Friday, December 31, 2010

You Sick-o! (Try taking honey!)

It's that time of year again.  The time of year when you or the kids are always catching something from somebody or somewhere.  And to compound the issue, it's drier and there's more dander and dust floating around than ever.
Or maybe you just have some skin issue that you can't seem to clear up, or a wound of some kind that just doesn't seem to respond to traditional treatment.

I am not a doctor, and am not offering medical advice.  But, did you know there are lots of medicinal uses for honey? The uses for honey are endless, so we'll just discuss a few of the natural uses for honey in remedies of some more common ailments.

Sore thoats - try 2 t honey, 2 t lemon in a cup of hot water. Some folks are known to simply take the honey by itself and says it works as well as any sore throat medicine.

Sinus conditions - using hot water, add honey.  Put a towel over your head and breathe in the vapors.  If sinus problems are caused from allergies, eating 1 to 2 t of honey per day straight from the jar should help to "immunize" you against hay fever, ragweed, etc. Better yet, chewing the actual honeycomb may provide more immediate relief.

Upset tummies - try the above tea, adding a few slices of fresh ginger.

Burns, wounds - freely apply honey to any wound including burns, cuts, even diaper rashes.  Reapply as needed. Can cover with bandage.  Bacteria can not grow in honey, and this application is soothing, non-toxic, sterile and cheap. This is effective with animals as well.

Skin issues - try a paste of 2 t honey and 1 t cinnamon.  Apply to face for up to 30 minutes before washing off with warm water.  Reapply daily as necessary.

Dry winter skin - using 1 T of olive oil, mix in 1 T honey.  Apply small amount directly to skin, rubbing gently in.  Can leave it on if you haven't applied too much. :-) (otherwise, you will stick to your bedsheets!) Try some Vitamin E in the mix as well.

Propolis, which is the resin from certain tree buds that the bees use for cementing and caulking in their hives, is also interchangeable with the honey for skin conditions, burns and wounds.

 If you are interested in knowing more about apitherapy, which uses actual bee stings (bee venom therapy) see for testimonials and courses/conferences near you. I, for one, can attest to the power of a bee sting on bursitis!

Note: Children under the age of 1 should not be given honey.  Please check with your doctor for serious health conditions.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Drinking to the New Year (with honey!)

Mulled apple cider


I love drinks with honey in it.  You would not believe the variety of drinks you can make with it.

To greet your guests during the holidays, welcome them with a hot mulled cider that you put in your crock pot.  Just keep it bubbling away on "low" and it will always be perfect for your company.

1 qt apple juice or apple cider
1/2 c honey
3 orange slices
12 whole cloves
dash of nutmeg, cinnamon

Put the honey in the crock pot that is warming up.  Let it warm and then add the juice and mix (the heated honey will easily mix with the cider).  Add the remaining ingredients, or buy a mulled spice mix that you put into a tea ball and toss in to the juice.  The longer it sits, the stronger it is.  Have a supply of stirrable peppermint sticks to go with it.

Here is another hot drink that you could make on the stove first, then transfer to a crock pot on "low" to keep it warm.

6 eggs, beaten until fluffy
3/4 c honey
1 whole nutmeg or 1/2 t ground nutmeg
1 qt whole milk

Beat honey gradually into eggs; set aside.  Add nutmeg to the milk.  Heat, without boiling, until beads form around the edge of pan (DO NOT BOIL). Add milk to the egg and honey mixture slowly, stirring constantly (or you will cook the eggs...not good). 

If you need a cold drink for your new year's crowd, try this:

2 c boiling water
1 large family size tea bag (or use several smaller ones)
1 1/2 c honey
1 c lemon juice
5 c orange juice
2 qt iced tea

Pour the boiling water over the tea bag(s) and steep.  Dissolve honey into the warm tea.  Let cool, then combine remaining ingredients.  Easy and good.

And here's one if it's just you and a loved one spending a quiet evening:

1 c water
2 t cocoa (reserve some for top)
2 t honey
1 c of your favorite coffee
OPT: 4 T Kahlua coffee liqueur
4 T white creme de menthe
whipped topping

Mix ingredients together and put into two mugs.  Finish off with whipped topping, with a dash of coca on top.

"My son, eat thou honey, because it is good; and the honeycomb, which is sweet to the taste"
Proverbs 24:13

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Firecracker Shrimp with Honey Sauce

Firecracker Shrimp..steaming hot!
I tried this dish only for the first time a few weeks ago, although we have always liked stir-fried type dishes here.  I think the description "firecracker" turned me off from it because I do not like hot things, with the exception of horseradish.

But this is a dish you can make as hot as you want so I toned it down a bit, but if you like it hot, heap on the red pepper flakes. It is a type of sweet (honey) and sour (soy sauce) dish.

It is very simple, and takes very little time to prep and make.  It makes an elegant meal, or a fast and quick one for those days when you have worked all day and need something fast.

1 LB shrimp (if you choose to use uncooked, then make sure you cook the shrimp until it's pink, otherwise I use the cooked kind.)
1 red pepper, chopped
1 pkg snow peas
several ounces of green onions
1/4 c minced garlic

Using olive oil in hot skillet, saute the garlic, then all other ingredients.  When the vegetables and shrimp are cooked, add the below sauce.  Continue cooking until sauce has thickened.  Great with curry rice.

1/4 c honey
1/4 c soy sauce
1 T red wine vineagar (or rice wine vinegar)
Several teaspoons of grated ginger and orange zest
2 t corn starch
red pepper flakes to taste

Whisk together and add to shrimp and vegetables.

What is also great about this type of dish is that you can add whatever ingredients you like.  Try fresh Italian green beans instead of the snow peas, or add regular onions when you saute the garlic.  You could use any combination of colors of peppers, or try lemon or lime zest instead of the orange. You could easily change out the shrimp for chicken.  The variations are limitless.

We get a lot of customers who call us from the south and I usually ask what the weather is like.  I get so jealous when I hear it's 78 degrees in Texas, or a balmy 83 degrees in Florida, while it's been below freezing here for weeks.  But today, when I got up and went outside to feed the chickens, I was glad to live in Illinois when you can see sights like this, right here in my own yard!

Our own christmas tree and my garden hive
The woods full of hoar frost.  Beautiful!

Friday, December 10, 2010

A Renaissance Dinner

A spinach "tart"--both sweet and savory
 Every once in a great while, I like to do a "theme" night.  I started the idea actually a long time ago when we were very poor and the only thing to be found was a few hot dogs and a can of pork and beans.  What could have been a very boring meal was actually fun when you make a cowboy picnic out of it, dressing the part, and eating by candlelight (campfire).  So, now I continue the tradition by having an occasional theme night at dinner time.

A lot of the traditions we have about Christmas actually started in the Middle Ages --the Renaissance period.  The traditions we know of gift-giving was centered usually on Epiphany, but differ very little from the practice we know and love today. During the Renaissance and Medieval revels of Twelfth Night, gifts were given, in remembrance of the Magi's gift to the baby Christ. Nowhere was the tradition of gift-giving more lavish than in the royal courts of the age. Those wishing to curry the favor of the Crowned Heads of Europe would take the Christmas holiday as their big moment. They would travel from all over Europe with expensive gifts in hand, and pass them into the king or queen or princes' waiting hands, in hopes of receiving whatever boon or title for which they so wished.

With a little bit of Internet exploring, I came across a few foods that I made this evening, reminiscent of the Renaissance era, using honey, which I am assuming would have been available, although how readily I do not know, and most probably only to the rich.

My dinner menu consisted of a spinach tart, called a Cremoneze Tart made with honey, barbecued pork (sauce made with honey), and a bread pudding made with honey, along with garlic green beans. My husband loved the spinach tart, which is both sweet and savory at the same time, and my oldest son enjoyed the bread pudding the most. Here's how you make the tart and the pudding.

Cremoneze Tart with Honey
1/2 pound spinach, washed, chopped
1/2 c chopped mint (I actually went out in 6 inches of snow, dug through the mulch and discovered plenty of mint under the snow!!)
2 eggs (our own of course)
1/2 c grated Parmesan
4 T melted butter
1/4 c honey
2 T currants (no currants found here, so I used dried blueberries --you could easily use raisins or dried cranberries)
1/4 t cinnamon
1/8 t nutmeg

Mix all ingredients together.  Put into deep dish pie crust and bake at 350 until done, about 45 minutes.

This dish is reminiscent of a quiche, but is different in that it has quite a bit of sweetness to it. It could be used as a main course, but we chose to use it as a vegetable side dish.

Bread Pudding with Honey
Tear up enough day old bread to fill a medium size baking dish. (I found some rolls we had brought home from our steak house the night before, a few hot dog buns, and half a loaf of italian bread)
Heat up 5 c milk.  When milk is heated, add to it 5 beaten eggs, 1 t vanilla, 1/2 c honey and pour mixture over the top of bread.  Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes. Insert knife to test for doneness. Should be nice and brown and fluffs up quite a bit too.

I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A Little Christmas Cheer

It's not all about beekeeping and chickens and cooking around here.  Sometimes we actually break for a little fun.  Here's David and Christian making a santa hat at our local library for their Mrs Claus Christmas program.  I think David had a lot of fun making this hat. :-)

Here's Christian thinking about giving Mrs Claus a chance.  Santa is scary to him --in fact any big cartoon-ish person in a suit is.  And is to most little kids too (why do we do that to them?) So we thought maybe Mrs Claus wouldn't be too scary.  But he still wasn't exactly buying.  The library brings in Mrs Claus and gives the kids a little gift.  It is a very nice community activity for them.

The last activity that Christian and I did was to put icing on the gingerbread man and then he added on m & m eyes and buttons.  He chomped off his head first and then ran off to play with the train.

We had a wonderful snow fall that day.  About 5 or 6 inches fell and the boys had a ball going outside and playing in the snow.

The rest of us watched them play in the snow through the window in the comfort of the living room.  We're no dummies!

I hope you and yours will have a joyous and happy holiday season.  It sometimes gets hectic trying to get everything done, and everyone seen, but take some time and remember what the season is all about. And love the people around you.  Count your blessings.  Be in good health and cheer.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Honey Cranberry Granola

I just made this for the first time this week, and from the looks of things (and the taste of things!) it's a big hit with folks and my own kids (which is saying a lot!).

Granola sounds like something that is hard to make.  In fact, what is even IN granola? It's a mystery, and the truth is, can be made with lots of different kinds of ingredients, and to suit your own tastes.

The basis of it is oats and wheatgerm. Wheatgerm is a small part of the wheat kernel that is loaded with nutrients and vitamins and can help reduce heart diseases and a host of other things.  High in protein, it is a tremendous food to add to things like granola, yogurt, or your own home made bread. You can buy it in health stores, but my local grocery store had it in the oatmeal & cereal aisle.

Honey Cranberry Granola
(remember my adage: when cooking like this, use more or less of the ingredients that YOU prefer, that is why some of my ingredients range in the amounts that I use.)
4 - 5 cups of oats
1 - 2 c wheatgerm
1/2 c - 1 c sunflower seeds
1/2 c - 1 c peanuts/cashews/almonds
1 c coconut (I omited because I don't like coconut)
1/2 c - 1 c dried cranberries/raisins/blueberries/cherries (any or all work well)
1/4 - 1/2 c brown sugar
Mix dry ingredients.
On stove top, mix together and heat:
1/2 - 3/4 c honey
1/2 c vegetable oil
shake of salt, cinnamon and vanilla

Slowly incorporate this heated mixture into the dry ingredients, stirring thoroughly. It takes very little to "coat" the cereal with this mixture, but if you feel it's not "wet" enough, you can make a little more of the liquid mixture to coat the cereal with.   Spread onto a cookie sheet (may need a couple) and bake at 350 degrees for around 15 - 20 minutes.  Let cool,breaking up any large lumps,  then bag up or place in a lidded container. Makes a nice gift in a bag with a bow on it.

Goodies to sell - granola, noodles, and bread

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Cooking with Honey Class

I just finished teaching my first Cooking with Honey class and I think it was a success. It was a lot of fun anyway.  Some old friends came back, we met some new ones, the evening was fun.  It usually is when you put a bunch of beekeepers in the same room.

Here I am teaching my first Cooking with Honey class

We also did candlemaking that night.  Our good friend Angela Faulkner came in and demonstrated how to use beeswax to create candles.  Then we all got to make a rolled candle.

Angela and Leah setting up the candle display

And lastly, as if that wasn't enough, we did some honey sampling.  We had samples from all over the US - from orange blossoms in Florida, to mountain honey from Kentucky and then some international flavors--from Germany and France. 

Folks really enjoyed tasting different varieties of honey.
And as promised, here is the honey cheesecake recipe I made that night.

It is so simple.  You place a vanilla wafer in an individual cupcake liner in the muffin pan.  Next, you cream 2 softened packages of 8 oz cream cheese with 2/3 c honey.  You add 2 eggs into the mix, dash of vanilla, then place some of the mixture over the vanilla wafers.  You bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes.  Easy. Top with cherry pie filling.  Enjoy! And thanks to you all who came.  

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Chicken Tetrazzini

This cute little chicken can make the best dishes!

We tried out a chicken tetrazzini dish today.  Traditionally, I think you can use any kind of poultry or fowl in this dish.  Turkey would be great during this season of Thanksgiving when I'm sure you have plenty of leftovers.  Canned tuna or salmon would be fine as well.

As with any dishes you cook on the stove, experiment.  Measurements don't have to be exact when you are cooking, unlike when you are baking. That's why a lot of my measurements range in the volume to use.  So if you want something hotter, throw in the cayenne or the hot pepper flakes.  If you aren't a mushroom person, leave them out! If you like a little Italian, use garlic and onion sauteed in olive oil.  A little tip --always write down in your cookbook what you did so you remember to do it next time.

Chicken Tetrazzini
12 oz of pasta, cooked and drained
1/2 c butter
onion and garlic to your taste (we use quite a bit, like a whole onion and 1/4 c garlic)
mushrooms (from 2 - 3 cups)
2 T flour
1 c milk
1/4 - 1/2 c sour cream
1 c chicken broth
2 -3 c cooked, chopped chicken
3/4 c - 1 c grated cheddar, Parmesan or Swiss cheese (or some combination of all 3)
to taste - garlic, salt, pepper, nutmeg and parsley ( we like cilantro)

Saute the onion, garlic and mushrooms in the butter.  Add the flour, cook for 1 minute, then add the milk.  Let it begin to thicken, cooking several minutes, then add in the sour cream.  Add the pasta.

Grate your cheese (or use prepackaged grated). Add to the pasta mix.  Add in the remainder of the
ingredients to season to your liking.

This next step is optional.  Using day old bread cut into pieces, left over bread stuffing mix, old croutons you can't feed the kids, or all that dressing from the holidays no one ate, put this on the top of the tetrazzini after placing into a casserole dish.  I took our left over stuffing mix, cooked it up into several tablespoons of butter, and put it on top of the dish.

Bake at 350 until heated through.  The dish doesn't need baked, everything is essentially done in it, so it's not necessary to cook long.

It looks (and tastes!) good plated up.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Christmas and Relationships

What do you love the most about the holidays? I know some might say the time off from work, or going hunting, or even the ball games.  But I think most of us truly enjoy the family time we have together, both with family and friends we see all the time, but also with those we only see rarely.
Here's a quote from Robert Dodd in a little Advent Devotional book I am reading:

The only thing we take out of this world with us is our relationship with God and our relationships with one another. Everything else we leave behind: our wealth, our possessions, our homes, our cars, even the clothes on our backs. Our relationships are responsible for making us the persons that we are. We are part of everyone we meet and even of the people we have not met whose stories are familiar to us.  This means that we should give a top priority to our relationships.

Our local "family friendly" (that title is apparently more "pc" than the label "Christian") radio station is encouraging people to do Random Acts of Christmas.  The idea is to just find someone you can help, in a big or small way.  And try to do it every day, or as often as you can through the holiday season.  I like the idea, and want to encourage all my readers to try it.

The people around us are important, and should be a priority.  David preached a sermon today in our homechurch about how we treat our family and friends.  One of his comments he made was how so often we call others names.  Sounds childish, but we do it.  How many times could someone catch you calling "pig" to a cop? Or muttering "idiot" under your breath when the boss walks by? How we treat people is who we really are. 

This holiday season, try to do a small, random act of kindness every day.  Get your kids involved in this project at some level, but mostly these acts will happen at the spur of the moment, with a right now kind of timing. Don't put a great deal of thinking into this because trying to come up with some- special- something -for- someone will bog you down and cause you not to do anything at all.  Just do it.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Mini Honey-Chocolate Cheesecakes

We made mini cheesecakes for Thanksgiving.

But before I give you the recipe, I have to tell you about Thanksgiving.

We left to go to our son's house, who lives about 45 minutes away.  We were all dressed up, and just threw on light jackets even though it was drizzling.  We had put tables, chairs, a child's cardboard table, boxes of food, a crockpot full of stuffing and a large pot full of chicken and noodles into the back of the truck.  Because the tables stuck out of the back, we could not put on the bed top.

So we began our drive, and were singing "Over the River and Through the Woods", and it was nice because we really do go over a river and through the woods to get to our son's house.

About 20 minutes into our drive, David sees a low tire warning sign, and suddenly our tire blew.  We were out in the middle of no where on a very narrow country road, so the only option was to off road it into a nearby cornfield.  By now it's pouring down rain, and the temperature had dropped at least 10 degrees, to about 30 degrees.  The guys gallantly get out, and find out no matter how hard they try, they can not get the spare to lower under the truck bed (it was one of those convoluted key-in-the-hole, remove plug and the insert some other contraption to get the spare down, but we apparently didn't possess the other contraption needed.)  David called people, got out manuals, even got on the internet to find a solution, but there didn't seem to be any.  Every few minutes they would jump out and try something else, only to get drenched, muddy, and frozen stiff.

Our truck on a day when we liked it.

Finally we gave up, called the tow truck, and paid $184 to have the tire changed.  The food and tables in the back were ruined because of the rain, we sat for 2 hours in a cornfield,  we missed Thanksgiving dinner, but if that's the worse that happened, we still consider ourselves very blessed during this Thanksgiving season. We are healthy, all our children are well, we have food on the table, and clothes on our back, and the love of an entire extended family and church fellowship.  We are blessed people.

So, the day before we had made the most delicious, yummy mini cheesecakes.  Those got the privilege of sitting in the truck bed with us and poor Christian cried continually for them while we waited on the repair man to show up.  We are making these for our Cooking with Honey class coming up in December.

Honey-Chocolate Mini Cheesecakes (Note: this makes a custardy type cheesecake)
Line cupcake tin with paper cupcake holders. Put in 2 vanilla wafers in the bottom of each cup. Drizzle melted chocolate and honey over each wafer.

Take 1 package (8 oz) softened cream cheese and cream with 1/2 c honey with mixer.  Continue mixing, adding 2 eggs, 1 at a time.  Add 1/4 c sour cream and dash of vanilla or almond extract.

Fill each cup with some of this mixture.  Bake at 350 for 15 min.

After cakes are done and cool, drizzle over more melted chocolate and honey. (You can of course, omit the chocolate and honey drizzling and put on cherry or blueberry pie topping).


Thursday, November 25, 2010

Eating Cake

Honey Applesauce Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

I made this cake this week.  It is really good.  You need to keep it put up in a refrigerator if possible because of the cream cheese.

Here's how it looks now after Christian was allowed to sit with it at the table unsupervised for a bit:

 1/2 c shortening
3/4 c honey
2 c flour (whole wheat works well)
1/4 t cloves
1/2 t cinnamon
1/2 t nutmeg
1/4 t salt
1 t baking soda
1 c applesauce
1 c raisins (we omit)
Grease and flour pan.  Oven set to 350.  Mix shortening and honey well.  Stir in dry ingredients, applesauce and raisins.  Bake for 45 min.

Cream Cheese frosting is easy enough made from real cream cheese.  And, if you get the cheese on sale (I can get it for 99 cents or less) it's cheaper than frosting in a can. (But when time is short, use the frosting in a can!!!)

Cream Cheese Frosting
1 softened 8 oz cream cheese
powdered sugar (I have never tried this with honey instead of powered sugar before, if someone tries it, let me know at so I can comment about it.)
1 tsp vanilla
Dash of milk

I start softening up the cream cheese by leaving it out on the counter for an hour or so.  Then I begin whipping it, while adding powdered sugar (I usually end up using about 1/2 a box or so).  Depending on how "stiff" it is, I add a dash a milk at a time until I get it to frosting consistency.  Add the vanilla at some point.

Honey keeps things like cake retain moisture.  If you needed to send something to someone for the holidays, or off to a child at college, use honey because the baked goods will last longer.

Here's a quick cinnamon coffee cake made with honey:
2 c flour
1/2 t salt
4 t baking powder
1 beaten egg
1 c milk
4 T butter, melted
1/2 t cinnamon
Greast 8 inch square or round pan.  Oven at 375.  Sift together flour, salt, baking power.  Add 2 T honey, egg, milk, then butter.  Stir together.  Spread into pan.  Dribble remaining honey over top and sprinkle with the cinnamon. Bake 30 minutes.

Enjoy these, we did!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

How to Drink Honey - Smoothies, Slushies, and Shake-Ups

One of the best ways to eat honey is to drink it!

Everyone knows it's great in hot tea, coffee, hot chocolate and hot mulled cider.

But have you tried it cold?

Try this Smoothie:
1 pint vanilla yogurt (you could use yogurt if you want this for breakfast, or frozen yogurt or ice cream if you want a snack or late night treat)
cupful of ice cubes (omit ice cubes if you are using frozen yogurt or ice cream)
2 - 2 1/2 c fruit (your pick: try berries, bananas, peaches, etc.)
1/2 c milk
1/4 c honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
Blend all about 30 seconds until smooth.

1 can frozen cranberry juice
1 can frozen orange juice
1 can frozen lemonade
8 c water
2 c honey
1 bottle clear fizzy soda like Sprite, 7 Up, ginger ale, etc.
Thaw juices and then mix all thoroughly.  If you wish to make ahead of time, mix all except soda, freeze in containers.  Then using ice cream scoop, scoop out spoonfuls into glasses, then pour soda over.

4 large lemons
1/2 c honey
3 - 1/2 c water
1 c berries
Squeeze lemons and strain juice.  Add most of the honey and mix well, then add water and berries. Use the remaining honey to sweeten to taste.  Put into a quart jar, adding lemon wedges and ice. Shake occassionally to squeeze out juices of lemon and berries.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

This Year's First Christmas Disaster

I really like Christmas.  I think it comes too early.  I believe if we had Christmas at the end of January or early February, it would make winter go more quickly.  The way it's done now, it comes at the first part of the winter, and after that it's just 3 months of ice and snow and slush.  So I think if we could get a recall on the date (it's not really Jesus' birthday on Dec. 25 anyway), I think far less people would get depressed and have cabin fever.

So every year I try to think of something different to do.  I love Christmas traditions, but I like to think of something just a little extra special.  One thing I think I will try this year is a candy making party with my granddaughters.

But I also thought I would take Christian to the Christmas store today and let him pick out one special tree ornament, and mark it with the date and his age.  And then maybe every year I would take him back and let him pick out another and then eventually have a box full he could take with him when he grew up and got his own house and his own tree.  I had planned this all out and was excited about making this a special trip.

We went into the store and he was mesmerized by the different ornaments.  He in particular loved a little tree ornament that had an actual train that would go around it while it played carols.  He pushed the button over and over to see that train on the ornament.  It was very pricey though, so that one was not an option. He finally decided on a Mickey Mouse train ornament (I really wanted the Santa Claus train ornament.).

He carried the box with the train ornament with us the rest of the morning while we ran errands.  He held it proudly in his hand as he got out of the truck and raced to find his daddy to show him.  He took it reverently out of the box and stroked it with love.

One hour later, this is what the fancy, new tree ornnament looks like:

Things I'm Thankful For

 My Family
Three of my granddaughters and my son

My daughter Jennifer and her family

Daugher Jill and her family

Son David and his wife Nikki

Son Seth - there he is, in the glasses!

Daughter Karee

My husband David and son Christian

Friday, November 19, 2010

This is What I'm Seeing Out My Window Today

I'm looking out my kitchen window today and here flies up one of our black chickens.
Right outside the window is a brick ledge.  I think the bird saw me and thought if it pitifully flew up there and looked at me, I would have pity on it and feed it.  I didn't.

These birds won't lay.  We've had them since summer, but none of them are laying.  The days are shorter now, so I think that's the problem because chickens need about 14 hours of daylight during their best laying seasons.  With my older birds, I keep a light on all the time in the coop, which makes them think the sun is shining longer, so they never stop laying.  Some folks think a bird needs the down time in the winter to not lay, but in my opinion, a chicken has such a short amount of good laying time to begin with (about 2 years) that I really need all the eggs out of it that I can, especially when I spend so much on feed.

Chicken and rice is on the menu for tonight.  This is how I made it:

Chicken and Rice
Meat from one bird. (I debone a chicken and then saute the meat in safflower oil.  You could also use leftover chicken from a bird you had baked or crock-potted, etc.)
2 cups cooked rice (while brown rice is healthier it seems to lack a certain flavor for us in this casserole)
1 can carnation evaporated milk (half and half or whole is a fine substitute)
1 can mushroom soup
2 eggs (from aforementioned chickens)
1 - 2 c shredded cheese (sharp cheddar or monterey jack)
1/2 c chopped onion
sea salt to taste
pepper to taste
parsley or cilantro to taste

Add all ingredients, put into casserole dish and bake at 350 for about 1 hour.

The bird is still looking at me!! :-)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Autumn in the Country, or Where did Thanksgiving Go?

I love Thanksgiving.  Who doesn't? I can ask lots of different folks all the time which holiday do they like the best and you know what they say?


I know why.  First, it's the food.  And quite frankly (I'm shining my nails on my lapel) I am a  pretty good cook, so I know why everyone wants to have Thanksgiving.  But besides that, what is it? It's the non-commercialization of the holiday, right? I was in the local Hallmark store last night.  We had just gone to the annual Parade of Trees (which in my personal opinion this early in November is waaayyyyy too early for that).  In this Hallmark store, it was decked out in Christmas, and finally I found one little tiny shelf with a few knick knack pumpkins and "Blessings" type wall hangings.  One little tiny shelf! Almost like an after thought.

People love Thanksgiving! They love fall colors, football games and that corny Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade!  Retailers, don't take it away from us!! Let us bask in the fallen leaves, the colorful pumpkin and turkey drawings the little ones make, and let's see some good old pilgrim plays (do schools even do that anymore?)

I think back in my day, Thanksgiving was a much bigger deal. I remember making Indian vests out of big brown paper bags from the grocers, and putting shaved crayons in between wax paper and using an iron to melt the wax, thus creating autumn leaves.  My husband tried to do this one day awhile back and my iron has never been the same since.

When my brothers and I were little, we had an aunt and uncle that used to put their Christmas tree up on Thanksgiving Eve.  We were horrified at the thought.  I still remember reading stories about families who put up their Christmas tree on the night of Christmas Eve, and the next day the family would come running down the stairs to see it lit up for the first time.

Christmas does come early now in the Burns home.  I am married to an absolute Christmas fanatic, who if he had his way, would be listening to Christmas music before Halloween.  Our outdoor lights are up, but only because I, the analytical and albeit lazy one, decided that I wanted to do it while the weather was warm, so I put them up one day when it was 70 degrees outside.

We still need to get our tree.  I caught my husband eyeing the nice blue spruce outside in the yard today.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

More Fall Cooking with Honey Recipes

Of all my cooking, everyone loves the farm eggs and toast with honey the best.

Back by popular demand! More fall cooking with honey ideas from yours truly.

I love cooking.  My grandma is actually the one who taught me to cook.  She was a grade school cafeteria cook, and this was back in the day when the lunches coming out of the cafeteria were really homemade, unlike the meals now that come already processed, frozen in large bags, and then just heated up when they hit the school. I remember begging my grandma to teach me how to make a chocolate cake when I was maybe 8 years old, and she did.  I can not make fried chicken like she did though.

 My waist doesn't love it or need it, but there are just some foods you can not live without in the fall.  I love mulled apple cider with honey added to it, or have you tried hot cocoa with honey stirred into it? Pumpkin pie made with honey instead of sugar is delicious.  We got the most wonderful peaches from Georgia this year and here is the simplest peach pie:

Pie shell in dish, extra for top
4 - 6 c sliced peaches (it's up to you to peel or not peel)
5 tsp quick cooking tapioca (remember, it's the quick kind, the old fashioned kind takes forever and a day to make)
1/2 c honey
Mix peaches with tapioca and put into pie shell.  Pour honey over top.  Cover decoratively with additional crust for top.  Can be brushed with 1 egg which has been beaten and then brushed over crust.  Optional is to sprinkle with sugar.  Bake at 425 degrees for 35 minutes.

How simple was that?

Honey glazed vegetables are wonderful.  You get to eat the vegetables, which you all need, but you can smother them with butter and honey.  I think the butter and honey actually cancels out anything good you get from the vegetables, but that's all right.

1 pkg or unit of any cooked vegetable (such as 4 c of carrots, 2 c of peas, several ears of corn cut from the cob)
1/4 c butter
1/4 honey
Whip the honey and butter together until light and fluffy. Serve over the hot vegetables.

It's almost Thanksgiving, and it wouldn't be the same without a honey glaze for your ham:
1 c honey
2 c brown sugar
1 c pineapple juice
Bake a clove studded ham in slow oven at 300 degrees, 20 min per pound. Baste ham frequently with the above mixture.  Serve ham with pineapple slices.

Check back again and I'll list more recipes as time goes on.  Meanwhile, enjoy!

Monday, October 4, 2010

How To Eat A Chicken

I know what you are thinking.  You are looking at this picture of the chicken, going "how could you?" :-)  And to be honest, the first chicken we butchered and ate, I couldn't hardly eat it.  But after that I was okay.  Now I just bask in the joy of getting good, fresh, homegrown chicken to eat without worrying about all the modern-day problems that arise with chickens being raised in those big factory processing plants.

Here's how I see it.  That chicken could be raised in a big factory barn with no exercise because they are packed in there so tight there's no room to do anything but stand around in their poo all day, no sunshine, no fresh grass and a very short life span.  Or that chicken could be in the wild, roaming free, yes, but living very little life because the coyote ate it within a few days of it's first breath.  Or it could live at my house where it can wander through the grass or fields, roost in the trees, eat bugs out of my garden (along with an unnecessary amount of garden produce), enjoy all the sunshine it could possibly want and live a much longer life span than it would in either the factory or the wild.  I figure I am doing it a huge favor by raising it and eating it! :-)

There's lots of ways to eat a chicken.  You can get layers and then have gorgeous, big, brown eggs with the orange-est yolks you have seen.  These things are so good.  I didn't know for a long time how good they were until I was at a church potluck and had some regular store bought deviled eggs and those eggs were tasteless.  One of my customers told me that she had had to resort to store bought eggs one day when I was too short to get her any and her husband immediately said to her at the breakfast table, "what is wrong with these eggs? They taste funny." So I know my opinion is not just in my head. Layers are only good for about 2 years when they slow down too much in laying to make it worthwhile to keep buying feed.  At that time you have several options: keep them as pets, sell them to someone else, or slaughter for "stewing hens" (good, but necessary to slow cook for the best eat).

Or you can get meat birds, which typically are the white cornish commercial strains.  You could buy heritage breeds, which many prefer, but for me, they grow too slowly and don't covert feed well enough to make it cost effective. You grow these babies for about 8 weeks tops and then slaughter them.  I have found that you need to age the meat, which is either 24-48 hours in the frig, or about 1 month in the freezer.

If you can't do these yourself, there are many people who sell eggs and will sell you fresh birds they slaughter themselves.  There are folks who do totally "organic" (a word that I don't put much stock into, especially with big time producers) and those who do "humanely raised" chickens (typically meaning their birds can free range, be outside, etc., but eat the cheaper store bought grain instead of organic grain.) You can do an internet search for those farms close to you.  I, personally, wouldn't do this for anyone else--way too much work, but there are many dedicated farmers who will.

And the absolute best thing to do with chicken is chicken and noodles!!

Noodle recipe:
2 eggs
2 cups flour
pinch of salt
Mix ingredients and knead.  If dough is too stiff, add more egg. Roll out and either put through noodle machine or cut long strips with a pizza wheel cutter.  Let dry if not using right away, but if you are using immediately, you can throw them right in your chicken broth.
Chicken broth for noodles:
Boil one whole chicken in water (usually takes an easy hour).  Take out chicken and after cooling, pull meat from bones.  Add chicken meat back into broth, adding salt and pepper to taste.  If necessary, add chicken cube, or tablespoon of chicken paste.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Liquid Gold

It's honey harvest time!!!

Each year, about this time, we get to harvest our honey.  Since  we raise and breed queens, we don't have as much honey as other beekeepers (you'll have to read "The Master's" blog to find out why: so we get excited at even the littlest bit we get.

We started out with a huge problem this year though.  Someone earlier in the week had used the extracting equipment a few days prior, and made the honest, but crucial mistake of keeping doors open, and having dripped honey everywhere so that a bazillion bees got into the honey extracting room.  It took days to get the bees out of the honey room so that we could get in there and extract for ourselves. (Note to all beekeepers getting ready to extract: keep lids on your supers, keep lids on your buckets, get in and out quick, and keep windows and doors shut behind you.) It was one hilarious mess.

But we finally extracted our own liquid gold.  I love to see it in the bottles, all lined up on the shelves.  It sells itself.  When people look at it, they start drooling and will pay (almost) any amount of money for the stuff.

Here's but a few of the 100's of my favorite things to do with honey:
Wheat Bread
1 egg ( of course, mine from my own chickens)
1/4 c honey
1 cup milk
1/2 stick butter
1/2 tsp salt
into the bottom of the bread machine ~
then add:
2 cups wheat flour (freshly ground)
2 cups white flour
2 tsp yeast

Steak marinade:
1 cup honey
1 juice of lemon
1/2 cup each of vinegar, oil or bottled dressing
1/2 cup ketchup
Mix in baggie, add meat and let marinade up to 24 hours  before grilling

Chicken Seasoning:
Take chicken breast and dredge in honey (instead of traditional egg/milk)
Then roll in breading mixture (boxed or homemade).
Fry or bake as usual