Honey, It’s You

So there I was, seven years old, laying on my stomach with my pants down, trying not to cry  while my friend’s mother tried to gently pull the stinger out of my butt.

When I was informed that after a honey bee stings a person, it dies, I thought it was a fitting punishment for the mortifying position into which it had thrust me.  But the bee was actually a victim of my adversarial relationship with gravity (I’d fallen keester first on it while the poor thing was just minding its own bee’s wax).

I may not have appreciated honey bees when I was a child, but I do now.

They’re actually much more useful and impressive than most people you’ll meet today.

Honey bees do two huge things for us humans.

In the US alone, they pollinate 14.6 billion (yes, I said billion, with a b) dollars of crops a year.  They are the sole pollinator of almonds.  Without their industriousness, countless crops would be greatly reduced.  If you think produce is expensive now, think about paying $50 for a head of broccoli—if you were lucky enough to find one.

And then we get to their sticky, amber-colored signature product; honey.

Before we even get to its yumminess and versatility, we need to talk about honey’s miraculous properties.

Unlike just about every other food you could name, honey never goes wonky.  Archeologists found honey in 2200 year old clay jars that was safe to eat and still yummy.

It has antibacterial and anti-fungal properties.  Put it on a cut—no infection.  Dab it on a zit, let it sit for 10 minutes or so and rinse it off.  The redness will go away, and in the morning, the pimple will be gone.

And it tastes so good.  The thing I love about honey is that not only will it sweeten anything it’s added to; it also adds its distinctive flavor.  And the flavor varies according to which flora the bees danced their pollination mambo.  The rule of thumb is; the darker the honey, the stronger the flavor.  My new obsession is buckwheat.  It has a surfeit of “honey-ness”.  It adds its uniqueness to all kinds of recipes.

Blueberry buttermilk chia seed pudding

blueberry chia

1 ½ cups low fat or fat free buttermilk

2/3 cup chia seeds

3 tablespoons honey

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Pinch of kosher salt

1 cup blueberries

Directions:

Place blueberries in a bowl and mash with a potato masher.

Put buttermilk, chia seeds, honey, vanilla and salt into the bowl along with the blueberries.  Whisk until fully blended.

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Cover and refrigerate for three hours or overnight, until the chia seeds have swollen and softened to the size and consistency of tapioca. 4 servings.

Gramma’s Cough Syrup

cough syrup

Juice of 1 lemon

¼ cup honey

¼ cup Bourbon

Whisk together and drink at room temp, or spoon into hot tea.

Chrissy’s Dressing

chrissy's dressing

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 shallot

¼ cup Balsamic vinegar

1/3 cup olive oil (approx.)

Salt and pepper to taste

Put first four ingredients into a blender or food processor.  Blend ‘til smooth.  Slowly add oil until it is a dressing consistency.  Season, and taste for seasoning.  For best flavor, eat within an hour.  Makes about one cup.

And if you’ve never tried creamed honey, give it a go.  A schmear makes a piece of toasted multi-grain totally taste like decadent French toast.

You may have heard of colony collapse disorder.  They truly are in peril.  So, support your local honey bee.

Don’t sit on them.

Thanks for your time.

Ate My Fill On Blueberry Hill

About six years ago, I was disgusted.  And also, scornful.

image(1)

That’s me in 11th grade with my best buddy, Waldo.  Fat and spotty–it’s a wonder that boys weren’t lined up around the clock…

Since junior high my weight had stayed around 185.  I’d fluctuate; from an infrequent low of 160 to my max weight of 227 after The Kid’s birth.

But finally, I made a decision.  My weight was creeping back up to 200, and my clothes felt tight and uncomfortable.  I was sick and tired of being fat.

This time, I made two changes that made all the difference.

I increased my activity level from nonexistent to light.  As I got healthier, I moved more.

And I finally realized that losing weight was just the beginning.  I had to keep the weight off once I reached my goal.  But I also knew there was no way I could live the rest of my life only eating rice cakes and poached chicken.  A life without potato salad and cake was not a life in which I wanted to participate.

My primary strategy would be to limit calories.  One meal per day would have a maximum of 300 calories.  Then I’d eat a normal dinner with unlimited fresh fruit or veg between meals and a bite of something sweet before bed.

This is an actual picture of me, grazing.

This I could live with.

I had another tactic.  I would absolutely not eat flavorless “diet food”.  I held “frou-frou” food in complete disdain.  Most healthy swaps little resembled the food they were imitating, and not only did they not hit the spot, they had no idea where the spot was, or what to do with the spot if, on the offside chance, the spot was located.

But.

If there’s a healthier option for something, I give it a go.  If I’m unable to tell the difference between the more voluptuous version and its healthier variation, I go for healthier.

This diet philosophy worked.  It’s been five years now, and my weight stays around 128 pounds.  I wished I’d figured it out decades ago.

Last week when Petey and I were in Whole Foods, Demo Specialist Joe DiBario had a table set up and was serving Portobello sliders.  For dessert, he’d made a delicious treat that I ended up buying.  At home, after I polished it off, I called the store and asked for the recipe.

It’s a creamy blueberry pudding topped with goji berries and cooked dried apples.  I could eat a bowl of the apples and goji by themselves.  They’d make an awesome topping for all kinds of things, like oatmeal, or pancakes, or even on pork chops.

It becomes pudding by using chia seeds, a food that a few years ago I would have laughed at, not eaten.  Chia seeds are insanely good for you and when allowed to sit in a liquid will swell and form into a texture that is quite similar to tapioca pudding.

Team Leader Andrea Mastrobuono, was kind enough to act as a go-between, get the recipe from Joe, and send it to me to include in today’s column.

Blueberry Chia Pudding with Turmeric Apples and Goji Berries

Blueberry chia pudding:

blueberry puddng

1 cup chia seeds

3 cups apple cider

½ cup crushed blueberries + ¼ cup whole

Zest and juice of ½ lime

½ tablespoon honey

¼ teaspoon allspice

Pinch of salt

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and whisk together. Refrigerate for 3 hours.

Turmeric apples:

turmeric apples

1 cups agave syrup

Juice and zest of ½ lime

Pinch of salt

1 tablespoon turmeric

1 cup dried apples

In a small saucepan, combine agave, lime, salt and turmeric and bring it to a simmer. Remove from heat and pour over dried apples.

Goji berries:

goji

¼ cup goji berries

¼ cup orange juice

Cover Goji berries with OJ and let them sit at room temperature for 15 minutes.

Assemble the dish with your pudding as the base and top it with turmeric apples, and goji berries.

Makes 8-10 servings at around 200 calories each.

This pudding is the kind of thing I want to eat on a rainy day fresh from the shower.  Whether you’re watching your weight or not, it’s delicious.  But it just happens to be better for you than a handful of Flintstones chew-ables.

I loved Romper Room, but Miss Carol never, not once, saw me in her fickin’ magic mirror.

Definitely, happily, on the do-bee list.

 

Thanks for your time.

Fifth annual love letter to Durham

Growing up my dad was in the Coast Guard, and we moved every few years.  Some places I liked, some not so much.

This was just another day at the office for my dad…

But thirty years ago, a young couple moved to the Bull City.  And like kudzu, Durham has crept through me and wound itself about my heart.  This town is funky, fierce, and fabulous.  And I wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world.

Saturday I had lunch with two high school friends, Lucy, and newlywed Maxie.  We try to set everything else in our lives aside once a month, and meet.

This week was Lucy’s pick.  She chose Dame’s Chicken and Waffles (317 W Main St, Durham).  Fun fact: contrary to my assumption, Dame is not a woman,.  It’s actually the nickname of owner, Damion Moore.  Another fact: they are always swamped.  The wait for a table on a Saturday afternoon was an hour and forty-five minutes.   You can make a reservation online.  Do it.

 

Come hungry and wear comfortable shoes, or–make a reservation.

It was the first visit for all of us, so we each ordered something different to get a bigger sample of the menu.

Here is my biggest takeaway.  Somehow, it was as if they had turned the flavor volume up to 11.  The taste of everything was bright and vivid.  I had macaroni and cheese, which was some of the best I’ve ever eaten.  I could actually taste the pasta; it wasn’t just the scaffolding supporting all the yummy cheese.  The chicken (Lucy and I had fried breast cutlets, Maxie had fried legs) was moist, deliciously crunchy, and tasted like chicken—it wasn’t just texture.

The waffles were really good—crispy on the outside, soft and tender inside.  And each plate came with something they call a schmear.

A schmear is Dame’s take on compound butter.  Here again, the flavors somehow seemed cleaner, brighter and stronger without being overwhelming.  I had almond vanilla, Lucy orange honeycomb, and Maxie had maple pecan.  There was no mistaking any of them.  Each was a delicious example of the respective flavors.

I begged Ms. Ella, who runs the kitchen, for recipes.  No dice.  I even got shot down when I asked which herb was used in the chicken and macaroni and cheese.  Still no dice.  But I really like the idea of the schmear, so I came up with my own, Dame-inspired butter.

Pistachio/Honey browned butter spread

pstachio butter

2 sticks of butter

4 tablespoons finely chopped pistachios

3 tablespoons strongly flavored honey (like buckwheat)

Pinch salt and pepper

Melt butter in a saucepan, and let cook until it’s foamy and starts to brown.  When the solids are a warm caramel brown, take it off the heat and stir in the honey.  Pour into a bowl and let cool and harden.

When the browned butter has gotten to room temp, place into the bowl of a mixer.  Beat the butter, adding the pistachios.  When the butter is fully incorporated either place in a bowl and refrigerate or place onto parchment paper and roll into a log and chill.

Make about 1 ¼ cups.  Use on breakfast carbs, or melt a tablespoon onto a grilled piece of chicken or a pork chop.

After lunch we hauled our over-stuffed, bloated carcasses down the street.  We stopped at Letters Bookshop (313 W Main St).  We each picked up a couple of books, and wanted more.

We then turned to Dolly’s Vintage (213 W Main St), a fun, colorful, whimsical shop full of adorable, affordable second-hand clothing and quirky new items, including a large selection of Durham merchandise.

We then walked around the corner and ended our day together at The Cupcake Bar (101 E Chapel Hill St).  I love this place.  They have 300 hundred flavors and 75 cent frosting shots, for dog’s sake.  I went home with chocolate stout, Irish coffee, and double vanilla minis.  And of course, as always, they were scrumptious.

Five Points was fun and busy, just what a downtown should be.  It made my heart full to be a part of it.  And girl, those folks were turned out.  I saw more cute sweaters, adorable boots, and fashionable outfits than an issue of Vogue.  They were representing Durham right.

Gosh, I love this town.

Thanks for your time.

A rye smile

After inhabiting this planet for more than half a century, I have ceased to be embarrassed by the fact that I have the type of sweet tooth that if I let myself, would make it perfectly feasible for me to eat an entire box of Dolly Madison vanilla zingers.Honestly, I’m not exaggerating.  One of my very favorite foods is birthday cake.  And when I say cake, I mean cake only in the sense that it is the scaffolding for mounds of delicious, delicious frosting.

But I am also a bit of a paradox inside a contradiction stuffed in a jelly donut.

I can’t abide a grain of sugar in my iced tea, I order my lattes half sweet, and I like my soft drinks lots more fizzy than syrupy.

Did you notice she has monkeys on her dress?

So, I guess those bi-polar taste buds are the reason why I really enjoy this new treat I discovered last week.

The Kid and I spent the day in Raleigh.  We visited the NC Museum of Art to check out the Da Vinci and Escher shows, and headed over to our favorite capitol city bakery, Boulted (614 W South St, Raleigh).  My child was Jonesing for some of their seeded levain; a crusty, sour loaf perfect for lashings of cultured European butter.  I snagged a bagel-like bialy for breakfast, then spied something called rye shortbread.

We added it to our order.

As soon as we got back to the car, I took a bite of my shortbread.  I was totally expecting a salty, rye/caraway-flavored buttery cracker.  What I got was something entirely different.  It was a lightly sweetened, pecan-studded cookie with the acidic kick of rye.

Once I got over the surprise, I took another bite.  And found that I really enjoyed it.  It would be the perfect thing to accompany a really thick, rich cup of hot chocolate.

I did a little research, and a little experimenting, and came up with this recipe.

Rye-Pecan shortbread

rye shortbread

1½ cups rye flour

½ cup finely chopped toasted pecans

½ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon baking powder

1 cup butter (softened)

¼ cup Granulated Sugar

3 tablespoons honey

Whisk together flour, pecans, salt and baking powder.  Set aside.

Cream the butter, sugar and honey until just incorporated.

Add the sifted dry ingredients to the butter mixture. Mix on low until it all comes together, but no longer (there’s gluten in rye flour, and you don’t want it to develop).

Roll the dough to ½-inch thick (if the dough is too soft to roll, shape into a disk or rectangle, wrap in plastic and chill until firm). After rolling, cut into bars, circles or desired shape. Cover and chill until hard; 2 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place cookies on prepared pan and sprinkle with sugar and more pecans, if desired. Dock the center of each cookie with a fork.  Bake until edges are lightly browned, about 20 minutes.

Cool and store, wrapped, at room temperature for up to 1 week.

This recipe makes approximately 20 cookies.

I’m not saying I would regularly pick this cookie over a heavily decorated cupcake, or a Krispy Kreme donut fresh from its honey glazed shower, but this shortbread gets my full confectionary seal of approval.  This new treat definitely has a spot in my rotation.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I suddenly feel the urgent need to see if there is a flashing “Hot” sign anywhere in the vicinity.

Thanks for your time.