Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Morel Mushroom Hunting

With the passage of winter comes wet soggy ground, which are perfect conditions for mushroom growth. In our area there is one mushroom that creates a mad dash to collect it: the Morel.

This beauty was growing in our raspberry patch.
This mushroom is one of the greats! Morel mushrooms can be hard to find and have a short window of time for harvesting. The work is worth it, they are very flavorful and thus used in many tasty gourmet recipes.

If you know where to look, you can find them for free! Just think that this delicacy could be growing in your area, just waiting for the picking. Here are a few helpful tips for you to succeed on your mushroom hunt.

Be Safe
Be aware that morels contain small amounts of hydrazine toxin that is removed through cooking.
Do not eat morel mushrooms raw, ever.

Always be 100% certain of the edible type of mushroom you pick as they often have look alikes that can be poisonous. When in doubt, throw it out - do not eat.

ForagingGuide.com is a very helpful site with background on Morel mushrooms and best times of year to go looking, and what to look for.

Know the Morel's characteristics
Morels are very distinctive mushrooms that have a honeycomb-like upper portion with ridges with pits between them. The coloring range from yellow to gray-black in color, depending on the variety you find. Here in Southeastern Wisconsin, we have mostly yellow or black morels.

The best places to find Morels
Morels are commonly found under deciduous trees (trees that have leaves). If the tree is dead or dying it is all the better for morel hunting. Trees to look for are ash, oak, cottonwoods or old apple trees. These are not strict rules on where to find morels. Keep your eyes open when hunting, we had 2 morels growing on southern (sunny) side of our house right out in the grass.

Gently hold the base of the mushroom and twist off the ground. Or you can cut the mushroom at the ground level. Note that you do not want to take the roots. You will not want to eat the soil covered root and by leaving the root behind, some people believe that more morels will grow there in the future. And keep your spot a secret so others don't beat you to the goods next season!

Happy Hunting!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Pizza Dough

Homemade pizza dough is fun, easy to make and can yield a pie that's less expensive than fresh store-bought pizzas. Our family loves to prepare the dough and assemble the pizzas together.

Pizza Dough (Bread Machine Recipe)
Makes 2-3 large pizza crusts

1 2/3 cups water (110° F )
2 tablespoons oil
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons dry milk
4 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons active yeast
1 teaspoon powdered garlic (optional)
1 teaspoon oregano, dried (optional)
Pizza sauce (we use Sweet Spaghetti Sauce)
Shredded mozzarella cheese

1. Add water, oil and lemon juice to bread machine. Layer flour, salt, dried milk and yeast. Add any seasonings you desire.

2. Set bread machine to dough setting.

3. When dough setting is complete, remove dough as soon as cycle is done.

4. Divide dough into at least 2 balls. Sprinkle surface you are rolling the dough out on with flour.

5. Shape dough by rolling out to at least 1/4 inch thickness.

6. Sprinkle pan or pizza stone for baking with cornmeal to prevent sticking. Place dough onto pan.
7. Apply toppings to pizza.

8. Bake at 425° F for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool about 5 minutes prior to slicing.

    Suggested Toppings:

    Pepperoni, sliced
    Ground Italian Sausage, cooked
    Ground Beef, cooked
    Black Olives, sliced
    Onion, diced
    Spinach, fresh and chopped
    Peppers, diced
    Mushrooms, diced
    Chicken, cooked and diced
    Green Pepper, diced
    Ham, diced
    Pineapple, diced

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Making Birthdays Special

 Birthdays! No matter what your age, you have to love how special they can make you feel. At our house, we do several birthday traditions every year that create not only good feelings, but memories too. And the good news is we've found it doesn't cost much at all to make someone smile.
Fairies aren't just for teeth.
We have a birthday fairy to come to visit the prior to the birthday. She leaves a trail of confetti to the birthday presents, decorates the bedroom door of the birthday girl or boy and leaves balloons. 
Wear a happy hat.
Birthday hats are a fun way to add a little silliness to the day. We have been using the same pack of a few years now. I just place them out next to the birthday presents.

Fancy-up a special meal.
Growing up, I remember my Mom always letting us use a special plate at the time of our birthday dinner. The plate is Waechtersbach's You're Special Today plate. And it really did make me feel special. Just last year I was able to find this plate at a rummage sale for a great deal!

Be in the moment.
There is always talk of what time my girls were born and where. A fun way to celebrate their moment of birth is to set a timer set to go off at the time of birth. You could celebrate with hugs and comment on how much bigger they feel.

Have your day, your way.
In our house, another way we celebrate birthdays is to pick what you want for dinner. The meal could be homemade or a modest restaurant. We have done dinner's out to Baked Macaroni and Cheese for dinner. 

My girls celebrating their birthdays together. Only 4 calendar days apart.
Just simple routine things, like opening up presents around the same time of the day, every year, can make your next birthday run a little smoother and create traditions. We always let the kids open up there presents first thing in the morning, while they are still in their pajamas. Usually we get up about 15 minutes earlier but the kids (and adults) love it.

Happy Birthday to you!