Thursday, August 25, 2011

Healthy--and Delicious!--Back-to-School Granola Bars: Two Versions

These two super-easy recipes are adapted from Honey for Health and Beauty, which I reviewed in a previous post (click on the link for the review).  They both are takes on granola bars.  The first is a classic, chewy-crunchy bar without flour or eggs.  The second is a bit more cookie-like, and softer but still very much in the granola bar family.  Even though the Apricot Honey Oat Bars are softer, they're a bit less sweet and so my bet is that kids will prefer the classic Honey Granola Bar recipe.

Honey Granola Bars 
(In Honey for Health and Beauty, the recipe is called "Pack-Along Snack Bars.")
This recipe is not only easy, it's also easy to adapt.  Add 1/2 a cup of raisins, currants or other chopped, dried fruits.  Use walnuts, cashews, hazelnuts or sunflowers instead of (or in addition to!) almonds.  Toss in a handful of dark chocolate chips when you pull the granola out of the oven if you want to make it extra "healthy."  :)

3 cups uncooked rolled oats (not quick cooking)
1 cup flaked coconut (I used unsweetened, but sweetened would work, too)
1 cup wheat germ
1 cup almonds (I used 1/2 cup almonds and 1/2 cup walnuts)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil (I used canola)
1 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a bowl, combine the oats, coconut, wheat germ, nuts, cinnamon and salt.  In a separate bowl, blend oil, honey and vanilla, mixing well.  Stir honey mixture into dry ingredients and stir well to be sure the dry ingredients are thoroughly coated with the honey mixture.  Spread onto a 9x13 inch pan (no need to grease).  Bake, stirring at 10 minute, 20 minute, 25 minute and 30 minute marks for a total of 35 minutes.  Line a 10x15 inch jelly roll pan with aluminium foil and then grease the foil.  Press hot mixture into the jelly roll pan, pressing it firmly into the pan using a rolling pin.  (It will seem like the mixture won't fit at first, but does.  You also might question whether it will all hold together once it cools, but it does that, too!)  Cool and cut into squares.  Makes about 48, depending on how big you cut them.

Apricot Honey Oat Bars
You can make a super-lean version of these bars (suggestions are in parentheses).  Like the recipe above, this one is also easily adapted to ingredients you have on hand.  About 1/2 cup of nuts would be a nice addition, as would chocolate chips.  Swap out the dried apricots for another dried fruit--or use a mixture. Dried dates would be really good.  The apricot flavor dominates here, so whatever fruit you use will flavor these bars.

1/2 cup finely chopped dried apricots
1 1/2 cups uncooked rolled oats (not quick-cooking)
2 tablespoons wheat germ
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup 2% Greek yogurt (or any plain yogurt--it's okay to use non-fat)
1 egg (or 2 egg whites), lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 tablespoons butter, melted (or 3 tablespoons vegetable oil)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Grease an 8-inch square baking pan.  Pulse dried apricots in a food processor until finely chopped (or chop by hand).  Add the apricots, oats, wheat germ, flour, salt & cinnamon to a large bowl and toss to combine.  In a smaller separate bowl, stir the honey and yogurt together.  Add the egg and vanilla and stir to combine well.  Mix in the melted butter, stirring well.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and  mix well.  Place in the prepared pan, spreading the mixture to fill in the corners and sides. Bake about 25 minutes until edges are brown and the center is firm.  Cool and cut into 2-inch squares.  Makes 15-20 bars.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Friday, August 19, 2011

Western PA + Fall Wildflowers + Honeybees =Unique Fall Honey!

Western PA's beautiful late summer- and early fall-blooming wildflowers are one-third of the equation that adds up to the dark, rich fall honey that is the unique flavor of our region. Another third is, of course, the honeybee's tireless labor. She and her sisters turn the dark nectar of these lovely fall blossoms into a delicious expression of Western Pennsylvania!
Ironweed photo by B. Zuberbuhler

Ah, but what's the final third, you ask?  It's the unique climate and terrain of this area.  In warmer regions of the US, honey production ends by mid-summer.Western Pennsylvania's wet and chilly climate and hilly terrain combine to create a unique setting that often enables our honeybees to eke out a fall honey crop. Some years, the fall honey harvest can be small (and even non-existent), so it's not wise for beekeepers (or honey lovers) to count their fall honey before it's made.  But when fall honey flows, nothing is sweeter!
Japanese Knotweed photo by B. Zuberbuhler

Curled leaved mint; Photo by B. Zuberbuhler

Golden Rod Photo by B. Zuberbuhler

These photos, from Wildflowers of Western Pennsylvania, is the labor of love of Bob Zuberbuhler, a retired pediatric cardiologist, hobby photographer and wildflower aficionado. He's posted beautiful photos of area wildflowers as well as useful information for identifying an unusual and unknown bloom. Check it out!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Honey Roasted Eggplant Caponata

If you're like us, just about now, you have a back up of eggplant, zucchini and tomatoes and have probably started to tire of ratatouille.  Try this!  It's almost like an eggplant relish, with tart-but-sweet flavors that go well with grilled meats or, on its own as a salad.  We've even used this as a bruschetta topping on some toasted baguette slices.  The eggplant needs to sit for about 2 hours, so this recipe takes some advanced planning.

Honey Roasted Eggplant Caponata
1 medium eggplant, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch dice
1 1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
olive oil (about 3 or 4 tablespoons)
1 medium zucchini (or summer squash), cut in 1/2 in dice
1 large sweet onion, cut in 1/2 in dice
2 large (or 4 small) fresh plum tomatoes, peeled if you like, and diced
5 garlic cloves, chopped
1 bay leaf
1-2 teaspoons fresh thyme, minced
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup honey
salt and pepper

Place the eggplant in a strainer. Sprinkle with the salt and toss to coat thoroughly.  Place strainer over a bowl and let sit for 2 hours.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Rinse the eggplant well.  Rinse it again for good measure.  Squeeze out as much water from it as you can.
Coat the bottom of a roasting pan (or cookie sheet with a lip) with oil.  Place the eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, onion, garlic, bay leaf, thyme and capers in a bowl and toss together.  Add the vinegar and 1-2 more tablespoons of olive oil and toss to coat again.  Spread out in an even layer on the roasting pan.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste and roast for about 45 minutes to an hour, until the vegetables are very soft and the liquid is almost evaporated.  Some of the veggies will brown, which is good!  Cool for about 10-15 minutes, then drizzle on the honey, starting with 1/8th cup then taste.  Add more honey to suit your palate.  You can serve this at room temperature or chilled.  Makes about 6 1/2 cup servings.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Emerging Worker Bee: The Life of a Tireless Worker!

In just about the center of the photo below, you can see a young worker bee almost fully emerged from her cell.  At the top center, you can see a worker bee has just chewed through the beeswax on her cell and will soon be joining her emerging sister.  Shortly after a worker bee emerges, she gets right to work.  Her first task usually is cleaning out her cell! 

Can you find the emerging bee in middle of cell?  Click on the photo to enlarge
As the worker bee ages, she progresses through a series of responsibilities that support the colony's life.  She begins by feeding and tending the brood (the eggs and larva) that will become the next generation workforce. After a few days, she'll graduate to taking nectar from foraging workers and evaporating it into honey.  If needed, she'll secrete beeswax and begin to build honeycomb.  As she ages, she'll progress to becoming an undertaker, removing any dead or ill bees from the hive.  After about three weeks of her six-week lifespan, she'll advance to becoming a guard bee, charged with keeping out any interlopers that threaten the colony (like wasps, skunks or humans!).  In the last two weeks of her short life, she's promoted to forager, and tirelessly brings back nectar, pollen and water for her colony. In fact, many worker bees literally die of exhaustion in their effort to help their colonies thrive. The National Honey Board claims that one worker bee produces about 1/12th a teaspoon of honey in her lifetime, which gives you as sense of just how valuable honey is!

Local Goodness: Local Gem! (with link to Peaches & Honey Pizza)

Local Goodness founder, Rhonda Schuldt, is a delightful guide to area farmers' markets, CSAs, specialty foods and restaurants.  She's a passionate supporter of the goodness we grow around us and an inventive chef and her site offers many links to local food sources in the area.  She also hosts a regular segment on KDKA TV where she shows us what we can do with the great local bounty. .

In August, Rhonda's KDKA segment demonstrated making pizza on a grill, including....a great peaches and honey pizza!  Click on the link for that recipe (and many more!).

At the Local Goodness site, also check out Morgan's Moments, which offers a look at local eating from a child's perspective!

Thanks for all the support for local goodness, Rhonda!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Zucchini Honey Cupcakes

Having trouble keeping ahead of your zucchini production?  If a few of those zukes have gotten a little large, here's a great way to use the surplus.  These cupcakes are moist and delicate, with the added benefit of using olive oil instead of butter. They don't even need frosting.  I've include a frosting recipe here in case you can't eat a cupcake without it.  They're adapted from a recipe in the July 2006 issue of Gourmet.  I sure do miss that magazine!
Zucchini Honey Cupcakes
1/3 cup crystallized ginger, coarsely chopped (1 and 3/4ths ounce)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups coarsely grated zucchini (or other summer squash)
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, finely grated
1 teaspoon orange zest, finely grated
3/4 cup honey (I used our summer honey)
3/4 cup olive oil (not extra virgin)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350.  Line muffin tins with papers (you'll need 18).
In a food processor, pulse the crystallized ginger a few times to finely chop--don't overdo this, or you'll have ginger mush.  Add the flour, cinnamon, salt, baking soda and powder and pulse until combined.

In a bowl, combine the zucchini, ginger, orange zest, honey, olive oil, eggs and vanilla and whisk to thoroughly.Add the flour mixture and stir until just combined.  Fill paper liners with batter about 3/4ths full and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean--about 20 minutes.  Cool completely before frosting.

8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 to 1/3 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, finely grated
1/2 teaspoon orange zest, finely grated
Beat together using an electric mixer until the frosting is fluffy. Add more honey if needed to get the consistency you want.  (You can add a little confectioners sugar or butter if necessary, too.)  Frost the tops of the cupcakes.