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Honey cookies

While most of America enjoys sugar from sugarcane or beets, in Europe and much of the world honey is the favorite sweetener.  Typical honey is 38.2% fructose, 31.3% glucose, 7.1% maltose, 1.3% sucrose with other sugars accounting for some 1.5% of the honey.  Most honey is actually 17.2% water, and may have 3.4% “other” ingredients that may, in raw and unfiltered honey, include pollen, dust, and other sources of nutrition.  Sugar from sugarcane or beets is typically almost entirely sucrose.

        While there is typically no difference in taste between sugar beets and sugarcane, honey will have (because of the 3.4% “other” ingredients) a unique flavor depending on where it was made, by what bees it was made (some bees are better at making honey), and the subtle craft of the beekeeper or honey presser.

        Honey was the only choice of sugar for Europeans a long time before they discovered sugarcane or developed the sugarbeet.  Many traditional sweets from Europe rely on honey, instead of sugar.  Here’s a nifty recipe for those of us used to sugar cookies… Honey cookies (a recipe from Germany)!



2 cups honey (may need to add water if honey is dry)                                 1 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup shortening                                                                                                  4 cups all purpose flour

2 eggs                                                                                                                     1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon vanilla extract (for more authentic German flavor, use almond extract)



1. In a saucepan over low heat, melt together shortening and honey. Let cool.

2. Mix together eggs, vanilla, baking soda and ginger. Gradually add to cooled honey mixture.

3. Slowly add 4 cups of flour to mixture. Stir until well blended. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto cookie sheets about 2 inches apart. Bake at 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) until golden (about 12-15 minutes).


Good gravy, there's fungus among us!

Quick, start the water boiling!
Fungi are delicious and nutritious and very easy to cook.  A mushroom broth makes almost anything better, and if thickened a bit with some home ground flour from white winter wheat, makes good gravy.  Add some natural olive oil and balsamic vinegar to taste.  We like the taste of our favorite olive oil and vinegar from california and italy.  What is your favorite?
If you want to go wild, add in some nice pine needles and rose hips to the gravy, and you will have a dinner that can't be beat. 

BBQ Pizza

The Elbert County Fire Chiefs Association decided to reduce the Elbert County burn restriction to “Stage 2.”  The Elbert County Board of Commissioners made Ordinance 06-01 to approve this because conditions have improved with recent moisture levels. The restriction will run through September 30, 2011, when it will likely be renewed.

This does not mean that the threat of wildfire is gone, and caution is still required.  But, just in time for summer, Stage 2 returns the ability to use charcoal grills and campfires by approval through your fire department. So make sure to get a permit FIRST or the fines could be hefty.  Tell them you heard it from the Herald: if you invite them to your barbeque, you increase your chance of a permit!

Propane grills are legal to use without a permit, but for those loving the taste of wood, coal or other solid fuels, here’s some thing else in the news to think about.  BBQ Pizza.

Backyard chefs in Australia are likely to lay claim to inventing this, or at least are the very first to publish their results on the internet and other locations of avant guarde culinary science debate.  American chefs have been quick to pick it up, though, and now you can even buy frozen pizzas designed especially to fit on your barbeque.  Check out Home Run Inn Pizza – they just developed this June 1, last week.

Beyond the size issue, there is nothing in particular very special about a barbeque pizza.  It has all the same ingredients, but the manner of cooking it comes down to several fundamental choices. I’m not about to suggest which one is best for you, this is America, after all, and you are entitled to make bad choices. 

Just as with oven pizzas, it is important to cook the dough ahead of the toppings.  The key with barbeque pizza is to keep the lid CLOSED to emulate an oven.  Flip the dough four times to give the crust beautiful cross-hatched grill marks.  Some chefs do not like the char and will leave the pizza on a barbeque safe metal cooking pan or tray or paddle.  It would also be appropriate to consider using barbeque safe pottery or baking stones: these make the pizza extra crispy and crusty.  Paddles, trays, stones and pottery help cook the pizza more evenly

Removing the crust, apply your cheese and other toppings.  While, again, it would be improper of me to suggest toppings, if you are considering putting barbeque chicken or barbeque sauce on your barbeque pizza it is important to stop: you need to seek psychiatric help IMMEDIATELY.

It is important to cook the pizza on very high heat and quickly – this is the magic of barbeque pizza – so make sure you cut all your toppings VERY fine.  They’re not going to be in there long. 

BBQ Pizza

Serves 4 (makes 4 individual 7 inch pizzas or one large 13 inch pizza)


Pizza dough – homemade or premade crust

Pizza sauce:

        4 cups tomatoes, diced OR 1 can (12oz) tomato paste

        1 teaspoon basil

        1 1/2 teaspoon oregano

        ¼ to 1 teaspoon black pepper

        1/2 teaspoon tarragon

        1/2 teaspoon dill

        1 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

        1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

        Chili powder or fresh chili peppers, chopped (optional)

        Lemon or lime juice (optional)


        6 oz fresh Mozzarella cheese, grated or sliced (or  mix with other cheeses,  like cheddar or Swiss)

        2 to 3 cups mixed vegetables and fruits


Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Make the dough:  if homemade, follow directions until dough is rising.  If premade, skip this step.

While the dough rises, prepare the vegetables and sauce:  Clean and slice vegetables to 1/2 inch or less thickness.  Steam crunchy vegetables such as carrots and broccoli for 5 to 15 minutes, or until they begin to soften. 

Mix tomato paste with herbs and olive oil.  To keep the sauce from being too spicy for you, taste as you go.  Those who enjoy a lively pizza would do well to mix in some powdered chili pepper or pureed chili peppers to the sauce.  For an interesting twist, try adding in a twist of lime or lemon juice to the sauce!  If you have fresh herbs, try using them in the sauce instead of dried herbs, or just throw them on with the toppings! 

If making your own pizza crust: when the dough is ready, punch it down and divide it into four sections for individual pizzas, or leave it whole for a large pizza.  Prepare the pizza pan by oiling it with olive oil and dusting it with cornmeal.  Stretch the dough evenly across the pizza pan(s).  If desired, brush the dough with golden olive oil.  Bake for 5 to 7 minutes, until the dough is mostly cooked but before it starts to brown.  Remove from oven.

For either kind of crust: spread sauce on the crust, then cover with cheese and vegetables.  Grill on the barbeque at high heat, or until the cheese is melted and the crust is golden.



Plantain Leaves with Currants and Roasted Nuts

Plantain Leaves with Currants and Roasted Nuts

Recipe from Wild Food Foragers of America, Vol. 1 No. 4, August/September 2003.

1 pound plantain leaves

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 cup nuts (pine nuts, pecans or walnuts)

2 cloves garlic, finely minced

1/4 cup currants or raisins

Salt and pepper to taste


Wash, but don’t dry the plantain leaves, then chop coarsely.  Place in a large saucepan over medium heat and cook, covered, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove to a colander and rinse quickly. Press out as much water as possible. (This will remove bitterness from older leaves.)

In a large skillet, heat olive oil over a medium fire, add the nuts and cook just until they begin to roast.  Add garlic, and cook another minute.  Add the leaves, currants, salt and pepper. 

Cook, stirring frequently, about 5 more minutes and serve hot.

Dandelion Seed Biscuits

Dandelion Almond Sweet Biscuits

Recipe from Prodigal Gardens.


2 cups whole wheat flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 cup butter

1/2 cup almonds

1/2 cup buttermilk

2 eggs

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

1 1/2 cups dandelion seeds, plucked out of the flower head


Put flour, baking powder, and almonds in a food processor.  Blend almonds are chopped fine.  Add butter and blend again until it forms a crumbly mixture.  Add eggs, buttermilk, almond extract and dandelion and blend just until dough forms a lump.  Shape into biscuits and bake on an ungreased cookie sheet at 450 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes or until golden brown.

Serve hot with butter and jam.



Violet soup and violet salad

What to do with those delicious violets?  Try soup and salad!


Violet Pineapple Soup

Recipe from Valentine Floral Creations, 2009.

Serves 6


4 cups pineapple juice

3 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca

3 teaspoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel

2 cups strawberries or raspberries, sliced

1 cup diced orange sections or drained canned mandarin oranges

2 tablespoons orange liqueur

1/2 cup fresh violets

Sour cream


Combine pineapple juice and tapioca, bring to a boil. Remove from heat adding sugar and lemon peel. Cool to room temp. Add fruit, liqueur, and violets. Chill, before serving, add dollop sour cream to each bowl and garnish with a violet.


Violet-Mint Salad

Recipe from Prodigal Garden.


2 cups violet leaves, cut into thin ribbons

1 carrot, grated

1 cup mint leaves, chopped fine or minced in food processor

1 cup dried fruit (choice of raisins, dates, craisins, currants, apricot)

1 cup walnuts

1 cup violet blossoms

Dressing: Creamy Violet Dressing is recommended (See entry for Speedwell, and substitute violets for speedwell)


Toss everything together and top with your favorite dressing.



Thistles for plate and medicine cabinet - Thistle Soup

The thistle is an ancient Celtic symbol of nobility of character as well as of birth, for the wounding or provocation of a thistle yields punishment. For this reason the thistle is the symbol of the Order of the Thistle, a high chivalric order of Scotland - though another story to explain this is that a bare foot Viking attacker stepped on one at night and cried out, so alerting the defenders of a Scottish castle.  The thistle is not of great repute elsewhere, however: Shakespeare classes "rough Thistles" with 'hateful Docks" and, in the Bible, thistles are one of the afflictions Adam and Eve are cursed by when they are cast out from Eden.  It is a noxious weed in many nations, and penalties fall on landowners who do not eradicate them, and governments eradicate thistle from the roadsides. 

It is very medicinal.  Milk Thistle was used to strengthen the liver the world over, and in modern times has been shown in scientific tests to be effective for many health concerns.  The active chemical in thistle seems to be silymarin, but the exact way that silymarin works in the body is only beginning to be understood, however, it seems to take the place of many of the enzymes and other chemicals produced by the liver, thus relieving its burden somewhat as it detoxifies the body, allowing the body's energy to be distributed elsewhere.  Holy thistle is mentioned in all the treatises on the Plague, and especially by Thomas Brasbridge, who in 1578 published his Poore Man's Jewell, that is to say, a Treatise of the Pestilence. The distilled leaves, he says "helpeth the hart...expelleth all poyson taken in at the mouth and other corruption that doth hurt and annoye the hart...the juice of it is outwardly applied to the bodie...therefore I counsell all that have Gardens to nourish it, that they may have it always to their own use, and the use of their neighbours that lacke it."  Culpepper declared that a decoction of thistle in wine "being drank expels superfluous melancholy out of the body and makes a man as merry as a cricket."  The Emperor Charlemagne, when his Army was afflicted by a great disease that killed thousands of his men, prayed earnestly to God, and in his sleep there appeared to him an angel who shot an arrow from a crossbow, telling him to mark the plant upon which it fell, for with that plant (a thistle) he might cure his army of the pestilence. 

Fiddlehead Fern and Thistle Soup

Recipe modified from Mignonne.

Serves 4


4 cups fiddleheads, fresh and cleaned

2 cups thistle leaves, stems, or flower stalks

2 teaspoons unsalted butter

1 small onion, minced

2 cups soup stock

2 cups milk or cream

Lime zest

Salt and pepper to taste



Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the fiddleheads and thistles, return to a boil and cook until they are almost tender and turn pale green, 5 to 8 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water. Coarsely chop and reserve. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until they become translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the fiddleheads, thistles and soup stock. Stir, increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a gentle boil. Cover and cook until the fiddleheads and thistles are thoroughly tender, about 5 minutes. Add the milk, reduce the heat to medium, and heat until nearly boiling. Do not let the soup boil or the milk will curdle. Stir in the lime zest and season the soup to taste with salt and pepper. Divide the soup into four bowls, garnish with nutmeg and serve immediately.



Dandelion Blossom Syrup AND! Cream of Dandelion Soup

Dandelion Blossom Syrup 

Recipe from Prodigal Garden.

Makes just over 1 pint (2 cups)


1 quart (4 cups) dandelion flowers

1 quart (4 cups) water

4 cups sugar

1/2 lemon or orange, entire fruit including peel, chopped (optional)


This is a traditional recipe passed down from the old world Europeans.  It can be used in place of honey in most recipes.

Put blossoms and water in a pot. Bring just to a boil, turn off heat, cover, and let sit overnight. 

The next day, strain and press liquid out of spent flowers.  Add sugar and sliced citrus and heat slowly, stirring now and again, for several hours or until reduced to a thick, honey-like syrup.  Can in half-pint or 1 pint jars. 

This recipe can be doubled (or more!).


Cream of Dandelion Soup

Recipe from Prodigal Garden.


 4 cups dandelion leaves, chopped

2 cups dandelion flower petals

2 cups dandelion buds

1 tablespoons butter or olive oil

1 cup wild leeks or onions, chopped

6 cloves garlic, minced

4 cups water

2 cups half-and-half or heavy cream

2 teaspoons salt


Gently boil dandelion leaves in 6 cups water.  Pour off bitter water.  Boil gently a second time, pour off bitter water.

In a heavy-bottom soup pot, sauté wild leeks and garlic in butter or olive oil until tender.  Add 4 cups water.  Add dandelion leaves, flower petals, buds, and salt.  Simmer gently 45 minutes or so.  Add cream and simmer a few minutes more.

Garnish with flower petals.

Raw Cattail Soup

Raw Cattail Soup

Recipe modified from Steve Brill.

Serves 6


2 1/2 cups almonds

10 cups water, or as needed

2 cups thinly sliced cattail shoots (about 30 shoots)

1/4 cup fresh spearmint leaves or other mint leaves, finely chopped

Juice from half a lemon


Cover the almonds with water and soak, refrigerated, 6 hours to overnight.

Puree the soaked almonds, about 2 cups at a time, with about 3 cups of the water at a time in a blender until all the almonds have been pureed.  Pour the almond-water puree into a colander lined with cheesecloth or thin nylon fabric over a bowl. Twist the top of the cloth and squeeze the remaining water. Discard the pulp.

Mix the remaining ingredients with the almond milk. Serve chilled.


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