Friday, December 11, 2009

Honey Cookies

I've been making Honey Cookies since ... well since ever! I can remember making these when I was very young and covering them with frosting and then sprinkles of every shape, size and color. My favorite were the little silver balls.

Although I still have some of the cookie cutters I used as a kid, I prefer nice tall ones so I can make a thicker cookie.

This recipe comes from an OLD Betty Crocker cookbook that my mom got as a wedding present in 1963. There is no copyright info and many of the pages have evidence of use and notes of changes penciled in the margins.

Merry Christmas Cookies
1/3 cup soft shortening
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg
2/3 cup honey
1tsp lemon flavoring
2 3/4 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt

Mix shortening, sugar, egg, honey and flavoring thoroughly. Measure flour by dip-level-pour method or by sifting. Blend flour, soda and salt: stir in. Chill dough. Heat oven to 375. Roll dough 1/4 inch thick. Cut into desired shapes. Place 1 inch apart on lightly greased baking sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes. When cool, ice and decorate as desired.

Now for the recipe I use! As many of you know, I just cannot leave a good recipe unchanged!

Honey Cookies
1/3 cup butter, NEVER EVER margarine
1/3 cup sugar (I have used as little as 1/4 cup)
1 egg
2/3 cup honey
1 tsp good vanilla flavor
2 3/4 - 3 cups flour - more makes softer cookies
1 tsp soda

Mix the sugar and butter until creamed. Add egg and mix. Pour in honey and scrape every last drop with a spatula. Mix well and add vanilla. Add the baking soda and slowly add the flour. Mix until very stiff dough forms. Chill at least and hour. Over night is much much better so the dough is very firm. Preheat your oven to 350. Dust your work surface with plenty of flour as this dough gets sticky when it gets warm. Roll out dough at least 1/4 inch thick. Dip cookie cutters into flour and cut. These cookies don't spread much but I still bake no more than 12 per sheet usually fewer to ensure even cooking. I add colored sugar to the tops now since I don't like to frost. Since they are made with honey that will affect the color of the dough and it will be darker and more flavorful than sugar cookies. Bake 8 minutes not 10. Let them cool on the sheet for a couple of minutes before removing to a wire rack.
Although the honey, in theory, will makes these cookies remain soft for longer periods than say... sugar cookies, I would know. They are always gone before any real testing could occur.


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Ready for winter

I closed up the hives today - a bit late but with it being near 70 last week I'm not that late! With temperatures dipping below freezing at night it was critical that I take out the honey and sugar water containers. They can be the source of condensation in the hive, the moisture can drip in to the hive and the bees can freeze. It is moisture and cold that are a such a deadly combination for bees.
After talking with a more experienced beekeeper at the Worcester County Beekeepers Association Christmas party on Saturday, I gave the hives an extra bit of insulation. I wrapped three sides of the hives in a foil-coated bubble wrap and the top got foil coated foam. It looks really silly but he swears by this method. According to him, the bees adapted to living in trees that are much thicker generally than wooden hives so a bit of extra insulation mimics the trees.
One girl came and sat on my veil for a while I was cleaning up.

I miss my bees.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Honey Recipes

This year's honey is darker and richer lending its rich flavor to cooking and baking. I thought it would be fun to share some of my favorite honey-using recipes here.

Today is Morrocan Chicken which freezes really well. It was inspired by a Martha Stewart recipe, but as so many of you know, I can never leave a reciped untouched. Now that I've changed just about everthing except the chicken and zucchini, can I call it my own?

Regardless, this makes a great supper over couscous or rice.

Moroccan Chicken
Serves 4

4 Tablespoons oil
8 cloves garlic, minced
3 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoons black pepper
8 medium tomatoes, seeded and chopped (or 1 15 oz can of diced)
6 Tablespoons honey
¾ cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 – 1 ¼ lbs boneless chicken breast, whole if they are small or cut in chunks
1 lb zucchini, sliced (2 medium or about 3 ½ cups)

In a large skillet, heat oil and add garlic over medium heat. Cook for about a minute. Add tomatoes, ginger, coriander, salt, and pepper. Stir and cook for about 6-8 minutes or until about half the liquid is evaporated. Add the honey and stir. Add cilantro, chicken, and zucchini. Cook 10 minutes, turning the chicken at least once.

Place in a freezer bag and label if desired.

If frozen, defrost over night in the fridge. Heat in a microwave or saucepan until heated through. Garnish with fresh cilantro if you have it on hand.