September was National Honey Month, and I should have highlighted recipes using honey in the last issue. However, when I was writing September’s column it was so unbearably hot that I couldn’t think about anything other than ice cream and cold desserts, so you got ice cream recipes instead.
Since 1989, September has been officially designated as honey month. It marks the final harvesting of honey before the bees prepare their hives for the winter. It also calls attention to the crucial importance of honeybees. Honeybees are responsible for pollinating almost all of the crops we rely on for food. I believe it was Albert Einstein who once said that if the bee population was to vanish, humans would have only about four years left to live. The bees are that important to keeping us fed. Unfortunately, bees are dying off at an alarming rate.
What can we do? If you have yard space and some understanding neighbors, consider keeping a hive or two. You can learn how to establish and keep hives through the LSU AgCenter.
At the very least, consider planting a pollinator garden on your property, with native plants that bees and other pollinators such as hummingbirds feed on and need to survive (salvia is just one example.). You can find a list of such plants on the LSU AgCenter website.
If you see a swarm of bees in your home or on your property, call a beekeeper, who’ll be glad to safely take them off your hands and give them a hive (hands off that Raid!). And, you can support beekeepers and honey producers by using honey both as a condiment (hot biscuits topped with honey, anyone?) and as a cooking ingredient. Not only is honey healthier than sugar, but it gives baked goods, marinades and glazes a wonderful flavor. Here are a few recipes to start with.
HEALTHY HONEY BLUEBERRY MUFFINS
2 cups oats regular or quick cook
2/3 cup honey
2 cups Greek yogurt, vanilla or unflavored
4 Tbsp. vegetable oil
3 Tbsp. milk
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups white whole wheat flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups frozen blueberries
2 Tbsp. flour
Mix oats with the honey, yogurt, oil, milk, vanilla extract and eggs.
Stir until ingredients are well mixed then set aside. Let it sit for 12 minutes if you are using old fashioned oats.
Line your muffin pan with liners. This recipe makes about 24 medium sized muffins. Prepare your pan while the oven is preheating to 400.
Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl and mix well.
Add a small amount of flour (about 2 Tbsp.) to a plastic bag and add the frozen blueberries. Gently toss to coat the berries. (Don’t overdo it.)
Gently mix the wet ingredients with the flour mixture. Use a spatula to fold ingredients together until just mixed.
Add the frozen berries and gently fold into the mixture, just a few quicks turns.
Fill the muffin cups approximately 3/4 full.
Bake for 20 minutes. Use a toothpick test to test for doneness. (When muffins are done, the toothpick comes out clean when inserted.)
Remove from oven and let sit for 10 minutes. Then remove from pan and allow to cool on cookie rack.
HONEY CHALLAH BREAD
2 1/2 cups warm water
1 Tbsp. active dry yeast
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup oil
1 Tbsp. salt
8 cups all-purpose flour
1 egg, beaten
1 Tbsp. poppy seeds, optional
In the mixing bowl of an electric mixer, combine yeast, water and honey.
Once the yeast is frothy, add oil, 2 eggs and salt.
Using the dough hook, mix while adding one cup of flour at a time. Add more or less flour as needed.
Knead until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
Cover with a damp, clean cloth and let rise until doubled in size. (The average time is 45 minutes but depends greatly on the temperature of the room.)
Punch dough down and divide in two. Shape as desired.
Brush with egg, let dry and repeat until no egg remains. If desired, sprinkle with sesame seeds. Let double in size.
Preheat oven to 375. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes until golden brown on top.
HONEY GARLIC PORK TENDERLOIN
2 pork tenderloins, trimmed (1 to 1 1/4 pounds each, about 2 to 2 1/2 pounds total)
1 Tbsp. oil
1/2 tsp. seasoning salt
2/3 cup clear honey
1/4 cup low sodium chicken broth (or water)
2 Tbsp. low sodium soy sauce
2 Tbsp. minced garlic
1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 Tbsp. corn starch
1/8 to 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes (optional but recommended)
Preheat the oven to 400 and lightly grease a 9×13 baking dish.
Place tenderloins in baking dish, brush with oil and season with seasoning salt.
Whisk together honey, broth, soy sauce, garlic, vinegar, salt, corn starch and red pepper flakes.
Pour sauce around pork tenderloin in pan. (Avoid pouring on top of pork as it will prevent it from browning.)
Bake, uncovered, for 15 to 20 minutes until a meat thermometer reads at least 140. Remove from the oven, cover and set aside to rest for 10 minutes.
Slice pork and serve with sauce.