Grow your own mushrooms

My awesome husband bought us something really cool…

Grow Your Own Mushrooms Kit!

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These photos show just the beginning stages of the mushrooms sprouting. He did order shiitake mushrooms but this first little nub that is growing looks kind of like a cremini mushroom. It does look lighter in color so I hope they got it correct – but I like cremini mushrooms too so it wouldn’t be a disaster if we received the wrong type! Time will tell…

Here’s what the set up looks like:

 

 

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The block of growing material is inoculated with the mushrooms spores of your choice and mailed to you in a plastic bag. You remove the block from the bag and place it on an upside down pie plate – or something similar – but a pie plate was suggested. I’m guessing because it is going to get pretty gross and fungus covered… so you’ll probably just want to toss whatever you have the block  propped up on. You cover it with a different plastic bag that has holes in it for air to go through. We propped up ours with bamboo skewers because it is not supposed to touch the block of growing material. The whole thing gets misted two times a day, the growing material and the inside of the plastic. The environment is supposed to stay moist, like a little fungus terrarium.

We only set it up about two days ago and the first mushrooms are already sprouting. The whole block is covered in a white fuzz. I am pretty fascinated by this whole thing. Nerd alert! – Fungus was one of my favorite things to study in college…

 

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I would like to try to DIY this if I could get the mushroom spores. I think the block of growing material looks just like spent grains from when we brew beer. There’s always a lot of spent grains, so if I could use them to grow mushrooms it would be pretty awesome. I have to do more research on what would go into making my own block of growing material but I am going to try in the near future.I might just have some giant portabellas growing on the counter.

Another really cool thing about this mushroom growing kit is that it will produce about three bunches for mushrooms on this block. Once it seems to not be producing any more you could spread it on a small area of your yard. The mushrooms will grow there if the conditions are right.

I am really excited to cook something with my first batch of grown-on-my-kitchen-counter mushrooms. I’ll keep posting updates of the growing process!

 

 

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Chicken of the Woods

We had a great dinner the other night with an unexpected ingredient – Chicken of the Woods mushrooms!

We’ve had some rainy days lately, which means mushrooms popping up all over the place. We went on a hike through some moist woods after a night of rain and there were mushrooms everywhere. It was a really nice hike with some great fungus spotting. As we hiked through the woods, we happened upon a big patch of Chicken of the Woods mushrooms. I have never eaten this type of mushroom but there are tons of recipes on the internet for them. Some consider these mushrooms a delicacy, so needless to say – I was excited to try them!

These mushrooms are vibrant and beautifully colored. They surprised us as we rounded a bend and saw the bright orange and yellow colors that stood out against the brown of the rotting log that we found them growing on. We only collected the smaller ones from the log. The smaller ones are more tender so we left the larger ones  still growing on the log. We also didn’t want to collect them all, you’ve got to leave some behind. When gathering edibles,  you always want to leave enough in the woods to reproduce so you can find them growing again.

The ingredients we had this week made for a great end of summer dinner. Dan grilled us New York strip steaks on the charcoal grill and I sautéed some veggies and made a fresh salad. Here’s how we put it all together:

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Chicken of the Woods Mushrooms:

8 oz. Chicken of the woods mushrooms, cleaned and sliced

3 tbsp. butter

1/4 cup brandy

1/4 cup chicken stock

1 tbsp finely chopped white onion

2 tbsp. heavy cream

pinch chopped parsley

Saute the mushrooms in 1 1/2 tbsp. of butter for about 5 minutes over medium heat. Stirring occasionally and carefully – I just flipped them over in the pan.

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Take the pan away from the heat and pour in the brandy. Allow it to bubble and place it back on the heat when the bubbling subsides.

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Cook the mushrooms for 5 minutes more and add in the onions and the chicken stock. Cook the mushrooms for 10 minutes more and add in the cream and parsley. Cook the mushrooms for a final three minutes, mixing in the cream.

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Sauteed Zucchini and Yellow Squash:

2 tbsp butter

1/2 small white onion, sliced thin

3 garlic cloves, smashed

1 tbsp olive oil

1 zucchini, sliced in to rounds

1 yellow squash, sliced into rounds

shaved parmesan cheese

Smash the garlic using a pinch of kosher salt and the side of your knife blade so that all of the oil is being released and it turns into sort of a paste.

Saute the onion in the butter over medium heat for 3 minutes, until the onion is translucent and add the smashed garlic.

Add in the zucchini and squash and saute for about 8 minutes, just until the squash starts to turn soft. I don’t cook the squash for a very long time because I really like it to still have crunch to it. Remove the squash from the pan so it doesn’t keep cooking and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

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Heirloom Tomato Salad:

1/3 lb. mixed heirloom tomatoes, cut into chunks

1 medium-sized cucumber, skinned, cleaned of seeds and sliced

a few very thin slices of sweet onion

1/2 cup chopped pea shoots

1/2 cup arugula

good quality extra virgin olive oil good quality balsamic vinegar – I used the latest ones from my Global Gardens olive oil club.

salt and pepper to taste

Mix the ingredients in a bowl and serve with shaved Parmesan cheese on top.

 

Grilled NY Strip Steak:

2 new york strip steaks

Clarified Butter

Kosher salt and black pepper

Pat the steaks dry and sprinkle them with the salt and pepper on each side.

Rub the steaks with clarified butter to coat them.

Grill the steaks over a hot grill – we like to cook steak so it’s medium rare. It will take about 12 minutes for a 1 1/2 inch thick steak.

Make sure your grill is really hot so you get nice seared grill marks on your steaks. Place them on the grill over the hot coals and leave them alone for 5-6 minutes – don’t move them around the grill! Flip them over and cook for 5-6 minutes more. Remove the steaks from the grill and wrap in aluminum foil. Let them rest for about 5 minutes before slicing so the juices can redistribute throughout the meat.

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This meal was a great experience. Eating food that I have gathered myself gives me great appreciation for food that I eat. One of my favorite things is trying new foods and new recipes. It makes it really special when you know that you have found something great that you may or may not find again easily.

If you try gathering your own edibles, be sure to identify everything correctly! It is an interesting experience finding things that you didn’t know were around… or that you didn’t even know you could eat! Just be sure to leave some of the plants or other edibles where you found them so they can reproduce in that area. You always want to be able to find them again some day.

Grilled Sausages with peppers and onions

I have been trying to use the grill in new ways lately. I wanted to use the cast iron skillet over hot coals to cook something. So, I grilled some onions and peppers in a cast iron skillet to eat with grilled turkey sausages. It was a quick and easy dinner.

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I cut up the peppers and onions and tossed them with olive oil, salt and pepper. They went into a small cast iron skillet that I heated on the grill. Once they are on the grill, make sure you turn them over a few times with the tongs or they will burn. I placed the sausages on the outer part of the grill so they cooked a little slower.

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The sausages stayed nice and moist and juicy on the grill. I tossed the sausages into the cast iron skillet after I removed the peppers and onions – just for a minute – to make the outside of them pick up some of the sausage and onion juices left in the skillet.

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I made a spread with spicy brown mustard and horse-radish to spread on the buns: 2 parts mustard to one part horse-radish. Then piled bun with a sausage link and peppers and onions.

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I would like to try to cook other foods on the cast iron skillet. I am open to ideas, so leave a comment if you have any!