Thursday, January 27, 2011

Chicken, Asparagus and Pecan Dish

I love asparagus!

I absolutely love asparagus! I love it steamed, grilled, or anything! So when I found this recipe on that combines both my chicken and asparagus, I knew I just had to try it, with a few changes.  And it lived up to its expectations!

I have never tried growing asparagus.  It seems complicated to me, and takes years before you can really begin to harvest.  That shouldn't stop a person from trying, though, and so I have decided this year that I will indeed try to grow asparagus.

To prepare your asparagus for cooking, take one of the stem ends and gently bend to see where it breaks. That's where you need to cut off the ends.  Line that spear up with the others, and cut all the ends off at the same place. Then cut into 1 inch pieces.

Chicken, Asparagus, and Pecan Casserole
1 (16 ounce) package penne (or your favorite shape) pasta
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 bunches asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces (canned asparagus can be substituted out of season for fresh)
1 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil (less if you are using dried)
salt & pepper to taste
3 tablespoons butter
1 pound cooked & chopped chicken
1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup pecan halves (optional) (I like these chopped fine)
1.Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add penne pasta and cook until al dente, 8 to 10 minutes; drain.
Garlic, pepper sauteing in olive oil
2.Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven or large pot over medium heat. Stir in the garlic, red pepper, and asparagus; cook and stir 5 minutes until the garlic softens and mellows. Pour in the chicken broth, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Simmer until the vegetables have softened, then add the basil, salt, pepper, butter, and chicken. Cook and stir a few minutes until the chicken is hot. Stir in the cooked pasta, then fold in the Parmesan cheese and pecans to serve.

Fantastic dish

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Chicken Salad with Honey Dressing

Here's an interesting picture I thought I'd share. Beehives can be put anywhere, did you know (within reason)? Of course, beehives can be found on farms, in gardens, and neighborhood backyards, but we have heard from customers and friends who have them next to the L train in Chicago, on apartment balchonies, on skyscrapers in the city, and also on the roofs of a green complex going up in a nearby state.  Here for your viewing pleasure, are our own hives on our shed roof.  They are sheltered somewhat from the wind, and the bee traffic stays up high away from customers or playing children. 

Now on to eating.  I have had food on my brain today.  I'm not really hungry, but since I'm on a restricted diet, I fantasize about the food I can't eat.  This salad looks good. Over at adventuresofasouthernphatcook, I found this recipe for a chicken salad made with a honey dressing.  I love chicken, I love honey, I love salad.  This is fantastic folks, so check out this site:

This happens to be my niece Candy's blog.  Candace is a caterer with immense talents, and a person could get fat just listening to her talk about her jobs.
Chicken Salad with Honey Dressing
Everyone have a great day (and go eat something!).

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Basic Beekeepers Class and Honey Chippers

Cookies oozing with honey
  Our year at Long Lane Honey Bee Farms has begun with a bang, with our first 2011 Basic Beekeeping Class this past Saturday.

It was a cold, snowy day, but we had quite a few students travel from various places--Chicago (which really should be a state of its own), Missouri, Michigan, and Indiana, and several from right here in Illinois.

We always have fun with these basic classes.  Coming out on a cold January Saturday usually means these are the folks who can not wait for spring to get here.  And these tend to be the folks that are happy about life, love to get in the dirt and sun, and enjoy learning things.

In the classes, I try to have several dishes made with honey for everyone to try.  I have made cookies before with honey, but these Honey Chippers I made on Saturday for the class were really good I thought.  When I took them out of the oven, the honey literally oozed from them.  I promised several that I would post the recipe for them as well as the honey cinnamon coffee cake I made.

Honey Chippers
1 c honey
1 c butter, softened
2 eggs
1 t vanilla
2 c flour (I use half white, half wheat until everyone is good with whole wheat)
2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
chocolate, butterscotch, dark, or white chocolate chips (or a combination of any, which is what I do)

Cream together the honey, butter, eggs and vanilla.  Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.  Incorporate the dry ingredients with the creamed ingredients.  Add chips last.  Bake on ungreased cookie sheet at 350 degrees until golden brown.  Remember to keep your eye on baking goods with honey, as they tend to brown faster. A simple recipe.  These will keep a long time too as honey makes them moister.

Honey Cinnamon Coffee Cake
I make this with whole wheat.  For some people, whole wheat is a, shall we say, unique taste. But we know that freshly ground whole wheat is far better for you, so try it.  I use a little at a time until the family is used to it, and then they don't want to go back to white,  because that tastes too bland for them.
4 c flour
1 t salt
8 t baking powder
1/4 c honey
2 fresh, free-range eggs
2 c milk
8 t butter melted
1 t cinnamon

Sift together dry ingredients; cream together wet ingredients. Simple.  Put in square baking dish, or bundt cake pan, etc. Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes.  But check this periodically after 30 minutes, because baking time can vary because of the 1) honey  2) type of pan  3) thickness of your pan (so a round bundt pan is going to take longer that a rectangle casserole dish). I test by inserting a flat butter knife into the cake and pulling out.  If it comes out clean, it's done, otherwise bake longer.


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Nut Butters...with Honey of course!

Yummy nut butters
 Here is the ultimate in do-it-yourself, home-made, from-scratch goodness: nut butters.

I love peanut butter.  Unfortunately, I get bad headaches from eating it, which is really sad since I found the most delicious white-chocolate peanut butter, that is to die for!

So, I decided to try making it myself with different kinds of nuts other than peanuts, to see if I make it fresher, and without preservatives or additives, if it still causes my headaches.  If you're looking for weight-loss recipes, I doubt this is it.

You may use any kinds of nuts.  Trying to get the local, and organic is your best bet, but I also understand that may be financially restricting. 

Almonds make a delicious nut butter

Taking 2 cups of nuts, place on cookie sheet in a 350 degree oven for a few minutes.  Take out, stir, and put back in oven for another few minutes.  Watch carefully that you don't scorch.

Put cooled nuts into a food processor or blender, and begin processing.  If there are enough natural oils in the nuts, it may begin to form a ball with a processor, but with my blender, it just turns into pulverized nuts.  At this point add about 1 T of a good oil, like sunflower or sesame.  Let the processor or blender do its work. Continue to add oil until you get the right consistency.  Drizzle honey into it, maybe about 1 tablespoon, making sure you keep the consistency of it uniform of a good nut butter. Taste, add more honey if desired.

This butter can be put up into a jar, and kept in the refrigerator for about a month, or indefinitely in the freezer. Experiment with different nuts and different oils.  Don't give up if the taste isn't quite right the first time, keep at it until you like it.

If you are looking for a recipe that is more butter than nut, here is a good one for honey cinnamon butter:
1 c butter, softened to room temp
1/2 c honey
1 t cinnamon
combine and enjoy on your toast, biscuits or bagel!

I'll let you know about the headaches!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Chicken Honey Marinades

Happy, free chickens
 I can not say enough how wonderful your own, homegrown chickens are.  Being allowed outisde in the sun, in fresh green grass, eating bugs, seeds, and whatever else of interest they find gives you the best tasting chicken.  If you live in a place where you are able to grow your own, you will find it it to be a fairly simple activity.  Not free from work--there is certainly some of that involved, but who doesn't like a little bit of work, outdoors in the clean air, working those muscles and providing your own food?  Even if you find it's not something you want or can do, everyone should find a way--at least once--to raise chickens, slaughter and cook them.  It will be a real eye opener, you'll understand better where your food comes from, and you'll really begin to question your eating habits, your health, and the best way to take care of yourself and your family. You may never buy another chicken at your local store or walmart again.

An easy way to make chicken is to marinade it, and then fry, bake or grill.  Coupled with a salad and maybe some fresh bread, it is simple and satisfying.

A great idea for make ahead meals or bulk cooking (i.e.: once a week or once a month cooking prep) is to marinade several cut up chickens, in several different marinades, place in heavy duty freezer bags, place in freezer, and then when you need one, take out, thaw in frig, and cook.  It's perfect for any of you who find your day has evaporated and you still have to make dinner.  Because you determine the size of the freezer bags, it is a perfect solution for singles, college kids, twosomes, or those HUGE family get-togethers.

A marinade has several components to make a great one.  In order to flavor and tenderize meat, you need 1) oil, which helps preserve the meat's moisture (which some omit when freezing for long periods of time) 2) acid, which tenderizes the meat and is added through the use of citric fruits like lemon, lime, grapefruit, pineapple, wine or vinegar and 3) flavorings which can be spices, herbs, sugars (honey) or vegetables.

Here are a few I use routinely. Increase amounts according to how much chicken you have.
Chinese marinade - 2 T oil, 2 T lemon juice, 2 T soy sauce, 1/4 c honey.
Indonesian marinade - 3/4 c orange juice, 2 T lemon juice, 1/4 c oil, 1/4 c honey, 1 t curry powder, 1/2 t paprika
American bbq - garlic, 1 1/2 c ketchup, 2 T vinegar, 1 c honey, 1/2 c onion, 1 t mustard, salt & pepper

And my personal favorite called Open the Refrigerator and Throw Whatever in It - as long as you have the acid, the oil, and the honey, you can add anything else you find in the frig to finish off this marinade. Little bits of salad dressing are good for this, that little bit of ginger there, that last teaspoon of steak or worchestershire sauce and that bite or two of pear and mango.

I hope you enjoy these as much as our family does.  And maybe make things a little easier for you as well.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Amazing Sheri Burns

Today is my wife's birthday, and I enjoyed reading her blog today, and she remained logged into blogger account which afforded me this opportunity to make a few comments about Sheri that she would never tell you or say about herself.

Sheri is an amazing person. We go way back. I first met her when she was 14 and I was 16. Even when this picture was taken back in 1976 I knew that she was an extraordinary person. She is amazing for many reasons, but one is that she doesn't age. Doesn't she still look the same as in this picture. Her maiden name is Henness which was changed from O'Hennessy.

She grew up in a home with 3 brothers so she learned at an early age how to stand her own ground and not be pushed around. When I first met Sheri, I was attracted to the mystery that surrounded her. At 14 I noticed that she was extremely intelligent, somewhat secretive, opinionated and exceedingly knowledgeable of the world around her.

As a young girl her favorite place was the Library in Paris, Illinois. She claims to have read so many books, that she was disappointed there were no new ones to read.

She grew up doing what most kids do, fishing, boating, competing in beauty pageants, sports, church, playing in the marching band and doing chores around the house. Getting to know Sheri was a challenge. Even as a young teenager, she was a deep thinker, determined, knew what she wanted tomorrow and every day in her future. She immediately told me that God had revealed to her that she was either going marry a minister or a farmer. (I'm Getting to know Sheri then was like getting to know a philosopher. She seemed to always know what I was thinking, the motives behind everything I said, my strengths and my faults from my short conversations with her. It was intimidating but so compelling.

She was able to observe me for a few minutes and then read me like a book. At a young age she was strong, fearless, bold, outspoken and adventurous. She wasn't a tom-boy, but just someone who wanted to know everything and do everything. That's what was so mysterious about Sheri, I wanted to know how someone could be so purposeful, so determined, so intelligent and yet so personable and beautiful.

She is the daughter of a Navy veteran, fire fighter and meat cutter who built his own house with his own hands and a mother who valued staying at home and raising her family above all else.

There is very little that Sheri cannot engage in a discussion about. No matter the topic, she is knowledgeable, well read and able to debate the subject.  However, her compassion compels her to withhold such debates if it means the other person may be discouraged or offended. I've observed her not engaging in a conversation even when she knew more on the subject than those discussing it simply because she did not want to sound like a know-it-all.

You can present any situation, any ordeal, any problem to Sheri and within minutes she can express the solution with pin-point accuracy and insightful revelation. How she does that is still mysterious to me.  She is decisive, direct, and takes little pleasure in meaningless small talk or superficial talk. Her uncanny spirit of discernment can be a burden for her at times, being able to see through people's problems and yet unable to right the wrong or change a heart.

She doesn't wast time, words or thoughts. Everything she does is productive, meaningful and lasting. Oh, she likes to play, relax and she is still very adventurous, but her life is like a meaningful painting. No stroke of the brush is accidental or unintentional.

5 or 10 times a day, she will tell me amazing facts, stories or truths she has recently discovered. She might tell me what Vitamin D3 is so important and exactly how much to take per day or she may tell me a true story of someone who overcame adversity. She once woke from a dream and told me to use mentholated cough drops in my bee hives. I listen to her weeks ago teaching our 17 year old (we homeschool) about the CIA and she was going into great depth about the number of people in our state who work for various departments that gather information for our own protection. She is simply amazing.

She hungers for a simple and self-sufficient life, one that we work toward daily. So as you've seen in her blog, she loves the earth, the soil, nature, gardening, and cooking. She's traveled to several countries on mission and humanitarian trips.She's walked the garbage dumps outside of Mexico City and the streets of Haiti. Sheri and I spent a week by ourselves in Israel once and she was so burdened that so many people in the very place that Jesus walked, lived without knowing Him.

She has her college degree in Leadership and Administration (H/R). She earned that degree while working full time and a mother of 5. She's ran non-profit organizations, Day-cares and preschools. There is nothing she cannot do and so much more that she has accomplished that if I mentioned would embarrass her even more. But people who really, truly know Sheri, they too find her astonishing, unbelievable. At times I've teasingly asked her to tell me if she is human or an angel, but maybe within my teasing  I was hoping she might confess why her life is so different that most of ours.

And yet after all I've mentioned to you about her, if you were to spend an hour with her, she would make you feel so good. You'd find her to be such a friendly, warm and genuine person, just so average and down-home.

Sheri eventually saw something in me, I do not know what, but something that eventually caused her to fall in love with me. We have three sons and three daughters. Of all of her greatest interests and treasures on earth, it is the 7 of us.

She still has a huge interest in adventure. She wants to spend time in Italy, France and Greece. And she will. Some how she will. Because she's just amazing.

I love you Sheri!