Tag Archives: cream cheese

Backyard Foraging: Onion Grass (just like chives!) and cream cheese recipe

14 May

Google “onion grass” and you’ll likely find a lot of advice on how to eliminate it from your lawn. It is called a weed, pesky, unsightly, annoying. But around here the unruly tufts of onion grass that start dotting the emerging lawn in spring are the among the first herbs of the season.  So the way we eliminate it is by harvesting it and eating it!

This is a nice bit just by the raise beds. Note that it is not flat but hollow, and grows to different lengths

This is a nice bit just by the raised beds. Note that it is not flat but hollow, and grows to different lengths

We don’t put down chemical fertilizers or pesticides anywhere in the yard (although the last few seasons of mosquito infestations have us wondering what other choice there is) so there is none of that in our onion grass that we know of. And while we do have plenty of birds and squirrels about, they have those on commercial farms too and we have no dogs, so a thorough washing of the onion grass is sufficient to make it ready for human consumption (This came up in an after-school playground conversation recently, so thanks to Marta for bringing it up!).

A healthy bunch of onion grass. You will have to pick through your harvest.

A healthy bunch of onion grass. You will have to pick through your harvest.

I do NOT recommend pulling it up from anywhere that you are not familiar with. You never know what people throw on their lawns in the crazed pursuit of the perfect carpet of green (heavy sigh). Or what your local government has sprayed.

 

The forager-in-training

The forager-in-training

Now let’s talk identification. As close as I can tell, the botanical name or onion grass is Allium canadense…a member of the onion and garlic (stinking rose) family and very, very similar to Allium schoenoprasum, which we know as chives. Allium canadense is noted for its clumpy appearance in early spring just as the stubble of new grass begins. The blades are actually hollow tubes and taper at the top and grow to wildly different lengths.  They may even curl. I have heard say that they sometimes have bulbs at the bottom, but ours really don’t have much.

 

The potato ricer was not really the right creaming tool. I soon switched to a fork

The potato ricer was not really the right creaming tool. I soon switched to a fork

Important note: there are several look-alike lily species that are toxic. They may or may not have the hollow stem. The general rule is: If it smells like onion, it is onion and safe to eat. If it doesn’t smell like onion, it’s not onion, so leave it be.

With crackers or veggies, or bagels, of course...the flavor of spring

With crackers or veggies, or bagels, of course…the flavor of spring

In the past, I have just snipped what I need (it is somewhat milder than chives, so you may need to double what you would normally use if you bought supermarket chives), but today when I asked my little man to get some, he just grabbed a fistful and tore and that worked out just fine!

A tub of cream cheese with onion grass! Just like chives...only free for the forager

A tub of cream cheese with onion grass! Just like chives…only free for the forager

The following recipe is just a basic cream cheese with chives. You can also try onion grass with Asian recipes or whatever else you fancy. It’s not like you had to pay for it. And as I say to my students “If it’s free, give me three!”

 

Pretty!

Pretty!

Cream cheese and chives or foraged onion grass

8 oz cream cheese, softened

2-4 Tbs chopped onion grass or chives

2 Tbs low or nonfat yogurt or sour cream or milk

Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Garnish with additional chopped chives, if desired.

Kid’s Party Snack Alternative: Bagel Buffet, Starring Cream Cheese Two Ways!

26 Jun

My pizza party days are over. I used to like the occasional slice, but once you have a kid and start attending kids’ parties with alarming frequency, the whole pizza thing becomes tedious (and hard on the waistline), except for the part about not having to figure out lunch for your kid for a day. I like that part a whole lot.

Mind you, I have served pizza at a number of Leandro’s parties. Three regular pies, sliced in 16ths, for the kids. Another one or two pies for the parents. Guilty as charged.

Cream cheese with chives

By the time they get served, the waxy cheese is getting hard, the crust is soft, and chewy and the sauce, whatever it was, is gone. Besides, regular slices bore the hell out of me. Call me a snob, but if you lived in Italy for a couple of years and ate wood stove-crispy thin pies (slice? Cosa e? Ma scherzi.…) topped with seasonal veggies and homemade sausage with a carafe of the charming local plonk most Friday nights out with your charming boyfriend who didn’t mind your bit of flirting with the charming Italians who owned the place….well, a leaden slice of regular from a box choked down to the soundtrack of overexcited preschoolers and bounce-house kiddie-pop might also feel somewhat wrong to you.

Maple-Walnut Cream Cheese

Anyhoo, I wanted to change it up just a little this time around. It’s not just the pizza thing; it’s that I like to cook and entertain and this seemed to me to be an chance to manifest my own self in a more public forum than usual. It is all well and good to set yourself up as a food blogger because your child has been indoctrinated to believe that what you are making him is good stuff. It’s quite another thing to lay it out there for public tasting and scrutiny.

And of course, the other reason is that in my universe, you honor your guests by serving them nice food.

We celebrated Leandro’s birthday at the Theodore Roosevelt Nature Center at Jones Beach. The time was from 10 am-noon on a Sunday. If you have ever been in downstate New York on a Sunday morning, you will understand that bagels are the only appropriate response. It’s like the venerable five o’clock cocktail, only heavier on the carbs. So I went with pre-sliced mini-bagels from Seaford Bagel – convenient, but with ample opportunities to prepare a few spreads of your own.

Buffet table note: cheese and ham slices and mustard and mayo rounded out the buffet. Not one of my 50 Shades of Martha moments on the decor, but it worked well enough. A Box of Joe, juice boxes, and bottles of water completed the spread.

In my own defense, I am not completely bonkers and did not bake the main event: The “birthday cake” was cupcakes, ordered from Stop & Shop. Yes. A chain grocery store. Did you really think I was going to bake an effen cake!?! They were, by all accounts, delicious, topped with butter cream and decorated with Spiderman, Hello Kitty and other rings. Eternal thanks to the wisdom of Marianne/Madrina, for her bagel shop and cupcake source recommendations.

Among the spreads were tuna salad and egg salad (click to get those recipes from earlier posts), and the following two easy cream cheese variations. The maple-walnut spread was especially popular (and so easy it’s almost embarrassing). The kids mostly ate straight-up butter or cream cheese. But the parents and big kids who came to show solidarity were All Over the buffet table and even made a few to-go bagels. (Hector and Sean, I am naming names!!!). We also had plenty of bagels left over to pack in the cooler for our glorious, post-party beach afternoon.

I hope you’ll try them next time you want to bring up your bagel buffet game without killing yourself. Don’t pay for store-made. These are too simple and the praise too gratifying.

Thanks to all of you who came and made this day one of Leandro’s best and most memorable ever. I will eat your party pizza every time and enjoy your company, so don’t fret or hesitate to invite us to the next one. Leandro needs the break from his mom’s obsessiveness!

Cucumber slices are an easy dress-up for cream cheese and chives or tuna salad

Cream Cheese with Chives

8 oz. cream cheese, softened

2 Tbs chives, chopped

1 tsp green onion, chopped fine (including white part!)

In a bowl, mix all ingredients thoroughly. Chill at least a half hour for flavors to incorporate.

Maple Walnut Cream Cheese

8 oz. cream cheese, softened

2 Tbs real maple syrup

½ tsp vanilla extract (if you actually have maple extract, you can use it here)

½ cup chopped walnuts, plus walnuts for garnish

In a bowl, mix the cream cheese, syrup and extract. Stir in the walnuts and chill for at least 30 minutes. Turn the cream cheese into your serving dish and garnish with whole walnuts.

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