Cooking With Honey – Blueberry Lavender Martinis


I was in Chicago this past weekend and had dinner at the delightful French Bistro Aquitaine. We began with two of their lovely specialty cocktails — I had the Blueberry Lavender Martini made with honey. It was fabulous!

Here is my recreation…

Yield:  2 martinis


6 large ice cubes

8 oz vodka

3 oz fresh lemon juice

4 Tbsp honey lavender syrup*

12 fresh blueberries, muddled


In a martini shaker add the ice, vodka, lemon juice, honey lavender syrup, and muddled blueberries and place top on shaker. Shake until well blended. Pour the drink into the glasses through a strainer, and serve!

*Honey Lavender Syrup:

1/4 cup water

1/4 cup honey

2 Tbsp dried lavender

Heat water until boiling, remove from heat and whisk in honey and lavender, until honey is dissolved. Chill well before using in drinks.

Girl History Month – Jane Addams, Social Reformer And Nobel Prize Winner

English: American social reformer, Jane Addams

English: American social reformer, Jane Addams (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Jane Addams was a founder of the Settlement House Movement in the United States. She was the first American Woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.

On a trip to England as a young woman, Jane was introduced to the founders and the workings of Toynbee Hall, a settlement house in the slums of London. After her return to the United States, she and her traveling companion, Ellen Starr, committed themselves to the idea of starting a settlement house in Chicago. They founded Hull House in the slums of Chicago in 1889. Most everything they needed Jane was able to procure with the generosity of patrons. Money poured in. Within a few years, Hull House offered medical care, child care and legal aid. It also provided classes for immigrants to learn English, vocational skills, music, art and drama.

In 1893 a severe depression rocked the country. Hull House was serving over two thousand people a week. As charitable efforts increased, so too did political ones. Jane realized that there would be no end to poverty if laws were not changed. She directed her efforts at the root causes of poverty. The workers joined Jane to lobby the state of Illinois to examine laws governing child labor, the factory inspection system, and the juvenile justice system. They worked for legislation to protect immigrants from exploitation, limit the working hours of women, mandate schooling for children, recognize labor unions, and provide for industrial safety.

She became a very controversial figure while working on behalf of economic reform. When horrible working conditions led to the Haymarket riot, Jane was personally attacked for her support of the workers. It resulted in a great loss of donor support for Hull House. She supplemented Hull House funding with revenue from lecture tours and article writing. She began to enjoy international acclaim. Her first book was published in 1910 and others followed biennially. Her biggest success in writing came with the release of the book, Twenty Years at Hull House.

Addams foresaw World War I. In 1915, in an effort to avert war, she organized the Women’s Peace Party and the International Congress of Women. This latter organization met at The Hague and made serious diplomatic attempts to thwart the war. When these efforts failed and the U.S. joined the war in 1917, criticism of Addams rose. She was expelled from the Daughters of the American Revolution, but it did not slow her down. In 1919 she was elected first president of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, a position she held until her death. She was a founding member of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). She was a charter member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), having answered the “call” in 1909 that led to the organization’s formation. These positions earned her even more criticism than her pacifism. She was accused of being a socialist, an anarchist and a communist.

Hull House, however, continued to be successful. When the depression of the 1930’s struck, Addams saw many of the things that she had advocated and fought for become policies under President Franklin Roosevelt. She received numerous awards during this time including, in 1931, the Nobel Peace Prize.

The Romancing The Bee Diet – Day 15 – Chicken, Hunter Style


Uhh, some of you may have noticed that there was a long weekend-shaped hole between Day 14 and Day 15 of the Romancing the Bee Diet…

I was visiting my daughter Molly and the adorable Baby Lucy in Chicago, and between the pizza, the macarons and the three course luncheon at the American Girl Doll Store, I kind of fell off the Diet Wagon.

I’m back on it though, without sustaining too much damage.  After all, the RTBD should be a joyous way of life, not an exercise in Food Deprivation. 

This Chicken Cacciatore recipe is fabulous, and made it easy for me to return to low Glycemic Index eating. 

Of course, I’ll be madly working to create a recipe for RTBD  macarons to further enhance the RTBD experience!!  🙂


Yield:  6 servings


2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil

1 (5-6 pound) chicken cut into eighths

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 pound cremini mushrooms, quartered

2 large yellow onions, halved and thinly sliced

1 large yellow bell pepper, thinly julienned

4 ounces thick cut bacon, finely diced

3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 cup low-sodium canned chicken broth

1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes and their juices

1 tablespoon honey

3 sprigs fresh rosemary

2 tablespoons aged balsamic vinegar or capers

3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves

Basil sprigs

Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano


Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large Dutch oven over high heat. Season the chicken pieces on both sides with salt and pepper and place in the pan, skin side down and cook until golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Turn the breasts over and cook until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the chicken to a large plate.

Add the remaining oil to the pan and heat until almost smoking. Add the mushrooms and bacon and cook until golden brown, season with salt and pepper and remove to a plate.

Add the onion and bell pepper to the pan and cook until soft, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic and chili flakes to the pan and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the wine and cook until almost completely reduced. Add the chicken stock, tomatoes, honey and rosemary and bring to a simmer. Return the chicken, mushrooms and bacon to the pan, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the pan and cook until the chicken is tender, about 30 minutes. Remove the chicken with a slotted spoon to a large shallow bowl and tent loosely with foil.

Increase the heat to high and cook the sauce, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, 8 to 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, stir in the vinegar and basil and pour the sauce over the chicken. Garnish with fresh basil sprigs. Sprinkle with grated cheese.

Holidays With Honey – Tuna Tartare

tuna tartare

This will be another part of my contribution to The Feast of the Seven Fishes in Chicago. I like the fact that it’s red and green, and the Asian flavors will be a refreshing prelude to the traditional Italian pasta dishes.

Yield:  25 servings


1 3/4 pounds sushi grade tuna

2/3 cup olive oil

3 limes, zest grated

1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice

1 1/4 teaspoons wasabi powder

1 1/4 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon hot red pepper sauce

1 1/4 tablespoons kosher salt

2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon honey

2/3 cup minced scallions, white and green parts (6 scallions)

1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh jalapeno pepper, seeds removed

3 ripe Haas avocados


Cut the tuna into 1/4-inch dice and place it in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the olive oil, lime zest, lime juice, wasabi, soy sauce, hot red pepper sauce, honey, salt, and pepper. Stir until honey is dissolved. Pour over the tuna, add the scallions and jalapeno, and mix well. Cut the avocados in half, remove the seed, and peel. Cut the avocados into 1/4-inch dice. Layer the tuna mixture over the diced avocados in a 9″x13″ glass dish.  Cover and place in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour for the flavors to blend. Serve on crackers.

Holidays With Honey – Smoked Salmon And Caviar Roll Ups

salmon roll ups

I’m spending the holidays with my extended family in Chicago.  My daughter Molly’s father-in-law Vince is Italian, and we will be observing The Feast of the Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve.

The Feast of the Seven Fishes is a traditional Italian Christmas Eve meal consisting of seven different seafood dishes. It was originally a period of abstinence to commemorate the wait, the Vigilia di Natale, for the midnight birth of the baby Jesus.

This will be part of my contribution to the Feast.

Yield:  12 to 18 servings


1/2 cup sour cream

1/2 cup fresh cream cheese, at room temperature

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh dill leaves

2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

1 tablespoon chopped lemon zest


Freshly ground white pepper

6 large slices smoked salmon

36 toasted bread rounds or squares

8 ounces caviar

Garnish: 36 sprigs fresh dill, sour cream


In a mixing bowl, combine the sour cream, cream cheese, honey, dill, chives, and lemon zest. Mix well. Season with salt and pepper.

Place the slice of salmon on a piece of plastic wrap, with the small end closest to you, on a flat surface. Season the slices of salmon with the pepper. Spread some of the cheese mixture evenly over each slice of salmon. Trim ends to make even. Then, beginning at the bottom, roll up the salmon, jelly roll style, securely, pressing to close. Wrap each salmon roll in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until ready to use.

About 30 minutes before serving, place the salmon rolls in the freezer; this will make slicing easy.

To serve, using a chef’s knife, slice the salmon into 1/2-inch slices. Remove the plastic wrap and discard. Place the salmon on the toasted bread slices. Place some caviar on top of the salmon. Garnish with a sprig of dill and sour cream.

Favorite English Garden Bee Plants – Variegated Weigela Florida

I fell in love with this shrub at the Chicago Botanic Garden. It took me a few days to find out what it was because we were “driven out of the Garden” by a lightning storm.

It turns out it is Variegated Weigela Florida, beloved by bees and other pollinators everywhere. I ordered one on Amazon (they sell everything!!) and will be planting soon.

England In Illinois

I’m in Chicago this weekend visiting my daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter, the lovely Luciana.

This morning we went to the Chicago Botanic Garden which is one of my favorite spots. Unfortunately we only had about a half an hour to tour before thunder and lightning drove us back to our car.

We did have time to see the English Walled Garden, which I love.  Here are some pictures.

The shrub pictured above is a Variegated Weigela.  I’m planting one this year!!


The City Bee And The Country Bee

Remember the Aesop’s fable about the City Mouse and the Country Mouse?

A proud city mouse visits his cousin in the country. The country mouse offers the city mouse a meal of simple country foods.  The city mouse scoffs at the humble fare, and invites his country cousin to the city for a gourmet dinner.  They go to the big city and are about to dine when they are interrupted by two fearsome cats.  They are forced to abandon their feast and scurry for their lives. The country mouse returns home, having learned that the city is dangerous and the country is safe.

Those were the good old days.  Now the opposite is true, at least with respect to honey bees.

Many bee experts believe city bees have a leg up on country bees these days because of a longer nectar flow, with people planting flowers that bloom from spring to fall, and organic gardening practices. Not to mention the urban residents who are building hives at a brisk pace.

Beekeeping is thriving in cities across the nation, driven by young hobbyists and green entrepreneurs. Honey from city hives makes its way into swanky restaurant kitchens and behind the bar, where it’s mixed into cocktails or stars as an ingredient in honey wine.

Membership in beekeeping clubs is skewing younger and growing. The White House garden has beehives. The city of Chicago’s hives — nine in all, on rooftops and other government property — are just part of the boom.

“I’ve seen hives set up on balconies and in very, very small backyards,” said Russell Bates, a TV commercial director and co-founder of Backwards Beekeepers, a 3-year-old group that draws up to 100 mostly newcomers to its monthly meetings in Los Angeles.

The group is “backwards” because its members rely on natural, non-chemical beekeeping practices. All their hives are populated by local bees they’ve captured — or “rescued” as the group’s members like to say — from places they’re not wanted.

“We don’t use mail-order bees,” Bates said. “Local bees have adapted to this environment. They’re the survivors.”

City governments, won over by beekeepers’ passion, are easing restrictions. In recent years, New York, Denver, Milwaukee and Santa Monica have made beekeeping legal. The Backwards Beekeepers group is working to legalize beekeeping in Los Angeles.

The mysterious disappearance of honeybees, first reported in 2006 by commercial beekeeping operators who lost 30 to 90 percent of their hives, led some state agriculture departments to encourage hobby beekeeping. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates about one-third of the nation’s diet directly or indirectly benefits from honeybee pollination.

Researchers have yet to determine a cause for “colony collapse disorder,” but they say likely culprits include pathogens, parasites, environmental strains and bee management practices that cause poor nutrition.

Using bees to pollinate monocultures and moving the bees around the country might be factors in their decline. Just as a person needs a varied diet, so do bees.

Moving bees (as commercial beekeepers do several times a year) may cause them to lose some adult foragers. Bees begin their adult lives as nurse bees, become guard bees, and then spend the last few weeks of their lives as foragers. Adult foragers learn where their home is based on solar and landscape cues.When they move, the adult foragers may leave the colony to gather honey and be unable to find their way home. This may not be too difficult for the hive to weather, but it’s just one more thing for an already weak colony.The loss of a certain number of bees would not normally be fatal to the colony, but would not be good for a weakened colony.

In Washington, a biology professor who is studying whether pollen richer in protein makes bees healthier plans to compare urban bees’ protein intake with that of bees in the country.

“Pollen contains a lot of protein. The amount varies from plant species to plant species,” said Hartmut Doebel, George Washington University researcher and beekeeper. “One idea is that bees that are healthy will fight off diseases better.”

The university is partnering with the restaurant Founding Farmers a few blocks away. The restaurant recently put six beehives on the roof of an academic building, and Doebel and his students will study the bees, tracking their pollen sources and their health. The restaurant will use the surplus honey on its menu.

“We don’t expect honey this year,” said Valerie Zweig, Founding Farmers’ honey director. “We hope for next summer. One of our signature dishes is corn bread with honey butter. We’ll use it in that and maybe in marinades or maybe a cocktail. We may showcase it on its own in a little honey pot with some iced tea.”

Greg Fischer of Wild Blossom Meadery and Winery in Chicago has about 40 beehives in the city and another 60 in more rural areas. His company turns the honey into mead, a fermented beverage that can be dry like Riesling or sweet like a dessert wine.

Fischer once worked with a company that trucked bees around the country to pollinate sunflowers in South Dakota, almonds in California and other crops in other states. He said city bees kept by hobbyists and smaller operators are healthier than bees used in commercial agriculture.

“You’re putting them on a semi and throwing a net over them,” Fischer said. “You’re on the road three or four days. It kind of stresses them out.”

For some city residents, beekeeping represents a return to the family farms of their childhoods. Chicago resident Carolyn Ioder started hives two years ago after growing vegetables and raising chickens. Her bees live in three hives in a community garden in a once-vacant lot near a fire station and elevated train tracks.

“My husband and I are first generation off the farm,” Ioder said. “Some people just come by and shake our hands and say thank you because they’re so curious and they’ve never seen it and their children have never seen animals or chickens or goats before.”

Urban beekeepers may be biased, but they contend their honey tastes better than country honey since it takes on essences from plants the bees visit.

Thompson stuck a toothpick into a small jar of Chicago City Hall honey and tasted it. He described it as complex with nectar from a variety of mints from Lurie Garden in Millennium Park and linden trees in Grant Park. The honey’s taste changed after Lurie Garden was installed in 2004, he said.

“I guess it tastes more complicated now,” he said.