Images & recipes © Christine Mercer-Vernon unless noted otherwise. Please play nice when sharing and give proper credit and link backs.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Cinnamon Vanilla Dandelion Syrup

Well hello spring! It's about time, and yeah, it's about time I post something again. 

I know. Lots going on here, all good, just super busy. But spring is here and with it brings our annual violet and dandelion picking to make our favorite syrups.

Last year I went on an adventure to create a new dandelion syrup but ran out of an abundant supply of flowers before I could perfect it.

Now it's ready and I had to share because pancakes and french toast are just lovely with this syrup.

New to floral syrups?  Here's some of my past posts to get you up to speed...

Beautifully Simple Violet Syrup - Simple, easy, and so pretty, used exclusively in our home to make Violet Lemon Seltzers

Violet Jelly - Another favorite, very delicate in flavor and fabulous on buttery breads and toasts

Violet Syrup - a much thicker almost honey like syrup, than the simple violet syrup above. Was my first go around with it, and although we mainly make the simple syrup anymore, it's a great tutorial for first timers with picking and processing the flowers.

Dandelion Syrup - OMG yes! Thick and honey-like, this stuff is wonderful. Spread on toast with butter or warmed to thin it some to use on pancakes or french toast, it's a spring must in our house.

Floral Syrups - Things you should know - Must read for first timers and those considering canning floral syrups. While not approved by the USDA for canning, many do and usually no issues occur, but living in the woods, it turned out that for us, water bath canning did not seem to go well.

And with that out of the way, I introduce to you our newest favorite breakfast syrup...

Cinnamon Vanilla Dandelion Syrup

  • 4 cups fresh picked, tightly packed Dandelion blossoms (new blossoms not one's close to going to seed, you do not need to pull the green base off)
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, seeded and sliced open lengthwise
  • 2 cups raw cane/turbinado sugar (white is fine too, but raw adds a lovely flavor)
  • 1/2 tsp lemon juice

Place flowers and cinnamon stick into a heat proof, non-reactive bowl or jar.

Pour 2 cups boiling water over flowers, press down to submerge. Cover and let sit at least 8 hours or overnight, 12-18 is just right.

Remove cinnamon stick and Drain through sieve, gently pressing flowers to release liquid.

Drain a second time through a coffee filter to remove any debris, and pollen.

Measure liquid, you should have nearly two cups, add a bit more water if needed to equal 2 cups.

Add to medium non-reactive pot and add sugar, vanilla bean seeds and pod.

Bring to a boil over medium high heat stirring until all sugar is dissolved.  Boil for 5 minutes.

Remove from heat, stir in lemon juice and let cool.

Remove vanilla bean and pour into a clean sterile jar, and refrigerate up to one month.  (or longer if you are daring like us, but really, if things are looking gross, don't eat it)

This is a thinner syrup than my other recipe but is perfect right out of the fridge on pancakes and french toast, but warming it up is even better. :) Enjoy!

***Though tempting, never ever pick flowers from the roadside or treated lawns and meadows as the chemicals in these areas are not to be digested. Choose areas away from streets and areas that are treated with any sort of chemical or exposed to road or farm field run-off.

*** is giving me trouble today, as soon as I can get things to work I'll get this recipe added to make it searchable on here.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Gluten Free Shortcakes

I had intentions of posting this recipe when strawberries were at their peak... then I lost the paper I wrote it out on.

Lucky enough I was making to do lists for an upcoming trip and stumbled across that missing piece of paper.

These are easy to make and it's nice to be able to enjoy fresh picked fruits with warm gluten free shortcake and fresh homemade whipped cream.

Gluten Free Oat Shortcakes

by Christine Mercer-Vernon
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Keywords: bake appetizer bread dessert breakfast homemade snack gluten-free coconut oil eggs oatmeal tapioca flour

Ingredients (8-10)
  • 1 cup ground oat flour*
  • 2/3 cup brown rice flour*
  • 1/3 cup tapioca flour*
  • 1/2 tsp xanthan gum (or guar gum)*
  • 2 Tbsp coconut flour
  • 2 1/2 tablespoon raw sugar (or whatever you have)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup oil (grapeseed, melted coconut [will add slight coconut flavor])
  • 1/4 cup milk, almond milk, or other dairy or non-dairy liquid
* May substitute the first four ingredients with 1 cup of my gluten free flour mix
    To medium bowl add all dry ingredients and mix well.

    In small bowl or large measuring cup, add all wet ingredients and mix well. Add to dry ingredients and stir well to blend.

    Drop by 1/3 scoopfuls onto well seasoned stoneware pan and use fingers to gently flatten to about 3/4" height.**

    Bake in preheated 350˚ oven for 20 minutes or until cooked through and starting to brown.
    Serve warm or cold, although warm is pretty darn good, with your favorite fruit topping.

    PLEASE NOTE** I do not own metal baking sheets and bake exclusively on seasoned stoneware, therefore I have not tested these on metal sheets. Greasing may be required and I would recommend it, or bake on parchment paper lined baking sheets to prevent sticking.
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    Monday, June 25, 2012

    Growing and Ripening Chaos...

    basil and pathetically growing sage

    Summer is in full force. Brutal hot and humid full force.


    The jelly bean is out of school and these first few weeks are saturated with camps, swimming sessions and vacation.

    dwarf dill
    The earlier mild weather this spring (winter?) and now the much earlier than normal heat and humidity are really  taking a toll on most of my planters.

    These are few of what I have going. Since I took these last week, so many of my herbs are quickly going to flower, I'm trying to keep up with them by pinching out the tops to try and encourage them to fill out more but they immediately form new flower heads.

    buttercrunch lettuce
    I planted one potato bag with an early harvesting red potato. Yesterday was harvest time and we got a small bunch of edible potatoes with almost just as many rotting one's. Boo.

    I had this same problem last year and this year I even changed my soil to a soilless, very aerated mixture to try and keep the moisture levels under control.  I really think it's more a problem of the high heat and humidity and drenching rains we've had. I miss having a garden. I grew much better potatoes in the ground.

    Just like every other fruit so far this year, cherries came in really early.  I had to make a choice between cherries and strawberries because I just did not have the time to pick and preserve both this year.

    Cherries won.

    I picked 12 pounds of sweet cherries and played with a few boozy cherry recipes and mostly ate them.

    Sour cherries were my big projects, and I picked 22.5 pounds worth last week.

    In total between sweet and sour cherries I made:

    • 2 batches of sour cherry preserves
    • half a jar of dried sweet cherries
    • 6 pints of sour cherry pie filling (no food coloring)
    • 3 pints of maraschino cherries (with sours, experiment, no food coloring, still searching for a good recipe)
    • 1 quart of maraschino cherries (with sweet, these were just eh)
    • 1 quart of boozy maple cherries (with dark sweet, still not sure about these. When I took them out of the canner hot liquid exploded out from under the lids everywhere then they suddenly sealed up tight. WTH? Never had that happen before. Maybe too much rum, there really were no measurements for this recipe.)
    • 1 pint of boozy maple cherries (with emperor franz)
    • 1 pint of boozy amaretto cherries (same as boozy maple but I used amaretto and subbed white sugar for the maple syrup)
    • lots of sour cherry fruit leather (this stuff is sticky but a.w.e.s.o.m.e.)

    So as you can see, I've been busy.  To top off this chaos, blueberries started picking yesterday.  Hoping they hold on well as it will be two weeks until I can go pick as we've got a purely crazy schedule compounding with some vacation time.

    In all my canning chaos I broke one of my Weck jar lids... and swore a lot.

    I've still got 4 lbs more of sour cherries in the fridge. Sometime today I need to decide if I'm going to make more fruit leather or another batch of preserves.

    I'm thinking preserves, that stuff is addicting.

    work in progress

    If you've been looking for me in my absence, you'll probably find me over on my art blog, as I've returned to the studio over the past two months.

    Thursday, June 7, 2012

    Teacher Gifts - Plant Something

    I think most schools have wrapped up, but just in case here is a cute teacher idea I put together.  The jelly bean wraps up her Kindergarten year today so we made up some planters for her teacher and the two kindergarten teaching assistants.

    I'm not big on hot gluing 150 crayons or constructing something out of No. 2 pencils that has a limited use after giving so we decided to do something more eco-friendly and longer lasting.

    We planted an herb pot for her teacher and these adorable petunia hybrid that will bloom all summer for the wonderful kindergarten assistants.

    Being a graphic designer, I whipped up these cute flowers and leaves, printed them out on some cardstock, hand cut them out (not as bad as it seems) and glued them to some sticks we picked up outside.

    The jelly bean hand wrote their names on one leaf and signed her name on the other for a more personalized touch.

    They were fun and simple to make.

    And because I'm super nice, I took a few minutes and made up a free printable so you can make them yourself (I even added a bonus fourth colored flower).

    You can download it here:


    Summer vacation is here.....

    Thursday, April 26, 2012

    Much Healthier Recipe: Breakfast Carrot Cake

    I LOVE carrot cake. LOVE it.

    But have you seriously looked at the ingredients and… gulp… calories and sugar?
    Here's a pretty popular recipe, sized up for you (sans cream cheese frosting because that's even worse):

    click for larger view
    I've been seeing  a nutritionist to help with some nutritional deficiencies I keep having… not because I eat bad, I eat really, really well, but because it's a complication I have with the dual issues of celiac disease and a mitochondrial myopathy. PIA really.

    I've been working on this recipe for a while, so when I told her about this recipe, she loved it, her one challenge for me was to try and get the protein up. Which I did, quite successfully, as well as the fiber…. check the stats out on my carrot cake:

    2.25 g of that sugar is from the carrots, some is from the raisins. There's just no way around having some sugar in it, but on the sweetness scale, it is very low. The entire recipe uses just 3 T of honey and 1 T of molasses to sweeten it. Not bad at all.

    I wouldn't eat it for breakfast every day, but it's a great treat that's not too shabby.

    Breakfast Carrot Cake

    by Christine Mercer-Vernon
    Prep Time: 20 minutes
    Cook Time: 45 minutes
    Keywords: bake bread breakfast dessert snack gluten-free carrots cinnamon coconut oil molasses

    Ingredients (9 squares)
      Wet ingredients:
      • 1 pound finely grated carrots
      • 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
      • 4 egg whites
      • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
      • 1 Tablespoon molasses
      • 3 Tablespoons honey
      Dry ingredients:
      • 1 teaspoon baking soda
      • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
      • 1-1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
      • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
      • 1/4 tsp allspice
      • 1-1/4 cup rolled oats (ground in food processor or blender to fine flour)
      • 1 Tablespoon coconut flour (or substitute 2 tbsps more of oat flour)
      • 1 cup walnuts, roughly chopped ( you want some larger pieces for texture)
      • 1/3 cup raisins
      Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

      Mix dry ingredients well.

      In separate bowl, mix wet ingredients well.

      Add dry ingredients to wet and mix until well blended.

      Add walnuts and raisins. Mix to incorporate.

      Using a small bit of coconut oil, grease the bottom of a 8x8 inch glass baking dish.

      Pour batter into dish and spread out evenly.

      Bake for 45 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.

      Serve warm or at room temperature.

      Store leftovers in refrigerator.

      Reheats nicely in microwave.

      If you do not have coconut oil, use whatever liquid oil you have on hand. If you do not have coconut flour, substitute two more tablespoons of ground oat flour in it's place.
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      Tuesday, April 24, 2012

      Walk in the woods

      The Mayapples are blooming. So I went for a walk in our woods.

      So strange to see trees full of leaves in April… and poison ivy, everywhere.

      Since days of rain were coming, we went hiking the trails at Lake Redman on Friday.

      And threw rocks in the water.

      Saturday, April 14, 2012

      2012 PA Herb and Garden Festival

      Last night, me and my girls headed into the 14th Annual Pennsylvania Herb and Garden Festival, like we do every year.

      We had a great time, but we felt it was a little subpar this year.  A LOT more food vendors were added, which is ok, I guess, since most of them all were somewhat related to herbs and gardening.

      There were a lot of spice and herb blenders there and I came home with some rubs to test out (and probably use to create some new one's myself this summer).

      But… the actual amount of herbs for sale seemed much, much less than last year.

      That was a bit disappointing.

      Having started all of my own this year there was really nothing I needed to purchase except rosemary, but I'm holding off for more consistent weather so I can just plant them outside. Still, I was in search of any unique or not-to-common herb starts.

      I did find a few Love-in-the-Mist plants but I've started my own.

      We visited Sweet Sally's Soaps, like last year, for some homemade soaps. I'm a big fan of homemade soap and have purchased from a lot of different individuals, Sally's soaps are my favorite. They last a really long time and her scents are a treat.

      I came home with some Vinaigrette as well. Not only was this stuff the bomb, but the guy who makes it was the most entertaining vendor hands down. When I couldn't sample his veggie & crouton samples, he quickly put together a GF sample for me.

      I would drink this stuff straight from the bottle
      if people wouldn't look at me funny, it's that good. 

      He makes a note even at his booth that it is GF and that he uses real foods, no preservatives or other junk. It was refreshing to read an ingredient list I recognized.

      I happened to luck out and stumble on a vendor selling healthy organic baked goods who just happened to have a few gluten free options. I scored some great gluten free carrot cake and felt pretty darn special.

      It's a rarity to find any GF food options at these events.

      The show runs today yet and there are workshops all day for a variety of topics.

      I briefly attended last nights Edible & Medicinal Wild Herbs of Ohio and Pa workshop but there were no actual plants and not much discussion on preparing them other than a brief talk by the presenter (who also had a stand selling her products) on how she prepares them for her products, but it was not in much detail.

      After that we just followed along a handout where she noted the benefits of various wild edibles. Nothing that I didn't already know.  I had hoped for there to be actual plants there for us to see and demonstrations on preparing them for use, but sadly no.

      My ADD got the best of me and I had to step out.

      There's a few more shows coming up that we usually hit, so I'm looking forward to them.
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