Cottage Gardening – The Grand Dahlia

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It’s a cold, rainy and generally gloomy Saturday in Cincinnati. I’ve managed to get a few errands done, but all I want to do is curl up and keep warm. Maybe do a bit of needlepoint…

Then there appeared a  bright spot – the blooming of a spectacular Autumn-colored dinner plate dahlia!!  It loves the miserable weather.  A gorgeous reminder that even a dark and damp Fall day can be beautiful!!

The Romancing The Bee Diet – Day 16 – Onion and Garlic Soup For A Snowy Day

onion garlic soup

It’s a cold and snowy day in Cincinnati and everything is quiet outside. I didn’t feel like going out, so I made this lovely soup from what I had on hand. I’m pretty sure it’s good for whatever ails you, and will also keep any Vampires away!

Yield:  1- 2 servings

Ingredients

1  thinly sliced large yellow onion

5 cloves garlic, sliced

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 teaspoon olive oil

1/3 teaspoon Kosher salt, plus additional to taste

1/4 teaspoon honey (helps the onions to brown)

1  tablespoon almond flour

3 cups chicken stock

1/4 cup  dry white wine

Freshly ground black pepper

2-4 tablespoons parmesan cheese

Directions

Melt the butter and oil together in the bottom of a 2- to 4-quart saucepan or Dutch oven over moderately low heat. Add the onions and garlic, toss to coat them in oil and cover the pot. Reduce the heat to real low and let them slowly steep for 15 minutes.

After 15 minutes, uncover the pot, raise the heat slightly and stir in the salt and honey. Cook onions and garlic, stirring frequently, for 30 to 40 minutes until they have turned an even, deep golden brown.

After the onions and garlic are fully caramelized, sprinkle them with flour and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes. Add the wine in full, then stock, a little at a time, stirring between additions. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and simmer partially covered for 30 to 40 more minutes, skimming if needed.

Correct seasonings if needed but go easy on the salt as the cheese will add a bit more saltiness.  Garnish with parmesan cheese and serve.

The Winter Solstice And The Bees

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The Winter Solstice is the real beginning of the cycle of the New Year.

It marks the shortest day and longest night of the year, when the sun’s daily maximum elevation in the sky is the lowest.

The Solstice officially arrived at the same instant for all of us on Earth – 11:12 UTC – but our clocks say different times due to varying time zones.

This year the Winter Solstice in Cincinnati happened this morning at 6:12 a.m. EST.

hive in winter

After the Winter Solstice the days gradually get longer until spring season arrives. It’s  important to honey bees and how they manage their hive throughout the winter.

Within the darkness of the hive, unable to see that the light lasts a bit longer each day, the Queen Bee senses that the Solstice has arrived. The Winter Solstice is one of the first signs to her that it is time to take up one of the survival tasks of the hive: to begin rearing additional young bees.

Shortly after the Winter Solstice, maybe the next day, maybe several weeks later, the colony raises the core temperature of the winter cluster to about 95*F, the optimal temperature for rearing new bees.

When the colony reaches the desired core temperature the Queen will lay a small patch of brood, using the cells that were emptied of their honey during the preceding weeks of cold.

At first, the amount of brood rearing is small, less than 100 cells. However, as the spring approaches, and the first flowers begin to blossom, the Queen will begin rearing bees at a much higher rate.

The process is slow at first because rearing bees during the winter and keeping the brood nest at 95*F consumes a lot of extra winter stores, more so than if the bees were just clustered together at a cooler 75*F temperature.

They keep warm in the same way we do. They shiver.

Winter Cluster

Winter Cluster

In cold weather, the bees huddle tightly together. Bees on the outside of the cluster form an insulating shell while bees in the center of the cluster generate heat by shivering their flight muscles.

By eating honey (a high-energy food) the bees can generate just over 100*F in their flight muscles. At the center of the cluster is the Queen, where she remains warm and protected from the cold winter air. As bees on the outside chill, they rotate to the center of the cluster.

The bees are starting their cycle of life once more.  Happy Winter Solstice!

Christmas bees

Romancing The Bee Gets A “Great” Mention In Graeter’s Ice Cream Blog!

As we have said before, we love to hear from our fans. We often hear about favorite flavors or why fans consider Graeter’s the best. What we don’t often hear about is how the love of Graeter’s inspires great ideas. Take Deborah DeLong and her blog for instance.

In a recent blog post she talks about how her love for Graeter’s Black Raspberry Chip inspired an irresistible cupcake concoction, Honey Black Raspberry Cupcakes With Chocolate Buttercream Frosting.

Deborah writes:

My favorite ice cream flavor of all time is Black Raspberry Chip by Graeter’s in Cincinnati. It may be the perfect ice cream!!

All Graeter’s ice cream flavors are divine…  And they have an online store!!

I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking up new honey cupcake recipes, and for a while now, I’ve been trying to think of a cupcake that captures the essence of this heavenly frozen treat. By George, I think I’ve got it!!

For this delicious recipe and to read the full blog post click here.

Honey Chocolate Mousse

Cincinnati’s now-closed five star restaurant, The Maisonette, was famous for its dark and white chocolate mousse.  When the restaurant closed a few years ago, it was kind enough to give out the recipe.

Here is the recipe for both the original and a honey version.

1 pound good quality semisweet dark  or white chocolate
16 oz corn syrup or honey
3 egg whites
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 quart heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine chocolate and syrup/honey in a large microwaveable bowl. Microwave 1 minute at a time (or less) stirring after each time (When melting chocolate  in microwave, don’t do until it melts completely. While it is still holding its shape, stir until it’s completely melted). Let cool.

Beat egg whites with a stand mixer, slowly add granulated sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Fold into the chocolate mixture.

Rinse out the mixer bowl, add the whipping cream, powdered sugar and vanilla. Whip until stiff. Fold into chocolate mixture.

Chill in bowl or divide into bowls. Great with raspberries or blackberries.

Makes 10 generous servings.

In The City

I’m in NYC at a Writer’s Conference.  I miss my bees and my garden desperately.

I’m pretty sure that wonderful plants I’ve ordered have been delivered in my absence.  I hope they’ll still be alive when I return to the Provinces.

I love the City and the company of other writers, but there’s nothing like traffic and concrete to make me miss my little bit of England in Cincinnati.

Home tomorrow!!