Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Taste test

The top photo is the newest fermentation. Notice there are no bubbles on the surface or in. The body of liquid. This obviously needs a few more days to ferment.
The bottom photo is the soda ready to go into the fridge. If you look closely, you can see bubbles not just at the surface, bot all through it. The smell is sweet and the taste pleasant, if somewhat cloying.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Dandelion Soda

I know, it sounds weird, right? But when you have a big jar of kombucha scobys sitting on your kitchen counter and  2 gallons of kombucha tea brewing upstairs, then soda made from dandelions really isn't that strange.  Wait--what? Kombucha? Scobys? What the heck?  Sorry, that's another post.

Being an adventurous person, I came across this one day--Fermented Dandelion Soda I was immediately intrigued. The fam, not so much. They are accustomed to my weirdness, though, and for the most part are willing tasters. 

After gathering a bunch of dandelion flowers, I first soaked them in a bowl of water with a splash of vinegar to get rid of the dirt and possible bugs. The recipe says rinse them well, but I prefer to soak for a bit and then rinse; once you see all the dirt left behind in the bowl, you will want to soak the flowers first, too.

 Here are the flowers in the crock with boiling water. Doesn't look too tasty, does it?

Now covered with a pretty plate. Yours doesn't have to be pretty. Ugly plates are perfectly acceptable.

The soon-to-be-soda fermenting happily. Well, I'm happy, at least.

I started another batch yesterday, so hopefully the two batches going will be delicious!

Please try this recipe--it's easy and you might even like it!

Yay for dandelions!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Dandy Dandelions

I guess I don't really understand the hatred for dandelions--they are the first flower of spring and bring some much needed color after winter. Especially this past winter!  Bees love dandelions, and so do ants and ladybugs.  Granted, they aren't quite so pretty when they form their white seed heads and they're even less pretty as a naked stalk. Still, besides the fact that dandelions have the ability to take over the yard, much like the much-maligned clover (another favorite bee food), dandelions are one of the most beneficial plants out there.

Did you know that you can eat the entire plant--flower, stem, leaves, root?  Just last week the kids and I ate dandelion flower fritters with our supper. All pronounced them tasty.  Of course, anything dipped in batter and fried is going to taste good, right? Still, it's definitely a dish we'll have again.

The leaves are tasty sautéed in coconut oil with onions and broccoli. Alas, the family wasn't too keen on partaking of the greens, so they were all mine.

Another thing I've done with the leaves is an infusion.  Place desired amount of leaves in a jar and cover with boiling water. Cap and let sit overnight. In the morning, strain out leaves and drink hot or cold, adding honey (lots!) to taste. I just now remembered that I've not strained mine from last night; it might be undrinkable. Darn it.

Finally, the flower heads can be used to make dandelion oil. I use this oil to make a pain-relieving salve. The ingredients are only the oil and beeswax, with the addition of essential oil if desired. Dandelion has mild analgesic properties, believe it or not. When rubbed on a sore neck, the salve can ease the pain in a few minutes. I know, it sounds crazy, but it really works! It's at least worth a try.

Right now I have dandelion soda in the works. I will add photos and more information later.

Remember, don't spray those dandelions! No Roundup!  Embrace the weeds!

If you simply must have a perfect (-ly boring) lawn, there are a few ways to kill the yellow flowers. Smother them, pour boiling water on the plants, or pour vinegar on, boiling works best.

Yay dandelions!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Ghostly Spools

After making the jack 'o lantern spool craft, I wondered what other Halloween decorations I could make with the plethora if wooden spools into house. I came up with ghosts. The instructions are the same as for the pumpkin spools: you'll need white acrylic paint, a black sharpie ( or black paint if you've a steady hand ), modpodge and twine. 

Begin by painting the spools white and allow to dry. You may need several coats. Then draw on desired ghost features and apply one coat of Modpodge. When dry, thread one spool  onto the twine and knot the bottom. Make sure the knot is large enough to hold the spool. Then spread the remaining spools and make a loop at the top. My ghost decoration is only five spools long, but a longer one could be a lot if fun.

Ta da!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Wild Grape Jelly

It's amazing what you can find if you just open your eyes and look around a little. While on a walk on the trail with my husband and son, we saw what looked to be wild grapes.
 My daughter and I returned the next day to pick all that we could reach. Some vines grew much too high while others were too far in the brush.
 We ended up with a nice haul! After soaking the grapes in water and vinegar (weak) to kill the spiders (gross!) I drained and rinsed them. Then I sorted the grapes while watching television. I learned something, too: it's always important to remember you have a bowl of grapes on your lap when the phone rings, especially when you have light carpet.  Luckily, I had some carpet cleaner hiding in the cabinet. 
Then it was time to make jelly! After cooking down the grapes and smashing them (using a recipe from and then draining the juice, I ended up with about 4 1/2 cups of juice. I had to add a little water to obtain the required 5 cups, and then made the jelly. The recipe made 7 half-pints of jelly.

The jelly turned okay, but when I bought pectin, I didn't know there was such a thing as low-sugar pectin. After I got over having to add SEVEN cups of sugar, I resolved to be sure and buy the low-pectin next time, or not use it at all.

No-pectin jam is possible, because I also made blueberry-elderberry jam and just did the spoon test to see if it had jelled.  Not sure I'll do that again, because sorting elderberries is extremely tedious, and I only got 1 1/2 half-pints.  It certainly makes a nice gastrique!

I'm really enjoying this canning thing, and now that I have 9 gallons of Bartlett pears in my kitchen, I'm ready to make some more jelly!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Wooden spool craft

I don't know about anyone else, but I have about a bajillion wooden spools just floating around my house, so I'm always on the lookout for a good craft using those things. A couple if days ago, my wish was granted. A blog I follow posted a craft on Facebook and of course I took note. 

I put my own spin on the craft, taking it a little farther than just havering a spool sitting around.  

First Levi and I painted the spools orange, let them dry and then I drew on faces with a black Sharpie. Finally, a coat of Modge Podge and this is the result:
I liked the way the spools looked stacked together on the twine. Levi wants a pumpkin necklace, so we may do that today. 

Another idea is to paint the wooden spools green and turn it into Frankenstein's monster, or really any  creepy thing you can think of!  

I love Halloween and fall crafts!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Elderberry Syrup for Strengthening Immunity

I found an elderberry bush on my  neighbor's land, and after securing permission (he had no idea what it was, actually cuts it down every year), the kids and I began picking.  At first I was thinking jelly, but didn't think I had enough berries for that, so then I did some browsing and came up with elderberry syrup.

Elderberry is known for its medicinal properties, both in the flower and the berry. Next year I will pick some flowers, but for this year, it's the berries.

The berries after rinsing.

Sorting--taking off stems, tossing yucky ones. Very tedious.

Finally in the pot! I used 2/3 cup for this.

My helper adding 3 cups of water. Now to simmer until reduced and then we'll strain out the berries add 1 cup of local raw honey once the liquid has cooled. The honey will make the syrup palatable and also add more good stuff.
Finished product! It will keep 3 months in the fridge. It tastes pretty good, I think. My kids complain, but it the syrup helps strengthen their immune system, then they'll just have to deal with it. It could be worse, like, cod liver oil, you know? I try to give the kids 1 teaspoon daily.   Some are more willing than others.