Cooking With Honey – Sprinkle Bakes’ Chocolate-Honey Cake

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Isn’t this cake fabulous?  It tastes heavenly too! 
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After you finish drooling, you can find the recipe (complete with video!) at Sprinkle Bakes.
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English Cottage Gardening – Bees Love Nepeta And So Do I

I love Nepeta aka catmint!  It’s also a favorite of honey bees and other pollinators. It’s deer resistant too!

Below one of my ever-present fluffy Bumbles enjoys a tasty snack…

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It is a beautiful plant to use in a border. Gertrude Jekyll wrote “it is a plant that can hardly be overpraised.”

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I find catmint easier to grow than lavender. If you cut it back after first bloom, it will bloom again just as vigorously.

My favorite cultivar is Walker’s Low which was the 2007 Perennial of the Year. The name, Walker’s Low, does not refer to the size of the plant, but to a garden in England.

Plant some catmint this summer. Your buzzing friends will thank you!

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Cooking With Honey – Blackberry, Mint And Honey Gin And Tonics

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The history of the Gin and Tonic is a fascinating one, intertwined with medicine and the expansion of the British Empire.

Let’s start with the gin. Although it is commonly known as the quintessential English spirit, it was developed by Sylvius de Bouve, a sixteenth-century Dutch physician. He created a highly-alcoholic medicinal concoction called Jenever, featuring the essential oils of juniper berries, which the physician believed could improve circulation and cure other ailments. The juniper berry had long been treasured for its medicinal properties, including its use during the plague.

Tonic water also started out as medicine.

A key component of tonic water is quinine, an anti-malarial alkaloid from the bark of the cinchona tree. Europeans first realized the value of the plant in fighting malaria during the seventeenth century, after the Spanish had conquered parts of South America. They began to call ground cinchona bark “Countess’ powder,” “Jesuit’s powder,” or simply the “fever tree.”

Adding gin to tonic water originated in India during the nineteenth century. In 1825, British officers began to mix gin with their daily ration of quinine tonic. The growing number of Brits residing in India by the late 1850s helps explain the increased demand for quinine and the rise in popularity of the gin and tonic.

No matter what its origins, the Gin and Tonic remains one of our favorite hot weather cocktails.  I submit that the fresh blackberries, limes, mint and honey in this version makes it even more “medicinal.”

Yield:  4 cocktails

Ingredients:

12 blackberries
20 fresh mint leaves
2 limes
1/4 cup honey syrup (equal parts honey and water blended over low heat until honey is completely melted)
12 ounces good quality gin
tonic water
ice

Directions:

Set out four high ball glasses.

Place 3 blackberries, 5 mint leaves, juice of ½ lime, and 1 tablespoon honey syrup in each glass and muddle together.
Fill each glass with ice, followed by 3 ounces of gin. Top off each drink with tonic water, stir and serve.

Beautiful Beekeeping – Observation Hives

An observation hive is one with glass or clear plastic sides so the bees can be observed. These hives are both educational and beautiful.

Observation Hive

Observation Hive

Having one, in addition to your hives, gives you an idea what is happening outside in the other hives. You can see if pollen is coming in, if nectar is coming in, and if robbing is happening. You can watch them raise a queen. Watch how the hive acts while the queen is mating, watch them swarm. You can count days or hours on capping times. You will get to see waggle dances, and “get it off me” dances. You get to hear what the bees sound like when they are queenless, when they are being robbed, and when the queen is emerging.

Recently, beautiful observation hives were featured on the US television show Elementary about a modern day Sherlock Holmes. The Arthur Conan Doyle character of Sherlock Holmes was in fact a Victorian beekeeper, which makes the show all the more entertaining!

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English Cottage Gardening – Roses In May

Roses are the essence of May in the English Cottage Garden!

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Cooking With Honey – Short Rib Tacos

short rib tacos

My family loves pulled pork, but every once in a while I like a change.  These tacos satisfy their hankering for barbecue and my yearning to try a new recipe. We enjoyed these last night!!

Ingredients

3 – 5  T. canola oil

2 lbs. short ribs

2 – 3 shallots, chopped

3 – 4 cloves garlic smashed

Salt, pepper for seasoning, (I also use a few t. of seasoning mix that contains sea salt, red pepper,fennel seed, dehydrated garlic, peppercorns)

Prepared horseradish

Couple of t. flour

1/2 cup of wine

1 qt. beef stock

2 – 3 bay leaves

1/2 t. cumin

1/3 t. all spice

1/4 t. cayenne

Couple of chipotle peppers (canned peppers with a little of the adobo sauce)

2 T. tomato paste

2 t. honey

4 carrots, peeled, halved and then quartered

Warm soft corn or flour torillas

Toppings: guacamole, chopped onion, chopped cilantro, monterey jack cheese, queso fresco, chopped avocado, salsa, sour cream, etc.

Directions

Heat canola oil in large, heavy dutch oven and either heat oven to 425F.

Rinse short ribs, pat dry. Sprinkle salt, pepper and seasoning mix on all sides.

Rub generously with prepared horseradish. Sprinkle with flour so that all sides are lightly coated.

Add beef to heated pan and sear well on all sides — you really want to get a good coating on the beef — if the coating sticks to the pan, don’t worry, it will deglaze.

Add chopped shallots and garlic to pan. Deglaze with wine, let it cook down a bit.

Add chipotle peppers and tomato paste.  Add beef stock. Add spices & honey.

Stir well, bring up to a simmer, cover and place in oven.

Reduce heat after 20 – 25 minutes and cook at 300 – 325 F for about four hours.

With one hour to go, add carrots to pot, stir in and cover; continue to cook for about 45 minutes to one hour.

After about four hours, beef will be easy to pull apart and liquid will have cooked down to rich, spicy sauce.

Pull beef apart and serve with sauce, warm tortillas, and toppings.

The Full Flower Moon

Full Flower Moon

Full Flower Moon

Tonight is the third full moon after the March equinox. In North America we often call this particular full moon the Flower Moon.  It is also called the Rose Moon or Strawberry Moon. Plus the moon is at its lunar perigee – the moon’s closest point to Earth for this month. By a newly coined popular definition, that makes this May 25 full moon a supermoon.

Supermoon

Supermoon

What’s a supermoon? It’s a new or full moon which occurs with the moon at or near (within 90% of) its closest approach to Earth in a given orbit.

The first “super” full moon for 2013 is coming up tonight. There are only4-6 supermoons a year on average.

There will be three supermoons in a row coming up over these next three months in 2013: May 25, June 23, July 22, with the June full moon being the most “super”.

Don’t miss out on the great planetary trio of May 2013. When three planets meet up in the same part of the sky, coming less than 5o degrees of one another, the grouping is called a planetary trio. This month’s planetary trio is the first since May 2011 and the last until October 2015.

Planetary Trio

Planetary Trio

A typical binocular field covers about 5o degrees of sky. If you have binoculars, take them along with you to see tonight’s planetary trio – the planets Mercury, Venus and Jupiter – in a single binocular field. If you don’t have binoculars, view the evening tableau anyway for these beautiful and brilliant planets should be visible to the unaided eye.

All three planets will be about 3o degrees apart as evening dusk falls on May 25, 26 and 27. That’s about the width of your thumb at an arm length. Look for all three worlds to pop out into the deepening dusk around 40 to 60 minutes after sunset. With binoculars, you can spot the close-knit group of planets all the sooner in the glow of sunset.