New addition to our Garden…Honey Bees!

We were so lucky to receive a bee box from my boyfriend’s mom to keep in our garden this year! I am so excited because honey bees are incredibly beneficial to not only the garden, but the entire ecosystem! Honey bees are vital pollinators, they are very complex organisms that work together in highly complex societies. The more I learn about honey bees (and I am definitely a complete newbie on this subject) the more I am amazed at their incredible, intricate organization and complexity, and I now appreciate the sweet taste of honey so much more!

Bee BoxOur bee journal is starting today, well yesterday actually. First we moved our box to a more shaded and protected area. We wanted to make sure the entrance to the hive would be pointing away from the west where most of our weather comes from. We also wanted the hive away from normal day to day disturbances like lawn mowing, animals, and… Clementine. It is also important to keep hives away from fields that are sprayed with pesticides or insecticides, but we don’t have to worry too much about that here.

AddingBeesThe next step for our hive was to receive a Nuc, pronounced nuke, is a nuclear hive. It was taken from their hive and consisted of eight frames. It is considered the nucleus of the hive because it contains the queen. The worker bees are loyal to their queen and working well together before they are removed from the other hive. The frames also include honey, pollen, and larvae. You can see the capped larvae, and pollen in this picture. There were also some exposed “c” shaped larvae in the hive!Hive

But the most important part of the hive, is the Queen! She keeps all of the worker bees (which are also all female) together and working efficiently. She also lays all of the eggs, some of which are the drones, or male bees. The strong pheromone of the queen, called the Queen mandibular pheromone is extremely important, this pheromone inhibits other female bees ovaries, and keeps them from being apple to lay eggs. The Queen’s pheromone also promotes stability of the hive- it has a “calming” effect on the hive! The queen also promotes efficiency, mating, and maintenance of the hive. The Queen was spotted in our hive, she’s the one with the extra large bum!QueenBee

You can call me Queen Bee!

Bee FactsSo, we moved the 8 frames from the nuc box into our hive. We knew the Queen came along too because we spotted her! I actually suited up and helped move the frames! It was so awesome. The sounds of the bees buzzing is incredible. They are such crazy creatures.IMG_7045

Next we puffed a bit of smoke on top of the frames so that the bees on top went down into the hive so we could place the top on the hive. Next, Vince, The master beekeeper! knocked the nuc box on a rock slightly so that the bees marched into the hive, following the smell of their queen.
Bee Smoke

And now we have a happy hive, hopefully they love their new home!  Bees also need a source of freshwater within a 1/4 mile. Even setting out a small dish of water is enough, but make sure it is filled and clean, and the bees have a place to land. MeandtheBeesWe placed the inner and outer cover on the ‘super deep’. In a couple of weeks we will place the ‘supers’ on top. The supers on top is what the honey bees will fill with nectar…or honey to us! I planted some snap dragons and lavender around the hive! Hopefully they will love it here.BeeHive

What do you think about honey bees? Would you ever add them to your garden?

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How To Make Tofu: So that it doesn’t taste like rubbery nothing

Tofu! I actually enjoy eating tofu, but to many people it is really creepy, blobbery stuff that they would rather avoid. If made correctly, tofu can be a delicious source of protein for vegetarians and meat eaters alike. I did get my boyfriend hooked on the stuff (so much so that when I was away for a weekend it was all he ate…even I think that’s disgusting). This recipe is a simple, quick way to make a base tofu that can them be used in all sorts of dishes, on top of salads, or as a dish itself. Now everyone always says that tofu just tastes like whatever you season it with, which is true! But I think the texture also sends some people scurrying away. Of course, you can deep fry the cubes and it will taste good, because anything deep fried tastes good. We’re trying to keep it healthy, so this recipe still gives you a crisp exterior and delicious tasting tofu without submerging it in an inch of boiling oil. Gross tofu
Tofu might be the most attractive thing to photograph, ever.

Step 1:

Buy the tofu. Select organic and extra-firm varieties.tofu

I like Wegmans brand. Make sure you choose organic when buying soy products. Soy beans are one of the top genetically-modified organisms (GMO) in the United States. In fact it might be up to 85% of the soybean crop in the United States is GMO. Buying organic is the only way to ensure you are not buying anything genetically modified, since there are no labeling requirements in most of the U.S.

Step 2:

Drain very well and pat with a paper towel or clean dish towel.

Step 3:

Microwave for 2-3 minutes. Take the tofu out of the microwave, careful it will be scalding hot! Wait until it cools a bit and pat again with the towel. There might be some liquid on the plate or bowl, so be careful not to spill it down your arm and burn yourself, that’s not so fun.

Step 4: Chop it into bite size chunks.
Building blocksFood or weird, chalk-like, children’s building blocks??

Step 4:

Heat a frying pan. Pour 2 Tablespoons of olive oil into the heated pan. Pan fry 1 Tablespoon of very thinly chopped onions, or a Tablespoon of dried onions. Add the tofu carefully and swoosh it around in the pan for 20 minutes. Yea I know, 20 minutes is kind of a long time. You don’t have to be swooshing that whole time, just make sure that the tofu bits don’t burn on any side and cook semi-evenly.Yummy Tofu

Step 5:

After the tofu looks browned and a bit crispy turn the heat off. Add a dash of garlic powder, salt, pepper, and any fresh herbs you would like. I usually add 2-3 Tablespoons of chives.

That’s it! Let it cool and your ready to add it to any dish. I love it in fried rice, on top of salads, or dipped in my favorite condiment-aka buffalo sauce.Tofu salad

Happy Friday, Have a fantastic weekend! What is one food you just can’t stand the texture of, even if the flavor isn’t all that bad?

Cooking a whole chicken

So…I was lucky enough to receive a “happy” chicken from my boyfriends mother that had been raised with a few other chickens at her farmhouse. I was a vegetarian for almost five years because quite honestly eating meat gave me the heebie jeebies. I have since opened up to the idea of eating meat IF I know right where it came from, and that it had a healthy and enjoyable life before it was killed. Hence, the happy chicken. But, I have no idea how to cook, well I guess I should say roast? a whole chicken. LIterally, I have no idea, I had to google how to know which way was the right way up. So here is the simplest way to pan roast a whole chicken.

After googling which way was the breast pointing up ward (which is…well with the legs on top and wings pointing down, as shown), I placed it in a 9×13 pan and added about a half inch of water.

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Next I rubbed down the chicken boobs with some salt and black pepper, and cut up about 2 tablespoons of butter and spread out the small pats around the top of the chicken, then I popped it in the oven at 350 degrees for about 3 hours. (30 minutes per pound of chicken)

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Make sure the internal temperature of the chicken is at least 165 degrees, before you take it out of the oven!

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Here is my cooked chicken! The liquid, fat, and gelatin in the pan I will use in recipes later this week! So be on the look out for those! I ate the chicken with a little lemon juice and some corn, there are endless possibilities!

Shopping in the grocery store can get pretty confusing with all of the different labels and descriptive words that are often on the packages of chicken. I did a little research about what each of these labels means and hope this helps sort out some of the confusion.

What is the difference between Free range, Cage Free, and Organic…and which one do I want to buy?!

Free Range-

The term free range, or free roaming has little governmental regulation behind it. USDA regulations state, “Producers must demonstrate to the Agency that the poultry has been allowed access to the outside.” While some poultry produces are truly free-range, this could mean the chicken is raised in a coop and only allowed outside for a small portion of its life. Also, just because the chicken has been allowed access to the open air does not mean that the animal has actually been outside, they may remain inside the coop for their whole life.

Cage Free-

There is no government regulation on this term. Cage free means that the hens are not kept in battery cages. They are usually still kept in large, cramped warehouses, and not are not allowed access to the outdoors.

Unfortunately, raising chickens as “free-range” or “cage free” does not usually mean they are kept in much better conditions than factory farmed chickens. And this labeled meat in the grocery store will cost much more. The best thing to do is research where your grocery store is receiving its meat, and to check if these areas are truly practicing what they say they are.

Organic-

Organically produced meat carries the U.S. Department of Agriculture organic label and certifies that the animal was not given any antibiotics or hormones and was only fed organic grain. Organic food is produced without using most conventional pesticides. However, it does not mean that no pesticides are used, the animal was allowed to roam outside, or that it has not been kept inside a coop for its entire life.