Easy Seasonal Recipes

Easy Seasonal Recipes April 28, 2021

Wild violets and dandelions growing in some grass.
Wild Violets and dandelions growing in a yard. Found on Pixaby, free for commercial use.

 

As we quickly make our way to Beltane and the beginning of Summer, I wanted to share a few easy, peasy recipes that always make me think this season:

  • Spring Tonic Salad – with commonly found wild flowers and their leaves.
  • Sassafras Tea – While technically an infusion, this traditional Appalachian drink is a spring and summertime joy.
  • Beltane Cakes – Containing wildflowers to capture the essence of the season, these cakes are symbolic and tasty.
  • Irish Soda Bread – With room for endless customization, this recipe is a great base for all your forays into the culinary magic of the spring and summer seasons.

As mentioned, the Irish Soda Bread isn’t strictly a Beltane dish but it is so good anytime, and it’s great for the cakes and ale portion of a ritual. So, lets get right to my easy seasonal recipes — I’m not even sure I should call them recipes because they are so simple.

These seasonal recipes also come with an apology because I am using plants I know grow in my region but don’t always appear across the US. Dandelions and wild violets are pretty ubiquitous here in Ohio. If you have substitutions for your particular area, please, share them in the comments for others.

Spring Tonic Salad

Small dandelion leaves, a small handful

Dandelion flowers, also small, if you want

Wild violet flowers, another handful

Wild violet leaves, yep, another handful

That’s it! Wash and pat dry. Let them air dry to finish then combine in a bowl, add your favorite dressing, and enjoy. You can add other salad things if you want, but my basic spring dish is simply this. It’s great with a raspberry vinaigrette. And it’s obviously for a single serving. Scale it up as needed as both violets and dandelions are fairly plentiful.

Also, please be mindful where you harvest your salad fixings. You don’t want them from near a busy road or highway, or where you know chemicals may have been used.

Sassafras Tea

This one is just a simple infusion of sassafras root, or wood if that’s all you can find. If you want, you can cheat and buy a sassafras drink mix in many grocery stores. The best known brand used to be Pappy’s, but they’ve been replaced with Ancient Infusions. It’s great hot or cold.

Please note: Use fresh sassafras at your own discretion. The FDA banned sassafras’s use in food and drug products many years ago because of the volatile oil safrole, which can produce liver cancer in rats when given in high doses. According to this article, even the Native American tribes of the Appalachia’s knew not to use it for more than a week when using it medicinally. If you want to try sassafras tea but are hesitant because of the potential risk  then just buy the infusion in a store and you’ll be fine. Those products do contain sassafras, but it has had the safrole removed.

Beltane Cakes

I usually make these just for Beltane, but they would be good for so many other occasions.

Moist chocolate cake mix, plus ingredients to make it

A white icing

Green food coloring

Wild violets

Colorful cupcake wrappers

Wash the wild violets and set aside to dry. Follow the directions on the boxed cake mix for cupcakes and bake as directed. Allow them to cool completely, when ready to ice the cupcakes, add several drops of food coloring to the icing and stir it well. Add more food coloring if needed to get the color you want – a sort of grassy green. Ice the cupcakes and top the middle of each one with a washed wild violet.

What I love about this recipe is how the cake represents the fertile Earth, the icing the beautiful grass, and the violets the flowers of the season. And they are completely safe to eat! (Fun fact, when I would take these out to the local UU Fellowship Hall, many folks set them aside, apparently thinking they were only for decoration. So much wasted vitamin C!)

Sassafras in bloom.
The sassafras bush just outside our side door. Copyright Laurel Reufner, 2021

Sassafras Tea

This one is just a simple infusion of sassafras root, or wood if that’s all you can find. If you want, you can cheat and buy a sassafras drink mix in many grocery stores. The best known brand used to be Pappy’s, but they’ve been replaced with Ancient Infusions. It’s great hot or cold.

Please note: Use fresh sassafras at your own discretion. The FDA banned sassafras’s use in food and drug products many years ago because of the volatile oil safrole, which can produce liver cancer in rats when given in high doses. According to this article, even the Native American tribes of the Appalachia’s knew not to use it for more than a week when using it medicinally. If you want to try sassafras tea but are hesitant because of the potential risk  then just buy the infusion in a store and you’ll be fine. Those products do contain sassafras, but it has had the safrole removed.

Irish Soda Bread

Honestly, this recipe pretty much comes from The Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook from the 1980s, but my eldest child still thinks it’s better when I make it that when they do. I do have a couple of little tweaks.  Also, this bread is good for so many different occasions, including just because you felt like having it. We like it for our cakes and ale.

Ooooooh, this one has actual measurements for your ingredients! You’ll need:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder (Make sure it’s not expired!)

½ tsp baking soda

¼ tsp salt

3 tbsp butter (Seriously, use actual butter.)

1 beaten egg

¼ cup buttermilk – I usually make my own soured milk with 1 tbsp lemon and enough whole milk to make it an even cup. You’ll need to let it stand a few minutes before you can use it.

½ cup raisins

Another beaten egg

In a large-ish bowl, mix your flour, baking powder, baking soda, and the salt. I like to use my sturdy whisk for this. Next you need to cut in your butter. You want it on the colder side. I like to plop it in the bowl and then cut it into small pieces with a knife. That way you don’t have your hands warming it up any more than necessary. Then you can kinda mash it around or work it with your fingers until you have large, coarse-looking crumbs.

In a small bowl or even a liquid measuring cup, combine the buttermilk with the first beaten egg. (Whisk time again!). Pour the liquid into your flour mix and stir briefly. You want everything moist, but it’s important not to stir more than needed. I also add in a ½ cup of raisins at this point.

Now, LIBERALLY flour a clean, flat surface and turn your dough out on to it. I like to knead my dough for about 20 strokes, mixing in some of the surface flour where the dough is still sticky.

I then shape it into a rough circle, cut a generous X in the top with a sharp knife, brush that second beaten egg all over the top and sides, then pop it into a 375-degree oven for about 35 minutes or so. I think it bakes best in a meduim cast iron skillet, well greased with some butter, but use any kind of pan that is oven safe and will hold it.

Cool it on a rack. Finally, cut or tear, serve, and enjoy. Maybe with some good butter.

(If you want directions on making your own butter with a mixer, let me know in the comments. I’ll warn you though, it’s a little messy.)

And there you have it – my absolute favorite spring recipes. I honestly don’t know if the tonic salad or tea have any real effect, but they make me feel better mentally. It’s like there’s a shift from staying inside and keeping warm to embracing the sunlight and new growth happening around us!

Brightest Blessings and Happy Beltane!

Laurel

 

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