Baking with Dandelions

Dandelions are one of my favorite flowers.  They come up early, they bloom all spring and summer long and they don’t care where they grow.  They were brought over by European settlers for food and medicine and now people spend hours and tons of money to get rid of them.  They are flowers disguised as weeds, and anyone who knows me can probably understand why I like them so much.

Everyone gets dandelions from Ben.  Everyone.
Everyone gets dandelions from Ben. Everyone.

With two kids at home I am the recipient of daily dandelion bouquets.  Charlotte walks through the door every day with the ones she’s deemed prettiest and hands them to me.  Ben will come up to me with a hand behind his back and tell me that he has a surprise for me.  He’ll hand his dandelion over with a flourish and wait, expectantly, for me to gush over how it is the most beautiful one I’ve ever seen.  I do, and I mean it every time.  I can’t bring myself to throw these tokens of love out, so the house is littered with dried blooms.  Every so often I gather them up and into the fire they go, votive offerings of love to Hestia.

This spring, as I am working on learning more about the various flora in our yard, I thought I’d try my hand at some herbalism and baking.  So this morning I went out with two baskets and foraged the front and back lawns.  I’ll only take from my land because I know we don’t spray (much to the annoyance of the neighbors, I’m sure).  I thought Ben would love the activity, but he doesn’t like the dew on the grass.  He also forbid me from blowing on the white seed heads because then they wouldn’t e beautiful any more.

The fruits--or rather flowers--of my labor.
The fruits–or rather flowers–of my labor.

Even leaving the flowers on the parkway, by the property line and the driveway, as well as leaving plenty for the bees, I filled up the basked in about fifteen minutes.  The backyard yielded another basketful and you can hardly tell I was there.

Picking was a pain in the back, but the real work came once I was in the house.  I had to wash and then proccess the flowers.  Processing them involved snipping off the petals and discarding the leaves and buds.  That took the better part of an hour.  Most went into a jar to soak for dandelion wine.  One and a half cups of petals went into a batter for dandelion muffins.

Dandelion muffins!
Dandelion muffins!

The muffin recipe is actually for bread and comes from here.  I decided on muffins, because why not?  And they came out tasty.  The dandelions seemed to really only add to the aesthetics.  Or it might be that the honey hid any of the natural dandelion taste.  Either way, I think the muffins would work for use in pagan rituals, or maybe as an accompaniment to a tea and tarot party (since divination and dandelions are linked in magical herbals).

All in all, I call this my first success in backyard edibles.  I’ll have to wait six months to judge how the wine turns out.

Baking with dandelions, petals for the muffins.
I trimmed the petals with scissors. This was what went into the muffins.
Baking with dandelions, petals for wine.
And the rest of the petals went into water to soak for the wine.

Who is Viking Dad? (in about 750 words)

Well, I can start by saying that I’m not the guy in the YouTube video of the same name. That’s a start.  I was adopted, raised in Michigan, spending the school year in the lower peninsula and the summers in the upper peninsula.  I also, with this blog as a record, am living for and through my family.

Born in 1970, I displayed signs of Alopecia Totalis (meaning I have no body hair at all) starting when I was two years old.  It made elementary school a bit rough, as even those children in the minority still had each other, where I was the only one with that condition.  I found the wonderful worlds of Gary Gygax (Dungeons and Dragons) in the summer of 1980 (I was 9) and embraced it whole-heartedly.

I also went through an awkward (just like everyone else) time in that social circus we call junior and high school.  I was not the average kid. I didn’t like or play sports, I didn’t have an affinity for anything other than escapism by not really being present in my own world and substituted by living in a fantasy world.  Thanks to R.A. Salvatore, in the mid to late 1980’s I had a realm to escape to.

I had anger management issues. Having been picked on and made fun of my entire childhood and adolescence (and not having a solid sense of self at all, nor any confidence to be able to shrug it off as I desperately wanted to be a part of a group, to feel like I belonged), I repressed all that hurt and anger.  I then found an outlet for it, though it was unhealthy and hurtful.  I worked out lifting weights (not all that bad), trained a bit as a boxer (still not all that bad) and then started picking fights (bad).   Being beaten within an inch of my life (maybe a little bit less than) by several people put things into perspective for me.

I turned to theatre.  I got a scholarship at the local community college and started succeeding. I transferred to a four year university and at the direction of everyone other than myself, I failed. I moved around, got married, got divorced, moved some more, tried again and this time got my B.A. in Theatre and started feeling really good.

Then I went to graduate school and it all went downhill again. I moved around some more, got married again.  I found solace in escapism once more, in the worlds of darkness presented by the NPO (then) called the Camarilla, now known as the Mind’s Eye Society.  Things went downhill once more and I got divorced… again.

It wasn’t all bad, though.  I met the shield-maiden in the Cam/MES and it has lead to the happiest, healthiest, most fun relationship I’ve ever been in (going on seven years now, married for five of them).

In 2008 I moved to the Chicagoland area, in 2009 I married the shield-maiden and in 2011, our son, Benjamin (aka Benvolio, Viking in Training) was born.  He has an older half-sister from the shield-maiden’s previous marriage.

Together the four of us work to not just survive, but thrive and live in this world.  We are trying to live creatively, choosing happiness over struggle.  We are in debt, always. We have struggles, perpetually.  We have bills, things breaking down, issues and obstacles from both of us having previous marriages.

Despite all that, we choose to embrace the moments of happiness instead of dwelling on the struggles.  The moments shared playing and working together:  Bonding over Minecraft and Nachos; Planning for the future of training with swords and archery.  In the process of teaching, I am learning the real life issues of helping my children grow up in a world that is nothing like the one I grew up in.

My children see me working on tasks that break stereotypes.  I cook, I bake, I do dishes, I do laundry. I make their lunches, and help with the homework.  I bake bread for our family two to three times a week.  I make sure the kids have a decent breakfast.  I play with them and involve myself in their creativeness.  I say, “Yes, and…” (most of the time).

Today, Ben turns 4.  Today celebrates over 1200 days of successfully raising our son and helping him survive (despite our setbacks and failures during that time).

Today, we have birthday cake for breakfast.  Happiness.

Find your moment of happiness and embrace it!

 

VikingDad Pro-Tip #15: The Power of Nachos

If things are going rough, make a snack and bond over it. I’ve yet to see two people be angry at each other while eating a plate of nachos.  Kids are no different. They get angry and frustrated, particularly easily when hungry, so take a few minutes, sprinkle some shredded cheese over some tortilla chips, pop it in the microwave for a minute or so and then voila, you have a plate of instant bonding. Never underestimate the power of nachos.

VikingDad Pro-Tip #41(Kid’s Breakfast)

So, when you’re a stay-at-home Viking looking after the little ones, a healthy breakfast is important.  Knowing how chaotic things can get in the morning, it might not be a bad idea (like the one the shield-maiden gave me) to prep breakfast for the kids the night before.

I know what you’re thinking… sure… sounds great on paper but how is it in practice.  While it may seem like a herculean task when you’re trudging off to bed, but trust me, your early morning bleary-eyed self will thank you for it.

Vanilla Yogurt, Homemade Granola, Fresh Blackberries, Fresh Raspberries, Fresh Pineapple
Vanilla Yogurt, Homemade Granola, Fresh Blackberries, Fresh Raspberries, Fresh Pineapple and a cup of apple juice.

For instance, this breakfast above can be prepped in only a few minutes and put in the fridge for the next morning.  A couple of spoons of vanilla yogurt then a couple of spoons of granola then more yogurt, then more granola and then topped with some fresh berries.  Just cover with some plastic wrap and put in the fridge.

When morning comes, yank it out of the fridge, pour them a glass of apple juice and Viola, a healthy breakfast that they can eat while you’re still waking up!

VikingDad says, “Make dough staying at home!”

Yeah, I know, bad internet-money-making-scheme reference as metaphor for baking bread.  It’s totally legit though, since I am VikingDad the Bread-Master.

OK, so it’s not that hard to be a bread-master, really.  To show what I mean (and with the help of the shield-maiden) I’ve documented the process I use for baking bread that has earned me the bread-master moniker.

Anyroad, the ingredients are simple, the process easy and the required tools are pretty easy to come by.  This process takes about 4 ½ hours.

(I’ve adapted it from this recipe)

Cooking utensils you’ll need:

Large bowl x2 (you’ll want the bigger one to hold your rising dough and the other big enough to hold the flour below)

Kitchen towel

Fork

Loaf pans x2

Oven Mitts

Mixing spatula (though you could also use a butter knife)

Oven (of course)

3-cup (minimum) capacity measuring cup (or you could use a smaller, 1-cup measuring cup and empty contents into a separate bowl)

Brush (used to coat the loaf pans with the cooking oil, so if you don’t have one, that’s OK, you can use a paper towel or even your fingers, if you’re not concerned about getting a little dirty)

Cooling Rack (optional, but handy)

 

Ingredients:

 

6 ½ cups: All Purpose (though any other type will work as well) Flour.

1 ½ tablespoons:  Active Dry Yeast.

1 tablespoon:  Salt.

3 cups:  Luke-warm Water.

Cooking Oil (I use olive oil, but other cooking oil will work just fine): this is used to coat your loaf pans so you won’t knead (hah, see what I did there… another bread-making play on words) it right away.

 

 

Process:

 

(Helpful Hint: 3 teaspoons = 1 tablespoon, so I use a teaspoon measure for the yeast and salt putting in 4 ½ teaspoons and 3 teaspoons respectively)

 

  • Put the yeast and salt in the larger of the two bowls.
  • Put the flour in the smaller of the two bowls.

 

The ingredients before mixing them.
The ingredients before mixing them.

 

  • Get the water and put it in the bowl with the yeast and salt, mix with your fork until almost all of the yeast is mixed in and the salt is dissolved (there shouldn’t be any sediment on the bottom of the bowl).
  • Once it’s mixed, pour the flour in and stir it with the fork. You’ll want to make sure that it is mixed well enough so that there are no more dry spots of flour in the bowl.

 

This is what the dough should look like after mixing the yeast/salt, flour and water. You can now cover it to let it rise.
This is what the dough should look like after mixing the yeast/salt, flour and water. You can now cover it to let it rise.

 

  • Cover with the kitchen towel and let rise for 2 hours.
  • Once the two hours have passed, your dough should be pushing up against the towel. This is totally OK.  You should coat the entirety of the loaf pans (make sure you also put the oil on the lips as sometimes the dough overflows a bit and rises past it.  You really don’t want the bread sticking to that, otherwise getting it out of the pan later will be a hot mess) with the cooking oil.
  • Uncover the risen dough, pour into the loaf pans, separating the giant glob of dough with the spatula (or bread knife) by applying pressure with the utensil against the edge of the bowl and in a cutting motion, working it along the edge until it separates. It may take some practice to make the two loaves almost equal in size. Don’t worry, they taste the same.

 

This is after two hours of rising, ready to pour into the two loaf pans.
This is after two hours of rising, ready to pour into the two loaf pans.

 

This is after pouring into the loaf pans. Ready to cover for another 45 minutes.
This is after pouring into the loaf pans. Ready to cover for another 45 minutes.
  • Once the dough is separated in the loaf pans, re-cover them with the same towel (or if there’s a bunch of dough stuck to that one, use another) and let rise for another 45 minutes.
  • At the 35 minute mark, turn your oven on at 450 degrees and lower your oven racks to the two bottom most levels.
  • At the 45 minute mark (or after your oven has been heated to 450 degrees for about ten minutes, in case you forgot the above step) uncover and put the loaves in the oven for 22 minutes.

 

The dough after 45 minutes of rising. Ready for the oven!
The dough after 45 minutes of rising. Ready for the oven!

 

  • At 22 minutes, open the oven, check the tops of the loaves, if they are golden brown and solid, then your bread is done and pull it out.

 

After 22 minutes in the oven.  Ready to pop out and let cool.
After 22 minutes in the oven. Ready to pop out and let cool.

 

  • Give the loaf pans a twist, like you’re separating ice cubes in an ice-tray. This will help separate the bread from the pan. If you’re lucky (and did a great job coating the loaf pan) then the bread will clearly separate.  If not, you can use a bread knife (leading with the dull side) to separate them.

 

They are done! They don't look very tall, but that's just the angle of the camera, they're about as tall as a regular loaf of bread.  Enjoy!
They are done! They don’t look very tall, but that’s just the angle of the camera, they’re about as tall as a regular loaf of bread. Enjoy!

 

  • Allow them to cool for a bit and ta-DAH, you have two loaves of bread. Enjoy!

 

Peter Rubi

Saturday is usually market day for us, which means heading out to Peter Rubi.  It is a bit of a drive from us; a trip that takes us out through farmland and by the Dupage River.  Despite the drive, the trip is always worth it, enough for us to make it weekly.  And by picking up our produce first, it makes planning meals for the week easier.  It also assures that I’m planning meals that use up all the produce so we don’t have sad, ruined veggies sitting in the fridge at the end of the month.

This time around we spent a total of $17 on a bunch of spinach and romaine lettuce, lemons, limes, two pineapples, a package of raspberries and blackberries, a pomegranate, two 8-lb bags of potatoes (for $1 each), garlic, broccoli, carrots, cucumbers, and oranges for Charlotte’s lunch.  Factor in what we spent on gas and that’s about $25 for a week plus of food.

We make a lot of crock pot soups and stews, which is where most of the potatoes and carrots will go.  The berries, pomegranate and pineapple will go into fruit salads for breakfast or desert.  My goal is also to have salad with every dinner this week, which will use up the bulk of romaine, spinach and cucumbers.  And Stephan has offered to make potato pancakes.

Peter Rubi’s focus is on locally grown produce, which is probably why the food on their shelves always seems better than what I come across at my local grocery stores.  I would love to see more of these types of grocers open up, especially in areas that are underserved by the larger grocery store chains.  Shops like FARM:shop that bring urban farming into a grocery setting, and selling “ugly” produce like in France could help to get more vegetables and fruits to people who don’t have as many options. That would certainly be a more productive move than chastising people for “poor food choices” and trying to ban them from buying soda with food stamps.