Two Beginner Herbal Recipes for Your Little Gatherer

Herbal Recipes Cover 

 I have wild children.  By this, I mean they would be outside in our woods all day, every day- and sometimes they are.  They love to make their own little herbal concoctions and pretend brews and once spent an entire summer stocking their fort with little remedies for every ailment they could image.

It's not just pretend play, however, and in the spring they watch carefully for some of their favorite edible and useful friends.  Dandelion, violet, chickweed (which is often a fall find around here, but occasionally they get lucky in spring so they always watch for it), and plantain are some of their favorites.   While we do make tinctures, oils, infusions, and more for our family medicine cabinet, they also enjoy making a few simple herbal treats this time of year.  Here are two that even a beginner can master.




Dandelion Cupcakes

Ingredients

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Boxed Cake Mix** (We like Chocolate, vanilla shows off the dandelions better)
1 Can of Coconut Milk (Or Oil & Water according to package directions)
Eggs Called for on Package
Dandelion Flower Heads (1 qt jar is usually enough for 2-3 cups of petals)

Instructions

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Remove yellow petals from dandelions.  You can leave the green parts, but they are a little bitter so get as many as you can.  This is a time consuming job and usually involves some swapping in and out of kids as their interest waxes and wanes-it is a great fine motor task, but little hands can tire quickly.  You will need 2-3 cups of petals.

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Mix together cake mix, can coconut milk, eggs, and dandelion petals.

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Pour into cupcake or cake pans and bake according to package directions.

Frost if desired and enjoyed!

**Yes.  This recipe calls for a boxed cake mix.  I know.  You can absolutely use your favorite non boxed cake recipe just as easily.  However, with the box Lucie (4) can do the entire project by herself and that is an accomplishment of a different kind.  The boxes usually have picture recipes that a non-reader can follow quite easily.  I firmly believe every mom should have a boxed cake mix that she likes and keeps available for this type of last minute project.  We like the Aldi mixes due to their clear labeling policies as a company and the fact that the mixes are corn and dairy free.


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Herbal Simple Syrup

Ingredients

Sugar
Water
Edible Flowers
Lemon Juice* (optional- see below)


Instructions


Pick 2-3 handfuls of edible flowers such as violet or dandelion (1/2 of a quart mason jar is a good amount).  DO NOT PICK FROM YOUR YARD, YOUR NEIGHBORS YARD, OR ANYWHERE ELSE UNLESS YOU ARE 100 PERCENT SURE THAT THE AREA HAS NOT BEEN SPRAYED!

Boil water (we use an electric tea kettle) and pour over flowers to cover.  Cover with a tea towel and let sit for 24 hours to make a strong infusion.

Strain flowers from the liquid.  Using a measuring cup.  

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At this point, add lemon juice as desired.  If you use violets, lemon juice will be needed to bring the liquid from an ugly green to a lovely pinkish/purple (depending on the color of your original flowers).   Add too much lemon juice and you will make a lemon syrup, however, so add just as much as needed to get the color you want.  I like to add enough to make an even volume of liquid.  (Note: we used lemon juice in both the dandelion and violet batches shown below.)

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Mix together liquid and sugar in a 1:2 ratio.  For every 1 cup of liquid, add 2 cups of sugar.  (You can add less, but then you will need to boil off the extra liquid and it can be harder to tell when the syrup is finished.)

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Heat the mixture until all the sugar is dissolved, stirring regularly.  It may or may not need to come all the way to a boil for this to happen.  Usually almost to a boil is about perfect.  The finished syrup will be clear rather than cloudy.

Pour into glass jars and store in the refrigerator or freezer (after you take a pretty picture outside, of course!).  

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Use as you would any syrup such maple syrup or honey.  The violet has a mild sweet taste and the dandelion is a bit like honey.  They add a bit of natural coloring and unique flavor to pancakes, cookies, cakes, frostings...whatever you can think of!  One of our favorite ways to use these syrups is to substitute them for corn syrup in homemade marshmallows.

Looking for more cooking with kids inspiration?  Check out our time-lapse video of kids in the kitchen, from tots to teens or visit Katie over at Kitchen Stewardship and go ahead and sign your kids up for a knife skills safety class or full cooking course!  (Just maybe don't tell her I gave you a boxed recipe...)

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