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4/11/2016

Andrew MooreMost people would flee from a dark cloud of honeybees buzzing around them. Scott Derrick relishes the frenetic buzz – at least when he’s dressed in a full-body protective suit.

The 39-year-old Blythewood man is a beekeeper and a businessman. Derrick spent 18 years creating flavors for Lance foods and fragrances for Yankee Candle and Bath & Body Works before trading his corporate job for more time at home with his family and a new hobby of beekeeping.

“My grandfathers kept honeybees when I was younger, and it always intrigued me. But I never got to do much with them because I was so young. And that memory always sat in the back of my mind. So I just started one day,” Derrick said.

In 2004, Derrick started a honeybee removal service called Blythewood Bee Supply Co. Since then, he’s climbed into attics, up trees and into other uncomfortable spaces to remove buzzing hives plaguing residents.

Around this time, Derrick also translated his olfactory abilities into products for beekeepers.

After three years of trial-and-error experiments, he had a eureka moment. Using a honeybee pheromone called nasonov, Derrick created a spray called Swarm Commander to attract honeybees to a designated area. It is now sold across the United States and internationally in Australia, New Zealand and Sweden.

Derrick also began selling protective suits, smokers, hive frames and his pheromone liquids through an online store. But as orders piled up, so did the complaints from his family that the house smelled like Swarm Commander.

He had to expand.

Derrick opened a successful brick-and-mortar shop in Blythewood a month ago, making it the third beekeeping supply store to open in the Midlands. It has become the meeting place for the Blythewood Beekeepers Association, a group he started two years ago for the area’s beekeepers.

Danny Cannon, owner of Bee Trail Farm, said the new store has made bee season “less stressful” because he can get supplies faster if he forgets something.

Tom Dukes, a Lexington resident and novice beekeeper, said the shop offers a better alternative to mail-order products because “you need products fast when you need to attract a swarm or need to get rid of bees in the attic.”

Derrick loves that he is able to help his clients. But it is his love for the honeybee that drives his work.

“Honeybees are so important to the human race. Our diets would be so different without them because they pollinate our fruits and vegetables,” he said.

Saving the honeybee

About three-fourths of the world’s food crops depend on pollination, according to a report released by the United Nations Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. And more than 40 percent of invertebrate pollinators – bees and butterflies – are “facing extinction.”

Honeybees are not native to the Americas and were first brought to North America by English settlers in 1622. Although not native to the American landscape, wild colonies of bees spread quickly as white settlers moved out across the continent.

Since the 1940s, the number of managed honeybee colonies in the United States has declined from 5 million to 2.5 million because of various threats – invasive species, diseases, pesticides and habitat destruction, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“Varroa mites are the biggest threat for honeybees,” said Dr. Keith Delaplane, director of the University of Georgia’s Honey Bee Program. “And we have environmental degradation occurring. Not just through coal mining, but also through urbanization and crop sterilization. We just seem to be reaching a tipping point.”

The declining health of honeybee colonies was heightened by the arrival of new diseases and pests in the 1980s, according to the USDA. And in the 1990s, the Varroa mite, which was introduced from eastern Asia, created more concern as it began to kill colonies.

In 2006, a more mysterious and alarming threat appeared as beekeepers across the United States reported colony losses of 30 to 90 percent. It was due to colony collapse disorder (CCD), a disease defined as a colony that has randomly died except for the queen and immature bees. Researchers have not yet found a cause.

South Carolina’s managed honeybee colonies have a history of devastation and reform.

In 2011, an average colony loss of 22.9 percent was reported, according to the Bee Informed Partnership’s National Management Survey, which is part of a USDA-sponsored research program. In 2012, an average colony loss of 41.4 percent was reported, making South Carolina 13th out of 5o states with the worst colony loss. And in 2013, the last year data was made available, an average colony loss of 29.5 percent was reported.

Pesticide use, Varroa mites and colony collapse disorder are major threats to South Carolina’s honeybee colonies, said Tom Ballou, president of the Mid-State Beekeepers Association.

He added that pesticide use is the “biggest problem in South Carolina” and that it’s “causing honeybees to starve.”

Derrick blames large corporations such as Bayer and Monsanto for their use of neonicotinoids, an insecticide used to control various pests, a charge the corporations deny.

“Seeds are coded with these products and they’re destroying our honeybees. Until the government stops being reactionary, change will be tough,” Derrick said. “We need to ban neonicotinoids like Europe did.”

In 2013, the European Union banned the use of three types of neonicotinoids after several studies linked the insecticide to honeybee colony collapse.

Today, two-thirds of the world’s crops are exposed to neonicotinoids, including 90 percent of corn and 60 percent of soybean acres.

Bayer CropScience produces some of the most widely used neonicotinoids in the world and considers them safe. Monsanto, the world’s largest seed producer, uses Bayer’s neonicotinoids on some of its seeds. Monsanto is known for its herbicide Roundup and its genetically modified seeds that are resistant to it.

David Fischer, director of pollinator safety at Bayer CropScience, responded to criticism in a 2012 Forbes article addressing the use of neonicotinoids.

In his response, published on his blog and Bayer’s website, Fischer said: “The idea that it all started in 2006 and coincided with the introduction of neonicotinoid insecticides is a myth … there is no credible scientific evidence demonstrating a link between the use of neonicotinoid insecticides and the occurrence of widespread honey bee colony losses, including CCD.”

A study conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) earlier this year found that neonicotinoids didn’t harm honeybees or their hives when used on corn, berries and tobacco but did cause harm when used on cotton plants and citrus trees.

Gus Lorenz, associate head of entomology at the University of Arkansas, said he and other researchers were disappointed by the EPA study and worried that “science has gone out the door.”

He said his research conducted in the mid-South shows that “neonicotinoids pose no threat to honeybees” because there is “very little” pesticide present when plants begin to bloom.

Jay Evans, research leader for the USDA’s Bee Research Lab, said “diseases have had a bigger impact on honeybees just because there are so many (diseases) in different parts of the country. It doesn’t mean that the pesticides don’t have an impact … I believe honeybees are sensitive to them (neonicotinoids) for sure. Now, I think the key work has to do with exposure rates and ingestion and whether or not they have relevant levels of insecticides.”

Some researchers need more data.

Janet Knodel, extension entomologist at North Dakota State University, said neonicotinoids applied during bloom could be “deadly to honeybees” but that she is “on-the-fence” until she sees more data. She said “withdrawing insecticides right away without an alternative is not the right solution” because it leaves growers without protection against pests.

There is one threat that South Carolina beekeepers didn’t see coming– regulation.

West Columbia considered an ordinance last year that would require the city’s beekeepers to hold a permit. It also sought to implement lot size regulations – 7,500 square feet for one hive and 5,000 square feet for an additional hive. The ordinance was abandoned after the Mid-State Beekeepers Association formed a grassroots response to educate the city’s planning committee.

Solutions have been organized on a statewide and national scale to solve the honeybee conundrum.

President Obama established the first-ever federal pollinator strategy last June. Because of this, the Agricultural Department announced $8 million in incentives to farmers in five states who designate parts of their land for honeybees. The Agricultural Department also provided $3 million to reseed Midwest pastures with alfalfa and clover, providing food for honeybees.

In South Carolina, Clemson University and the South Carolina Agriculture Department established an online program in 2014 that allows the state’s beekeepers and farmers to compare notes on the locations of hives and areas designated for pesticide to avoid poisoning.

The South Carolina Beekeepers Association holds yearly conferences that includes input from researchers such as Dr. Juliana Rangel of Texas A&M’s Honey Bee Lab and Jerry Hayes of Monsanto’s Beelogics. Also, many of the state’s local associations hold beekeeping courses.

Bees

Blythewood resident Scott Derrick began keeping honeybees as a hobby after he retired from the fragrance and flavor industry. His hobby has become Blythewood Bee Co., a thriving bee removal and beekeeping supply store. Photo by Andrew Moore.

Educating the people

South Carolina businesses are addressing the honeybee issue through education.

Derrick recently started teaching beginner courses to residents interested in beekeeping. His first class, held on March 19, included a history of the honeybee, information about the threats and solutions, and beekeeping basics.

“Honeybees are social insects and beekeepers are social people. So they’re kind of a perfect match,” Derrick said. “And the number of interested residents who have come through the doors has been astounding. So I think businesses like mine can help bring back the honeybee.”

Interested residents who attended the class feel more confident about starting their own hives.

“I went to get more information so that I could have a better than average chance at sustainable success,” said Hugh Staples, owner of a Columbia landscaping business. “I feel better equipped than I did before because of his willingness to stop and answer my questions, which a lot of people don’t do because of a tight schedule. But he did.”

South Carolina businesses have been holding courses since the 1990s.

Bee Well Honey Farm and Supply in Pickens, South Carolina, has been holding instructional classes for interested residents and veteran beekeepers since it was founded in 1999.

Kerry Owens, owner of Bee Well Honey Farm and Supply, said courses are “great for promoting the honeybees” and that they have the potential to become a family hobby.

Other companies, including The Carolina Honey Bee Co. in Travelers Rest, South Carolina, and Bee Trail Farm in Lexington, South Carolina, also hold courses.

There are several benefits that beekeeping can provide to humans and the environment, according to Utah State University’s backyard beekeeping guide.

Beekeepers can collect up to $200 worth of honey from each hive they maintain. And those who eat the honey are provided health benefits such as anti-inflammatory, antiviral and antioxidant effects. Also, keeping bees is good for the environment because it aids in the pollination of nearby fruits, vegetables and plants.

Despite being an enthusiast, Derrick teaches his students to have less interaction with their honeybees – a more natural approach to beekeeping.

“They need to adapt to the threats. If we continue to treat them with chemicals and give them a crutch, they won’t adapt. We’re enabling them to die,” Derrick said. “Some bee colonies will clean the mites off of each other. Why do they do it? Because we got out of the way.”

One beehive at a time

As flowers bloom across the Palmetto state and bees begin to buzz, Derrick is preparing to hold more classes and handle more shipments of supplies as he also worries about the store.

The company has already outgrown the 1,800 square foot store with its expanding inventory, which includes honey, smokers, pheromone sprays, hive frames, hives, protective clothing, pest control and live honeybee queens.

He’s already making his five-year plan.

“I want a 5,000 square foot building added behind the shop where we can make our own woodenwares. And I want to purchase the property behind the shop to raise about 20 hives so that I can provide more bees to residents and get more honey,” Derrick said.

Customers can also expect to see new products on the shelves in the near future as Derrick is currently experimenting. He’s “sworn to secrecy” about the products.

Derrick may also expand his focus to other bee species such as the Mason bee, a species that spends most of its time alone in its mud compacted nest.

“I know honeybees will survive because they’ve suffered through more than man,” he said. “And more people are starting to understand why they should be helping them.”



3/24/2016

Nothing ruins a summer vacation faster than when an owner arrives to find that his cabin was broken into while they were away and was intruded by squatters or as a convenience store by a hungry bear.

Exterior window shutters, by European Rolling Shutters, are one of the best solutions for keeping remote cabins safe from intruders, wild animals and extreme weather conditions. Security shutters have many benefits and add an important measure of security for vacation homes left empty for long periods of time.

vacation home with shutters 550

Exterior security rolling shutters on a vacation cabin designed & installed by European Rolling Shutters.

Exterior shutters prevent easy entry

Isolation makes rural living attractive but it also makes cabins vulnerable to break-ins. Safety precautions for rural homes are different than those in urban areas and exterior window shutters are one of the best solutions for deterring home invasions by both two and four-legged intruders.

Burglars look for an easy way in and out of a building and heavy-duty aluminum security shutters are not something they want to deal with. Rolling security shutters can be mounted on windows, sliding glass doors and other vulnerable access points to the home to deter trespassers and protect belongings.

Exterior shutters block the view of the home’s contents and the locking mechanism makes it harder for prowlers to gain entry. Intruders see these secured windows and doors will likely be discouraged and look for an easier target.

bear_550

Don’t let this happen to you: Finding a bear too full to move after a huge feast in your cabin.

Bears feel the same way. Owners of remote cabins often underestimate the threat of wild animals; bears in particular. Eating is a matter of survival for them and ripping off a cabin door to get at food left inside is no problem. Our security shutters are mounted flush with the wall, making them extremely difficult to pry off. Using fully threaded hanger bolt screws with wing nuts instead of nails adds extra reinforcement. Rolling up these shutters over your doors and windows before closing up for the winter and removing all food supplies will avoid unpleasant surprises come spring.

Protect against extreme weather events

Security shutters also protect windows from storm damage. Tennis ball sized hailstones, falling branches and flying debris can break out the glass, exposing the home to all kinds of other destruction while the owner is away.   

In extremely cold weather, exterior window shutters eliminate heat leakage around window and door frames and double the insulating value of thermo-pane windows. They also prevent condensation that can damage wood trim and floors – and they’ll keep your windows clean too!

Benefits of Exterior Rolling Shutters for urban and rural homes

Reduces heating and cooling costs instantly with 99% sunlight control.
Blocks UV rays from fading furniture and flooring.
Reclaims living areas lost to bright light, too much heat, or bitter cold.
Increases home value and creates a sleek look.
Easy operation with remote control
Large color selection-white, teak, crème, natural silver, beige, gray and brown. Custom colors available.

color options

Standard Color Options

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Outside shutters

About European Rolling Shutters

European Rolling Shutters has been the Bay Area’s exterior shading expert since 1983. It is a family owned and operated business and the only exterior shading company with a manufacturing facility and showroom under one roof - located in South San Jose, California. Serving all of the beautiful San Francisco/San Jose Bay Area from southern Marin County to Monterey County, European Rolling Shutters manufactures, sells and installs a complete line of exterior retractable shading products including rolling shutters, solar screens, awnings and pergola awnings. All products are custom made from the highest quality materials, with hundreds of designs and fabric styles to choose from, all backed with a 5-year warranty.

vacation home with shutters

Exterior security rolling shutters on a vacation cabin designed & installed by European Rolling Shutters.



11/14/2014

Brandy ErnzenFor 10 weeks, I’ll make one recipe from each chapter in our Comfort Food Cookbook. We’re dubbing it “10 Weeks of Comfort Cooking.” Follow along for easy weeknight recipes, dishes worthy to share at the Thanksgiving table or as gifts for the holidays, and more. Want to win a copy of the Comfort Food Cookbook? Just make one of the recipes we share and post a photo of it in the comments section of this blog. (We’d love to know what you thought of it, too.) We’ll choose random winners throughout the 10 weeks. If you can’t wait to get your very own copy of the Comfort Food Cookbook, I don’t blame you. Simply see our shopping section.

Wild Rice and Turkey Casserole
When it’s time to clean up Thanksgiving dinner, I panic. Even after we divvy up leftovers, it always seems like there’s still so much turkey staring back at me. (And honestly, I’m tired of turkey by then.) What I really need is a go-to recipe that is easy – ‘cause who wants to slave away in the kitchen right after Thanksgiving? – tasty, and uses up a good chunk of my leftover turkey. Because I just can’t do another turkey sandwich.

I cracked open the Comfort Food Cookbook and found several recipes that would do the trick, from White Turkey Chili to Turkey Tetrazzini. I settled on the Wild Rice and Turkey Casserole – and it’s a keeper.

This recipe calls for 3 cups diced turkey – which put a healthy dent in my turkey stash. (Hallelujah!) Plus, who can resist the tryptophan trifecta of butter, heavy cream and turkey? I wondered whether the 1  1/2 cups heavy cream would drown out the other flavors, but that wasn’t the case. The onion and mushroom flavors came through nicely, the sliced almonds added a subtle crunch without being overwhelming, and the rich, creamy texture was comfort food to the core.

While I followed the recipe, one of the beauties of casseroles is their flexibility. If you don’t have turkey on hand, chicken should make a fine substitute. Dark meat is A-OK, too. Have leftover celery from your stuffing recipe? Throw some in the sauté pan with the onions and mushrooms. I used basic button mushrooms, but a mix of mushrooms – shiitakes, creminis, etc. – might make this casserole sing in a whole new way. You could even throw in more than the one cup that’s called for. The one thing I wouldn’t veer from is using wild rice versus white or brown. The flavor and texture of wild rice adds so much to this recipe.

This casserole takes about an hour-and-a-half to cook, so you’ll even have time to succumb to a Turkey Day snooze or catch part of the football game. You deserve a break, after all!

Wild Rice and Turkey Casserole | iStockphoto.com/martinturzak

Photo: iStockphoto.com/martinturzak

Wild Rice and Turkey Casserole
Yields 8 servings.

1 cup wild rice
6 tablespoons butter, divided
1 cup diced fresh mushrooms
1 medium onion, chopped
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3 cups cooked turkey, diced
1/4 cup sliced almonds
3 cups turkey or chicken broth
1  1/2 cups heavy cream
3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese

Heat oven to 350 F. Grease a 2-quart casserole dish and set aside.

Rinse rice thoroughly in a colander and transfer to a 2-quart saucepan. Cover with boiling water and let stand for an hour. Drain.

In a small skillet, heat 1 tablespoon butter and sauté mushrooms and onions until softened, about 10 minutes.

In the prepared casserole dish, combine rice, sautéed vegetables, salt, pepper, turkey and almonds. Add broth and cream. Mix lightly.

Cover and bake for 1  1/2 hours. Remove cover; sprinkle with cheese and dot with remaining butter. Increase oven temperature to 450 F and bake for an additional 5 minutes.

Next week I’ll share the recipe for a Thanksgiving-worthy side dish that brightens your table without weighing you down with heavy carbs.



11/4/2014

Brandy ErnzenFor 10 weeks, I’ll make one recipe from each chapter in our Comfort Food Cookbook. We’re dubbing it “10 Weeks of Comfort Cooking.” Follow along for easy weeknight recipes, dishes worthy to share at the Thanksgiving table or as gifts for the holidays, and more. Want to win a copy of the Comfort Food Cookbook? Just make one of the recipes we share and post a photo of it in the comments section of this blog. (We’d love to know what you thought of it, too.) We’ll choose random winners throughout the 10 weeks. If you can’t wait to get your very own copy of the Comfort Food Cookbook, I don’t blame you. Simply see our shopping section.

Is this the year you’ll try your hand at roasting your family’s Thanksgiving turkey? Or, do you always have TONS of meat left over because you can’t find a reasonably sized bird?

Then a turkey breast might be up your alley. There’s no brining, trussing or poultry limb-wrangling of any kind. Plus, most turkey breasts weigh between 5 and 9 pounds – perfect for a smaller family. Another bonus: With this recipe, you cook the stuffing at the same time. Talk about multitasking!

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a breast smaller than 7 1/2 pounds. (You may have better luck finding smaller breasts with locally raised, heritage-breed birds.) It took longer to thaw and cook, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that it came out juicy and flavorful – and the stuffing wasn’t overcooked, either. I basted every 25 to 30 minutes, and turned up the heat to 350 F once I tented the bird. What can I say? We were h-u-n-g-r-y.

Because my bird was so well-endowed, I used all the stuffing on the bird. Confession time: I grew up in the era of prepackaged boneless, skinless chicken breasts, where there wasn’t anything to remind you that this was once a living, breathing bird. Since I’ve worked at Ogden, I’ve shaken off my old ways and gone with whole chickens and turkeys. However, I still leave the “hand-between-the-skin-and-meat” part of the job to my husband. Let’s face it: It’s a bit slimy. Not this time, though. I fought through the heebie-jeebies and did it, all by myself. Major milestone accomplished!

The result? A fabulous meal that all three of us enjoyed – so much so, that I didn’t get a photo until near the end of the meal. I had a few sweet potatoes, an acorn squash and a zucchini begging to be used, so I roasted those to accompany the turkey and stuffing.

We do have leftover turkey, but not an overwhelming amount. (Check out next week’s blog for an idea on how to use those leftovers!)

stuffed turkey breast | Fotolia/MediablitzImages 

Photo: Fotolia/Mediablitz Images

Stuffed Turkey Breast

Yields 10 servings.

1  1/2 sticks of butter, divided
3/4 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
2 teaspoons poultry seasoning
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs, slightly beaten
2 cups dry cornbread stuffing mix
2 cups course, dry whole-wheat bread crumbs
5-pound turkey breast, thawed

Preheat oven to 325 F.

Melt 1 stick of butter in a large skillet; add onion and celery. Saute until tender, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in poultry seasoning, salt and pepper. Add milk and eggs, mix well. Gently toss in cornbread stuffing and bread crumbs.

Loosen the skin of the turkey breast by gently pushing your hand between the skin and flesh. Leave about 1 inch of skin attached around the edge to hold the stuffing in. Place stuffing between the flesh and skin; place remaining stuffing in a buttered casserole dish and bake, uncovered, for 30 to 35 minutes.

Place the stuffed turkey breast on a rack in a roasting pan. Melt remaining butter and brush over the turkey. Bake, uncovered, for 3 to 3  1/2 hours, basting frequently with melted butter. When the turkey reaches the desired brownness, tent the roasting pan with foil to prevent further browning. When a meat thermometer, inserted in the thickest part of the muscle, reaches 170 F, it’s done; the center of the stuffing should be 165 F. Let the meat stand for 15 minutes before carving. Transfer to a serving platter and garnish with steamed miniature squash and thyme, is desired.

Take this turkey breast recipe for a test drive. If you do, let us know what you think of it – and share a photo. (Just remember to snap it before everyone digs in!) You’ll be entered to win a copy of the Comfort Food Cookbook.

stuffed turkey breast 



10/28/2014

Brandy ErnzenFor 10 weeks, I’ll be making one recipe from each chapter in our Comfort Food Cookbook. We’re dubbing it “10 Weeks of Comfort Cooking.” Follow along for easy weeknight recipes, dishes worthy to share at the Thanksgiving table or as gifts for the holidays, and more. Want to win a copy of the Comfort Food Cookbook? Just make one of the recipes we share and post a photo of it in the comments section of this blog. (We’d love to know what you thought of it, too.) We’ll choose random winners throughout the 10 weeks. If you can’t wait to get your very own copy of the Comfort Food Cookbook, I don’t blame you. Simply see our shopping section.

Easy, Cheesy, Elegant or Everyday

That’s exactly how I’d describe the Cheddar Herb Biscuits in GRIT’s Comfort Food Cookbook. After spending the weekend working the MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR (and finishing up the 400 Applesauce Doughnut Holes I wrote about last week), I was looking for a no-fuss recipe to share with you. I’m the queen of the 10-minute project that really takes two hours. These tasty treats only take about 20 minutes from the time you measure your first ingredient to the time they come out of the oven. Even for me. No waiting for yeast to do its thing, no kneading, rolling or cutting. Since they’re drop biscuits, they probably won’t all be the same exact size or shape, but that’s part of their charm.

Another great thing about this recipe is that it only takes eight ingredients – all of which are probably already in your pantry or fridge.

What would you serve these with? Their herby flavor and flaky yet slightly chewy texture would make them a great sidekick for a nice steak, roast or chicken dinner, or they’d pair well with a host of soups. I could see them topped with a thick chili to make a hearty meal, too. If you’re looking for something to replace the standard rolls at your Thanksgiving meal, these guys are quick and easy. You’ll look like a rock star – and no one will have to know that you didn’t slave away all night!

The recipe makes about 1 dozen, but you could easily double or triple the recipe – there aren’t any odd measurements, or make the biscuits smaller to be used as dumplings in a soup.

When Mr. Meat and Taters, my husband, tried them, he exclaimed, “Wow, these are really good!” (I’m not sure why he sounded so shocked. I’ve only maimed a handful of recipes since we’ve been married.) My 7-year-old loved them, too. In fact, he wolfed down three biscuits while my back was turned. So, they’re “I-don’t-care-about-bread”-husband- and kid-approved!

Without further ado, the Cheddar Herb Biscuit recipe:

Cheddar Herb Biscuits from Comfort Food Cookbook 

Cheddar Herb Biscuits

Yields 1 dozen. 

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon dried basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
1/2 cup butter (I used unsalted since the recipe already calls for plenty of salt)
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese (you can use sharp for a more pronounced cheese flavor)
3/4 cup milk
2 cloves garlic, minced

Heat oven to 425 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, basil and oregano. Using a pastry blender or two forks, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in the cheese.

Combine the milk and garlic. Stir milk mixture into the flour mixture until just combined. Do not over mix.

Using a spoon drop the dough in 12 equal balls onto the prepared baking sheet. Bake 13 to 15 minutes, until lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack. (If you can wait that long!)

Give these biscuits a whirl and let us know what you think. Remember to post a photo of your finished product for your chance to win a copy of the Comfort Food Cookbook! Do you have other biscuit or bread recipes that make your everyday meals to extraordinary? Please share those, too!



10/21/2014

GRIT's Comfort Food Cookbook includes a great recipe for Applesauce Doughnut Holes. 

Boy, have I got a sweet treat for you. No, really. I spent the weekend making Applesauce Doughnut Holes, a miniature version of the Applesauce Doughnut recipe in GRIT’s Comfort Food Cookbook. And I want to give you one, or two, or maybe all 400 of them. All you have to do is join GRIT this weekend at the MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR in Topeka, Kansas.

Those springy, sweet treats will reside in Quarto Publishing Group’s booth (No. 4505). Quarto is the publisher of the GRIT Comfort Food Cookbook, and they’re a great group of folks to chat with, too.

The Road to 400 Doughnut Holes Was Paved With a Few Potholes

I love to bake, and this recipe is a keeper. (I’ve yet to run across one in the cookbook that isn’t …) I even made a separate batch for my son’s school party, and they’re kid-approved. However, I learned a few things along the way. You probably already knew these, but sometimes I have to try things myself before the aha moment sinks in!

  1. Whole wheat flour doesn’t cut it with this recipe. I wanted to make a test batch, mostly to figure out whether the taste and texture would be compromised by freezing them ahead of time. (I like to procrastinate as much as the next person, but I didn’t want to start this project the night before our big event.) So, I used the whole wheat flour I had on hand. Bad, bad call. The wonderful apple and cinnamon flavors were barely noticeable. Also, the doughnut holes ended up being way too dry and dense, not that light, springy texture I was banking on. They would’ve been a perfect substitute if you ran out of golf balls.

  2. If you’re baking versus frying, noodle with the time and temperature. I have these cool little cake pop/doughnut hole pans that work great for projects like this. However, the original recipe called for the standard-size doughnuts to be fried in lard. After researching the temperatures and times used in my other baked doughnut hole recipes, I baked the first batch for 15 minutes at 350 F. Between the whole wheat flour and the too-long time, I was starting to panic! I took the baking time down each subsequent batch, finally settling on 9 minutes. That seemed to do the trick. Your oven, altitude and other factors might affect the baking time, so I suggest watching from about 8 minutes into a batch.

  3. Chill out. The recipe calls for the batter to be chilled in the fridge for an hour. The batter is pretty sticky, like a cross between a bread dough and cookie dough, so chilling it helps when it’s time to cut doughnuts or spoon out the batter into the pans. Don’t skip this step. There were a few times I needed to chill the dough longer. That didn’t seem to be an issue, thankfully. I just added one minute on to the baking time.

Mixing batter for Applesauce Doughnut Holes 

Batter ready to go into the oven for Applesauce Doughnut Holes.

Applesauce Doughtnuts
Yields 3 1/2 dozen doughnuts or approximately 60 doughnut holes.

Doughnuts:
5 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 cup lard, softened, plus more for frying
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup applesauce
1/2 cup buttermilk

Glaze:
1/4 cup apple cider
2 cups confectioner’s sugar

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Set aside.

In a separate large bowl, cream together lard, sugar and eggs. Beat in the vanilla, applesauce and buttermilk. Add the flour mixture, 1 cup at a time, beating the dough smooth after each addition. The dough will be tacky and moist – a cross between quick bread batter and cookie dough. Cover and chill for 1 hour.

Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured board and roll out to 3/8-inch thickness. Cut into pieces with a 2 1/2-inch doughnut cutter. (I skipped this step for the doughnut holes.)

In a cast-iron kettle, heat lard to 2 inches deep and 350 F. Using a metal spatula, slide 3 or 4 doughnuts at a time into the lard and fry for 1 minute on each side, until golden brown all over. Remove from the fat with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Bring the lard back to temperature between each batch.

To prepare the glaze, whisk together the apple cider and confectioner’s sugar until smooth. After the doughnuts have cooled for 5 to 10 minutes, dip the tops in the glaze.

Yummy Applesauce Doughnut Holes cooling on the rack. 

Enjoy!

The next time you need a sweet treat – whether it’s for a chilly winter morning, a bake sale or just because – I encourage you to give this recipe a try. They’re tasty right out of the oven with a cold glass of milk, or at room temperature. You’ll definitely have a few more friends after sharing these guys. Hopefully I’ll have a few more after this weekend’s FAIR, too.

Do you have a favorite baked treat that is your go-to comfort food? If so, I’d love to hear about it! Please share your favorites in the comments section below.



10/21/2014

Across the FenceDelaware has one of the longest continuous bowhunting seasons in the U.S., stretching from September 1 through January every year. But those 30 weeks in between can seem like an eternity for the avid hunter wanting to stay sharp at his craft.

The hunting offseason should be regarded like any other sport's downtime. These are the months that will decide whether you remain an average hunter or become a master marksman. These four activities are sure to improve your next hunting trip from both ballistic and schematic standpoints.

Scouting

Rifle hunting seasons typically end around mid-to-late December in most states. But winter is the perfect time to scout and track deer movements. A fresh blanket of snow means anything that moves through the woods has to leave tracks leading to their current locations and sleeping areas.

Head out to your favorite hunting spot the morning after a decent snowfall. Any deer tracks you see indicate recent movement either the night before, or pre-daybreak wandering. Use the GPS on your smartphone or draw an old fashioned map to remember these patterns in the summer.

The typical "home" of East and Midwest whitetails covers less than 4 square miles of land, according to a 2013 study by the state of Washington Fish and Wildlife Department. This method may not be as useful in the Northwest, as researchers observed a doe that traveled 20 miles between summer and winter homes.

Dog Training

Use the off season to train your dog | Shutterstock/Jari Hindstroem

Photo: Shutterstock/Jari Hindstroem

Beagles and Retrievers are born hunters particularly for rabbits and fowl, respectively. But just like you need practice shooting at the range, a gun dog needs to get repetitions in as well.

There are two characteristics that make dogs bad hunting companions: being gun shy and/or gun anxious. David DiBenedetto, writing for Field & Stream, chronicled a duck hunt during which he realized (too late) that his dog Pritch had not been through a full dress rehearsal. The dog would whimper when multiple individuals were working their calls, culminating with Pritch bucking around anxiously when the first shots went off.

Make certain you expose your gun dog not only to the sound of your rifle, but also the calls and any potential distractions. You can teach them to swim as early as 8 weeks old. Toss a tumble bumper into swallow water and gradually throw it farther until the dog actually swims. Never force a dog into the water, or you could potentially scare it into never learning to swim.

Study Regulations

State and federal governments constantly update hunting regulations and its your responsibility to know the latest details. Log onto your state's Game and Fish Department for the most up to date information. You could also stop into a physical office and pick up any pamphlets or brochures they have available. Most states require a hunter safety course before issuance of a license, but you can take practice tests online to prepare.

Lose A Few Pounds

Let's face it. The older we get, the less agile we become. Further, the more weight we carry, the more difficult it will be to climb up (and down) a tree stand. Being overweight will also make it difficult to cover several square miles of land on foot to increase your chances of a successful harvest.

Those who don't like the gym environment can start out by taking the stairs at work, walking, and even jogging. Subtle changes to your diet, like replacing sugary sodas and beer with water, will likely drop several pounds off you with no further effort.

The hunting offseason is your opportunity to be better than you were the previous year. Don't forget to head to the shooting range a few times as well.

Steve Hartford is a dog trainer, travel blogger and BBQ connoisseur. 





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