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.