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May 2013

Cook with the Best in the Northwest

Joy with Honey, by Doris Mech
Reviewed by Mary Rose

 


Honeybees tap about two million flowers to make one pound of honey.
That also means they must travel over 55,000 miles.
Precious food indeed!
~ Joy with Honey

 

Apart from watching a TV personality or having a nodding acquaintance with a baker or restaurant owner whose food they've eaten, home cooks don't usually get to meet the people who write cookbooks.

So I enjoyed my time on the phone with Doris Mech, who is every bit as delightful as her cookbook, Joy with Honey, now in its fourth edition.

 


Joy with Honey, by Doris Mech

 

Of course the first question I asked was: "What is your favorite recipe?"

"My favorite cookie that I always go back to is the Carob Chippers," Doris said. Then she explained that the first edition of her cookbook was published in 1979, when she was "on the bandwagon of 'back to nature.'"

At that time, Doris was a home economics teacher and familiar with how recipes worked. She saved every recipe using honey and eventually put together the cookbook, which was published by Women's Aglow in Lynnwood, Wash.

Since Doris cooks the way her grandmother did—"a pinch of this, a dash of that"—slowing down to figure out measurements for the recipes she created was a challenge.

But with each subsequent edition (one by St. Martin's Press, two of them self-published), more recipes were added to the cookbook. Luckily, Doris had a good supply of honey from the bees she and her husband tended for 35 years. They sold their honey at the Pike Place Market in Seattle and elsewhere and still have eight hives at their home in Maple Valley, Wash.

Unfortunately, the bees are getting harder to keep healthy, and thus the honey supply is not so abundant. "There's a constant challenge to keep them alive now," Doris said. Queens fail, mites invade. "Not like the 1970s, when things were booming in wholesale beekeeping."

Times change in oh, so many ways. "I use chocolate chips instead of carob in the Carob Chippers these days," she admitted. "I like the taste better now."

As for a favorite recipe in the book, Doris punctuated our conversation with suggestions.

The Cinnamon Sip is a "good cold-weather drink." Mix cinnamon with honey and keep the syrup in a jar at room temperature. Add a tablespoon to tea or coffee (Doris advises making the coffee half-strength for this), or stir into hot water and enjoy as is.

"The yeast breads are wonderful, wonderful recipes," Doris emphasized. She likes the Honey-Orange Rye Bread ("it's so delicious"), especially topped with orange or lemon Honey Butter.

The salad dressings—made with honey, of course—are very nice, too, Doris said. Try the Honey Ginger Dressing, made with lots of freshly grated ginger root.

After suggesting I make a cheesecake recipe (White Chocolate Cheesecake with Honey Fudge Sauce, anyone?), Doris summed up with, "every section has a favorite."

Skimming through the 300 recipes in this cookbook, I have to agree with Doris and say it would be hard to pick a favorite. And that's not including the instructions for canning with honey, the honey facial, or Great Grandma's Honey Cough Syrup. If it's possible to use honey in it, Doris has probably included instructions on how to do it.

In addition to recipes, there's an introductory section that discusses types of honey and how to store and cook with it, and also describes the healthy ingredients she uses in her recipes.

I started simply by making Honey Ice Cubes. These would add sparkle to any day, but why not make Mother's Day extra special this year and put these on the beverage menu. With Doris's permission, I include the recipe here.

Honey Ice Cubes

1/2 cup honey
2 cups very hot water
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Blend the honey with the hot water and lemon juice. Pour into ice cube trays and freeze at once. Serve with lemonade or any fruit punch. Delicious with iced tea, too. "Cool it" with Honey Ice Cubes.

 


After the lemonade is gone, use your straw to stir
the soft Honey Ice Cubes into a tangy-sweet slush.

 

Mother would no doubt also enjoy a cheesecake smoothie. When strawberries are in season, get the best you can find and slowly savor this. Raspberries or peaches would be splendid, too. Maybe both!

Kathy's Strawberry Cheesecake Smoothie

2 1/2 cups milk
3/4 cup ricotta
1/4 cup honey
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon psyllium husk [or chia seeds]
1 1/2 cups frozen strawberries

If you are looking for more protein in your diet, be sure and try this delicious smoothie. Smoothies are extremely easy to make.

Just measure all the top five ingredients into your blender and process until smooth. The psyllium husk is added for extra fiber. Look for it in the bulk food section where you find all the spices. Last of all, add the frozen strawberries and process another minute. Makes 4 tall glasses.

[My notes:

  • In my blender honey always seems to sink to the bottom and not get picked up by the blades. So I mixed the honey with the ricotta before adding to the blender. It worked!
  • Since I used fresh strawberries (not in season but cheaper than frozen this week), the smoothie was a bit warm for my taste. I made another batch using four Honey Ice Cubes. Oh, my, that improved the consistency and taste considerably!
  • I substituted chia seeds for the psyllium husk. I don't know what the psyllium husk does, but the chia seeds did not affect the texture at all since they blended right in with the numerous minuscule strawberry seeds.]

 


Strawberry cheesecake smoothie . . . nice!

 

You can buy Joy with Honey at the following places:

Bees in the Burbs, Maple Valley, Wash.
GloryBee Foods, Eugene, Ore.
Brushy Mountain Bee Farm, Moravian Falls, N.C.
Mann Lake, Hackensack, Minn.
Pike Place Market in Seattle (seasonal booth)
Used copies on the Internet

 

Mary Rose lives high in the mountains of Montana. She enjoys traveling to farmers markets in summer and making snowballs during the long winter. She is happy to find many locally produced foods, including lentils, cheese, and stroopwafels.

 

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