Welcome To Spring!

Romancing the Bee

Welcome to the first day of spring!

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The vernal equinox occurred this morning (in case you felt something unusual happening…)

It’s the moment when the earth’s axis is not turned toward the sun (summer, for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere), or away from it (winter), but is aligned with the center of the sun.

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The word equinox comes from Latin: aequus means equal, level, or calm; nox means night, or darkness. The equinox, in spring or fall, is a time when the day and night are as close to equal as they ever are, and when the hours of night are exactly equal for people living equidistant from the equator either north or south.

It also marks the date when gardeners begin their work for the growing season. Margaret Atwood wrote:

“Gardening is not a rational act. What matters is the immersion of the hands in the earth…

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Cooking With Honey – Honey Baked Apples

baked honey crisp apple

 

Baked apples are one of my very favorite desserts!  They’re even better when made with honey!!

Ingredients

3 1/2 cups apple cider

3/4 cup honey (preferably 100 percent raw honey from a small producer)

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon salt

Pinch freshly ground pepper

6 unpeeled baking apples, halved and cored with a melon baller (try Honeycrisp, Mutsu aka Crispin, or Pink Lady aka Cripp’s Pink)

1/2 cup golden raisins, craisins or currants

1/2 cup dried apricots, julienned

6 whole cloves

2 or 3 star anise pods

2 to 3 cinnamon sticks, optional

Directions

In a medium saucepan, combine the apple cider, honey, cinnamon, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for about 25 minutes or so, or until mixture is syrupy and reduced to about 2 2/3 cups.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Put the apples, cut side down, in a 12-inch baking pan. Distribute the raisins, apricots, cloves, star anise, and cinnamon sticks, if using, over the apples. Pour the hot syrup over the apples. Cover the pan with aluminum foil.

Bake 25 to 30 minutes, or until the apples are almost tender when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife. Remove from the oven, turn the apples over, and baste apples with the apple syrup, allowing the apples to absorb the flavor. Let the pan stand, covered, for 15 minutes. Serve baked apples with the liquid and dried fruits spooned over them in a bowl. Served with whipped heavy cream or ice cream and a sprinkle of powdered sugar.

Cooking With Honey – Honey Granola Bars

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Since last summer I’ve been trying to come up with a really good granola bar recipe. I think I’ve found it! 

Yield:  12 to 16 bars

Ingredients

2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal

1 cup sliced almonds

1 cup shredded coconut, loosely packed

1/2 cup toasted wheat germ

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

3/4 cup honey

1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 cup chopped raisins

1/2 cup chopped dried apricots

1/2 cup dried cranberries

1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional!)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter an 8 by 12-inch baking dish and line it with parchment paper.

Toss the oatmeal, almonds, and coconut together on a sheet pan and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl and stir in the wheat germ.

Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees F.

Place the butter, honey,vanilla, and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook and stir for a minute, then pour over the toasted oatmeal mixture. Add the raisins, apricots, and cranberries (and chocolate chips if using) and stir well.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Wet your fingers and lightly press the mixture evenly into the pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until light golden brown. Cool for at least 2 to 3 hours before cutting into squares. Serve at room temperature.

My Bees Are Flying!

Thanks to the Polar Vortex it’s been abnormally arctic in Southwestern Ohio this year.  We aren’t used to this kind of heavy snow, ice and below zero temperatures.

Local beekeepers are understandably anxious. Are their hives still alive? Will the bees make it until the dandelions start blooming? Should they have winterized more?  Or in my case, winterized at all?

I went into December with two healthy hives. I started the season with four.

One of my hives never really got going, and the other was robbed by its next door neighbor. Needless to say, I’ll be moving those hives farther apart this year!

Over the past few days we’ve finally gotten some blessedly warm weather. Last Friday it hit 59 degrees, and with great trepidation, I ventured out to my backyard (aka Mt. Everest) to survey the bee situation. I was delighted to discover that both hives appear to be thriving!

I didn’t harvest any honey last Fall, so I’m pretty sure the bees have enough food for now.  Nonetheless I’m planning to open the hives up for few minutes today to do a quick check and and slip in some fondant.

It was too sunny to get good pictures, but if you look closely you can see my happy girls flying. Happy Bee Season!!

My "Beautiful Beehives" are in need of a new paint job!

My “Beautiful Beehives” are in need of a paint job!

Buzzing Away!

Buzzing Away!

The hive on the right is thriving. The hive on the left not so much...

The hive on the right is thriving. The hive on the left not so much…

Happy girls!

Happy girls!

Cat visits her bees!

Cat visits her bees!