Sunday, September 25, 2011

Honey.... Nature's Sweet Goodness!

Before I knew better, I never thought much of the work that goes into a jar of honey.  It was just something I sweetened my tea with or mixed with butter on a corn muffin.  Sounds good, doesn't it?
Although there is still a lot of the technical aspects of the process I don't know, I certainly do have a new appreciation for honey;  for the bees that make it and all the work that goes into collecting, preparing and bottling it.
Here on the property, we have 10 active bee hives.  I guess in his earlier years, my father in law had about 200 hives spread across the valley.  Just to give you some perspective, from our 10 hives, we extracted just about 500lbs of raw honey.
I have just a couple of pictures to share.  I really did want to get some more shots, but when I went down to the honey house I was immediately put to work.... pictures were not a priority, but my sitting on an upside down bucket in front of the pouring tank sure was!  I earned the title of "Head Bottle Filler" because I could get the jars evenly filled without making a mess.  They made the title sound like something exciting, but I think they were just preparing me for the years to come....
Here's Ray, carrying the frames from the hives to the honey house.  The guys know when the timing is right for this process and everyone pitches in to collect the frames.  The frames are brought into the honey house and the "cap" is cut off the comb with a hot knife.  The cap keeps everything in tact, so when it's cut, the honey is allowed to flow out.  The frames are then put into the centrifuge and spun so that all the honey is thrown out of the frame.  It gets collected, strained and then sits in the tank for a few days to settle and let any impurities rise to the top.
After those few days, we then bottle the honey.  Our honey is raw because it never exceeds 90 degrees, which is the temperature that the bees maintain in the hives.  We don't add anything or process it in any way, we just simply let it run through some mesh so there's nothing yucky in it, but all the goodness stays.  Sounds like I know what I'm doing, doesn't it?
Here are some interesting facts I found that I wanted to share:
  • Honey bees' wings stroke 11,400 times per minute, thus making their distinctive buzz.
  • Honeybees are the only insect that produce food for humans.
  • Honeybees are responsible for pollinating approx 80% of all fruit, vegetable and seed crops in the U.S.
  • Honey is 80% sugars and 20% water.
  • To make one pound of honey, the bees in the colony must visit 2 million flowers, fly over 55,000 miles and will be the lifetime work of approximately 300 bees.
  • A single honeybee will only produce approximately 1/12 teaspoon of honey in her lifetime.
  • Honey is the ONLY food that includes all the substances necessary to sustain life, including water.
  • Honey never spoils.
  • Bees maintain a temperature of 92-93 degrees Fahrenheit in their central brood nest regardless of whether the outside temperature is 110 or -40 degrees.**
Pretty amazing, isn't it?  I tell ya, I have a whole new perspective and appreciation.  Now I just have to figure out what to do with all this honey....

**(Info gathered from Utah County Beekeepers Association)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Little Something Crafty.....

Here's another tutorial I did for CutCardStock...this time I made little holders for Pixy Sticks.  I don't think I will be making this one for the masses in the boys' classes; I started off on the right foot with the teachers so I don't want to go wrong this early in the school year.... But the holder is cute and really easy to make - check out how I did it.

Friday, September 16, 2011

A few things I'm loving right now....

Things have been a little busy here lately.... the boys are back in school and loving it, I am in school and feeling very challenged, Ray is making huge progress on the basement and there's always so much to do on the property.  So, this weekend I am spending some time, when I'm not catching up on homework, to take some pictures, bake and maybe make something a little crafty and post them for all of you.  In the meantime, I thought I'd share a glimpse of a few things that are making my life just a little easier right now....
RSVP International Onion Goggles
Onion Goggles.... seriously, not the most beautiful things, but man are they great!  They come in pink too, but then no man in your house will ever be willing to try them, let alone chop onions for you....
TRESemme Fresh Start Shampoo, Dry
Tresseme Dry Shampoo.... love it!  If I am running behind and don't have time to wash and dry my hair, this stuff is the bomb!

My Job Chart... this is a free, online chore tracking system.  It's great - you assign chores for each kid and set reward amounts for each chore.  Then, when they collect enough in their little account, they can cash it in for something you allow them to purchase or a special reward you've established.  It's really easy to use and kids love the high-tech aspect of it.
Nesco FD-75PR 700-Watt Food Dehydrator
Nesco Dehydrator.... this is great for all the fresh garden goodies I have to figure out something to do with.  Sure, you can dry stuff in your oven, but this dehydrator goes to lower temperatures so you can dry without actually cooking the goods.

OK, so stay tuned for some goodies from the weekend.  You won't believe the progress in the basement.....

Monday, September 12, 2011

Gluten Free/Dairy Free Blackberry Buckle

Since Ray really went to extremes to gather the fresh blackberries, I thought the least I could do was turn them into a great dessert.  I didn't want to miss out on the fun, so I adapted the recipe to be Gluten Free and Dairy Free.  Here's what I whipped up....

Gluten Free / Dairy Free Blackberry Buckle
What you'll need:
1/4 cup non-dairy buttery spread
1/2 cup white sugar
1 cup all-purpose Gluten Free flour blend
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup rice milk

3 cups blackberries
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup boiling water
1 tablespoon non-dairy buttery spread

What to do:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees and grease the bottom of a 8 x 8" square pan.
In a large bowl, cream 1/4 cup non-dairy buttery spread and 1/2 cup sugar. In a separate small bowl, combine GF flour, baking powder and salt.  Add that into butter mixture and then stir in milk.  Your mixture may be thick and lumpy, but go ahead and spread it into the prepared pan.
In a large bowl, combine berries, 3/4 cup sugar and 1/2 cup boiling water. Pour the berry goodness over the batter in the pan. Dot the top with remaining 1 tablespoon of your non-dairy buttery spread.
Bake in the preheated oven for 45 to 50 minutes.  Allow it to cool and enjoy.  For your dairy loving dessert eaters, top with a scoop of vanilla ice cream for a little extra somthin'!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Treasures from the Garden

After lunch today, we all ventured down to the orchard and garden to see what was new and exciting.  It's been warm the last few days and with the added sunshine, we are seeing good things happen in the garden!  Here's a look at our treasure after we brought it back up to the house....
Tomatoes!  I was so happy to find some of the larger tomatoes finally changing color.  We've been enjoying the cherry tomatoes for over a week now, but haven't seen any action on the big plants in the garden.... until now.

Zucchini!  I have a lot of it.... lots and lots!  We have been eating it several nights a week and every muffin or quick bread I make has zucchini in it.  I've decided that I am going to freeze it, so stay tuned for a blog post on how I managed to do that.

Gladiolas!  Aren't these beautiful?  My father in law brought these in for me and I am enjoying having fresh cut flowers in the kitchen.  I noticed some bright pink Glads beginning to bloom in the garden, so it looks like I will have more to enjoy.

Green Beans!  Over 40 seeds were planted this spring and we didn't think we were going to end up with any beans at all.  Surprisingly, we saw these pop up a few days ago so today we gathered lots for dinner.  The boys picked them and snapped them... they were really good.

Kirby cucumbers and Herbs!  We have 3 pickling cucumber plants and they are starting to really produce.  I'm not going to do full on pickle production this year, but I am trying a jar of quick spicy sweet pickles.  I'll let you know how they turn out.  Here are a few of the herbs I am growing.... Garlic chives, sage, rosemary and thyme.... sounds like a song, doesn't it?

Blackberries!  Ray risked it all to pick about 3 cups of blackberries.  The thorns are really brutal on the bushes and all the good berries were surrounded by yellow jackets and hornets.  My hero did great though and got us enough fresh blackberries for Gluten Free/Dairy Free Blackberry Buckle for dessert tonight.

Here's a sneak peek at the Blackberry Buckle... I will post the recipe later in the week.  Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Halloween Gift Tutorial

It's September, so it's not too early to start thinking about Halloween.  For some crazy reason, I really love Halloween... crafting for it and decorating for it.  My boys love choosing their costume and trick-or-treating, which will be a challenge this year considering we only have a couple of neighbors within a mile.  I may just have to sugar them up myself... have them take laps around the yard and knock on the door each time they pass.
Anyway, I crafted up a little Halloween memory game that would be so cute to hand out in the classroom or even to Trick-or-Treaters if you don't get a lot of them.  Of course if you do that, make sure you pass out a little candy with it just to keep the little gobblins happy!
This project is super easy to make and I have a tutorial posted over at CutCardStock so you can check it out!

Monday, September 5, 2011

My Birthday Boy!

Today my big boy turns 9 years old.  It's hard to believe..... it seems like just yesterday he was my little chunky-monkey that I strolled around the mall, day in and day out, because most of the time it was just he and I. (Ray was stationed on the ship and unfortunately, gone a lot.)  Now he's almost as tall as I am, his feet are the same size as mine and he's read more Harry Potter books and knows more about the solar system than I ever will.  It's amazing how time flies and before you know it, your babies aren't babies anymore.
We are enjoying the day as a family, still adjusting to this big move of ours.  Sometimes I question this move.... I know logically it was a great choice, but I struggle some days with all the changes.  Then I look at my big boy.  One look at him and I am reassured that this is exactly where we need to be.  He has adapted better than I could have hoped.  He's grown close to his GrandPop; quickly learning his sense of humor and is great at dishing it out to him.  He loves to try many new things around the property.... he jumps at the chance to get in the bee suit and get up close to the honey boxes.  Most days he is down in the basement with the guys, lending a hand with clean-up or practicing his tool skills.  He can't wait to start school and meet all the new kids!
So, I'm doing my best to make this a great birthday for him.... serving up his favorite meatloaf for dinner and following it with vanilla cake filled with strawberry whipped cream frosting.  And after he's showered with Nerf guns, Legos and other things a 9 year old boy loves, I hope what he most remembers about his day is how much he's loved, appreciated and enjoyed by his mommy... OK, make that mom because he gets grossed out when I refer to myself as mommy!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Cherry Coffee Cake... Gluten Free/Dairy Free Style

Happy Sunday, everyone!  It's a chilly Montana morning, a sure sign Fall is on it's way.  What's better on a crisp Sunday morning than fresh coffee cake?  I can't think of much...
Here's a coffee cake that I whipped up with fresh cherries.  You could easily sub in dried or frozen cherries.  Not into cherries?  It would be delicious with blueberries too.  Also, mine is gluten and dairy free so feel free to switch out regular all-purpose flour and milk if you'd rather.  Either way, this is a winner!
GF/DF Cherry Coffee Cake
What you'll need:
1 1/2 cups cherries, pitted and halved
2 tablespoons all-purpose GF flour blend
2 cups all-purpose GF flour blend
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup rice milk
What to do:
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F. Spray your tube pan with a little vegetable oil or cooking spray.  I love using my stonewear for this type of cake... the outside gets a nice crunch and it bakes super evenly.
Get your cherries in a bowl and toss gently with 2 tablespoons flour.  This little coating keeps them more evenly spread throughout the cake; otherwise they will probably all sink to the bottom. Set 'em aside.
Stir together the flour, salt, baking powder, and cinnamon in a bowl.
In a separate bowl, beat together the oil, eggs, sugar, vanilla extract, and milk until nice and smooth.
Add those dry ingredients into the wet ones and incorporate them well.
Gently fold in the cherries.
Pour batter into the bundt pan and get it into the oven.  Bake this for about an hour, or until a toothpick comes out clean and it bounces back nicely when you press on it.
Give it about 15 minutes to cool and then turn it out onto a serving platter.  Enjoy with a nice cup of coffee!