Dandelion “Honey”

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Everyone on my Christmas list is getting a jar this December… this recipe is that fabulous.  Before we get to the recipe, I should explain a few things.  First, I am a big believer in letting my lawn grow au naturel.  Rain from the sky and an occasional mow pretty much sum up my approach to lawn care, to the chagrin of a few of my neighbors.  This means, of course, that I am blessed with a brilliant display of yellow dandelions this time a year.  Weeds, did you say?  No Way!

Dandelions were imported into the US hundreds of years ago as a nutritious food source.  Dandelions are wildly good for you, rivaling carrots and spinach in their Vitamin A, Vitamin B12, Vitamin C, Calcium, Iron, and Phosphorus.  The entire plant is edible, but today we are focusing on the pretty yellow flower heads.  A quick web search will reveal how dandelion flowers are valued for their antioxidants, their diuretic and antibacterial properties, and their use by herbalists in treating everything from headaches and depression to stomach and menstrual cramps.  Dandelions aren’t weeds… they’re nature’s own grocery store and pharmacy!

Today we are making dandelion “honey.”  The taste is spot-on identical to wild honey, without the hefty price tag.  At about 50 cents a pint (for the sugar and pectin), this “honey” is a real bargain.  It’s vegan, has practically the same glycemic index as honey, and contains pollen (which is where many of the purported health benefits of bee honey originate).  Make sure you pick dandelions from an unsprayed location!  Allow yourself about an hour in the sunshine to harvest enough flower heads for this recipe.

picture1152Ingredients (makes 9 half-pint jars)

8 cups dandelion flower heads (cut just above the base of the flower head, to get all of the yellow and almost none of the green)

8 cups boiling water

6 cups white sugar

Juice from 1/2 large lemon OR Juice from 1 whole, large orange

4 tablespoons pectin powder

picture1154Directions

Step 1) Cover dandelion flower heads with boiling water.  Cover and set aside for at least three hours or overnight.

Step 2) Carefully pour the mixture through a fine mesh sieve, saving the “tea” and discarding the flower petals.

Step 3) Bring 6 cups of dandelion tea to a boil in a large pot (if you have more than 6 cups of tea, you can freeze the excess).

Step 4) Stir pectin into sugar (the pectin will dissolve more readily this way).  Add pectin/sugar mixture all at once to pot of boiling tea.  Add lemon juice or orange juice as well.

picture1155Step 5) Stir thoroughly until sugar is completely dissolved.

Step 6) Bring mixture to a full rolling boil.  Boil for 3 minutes with stirring, then turn off heat.

Step 7) Follow canning instructions to preserve your dandelion “honey.”  Leave 1/2 inch headspace, and process jars in boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

Enjoy!

 

Whole Wheat Molasses Bread with Orange Walnut Spread

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My Grandpa loves this bread.  I should explain, Grandpa is as German as the day is long, and has sampled his fair share of homemade breads in his eighty-one years.  If Grandpa says this is good bread, you had best roll up your sleeves and get ready to play with flour!

This recipe offers just the right combination of whole wheat flour for nutritional wholesomeness, and white flour for fluffing things up a bit.  Also, the yeast is fed and the bread is sweetened entirely naturally, using blackstrap molasses and honey.  The end result is a bread that tastes rich, slightly sweet, and a little bit nutty (due to the addition of flax).  Bite into a slice and you’ll find its just firm enough to remind you that you aren’t eating something preservative-laden that came out of a plastic bag.  It pairs perfectly with a simple Orange Walnut Spread, below.

Ingredients (makes 2 loaves)

2 1/4 teaspoons (or one envelope) yeast

2 cups lukewarm (not boiling hot) water

1/4 cup soft (not melted) butter

3 tablespoons blackstrap molasses

3 tablespoons organic honey

1 teaspoon salt

3 cups whole wheat flour

2 cups white flour

2 tablespoons flax seed

Cornmeal (for dusting the baking pan, optional)

Directions

picture169Step 1)  In a large bowl, combine yeast and lukewarm water.  Stir, then let sit for a minute or so to allow the yeast to “bloom.”  The surface of the water will look a bit frothy.

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picture170Step 2) While the yeast is blooming, combine butter, molasses, honey, and salt in a separate bowl.  Hint:  If you grease the measuring tablespoon with just a drop or two of cooking oil, the molasses and honey will slide right off the spoon into the bowl!

Step 3) Add butter mixture to yeast and water.  Stir gently until well blended.

picture172Step 4) Add flours and flax seed.  Stir together and dump out the contents of the bowl onto a floured table or countertop.  Your dough will look like a mess at this point, and that’s OK!

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picture173Step 5) This is the fun part… knead your bread dough for five minutes.  Don’t just use your fingers, but really put some muscle into it by using the heels of your palms.  Turn the dough over a few times, sprinkling the table and the dough with flour if it becomes sticky.  After five minutes, your dough should look like this:

Step 6) Grease a large mixing bowl – rubbing the paper wrapper from a stick of butter along the inside of the bowl works well.  Place your kneaded dough in the bowl, and set aside in a warm place for 60 to 90 minutes or until the dough doubles in size.  Hint:  If you turn on your oven for one or two minutes (no longer), then turn it OFF, your oven will be just warm enough to provide a cozy place for your bowl of dough to rise.

Step 7) Need to work out an annoyance or two?  Once your bread dough has doubled in size, give it a few punches to smush it back down.  Then, divide your dough in half and shape it into loaves.

Step 8)  Prepare your baking pan(s).  You can use greased and floured bread pans if you’d like, but I prefer the rustic feel of round loaves baked on a flat pan.  I recommend greasing the largest flat pan that will fit in your oven, and sprinkling it with cornmeal.*  Then, place your rounded loaves on the pan, several inches apart.

*Cornmeal is optional, but it helps keep the bread from sticking to the pan and also helps create a hearty bottom crust.

picture175Step 9)  This step is optional, but will make your loaves look all fancy schmancy.  You’ll need a cookie cutter, a beaten egg, and one of the following: poppy seeds, sesame seeds, flax seeds, or quinoa.  With Valentine’s Day approaching, I’m using a heart shaped cookie cutter.  Simply place your cookie cutter on your loaf of bread and brush a bit of beaten egg on the bread dough that’s inside.  Holding the cookie cutter in place, sprinkle a bit of seeds or quinoa inside.  Carefully lift the cookie cutter away.  Look at that!

Step 10) Let your shaped loaves rise again, this time for one hour.

Step 11) Bake your loaves at 375 degrees for 35 minutes.  Let cool, and enjoy with Orange Walnut Spread.

Orange Walnut Spread

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This recipe takes all of two minutes to prepare, and is wonderful paired with a hearty bread such as the Whole Wheat Molasses Bread, above.  Children love this spread served with carrot sticks.

Ingredients (makes 1 generous cup)

8 ounces of low-fat cream cheese, softened

2 tablespoons powdered sugar

2 tablespoons orange marmalade

2 tablespoons finely chopped walnuts.

Directions

Step 1) Beat together cream cheese and powdered sugar really well.  I prefer using an electric mixer for this.

Step 2) Blend in orange marmalade and chopped walnuts.

Step 3) Serve in a pretty bowl!