Veggie Burger

After a few years of buying high priced, high sodium veggie burgers, I finally decided it was time to make them myself. I did a lot of Googling, cooking and eating, but once I discovered this recipe and how versatile it is, I will never buy another frozen, pre-made burger again.     

¥   1 Can Chick Peas, Rinsed
¥   1 Can Black Beans, Rinsed
¥   1 Egg
¥   1 Cup Whole Wheat Bread Crumbs
¥   Onions, Chopped
¥   Mushrooms, Chopped
¥   Bell Peppers, Chopped
¥   Italian spices
¥   Pepper

1.         In a medium-large bowl, partially mash beans
2.         Mix in egg and bread crumbs and spices
3.         Add desired amount of onions, mushrooms, and peppers
4.         Mix thoroughly and form into patties
5.         Fry, grill or bake 

Additions & Suggestions:
¥   This recipe is a great base recipe that allows for other favorite ingredients to be added or substituted.  
¥   Leftovers can be crumbled and fried and used as a ground meat substitute for tacos, Sloppy Joe's, chili, etc.     


Plant Part Costume Tutorial

Every other week, my amazing Head Start students in Germantown come to the Wyck Historic House and Garden to learn about plants, insects, animals, farming, healthy food, etc. This week they continued learning about plant parts and the healthy foods they produce.

We used the art in Eating the Alphabet by Lois Ehlert to illustrate what plants we eat and discussed which parts of the plant they were from. Then we observed plants and signs of spring, played a matching game, sang our plant part rhyme, danced as a fruit bowl and even dressed up like a plant.

The plant part costume was something the kids loved when learning about plants at The Schuylkill Center’s Farm Camp, so with some felt and a few dollar store items, I had a costume of my own in no time at all.

Plant Part Costume

¥   1 Sheet Brown Felt
¥   1 Yards Green Felt or Fabric
¥   Pipe Cleaners
¥   Fabric Garden Gloves
¥   Small Garden Hat or Basket
¥   Decorative Flowers or Fruit
¥   Hot Glue Gun
¥   Needle & Thread or Fabric Glue
¥   Velcro


1.     Cut two 2-inch wide strips of brown or green felt.
2.     Cut small slits in the middle of the strips about a ¼ inch apart for as many pipe cleaners (roots) you wish to use. I used six.
3.     Insert pipe cleaners, twisting top of cleaner around felt to secure it.   
4.     Add Velcro to ends of strips.

1.     Using an apron as a pattern
2.     Cut an apron shape from the yard of green felt or fabric
3.     Sew on ties or cut with pattern

  1.     Lay gloves on top of the green felt or fabric.
  2.     Cut two leaf shapes from felt or fabric large enough to hide the gloves
  3.     Fabric glue or hand-stitch the bottom of the leaf to the bottoms of the gloves
  4.     Use puffy paint, markers, or other paint to create veins on leaves

  1.     Pull the flowers and leaves off of a bouquet of decorative flowers
  2.     Hot glue the flowers and leaves to a small hat or basket

Suggestions & Additions:

Costume Additions
One Whole Flower- Create one flower using colored cotton balls or puff balls and felt petals (color and shape of choice)

Add Literacy Labels- Velcro, sew or permanent marker labels to each part of the costume

Add Fruit- Create one flower using colored cotton balls or puff balls and felt petals to create an apple blossom and add a faux apple (or any common fruit and flower)

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carl
This book is a classic that the kids know and it can be used to discuss healthy foods v. junk foods.

Eating the Alphabet by Lois Ehlert
This book has bright and beautiful illustrations of a wide variety of fruits and vegetables.  

Spring: So Close, Yet So Far Away

It's March. The sun is beginning to shine brighter, the temperature a bit warmer and plants a bit greener. Winter hibernation is turning into spring fever. There are so many things we want to do outside, but we can't just yet. So what can we do? While I was brainstorming this same question for my Wyck House lesson plans, I came across a Facebook post by Nature Rocks. They shared a link, "10 Ways to Explore Nature in March" by Go Explore Nature. This awesome article shares wonderful ways families and teachers can get their kids out of the house or classroom and into nature. It even has printables! Don't have kids to take outside? Numbers 4, 7 and 9 can be done by adults.
Number 8, “See local wildflowers,” is one of my favorites that everyone can do. I especially love that there are so many places to do this in the Philly area. My favorites are Wissahickon Park, Wissahickon Environmental Center, the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education, Awbury Arboretum, and the Wyck Historic House, Garden and Farm. And thats only the Northwest section of the city! What are your Philly area favorites? What are your favorites from where you live? What do you love to do outside in March? I hope thinking about these questions and reading this article has you inspired to get outside and play. Even on a rainy day, the physical and mental benefits to outdoor play for children and grown-ups are immeasurable.
Now that you have a pre-spring to do list, get outside and love the nature around you. Nature is as close as your door step, no matter where you are from. Enjoy!

Wissahickon Garlic-Mustard Pesto

 Garlic-Mustard: Bad for the forest, good for dinner.

Maple Sugaring in the Wissahickon is complete and spring is finally on her way. Although the winter never settled in and I am still hoping for a few snow days, I am excited to witness nature come alive again. There are little signs spring and peaks of life emerging from the Earth and soon the city, country, forests, and farms will be buzzing with life and lovers of nature. However, for every native plant fighting to share its beauty and nurture the animals and insects, there are invasive plants taking away their space. Garlic mustard is one of these invasive plants.

According to the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), “Garlic mustard poses a severe threat to native plants and animals in forest communities. Many native wildflowers that complete their life cycles in the springtime occur in the same habitat as garlic mustard. Once introduced to an area, garlic mustard out competes native plants by aggressively monopolizing light, moisture, nutrients, soil and space. Wildlife species that depend on these early plants for their foliage, pollen, nectar, fruits, seeds and roots, are deprived of these essential food sources when garlic mustard replaces them. Humans are also deprived of the vibrant display of beautiful spring wildflowers.”  

So what is good about garlic mustard? It’s edible and delicious.

I first learned about invasive and edible forest plants when I began working at the Wissahickon Environmental Center (Tree House) in the Wissahickon Valley section of Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park System. They are a wealth of knowledge and host a wide variety of exciting events and activities for children, families and adults. Their edible plant lessons are always a favorite and the dishes made are delicious. This recipe for garlic mustard pesto can be altered to your taste and eaten with crackers, on pasta, used as a spread on sandwiches, or in place of sauce on pizza. The camp kids loved it with crackers. And remember, it’s an invasive plant, so while its normally never good to take anything from the forest or parks, garlic mustard will not be missed.      

Wissahickon Garlic-Mustard Pesto

2 Cups Garlic Mustard Leaves (young 1st year plant)*
1 Clove Garlic
¾ Parmesan Cheese
~ ½ Cup Olive Oil (add to desired consistency) 
¼ Cup pine nuts (optional)

In a food processor, finely chop the Garlic-Mustard leaves, garlic and pine nuts
Slowly mix in cheese and oil to desired taste and consistency

Eat with bread, crackers, or pasta
Save for future dishes by freezing in ice cube trays

*When harvesting garlic mustard, harvest only the 1st year plant. Be carful not to knock into the 2nd year plants that are often nearby and spread their seeds. Pull the 1st year plants up by the roots and take everything home with you. Put what you do not use in the trash, never the compost. Because it is an invasive plant, we must take all precautions not to enable it to spread.

Pumpkin Peanut Butter Dog Biscuits

½ cup whole wheat flour*
1 cup quick oats
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice or ginger, nutmeg or all-spice mixture
2 tbsp canola oil
½ cup pumpkin pure
¼ cup peanut butter
¼ cup water

Preheat oven 325 degrees
In a large bowl, whisk flour, oats, baking powder, cinnamon, and pumpkin spices
In a medium bowl stir oil, pumpkin, and peanut butter
Make a well in four and pour in pumpkin mixture
Mix well while adding water
Mix until thoroughly combined
Turn dough on a floured surface and knead until no longer sticky
Roll ¼” thick and cut with cookie cutters
Bake on lightly grease baking sheet at 325 degrees for 15-20 minutes
Turn oven off and leave in for 30 minutes
Cool on a wire rack  

2 weeks in an air tight container
4 weeks in refrigerator
6 months on freezer

*If you suspect or know your dog has a wheat allergy, use a wheat-free substitute.

Bottle Cap Magnets

A Simple & Cool Addition to Kitchen or Office Décor

¥   Superglue
¥   Beer or Soda Bottle Caps
¥   Soda Can Tabs
¥   Round Magnets

1.         Clean and thoroughly dry bottle caps.
2.         Once dry, use a knife to score (scratch) the inside of the cap.
3.         Place a good sized dot of Superglue in the inside of the cap and place one or two can tabs on top.
4.         One the magnet, place a good sized dot of glue and press firmly to the can tabs and bottle cap.
5.         Let dry for 24 hours, periodically firmly pressing magnet down.

B & C’s Beer & Cheese Soup

The first time I had the beer and cheese soup special at Earth Bread and Brewery, I was in love. Beer, cheese and bacon- Can it get any better than that? Then to my excitement, a week later, there it was on the menu at Appalachian Brewing Company. Both soups were different in taste, texture and ingredients, but equally delicious. After thoroughly analyzing Appalachian’s soup, I decided I had to learn how to make it. I reviewed a lot of recipes online, read the comments and suggestions, enlisted my good friend Brittany to help and here is what we came up with.

Picture the soup with bacon on top. Delicious! 

¥   ½ Cup Onions, Finely Chopped
¥   1 Cup Bell Peppers, Finely Chopped
¥   1 Cup Mushrooms
¥   ¾ Cup Butter
¥   ½ Cup All-Purpose Four
¥   5 Cups Broth of Choice
¥   2 Cans Cheese Soup
¥   1 Bottle Beer
¥   8 oz Sharp Cheddar
¥   2 Tablespoons Parmesan Cheese
¥   Bacon

1.         In pan, Sauté Vegetables
2.         Mix flour into vegetables
3.         Add vegetables to medium-large pot and add broth
4.         Bring to a boil
5.         Reduce heat of broth and vegetables to a simmer
6.         Add beer, cheese soup and cheddar cheese
7.         Simmer for 15-20 minutes
8.         Garnish with crumbled bacon

Recommended Beers:
¥   Appalachian Water Gap Wheat
¥   Victory Head Waters Pale Ale
¥   Yards Pale Ale

Additions & Substitutions:
¥   Potato
¥   Celery
¥   Carrots
¥   Other favorite cheeses

Storage: Freezes well

Peanut Butter & Oatmeal Dog Biscuits

¥    2 Cups Whole Wheat Flour*
¥    1 Cup Quick Oats
¥    ½ (or more) Peanut Butter
¥    1 ¼ Cups Hot Water

¥    Preheat oven to 350 degrees
¥    Mix dry ingredients together
¥    Mix in peanut butter and hot water
¥    Add more flour of dough is too sticky
¥    Knead dough well
¥    Roll out 1/4” thickness
¥    Cut with cookie cutter
¥    Optional egg wash- Brush biscuits with one whisked egg
¥    Bake on slightly greased cookie sheet for 40 minutes
¥    Turn off and leave in oven over night

*If you suspect or know your dog has a wheat allergy, use a wheat-free substitute.

Boxed Beer Brownies/ Cake

My signature dessert is as simple as replacing the water with beer in a boxed brownie or cake recipes. Simple and delicious.

Boxed Brownies or Cake of Choice
Beer of Choice
Follow the directions on the box, but use a little less oil and a little more of chosen beer. The amount of beer depends on the amount of water called for in box directions. For example, if the recipe calls for ¼ cup of water, use ¼ cup of beer instead.  

Originally, I used Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale, which is still my favorite. It creates a textured brownie with a subtle spicy, pumpkin taste.

Recommended Combinations:

Fudge or Milk Chocolate Brownies
¥    Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale
¥    Brew Works Rude Elf
¥    Troegs Mad Elf
¥    Wells Banana Bread

Vanilla or Spiced Cake
¥    Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale
¥    Brew Works Rude Elf
¥    Troegs Mad Elf
¥    Wells Banana Bread

Dark Chocolate Brownies or Cake
¥    Leinenkugel's Berry Weiss
¥    Lancaster Strawberry Wheat
¥    Manayunk Schuylkill Punch