Saturday, July 6, 2013

Candied or Crystallized Flowers

Candied or Crystallized Flowers
 When growing flowers in my garden I always love spending time with them, and I am always looking for ways to extend their beauty, so when I found out you could candy them and use them on cakes, in foods and drinks(ice cubes) and things I was even happier to have my flowers and herbs.

Rinsed and dried edible flower blossoms, separated from the stem (suggestions: apple or plum blossoms, borage flowers, lilac florets, rose petals, scented geraniums, and the violas - violets, Johnny-jump-ups, and pansy petals)
1 extra-large egg white, at room temperature
Few drops of water
About 1 cup superfine sugar
A small paint brush
A baking rack covered with waxed paper

Good candidates for candying are apple or plum blossoms, borage flowers, lilac florets, rose petals, scented geraniums, and the violas - violets, Johnny-jump-ups, and pansy petals.

This job takes a little patience; it seems to go more quickly if you do it with a friend. The following recipe will coat quite a few flowers, but if you need more, mix up a second batch.

In a small bowl, combine the egg white with the water and beat lightly with a fork or small whisk until the white just shows a few bubbles. Place the sugar in a shallow dish.

Holding a flower or petal in one hand, dip a paint brush into the egg white with the other and gently paint the flower. Cover the flower or petal completely but not excessively. Holding the flower or petal over the sugar dish, gently sprinkle sugar evenly all over on both sides. Place the flower or petal on the waxed paper to dry. Continue with the rest of the flowers.

Let the flowers dry completely; they should be free of moisture. This could take 12 to 36 hours, depending on atmospheric humidity. To hasten drying, you may place the candied flowers in an oven with a pilot light overnight, or in an oven set at 150 degrees to 200 degrees F with the door ajar for a few hours.

Store the dried, candied flowers in airtight containers until ready to use. They will keep for as long as a year.

Recipe from: Texas A&M Horticulture

Crystallized Roses by Meadowsweets
Edible candied flowers can be used as toppers for cakes, pies, sorbet, ice cream, truffles, and cupcakes.
Bag them up and give as sweet wedding guest gifts.
Add them atop beverages.
Decor for many dishes such as fruit salad or around a holiday wedding table.
They’re an inexpensive decor item and edible treat.
They don’t create waste – they vanish into bellies and if not eaten of course they completely biodegrade.
They taste fabulous.
Excellent flowers to crystallize for green weddings: Lilacs, violets, rose petals, cowslip, angelica, rosemary, sage, pinks, borage, primroses, and lavender. Leaves such as lemon balm, lemon verbena, mint, and bergmot can also be coated with sugar. Really, any edible plant can be crystallized. Just make sure you research which flowers and leaves are safe to eat before using them to make candied flowers.

Health matters: Flowers used for candied flowers need to be home grown or purchased from a reliable organic flower source. Flowers laced with sugar are cool – flowers laced with pesticides don’t belong at your green wedding.

How to make candied flowers and candied leaves:
Pansies are especially pretty in the springtime and eatable

Pick flowers on a sunny dry day – you don’t want wet petals.
Remove all stalks and white bases from petals, also remove any sharp edges, thorns, and petals that look icky. Once you coat a flower with sugar it’ll make any problems stand out.
Lightly beat an egg white until just foamy.
Dip each flower into the egg white to coat. Make sure to use plastic tweezers if holding by the petals (metal will bruise petals).
Dip into organic caster sugar.
Place on wax paper atop a wire cooling rack.
Place in your extremely low heated oven with the door slightly open. You can also dry flowers in a well enclosed solar oven or a hot greenhouse but note, small flowers are delicate and will blow away.
Once your flowers are nicely dry in the oven (not sticky or dusty to the touch) they’re done.
Candied flower storage and handling:

If you store your candied flowers in a moisture-free, air-tight containers, at room temperature (no direct sunlight) they should last a good long while. If you’re making these for a wedding, I’d make them no more than a month in advance.
Place your candied flowers your cake or other food item about 24-48 hours prior to the event; note – you can store these in the fridge or freezer once on a cake but store your cake uncovered. Placing a cover over may create too much moisture for the flowers.
To attach flowers to a wedding cake use a tiny drop of icing and be careful, as your flowers are delicate.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The story of Pussy Willows

According to an old Polish legend, many springtimes ago a mother cat was crying at the bank of the river in which her kittens were drowning. The willows at the river's edge longed to help her, so they swept their long graceful branches into the waters to rescue the tiny kittens who had fallen into the river while chasing butterflies. The kittens gripped on tightly to their branches and were safely brought to shore. Each springtime since, goes the legend, the willow branches sprout tiny fur-like buds at their tips where the tiny kittens once clung.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

EAT Your Avocado-The Perfect Food


Avocado Health Benefits: Is This the World’s Most Perfect Food?

Avocado’s the World’s Most Perfect Food and its Health Benefits

Did You Know that the avocado has been called the world’s most perfect food and has many health benefits? It has achieved this distinction because many nutritionists claim it not only contains everything a person needs to survive — but it has also been found to contribute to the prevention and control of Alzheimer’s, cancer, heart disease, diabetes and other health conditions.
The avocado (Persea gratissima or P. americana) originated in Puebla, Mexico and its earliest use dates back to 10,000 years B.C. Since AD 900, the avocado tree has been cultivated and grown in Central and South America. In the 19th century, the avocado made its entry into California, and has since become a very successful commercial crop. Ninety-five percent (95%) of U.S. avocados are gown in Southern California.
The avocado, also called the alligator pear, is a high-fiber, sodium- and cholesterol-free food that provides nearly 20 essential nutrients, including fiber, is rich in healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (such as omega-3 fatty acids), vitamins A, C, D, E, K and the B vitamins (thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, biotin, vitamin B-6, vitamin B-12 and folate) — as well as potassium.
Foods naturally rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as avocados, are widely acknowledged as the secret to a healthy heart, a brilliant brain and eagle eyes.
Dr. Daniel G. Amen, a clinical neuroscientist, psychiatrist, brain-imaging expert and author of the New York Times bestseller Change Your Brain, Change Your Life counts avocados as one of the top brain-healthy foods that can help prevent Alzheimer’s Disease.
That’s not only because of the avocado’s health benefits omega-3 fatty acid content but also its…
avocado health benefits
Vitamin E content — An international journal called Alzheimer’s Disease and Associated Disorders, reported its findings from years of clinical trials — high doses of Vitamin E can neutralize free radicals and the buildup of proteins to reverse the memory loss in Alzheimer’s patients; reverse symptoms of Alzheimer’s in the early stages and retard the progression of the disease;
Folate content — helps to prevent the formation of tangled nerve fibers associated with Alzheimer’s.
The virtues and benefits of the avocado are too numerous to mention.

But Here Are Just a Few More Avocado Health Benefits That Its Nutritional Profile Provides:

  • Monounsaturated Fats — These types of fats help control triglycerides in the bloodstream, lower blood cholesterol and control diabetes.
  • Folate — This water-soluble B vitamin promotes healthy cell and tissue development. According to the National Institute of Health’s Office of Dietary Supplements, “This is especially important during periods of rapid cell division and growth such as infancy and pregnancy. Folate is also essential for metabolism of homocysteine and helps maintain normal levels of this amino acid.”
  • Lutein — This is a carotenoid (a natural pigment) that protects against cataracts and certain types of cancer, and reduces the risk of macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in adults 65 years of age and older. Avocados contain 3 or more times as much lutein as found in other common vegetables and fruits.
  • Oleic acid and Potassium — Both of these nutrients also help in lowering cholesterol and reducing the risk of high blood pressure.
You can add these avocado benefits to your diet in many ways:
    1) The easiest way is to cut the avocado in half and sprinkle it with herbal seasoning or maple syrup.
    2) Chop the avocado and add it to a salad, or use it as a topping or side garnish for soup.
    3) Mash an avocado and spread it on bread or a bagel (in place of butter or cream cheese).
    4) Cut an avocado in half and fill the little hollow (left after you remove the pit) with your favorite healthy topping such as herbed rice or couscous.
    5) Make an avocado dressing or the crowd-pleasing guacamole dip to add flavor to raw or steamed vegetables. You can easily find many avocado recipes online.
Blended with fruit, avocados make a rich and delicious snack, side dish or dessert — and produces highly-nutritious baby food which delivers “good fat” for baby’s brain and physical development.
Before you indulge in avocados to your heart’s content, however, remember that they have lots of calories because of their fat content. According to WebMD, “A medium-sized avocado contains 30 grams of fat, as much as a quarter-pound burger”.
That’s why diet experts have long urged Americans to go easy on avocados in favor of less fatty fruits and vegetables. But now nutritionists are taking another look.
They’re finding that most of the fat in an avocado is monounsaturated — the “good” kind that actually lowers cholesterol levels. Thanks to this new understanding, the U.S. government recently revised its official nutrition guidelines to urge Americans to eat more avocados.