside from olive and coconut? The process in which producers turn canola and vegetables to oil is not good. In fact, additives are used because the raw product smells rancid. I don’t see how that’s good for anyone.

Protein is a huge part of baby’s nutrition too. This is highest and most easily absorbed in the form of egg yolks and organ meats, liver especially.

I know what your thinking, I wouldn’t eat soft egg yolks and liver so why should I feed my baby this?! Quite simply, nutrition again and whole foods. A diet of all natural foods (what we all should be eating) is so much healthier and easier for our system. Our bodies know what to do with whole foods, and tends to store and/or have a very hard time breaking down processed foods.

So for now we have a soft poached egg yolk, (be sure it’s only the yolk as the white can cause irritation) topped with a pinch of finely grated liver, fresh butter and a tiny bit of salt. Yes salt is also very important in the development of baby too. Homemade apple sauce, papaya and avocado are eaten eagerly. Sweet Potatoes and squash are a favorite too.

I portion servings by the “ice cube” or shot glass. Yes, I know a shot glass may not be deemed appropriate by some but he’s got no clue and it’s the perfect size. Start small. We started with an egg yolk. The next week we added a half shot glass of apple sauce. The following was the yolk and a full shot glass. Now we are having the egg and full shot in the morning and a full shot in the afternoon. Once he eats his “real” food, I then give him a bottle to fill up the rest of the way on. I don’t want the little guy malnourished or hungry.

Keep in mind it can take at least 10 times of trying something new for a person to develop a “taste” for it. The reason a lot of adults don’t like certain foods; they try it once, maybe twice and “I don’t like that”. It takes time.

Another thing to think about when starting your little one on “real” food, only introduce one food at a time. Feed the one food for about 4 days. In the rare instance they have a bad reaction (constipation, diarrhea, rash etc.) you will know exactly which food it was.

I’m not going to give you recipes for baby food. I don’t find them necessary. If you are thoughtful about what nutrition is received from what food, and take things slowly it’s not rocket science. If your not sure or not comfortable with the idea then do what you find is best for yours. Not everyone is the same and what works great for us may not for you. We all have the same goal; Happy Healthy Children.

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Vegetable Gardening 101: Edible Stems

 

AsparagusAsparagus is a fast growing spring crop once it gets going. Starting from seed it will take about 3 years to get a small harvest and by the 4th you will be harvesting a good crop. You can hurry the process by planting “crowns” from older plants. Where ever you plant be sure it’s where you want it because it will come back year after year.
To harvest the asparagus, cut when the sprouts are about 6 inches tall and about as fat as your finger. Cut your stems in the morning, the noon day heat will cause the stalks to be stringy and dryer. Be sure when you cut, you cut all that are ready. If a stem is allowed to flower the root will not send new stems for the season.
Asparagus produces a berry like seed at the end of the season, save the male seeds. These are the seeds on the fatter stalks. The stalks that are wispy and fern like are the females, don’t save these. Cut the male stalks and allow them to dry, shake the berry seeds off and store them for next planting once they are completely dry.
If you haven’t pickled asparagus, I would recommend giving it a try. Of course is it great fresh, sautéed or grilled and can be blanched and froze or canned as well.
*** Asparagus seeds are poisonous! Save them to plant and not to eat!

Celery can be a challenge to grow, but if you get some fresh from the garden you’ll never want to buy it again!
Celery has a rather long growing season, 125 days, about, to maturity. It also likes cool weather which is why it can be a challenge. Growing up north, as I do, it needs to be started indoors, then transplanted. Celery, doesn’t give us a whole lot of nutrition, yet it requires a lot to grow. Be sure your celery plot has lots of loose compost and manure. Celery also prefers to be damp, so don’t let it dry out. They should be transplanted when they are about 6 inches tall, into rows about 18 inches apart and 12 inches between plants.
Celery leaves and stalks can be harvested anytime during the growing season. Once the plant has reached full maturity and is of harvestable size it can be cut at the root. Roots can be left in the garden for compost. They most likely won’t be back in the spring.
Saving seeds is easy but a process. Pick the plant that looks the best in the fall. Very carefully dig it without harming the roots. Plant this in a pot and keep in a root cellar in a dormant stage for the winter. Adding some mulch or straw around the base will help insulate it. In the spring return the plant outside where it will bloom little white flowers that will turn in to lots of little brown seeds.
Another note about celery seeds; don’t plant the seeds you find in the spice isle. They are bred to produce a crazy amount of seeds and not edible stocks.
Celery can be stored in a root cellar layered with damp sawdust or sand like carrots. I have never tired this method but plan to this year. I will let you know how it goes. Usually we use ours fresh or freeze it in vacuum sealed packages.

Florence Fennel is not the same as the fennel in your herb cupboard although the flavors do resemble each other. Seeds can be planted in the late spring, thinning the plants to about 12 inches apart. Once they have got going cover the base with dirt. This will blanch the bulb and leave you with a less bitter taste. They are ready to harvest when the bulbs are about 2 to 2/12 inches across.
Fennel can be eaten raw (I love it added to salads or coleslaw) or cooked. It can also replace celery in recipes.

ArtichokeGlobe Artichokes don’t  get enough press as with most vegetables. I have never had good luck growing them; mostly because they need a long growing season and climates that don’t go below zero. I do like to eat them though. Canned on pizza or sautéed and added to a pasta dish or creamed artichoke soup.
I mentioned artichokes to my dad once his reply was “Artie chokes, three for a buck!”. I guess it was part of a joke he heard in grade school that was pretty funny. However, we have yet to figure out the rest of it. So if you’ve heard the joke I would love to put an end to this mystery.

Rhubarb, originally from Siberia grows like crazy around here. To plant, all you need is a couple roots from an older plant. Plant them in the spring about 2 feet apart. Allow the rhubarb to grow for a year. The second or third year harvest away! The plant won’t spread and take over but it will multiply like a Day Lily and can be spit every few years. This, like asparagus should be planted where you want it to be for the rest of your life. We had a small plant that was doing nothing at our old house. I told my husband not to bother tilling around it this year. Till it up, I just don’t care. That year the plant tripled in size and we have multiple harvests from it.
Rhubarb can be very tarte but cooked and mixed with strawberries, raspberries and/or sugar can make the best desserts, pie filling, bars and jam! Which is what I do with it. It freezes well too for mid winter rhubarb muffins.

I have left a few members of this family out, such as Cardoon, Celeriac, and Celtuce. When I know more about growing them rather than just cooking with them I will revisit them.

Previous Article: Brassica’s
Next Article: Legume’s

Pickled Asparagus
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Pickled Asparagus
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Ingredients
  • Asparagus
  • Kosher Salt
  • Vinegar
  • Crushed Chili Peppers
  • Garlic clove
Servings:
Instructions
  1. I use a basic Pickling Ratio of equal Parts Water and Vinegar and 1 tsp kosher salt per pint
  2. Place your asparagus spears in your jar with 1/2 inch head space.
  3. Add 1 tsp crushed red pepper per pint ar (Less if you don't like spicy foods) 1 smashed garlic clove.
  4. Pour the pickling liquid into the jar, again leaving 1/2 inch head space and process in a water bath for 15 minutes.
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Steamed Asparagus
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Another super easy recipe that's so good.
Steamed Asparagus
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Another super easy recipe that's so good.
Ingredients
  • Asparagus
  • bacon
  • to taste Salt and Pepper
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Steam your asparagus just until it's bright green and tender (army green will taste rather blah and mushy)
  2. Add some cooked, diced bacon (with a little drippings), salt and pepper to taste.
  3. That's it, takes only a couple minutes but is so good!
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Coleslaw with Fennel Bulb
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My Coleslaw is never measured ingredients. Add as much or little as you like. The dressing is just approximate measurements too you may need to adjust to your taste.
Coleslaw with Fennel Bulb
Print Recipe
My Coleslaw is never measured ingredients. Add as much or little as you like. The dressing is just approximate measurements too you may need to adjust to your taste.
Ingredients
  • Fennel Bulb shaved
  • Red Cabbage shredded
  • Carrots grated
  • Red Onion finely sliced
  • Dressing
  • 1/2 cup Distilled Vinegar
  • 1/2 cup Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1 cup Mayo
  • 1 tbsp Mustard
  • 1 tbsp Celery seed
  • to taste Salt and Pepper
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Combine everything and serve!
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Vegetable Gardening 101: Brassica’s

Brassica’s are a very interesting family of vegetables. Personally I love them! I would guess we eat more out of this group than any other. This too has a few sub categories; Cabbages, Stems and Buds, and Leafy.

CabbageCabbages sounds a bit straight forward, but this also includes Brussels Sprouts. I usually start cabbage  indoors in February then transplant outside late spring. This doesn’t always work the best for me but I try every year anyway. I start the second planting in late May to early June in a spot where I can protect it some until July. This tends to give me a better harvest.
Cabbage needs a fair amount of space; like 3 foot rows for most varieties. Planting them close together works if you would like a few heads that are small (baseball/softball size). Pull the thinnings and leave the others to grow into full size heads. You can get a second crop of small heads if you cut the mature head just above the root and continue to water them. Up to 4 small heads will form from one stem.
If you’ve ever tried to grow cabbage you most likely have met the little critters that come with them. The first time I tried to grow cabbage at our last house I had the best crop of cabbage moths you’ve ever seen! There are a few remedies that will keep the pests at bay. If you prefer the dusting method, a light sprinkling of cayenne pepper or white flour works. Planting fragrant plants close to the cabbage, such as dill, thyme, garlic or onions usually works well too.
Cabbage stores very well in a root cellar or a cool basement. It also stores well as Sauerkraut! (Then you can make Sarma)
Brussels SproutsBrussels Sprouts are another member of this category. These I do start indoors rather than outside. They should be planted about 16 inches apart and can be hardened off in early spring. The pests that love the cabbage love Brussels sprouts too. The same techniques work for both. I have also heard if you put a nylon stocking (like grandma wears) over the plant it will keep the bugs off; might have to give that a try too. I will let you know what I find.
Harvesting the sprouts is quite simple. They grow on the main stem of the plant that is topped with leaves. They have a Dr.Suess look to them. Start at the bottom, grab the tiny head (about 1 inch average) and twist. You can get a few pickings from the same plant so don’t pull the plant right away. You can leave the plant in the ground through the winter if you like. The sprouts can be pick from the stem even in the snow! To keep them in a root cellar it’s best to hang the whole plant rather than keep the sprouts individually. They can be canned as well; I have only ever had fresh or frozen. I will can some this year and let you know how it goes.
Pak Choy

Chinese Cabbages are in this category too. I’m too familiar with these. I have grown Bak Choy that the moths got. I have seeds for Pak Choy for this year. Chinese cabbage can have different forms but are can be prepared the same as cabbage. It is also easier to digest than regular cabbage.

Stems and Buds include Broccoli, Cauliflower, Kohlrabi, and Kale.

BroccoliBroccoli is another plant that like sun but not heat, making it rather tricky to grow in some areas. If you start from seed indoors be sure to not start too early as it can easily get root bound and spindly. Like cabbage and sprouts you can get multiple cuttings from one plant. Generally the first will be the largest with smaller ones to follow.
Knowing when to harvest your broccoli can be a learning experience too. If the plant likes where it is, it can grow from 2-4 feet tall! The buds, when growing will be tight together, once they start to loosen its time to harvest. If you let them go longer they flower with  a whole bunch of tiny yellow flowers. When that happens you can cut the stalk and place it in a mason jar on the table and enjoy the flowers.  Don’t worry you can still get other smaller cuttings from the plant.
CauliflowerCauliflower prefers partial shade and extra fertile soil. They should be planted 18 inches apart or so. Once the heads are about 3-5 inches across take the outside leaves and tie them up, covering the head. This will blanch the cauliflower and leave you with a clean white head. Not blanching the head will not hurt anything, you will have a slightly yellow/green head that will taste the same as the white. Once you harvest the head you can pull the plant as it will not produce more as broccoli does.
Storing you cauliflower can be done in a root cellar, however it won’t last long. I usually can or freeze mine.
Kohlrabi should be grown quickly in cool weather. Hot weather slows their growth and causes them to be woody and sharp tasting. Kohlrabi look a lot like a turnip growing above ground with stemmed leaves growing out of it. Harvest your spring crop when it is about 2 inches in diameter, in the fall about the size of a tennis ball.
Storing can be done in a root cellar when stored like carrots; remove the outer leaves and layer between damp sand or saw dust.

The Leafy clan includes collards, kale, mustard, and turnip greens, among others.
Collards are a traditional southern crop and dish for that matter. I don’t have much experience growing these…yet.
KaleKale is a great crop, not only because it’s super nutritious, but is can grow well in the cold and heat. Plants should be about 12 inches apart and watered well in the summer.
To harvest cut the outer leaves and leave the inner smaller ones to continue to produce. At the end of the season, leave the plants in, don’t till them and them should be back in the spring.
Mustard greens remind me of growing spinach.
As far as Turnip greens I eat the turnips, not the greens, they are too prickly, kinda like fiber glass.

Previous Article: Leafy Greens
Next Article: Edible Stems

Sarma (Pigs in a Blanket)

Pak Choy, Napa Cabbage and Morel Stir Fry
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Pak Choy, Napa Cabbage and Morel Stir Fry
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Ingredients
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp Fresh Ginger finely chopped
  • 3 each Garlic cloves chopped
  • 1/2 each Napa cabbage shredded
  • 1 bunch Pak Choy shredded
  • 1 lb Morel Mushrooms sliced
  • 3/4 cup Beef Broth
  • 1 tbsp Oyster Sauce
  • 2 tbsp Soy Sauce
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Saute everything together just until the cabbage wilts.
  2. Serve hot
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Vegetable Gardening 101: Leafy Greens

I know “Leafy Greens” is a pretty wide subject but it is easily broken down into a couple categories and then a few sub categories. The easiest categories to divide are Non-Brassicas and Brassicas. We will talk about Brassicas later.

LettuceNon-Brassicas can then be sub divided, loosely, into Chicories, such as Endive, Escarole, and Radicchio, Lettuces including Dandelions, Romaine, and Butterhead, and Goosefoot Greens like Swiss Chard, Amaranth, Spinach and Beat Greens. There are a couple other sub categories that I am not too familiar with that would include edible chrysanthemum and some valerian; rather than give you false information I will skip these for now.

Chicories just might be my favorite salad making greens, the different flavor and textures are great! Chicory can be divided again into a few categories Asparagus Chicory(not to be confused with Asparagus), Root Chicory, used to make a coffee like drink, Witloof Chicory that is grown for large roots, then forced to grown tops in cool dark winters, and Leafy Chicory, my favorite salad greens.

Since I am most familiar with Escarole, Endive, and Radicchio, that’s what you get to hear about today.

Endive can be harvested young although it takes about 95 days to reach full maturity. It can be a little bitter, but that is a good thing. The bitter taste is actually the vitamins in the leaves. To reduce the bitterness (and nutrition) you can blanch endive by carefully tying the outer leaves up around the center leaves with twine. Do this when the plant is dry or you could end up with rotting plants (compost, yay!). After about 2 weeks check the plants, the center leaves will be light green to white. If you check after 2 weeks you could end up with rotting plants again.

Endive can be planted in the early spring as it is pretty frost hardy. You will want to give the plants plenty of space; 12-18 inches between. The thinnings can be eaten as micro-greens in salad. Endive is a cool weather crop and will be very prone to bolt once it gets hot. You can however plant your spring crop and then plant a second crop close to fall. To harvest the greens you cut the greens about two inches above the root. The flavor is best after a frost. Endive will keep well in a root cellar too. (Better than most greens anyways) Endive can be eaten raw in salads or the darker leaves can be sautéed too.

Escarole has the same guidelines as Endive. The leaves are not a curly as Endive, they are more broad and wavy rather.

Radicchio again the same guidelines as the previous however, this needs the cool fall weather to change color from green to shades of red. The shape will also change much closer to harvest as well.

There are a few different varieties of all of theses, choose one that will best suit your growing seasons.

The Lettuces are another close group with a ton of variety too. The basic groups of lettuce go as follows; Butterhead, Celtuce, Crisphead, Loose Leaf and Romaine.

Swiss ChardThe Butterhead is a good medium lettuce. It’s not a tight head like Crisphead lettuces, yet it forms a loose head, tighter than Loose Leaf. These are very easy to grow and as most greens in this family, like the cooler temps.
Celtuce, I would put in the Celery family rather than here. Basically its the little bit of leaves at the top of the celery plant.
Crisphead lettuce is the most boring of all to me. I really don’t care for much about it. This is the very popular Iceberg Lettuce that is a cheap lettuce that lasts a while, and transports well, which is why it’s a popular choice for a lot of restaurants.
Romaine has sturdy leaves that grow straight up in a tight bunch rather than curling to form a round head.
Loose Leaf lettuces are the least cold hardy, but will preform the better than the rest in warm weather.

Lettuces prefer very well worked and nutritious soil. Their roots don’t work hard to look for nutrients, so if it’s not readily available you will have pretty weak lettuce. Lettuce will bolt when it gets hot out, so planting early will give you the best yield before the summer heat. Thin as the plants get bigger, the thinnings make great salads too!
To save lettuce seeds allow a plant or two to bolt. You will have a tall stalk that can grow up to 5 feet tall. At the top will form flowers and then seeds. Allow the flowers to mature and die. Then carefully cut to top of the stalk and allow to dry. A careful shake in a paper bag will drop the seeds.

DandelionDandelions are not only one of my favorite flowers (not kidding) and the start of little tiff’s because my husband finds them to a noxious weed (as most do) and wants them gone. We finally came to a compromise, he can only kill the ones in the yard, if they are in  my flower bed they get to live. Dandelion leaves are great in salad! In fact they are classified as a part of the Lettuce family. I will write more about all the wonderful things that dandelions can do, (including make wine) a little later (done! found here).

Goosefoot greens are slightly new to me. I grew my first crop of Amaranth last year. It did wonderful; about 6 feet tall or more! These plants do very well in hot weather with very fertile soil. The leaves can be eaten as steamed or sautéed vegetables and the seeds can be carefully collected by placing a paper bad over the rope-like flowers and giving it a gently shake. Amaranth seeds can be eaten as a grain or made like a porridge.
Beet Greens are great especially if you only have so much space in your garden; you can eat the beet greens and skip planting Swiss Chard!.( or plant both if you like).

SpinachSpinach is planted the same as the others (12inches apart, 18 inch rows) and will do good in partial shade. When the days get long and hot the spinach will be quick to bolt. When this happens the leaves will soon get tough and bitter, the plant will also quit producing leaves. You can pull the plants and use the space to plant another crop. I sometimes plant green beans after I pull the spinach as the beans  will quickly “catch up” in the summer heat. Spinach is also slower to germinate so planting a quick growing plant such as radishes in the same row will give you yet another crop in the same space and will help mark your row until the spinach is up. When you plant in succession like this be sure you are getting enough compost in your soil so the nutrients don’t get depleted.

Spinach is one of the few greens in this family that can be stored at length when quickly blanched and frozen.

Swiss Chard is a great addition to a garden. I like to plant mine in a flower bed. I plant a rainbow variety, which gives me wonderful green leaves with brightly colored stems of yellow, pink, red and orange. Chard can be planted much closer together compared to others and will produce all summer long. I like to harvest once the leaves get about 6 inches tall. I cut the stems just above the ground and the plant continues to produce.

Previous Article: Alliums- The Onions
Next Article: Brassicas- More Greens

Classic Creamed Spinach
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Classic Creamed Spinach
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Ingredients
  • 2 lbs Fresh Spinach Leaves
  • 1/3 cup Heavy Cream
  • 1 tbsp Fresh Garlic
  • to taste Salt and Pepper
Servings:
Instructions
  1. In a large pot bring water to a boil.
  2. Toss the spinach into the water, pushing the leaves under.
  3. Allow to cook for 30 seconds.
  4. Quickly strain the spinach from the water and run under cool water until the spinach is no longer warm to the touch.
  5. Carefully squeeze the remaining water out of the spinach.
  6. In a sauce pan place the garlic, cream, salt and pepper. Bring to a gentle boil and allow the cream to thicken.
  7. Add the spinach and serve immediately.
Recipe Notes

**Variation: Before adding the cream to the sauce pan add 1/3 c Dry White Wine. Sauté the garlic with the wine. Then add the salt, pepper and cream.

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Swiss Chard with Shallots and Pancetta
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Swiss Chard with Shallots and Pancetta
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Ingredients
  • 1 lb Fresh Swiss Chard chopped
  • 3 tsp Butter
  • 2 each Garlic cloves crushed
  • 2 tbsp Shallots chopped
  • 4 oz Pancetta bacon will work too
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Sauté the garlic and shallots in the butter until the shallots begin to become translucent.
  2. Add the Pancetta and sauté just until warm.
  3. Add the Chard, cook just long enough to warm and wilt.
  4. Serve warm.
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