Wednesday, March 30, 2011

I'm A Beekeeper

It's official, I am a beekeeper.
I finished my 8 week class last Thursday with a really great lesson on pollen and plant sources. (Did you know that a watermelon only pollinates for 1 day between the hours of 7am-3pm and it takes 24 bees to do it?)

My bees arrived the same day as our last class, a fun coincidence. I actually didn't get to pick them up til Saturday, well my husband did, as I was taken down by an allergic reaction to a new medication, but that is a whole other story. I was weak from not eating for 2 days, but wanted to get them installed before the snow predicted for Sunday. I reread all of my notes on installation, as I did not get to see an actual install due to illness, got all my gear together, zipped my veil and jacket and headed out to put my bees in their new home.

This was far from the most graceful install, I did the number one thing NOT TO DO, I dropped the box as I was dumping the bees. Fortunately not too many were lost, one did sting me, but I deserved that, other than that the little gals were calm and bared with me through the whole learning experience.

It was a cold weather install on undrawn comb, so the first step was to spritz the bees with sugar water while still in the shipping crate. I then removed the can of food and looked for my queen cage. She was at the bottom of the box and the only way to get her was to start dumping bees, so out they went...

I removed the cork, poked a hole in her sugar seal with a nail- careful not to spear her, and positioned her in between the top of 2 frames. Then I knocked the box a couple more times to get the rest of the bees out of the crate. I placed on the inner cover, then placed a mason jar quart of feed over the hole, placed an empty super, then my telescoping cover, and prayed for the best over the next few days.
It did snow on Sunday, which really had me afraid for my little girls. I checked them on Monday, careful not to disturb them, just check in on their food supply and they had emptied it, fortunately I had a replacement at the ready and gave them a refill. Tuesday was warm and they were out playing, waggling in the sunshine- completely awesome to watch. Wednesday I did a quick refill of their food again as we are expecting a mix of snow/rain tonight. I am happy to report they are doing well. I can't wait for it to be warm enough for me to open up the hive and see just how productive they have been and remove the hopefully now empty queen cage. And so begins my first year of beekeeping!

Mocha Mamas

I bought a new cookbook. My Amazon cart is full of "save for later" cookbooks- 17 pages worth, that I come across and get excited to add to my collection. I obviously have to budget my addiction so I occasionally go through and buy another one or two depending on my mood of the day. The latest addition was for my son who has a severe dairy allergy. I am always on the lookout for great dairy free, vegan ideas for in the kitchen and always experimenting in my own kitchen on creative ways to produce delicious foods that even the biggest dairy lover would not miss the cow.

I will highly recommend "Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar" By Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero. The cookbook has 100 dairy free recipes for cookies, brownies, biscotti, and bars. There is a very helpful, well laid out introduction that advises on ingredients, information on substitutions, and "tools for success". I have now made several recipes from the cookbook and have several more earmarked and so far all recipes have been produced with outstanding results.

I made the recipe for "Mocha Mamas" (pg 86) per request of my kid first and these cookies didn't even last the day in my house. They were awesome! I did mean to make enough to send with my husband to work, so next time it will have to be a double batch- one for the house, one for work.
Go out, even if you can enjoy dairy, and get this cookbook. You will be very happy to have it in your collection!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Birthday Cake Disaster!

I promised my friend over at Yeast Coast Baking that I would share my woes from this year's adventure in birthday cake. I had her listening to my disaster unfold all day yesterday and today.

My son has a dairy allergy so since his first birthday I have had to make him special cakes. Always giving myself the challenge to do something really special for him. This year was no exception. He has decided to have a bowling party this year. We sat down together and looked at pictures of cakes and designed it together, the beginning of a new part of his birthday cake tradition. I must say he was very particular and had some really great ideas.

I went out to the store Wednesday to collect all fresh and safe ingredients to start the baking process early Thursday morning. I did after all have 3 tiers and 6 layers (plus some extra supplies for cupcakes at school) and cookies to make.

Thursday morning arrived and the baking began. I layed out all my refrigerated ingredients before starting breakfast so they would have time to get to room temperature as the morning moved on. About 10am I started the baking process, doing a batch at a time. And all of a sudden I was pulling out layer after layer of cake that had fallen. What was going on!? I called CB- what was wrong?! What is this? We went through the usual checklist, she even went on google, we couldn't come up with anything.

I am really starting to panic at this point and needing come up with a plan b. I called my husband as asked him to pick up some "safe" box cake mix on his way home from work. Nothing more fail proof than a box cake mix, right? Well....
And this picture is taken after I cleaned up half the cake off the bottom of my oven and threw down the broiler pan to catch the drippings. Completely exploded. At this point I am really trying to figure out how I could have angered the cake gods so much that I am ruining my kid's birthday cake! Thanks to a little knife magic...

So I wrapped the layers up for a Friday morning decorating and went to bed. Friday morning I wake up to have to bake off bowling pin sugar cookies that will go around the cake. Something that should only take 8-10 minutes to bake off....22 minutes later I finally have the first batch baked off. Yes, it's my oven. My oven needs a tune up which would answer for fallen cakes, exploding cakes, and really long baking times on cookies.
before going in the oven
I went to decorate holding my breath that nothing else can possibly go wrong. I have neuropathy so decorating is really beginning to take it's toll on me, but I am a woman on a mission! I went to do an easy piping and my had was shaking and unable to grab the pastry bag that I had to have a little help from my husband. The bowling ball cake crumbled three seconds after I put it on as the top tier and I had to pick off cake drippings off the cake. So I had to improve between my lack of strength to decorate and my cake collapsing before my eyes....
This is the finished result. Happy Birthday, Bug!