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WEDNESDAY, MAY 30, 2007
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Sweetening the pot
Honey in summer recipes
is the bee's knees

By Patrice Stewart
pstewart@decaturdaily.com ∑ 340-2446

Make it a honey of a summer.

This natural sweetener, provided by nature courtesy of bees, can be used in every type of recipe, as well as for medicinal ointments and treatments for everything from sore throats to skin and hair.

You can put honey in your salad dressings, use it in a stir-fry, add it to a fruit salsa or put it on fish. You can drizzle it over fruit or cake or use it to sweeten your yogurt smoothie. Try baking it in cookies and breads, and let children help make their own snacks by dipping bananas in honey and then in graham-cracker crumbs or other cookie or candy toppings. Ready to quench your thirst? Honey has only 21 calories per teaspoon, and it works well in beverages such as lemonade and tea and even in margaritas.

Honey, which is a rich source of carbohydrates, provides a quick source of energy, too. Just eat a spoonful before exercising or stir some honey into a water bottle to drink while exercising.

Put honey to work for you. The National Honey Board says research shows that unlike most other sweeteners, honey contains small amounts of a wide array of vitamins, minerals, amino acids and antioxidants.

Bees are working hard for you. A hive of bees flies more than 55,000 miles and taps 2 million flowers to bring you one pound of honey.

Next time you grab the weed killer and attack that dandelion, for example, think about the bees and the honey they provide.

You may consider it blight on your lawn, but dandelion honey and pollen are important for boosting the population of bee colonies, meaning more honey for everyone later.

Dandelion honey is just one of about 300 varieties in the U.S. Itís bright yellow to deep amber and has an intense floral aroma that mellows over time, according to the National Honey Board. Kudzu and the prickly star thistle are favorites among bees, too.

When selecting honey for dishes or beverages, remember that lighter-colored honeys generally are milder in taste, while darker honeys have stronger flavors.

Some well-known varieties include orange blossom, eucalyptus, sage, alfalfa, buckwheat and clover honey.

Try these recipes that include honey:

Asian-Style Vegetable Stir-fry

1/4 cup pure honey
1/4 cup prepared stir-fry sauce
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
4 teaspoons peanut oil or vegetable oil
2 cups small broccoli florets
2 cups small mushrooms
1 small onion, cut into wedges, separated in 1-inch pieces
1 medium carrot, cut diagonally into 1/3-inch slices

You can reduce preparation time by purchasing pre-cut vegetables. In small bowl, combine honey, stir fry sauce and crushed red pepper flakes; set aside.

In wok or large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat; add vegetables and toss while cooking, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add honey sauce, stir until all vegetables are glazed and sauce is bubbly hot, about 1 minute.

Serve as a vegetable side dish or over steamed rice or noodles for a main dish. Makes 4 servings.

Summertime Beef Salad

1 pound beef sirloin steak
1/2 cup plain low-fat yogurt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon pure honey
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1/8 teaspoon curry powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup seedless red or green grapes, sliced in half lengthwise
1/2 cantaloupe, diced
2 bunches watercress, cleaned, tough, stems removed

Make this dish easy to prepare by broiling the sirloin steak. Trim excess fat from steak. Broil steak 4 inches from heat, 5 to 7 minutes per side for rare or until desired doneness. Slice steak across the grain into thin slices.

In bowl, mix next 6 ingredients. In larger bowl, mix grapes and cantaloupe. For each serving, arrange 1/4 of the steak slices and 1/4 of the fruit mixture on a bed of watercress. Serve yogurt dressing on the side. Makes 4 servings.

Chili Roasted Salmon

4 (4 ounces each) salmon fillets
Salt
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon chili powder

Place salmon on lightly greased baking sheet or broiler pan. Season with salt. In small bowl, combine vinegar, honey and chili powder; mix well. Spread mixture evenly over fish. Roast at 400 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes or until fish flakes when tested with fork. Makes 4 servings.

Apricot Glazed Chicken

1 4- to 5-pound roasting chicken
1 cup seedless red or green grapes
4 tablespoons honey
1 16-ounce can apricot halves in syrup
1/4 cup butter or margarine, melted
2 teaspoons seasoned salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine

Rinse chicken in cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Stuff body cavity with 1 cup grapes that have been tossed with 2 tablespoons honey. Tie legs close to body and fold wing tips back or secure with skewers or twine. Place chicken breast side up on rack in shallow roasting pan.

Drain apricot halves, reserving syrup. Set aside 6 halves for garnish. Process remaining apricots in blender with melted butter, seasoned salt and pepper and remaining 2 tablespoons honey. Brush over chicken.

Pour wine and 1/4 cup apricot syrup in bottom of pan. Cover chicken loosely with tent of aluminum foil.

Roast at 325 degrees for 21/2 to 3 hours or until chicken is tender. Baste occasionally with pan drippings to glaze. Remove foil during last 30 minutes of roasting. Serve chicken on platter garnished with clusters of green grapes and apricot halves. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Banana Pops

1-1/3 cups ground toasted almonds, ground coconut, candy sprinkles or graham cracker crumbs 4 just-ripe bananas, peeled 1/2 cup honey 8 Popsicle sticks

Spread ground nuts (or other topping of choice) on a plate or plates. Cut bananas in half crosswise. Insert a craft stick into each cut end.

To assemble, hold each banana half over plate or waxed paper to catch drips. Spoon about 1 tablespoon honey over banana, rotating and smoothing honey with back of spoon to coat all sides. (Or, squeeze honey from a plastic honey bear container and smooth out with spoon.)

Roll banana in topping of choice until coated on all sides, pressing with fingertips to help topping adhere. Place pops on waxed paper lined cookie sheet. Repeat with remaining bananas, honey and topping. Serve at once.

Note: Honey should not be fed to infants under one year of age.

Golden Honey Margarita

1 ounce gold tequila 1/2 ounce Triple Sec 1 ounce Honey Simple Syrup recipe 21/2 ounces sweet and sour or margarita mix

Shake well with ice, and strain into a large cocktail glass with salted rim. Garnish with a lime wheel. Makes one.

Honey Simple Syrup:

Pure honey

Hot water

Mix 4 parts honey to 1 part hot water in a covered container that is convenient to pour from.

Honey-do list

For a salad dressing: Combine 1/2 cup of orange blossom honey and 1/2 cup wine vinegar. Season with salt and pepper and add a favorite herb; use as a dressing for mixed greens.

For exercise energy: Eat a spoonful of honey before exercising or stir some honey into a water bottle and drink to replenish fluids while exercising.

For a healthy dessert: Mix together 1 cup plain yogurt, 2 tablespoons honey and a pinch of ground ginger. Toss with 3 cups cut-up fruit.

For a cut or burn: Apply a dab of honey directly to a clean scrape or burn and use a bandage to cover the area. Reapply honey and bandage for several days.

For a sore throat: Steep 3 tea bags and a cinnamon stick in 3 cups boiling water. Add 1 cup grapefruit juice and 1/4 cup honey.

For a skin conditioner: Mix 1 tablespoon honey with 1 tablespoon vegetable oil and 1 teaspoon lemon juice. Rub this skin soother on and leave 10 minutes; rinse off.

Beehive Cookies

1/4 cup honey

1 egg, beaten

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups shredded coconut

1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped

1 cup dates, chopped

2 tablespoons flour

In mixing bowl, combine honey, egg and vanilla. Beat until well blended. Stir in coconut and nuts. Coat dates with 2 tablespoons flour. Add to mixture. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet. Bake at 325 degrees 12 minutes or until slightly brown. Makes 21/2 dozen.

Honey-kissed skin, hair is pure gold

Here are some recipes using honey to soften your skin and shine your hair:

Honey-Almond Scrub

8 whole unblanched almonds

2 tablespoons rolled oats, uncooked

1 tablespoon honey

2 teaspoons yogurt, sour cream or lightly beaten egg white

Process almonds and oats in a blender until they are finely ground. In a small bowl, mix ground almonds and oats, honey and yogurt until blended. Pat scrub on face and neck; leave it on for up to 10 minutes for extra softening. Wet your hands and massage gently to exfoliate. Rinse off. Makes enough for 1 scrub.

Hair Shine

1 teaspoon honey

4 cups warm water

Lemon (for blondes)

Stir honey into warm water. Blondes may wish to add a squeeze of lemon. After shampooing, pour mixture through hair. Do not rinse out. Dry as normal.

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