Sunday, October 20, 2013

Chocolate Crispy Rice Treats


These couldn't be simpler--or more delicious!  There are lots of ways you can play around with them, too. The original recipe came from the Vegetarian Times.  I followed it pretty closely, adding just a sprinkle of kosher salt when I mixed in the rice cereal.  Next time, I might add an extra cup of cereal and, perhaps, a teaspoon or so of vanilla extract to bump up the flavor.  I also put the dish in the fridge for awhile to harden a bit.  The recipe calls for almond butter, which I think makes them very special.  Peanut butter or another nut butter would work as well.

Chocolate Crispy Rice Treats
1/2 cup almond butter
3/4 cup honey
1/2 cup chocolate chips
3 cups crispy rice cereal (I used brown rice cereal--and next time I'll add at least 4 cups)
pinch of salt

Grease an 8x8 square baking dish with cooking spray.  In a large pan, combine the almond butter, honey and chocolate chips over medium low flame, stirring constantly until the chocolate is melted--about 3 or 4 minutes.  Add the cereal and a pinch of salt and stir to thoroughly combine the cereal with the chocolate mixture. Press the mixture into the prepared pan. Let cool for at least 15 minutes before cutting into squares. (I found it helped to refrigerate them for about 30 minutes after they cooled.)

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Savory Honey Beer Bread

Our favorite beekeeper, Steve Repasky joined us for dinner on Saturday.  Steve is a Master Beekeeper, the owner of Meadow Sweet Apiaries and the President of Burgh Bees (check out their new and improved website!).  Steve is also working on his first book, Swarm Essentials, which should be out soon--or at least in time for the next swarm season!  I'll be sure to let everyone know when it's out.

Steve is also a beer lover, which is why I tried this recipe out for his visit.  The recipe comes from a New York Times article about wheat berries.  The article stresses that sifting the flour makes for a much lighter loaf.  We had only a little whole wheat flour on hand, so I fiddled with the original recipe a bit. The rosemary adds a lovely aroma to the bread but doesn't overpower it. There's a slight hint of sweetness, but this is very much a quick, savory bread.  

Savory Honey Beer Bread

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x5 loaf pan.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon (yes! tablespoon!) baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons butter, melted
12 ounces beer (lager)
Sift flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl.  Stir the honey and melted butter together and add them to the flour with the beer. Stir with a whisk or wooden spoon until thoroughly combined. Spoon into the prepared loaf pan, tap it on the counter a few times to get rid of any air holes and bake in the center of the oven until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean--about 50 minutes.  Let cool for about 10 minutes before slicing and serving.  It's great toasted the next day, too!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Zucchini Honey Cupcakes with Honey-Cream Cheese Icing

I can't quite claim that these cupcakes are health food--but it's safe to say that these cupcakes are at least better for you  most other cupcakes.  They're made with olive oil and honey and they're delicious!  Delicate, not-too-sweet, and  very satisfying.  The original recipe comes from a July 2006 issue of Gourmet Magazine, now available here on Epicurious.

I will confess that initially, Robert was not ecstatic about these cupcakes.  That might have something to do with the fact that he grabbed one before it had time to cool and ate it without any frosting. They were a little greasy when they first came out of the oven, but once they cooled (and even after after two days!) they were moist and delicious.  Lots of baked goods made with honey taste better the next day--and the honey helps to keep baked goods fresh. 

Zucchini Honey Cupcakes 
1/3 cup crystallized ginger (about 1 3/4 oz.), coarsely chopped
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon (or orange) zest
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups coarsely grated zucchini (I used 1 medium-sized zucchini that seemed to be perfect)
3/4 cup mild olive oil
3/4 cup mild honey
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line 18 muffin cups with liners.  In a food processor, pulse the crystallized ginger until it's finely ground.  Add flour, ground ginger, cinnamon, lemon zest, salt, baking soda and baking powder to bowl of food processor and pulse to combine.  In a medium bowl, whisk the zucchini, oil, honey, eggs and vanilla.  Add the flour mixture and stir until just combined--don't over mix.  Spoon the batter in the muffin cups, filling no more than 1/2 full so that they don't burst over the sides.  You should have enough for 18 regular-sized cupcakes.  Bake for about 20 minutes until toothpick inserted in center of a cupcake comes out clean.  Cool completely before frosting with Honey-Cream Cheese Icing.  Don't frost if you're not eating them right away.

Honey-Cream Cheese Icing
1 8-oz package cream cheese, softened 
2-4 tablespoons honey (according to taste)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 
Beat the cream cheese until very smooth.  Add 2 tablespoons of the honey and the vanilla and beat until well blended.  Taste.  Add some more honey if you'd like the icing to be sweeter.  Should make enough for 18 cupcakes.   


Friday, September 27, 2013

Quinoa "Tabouleh"

This lovely salad is a riff on the Middle Eastern dish, tabouleh, which is traditionally made with bulgur, a cereal made from wheat groats. Instead of bulgur, I used quinoa in this recipe. Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) is a seed that can be used like rice (or bulgur!).  Quinoa has been gaining in popularity because it is high in protein and quite tasty.  You can find white, black and red quinoa on most grocery store shelves these days.  I used red in this dish.  Looking for more quinoa recipes?  Check out these previous posts: Quinoa Pilaf and Quinoa, Red Pepper and Black Bean Salad.

Quinoa "Tabouleh"
1 cup uncooked quinoa
2 cups water
pinch of salt
1 1/2 cup fresh flat parsley leaves, chopped
3 celery ribs, 1/4 inch diced
3-4 green onions, 1/4 inch slices (include green parts!)
1/2 cup chopped dried fruit (optional, but nice! I used dried cherries. Apricots or mangoes would also be nice)
6 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup roasted chopped almonds (unsalted)--walnuts, sunflower seeds or cashews would also work.

If it hasn't been pre-rinsed, then place the quinoa in a strainer and rinse with water for a minute or so.  In a sauce pan, combine water and quinoa with a pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Cover pan, reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes until water is absorbed.  You'll know the quinoa is done when the white spiral-like germ of the seed becomes visible. Spoon into a bowl, fluff and let cool to room temperature.  When the quinoa is cool, add the parsley, celery, onions and dried fruit and toss to combine.  In a small bowl or jar, whisk (or shake) the lemon juice, oil, honey, salt & pepper until well-combined.  Pour over the quinoa and toss to combine.  Sprinkle top with nuts (or stir in if you prefer).  Makes about 8 servings as a side dish.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Honey Cake You'll Really Like!

Robert made this delicious honey cake last week.  It 's a bit late for Rosh Hashanah, but this cake is wonderful and worth making even if there isn't a new year to celebrate. If we had it, we'd have added a little whipped cream to the plate to take this dessert over the top!   This recipe, for Red Wine Honey Cake with Plums, comes from Melissa Clark's "A Good Appetite" column in the New York Times. We skipped the plums in favor of raspberries that are burgeoning in the garden right now.  My all time go-to recipe for honey cake has been the one published in Gourmet Magazine in September 2003 (and luckily still available on-line!).  I think this one might just replace it, though!

Melissa Clark's Red Wine Honey Cake (made by Robert!)
NOTE:  In her story about making this cake, she notes that the wine tints the batter "an unappealing grey, making it look more like concrete than cake." That color disappears with the baking--and the flavor is lovely.
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon cardamom
1 teaspoon ground ginger
3 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1  1/4 cups olive oil
1 cup good, local honey
3/4 cup dry red wine
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, grated

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and place the rack in the middle of the oven.  Grease and flour a 10-inch Bundt pan.  Whisk the flour, baking powder, soda, salt and spices together in a large bowl.  In another bowl, whisk the eggs then add the sugar, oil, 1 cup honey, wine and ginger and whisk until well combined.  Add the flour mixture to the honey mixture and whisk until smooth.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a tester comes out clean--about 45-50 minutes. (You might need to tent the cake mid-way through if the top starts to brown too much.)  Cool on a wire rack for about 20 minutes then unmold and cool completely.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Pickled Cauliflower in Honey & Beet Brine

These unusual pickles not only have a great crunchy pickle taste, they also look lovely in the pantry! I will, however, note that out of the jar, the cauliflower florets are more pastel-pink than the bright purple-pink they appear in the jar.

This recipe, with some modifications, came from Andrea Chesman's book Pickled Pantry (Storey Publishing, 2012), which I borrowed from the library and have really been enjoying.  I particularly like the way that she describes the flavors of the pickles and the helpful recipes at the end for using and cooking with pickles. The recipes also include small batches (1-quart) as well as recipes for fermenting.   When we crack open the first jar, I'll report back on the taste.

Looking for more pickle recipes to try?
Check out previous posts for:
honey pickled carrots
cherry tomatoes in honey brine
pickled garlic scapes

Pickled Cauliflower in Honey & Beet Brine

This recipe makes four pints (or two quarts)

2 small-medium beets well scrubbed, chopped (you don't have to be too meticulous here because the beets will eventually get strained out)
2 2/3 cups distilled white vinegar
2 2/3 cups water
3 tablespoons honey
4 teaspoons pickling salt 
2 teaspoons caraway seeds
1 teaspoon celery seeds
One large (approximately 6-8 inches)--around 6 cups--of cauliflower florets

In a saucepan, heat the beets, vinegar, water, honey and salt just to a boil and then simmer for five minutes.  While the vinegar heats, pack the cauliflower into sterilized wide mouth canning jars. (To sterilize, I place in a 225 degree oven for 20 minutes--consult any canning resource for guides about this.)  To each jar, add 1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds and 1/4 teaspoon celery seeds.  Strain the beets out of the vinegar brine and pour the hot brine over the cauliflower, leaving 1/2 inch head space.  Remove any air bubbles and then seal with lids.  Place in a boiling water bath (water should cover the sealed jars by 2 inches).  Bring the water back to a gentle boil and begin timing--the jars should be in the bath for 15 minutes.  Remove, cool completely, check that the jars have sealed and wait 6 weeks for the flavors to develop.  (Any unsealed jars should be refrigerated.)

Friday, September 6, 2013

Lentil Salad with Delicious Honey Yogurt Basil Dressing

The dressing in this salad is, as the title proclaims, delicious and could be used for a variety of salads, especially a simple lettuce salad or even in a potato salad in place of mayonnaise.  It is from the July/August issue of Vegetarian Times.  I used it on this lovely lentil salad with cucumbers, red onions and celery.  The salad weeps a bit, so be sure to stir it well before serving.

For the salad:
2 cups cooked lentils
1 cup chopped cucumbers
2-3 stalks celery, chopped
1/2 cup finely diced red onion

Toss in a large bowl.

For the dressing:
1/2 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar (the original recipe calls for rice vinegar)
1 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves

Whirl the dressing ingredients in a small food processor until thoroughly blended and creamy.  (If you don't have a small food processor, then finely chop the basil and place all of the ingredients in a jar with a lid.  Vigorously shake until well blended!)

Pour the dressing over the salad, and add salt and pepper to taste.  Refrigerate the salad for a few hours to chill.  Stir well before serving and check again for seasoning--add a bit more salt and pepper if needed.  Just before serving, you could also add a handful of sunflower seeds or toasted and chopped walnuts or almonds.

Serves four generously if this is a main dish and easily 6 as a side dish.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Honey Chocolate Brownie Bites

With back to school upon us, I thought a cookie for lunch boxes or after school snack might be in order. These cookies are about as close as you can get to eating a "raw" cookie dough cookie (without it actually being raw). They are very soft and have the consistency of a chewy brownie.  They were a big hit among potluckers dining here a few weeks ago.  The recipe comes from the July 2011 issue of Martha Stewart Living magazine. The original recipe, called "Double-Chocolate Brownie Bites," includes 7 ounces (1 1/2 cups) of semisweet chocolate coarsely chopped, but as I've mentioned on the blog before, Robert hates chocolate chips, so I left them out.  No one missed them and truth be told, I think the chips would have taken these cookies over the top (and not in a good way).   The cookies puff up and their tops crackle--a sign they're ready to pull out of the oven.  When they cool, they flatten back down again.

Honey Chocolate Brownie Bites
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup granulated sugar

Preheat the oven to 325.  In a medium size bowl, whisk the flour, cocoa, soda and salt and set aside. Beat the butter and brown sugar on medium speed until very fluffy--about 3 or 4 minutes.  Add the honey and beat again until fluffy and light.  Lower the speed and slowly add the flour/cocoa mixture until very well combined.  If you're adding chocolate bits, now would be the time to do that.  Refrigerate the dough for at least 30 minutes (this will make them easier to form into small balls).

Take about a teaspoon of dough and roll it into a ball--aiming for a little less than the size of a walnut.  Drop the balls into the granulated sugar and roll again.  Place the sugar-coated balls on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, spacing about 1 inch apart.  Bake for about 9 minutes until the tops are puffed and cracking and just set.  Cool on the cookie sheet for a minute or so then transfer to a cooling rack.  Makes about 30 and the cookies will keep at room temperature in an air-tight container for about three or four days.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Mom's Famous Coleslaw--now with honey! :)

Mom's Famous Coleslaw (Photo courtesy of Dad!)
My gold standard for coleslaw is my mother's recipe--finely shredded cabbage and carrots with a tangy yet slightly sweet mayonnaise dressing.  We request it as a side dish just about every time we get together.  I was getting ready to post another coleslaw recipe to the blog that I made for a recent gathering and wanted to include Mom's, too.  (You really gotta try it!)  That's when I learned that my dear momma doesn't really follow a recipe.  Ah!  But she generously agreed to make a batch and try to track what she does.  This time, instead of adding a pinch of sugar, she added honey--we all thought it was delicious!  Thanks Ma!

I'm including here the other coleslaw recipe I made at the gathering to go with hamburgers and veggie burgers.  The cabbage is thinly sliced rather than shredded and the recipe includes some unique ingredients (cucumbers and fresh tomatoes) that set it apart.  If you like your coleslaw crunchy & shredded, rather than finely grated, this should do the trick.  It's a Lucinda Scala Quinn recipe called Tangy Sweet Coleslaw from the August 2008 issue of Martha Stewart Living.  

Mom's Famous Coleslaw--now with Honey!
1/2 small head of cabbage, finely grated
2 carrots, finely grated
a little onion (a tablespoon or two), finely grated
1/4 cup (maybe more) mayonnaise (don't even THINK about using Miracle Whip!)
a capful of cider vinegar (from a quart bottle)
a soup spoon of honey
Combine the grated cabbage, carrots and onions in a bowl. Combine the mayonnaise, vinegar and honey and pour over the vegetables and combine.  Add some more mayonnaise if you think you need it.  4-6 servings (with no leftovers!)

Honeyed Coleslaw
1/2 a large head of cabbage, thinnly sliced
2 tablespoons coarse salt
2 small carrots, grated
2 small (or 1 medium) tomatoes, seeded and cut in a 1/4 dice
1/2 seedless cucumber, cut into 1/4 dice
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup honey
3 tablespoons apple-cider vinegar
coarse salt and pepper to taste
Place the shredded cabbage in a strainer and place over a bowl..  Toss the salt with the cabbage, being sure to even distribute the salt throughout and let the cabbage sit over the bowl for about an hour.  This will soften it a bit and it will reduce a little.  Rinse the cabbage and pat dry with a non-terry cloth kitchen towel.  Place the cabbage, carrots, tomatoes and cucumber in a bowl and toss to mix well.  In a smaller bowl, whisk the yogurt, mayonnaise, honey and vinegar together until well blended.  Pour this over the cabbage and other vegetables.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Cover and chill for at least two hours.  This can be made up to one day in advance (though truth be told, we've been eating the leftovers for a few days!).  When ready to serve, stir well to be sure the dressing is evenly distributed.  Makes 8 generous servings.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Fresh Tomatoes! Two Recipes!

Tomato Sandwich with Sourdough Cornmeal Bread
The tomatoes in our garden took their time ripening this year, but we now have baskets full to enjoy before the late blight knocks them out for good. (A friend and colleague recommends using a copper sulfate to prevent blight, which we'll try next year!)  My favorite way to eat fresh tomatoes is as a simple tomato sandwich.  Brings back memories of watching my Grandmother Wood prepare tomato sandwiches:   thin slices of  Pepperidge Farm white sandwich bread slathered with mayonnaise, topped with thickly sliced tomatoes and an ungodly amount of salt.  I'm almost positive Grandma peeled the tomatoes since she peeled everything (even celery).  Made a mean BLT, too!

The first recipe here is for Sourdough Cornmeal Bread, which isn't as delicate as Pepperidge Farm white bread, but makes a great sandwich bread with a nice, nutty crunch.  Thinly sliced, it's perfect for tomato sandwiches.  Our dear friends (and recent visitors) Rebecca, Tom and the amazing going-on-3 Eleanor enjoyed some of this bread toasted with honey during their visit.  This recipe's for you, Rebecca! :)

The other recipe for fresh tomato slices is adapted from a recipe in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Brenda Waters's Grandmother's Special Sliced Tomatoes. (Grandmas really seem to know their way around tomatoes!)  I hesitate to add anything at all to a nice, fresh tomato slice, but this recipe was too intriguing to pass up--and it's delicious.  A friend who doesn't even like honey (yes we actually have friends who don't like honey!) liked these tomatoes.  Read on for the recipes!

Sourdough Cornmeal Bread for tomato sandwiches
Sourdough Cornmeal Bread
This recipe is adapted from Sunset's A Cookbook of Breads (1974), which I must have picked up at a thrift store ages ago. It requires sourdough starter, which isn't hard to make--just takes about a 3 to 5 day commitment.  Need a sourdough starter recipe? Here are step-by-step instructions from King Arthur flour. Also check out this quick starter recipe from a previous blog post for sourdough English muffins.

1 teaspoon (1/2 package) quick rise yeast
1/2 cup sourdough starter
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup very warm water
1 cup cornmeal (plus extra for sprinkling on dough before baking)
1 cup whole wheat flour
1-2 cups bread flour (you could use all-purpose flour if you want--and could also skip the whole wheat flour.  You'll get a slightly less dense loaf if you do).

Combine the yeast, starter, canola oil, honey, salt, water, cornmeal and whole wheat in a mixing bowl.  Using a wooden spoon (or the dough hook of a mixer), combine well.  Add the white flour, about a 1/2 cup at a time until a stiff dough forms. Knead the dough until it's smooth--by hand (on a floured board) for about 10 minutes or by mixer for about 5.  (Using a mixer will likely cut down on the amount of flour you use overall, making the dough a bit lighter.)

Lightly coat a large bowl with oil and place dough in the bowl, oil top and cover with plastic wrap and then a kitchen towel (not terry cloth).  Let rise for about 1 1/2 hours in a warm spot until it doubles in bulk.  Remove from the bowl, folding the dough in on itself a few times and form into a round ball (or boule).  Place a sheet of parchment paper on a flat-sided cookie sheet and sprinkle it with a little corn meal. Place the dough on the sheet and sprinkle a little cornmeal on top.  Cover with the plastic wrap and kitchen towel and let rise for another 1 1/2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  If you have a baking stone, put it in the oven on a middle rack to preheat as well.  When the oven is preheated and the dough has risen, take a serrated knife and make a few slashes in the top (each about 1/4-1/2 inch deep).  Slide the dough (with parchment) from the cookie sheet onto the baking stone (if you're using a stone) or just put the cookie sheet with dough into the oven.  Bake for about 30 to 35 minutes.  The crust should be nicely browned--almost honey colored.  The crust will be crunchy when first baked, but will soften once it cools. (You can crisp the crust by reheating in the oven if you'd like). You should probably wait until it cools completely to slice it, but I've never been able to wait that long!

Sliced tomatoes with vinegar honey dressing

Sliced Tomatoes with Vinegar and Honey
4 large fresh tomatoes, peeled
2 tablespoon cider vinegar
3 tablespoons honey
kosher salt
Core and slice the tomatoes in 1/2 inch slices.  Place on a plate or platter with a lip (so that the dressing doesn't run off!). Stir the vinegar and honey together in a small microwaveable bowl. Heat for 15 seconds, just to warm the mixture and ensure that it's well combined.  Sprinkle the tomatoes with salt and drizzle the vinegar-honey mixture on top.  Serve with the bread to soak up all of those delicious juices!
Serves 4

Friday, August 9, 2013

Garlicky Chickpea Salad

This is a refreshing summer salad that would make a substantial lunch with some crusty bread on the side or nice addition to a cookout.  It puts all the lovely herbs that are burgeoning in the garden now to good use. You can add just about any vegetable you like--since it's tomato season, some nice fresh cherry tomatoes if you have 'em would be great, as would some crunchy celery, or some kalamata or green olives.  You could also add 1/2 cup or so of crumbled feta cheese.  If you're not so keen on a strong garlic flavor, you could saute the garlic before adding to the dressing, but then you'd have to call the salad something else!

Garlicky Chickpea Salad
1 medium to large garlic clove, peeled
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 cups cooked chickpeas (garbanzo beans--if you're using canned, you could get away with one 14 oz can of chickpeas, but then I'd bump up the veggies a bit)
1/2 red pepper, cut into 1/4 inch dice
1/2 English (seedless) cucumber, cut into 1/4 inch dice
2-3 scallions, sliced in 1/4 inch rings
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, minced
4-5 basil leaves, minced
salt and pepper to taste

Using the side of a knife, smash the garlic clove on a cutting board, sprinkle the salt on it and continuing to use the side of the knife, mash the garlic and salt into a pulp.  Add this to a small bowl, or jar with a tight fitting lid or to a small food processor.  Add the vinegar, honey, mayo and oregano and whisk, shake or whirl to thoroughly combine.  Slowly whisk in the olive oil (or shake or whirl) until the dressing is fully emulsified.  Place the chickpeas in a large bowl and pour the dressing over it and stir to coat the beans.  Let the chickpeas marinate in the dressing, stirring a few times, for about 30 minutes.  Add the vegetables and herbs and toss to combine.  Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.  If you like, chill the salad for about an hour before serving, but it can be served at room temperature, too.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Honey Ice Cream and Bonus Recipe! Beekeepers' Fan-Favorite Rhubarb Dessert by Christy!

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's weekly food section often includes great recipes using honey and their July 25, 2013 issue was no exception.  Melissa McCart's article on "extreme ice creams" included a thyme-infused honey ice cream that I made here, with a few changes.  The first is that the original recipe seems to call for 2 teaspoons of salt, which is way (way!) too much (think it must be a typo).  I cut that back to 1/2 teaspoon.  I also added a teaspoon of vanilla extract to help bring out the honey flavor.  Next time I make this, I'll use lavender or basil or mint  instead of thyme (less extreme, but much more delectable!).

And keep reading!  Christy shared the recipe for her award-winning rhubarb dessert that took the fan favorite prize at the Burgh Bees & Beaver Valley Beekeepers' Association annual picnic this year.  Thanks, Christy!

Fair warning:  the recipes in this post aren't for those on a diet! :)

Honey Ice Cream
Published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on July 29, 2013 and adapted from Humphry Slocombe Ice Cream Book by Jake Godby & Sean Vahey.  I've adapted further!

1/2 cup honey
1 teaspoon fresh herb, minced (basil, mint or lavender recommended)
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 egg yolks

Combine the honey and minced herb in a bowl and let it infuse for at least two hours or overnight.  Fill a large bowl with ice, place a smaller bowl inside the larger bowl and then fill the larger bowl with water to make an ice water bath.  Place a strainer on top of the smaller bowl in the middle.  In a sauce pan over medium heat, combine the cream, milk and salt and, stirring occasionally, bring to just under a simmer--don't boil!  In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs.  Whisking constantly, gradually pour about 1/2 of the cream mixture into the eggs and then transfer the egg/cream mixture back to the sauce pan and turn on medium heat.  Using a rubber spatula, stir constantly, being sure to get the bottom and sides so that the mixture doesn't scorch.  Cook for about 5 minutes until the custard coats the spatula and begins to steam--again, don't let this boil.  Remove from heat and stir in the honey/herb mixture, combining well.  Pour the mixture through the sieve over the bowl set in ice water and let cool, stirring occasionally.  When cool, refrigerate the custard for at least two hours (or over night).  When the mixture is very cold, put it in an ice cream maker and follow the manufacturer's instructions.  When processed, place in a separate container and freeze until it solidifies.  Makes 1 quart.

Beekeepers' Fan-Favorite Rhubarb Dessert by Christy
Haven't had a chance to make this myself yet, but had a taste at the picnic and it's creamy and delicious--a great use of rhubarb!  It comes from the April/May 2008 issue of Taste  of Home magazine called Cool Rhubarb Dessert by Maxine Smith.  Christy adapted the recipe so that it uses honey.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts

1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup honey
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons water
4 cups chopped fresh or frozen rhubarb

1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
1 cup minature marshmallows
1 1 /2 cups cold milk
1 package (3.4 ounces) instant vanilla pudding
1/4 cup flaked coconut, toasted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a small bowl, combine the flour, butter and walnuts and press into an ungreased 13x9 inch pan.  Bake for 20-25 until lightly browned.  Cool while making filling and topping.

In a large saucepan, combine the filling ingredients and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, about five minutes or until rhubarb is tender. Cool and pour over crust.

In a large mixing bowl, beat cream until thickened.  Add confectioners' sugar and beat until soft peaks form.  Fold in marshmallows and spread over rhubarb layer.

In a small bowl, whisk milk and pudding mix for 2 minutes.  Let stand for 2 minutes or until soft-set. Spread over cream layer; sprinkle with coconut.  Cover and refrigerate for 4-5 hours.  Remove from refrigerator 30 minutes before cutting.  Yield:  16 ample servings.

Friday, July 26, 2013

"Award Winning" Sweet and Spicy Pickled Mushrooms

This delightful recipe comes from an out-of-print book by the National Honey Board called Sweetened With Honey the Natural Way (1994).  A quick search of the Honey Board's website pulled up the recipe, though and here's the link:  Sweet & Hot Marinated Mushrooms.

"Best Honey Dish with Mushrooms Award"
I adapted the recipe to suit  ingredients I had on hand and entered it in the "Made With Honey" contest at the annual beekeeper picnic jointly hosted by Burgh Bees and Beaver Valley Area Beekeepers' Association. Christie and Susie did a great job organizing the contest and I'm not saying that just because I won the award for the best dish made with mushrooms (mine was, um, the ONLY entry in its category, so you can tell the competition was fierce!).  Check out my cool bee ribbon! Christie made a great rhubarb dish (fan favorite!) and Susie entered a delicious blueberry scone.  I'm hounding them for the recipes and will hope to get them up on the blog before long.

These pickled mushrooms are great as an appetizer, on an antipasti tray, or in a simple green salad.  They'll keep in the fridge for about a week.

Sweet & Spicy Pickled Mushrooms
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup vegetable broth (or dry white wine)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small green onion, sliced thin (use the green parts, too!)
1/2 teaspoon lime (or orange or lemon) zest
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper flakes
1 pound fresh button mushrooms.  Leave whole if small.  If they're large, half or quarter them--but note that the mushrooms will shrink when they soak up the hot brine, so don't cut them too small.

Combine the honey, vinegar, broth, vegetable oil, soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, green onion slices, ginger and zest in a small pan. Cook and stir over medium heat until the brine just begins to simmer.  Place the mushrooms and pepper flakes in a heat proof bowl or jar and pour the hot brine over.  Let marinate for at least three hours before serving.  Makes about 4-6 servings.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Blueberry Mint Honey Vinegar & Salad Dressing

That white dot in the center of the two bottles is a blurry shot of one of our colonies!

My blueberry growing friend and colleague (and blog fan!) Ruth has promised to freeze a few of her delicious berries for me for when I return to campus in the fall (thanks, Ruth!).  We're lucky that we also live by a pick-your-own blueberry farm where I send Robert to bring back some of the bounty.  You can't have too many blueberries, that's for sure!

Miriam Rubin's "Miriam's Garden" column in the food section of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette recently included this great recipe for Blueberry-Mint Vinegar that she credits to Nancy Hanst, whose recipes often show up in Post-Gazette's food section.  The vinegar (which takes a few days to steep) makes a great base for an on-the-sweet-side salad dressing that would be lovely on a spinach or lettuce salad or used to dress some freshly roasted beets.  Instead of mint, you could use basil (which is from the mint family after all).

Blueberry-Mint-Honey Vinegar
1 cup white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1 cup fresh (or frozen and thawed) blueberries
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves--I used spearmint, but peppermint would be nice, too.

Bring the vinegar and honey to a boil.  Place the berries and mint in a jar and pour the vinegar-honey over them.  Cover and let steep for about 48 hours.  Strain out the berries and mint (not pressing on the berries) and then decant the vinegar into a bottle.

Blueberry-Mint-Honey Salad Dressing
1 small garlic clove
1/4 cup blueberry-mint-honey vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon mayonnaise (optional but helps the dressing to stay emulsified)
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

In a small food processor, mince the garlic clove.  Add the vinegar, honey & mayonnaise and whirl to blend. With processor running, slowly stream in the olive oil and blend until fully emulsified.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Store in the refrigerator.  Makes 1 cup and keeps for about a week.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Pak Choy & Mushrooms with Spicy Noodles

Thanks to Robert's green thumb and regular tending, we have a beautiful crop of pak choy this year--bok choy's miniature cousin. This is a wonderful vegetable for stir frying or sauteing.  The petioles (the stalks of the plant) are white and crunchy like celery while the top leaves are nearly like spinach. It is a member of the cabbage family, though it has a very mild flavor that lends itself well to spicy sauces.  For this recipe, I've sauteed it with mushrooms and garlic and used the veggies to top of a bowl of spicy peanut noodles.  You can eat this dish hot or cool (like a salad).  Sauteed or fried tofu would be a nice addition.

Pak choy needs to be carefully cleaned as the stalks tend to harbor a lot of dirt while the plant grows (like leeks).  For that reason, I usually cut the pak choy stalks into the size I want for the recipe and then place them in a large bowl of water, swishing them a bit to dislodge the dirt.  I then scoop up the floating stalk pieces and drain (the dirt will fall to the bottom of the bowl).

Pak Choy & Mushrooms with Spicy Noodles
Serves 2 generously as a main dish and 4 as a side dish

6-8 pak choy plants
8 oz. button (or any other kind, truthfully) mushrooms, cleaned and sliced into 1/4 in slices
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
olive oil or canola oil (to coat bottom of pan)
1-2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
salt and pepper to taste

1/2 lb long, flat rice pasta  or use regular spaghetti or linguine

For the sauce:
3 tablespoons peanut butter
3 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons sriracha (or other chili sauce, or 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes)

Cut the stalks from the leaves of the pak choy plants.  Slice the stalks into 1/2 inch slices and place in a large bowl of water to get rid of the dirt, and drain. (See directions above.)  Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta according to package directions.  Wash leaves in a bowl of water and drain.  Chop leaves and keep separate.

While pasta cooks, heat a large skillet and coat bottom with oil.  Add the garlic to the pan, stirring to prevent browning and saute for a few minutes until the garlic becomes fragrant.  Add the pak choy stalks to the pan and stir, cooking for about 3 to 4 minutes until the stalks soften a bit and stirring occasionally.  Add the mushrooms and stir, cooking for 3 to 4 minutes or so until mushrooms (and pak choy) begin to give up their juices.  Add leaves to the pan--no need to stir--and cover so that the leaves, stalks and mushrooms steam a bit.  This should take no more than 3 or 4 minutes.  Remove cover, stir around and check that the vegetables are done to your liking.  Add salt and pepper to taste and drizzle the sesame oil over the veggies.

In a small bowl, combine the sauce ingredients and set aside.  Drain the pasta (if using rice pasta, rinse with cold water and drain well again).  Return pasta to pot and stir in sauce, being sure to coat all of the noodles.  Divide the noodles among individual bowls and top each with a portion of the vegetables.  Serve with more sriracha sauce, soy sauce and/or a drizzle of sesame oil.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Cold Beet & Buttermilk Soup

Ahh! The height of summer!  Our beet patch is coming into its own now and weather is perfect for cold soups.  This beet and buttermilk soup is simple, easy and gorgeous.  If you're a hard core beet lover, you don't even have to cook the beets--they can be peeled and blended raw right into this concoction.  I prefer a less earthy beet flavor and a smoother soup, so I boiled and peeled the beets first.  You could also roast the beets, which would make them a bit sweeter and richer.  Anyway you make 'em, this lovely soup will make a nice addition to a lazy summer lunch.

Cold Beet & Buttermilk Soup
4-5 medium sized beets, boiled or roasted, peeled and cut into chunks (or, as noted above, you could peel and chunk them raw)  If you boil the beets, chill them in an ice bath before peeling; cool the roasted beets before using.
3 cups buttermilk
3 tablespoons honey
2-3 scallions, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
a little more buttermilk to swirl in for garnish if you want to get fancy
Place the beets, buttermilk, honey and scallions in a blender and whirl until thoroughly pureed.  Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.  Chill for an hour before serving (or, truth be told, you could lap this soup up right away, though it won't be cold-cold).  Just before serving, drizzle a bit of buttermilk on top and swirl.  Makes about four cups.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Chocolate Coconut Honey Ice "Cream"--Dairy Free!

Chocolate Coconut Ice "Cream"
This is another great recipe from our favorite vegan, Emily.  (Thanks, Emily!)  It's delicious, creamy and couldn't be simpler, made as it is with just coconut milk, cocoa and honey.

Instead of honey, Emily uses agave syrup--a nice alternative for those vegans who eschew honey.  There is, in fact, a great debate about whether honey can be included in a vegan diet. For more on that debate, check out this Slate article as well as this page on the Vegetus website. For the record, the Vegetus site argues that beekeepers exploit honeybees, a point we obviously dispute.  We can appreciate someone making a decision not to consume any animal or animal-created foods (like honey or milk) on principle, and Vegetus author offers a thoughtful and thorough discussion. Yet most of the foods that vegans enjoy are available because of the industrious (and indeed at times exploited) honeybee. As backyard beekeepers, we prefer to think that instead of exploiting them, we're helping them to thrive.

Whew! After that lengthy detour, it's time to enjoy some delicious ice "cream," don't you think?

Chocolate Coconut Honey Ice "Cream"
As Emily notes, the recipe comes from the Detoxinista website, with helpful directions for how to make it if you don't have an ice cream maker.  I added 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract to give the flavor a little bump.

Just poured into the ice cream maker
1 14-oz can coconut milk
1/4 plus 2 tablespoons cocoa (I used Hershey's dark cocoa)
1/4 cup honey (or agave or maple syrup if you insist!)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Whirl all of the ingredients in a blender and pour into an ice cream maker.  If you've made other more traditional ice creams before, this will look a bit more runny than most ice cream bases.  Have faith! Process in the ice cream maker for about 20 minutes until it is the consistency of soft-serve ice cream.  You can spoon it out into bowls right then and enjoy. Or, if you want the ice cream to be a bit firmer, place in a freezer-safe container and freeze for a few hours. This is best eaten within a day or two (I could barely stop myself from eating the whole thing in one sitting!.)

What it looks like when it's done

Ready to eat!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Recipes for July 4th! Honeyed Three Bean Salad & Honey Cheese Cake Squares

Honeyed Three Bean Salad

I'm trying to make up for my two-month hiatus as a blogger by posting a few recipes at a time. The first is a take on the classic three bean salad, with a few twists--including using edamame (soy beans) as one of the three beans.  Like its classic cousin, this salad a bit on the sweet side--but it's delicious and refreshing and sure to please at a July 4th cook out.  The poppy seeds make it special.  You could skip the edamame for classic green beans instead.  If you do, don't make the salad too far in advance as the vinegar in the dressing will turn the green beans a dull grey.  The inspiration for this salad came from a recipe in a May/June 2007  issue  of Vegetarian Times.

The second recipe, for Honey Cheese Cake Squares, is one that I pulled from an April 2003 issue of the now defunct Gourmet Magazine.  Recipes from Gourmet are all now available on Epicurious. The honey cheese cake squares were a hit for dessert this weekend when my cousin, his new wife and son were visiting from North Carolina (they're adorable newly weds!). The honey in this recipe really shines through--and a lighter honey I think works best.

Need more recipe ideas for your July 4th cookout or family get together?  Check out a past post for Memorial Day Picnic Recipes (including honey baked beans and grilled skirt steak).

Three Bean Salad
1 10-oz package frozen shelled edamame beans (2 cups) 
1 15-oz can dark kidney beans, drained
1 15-oz can navy beans, drained
1/4 cup red onion, chopped
3 stalks celery, diced (about 1/4 inch)
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup honey
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup vegetable oil (I used canola)
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
salt and pepper to taste

Cook edamame according to package direction and then immediately put in ice water to cool and stop cooking.  Drain and put in a large bowl along with drained kidney and navy beans.  Add red onion and celery to bowl and toss. In a jar (or food processor), combine the vinegar, honey, mustard, oil and poppy seeds and shake (or process) until well combined.  Pour over beans and toss to evenly distribute.  Taste and season with salt & pepper.  Let the flavors meld for a few hours and up to one day.  Serve cold.  Makes about 8 servings

Makes about 24 1 1/2 inch squares

For the crust:
6 whole graham crackers, crumbled
2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the filling:
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 large egg
2 tablespoons milk
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup light (spring or summer) honey

Preheat oven to 325 degrees
Pulse the graham crackers, sugar and butter in a food processor.  Press mixture evenly over the bottom of a 8x8 square baking dish and bake in the middle of the oven for 10 minutes.  Remove and let cool for about five minutes.

For the filling, blend the cream cheese, egg, milk, zest, lemon juice and honey in the cleaned food processor.  Pour filling over crust and bake in the middle of the oven until the filling is set (and a bit puffed)--about 30 minutes.  Cool and then chill for at least three hours.  When fully chilled, cut into squares--they'll still be a bit rough around the edges, though--just like most of us! :)

Honey Cheese Cake Squares

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Quinoa Salad (or Pilaf) and Bonus Recipe: Lentil Burgers!

I had dinner with my favorite 3-year-old and 1-year-old yesterday--Sam and his brother Bohdan.  They are a coupla busy guys!  Bohdan's new word is  "Uh-oh!" which comes in quite handy when a spoon or cup is dropped from the high chair.  I made this quinoa salad/pilaf and lentil burgers for dinner.  Can't say either of these two guys offered a ringing endorsement of them--but neither one of them spit them out.  Speaking of spitting, for "bessert" (Sam's favorite part of any meal!) we had watermelon and spit the seeds off the porch.   Sam & Bodhan's mom and dad liked the quinoa and burgers, so they make it on to the blog!

QUINOA SALAD or PILAF (you be the judge!)

This recipe is adapted from the May/June 2006 issue of Vegetarian Times.  I added the celery and red pepper--and honey, of course!  Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) is a seed and provides a nice alternative to rice.  Here's a link to more information from and entity called the Quinoa Corporation.  You can play around with the ingredients here.  If you don't have a red pepper, mushrooms or zucchini would do--or skip the vegetables entirely and just use the herbs.

1 cup quinoa, rinsed well 
2 cups broth 
1 tablespoons olive oil
2-3 stalks celery, diced into 1/2 inch pieces
1 red pepper, diced into 1/2 inch pieces
2-3 spring onions (or scallions) sliced into 1/4 in rounds--including much of the green part.
1/4 cup parsley, finely chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons chopped mint.
1/2 cup shelled pistachios (unsalted if you can find them), chopped
In a large sauce pan over medium heat, toast the quinoa until it begins to brown and "pop" (about 3 to 5 minutes).  Add the broth to the pan, cover and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes until the quinoa absorbs the broth.  Transfer to a bowl and cool.

While quinoa is cooking, saute the celery and red pepper in 2 tablespoons olive oil until softened but still a bit crunchy.  Turn off heat, add spring onions and stir.  Add to cooled quinoa in bowl.

Add parsley, olive oil, lemon juice and mint to the bowl and toss to mix well.  Stir in nuts.  Taste and correct seasoning--may need some salt and pepper.  Let sit for 20 minutes for flavors to develop.  Serve at room temperature or refrigerate and serve chilled.  Makes at least 8 servings.

There isn't a drop of honey in these burgers at all--but we've been eating these about once or twice a week.  Unlike many home made bean burgers, these actually hold up well in a burger bun.  The recipe comes from our vegan friend, Emily.  I've adapted it to our non-vegan tastes (but include the vegan directions below, too).  This recipe makes 8 burgers.

8 ounces mushrooms, washed and chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
3-5 cloves of garlic, chopped
4 cups cooked lentils, thoroughly drained and dry as you can get 'em (divided)
1/3 to 2/3 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons soy sauce or (tamari)
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 egg*  (see vegan substitution below)
salt and pepper to taste

Saute the mushrooms in the olive oil until they are very soft and have released their juices--about 5 minutes or so.  Add the garlic and saute a few minutes longer.  In a food processor, add the mushroom mixture, 2 cups of the lentils, 1/3 cup oats, corn starch, tomato paste, soy sauce, paprika and oregano. Pulse 5-10 times to thoroughly combine and chop the ingredients.  Place the mixture in a bowl and add the remaining 2 cups of lentils and the egg.  Mix with hands to combine.  The mixture should be more sticky than crumbly. If it is too wet to hold the shape of a burger, add up to another 1/3 of oats--but no more.  The burgers will be sticky and a little messy to work with.

On a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, form mixture into 8 burgers about  2 1/2 or 3 inches wide and 1 inch thick (the size of an average burger).  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to one day.

Bake burgers in an oven preheated to 375 degrees for about 25 minutes.  If you want cheese lentil burgers, you can place cheese slices on top and broil for a few minutes.  You can also grill these burgers after you bake them--just a few minutes on each side to give them some grilled flavor.  

*VEGAN SUBSTITUTION:  In place of the egg, you can use 2 tablespoons chia seeds soaked in 3 tablespoons warm water.  Add these to the mixture when you pulse everything in the food processor. 

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Flourless Chocolate Coconut Cookies

When my sisters and I were little, we'd beg my mother to make boiled chocolate cookies, which were more like candy than cookies and made with cocoa and oats.  They were the perfect way to satisfy a sweet tooth when we didn't want to wait for cookies to bake.  These flourless chocolate coconut cookies remind me a bit of them--though these are baked and not boiled.  They're rather candy-like in a chewy way and they come together very quickly.  I did have to wait 10 minutes for them to bake, but it was worth it!  I'd make one tweak to the recipe:  the cookies were a bit too big and they'll be smaller the next time I make them.

I found this recipe on a blog called Healthful Pursuit, which is the creation of Leanne Vogel, a holistic nutritionist.  Though I wouldn't make a meal of these, the basic ingredients--cocoa, honey, coconut, eggs and vanilla extract--make them at least seem like they're good for you. Make up a batch for your Easter basket!

Flourless Chocolate Coconut Cookies

1 cup coconut (I used unsweetened, but you could use sweetened if that's all you have)
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup honey
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.  Combine the ingredients in a bowl and mix well to combine.  Using a teaspoon, drop cookies onto a cookie sheet, forming cookies that are about the size of a walnut.  Bake for about 8-10 minutes until the cookies are firm to the touch and can be easily lifted from the sheet.  Makes about 12-15 cookies and the recipe is easily doubled.

Well, I couldn't mention Mom's Boiled Cookies and not give you the recipe. These cookies don't have a lick of honey in them, but they're very good!  (Mom's secret ingredient is peanut butter.)

2 cups sugar
4 tablespoons cocoa
1/2 cup milk
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, cut into chunks
3 tablespoons peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 1/2 cups rolled oats

In a sauce pan, mix sugar, cocoa and milk until well combined. Add butter.  Place pan over medium heat and bring the mixture to a rapid boil, stirring to mix in butter as it melts.  Boil rapidly for one minute.  Remove from heat.  Add peanut butter and vanilla and stir.  Add oats and mix until well combined.  

Drop by teaspoons onto wax paper. Cool.  Makes enough for three sisters and a mom! :)

Friday, March 15, 2013

Spinach Orange Salad with Honey-Sesame Dressing

This is another great recipe from the Vegetarian Times.  The dressing also makes a nice dipping sauce for spring rolls or Asian dumplings or pot sticklers.  Though it seems as if spring really has sprung in these parts, this is a nice winter salad that can help to chase the winter blues away.

Spinach Orange Salad with Honey-Sesame Dressing
1/4 cup toasted almonds, chopped
6 cups baby spinach
2 oranges, peeled and sectioned
1 or 2 very thin slices of red onion, cut in half and broken apart
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
Arrange the spinach, orange slices and red onion on a platter.  Sprinkle with almonds on top.  Drizzle about 1/4 cup of the dressing and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Honey-Sesame Dressing
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons vegetable oil (or extra virgin olive oil)
1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
Blend honey, vinegar, soy sauce and red pepper flakes in a food processor.  With the processor running, drizzle in the oils and keep the processor running a minute or so more to emulsify.  Unused dressing can be kept in the refrigerator for about two weeks.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Sourdough Honey Whole-Wheat English Muffins

This recipe is not a lot of work, but it does require a bit of a commitment, so if you're a commitment-phobe, you might just want to buy a package of whole wheat English muffins and be done with it.

Ah, but where's the fun in that, especially when you can make your own sour dough starter and then cook up a fresh batch of whole wheat English muffins that will have your family and friends saying, "You made these?"

So, bear with me here (or, if you prefer, just go ahead and laugh at me and move on!).  The biggest commitment comes with creating the sour dough starter, which takes three days.  Once you have the starter established, you can keep it going in your fridge and, with a little thinking ahead, can whip up a lovely plate of English muffins that are so much better (and likely better for you) than store bought.

The recipe for the sourdough starter and the English muffins both come from Vegetarian Times.  You'll find more sourdough recipes there, too!

Sourdough Starter
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon quick-rise (not regular) yeast

Use a quart glass jar with a wide mouth.  Stir the flour and yeast together and then add 1 cup of warm water (about 110 degrees).  Place the lid loosely on the jar and let sit a warmish (70+) spot for 12 hours.

Stir the starter and discard half (or, if you're ambitious, use the half you'd toss out to start another jar).  To the remaining starter, add 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup lukewarm water and stir to combine.  Repeat this step every 12 hours for the next three days (72 hours).  (Hey! I said it was a commitment!)

The starter is now ready to use for the English muffin recipe.  Any remaining starter can be put in the refrigerator.  It should be fed and/or used within a week.  To feed the starter, stir it down and then remove half (use this starter in a recipe or discard).  If you have 1 cup of starter left, then stir in 1 cup of flour and 1 cup of warm water and put it back in the fridge.  (If you have 1/2 cup starter left, stir in 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup water.)

Sourdough Honey Whole-Wheat English Muffins
The dough for this recipe needs to sit overnight to develop, so it takes a little planning ahead (that is, once you've made the sourdough starter).
1 cup sourdough starter
1 cup whole-wheat flour
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 cup lukewarm water
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt.
cornmeal for dusting (the finer the cornmeal, the better, but use what you have)

In a large bowl, stir the starter, whole-wheat flour, honey and water until well combined.  Cover loosely and let sit overnight.  This mixture will get very bubbly!

The next day, stir together 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, baking powder and salt.  Add this to the whole-wheat dough.  Stir until well combined.  Add more of the remaining 1/2 cup of flour and knead until the dough is no longer sticky.

Roll dough out on a lightly floured board to about 1/2 inch thickness.  Cut out muffins using about a 3-inch round cutter (I used the top of a large, wide glass).  Depending upon the size of your cutter, you should get between 6 and 8 muffins.  Dust tops and bottoms with cornmeal, cover loosely and let sit for about an hour until the muffins are a bit puffy.

Heat a heavy bottomed skillet over high heat for about a minute.  Lightly spray with cooking oil and turn heat down to medium.  Cook muffins about 3 to 5 minutes per side, until they're nicely browned on both sides.  You'll be surprised by how much they rise while they're cooking!  Let cool for about 15 minutes before serving.  Makes between 6 and 8 muffins.