Dandelion Jelly


Has it been a month already? Time to post!

All kidding aside, the spring weather has been pretty balmy and our world rapidly grew green again and dandelions dotting most of the nooks between each blade of grass it could find. Luckily, with most of my lawn converted to garden, there isn’t much space for them to grow. Besides, snapping up each golden specimen has been a relaxing hobby of mine for years, so they don’t stand much of a chance with me. My new neighbour to the south however, near blinded us with his yellow lawn and my family and I soon found our neighbourly side, down on our hands and knees. While pulling the dandelions from their roots, we shared stories, a glass of rosé and generally got better acquainted. It was quite a sight.
Our conversation turned to curiosity as our bucket bulged with weeds.

We’d each seen little old ladies with their protuberent bags, walking along dandelion dotted roadsides and parkettes. What do they do with all that weed?

Dandelions are good for you, I know that. Vitamin and potassium rich, the whole plant can be used. I’ve made salads myself.
I have the tea and heard the roots can provide a locavore their coffee fix. Plus, I know that wine can virtually be made from anything. But it wasn’t until I recently received my newsletter for this week from one of the city’s farmer’s markets did I read of one of the vendors selling, you guessed it, dandelion jelly this week.

Now, I wouldn’t be the so-called foodie I claim to be if I didn’t look a little deeper. Of course I was intrigued, as were others. There were the B&B’s and a few homestead posts, but it wasn’t until I’d come across the recent article in the New York Times, that I’d realized foraging is cool!

It’s easy and fun to make. The colour is like lemon drops and sunshine, which is a pretty nice thing to say about dandelions, I think. It tastes a bit floral and honey-esque. Certainly not what a I thought a bitter weed would taste like, spread over my morning toast.

DANDELION JELLY

2 1/2 Cups Dandelion Petals, packed
3 Cups Water
Juice and Zest of One Lemon
2 1/2 Cups Granulated Sugar
1 Pouch Liquid Pectin

Find a trustworthy lawn, free of pesticides and doggies, or raid your neighbour’s like I did, and behead about 4 cups of dandelions.
Separate the petals from the green bud or “receptacle” and collect the petals in a measuring cup, pressing down gently until you have 2 1/2 cups.
Transfer the petals to a saucepan, add the lemon zest and cover with boiling water. Bring it to a rolling simmer for about 10-15 minutes or until the water in well infused and coloured.
Strain the liquid from the petals, pressing down if necessary, into a measuring cup and compost the petals when you’re done. There should be about 2 1/2 cups of liquid, if not add water to top it up.
Return the infused liquid to a saucepan, add the lemon juice, about an overflowing tablespoon, and the sugar, bringing everything to a hard boil.
Finally, add the pectin letting it return to a boil for two or so minutes, while you set up your jars, then remove it from the heat.
Pour the hot jelly into steralized jars with 1/4″ headspace. Screw on lids and process in a near boiling simmer for about 5-10 minutes.
This recipe will make four 125ml jars of jelly.
Enough to share with the neighbours you stole dandelions from.

Maple Syrup


When I was a kid I used to spend every school holiday up with my grandparents. They lived at the “cottage”, but to a kid it was paradise, specially for a city kid. They had killer tobogganing hills, skating, snowmobiles and nature as far as the eye could see. I was allowed to play with fire, build stuff and wander in the woods but best of all, every March Break, my Grampa would tap his maple trees and start collecting sap.

Ever since I’ve been about 10, I’ve wanted to learn the process from start to finish however the call back to school usually had other plans taking me away from the best part, the final product.

Now with years gone by, Grampa had put the maple gear into storage.
I have my own kids, flexibility and a food blog. It may have taken a few years of urging, but Greatest Grampa, how he’s now referred, dusted off the sap buckets and handed down one of the most awesomest candy thermometers I’ve ever seen.

In playing the role of Mom, I was able to take the kids out of school a few days before the break to head up north. The weather was ideal, so after packing too many clothes and boots for the changing of the seasons, we were off for our my long awaited visit with Greatest Nana and Greatest Grampa.

We were eagerly greeted by my Grandparents with scrubbed buckets and boots on. The weather had been cold the night before but was warming up nicely in the soon to be spring sunshine; ideal weather to get the sap running…

Since there aren’t any leaves, we were amazed at the knowledge and accuracy my grandfather, whom I’ve always thought was a genius anyway, was able to identify the Sugar Maples from the at least twenty varieties of trees he has growing in his quite diverse forest. With a drill and a spiel, we tapped the trees and hung the buckets, which were quickly chiming off a delicate symphony of drips into the galvanized pails below.

Next, we had to wait. Greatest Grampa had only brought down ten buckets, but after listening to the rapid drips of sap filling our buckets, we had caught the bug. We found water jugs and ice cream pails, you name it. If we could drill a hole into the side of it, it was soon hanging from a tree. All in all we doubled our collection and headed off to the local Maple Syrup Festival to pass the time. The kids saw, and tasted what was about to come their way.

By the end of the second day we’d collected enough sap to begin our first boil.

Sap is mostly water, so it takes about 40 times the sap to make one part syrup.
Thinking it had to by much more complicated than it was, I was sure that there had to be more to it when we were told that we “Just cook it.” I will cook just about anything and so we continued onward this adventure in syrup making. We were given a large soldered pan, which I’m sure my Grampa must have manufactured himself all those years ago.

When we started the cooking process, we realized we were soon referring to the boiling sap as, “Our Baby”. How precious it became as we watched our heavy sap just evaporate into the air. Slowly but surly it cooked down, only to be replenished by more sap until the last liter of the batch had been added. Shadowed through the bright sunshine we watched as the nearly clear liquid gave way to a light mapley shade of amber. The smell of cooking sap is amazing. The sweet steam warming our chilled cheeks, faintly reminded me of Shrove Tuesdays past. Finally we tasted, pondered and, of course, tasted some more.
Once we had deemed it worthy, we packed a sips worth into a cup and trotted up from the cottage, through the bush to Greatest Grampa’s house in the forest.

Anxious. “Maybe a little underdone.” We were told. But better under than over, as we learned. Apparently syrup is quite forgiving… phew.

Of course, pancakes were made to celebrate. Certainly a sweet success.

Blogging Martha …and Pumpkins


So did everyone get a chance to watch Martha yesterday??
Not only was is it the start of her new season, yesterday she featured blogging; a few of them that we know and love I might add.
First up there was an intro to Deb at Smitten Kitchen, then a great segment with fellow food photographer and blogger Matt Armendiaz from Matt Bites. Matt was lucky enough to get a book writing suggestion from Martha herself all while mixing it up with her and the Kitchen Aid.

How wonderful to see a full hour devoted to the beauty of the blog. I’m guessing Martha is into hers, as it’s not only updated regularly, but she was dying to know everyone’s monthly stats and income draw. It was darling. Really.

Anyhow, what was really great was getting to see Martha and her old pal, Margaret, who’s site A Way To Garden, I’m already addicted to. Margaret used to be the garden the then the editorial director at MSL, so she knows a thing or two about gardening. Not only is Margaret’s site a naturally good read, she’s offered personal tips and suggestions on how to plant corn and why it is that mine is the only garden that doesn’t produce copious amounts of zucchini. (I finally did get ONE, by the way!!) A Way to Garden, along with Deb and the gals at Dinner Tonight have been hosting some weekly round ups of seasonal veggie dishes and today is one of my absolute favourites; pumpkin.

If you’ve ever read my other blog, Food+Photography, you’d see the fascination, lust I have over pumpkins. Every fall I buy too many and try to squeeze the space in my yard to grow some of my own every year.
That being said, I have three plants from the seeds of last year; Marina Di Choggia, a Rouge Vif D’Etamps and my favourite Galeux d’Eysine. So far, I’ve been enjoying their flowers along with the bees, but I think I’ll be heading back to the pumpkin patch in a couple of weekends – at least something grew…

To join into the fun, here are a few of my pumpkin favourites from this site:

MARINA DI CHIOGGIA GNOCCHI

PUMPKIN PIE POPPERS

PUMPKIN & MUSHROOM RISOTTO

PUMPKIN MANICOTTI

PUMPKIN CRANBERRY TEACAKES


SAVORY PUMPKIN TART

Cherry Struesel Muffins


I’ve been thankfully blessed with an ever seemingly flowing deposit of cherries at market this season.
My fingertips are stained and I’ve finally invested in a cherry pitter it’s been such a bumper year.

The other day, with another bowlful of cherries, I was called by a neighbour to do some reno snooping and a visit. Since I didn’t want to show up empty handed, she was letting me look at the inside of her closets after all, I grabbed for my cherry pitter and a bowl.

We were a little late but the muffins were still steamy when we arrived. After peeking at her newest addition, we had coffee and the muffins. She had two and I got the name of her contractor. Pretty good trade.

CHERRY STRUESEL MUFFINS
350ºF 18-20 Minutes

2 Cups All Purpose Flour
1 1/2 teaspoons Baking Powder
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1 Cup Bing Cherries, pitted & roughly chopped
1/3 Cup Safflower Oil
3/4 Cup Sugar
1 Cup Soy Milk
1/3 Cup Orange Juice

Struesel Topping

1/4 Cup Brown Sugar
1/4 Cup Oatmeal
1/4 Cup All Purpose Flour
1/4 Cup Shredded Coconut
1/4 Cup Walnuts, chopped
3 Tablespoons Earth’s Balance Butter

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Lightly spray a regular sized muffin tin.
In a small bowl combine the milk, oil and orange juice.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, soda and salt.
Add the sugar and stir in the wet ingredients.
Pit the cherries and roughly chop. Fold in the cherries, and spoon into prepared muffin tin.

Combine struesel topping together and mash butter with a fork until evenly distributed and the mixture is crumbly.
Generously top each of the muffins with the struesel mixture and bake for 18-20 minutes or until a cake tester can be cleanly removed.

Makes 12 muffins.

Rose Infused Syrup


I don’t like roses, but when we bought this house there were countless bushes of heirloom Old Fashioned’s, indicating there was once someone who did.

Over the years, I’ve tried everything to pull out, mame and kill these prickly bastards. Harsh words for a little flower but these buggers would come back hardier no matter how roughly I chiseled away at their roots.

Can’t beat ’em join them as it is said so, I finally found a good use for them…

ROSE PETAL SYRUP

1 Cup Sugar
1 Cup Water
Petals of 2 Roses

Choose roses which are in bloom, being sure they are from your own garden or otherwise organic source.
Pluck the fresh petals and rinse lightly to remove any debris, if necessary.
In a large saucepan, dissolve the sugar into the water.
Add the rose petals and bring the syrup to a rolling simmer.
After about 15 -20 minutes, the syrup should be aromatic and the petals should be mostly translucent.
Remove the saucepan from the heat to cool.
Strain the syrup with a mesh strainer to use and store refrigerated, in a clean jar with a tight fitting lid.

Daring Bakers May: L’Opéra Cake


It’s terrible but it’s the truth. I almost didn’t attempt to veganize this month’s Daring Baker Challenge.
Daunting to say the least when a cake has a dozen eggs in it to somehow replace. (…And that’s not including the other two that were in the buttercream recipe.)

After making the original version I had to share. I mean, what’s the point of this site if everyone can’t share good food together?

I halved the recipe (because the other cake was enormous) and started in on my trials. I stuck to the traditional recipe as close as I could without those eggs but having had the other I had a general idea as to what I was after. This cake is very light without too much flavour. It’s a perfect canvas to add your own and it this case we, The Daring Bakers, were able to get creative just as long as we kept it light in colour. Again having the other version I knew what I liked and didn’t so choosing a flavour this time around was pretty easy. In my traditional version, I really wanted to go give it a Taste of Yellow in honour of one great and Daring Baker, Barbara of Winos and Foodies, who hosts the Livestrong event. For that I made an Earl Grey with a lemon buttercream so for this version I wanted to keep the citrus but add some kick with just a little brandy syrup, and boy did my little cake sing.

L’OPÉRA CAKE

JACONDE

1 Cup Ground Almonds
1/4 Cup Confectioners Sugar
1/2 Cup Cake Flour
1 1/4 Cups Soy Milk
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
1 Tablespoon Vinegar

Preheat oven to 400ºF.
Line a 5 x 8 inch loaf pan with parchment then lightly spray with oil.
Add the dry ingredients together into a large bowl.
Combine the soy milk and the vinegar, then add to the dry.
Mix vigorously with a fork.
Once combined, consistency will be similar to a pancake batter.
Pour about 1/2 cup of batter into the prepared pan to cover the bottom to the edges.
Bake for 5 – 7 minutes or until the top appears golden, begins to dry and the edges come away from the sides.
Loosen edges with a knife, if necessary and top with an additional sheet of parchment or waxed paper.
Flip pan to remove the cake, cooling on a rack to room temperature.
Reline the pan and repeat with the remainder of the batter, baking three cakes.

COGNAC SYRUP

4 Tablespoons Sugar
1/3 Cup Water
1-2 Tablespoons Cognac

Add everything to a small saucepan and bring to a boil.
Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature.
(May be made in advance and kept covered in the fridge for up to a week.

ORANGE “BUTTERCREAM” ICING

2 1/2 Cups Confectioners Sugar, sifted
1/2 Cup Earth’s Balance Margarine, room temperature
Juice and zest of one large orange
1/2 teaspoon Vanilla

In the bowl of an electric mixer with the whisk attachment, combine half of the sugar with the margarine.
Add the orange zest and juice and mix on a medium-high setting.
Add the remainder of the sugar, half a cup at a time.
Once it has come together, then add the vanilla to incorporate.
Continue to up the volume with a higher speed until light and creamy.

ASSEMBLY

(Note: The finished cake should be served slightly chilled. It can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 1 day).

Line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper.

Place one cake layer on the baking sheet and moisten it gently with the flavoured syrup.

Spread about one-third of the buttercream over this layer.

Top with the second layer of cake and moisten again with the flavoured syrup.

Spread another third of the buttercream on the cake and then top with the third layer of joconde. Use the remaining syrup to wet the joconde. Spread the remaining buttercream on top of the final layer of joconde and then refrigerate until very firm (at least half an hour).

At this point a glaze of white chocolate may be made. I omitted this tradition but for a vegan white chocolate try this one from Bittersweet. Melt 7 oz of the chocolate with 1/4 cup of soy milk. Once it has cooled, pour/spread it over the top of the chilled cake. Refrigerate the cake again to set the glaze.

Trim the edges 1/2″ to reveal the layers.
Garnish with additional orange zest, candied or not, if desired.