The coconut sugar gives this quick bread a dark color and almost molasses flavor. For breakfast, serve a slice with a spread of lavender infused butter. As a dessert, top a slice with a candied lemon and a dollop of ice cream. Garnish your cocktails with any leftover honey candied lemons, and one baking session will last a week!
I felt as though I had found fall.
There she was! Peeking through the tall, green trees, her flames blazed against the bright, blue sky. I was far away from the city (as evidenced by the changes in political fervor), where the trees were still clinging to their youthful summer glow. My little red car, packed to the brim with Nordic sweaters, enamel plates and a menu fit for a cabin weekend, zipped along the winding roads to a shoot location. Yet at that moment, I inched along the road, leaning into my steering wheel and staring as high into my windshield as I could. There was fall!
My “day job(s)” have taken me farther and wider this season, to that cabin in the woods, to a magical old building with chipping paint, where I tossed a scavenged collection of branches and leaves, to the beach with a rosé dipped sunset. Each time, I tried to slow down enough to enjoy at least one little moment, in which I removed my head from the time checks and just inhaled the landscape, the season and the little journeys. It’s not easy, especially when the darkness begins to cloak the creaky trees, sending my imagination wildly into scenes from Stranger Things, but I tried then too.
It’s a time of year when we turn to spices, and pumpkins, and lattes that pretend to include both, in order to be in this season, to savor it slowly in the first hints of crisp fall air, but arguably, we should turn to honey.
Those mystifying, inspiring honey bees, who we as a society have taken for granted enough to push them to the verge of endangerment, are masters in capturing the essence of the season. From the same plot of land, their routines yield honeys so incomprehensibly different. This fall’s honey, is thicker, the sweetness intensifying as it rolls across the tongue ever so slowly, as if to say, savor the lingering golden light, the warmth and the bold colors.
No matter the season, nothing puts me quite in the moment like the combination of sweet and savory, so these Honey Sage drenched Biscuits are just that- sweet, savory odes to fall.
If you’re feeling particularly neighborly or generous, make extra Honey Sage Syrup and give the gift of fall to someone dear. When the biscuits are but mere crumbs, add the syrup to your evening bourbon drink with a fresh sage leaf garnish and really sink into the early sunset.
Whole Grain Apple Butter Parmesan Biscuits
Yield: ~ 12 biscuits
About this Recipe: Sweet enough to eat with breakfast or tea, savory enough to pair with roasted root vegetables and meats or warm butternut squash soups.
My mother taught me to appreciate the beauty in the old, the stories in the vintage, and the potential in the castaway items. However, over time, I allowed too many of these stories and collections to gather around me rather indiscriminately. Clearing space, both physical and mental, took on a daily, Sisyphean feel.
In need of a compass, I turned to an expert. I began reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, and immediately, I felt a shift in my thinking. Many magazines and well meaning folks will advise to divide one’s abundance into piles based on the last time an object came into use. If it was more than a year, pitch it. However Marie Kondo, the book’s author, poses this question, “Does this ______ bring me joy?” In the end, this pursuit of tidiness and clarity is really the pursuit of happiness.
If the sweater or the jeans or the book no longer brings (or never brought) joy, send it to a new life, but send it with gratitude. This last bit, the gratitude, has made all the difference in my process towards less. Thank you handmade shirt sewn by my mom. Thank you mom, for creating with your hands when I was an impressionable child, for showing me the value and joy of making something from scratch.
Perhaps this is why I gravitated toward baking. Cakes, pies, breads, all made with care and intention, are but temporal objects in our hands. Yet the gatherings, the vague memory of a flavor, the way a room smells when an oven is warm… we carry these memories and cherish the sentiments long after the plates have been cleared.
Here’s a recipe for sharing joy and gratitude deliciously, just in time for Thanksgiving!
Pumpkin Cheesecake with Ginger Oat Crust
About This Recipe: Oats, spices, ginger and dates combine to make a wholesomely sweet crust, and each layer of this cheesecake is laced with Wigle’s Landlocked Spiced. Made with local, buckwheat honey, Landlocked Spiced is the distillery’s interpretation of rum and a flavorful ode to Pennsylvania’s many apiaries. If you’re landlocked and can’t get a bottle, substitute your favorite spiced rum, and enjoy!
Disclaimer: I did receive product in exchange for this post, but all opinions are my own! I love a brand that supports the honeybees!
“My goal in life is to walk around like Pooh Bear, with my ‘paw’ deep in a large crock of honey, savoring the sweetness all day long.”
In addition to honey’s sweet appeal, the Urban Farmer’s deeper motives for becoming a beekeeper stem from his passion for the environment. When I first introduced him as a beekeeper in the Meet a Beekeeper post, he explained his desire to defend the honey bee:
“I started to read more about the negative effects of GMO’s (Genetically Modified Organisms) and monocultures (growing a single crop, for a long time in vast areas, which prevents a diverse, year-round diet for bees and simultaneously depletes soil nutrients). The link between bee colony collapse [bees disappearing] and GMO’s seemed so obvious. Bees are dying, and people act as if it’s a big mystery, but if you look at the flaws of the industrial agricultural system, there’s an easy solution: support local honeybees. I chose to dive in completely and become a beekeeper.”
Throughout his fledgling beekeeping efforts, the honey was always off limits for us. He had to reserve the liquid gold for the bees, especially as the colder months approached. However, this year his hives have been flourishing, which meant there was sweetness to be shared. This also meant he was one step closer to his Pooh Bear aspirations! The honey extraction process merited a spotlight! I still have much to learn about bees, so who better to explain this exciting process than the Urban Farmer/the Urban Beekeeper himself!
How do you know when it’s time to extract honey?
In our climate in Pennsylvania, we have two major “nectar flows.” This refers to mass blooms of a variety of vegetation. The first nectar flow takes place in early summer, followed by a dearth (a drop in the nectar flow), then again in the early fall when knotweed and golden rod become the major food source for our bees. Generally, beekeepers harvest any excess honey after these flows, making sure to reserve enough honey for the bees to get through the summer dearth and the long winter. During the winter, honey is their only major food source.
How is the honey extracted from the hive?
The extraction process starts by removing the honey supers from the hive. Supers are smaller hive bodies that are placed on the top of the hive (see diagram). The bees naturally use the larger bottom hive bodies, called brood chambers, to raise their young and store pollen (and some honey too). Instinctually, bees store the honey on top of their young. When the hive has enough honey stores built in the brood chamber, they will start to store honey in the upper supers. At that point, the beekeeper can easily remove the frame of honey with out disturbing hatching eggs.
This, however, does not make it easy to remove bees from the honey supers to transport them for extraction. Some beekeepers use a leaf blower to persuade the bees from the frames or a tried-and-true process of shaking the bees off the frames and securing them in a box as fast as possible, before the bees rush back to their frames. Either way, it’s not an easy or full-proof procedure, and you might discover some stowaways!
What happens to your hives as the weather becomes colder?
The bees slow down in the cooler weather. They forage less and then not at all in the dead of winter. The queen slows down egg laying, and the bees go into a mode of trying to heat the hive. They detach their wings and vibrate at such a frequency that they can heat the hive through the negative degrees of winter.
When is the best time to start beekeeping? How does one start beekeeping?
The best time to start a new hive is in early Spring – March or April. Bees are becoming active at that time of year, and they begin the process of regrowing their numbers. Bee packages are available for purchase at this time. This is also the time of year when beekeepers make “splits” (splitting a bee hive into two hives), so it’s a good time to find local bees for sale. If you are interested in starting a bee hive, I highly recommend reaching out to Burgh Bees for information on where to find bees, as well as a listing of courses available through the organization. [Burgh Bees has a lot of helpful resources for non-locals too!]
If there’s anything I’ve learned in observing and discussing bees with the Urban Farmer, it’s that beekeeping is a fickle trade. A beekeeper can do everything right, only to discover his bees have fled the hive. Then, sadly, it’s back to the beginning. So when he discovered he could harvest honey from his hives, it was a celebratory moment with an especially sweet reward!
Extracting honey made me appreciate the beekeepers who harvest, store and sell large quantities of the honey. It’s sticky work for sure, and as we cranked the machine beekeepers have surely been using for centuries, we had our doubts. Were three frames worth this rigamarole? Would we salvage any honey, or would it all be stuck to the guts of the apparatus? We of little faith! When we turned the release nozzle, the honey flowed and flowed and flowed!
Sometimes my words and my emotions fail to convey my excitement and pride in the moment, so instead, I use my kitchen and my table. I’ve seen up close the ups and downs of tending to the little black and golden creatures. I’ve seen the stings, the swelling and the defeats. However, this pancake brunch was to celebrate the Urban Farmer’s determination, his dedication and nature’s dessert.
Honey sweetened, whole-wheat pancakes with honey & cinnamon whipped cream and topped with honey roasted bananas – this was a pancake brunch ode to honey!
Hopefully the bees’ remaining honey will carry them boldly through winter. Hopefully, the following spring will entice them with its nectar flow, and hopefully, this honey harvesting will become a tradition. For now though, we celebrate each spoonful we have and the progress the Urban Farmer is making on the bee front!
Whole Wheat Honey Banana Pancakes
w/ Honey Cinnamon Whipped Cream & Honey Roasted Bananas
Note: Pancakes are a great way to use local milk that has just turned, as well as bananas that are over ripened. I used a soured milk for this pancake recipe, and it yielded an extra fluffy pancake and less waste! As always though, exercise caution when using an ingredient past its peak. Alternately, you can use buttermilk.
I could offer you lamb roasts, or rich cakes with dark chocolate ganache, cheesy layered vegetable dishes or pies galore, but it's summer here, and sometimes in summer, all you want…
A gradual progression from developing recipes and sharing the yields is to demonstrate how to make a recipe in front of an interested audience. This idea intrigues me and intimidates me. Am I qualified to teach? Are people interested? I’d toyed with these thoughts for a while, and then I met Amber!
Amber is the Education Coordinator & Chief Blogger for The Brashear Association, a community development organization in the Allentown neighborhood of Pittsburgh. Amber spoke about teaching the kids who come to the center about growing, cooking and eating healthy foods, an endeavor I respect and support wholeheartedly. Some of these lessons come through “Cooking Together,” a series of cooking demos with local chefs and food experts. Though kids can be brutally honest, they can also be more forgiving than adults with social media accounts poised to wreck you, so this seemed like the perfect opportunity to get a cooking demo under my belt. Before I could second guess myself, I volunteered!
When it comes to making healthy choices, the convenience store options have a lot more appeal than an apple or carrots, so I wanted to share a recipe with the kids to appease a sweet tooth without consuming all the unpronounceable, artificial sweeteners. To start, I had a volunteer read the ingredients in a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. TBHQ? I have no idea what that means! As my volunteer stumbled over a few of the ingredients, I assured him most adults have no idea how to say these words either, and if we can’t say them, we probably shouldn’t put them in our bodies. Instead, let’s make our own peanut butter cups!
While the first layer of melted chocolate set in the cupcake trays, we talked about how we’d sweeten our treats. Since we live in Western Pennsylvania, honey is prevalent, and more importantly, it’s good for us! Buying local honey also supports beekeepers and honeybees. To emphasize this point, my good-hearted Urban Farmer stepped up to teach some beekeeping basics.
“So we’re really just eating bee puke?” Yes, delicious, delicious bee puke! One after the other, the kids asked really detailed and astute questions about beekeeping. Amber is clearly steering these kids in the right direction, and we were amazed with their fascination. Hopefully, we have some future beekeepers in the making!
Kid tested, and Quelcy approved! The kids loved the treats and thought they’d be able to make them at home with their parents. A big goal of these cooking classes is to educate entire families to make healthier choices, a decision made more difficult by the lack of a proper grocery store in the neighborhood. This is the same issue facing the neighborhood surrounding the Urban Farmer’s farm, and one of his longterm goals is to provide fresh food accessibility to the community.
Food access is another reason I chose Peanut Butter Cups for my demo. Organic and natural peanut butters are far more common than they used to be, so it’s a more accessible ingredient. Dark chocolate is typically healthier than a gas station candy, and honey doesn’t go bad. Rather than push “organic,” which can be economically limiting, I stressed the importance of minimal, pronounceable ingredients. What would we expect to find in peanut butter? Kids can answer that question. Why can’t peanut butter brands?
My apron’s off to Amber for her dedication to these kids. From implementing fruits & vegetables into their diets, to teaching them to feel confident in the kitchen, to exposing them to various career options and to inspiring them to dig in the dirt and grow their own food, she and her team are an inspiration! I imagine working with kids is often thankless and always tiring, so three cheers to the Brashear Kids coordinators!
Thank you to Amber & Brashear Kids for having me and supporting my first cooking demo opportunity! If you’re a Pittsburgh chef/foodie/maker, consider volunteering to lead your own demo. If you want to learn more about beekeeping from my fella, check out this blog post. If you want something sweet, salty & nutty, keep reading for the recipe! Pair a peanut butter cup with a cold-brew coffee, and you’re in for a decadent afternoon moment!
p.s: Photos by Kyle Pattison, ie: The Urban Farmer, and myself.
Homemade Peanut Butter & Honey Cups
About this Recipe: The best way to approach this recipe is to buy a large jar of all-natural, peanut butter and a large container of honey with a squirt top. Then you can freely dollop peanut butter and squirt honey into each cup, without having to rely on measurements. These treats come together so easily, you’ll be able to make them whenever you have a chocolate craving.