Cooking

Edible Flowers

Violet

When deciding which flowers to plant in your yard- why not plant flowers that are also edible? That way they do double duty. They make your yard look beautiful and they can make your food look beautiful, too.

I cook a lot with flowers. I often add them to salads, infuse vinegars and make jelly with them. You can also use them to decorate cakes or other desserts, in salad dressings and marinades, floating in tropical cocktails, in punch bowls and in ice cubes.

Flowers can also top off dips, cheese, fruit trays and other appetizers, be used to make teas, infused in honey or mixed with soft cheese and spread on crackers or toast.

Add some to baked goods like quick breads, cookies and muffins or in yogurt, cottage cheese or sorbet. Wherever your food needs a little color or flavor, flowers make it special.

Below are 2 lists- one of edible flowers- the other a list of flowers that are poisonous. I would be remiss if I didn’t caution you about flowers that are not edible. Be sure to get a positive identification of any flower before you eat it. Only eat flowers that have been grown pesticide free.

Some Edible Flowers

Calendula, Chives, Daylily, Mint, Nasturtium, Pansy, Rose, Sage, Signet Marigold, Squash Blossoms, Anise Hyssop, Apple, Arugula, Basil, Bee Balm, Borage, Broccoli, Chamomile, Chicory, Chrysanthemum, Coriander, Dandelion, Dianthus, Dill, Elderberry, English Daisy, Evening Primrose, Fennel, Garlic Chives, Hibiscus, Honeysuckle, Hyssop, Jasmine, Johnny-Jump-Up, Lavender, Lemon, Lilac, Linden, Marjoram, Mustard, Nasturtiums, Nodding Onion, Okra, Orange, Oregano, Pea, Pineapple Guava, Pineapple Sage, Radish, Red Clover, Redbud, Rose of Sharon, Roselle, Rosemary, Runner Beans, Sage, Safflower, Scented Geraniums, Shungiku, Society Garlic, Sunflower, Sweet Woodruff, Thyme, Tuberous Begonia, Tulip, Violet, Winter Savory, Yucca

Some Poisonous Flowers

Aconite, Anemone, Anthurium, Atamasco Lily, Autumn Crocus, Azalea, Baneberry, Black Locust, Bloodroot, Boxwood, Burning Bush, Buttercup, Butterfly Weed, Caladium, Call, Carolina Jasmine, Castor Bean, Cherry Laurel, Chinaberry, Christmas Rose, Clematis, Daffodil, Deadly Nightshade, Death Camas, Delphinium, Dogbane, Dumbcane, Elephant Ears, False Hellebore, Four O’clock, Foxglove, Gloriosa Lily, Golden Chain Tree, Goldenseal, Heavenly Bamboo, Henbane, Horse Chestnut, Horse Nettle, Hyacinth, Hyacinth Bean, Hydrangea, Iris, Ivy, Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Jerusalem Cherry, Jessamine, Jetbead, Jimsonweed, Jonquil, Kentucky Coffee Tree, Lantana, Larkspur, Leopard’s Bane, Lily of the Valley, Lobelia, Marsh Marigold, May Apple, Mescal Bean, Mistletoe, Morning Glory, Mountain Laurel, Nightshade, Oleander, Periwinkle, Philodendron, Pittosporum, Poison Hemlock, Potato, Privet, Rhododendron, Rock Poppy, Schefflera, Spring Adonis, Spurge, Star of Bethlehem, Sweet Pea, Tobacco, Trumpet Flower, Water Hemlock, Wild Cherry, Wisteria, Yellow Allamanda, Yellow Oleander, Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.
Neither of these lists in meant to be complete. Most important of all is to be sure you can identify these plants. If you are unsure plant identifications can be done at your local Extension office, garden center, nursery, arboretum and botanical garden. When in doubt, err on the side of caution. There are more than enough easy to identify flowers out there to enjoy without taking chances.

 

Chocolate Pecan Cupcakes

Chocolate Pecan Cupcakes

These cupcakes are full of chocolate flavor and the crunch of pecans. Topped with a silky chocolate frosting, they are a treat for any of the chocolate lovers in your life.

I toasted the pecans first, for more crunch. I just placed the pecans on a baking sheet and baked them in a 3oo degree oven for 10-12 minutes. Watch so they don’t burn. Cool before adding to the batter.

You don’t have to toast the nuts, but it adds a wonderful texture and a stronger pecan flavor.

You can also top the cupcakes with a few chopped pecans, if you like.

 

Chocolate Pecan Cupcakes

 

4 oz. semisweet chocolate

1 cup butter

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 3/4 cups sugar

4 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups chopped pecans, toasted if you like

 

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line 24 muffin cups with paper liners. In the top of a double boiler, combine chocolate and butter. Heat, stirring occasionally, until mixture is melted and smooth. Remove from heat and allow to cool to lukewarm.

Sift flour and sugar together into a large bowl. With mixer on low speed, beat in eggs one at a time. Stir in chocolate mixture, vanilla and pecans. Fill muffin cups 2/3 full. Bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes. Do not over bake. Tops should be shiny but give slightly when touched. Makes 24.

 

Chocolate Silk Frosting

 

4 ½ c. confectioners’ sugar

1 cup butter, softened

3 (1 ounce) squares unsweetened chocolate, melted

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 tablespoons milk

In a medium bowl, blend confectioner’s sugar, butter, melted chocolate and vanilla on low speed. Increase speed to high. Gradually add milk; beat until smooth and fluffy.

Spinach and Cheese Breads

Spinach and Cheese Bread

I love these filled breads. They aren’t hard to make, and everyone seems to love them.  I had been cleaning out my freezer and came upon some frozen spinach.  I also had both feta and mozzarella cheese, so I decided to combine them in these breads. The breads came out great.

Because you can swap out the fillings, you can make them to suit most any taste. I have a list of some other filling ideas at the bottom of this post.

While there are two loaves in the picture, that is because I doubled the recipe. The recipe makes one loaf.

I have made this recipe with plenty of different fillings. This just might be one of my favorites.

 

Spinach and Cheese Bread

 

3¼ c. all purpose or bread flour

1 T. sugar

1 t. salt

1 package quick-rising yeast

1 c. hot water

1 T. oil

Filling:

1 (10 oz.) package frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry

1½  c. shredded mozzarella cheese

1 c. crumbled feta cheese

2 T. chopped parsley

1 T. lemon juice

2 t. hot sauce, or to suit your taste

1 t. dill weed

 

Grease a large jelly roll pan and set aside. Place a shallow roasting pan on the stove and fill halfway with water.  Start heating the water up. You’ll need it later.

Prepare filling: Take spinach and place in a medium bowl. Combine it with cheeses and remaining filling ingredients. Use your hands and squeeze the ingredients together, partly to mix them up well, but also to get them to stick together a little. Set aside and prepare the dough.

Set aside 1 cup of the flour. Combine remaining flour with the other dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Stir in water and oil and gradually stir in enough flour to make a soft dough. Turn onto lightly floured surface and knead until dough is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Roll dough into a rectangle about 16 x 8 inches in size. Spread spinach mixture down center of dough.  Squeeze it a little, sort of in a tube shape. You need to fold the dough over this mixture, so pressing it together helps with the next step.  Cut one-inch wide strips of dough from filling to edge on both sides. It will sort of look like fringe. Alternating sides, fold strips up and over the filling at an angle. Pinch the ends.  Carefully lift loaf onto greased jelly roll pan and place at an angle, so it will fit. Cover with a towel, and place the jelly roll pan on top of a roasting pan, half-filled with simmering water for 15 minutes. Because quick-rising yeast is more heat tolerant, the simmering water helps the dough to rise faster. After 15 minutes, remove towel and place jelly roll pan in oven. Bake in a preheated 375-degree for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool slightly before slicing. Serve warm and refrigerate leftovers.

 

Bread can be baked ahead of time and reheated, too. Wrap in foil and place in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 25 minutes. Loosen the foil after 10 minutes so the bread does not get soggy.

 

 

Note: The variations for this bread are almost endless. Some favorite combinations are ham and Swiss with mustard, roast beef and cheddar, chicken, broccoli and cheese,, pizza, assorted fillings. You get the idea. Use your imagination and have fun. Just be careful not to overfill, or the bread will be hard to move, use fillings that aren’t too runny and always use cold fillings.

 

 

 

If you want to use regular yeast, in place of quick rising yeast, use warm, rather than hot water. Also, don’t let dough rise over boiling water. After kneading cover dough and let rise 45 minutes. Punch down and assemble as in original recipe. Cover with a towel and let rise until dough looks puffy, about 40 minutes. Bake as directed above. These breads can also be frozen.

 

Sunny Spring Salad

Sunny Spring Salad

Today’s recipe is a tasty vegetarian salad that is as satisfying as it is pretty.  The color is bright, just perfect after several days of rainy/snowy/grey weather. If it doesn’t feel like Spring outside, it can feel like Spring inside.

When I say split peas, what comes to mind? Split pea soup? GREEN split pea soup?  Years ago my dear friend, Dale Gallis, turned me on to yellow split peas.  I started making soup from them, but also use them in salads.

The yellow split peas are combined with carrots, sweet onion, sweet peppers and fresh herbs,  then tossed with a simple combination of apple cider vinegar and olive oil. You can serve it right away, or let the flavors blend in the fridge for a bit. I served my salad over a mix of Spring greens.

Yellow  (or green) split peas cook to al dente in about 20 minutes, so they are a quick option, too. Much shorter cooking times than other legumes.

 

Sunny Spring Salad

1- 1 1/2 c. raw yellow split peas

salt

1 carrot, peeled and shredded

1/2 c. chopped sweet onion

1/2 c. chopped sweet pepper

1/2 c. chopped parsley

1/2 c. snipped chives

1/4 c. olive oil

1/4 c. cider vinegar

salt and pepper to taste

6 c. mixed Spring greens

Rinse peas and place in a saucepan. Cover with water and add a little salt. Bring to a boil and simmer until peas are tender, about 20 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water. Combine peas with carrots, peppers and onion and toss well. Add parsley, chives, oil, vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. Chill until ready to use.  Serve on greens.  Serves 3-4.

Cook in simmering water until tender

Cook in simmering water until tender

Rinse in cold water after cooking

Rinse in cold water after cooking

Combine peas with other veggies

Combine peas with other veggies

Challah Burger Buns

Challah Rolls

When I needed hamburger buns, I decided make my own. I was using grass feed, organic beef for the burgers. The buns needed to be special, too.

I used the recipe for my Challah bread, and just reshaped them into rolls. These rolls are crusty on the outside and tender inside. They can be used for burgers, sandwiches or as dinner rolls.

I made 24 rolls, but you can make them bigger, if you like. Larger rolls would yield about 16, from this recipe. Because they are lightly brushed with an egg wash, they also have a pretty shine to them.

If you never made your own hamburger buns before, you might want to try them. They really aren’t that difficult and taste so good.

Challah Rolls

2 c. hot water
1 T. each sugar, salt and oil
1 package active dry yeast
¼ c. warm water
About 8 cups flour
2 beaten eggs
Poppy or sesame seeds, optional
In large bowl combine hot water, salt, sugar and oil. Dissolve yeast in warm water in small bowl and add to oil/water mix. Stir in 1 cup of the flour and eggs, reserving 2 tablespoons of the eggs for later. Gradually stir in enough of the flour to make soft dough. When dough pulls away from sides of bowl remove to floured surface. Knead dough, adding flour as necessary about 8-10 minutes. Dough should be smooth and elastic. Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, turning to grease top, cover with a towel and allow to rise in a warm, draft free place until doubled, about 1 hour.
Punch dough down and divide into 2 equal pieces. Divide each piece into 12 equal pieces- 8 if you want bigger rolls. Depending on the size you cut the dough you will end up with 16-24 pieces. Shape each piece into a smooth ball and place on a lightly greased baking sheet- leaving a couple of inches between the rolls. You will probably need 2 baking sheets.  Repeat with remaining dough. Cover with a towel and let dough rise until doubled, about 45 minutes. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Brush rolls with reserved eggs and sprinkle with sesame or poppy seeds, if desired. Bake 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. When done, rolls will be nicely browned and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Remove to a wire rack to cool. Makes 16-24 rolls.

Sour Cream Cupcakes with Cherry Frosting

Sour Cream Cupcakes with Cherry Frosting

I made these cupcakes for a friend who had been out of town for several months. She loves all things cherry, and asked if I could make her some vanilla cupcakes with cherry frosting. I was happy to do it for her. She loved them.

I ended up making  sour cream cupcakes. Something less sweet, and a little denser than most cupcakes. Almost like a pound cake in texture. It was an experimental recipe, so I was glad they turned out the first time.

When it came to the frosting, I already had a recipe I liked, and had made before. I just added a few cherries, finely chopped, since I had some on hand. I thought they would add a little texture to the frosting.

There was an issue with the color of the frosting.  Pure cherry flavoring is clear, so the frosting was not going to turn pink. It didn’t have to be pink, but I thought my friend would like pink frosting better.

I decided to add some beet powder- to add natural color to the frosting. I started out adding about ½ a teaspoon of the powder. I ended up using a little more before I got the shade I liked. Probably a couple of teaspoons, before I was done. The beet powder tinted the frosting a lovely color. It also left little flecks of darker beet color in the frosting. I really liked the way the frosting looked. The beet powder did not affect the taste of the frosting.

You can leave the frosting un-tinted, or use food coloring, if you don’t have beet powder lying around.

 

Sour Cream Cupcakes

 

1½ c. sugar

1 c. butter, softened

3 eggs

1 T. vanilla extract

2¼  cups all-purpose flour

1 T. baking powder

1 c. sour cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin pan with 24 paper liners. In a medium bowl, cream together the sugar and butter. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Combine flour and baking powder, add to the creamed mixture and mix well. Finally stir in the sour cream until batter is smooth. Pour or spoon batter into the prepared pan. Bake 20 minutes. Cupcakes are done when they springs back to the touch. Makes 24.

 

Cherry Vanilla Butter Cream

 

1 cup butter, softened

4 ½-5  c. sifted confectioners’ sugar

5 or 6 cherries, chopped fine*

1 ½  t. vanilla extract

1 ½  t. pure cherry flavoring

1- 2 t. beet powder or  a few drops of pink food coloring, optional**

 

 

In a bowl, beat butter until fluffy. Gradually add 2 cups of the confectioners’ sugar, beating well. Add the cherries and flavorings and gradually beat in remaining sugar. Beat for several minutes, until frosting is creamy and spreadable. Add beet powder or food coloring, if you like, and beat until smooth. Enough frosting for 24 cupcakes or a two layer cake.

*I had a jar or cherries and used a few of them in the recipe, for texture and flavor. Almost any cherry would work- fresh, canned or Maraschino.

**Since I have a dehydrator, I happened to have dehydrated beets at some point. I later powdered up the dried beets. I use the beet powder as a natural food coloring.  I understand that most people don’t have beet powder lying around. You can buy it online, or use artificial coloring for the frosting. You can also leave the frosting whatever color it ends up- sort of an off white. It will taste yummy, no matter what color it is. The pure cherry flavoring I use is clear. It adds flavor, but no color, to the frosting.

Surprise Ingredient Whoopie Pies

Whoopie Pies

I always get a smile when I offer someone a Whoopie Pie. Although baked liked cookies, Whoopie Pies are really more like small cakes, held together with a soft and creamy filling.

I added an unexpected ingredient to these, but it worked out pretty well. I added cooked, shredded beets.  I make a chocolate beet cake, so adding beets to baked goods is something I have done before.

I had been given a large quantity of beets a while back. I canned, dried and froze a lot of them. I decided to use one of the frozen beets to make these Whoopie Pies. I just thawed it out- it was cooked before freezing- and shredded it up.

It worked out well. They are really moist. They really aren’t much different from the original recipe, except moister and with a slight reddish hue. I am surprising my neighbor with them later. She did something really nice for me, and I wanted to thank her. She loves beets and chocolate- so it seemed like a good idea.

Here is the recipe for my beet version, and the original recipe, too. Just in case you don’t have cooked shredded beets laying around.

Chocolate Beet Whoopie Pies

Cookies:
2 c. flour
2 t. baking soda
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temp.
1 c. packed brown sugar
1 t. vanilla
2 eggs
½ c. cocoa
2/3 c. half and half or milk
½ c. cooked shredded beets
Cream filling
3 T. flour
1 c. milk
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temp.
2 t. vanilla
2 1/4 c. powdered sugar

Heat oven to 375-degrees. Line baking sheets with foil and coat with non-stick spray. Combine dry ingredients and set aside. Beat butter and sugar together until creamy. Beat in vanilla and eggs then beat in cocoa. Beat in beets. Alternately beat in flour mixture and milk. Drop 2 tablespoons of dough on prepared sheets for each cookie, spacing 3 inches apart. Shape into 2 1/4-inch rounds, trying to keep them even as they will be sandwich cookies later. Bake 12-14 minutes, cookies should spring back when touched lightly. Let sit on baking sheet 5 minutes then transfer to rack to cool. Prepare filling: Combine flour and milk in saucepan until smooth. Heat over medium, stirring until thickened and bubbly. Cook 1 minute. Remove from heat and whisk in 2 tablespoons of the butter. Place wax paper directly on surface of the mixture and let sit until cool to the touch about 45 minutes. Beat in remaining butter, vanilla and powdered sugar until smooth and fluffy. Sandwich cookies together in pairs with about 2 tablespoons of the filling. Store between wax paper in airtight container. Makes 15.

Whoopie Pies

Cookies:
2 c. flour
2 t. baking soda
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temp.
1 c. packed brown sugar
1 t. vanilla
2 eggs
1/3 c. cocoa
3/4 c. milk
Cream filling
3 T. flour
1 c. milk
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temp.
2 t. vanilla
2 1/4 c. powdered sugar
Heat oven to 375-degrees. Line baking sheets with foil and coat with non-stick spray. Combine dry ingredients and set aside. Beat butter and sugar together until creamy. Beat in vanilla and eggs then beat in cocoa. Alternately beat in flour mixture and milk. Drop 2 tablespoons of dough on prepared sheets for each cookie, spacing 3 inches apart. Shape into 2 1/4-inch rounds, trying to keep them even as they will be sandwich cookies later. Bake 12-14 minutes, cookies should spring back when touched lightly. Let sit on baking sheet 5 minutes then transfer to rack to cool. Prepare filling: Combine flour and milk in saucepan until smooth. Heat over medium, stirring until thickened and bubbly. Cook 1 minute. Remove from heat and whisk in 2 tablespoons of the butter. Place wax paper directly on surface of the mixture and let sit until cool to the touch about 45 minutes. Beat in remaining butter, vanilla and powdered sugar until smooth and fluffy. Sandwich cookies together in pairs with about 2 tablespoons of the filling. Store between wax paper in airtight container. Makes 15.

Cinnamon-Vanilla Belgian Waffles

Cinnamon-Vanilla Belgian Waffles

When I want a special breakfast, I make waffles. No one ever complains when you make waffles for breakfast. Or if you  make waffles for lunch or dinner, for that matter.

The response is even better when you make Belgian waffles. At least that has been my experience.  My theory is, that because Belgian waffles are bigger, people love them even more.

These waffles are light and rich at the same time.

Belgian waffles can be used as a dessert, too. For dessert, just top them with ice cream, chocolate sauce or whipped cream – or all three.

You can even freeze any extras. Oh, who are we kidding? There aren’t going to be leftovers. But if there were, you could freeze them.

 

 

Cinnamon-Vanilla Belgian Waffles

2 c. all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
3-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 t. cinnamon
2 eggs, separated
1-1/2 cups half and half- or milk
1 cup butter, melted
2 t. vanilla extract

Sliced fresh strawberries, powdered sugar or syrup

In a bowl, combine dry ingredients. In another bowl, lightly beat egg yolks. Add milk, butter and vanilla; mix well. Stir into dry ingredients just until combined. Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form; fold into batter. Bake in a preheated waffle iron according to manufacturer’s directions until golden brown. Serve with strawberries, powdered sugar or syrup. Yield: 10 waffles (about 4-1/2 inches).

Gluten- Free Potato “Breaded” Chicken

Potato “Breaded” Chicken

I love my Mom’s breaded chicken. It was a staple at summer outings. I still make it. Pretty classic, with a flour dredge, egg dip and bread crumbs.

I needed a different option the other day, when making lunch for a friend who can’t eat gluten. I just “breaded” the chicken with potato flakes.

I sometimes use potato flakes as a gluten free thickener for veggie soups and the like. I have also used them as a coating for chicken and fish before.

Even if you can have bread crumbs, the potato flakes are a fun way to coat chicken, fish or pork. They give you a nice, crispy crust.

The chicken breasts I had were pretty thick, so I cut them into  thinner pieces to help them cook faster, and more evenly. You could also cut them into nuggets, if you prefer. I pan fried, but you can also brown them a little, and finish in the oven, if you prefer.

 

Potato “Breaded” Chicken

½ mayo
1 c. potato flakes
Salt and pepper
4 chicken breasts, boneless or 6 boneless chicken thighs
Oil

Spread chicken pieces with the mayo. Season the potato flakes with a little salt and pepper. Place potato flakes on a plate or in a shallow dish. Coat the chicken pieces with the potato flakes, pressing a little to cover well. Heat oil in skillet until really hot. Cook chicken pieces in skillet, on both sides, until golden brown. Turn heat down to medium and continue cooking until chicken is cooked. Serves 3-4.

The Green Bowl of Spring

Green Bowl of Spring

We all get cravings. Food cravings. I think most of us think of cravings as a bad thing, like wanting brownies at midnight. But there are other cravings. The ones we should listen to.

It’s been a long winter. Spring, so far, has been unseasonably cold. I found myself have a craving lately, for veggies. More specifically, green veggies.

Don’t get me wrong. I eat veggies all the time. I like them. But this is more than my normal desire for veggies.

So I listened to these cravings, and made a big saute of green veggies for dinner last night. I used what I had on hand. The mixture was so full of flavor, and just what I had been wanting.  It reminded me of Spring, all green and full of life, so that is what I called the recipe. I plan on making this again, maybe switching up some of the veggies. I just ate them as is, but I could see serving them over rice or pasta.

 

 

The Green Bowl of Spring

3 T. olive oil

2 onions, sliced

2 c. chopped cabbage

1 pound of Brussels spouts, trimmed and cut in half

1 pound sugar snap peas, trimmed

1/2 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut in 2-inch pieces

1 c. stock- veggie or chicken

salt and pepper to taste

parsley

Heat oil in large skillet and cook onions until tender. Add cabbage and cook until cabbage is tender, about 5 -7 minutes.  Add Brussels sprouts and cook five minutes longer, reducing heat to medium and stirring often. Add remaining ingredients and cook 3-5 minutes more, until veggies are tender and most of the stock has cooked off. Adjust seasonings. Makes 4-6 servings.

New Release: