My brave Vermont quest to bring together food-love and mom-life.


Vietnamese Stuffed Grape Leaves 2

Posted on January 29, 2011 by crankycheryl

I was invited to a dumpling party, and though I knew there was little chance that I’d remain purely carb-free, I also wanted to bring something to share that matches the way I’m eating.

Vietnamese-style stuffed grape leaves are a bit of flavored ground meat wrapped inside the leaves.  At Five Spice we used to serve these with peanut sauce, though some folks prefer the sweeter-type dips.  (Between you and me: they’re wrong and you should do it my way.)  I had posted about these back in 2009, but love these enough to want to revisit.

Food in the freezer and pantry feels like money in the bank, and this little treat was a lovely way to spend some of it.   I  didn’t have the fresh cilantro leaves I wanted.  A quick visit to the basement yielded a cube of basil-garlic puree, a pound of ground grass-fed beef, and a packet of grape leaves.  Those plus some fish sauce and a handful of fresh spinach leaves turned quickly into the filling, and before I knew it I had them made.

Vietnamese Stuffed Grape Leaves
Makes about 40

1.  Preheat oven to 400.  Lightly oil a rimmed baking sheet and set aside.

2.  Place in a food processor:

  • 1 lb. ground grass-fed beef
  • 1-2 cloves chopped garlic
  • 2 T. chopped fresh basil or cilantro leaves or a combination
  • 1 T. Vietnamese fish sauce
  • 1/2 c. very clean and coarsely chopped fresh spinach leaves

Process for about 30 seconds, until very well combined.

3.  Get your grape leaves.  It’s okay to use them from a jar if you weren’t out madly picking and freezing weeds last summer.  If you do use the ones in brine, rinse them a bit, then blot off the water.  To form the wraps:

Place a leaf in front of you, stem-end down, and put a spoonful of filling in the center.

These get formed differently than the Greek ones usually are.  What you want to end up with is a squat little square, rather than a cylinder.  To get this, fold over each of the four sides over the filling and then place it on the baking sheet.


Keep at least an inch in between them: you need enough air circulation so that they’ll get a little crispy instead of steaming.

4.  Bake for 20 minutes, until black-green and sizzling a bit,  then serve with peanut sauce, or even just on their own.

When in Doubt: Fritters 3

Posted on April 23, 2010 by crankycheryl

We were out to dinner the other night and a friend pulled a couple of crinkly plastic bags out of her purse.  She had a share of a wild-crafting CSA, and declared that she needed some help “appreciating” the coltsfoot and sedum with which she had been gifted that week.

We nibbled at bites, furrowed our brows, and concluded that frying was the answer.  Definitely frying.

Two days later, Z. and I were having our usual Monday at home and it was time for breakfast when I stumbled on the bags in the fridge.  Fritter time.

So I beat together until smooth:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 c. white whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 c. milk
  • 1/4 t. kosher salt

And then stirred in a cup or so of the mixed wild stuff.

Then heated up in a large skillet until it was slightly rippling:

  • 1 T. butter
  • 1 T. olive oil

Then poured the whole mix in, and let it sit until the underside was set and the top was starting to bubble, when it got flipped.

Then I cut it into wedges and ate half of it. It was really good – the coltsfoot has a sort of cumin-like taste that I found delicious.  The sedum tasted most like wilted thick spinach, pretty green but unoffensive.

And this is when the really startling thing happened.  Z. was watching Sid the Science Kid when he started wrinkling up his little nose and said, “I smell something yummy, Mommy!”  Hmm.  I asked if he wanted some.  I gave him a little slice, which he promptly devoured.  And then he ate the rest!  Hardly picking out the greens at all!

Truth be told, I’m still a little stunned.

Blessed Silence Sunday: Yesterday’s Haul of Weeds 0

Posted on April 11, 2010 by crankycheryl

Dandelion Greens, Potato & Egg Breakfast 0

Posted on April 09, 2010 by crankycheryl

The spring greens are up and I am a weed-picking fool.  Would you join me please?  Seriously – just go outside and pick a pile of dandelion greens before the flowers bloom and leave thgreens terribly bitter.  Then you’ll wash them very carefully.  Maybe even a soak in a water-bath with 1/4 c. of white vinegar in it.  Keep rinsing and soaking until they’re clean enough for you. (Over here, that was 4 times.)

Then you can go ahead and make yourself a breakfast worthy of a spring celebration.

Dandelion Greens, Potato, & Egg Breakfast, with or without Bacon
Serves 2

Wash repeatedly until clean:

  • 4 – 6 c. dandelion greens

If you want to eat bacon, cook until desired crispness and then remove from pan:

  • (For a vegetarian version heat 3 T. olive oil until rippling)


  • 2 large potatoes into medium cube.

Saute in oil or cook in bacon grease over medium high heat, until browned, then cover pan with a lid and cook for about 20 minutes or until done.

Add to pan and cook until greens are wilted:

  • those dandelion greens you washed so well
  • generous sprinkle of kosher salt
  • freshly ground pepper to taste

Scramble and then add to pan:

  • 4 large eggs

(Vegan? Mash up and add  1 package of firm tofu instead.)

Cook until eggs are done (or tofu is heated through).  Scramble together.  If using bacon, crumble and mix in.  Serve with your favorite hot sauce.

Burdock: My Latest Attempted Adventure in Weeds 2

Posted on July 31, 2009 by crankycheryl

After Julie from Red Wagon Plants pointed a burdock plant out to me, my love of eating things that grow with no effort drove me to find out what to do with it, and a search brought me to, which is a great site for learning all sorts of things to do with wild herbs and edibles.

That’s where I learned that burdock is a thistle (i.e., a relative of artichokes), has a two-year life-cycle, and flower stalks that are edible in late spring.  It’s also thought to have all sorts of healthful properties, which makes it a popular ingredient in macrobiotic cooking.

burdock 001

This plant growing next to my deck turned out to not have an edible root (apparently it was in the second year of its growth cycle), but I’m glad to know this common weed can be roasted just like any other root (peeled, diced, tossed in oil with maybe some balsamic vinegar, herbs, salt & pepper, and roasted at 400 for 30 minutes or so).

I’m on the hunt for more and will report back.

Title More Clever Than "Grape Leaves of Wrath" 2

Posted on July 12, 2009 by crankycheryl

When I was 12, I had a horrible and embarrassing crush on Danny Decker.  Look, these Passaic boys were all cute and crazy and I just did, ok?  At least until he started calling me “weed-eater” because my father made pasta with dandelion greens.  I could have keeled over and died.

Fast forward 27 years and I am not ashamed to call myself a weed-eater. Of course, risks remain.  These days when I go out to forage, though I may not have any teen-aged delinquents mocking me, I do find myself facing dangers like this vicious creature:

lichees lollipops groundhog 009

Still, I’ve been out bravely stalking grape leaves.  Did you know that you can pick and use the ones that grow wild?  And that they grow nearly everywhere?  And that you can use them to wrap or stuff all sorts of wonderful things for practically nothing if you pick your own?

cake papaya salad bread 008A brief word of caution about picking wild food for eating: Don’t pick foods close to busy roadways as they could be filled with toxins and heavy metals, and do make sure that your area isn’t sprayed with chemicals.  Also, don’t pick things unless you’re sure you’re getting the right thing – bring someone to show you if you aren’t confident.

Grape leaves are pretty unmistakable.  They grow on vines that are happy to climb nearly anywhere, and have a classic familiar shape, and distinctive curling tendrils from their woody vines.  Choose those that are a nice bright green without any brown, of medium size, and are free of holes or tears.

You can eat them fresh, or preserve them in brine for later.  Though I’ve only tried them fresh, I’m gearing up to can a big batch to last all winter long.  Here are a couple of recipes to try them out with, if you dare.

Vietnamese-Style Grape Leaves, Vegetarian or Meat
Serves 8 as an appetizer or light lunch.  This is based on the stuffed grape leaves we served for dim sum at Five Spice after having a version at a little Vietnamese restaurant in New York’s Chinatown.

  • 40 grape leaves, fresh or from a jar
  • 12 oz. seitan, ground or mashed to the consistency of ground meat OR 3/4 lb. of ground turkey
  • 1 1/2 T. fish sauce or soy sauce
  • 3 cloves of garlic, chopped fine
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • mild flavored oil for brushing and broiling
  • 3/4 c. Thai or Vietnamese-style sesame or peanut sauce for serving

If using fresh grape leaves, place in sauce pan of boiling water and let sit for 5 minutes or so.  Mix together seitan, garlic, soy sauce and salt until very thoroughly combined.  Lightly oil a broiler-safe pan and set aside.

Remove leaves from water to drain.  Take first leaf and place it on a plate or cutting board with the top facing away from you.  Place a spoonful of filling about 2 inches above the bottom of the leaf.  Fold over the left side lengthwise.  (By the way, your filling won’t look like this as I mixed in 1/2 pureed white beans into the seitan, which wasn’t quite as good as just seitan is on its own.)

cake papaya salad bread 011

Fold over the right side.

cake papaya salad bread 012

Fold up the bottom.

cake papaya salad bread 013

Roll all the way up, and place with the smoother side up on your prepared pan.  Continue with remaining leaves until all are done.  Brush with oil, and then broil until filling is cooked through and tops are lightly blackened.  Serve warm or at room temperature with the sesame sauce.

cake papaya salad bread 009

For another less traditional preparation, try:
Grape Leaves Stuffed with Tomatoey Rice, Pine Nuts and Bacon
Serves 8 as an appetizer or light lunch

  • 40 grape leaves, fresh or from a jar
  • 2 cups cooked brown or white rice
  • 1 T. tomato paste
  • 3 T. pine nuts
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic, chopped
  • 3 slices of turkey or veggie bacon, cooked, cooled, and crumbled
  • 3 T. lemon juice
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1/2 c. olive oil

Follow directions above for preparing and rolling leaves.  For the filling, mix together rice, tomato paste, garlic, pine nuts and bacon until very well combined – make sure there are no globs of tomato paste left.

Place in a greased, rimmed baking sheet, and heat oven to 375.  When all leaves are rolled, whisk together lemon juice, salt and olive oil, and pour over the top.  Cover with a second baking sheet or foil, and bake for 30 minutes or until warm.  Let sit for 20 minutes or so and then serve.

Remove leaves from water to drain.  Take first leaf and place it on a plate or cutting board with the top facing away from you.

Serves 8 as an appetizer or light lunch

Eat Your Weeds! 2

Posted on June 19, 2009 by crankycheryl

This is a lamb’s quarters.  It’s a weed. june 003 You can eat it!

Some of its features:

  • Mild-flavored.
  • Extremely versatile.
  • Collects dirt really well – wash by immersing in a couple of washes of cold water.
  • Has stems that are particularly stick-ish – make sure to remove ’em.
  • Free!  It grows along sidewalks, as a weed in your garden or at your CSA farm (where they’ll thank you to pull it out and take it with you).  Be warned – once you get used to finding it and pulling it out, it’s hard to stop.

Here’s what I’ve done with the big bunch of them that have been around here this week:

Tossed lightly with olive oil, put on a baking sheet, and used as a bed for re-heating leftover roast lemon/saffron chicken with potatoes:

strawberries and chicken 001

For a great vegan brunch:  pan-cooked cubed red potatoes in lots of olive oil, kosher salt, and smoked paprika, them removed potatoes to a plate when very nearly cooked, and sauteed lambs quarters and crumbled tofu with an additional sprinkle of smoked paprika before adding the potatoes back in.

strawberries and chicken 009

For a light supper, made stracciatella:  steamed and pureed 2 big batches of the greens, then heated three quarts of strong vegetarian stock to a simmer.  Stirred in the lambs quarters, then beat 12 (yup) eggs until foamy, and poured them in a stream into the stock while stirring and swirling slowly.  Serve in bowls with grated cheese.

bread and lambsquarters 010

With the next batches I collect, I’m planning to steam and chop them and keep them in the freezer for quick and easy greens to try to stealth into brownies and the like this winter.

What are your favorite wild summer edibles?  What do you do with them?

Warm Wishes 1

Posted on April 12, 2009 by crankycheryl

lacinata-kaleWith spring being such a tease, I’m finding myself pining for the warm weather.   I’m stubbornly planting seeds, though the wind is blowing cold and I refuse to admit that the white fluff puffing through the air is snow.  I’m picturing our summer evenings at the Intervale Community Farm, with kids in the sandbox and romping through the fields … the goat cheese we’ll pluck out of the cooler each week … the peas and strawberries we’ll be picking.

While I wait, I’m planting my own garden of pretty edible plants – kale and nasturtiums and curly cress and violas.  I’m waiting for the wild lamb’s quarters to appear so I can harvest it for soups and salads and quick sautees.

It’s coming, it’s coming, and in the meantime, here’s a fun recipe that I first came across in a Facebook posting from Julie Rubaud of Red Wagon Plants.  I hear some children actually eat it.  But it’s so good and virtuous that you won’t mind crunching it all up when they’re sitting across the table from you, stricken and with their little hands over their horrified mouths.

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    Cheryl Herrick's brave Vermont quest to bring together food-love and mom-life. All original content (written, graphical, recipes or other), unless otherwise noted, is © and/or TM Cheryl Herrick. All rights reserved by the author. Want to reprint a recipe? Just get in touch and ask.

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