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2 recipes to celebrate the natural sweetness of honey

September is National Honey Month.
September is National Honey Month.
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Those living in medieval Europe celebrated a season they called the "Time of the Bee," according to "Medieval Holidays and Festivals: A Calendar of Celebrations." They were inspired by the industrious insect that they saw as busy at least 12 hours a day and all 12 months of the year to provide honey for sweetness and beeswax for light.

According to the book, St. Ambrose, who lived in fourth-century Milan, likened the bees' activities to the lives of his people. He described the church as the hive of life; the faithful Christians laboring (like bees) without ceasing for the sake of goodness."

The sweetness of Christ's teachings were like honey, and the gospel brought the light of understanding to the world, according to the late medieval expert Madeleine Pelner Cosman, author of "Medieval Holidays and Festivals."

Honey, in addition to being a natural sweetener, provides important health benefits, according to the National Honey Board, online at honey.com, including antimicrobial properties that soothe sore throats and a quick boost of energy for athletes. Raw honey helps allergy sufferers become desensitized to local pollens, according to draxe.com. The bitter side of honey is that it may contain botulism and should not be given to children under 12 months old, according to healthychildren.org

To pay homage to hard-working bees and the sweet fruits of their labors, here are two recipes to boost your immune system and your autumn happiness here in the Beehive State.

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HONEY LEMON SOOTHER

Bitten by the back-to-school bug? Try this healthful drink to help you bounce back to your beehive of activity. The honey, lemon and cinnamon all contain anti-microbial properties.

2 quarts (8 cups) of water

2 lemons, sliced

2 cinnamon sticks, broken in half

honey to taste

In a heat-proof pitcher or jar, place the lemon slices and cinnamon sticks. Boil the water and pour over the lemon and cinnamon. Allow to steep until the water is barely warm and is at a comfortable drinking temperature. Pour a serving into a mug and add honey to taste. Drink all of the soother (reheating as necessary) in 24 hours.

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LEMON HONEY CHEESECAKE

Lemon and honey are a sunny, unseparable pair in many recipes. Enjoy the duo in this slightly less-guilty delicious dessert. Prepare the graham cracker crust first, then add the filling and bake.

Serves: 16

Graham Cracker Crust

1½ cups graham cracker crumbs (use gluten-free if desired)

¼ cup sugar

¼ cup butter, melted

In a mixing bowl combine all ingredients and press evenly into the bottom and partway up the sides of a 9-inch springform pan. Set aside. Heat oven to 325 degrees.

Cheesecake Filling

40 ounces Neufchatel cheese (reduced-fat cream cheese)

½ cup honey

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup low-fat sour cream or plain yogurt

¾ cup lemon juice

1 tablespoon grated lemon zest, save additional zest for garnish

4 eggs

additional honey, thinly sliced lemon for garnish

In a large mixing bowl combine the cream cheese, honey, flour, sour cream, lemon juice and lemon zest. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Pour filling into crust. Set the pan on a foil-covered baking sheet and place in center of oven.

Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until center of filling is almost set. Cool. Run a knife around the sides of the pan to loosen crust, unhook the hinge of the springform pan and remove the outer ring.

Refrigerate cheesecake several hours or overnight before serving. Slice and drizzle with additional honey, add a lemon slice and zest to each bee-licious serving.

Pamela Layton McMurtry is a wife, parent of seven, artist, designer, caterer and writer with a BFA degree in art teaching, drawing and painting. Her "A Harvest and Halloween Handbook" is on Amazon.com and BN.com and website is: www.pammcmurtry.com