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!

Vintage Post: Dandelion Honey

dandelionThis is a vintage post, but seasonally appropriate and lots of fun. Don’t spray toxins on your lawn… let those dandelions grow au naturel! The beautiful golden color and early summer fragrance of dandelions attracts bees, providing life sustaining nectar this time of year. Bees are HUNGRY in May and June, and if we want them around to pollinate our fruit orchards and vegetable gardens later in the season, we had better provide them with something to eat right now.

You can benefit from dandelions even more directly by making dandelion honey. Give this recipe a try – it’s delicious, and a great conversation starter!

Creamy Asparagus Soup

asparagus

Asparagus is at it’s lowest price of the entire year right now, at least where I live. I bought a few bundles and used some to make a pot of this amazing soup. If you’d like to stock up (this soup really is that good), simply follow the directions below and stop at Step 3. You can freeze the partially prepared soup well into autumn, then thaw and continue with the last few steps. So easy!

Ingredients (Serves 4) Continue reading

Jelly Bean Brittle

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Hop. Hop. Hippidy Hop. That bunny is heading our way, and wouldn’t it be nice if he arrived with a basket of homemade Easter candy? Jelly Bean Brittle is awesome for so many reasons… it’s super easy (Can you boil water? That’s about the only skill you need!), doesn’t require any expensive ingredients, and unlike peanut brittle, is completely free of common allergens. This recipe makes a great big pan (about 2 1/2 pounds’ worth) – perfect for an office or a classroom!

The only special item you will need is a candy thermometer. Now, don’t panic – a candy thermometer looks like any other thermometer, and just clips right onto your pot. All you need to do is READ it, and if you are reading this blog post, you’ve got that skill locked. Here is a link to the simple candy thermometer that I use:

Taylor Classic Line Glass Candy and Deep Fry Thermometer

It’s less than $6, and if you order it today you’ll be able to make Jelly Bean Brittle before Easter. You’re welcome. Let’s get started!

WIN_20150329_131938Ingredients (Makes 2 1/2 pounds)

1 pound bag of mini jelly beans

2 cups sugar

1 cup light corn syrup

1/2 cup water

WIN_20150329_1329121/4 cup butter (not margarine)

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda (no lumps!)

Directions

Step 1) Clip your candy thermometer to the side of a big, old pot. The tip of the thermometer should not be touching the WIN_20150329_132803bottom of the pot. Add sugar, corn syrup, water, and butter. Bring to a boil over medium high heat, stirring frequently.

Step 2) Once the mixture begins to boil, reduce heat slightly (low-medium) and allow to continue boiling until the temperature gauge on your candy thermometer reaches the line WIN_20150329_134459labeled “Hard Crack” or 295 degrees. Be patient – this will take 20 – 30 minutes. Remember to stir occasionally.

Step 3) While your mixture boils, prepare your pan. First, cover your largest baking pan with aluminum foil; don’t forget to cover the sides. Next, grease the aluminum foil with the wrapper from a stick of butter. Then, evenly distribute jelly beans on the WIN_20150329_134509foil.

Step 4) When your boiling mixture reaches the Hard Crack stage, turn off the heat and sprinkle baking soda into the pot. STIR QUICKLY! A chemical reaction will take place, causing the boiling mixture to foam and froth. This is normal – and exciting!

Step 5) After stirring, pour mixture over jelly WIN_20150329_134600beans. Working quickly, spread mixture evenly over the entire pan.

Step 6) After about 10 minutes, your jelly bean brittle will be ready to break apart into bite size pieces. Store in an airtight container to keep nice and fresh!

PS – About that pot… just add a drop of dish soap and fill with BOILING water. It’ll come clean in seconds.  😉

Springtime Chocolate Truffles

WIN_20160313_171730At Crowded Earth Kitchen, we love chocolate truffles. They’re ridiculously easy to make, beautiful when dipped in chocolate coating, and make lovely hostess gifts. This recipe for Springtime Chocolate Truffles is so easy – what are you waiting for?

Ingredients (Makes about 36 truffles)

4 ounces bittersweet baking chocolate

1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips Continue reading

Spring Tea

picture101Happy first day of Spring!  Lavender is synonymous with springtime here at Crowded Earth Kitchen.  The signature color of lavender buds, combined with their fresh, clean scent, are an assurance that the warm summer sun will be here soon enough.  While we wait, let’s warm up with a cup of tea!

Lavender teas have long been recommended by herbal experts for soothing the stomach, serving as a sleep aide, and relieving headaches.  Crowded Earth Kitchen is featuring two lavender tea blends today.  The first, Lavender Passion Flower Tea, combines lavender with passion flower leaves.  Available in the herbal section of many markets, passion flower leaves have a long history as a folk remedy for anxiety and insomnia.  Lavender Passion Flower Tea has an earthy taste and a springtime fragrance reminiscent of freshly cut grass.

Our second lavender tea blend, Lavender Chamomint, combines lavender with the soothing power of German chamomile and the perky zip of peppermint.  While also offering calming properties, the herbs in Lavender Chamomint have also been used by women as folk remedies for pre-menstrual symptoms and menstrual cramps.

picture390Lavender Passion Flower Tea

(makes 12 cups)

Combine 2 heaping tablespoons of dried passion flower leaves with 2 heaping tablespoons of dried lavender buds.  Pour 1 cup of boiling water over 1 teaspoon of this mixture.  Steep for 5 minutes.

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picture391Lavender Chamomint Tea

(makes 15 cups)

Combine 2 heaping tablespoons of dried lavender buds, 2 heaping tablespoons of dried German chamomile, and 1 heaping tablespoon of peppermint.  Pour 1 cup of boiling water over 1 teaspoon of this mixture.  Steep for 5 minutes.

Enjoy, and Be Well!

Crowded Earth Kitchen will revisit the topic of tea from time to time.  If you have a favorite herb or type of tea that you would like to see featured, please comment below!