Friday Fun Facts – Summer Fruits and Pollination


“Unique among all God’s creatures, only the honeybee improves the environment and preys not on any other species.”
~ Royden Brown

Honey Bee coming in for a landing on a peach blossom

Honey Bee coming in for a landing on a peach blossom

Did you know that the sweet honey bee is the only insect that produces food consumed by man?  Now that spring weather has finally arrived in most of the U.S. fruit orchards are beginning to burst with blooms and it is imperative they are visited by honey bees for pollination to occur. Continue reading

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Honey-Jalapeno Glazed Salmon


Honey Jalapeno Glazed Grilled Salmon

Honey Jalapeno Glazed Grilled Salmon

Spring has sprung in North Carolina and along with it temps dropping to freezing last night and predicted for tonight as well.  Isn’t this just the way it works?  Mother nature doing what she does.  None the less we are enjoying spending time outdoors and grilling most of our meals.

My local grocery had some wild caught Alaskan salmon on sale and I couldn’t pass it up.  As you might remember salmon is our favorite fish.  What is your favorite fish to throw on the grill?

This is a recipe from the past but one of my all time favorites as it is super easy and delicious.  The combo of sweet honey and peppery jalapeños make an excellent glaze for the fish.  I like to toss a few fresh jalapeños on the grill to serve along with the meaty fish filets.

Enjoy!
Honey-Jalapeno Glazed Salmon

Ingredients:
4 salmon fillets
3 tbsp. honey
2 tsp. finely chopped, seeded jalapeño
1 tsp. Salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
4 jalapeños  (to grill on the side)

Brush grill rack with a little oil. Lay salmon on grill racks, over medium high heat, skin side down. As salmon begins to cook spread a little glaze on each fillet. Continue brushing fish with glaze until salmon is opaque and cooked through. ( I do not flip my fish when grilling) . Toss a few seeded and split jalapeños on the side, grill until charred and serve with the fish.

 

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Friday Fun Facts – Crystallization


Bees & Honey

As you can see in this photo bees like honey too!  If you look closely you will see their little brown proboscis engaged in retrieving honey from the section of this comb that was popped open.

With scarcely any exceptions honey will crystallize sooner or later.  Many of you are tempted to throw out your honey when this occurs.  The once liquid sweetness has turned into a solid mass, seemingly unable to be used.  Here is the good news – honey does not go bad.  It is in fact the only food for human consumption that does not spoil.

There are a couple of determining factors in crystalized honey.  One is the temperature at which we store our honey.  Never refrigerate a jar of honey or you are guaranteed to hasten the crystallization process.  Storing honey at room temperature is acceptable and a warm area will reduce the speed at which your honey turns to a solid form.  However, if storing it in a very warm zone may cause honey to darken over time.  You should know that the honey is not compromised if it darkens.

Another contributing factor to crystallization is the ratio of glucose to fructose in any particular honey.  Honey that contains more glucose than fructose will tend to crystallize faster.  Some plants produce nectar rich in glucose while others produce more fructose.  This is all dependent on where bees are foraging.  My bees have produced some honey which didn’t crystallize at all before I used it up, yet other years my honey has proven to crystallize rather quickly.

If you find yourself with a jar of pure honey that crystallizes here is the remedy.  Place your jar of honey in a deep bowl or pot, boil a kettle of water and pour the water into the container holding the honey jar.  (I always cover it with a clean kitchen towel to help retain the heat) After the jar begins to warm, take it out, open it up and stir.  Replace the lid and the jar of honey into the hot water bath, repeating the process until your mass of sugar has turned back into a liquid sweetness.

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Chinese Five Spice Carrot Cupcakes


Chinese Five Spice Cupcake

Finding my self settled into our new home here in North Carolina I began to think of finding a very part-time job, preferably revolving around food.  I paid a visit to The Savory Spice Shop recently to see what they had to offer.  I was quite impressed with the shop and it’s many offerings.  My nose was delighted upon entering the store with the most wonderful aroma from a vast array of spices and herbs.  Quite intrigued, I made note that I might entertain a job there.

The following week I applied for and accepted a job with The Savory Spice Shop here in Greensboro.  It is a blessing!  This job, to me comes with many advantages.
1. I make money
2. I can walk to work
3. I will learn about over 400 spices, herbs and blends
4. I will meet new people
5. I get to talk food while at this job
6. I have a multitude of new recipes to try
7. I am a happy girl

One of the first “new” to me spices I brought home is our Chinese Five Spice.  It boasts strong flavors from Chinese cinnamon, star anise, fennel seed, cloves, ginger and black pepper.  A sweet yet spicy aroma filled my kitchen as I baked these yummy, moist cupcakes.  They are topped with a delicious cream cheese frosting spiked with fresh ground ginger. Served as a unique dessert, a wonderful accompaniment to a hot cup of coffee or tea and quickly  devoured as a breakfast on the run,  you’ll find these cupcakes versatile as well as quick and easy to throw together.

Of course I did make one adjustment to the recipe; I added honey!  You’ll find it added in parentheses in the recipe.  Feel free to add or not when you bake these tasty, aromatic sweet treats.

Chinese Five Spice Carrot Cupcakes with Ginger Frosting

Ingredients:
For cupcakes:
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. Chinese Five Spice
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup crushed pineapple, drained
3 x eggs
1 cup sugar
2 tsp. pure Madagascar vanilla extract
2 cups shredded carrots (about 3-4 medium-sized carrots)
(2 tablespoons wildflower honey)

For frosting:
1  8oz packet cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 tsp. pure Madagascar vanilla extract
2 tsp. ground ginger
3 cups powdered sugar
crystalized ginger as garnish
Directions:
For cupcakes: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper cupcake liners. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and Chinese Five Spice. In another large bowl, whisk together vegetable oil, crushed pineapple, eggs, sugar, vanilla extract and carrots. Then slowly add the flour mixture and beat with an electric hand mixer until just combined, about 2 min. Fill the muffin cups ¾ full with batter. Bake until the cupcakes are set, about 20 to 22 min. When they can be handled safely, remove them from the muffin tins and let cool completely on wire racks before frosting. For frosting: In a large bowl, add the cream cheese, butter, vanilla and ground ginger. Blend the ingredients with an electric hand mixer until a creamy consistency is reached, while slowly adding the powdered sugar.
Serving Suggestions:
Garnish frosted cupcakes with crystallized ginger.
Yields: 12 cupcakes
Thanks to: Janet Johnston, Savory Spice Shop founder

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Friday Fun Fact – Beware of Honey Imposters


With the decline of our precious honeybees the availability of pure, unprocessed honey is  becoming limited.  Oh yes, jars of golden nectar are evident on the shelves of our local grocery stores, big box stores and even drug stores; some with a remarkably low price tag.  The likelihood of an inexpensive bottle of honey being the “real” thing is in a word, unlikely.  I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news to you fans of the little honey bear who lines the shelves at WalMart.

Honey “producers” will taint honey by adding corn syrup or other sweeteners to a reduced amount of the genuine nectar or without any addition of pure honey.  Honey laced with lead, other metals and antibiotics has been making it’s way into our country from China.  In other countries this honey is considered unsafe for human consumption.

Testing for pollen levels in a jar of honey is one simple way to determine if it’s the real thing or not.  A bottle of honey with no traces of pollen is counterfeit honey.  In his article “The Honey You Should Never Buy”, Dr. Joseph Mercola writes about a new report by Food Safety News, stating that more than 75 percent of the honey on American supermarket shelves may be ultra-processed—to the point that all inherent medicinal properties are completely gone—and then smuggled into the country by the barrel drum. Nearly all of this fake honey is made in China.

In their investigation, FSN discovered the following:

  • 76 percent of honey samples bought at grocery stores (such as TOP Food, Safeway, QFC, Kroger, Harris Teeter, etc.) were absent of pollen
  • 77 percent of the honey from big box stores (like Costco, Sam’s Club, Walmart, and Target) were absent of pollen
  • 100 percent of the honey sampled from drug stores (like Walgreens, Rite-Aid, and CVS Pharmacy) were absent of pollen

So you may be asking, “where should I buy my honey”?  The good news is that honey purchased from Trader Joe’s, farmers markets, local bee keepers and co-ops all passed the test. These honeys were found to have the full compliment of pollen.  Don’t worry if the honey you bring home crystalizes at some point.  It is natural for pure, raw, unfiltered honey to turn to a solid sugar state.  The nectar has not “gone bad” or “spoiled”.  In fact honey is the only food known to man that does not spoil!  If you experience a crystallization of your honey, simply heat a pan of water, remove it from the burner and set your honey in the hot water.  I find this works especially well if after the honey begins to warm, I stir it with a spoon, return it to the hot water bath and continue this process until I have liquid gold again.

Support your local beekeeper.  Buy his or her honey.  If you don’t know any bee keepers search for your local beekeepers association.  Usually named for the county you live in.  You then will have a list of local people or places to buy honey  - the real thing!

photo by: veganbits.com.

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Goat Cheese With Honey-Pepper & Fig Balsamic Drizzle


Goat Cheese Honey & Balsamic Drizzle

Since moving to North Carolina I’ve found more time to visit my local farmer’s markets.  One of my favorite booths belongs to the “Goat Lady Dairy“.  I first discovered them when visiting the Piedmont Triad Farmers Market back in the summer while here on a visit.  After we completed our move I ventured out to our Farmer’s Curb Market right here in Greensboro only to discover another Goat Lady Dairy booth.  That small discovery made my day, as the Curb market is closer to home.

The City of Greensboro began the Curb Market in 1874 on Commerce Place downtown, where farmers backed their wagons to the curb to sell produce.  In the 1950’s, the Market moved to its current location, a former armory building.  Now scores of vendors and hundreds of customers enjoy this indoor market facility weekly.  Vegetables, fruits, meats, cheeses, honey, baked goods and more await eager customers every Saturday from  7 a.m. until noon.  From May through December they also open their doors to shoppers on Wednesdays from 7a.m. to noon.

This past weekend I brought home a log of the tangy, creamy goat cheese.  It’s always such a hard decision to choose which cheese to buy.  I love their Farmers Cheese, similar to Feta yet less briny, with its crumbly texture, the Chèvre Camembert delicate and rich with a hint of mushroom, and the spreadable Goat Cheese flavored with Basil and Garlic, Orange, Fig and Honey or Roasted red pepper make quick and easy appetizers.  The one I choose most often is the Chèvre Log.  It it quite possibly their most favored cheese, used by chefs in many of Greensboro’s finer restaurants.

Today’s recipe is so easy to throw together for a party or a quick appetizer before dinner. What I like best is to make a couple for myself to snack on when mid-day hunger pangs strike.  It satisfies the desire for crunchy and creamy, with a touch of honeyed sweetness intensity from the balsamic and a bite from the fresh cracked pepper.  All of that in one little bite!

Enjoy!

Goat Cheese With Honey-Pepper & Fig Balsamic Drizzle

Ingredients:
1 log of fresh/local goat cheese
Raw honey
Fresh cracked pepper
Fig Balsamic Vinegar
1 Fresh baguette, sliced into rounds

Remove cheese from refrigerator about 30 minutes before preparing to allow it to soften a bit.  Spread baguette slices out on a platter.  Slice goat cheese and lay a slice on each baguette.  Drizzle with honey.  Grind pepper over all and finish with a drizzle of fig balsamic.  

 

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Honeyed Pecans


Honeypecans1

Hello honey!  Pecans might be my favorite nut. I suppose it’s got something to do with growing up in Texas where pecan trees are abundant and spending an afternoon shelling pecans is synonymous with canning tomatoes or pickling okra.  It’s time consuming but well worth it.  A delightful way to spend a fall afternoon!  They are one of our most versatile nuts.  Just think pecan pie, pecan tassies, pecans in brownies, in cookies, sprinkled into pineapple upside down cake, coffee cake or sweet rolls. Maybe the best way, eaten straight out of their tan colored shells.  There’s nothing like the sweet meat of a pecan.

My intention in making these was to sprinkle them over a mixed green salad made with fresh, plump blueberries.  They did make it into the salad but not before I had to slap my husband’s hand to keep him out of  these crunchy, sweet & spicy nut meats.  My point is they are a perfect match for a healthy green salad, especially a fruited one, but they also make a heavenly snack.  You choose!

Enjoy!

Honeyed Pecans

Preheat oven to 325*.  In a medium bowl, warm 1/4 cup honey in the microwave on high for 20 seconds.  Stir in 1 cup of pecan halves, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1/4 teaspoon sea salt, and a pinch of cayenne pepper.  Stir until well blended.  Line a jelly roll pan with parchment paper, sprayed with cooking spray. (I like coconut oil spray)  Bake for 15  minutes or until toasted, stirring at the half way point.  Cool completely and break into pieces.
pecansalad

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Friday Fun Facts – Plants For Honeybees


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In the natural world honeybees forage wherever they can, taking advantage of local abundances of particular flowers and trees.  Flowering plants produce nectar and pollen and in the wild honeybees visit a vast array of plants, gathering nectar and pollinating the plants they visit.  The true worth of honeybees to the environment and to the human economy is in the act of pollinating flowers.

When bees go about their business of foraging for nectar and pollen they tend to visit only one type of plant.  This greatly increases the success of pollen transfer among each type of flower. When they have exhausted the bounty of one they move on to another continuing to gather pollen and nectar and to ensure the life of the plant they visit.  Perennials benefit from bee visits as it blooms again and again year after year.  Bee keepers can benefit from the bees flower fidelity by producing honey from a single flower source.  Honey such as Orange Blossom, Tupelo, and Clover are examples of honey sourced from only one type of plant.

The onset of spring gets us outdoors and in the mood for planning  and planting our gardens.  You may have acres of space on which to plant fruit trees or you might be gardening in containers, raised beds, or on windowsills. Whatever your type of gardening endeavor you can attract honeybees to help you succeed in growing flowers, fruits, herbs and veggies.

Following is a partial list of flowers and crops that need bees for pollination.  Please plant a few of these this spring when you begin your gardening adventures.  The bees will thank you and you will be doing a small part in helping them survive our fragile world.

Almond
Apple
Dandelion (yep bees love ‘em – don’t kill ‘em)
Holly
Maple Tree
Orange
Thyme
Lavender
Rosemary
Alfalfa
Blueberry
Thistle
Canola
Sunflower
Cosmos
Shasta Daisy
Primrose
Mint
Hollyhock
Candytuft
Alyssum
Black-eyed Susans
Bee Balm
Zinna
Aster
Poppy
Peach
cropped-beesunflower2.jpgEnjoy!
Find poster artist.

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Orange Bee Lemon Bars


Lemon Bars

I can not go for long without sharing a dessert recipe.  Using honey in all of my posts this year of course lends itself to lots of recipes for sweets.  One of my goals in publishing honey recipes for twelve months is to substantiate the use of honey in all sorts of recipes. You’ve now seen it used on chicken, ribs, and veggies but now it’s time for LEMON BARS!

I adore the fragrance and flavor of citrus.  Orange, lime and lemon all turn me on.  Lemon Meringue Pie is my favorite lemon dessert however I wanted to bake something sweet to share with my neighbors.  After having been away on a “girls week” trip I wondered if Mr. W was missing my weekly handouts.  The honest to goodness reason I “share” is to get some of the “sweets” out of this house.  My man Dan likes sweets but not as much as yours truly.  You know how it goes, bake a batch of some yummy little something with the intention of your family helping to polish it off.  But the majority of that batch of cookies, brownies or lemon bars is always consumed by me.  It’s always and I mean always me!  Does this happen to you too?  I am thankful for neighbors who love a plate of goodies from the Orange Bee kitchen!

I think you’re going to like these bars.  You know how lemon bars or the lemon filling can often times have a synthetic taste?  These my friends boast a fresh tangy sweetness and are just the right amount of gooey!  I am certain it’s using fresh squeezed lemon juice that makes the difference.  I know Mr. W liked them.  Here is what he texted to me after he’d tried a couple.  “What would be the point of living if we didn’t have lemon bars! Yum Yum!  Thx again.  BTW I’m glad your back I was starting to loose to much weight” Quote-unquote.

Enjoy!

Orange Bee Lemon Bars
Ingredients:
Crust:
1 ¾ cup flour
¼ cup cornstarch
2/3 cup powdered sugar, plus extra to sprinkle on bars
½ tsp. salt
12 tbsp. unsalted butter (1 ½ sticks) chilled

 Filling:
4 eggs
2 tsp. lemon zest
1 ½ tsp. honey
1 1/3 cup sugar
3 tbsp. flour
2/3 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice, 3-4 large lemons
1/3 cup milk
Pinch of salt

Directions:
Place an oven rack in the middle position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9X13-inch baking pan with foil and lightly grease.

 Stir together the flour, powdered sugar, cornstarch, and salt (this can be done in a food processor or in a large bowl by hand). Add the pieces of butter and cut the butter into the dry ingredients using a pastry blender, two knives or your fingers (be careful not to melt the butter too much or process in the food processor for 8 to 10 seconds and then as needed until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Sprinkle the mixture into the prepared pan and press into an even layer on the bottom and about 1/2-inch up the sides of the pan. Refrigerate for 15 minutes. Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes.

For the filling, whisk together the eggs, sugar, and flour in a medium bowl and then stir in the lemon zest, juice and milk to combine.

Pour the filling onto the warm crust (it’s important that the crust is still warm!) and reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees. Bake for about 18-20 minutes until the filling feels slightly firm to the touch. Cool the bars to room temperature, sprinkle with additional powdered sugar and cut into bars.
Lemon Bars

 

 

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Smoky Brisket Chili


Brisket Chili

Did you ever try a recipe only to find the result disappointing?  Such is the case with Smoky Brisket Chili.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s good enough, just not up to Orange Bee standards.

If you asked my man, Dan he’d say,  “chili shouldn’t have beans”.  This chili has two kinds of beans so I knew when I started out there would be a problem with it’s acceptance.  Three things it does have going for it, beer, brisket and it cooks in your crockpot. When I think about chili I visualize browning meat and onions in a dutch oven, stirring and adding ingredients as you go, and once lidded taking a peek every so often, stirring and smelling it all coming together.  When I cook with a crockpot I don’t open the lid to stir or smell, albeit the aromas waft through the kitchen.  There is no browning of the meat or onions just dumping all ingredients into the bowl of the slow cooker, putting on the lid and walking away for a few hours.  That last aspect being one I like, but not for chili.  I  feel the need for a bit of “slaving away” over a pot of chili.

My prize winning chili is a lengthy process and I have not and am not posting the recipe.  This chili is similar to my “First Place Chili” and you ‘ll notice “no Beans”.  I won’t make this crockpot version again but if you’re one of those folks who likes beans in your chili, and the ease of throwing all the ingredients together in one big pot you might want to give this recipe a try.  It does deliver a nice smoky flavor, tender chunks of beef brisket and it is immensely filling.  If you are wondering how this fits into “all recipes with honey all year”, notice it does have a couple of tablespoons of dark honey added to help balance out the smoky flavors.

Enjoy!

Smoky Brisket Chili

Ingredients:
1 cup low-sodium beef broth
1 cup dark beer
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons dark honey
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 pounds flat-cut beef brisket, fat trimmed, cut into chunks
1 sweet onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
1 can red beans, rinsed and drained
1 can kidney beans, rinsed and drained

Directions:
In the base of a slow cooker, combine broth, beer and vinegar.  Whisk in cornstarch until dissolved.  Stir in tomato paste, honey, chili powder, paprika, salt, and pepper.  Stir in beef, onion, garlic and tomatoes.  Cover and cook on high power for 6 hours or low power for 8 hours.  Stir in beans just to heat through at the end.  

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