Thursday, July 28, 2011

Cooling Chilled Soups (and Robert's Blueberry Blast)

A cold soup on a hot day can revive even the most wilted diner. When it's too hot to cook, pair the carrot, mango or cucumber soups with fresh tomato/feta/basil salad and some crusty bread or crackers.  The berry soup or blueberry blast make great hot-weather desserts!

Cold Carrot Honey Soup 
I served this as a first course for my niece Alison's wedding shower a few years ago.  It now makes a regular appearance at our table at least a few times during the summer. 
1 lb carrots scraped & chopped in a 1/2 inch dice
1 med. onion, chopped in a 1/2 inch dice
1/4 tsp. each: ground cumin, coriander & paprika
1/8 tsp. cayenne
1 cup vegetable broth
3 cups water
1 TBSP lemon juice
2 TBSP summer honey
Place ingredients in saucepan & simmer until carrots are soft.  Cool.  Blend until smooth & chill for a few hours before serving.  Nice garnish options (and or all):  a dollop of Greek yogurt, a drizzle of honey, a pinch of lemon zest.  Makes 4 cups.  

Cold Curried Mango Soup
This makes a gorgeous, bright yellow soup with just the slightest hint of spicy heat.  You can ramp up the spiciness a bit by adding more curry (or a dash of cayenne pepper). 
1 large mango, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup Greek yogurt (or regular yogurt--low fat is fine)
1 1/2 cups skim milk 
2 tablespoons summer honey
1 teaspoon curry powder (or to taste)
Pinch of salt to taste.
Place the ingredients in a blender (or use an immersion blender) and blend until smooth.  Chill for at least two hours.  Makes about 3 cups. 

Chilled Cucumber-Yogurt Soup
This recipe is adapted from Mollie Katzen's classic Moosewood Cookbook (rev. edition).  It's one of the few vegetarian cookbooks I own that I still use frequently.  Her recipes are simple and nearly all of them result in great tasting dishes. This is one of the most refreshing cold soups you can make!
4 cups peeled, seeded and grated cucumber
2 cups water
2 cups yogurt
salt to taste
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon freshly minced dill
2 tablespoons honey
Garnish with chopped mint and chives
Combine all of the ingredients and stir until well-blended.  Chill until very cold--at least a few hours.  Makes 6 cups.

Chilled Berry Soup
Another great chilled soup recipe from the Moosewood Cookbook. It's like dessert in a soup bowl!
3 cups orange juice
1-2 tablespoons fresh lemon or lime juice
3 cups buttermilk (can use yogurt instead)
2 tablespoons summer honey
2-3 cups of berries:  strawberries (should be sliced), raspberries, blackberries and/or blueberries
Dash of cinnamon
Place juices, buttermilk (or yogurt) and honey in a blender and blend well.  Add 1/2 cup of berries to blender and blend until smooth.  Cover and chill until very cold.  Place remaining berries in bowls (about 1/2 cup in each bowl) and pour soup on top.  Dust with cinnamon.  Makes about 6 cups.

Robert's Blueberry Blast 
We must have about 40 cups of blueberries stashed in our freezer right now. They won't be there long, though, because we're making these blasts almost every day.  I'm an ice cream junkie and these taste just like milkshakes to me!
1/2 cup nonfat milk
1/2 cup nonfat yogurt
1 cup frozen blueberries (you could use frozen strawberries, peaches, or raspberries)
1-2 tablespoons honey
Blend all in a blender and pour in a glass.  Makes about 1 1/2 cups.  

Friday, July 22, 2011

How Do Bees Keep Cool?

The pond at SteffesWood Apiary
Honey bees keep cool just like the rest of us:  they go swimming!  Well...not exactly. But they do head for water.  That's why beekeepers need to have a good source of water near by (and why honeybees can sometimes become a nuisance at a backyard pool).  We have a small pond at the apiary and on a hot day like today, the bees use it to gather water to take back to the colony.  Once inside, they'll sprinkle the water around and then flap their wings to evaporate it.  It's their form of air conditioning!

Close-up of bees on the stone ledge by the pond.

Bee on a lily pad at the pond.

Bees can quickly get water logged, so they like to hang out on stone ledges or lily pads (or sticks or leaves) where they can easily lap up the water and not drown.

When it's really hot like today, then many of the bees will "beard" on the front of the colony to help keep the temperatures inside cooler.  And how cool is the colony?  About 94 or 95 degrees Fahrenheit--near the temperature of normal human body.  Whether it's below freezing or close to 100 degrees Fahrenheit, the bees maintain a fairly constant temperature in the hive!
close up of bearding
Bees bearding in front of two hives.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Zorra's Favorite Honey Training Treats!

Meet Zorra, the latest addition to SteffesWood Apiary!  She's an 8-month-old mix (fox terrier? English pointer? If you have any ideas, let us know!).  We were thrilled to adopt from a wonderful group called Give2Live Rescue based in Ambridge.  She's as sweet as honey!  When she came to live with us, she was already house trained and knew how to  "sit."  She's learning other commands now and she loves both of these honey training treats. They're so much better (and cheaper!) than store-bought treats and they make training a breeze.  Zorra learned "down" in just a few minutes.  We're still working on, "Come, Zorra!" but are hoping that, with these treats close by, she'll turn and come running on a dime!

There isn't clear advice about whether honey is safe for puppies, so it's probably wise not to give a puppy pure honey, at least for the first six months.  Since these treats are baked, that should kill any botulism spores that would cause troubles.

Zorra's Favorite Peanut Butter Oatmeal Honey Training Treats
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup oatmeal
2 eggs
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 cup peanut butter
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Whirl all in a food processor until blended then add water--a few tablespoons at a time--just until it holds together.  Roll out on a well-floured board and cut into desired shapes.  Bake for 15 minutes then flip and bake for another 15 minutes.  Cool thoroughly.

Zorra's Favorite Honey Carrot Training Treats
2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
3/4 cup powdered skim milk
1/2 cup shredded carrots
2 generous tablespoons honey
3/4 cup broth (I used chicken broth, but any will do)
1 egg
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.  In a large bowl, combine the flour, powdered milk and carrots.  In a smaller bowl (or measuring cup), stir the broth, honey and egg, mixing well.  Pour the liquid mixture over the dry ingredients and mix to combine.  Knead the dough for about a minute, making sure everything is well-combined.  Cut dough in half and roll out one half on a well-floured board to about 1/2 inch thickness.

Using a pizza cutter  (or a knife) cut into small, 1/2 inch squares.  If you want to get fancy-schmancy, you can use cookie cutters.  I'm using these for training treats, so I didn't want to make them too big.

Place on an ungreased cookie sheet, spreading out so that they don't touch and bake at 300 degrees for 30 minutes, stirring after about 15 minutes of baking.  Repeat with other half of dough.  They are a little chewy (which works well for training).  If you'd like a crunchier dog biscuit, then turn off the oven after 30 minutes and leave them in for 3-5 hours.

Let them cool then test them out!

Zorra sitting nicely, waiting for a treat.
Zorra licking her lips after learning "down" and getting a treat!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Refreshing Strawberry Honey Sherbet

Strawberry season is a little past us now, but if you froze some strawberries, you can use them in this recipe. It's absolutely delicious.  I used an ice cream maker for this--I found ours at a thrift store for less than $5--one of the best thrift store purchases I've ever made!  If you don't have an ice cream maker, I'm providing directions for how to make this without one. I  haven't tried that method, though, so can't vouch for it.

Refreshing Strawberry Honey Sherbet
2 quarts strawberries, fresh or frozen
1 cup honey (I used our summer honey)
1 1/3 cup of whole milk (you could use low fat or nonfat milk, instead!)
1/3 cup fresh orange juice (you could lemon or lime juice instead)
pinch of ground cinnamon--a crucial ingredient that gives this a nice sherbet zing

Mix strawberries and honey and let sit about an hour.  If using frozen berries, the honey will be very thick, but that's okay.  Puree the berries and honey in a blender.  (If you want, you can strain out the seeds, but I like the seeds, so I didn't.) Add milk and juice and cinnamon and mix well.

Set up the ice cream maker and turn on.  Pour strawberry mixture into maker and churn for about 20 minutes (or follow the directions on your ice cream maker).  Pour into an airtight container, place a film of plastic wrap right on top of the sherbet and be sure to cover tightly with lid.  Freeze for about 3 or 4 hours.  Will keep covered in freezer  for a month.

If you don't have an ice cream maker, pour the mixture into loaf pans (I think you'll need 2), cover with plastic wrap and freeze for an hour.  Take out of the freezer and stir well. (I'd use a standing mixer for this to be sure the ice bits get really small).  Do this two or three more times--stirring well every hour.  After the final stirring, pour into an airtight container, cover with plastic wrap and then tightly with the lid and return to freezer.  Freeze for 3 to 4 hours for very firm sherbet.

Blueberries are in season, so you could try a blueberry sherbet with this recipe. You'll need about 4 cups of blueberries. Whether they're fresh or frozen, blend the berries and honey right away and then let them sit for about an hour. Add a pinch of nutmeg instead of the cinnamon and follow the directions above.

Melon sherbet could also work--four cups of watermelon or cantaloupe. Since melon is so watery, there's no need to let it sit with the honey. If the melon is really sweet, cut back on the honey on the bit--maybe 1/2 or 2/3rd cup. Tart lemon juice would be best with melon sherbet--and maybe some very finely minced mint and a pinch of grated lemon rind instead of the cinnamon.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Cookbook Bibliography

Here in one handy post is a list of all of the cookbooks I've reviewed on this blog.  This isn't an exhaustive list of honey cookbooks--but it does include the most recent that I'm aware of.  Click on the citation and it will take you to the review.  As I add more cookbooks to my collection, I'll add to this list.  Enjoy!

Barrett, Joanne.  (1981) Cooking with Honey (North Adams: MA: Storybook Publishing). (Less than $5)

Charlton, Jane and Jane Newdick (1995) A Taste of Honey: Honey for Health, Beauty and Cooking (Edison, NJ: Chartwell Books).  (New about $20; many used options available on-line)

Flottum, Kim. (2009) The Backyard Beekeeper's Honey Handbook. (Beverly, MA: Quarry Books). (Less than $20 new)

Cooking Well:  Honey for Health & Beauty: Over 75 Recipes, Remedies and Natural Treatments.  Introduction by Lauren Feder, MD, Foreward by Marie-Annick Courtier, and recipes from The National Honey Board. (Hatherleigh Press ) 2009.   (less than $10 new)

Laskin, Avril. (2008) Honey:  More than 75 Delicious Recipes (New York: Sterling Publishing Co.). $15 new

Opton, Gene with Nancie Hughes. (2000). Honey:  A connoisseur's guide with recipes.  (Berkeley, CA:  Ten Speed Press).  I've seen this book listed for as much as $200, if you can believe that.  I bought it used for about $20.

Berenbaum, May. (2010). Honey, I'm Homemade:  Sweet treats from the beehive across the centuries and around the world. (Urbana, IL:  University of Illinois Press).  Less than $15.

Fleetwood, Jenni (2008). Honey: Nature's wonder ingredient:  100 amazing uses from traditional cures to food and beauty, with tips, hints and 40 tempting recipes. (London: Lorenz Books).  I purchased this book for less than $10 on-line. 

Lonik, Larry. (2001; originally published in 1981). The Healthy Taste of Honey:  Recipes, Anecdotes & Lore. 2nd edition. (Chelsea, MI:  RKT Publishing) 2001 (originally published in 1981). (Less than $5 new)

Mech, Dorothy. (1994) Joy with Honey (NY: St. Martin's Press) (New about $25)

Parkhill, Joe. (1983) The Wonderful World of Honey: A Sugarless Cookbook AND
Parkhill, Joe with Sandi Knode. (1989) Honey: God's Gift for Health and Beauty (Berryville, AR: County Bazaar Publishing).  (On-line these books range from $5 to $20)

Review of Honey Cookbooks, Part III

I acquired two more honey-based cookbooks recently and am happy to say that I can recommend one of them--in fact, it's among the best of the bunch.  That's not surprising, since it's a fairly recently published book--2009--with recipes from The National Honey Board.  The Honey Board is my first go-to source when I'm looking for honey recipes, so it's nice to have a volume on my book shelf, too.  Read on for my reviews of both books!

Honey for Health & Beauty: Over 75 Recipes, Remedies and Natural Treatments.  Introduction by Lauren Feder, MD, Foreward by Marie-Annick Courtier, and recipes from The National Honey Board.  It was published in 2009 by Hatherleigh Press as part of their "cooking well" series.  This book has the most up-to-date information (in book form, at least) on health-related studies involving honey, including a discussion of honey as a prebiotic, which promotes healthy bacteria in our digestive tracts.  There's also a chapter on honey-based beauty treatments, including a foaming vanilla honey bath that I'll try once the weather gets colder. It includes nice array of interesting recipes, too, such as honey hummus, couscous salad and upside down peach berry pie (a recipe I'll try when McConnells' Farm peaches come in--which should be any day now!).

Lonik, Larry.  The Healthy Taste of Honey:  Recipes, Anecdotes & Lore. 2nd edition. (Chelsea, MI:  RKT Publishing) 2001 (originally published in 1981).   I borrowed this from the BF Jones Memorial Library in Aliquippa, which has a fantastic bee and beekeeping collection if you're ever in town.  (Our library is one of Aliquippa's best kept secrets!)  Where was I?  Oh! Right! Reviewing Larry Lonik's honey cookbook:
This is a quirky little book, filled with odd ball pop culture references sprinkled in among the recipes, like  "The Beach Boys have a recording called 'Wild Honey'" (p. 44).  "The television series Saturday Night Live has a semi-regular skit that follows a gang of human-size bees on various escapades"  (p. 59).  It also has a wild selection of black and white photos, including lots of guys with bee beards, "1978 Honey Bees" cheer leading squad and a rather risque photo of the outer sleeve of the Ohio Players' "Honey" phonogram.  Lonik, it would seem, is a bit of a renaissance man, having worked in the film, TV and music industries (which might explain the pop culture references) and is billed as an expert  in morel mushrooms.

The recipes range from beverages to pickles to meats and vegetables and candies.  The beverage recipes include a number of alcoholic mixed drinks and an interesting "carrot-top tea" (4 cups hot water, 6 medium size carrot tops, 1 small piece of orange peel.  Pour water over carrot tops and orange peel and steep.  Sweeten with honey  Haven't tried it--but if I do, I'll let you know what I think!)   I don't get the impression that these recipes have been tested, though.  Most of the baked goods call for 100% whole wheat flour and seem to reflect a kind of 1980s health food approach--one I can appreciate, but doesn't quite hold up to the test of time.

I think this book is out of print, but you can find it on-line for less than $5, so if you'd like to add a quirky honey cookbook to your collection, this would be it! :)

Monday, July 11, 2011

Honey Blueberry Muffins

It's blueberry season here in Western PA and it's hard to think of a better combination than blueberries and honey. Blueberries and honey on your oatmeal. Blueberries and honey in your smoothie. Blueberries and honey for dessert.

Here's a basic blueberry muffin recipe that uses honey for the sweetener. I adapted it from Joanne Barrett's Cooking with Honey (reviewed in Review of Honey Cookbooks, Part I).

4 tablespoons honey (I used summer)
2 tablespoons melted butter
1/2 cup milk (I used nonfat)
2 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups unbleached white flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 to 3/4 cup blueberries
Turbinado or sanding sugar for sprinkling on top (optional)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin (or use paper liners). Stir the honey into the butter and blend well. Add the milk and eggs and mix until well combined. In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together. Add to the honey butter mixture and mix just until combined and no flour pockets remain (try not to over mix). Fold in the blueberries. Fill prepared muffin tins 2/3rds full and sprinkle with sugar if using. Bake for about 20 minutes. Serve warm!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

"Award-winning" Honey Peanut Butter Crispies!

"Best Crispy-Rice-Cereal & Honey Dessert" award!
The Beaver Valley Area Beekeepers' Association and Burgh Bees held a joint beekeepers' picnic on Saturday at the beautiful home and roomy barn of Gary & Heather S.  Best beekeepers' picnic we've been to in ages!   New this year was a "Taste of Honey" contest featuring dishes made with local honey.  They included a sumptuous baklava, delicious blueberry scones, Jim H's famous stewed rhubarb--and many more.  Kerry K. won rave reviews and coveted fan favorite award for her fantastic peanut butter honey dip for fruit.
My own entry--Honey Peanut Butter Crispies--won for the "Best Crispy Rice Cereal & Honey Dessert." (And now is the time to note that Robert was one of the judges and that, um, mine was the ONLY entry in this category.  Thanks for making sure I won an award, Honey!)   BVABA and Burgh Bees plan to post the recipes for the other award winners and I'll post them when they do.  Many thanks to Beth and Kerry for co-coordinating a great event.

1 cup honey (summer honey is great for this)
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup peanut butter (smooth or chunky--your pick)
7 cups crispy rice cereal
kosher salt (about 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon)
4 oz good dark chocolate, melted (optional)
Lightly grease a 13x9x2 inch pan.  In a large, heavy pan, bring the brown sugar and honey to a boil, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat and stir in the peanut butter, blending thoroughly.  Add the rice cereal in two batches and gently fold to coat evenly.  Firmly press into prepared pan using the back of a spoon or your hands.  Sprinkle the top with kosher salt to taste.  Cut into 1 x 1 1/2 inch bars.  Makes about 40.  To gild the lily, you can melt some very good dark chocolate and either drizzle over the bars or dip one end of the bar into the chocolate.  Let cool until chocolate firms up.  These can be stored in an airtight container for up to a week.