Consumer IQ

How Sweet It Is: Honey’s Many Uses

We’re in the last days of National Honey Month, but frugal foodies should look to the versatile sweetener year-round.

Non-Traditional Honey Uses

As part of your medicine cabinet, honey works as a salve for burns and minor wounds, as well as a cheap cough suppressant. Plenty of Mint users swear by local honey to thwart allergies, too. “By eating a little bit every day, you teach your body how to deal with [local pollen], sort of like how a vaccination works. But yummier,” says Lisa Richards of Mack Hill Farm in Marlow, N.H.

It also works in your beauty routine. “Honey is a natural humectant, which means it attracts and retains moisture within skin,” says Carolyn Harrington, founder of Maty’s Healthy Products. Try using it in a homemade mask or cleanser .

Then, of course, there’s the kitchen. Honey is twice as sweet as sugar, so you can sub in half what the recipe calls for, says Nathan Sheets, owner of North Dallas Honey. If you do, just reduce the other liquids in the recipe by one-quarter cup for every cup of honey added. Lower the baking temp by 25 degrees, too, since honey browns faster, he says. Don’t forget honey for savory dishes, either. “Honey melds flavors in food like no other ingredient can, bridging the gap between sweet and savory,” says Ruby Dee, author of the forthcoming cookbook “Ruby’s Juke Joint Americana.” “Whenever I make any kind of stewed meat — whether Moroccan Tajin or Dutch oven wild game chili — I use honey as my ‘mystery’ ingredient.”

Center-Stage Honey Recipes

If you’d rather make honey a star, consider these cheap, easy recipes:

Mostaccioli

This traditional Italian recipe is often used for teething babies, “but adults love to dip them in hot chocolate or coffee,” too, says Heather Lionelle, an editor for Real Food and Health . To make them, pre-heat the oven to 350 F. Combine six egg yolks, a quart of honey, a pinch each of salt and baking powder and two tablespoons of softened butter until well blended. Begin adding flour — you’ll need a few cups, but go by feel — mixing until the dough is fairly dense. Form into a ball and let rest 15 minutes. Flour a pastry board and roll pieces of dough into ropes about 1″ thick. Cut off short pieces and place on un-greased cookie sheet. Bake until golden at the edges, about 10 minutes.

Honey Cheese “Cupcake”

“Anyone who hasn’t tried honey with their cheese – they are missing out on a killer combo,” says Gina Freize, the founder and “cheese wiz” at Venissimo Cheese. Her cheese cupcake uses Delice de Bourgogne (a French triple-creme brie) with a topping of Bee Raw cranberry honey and stone ground chocolate shavings, but experiment with your own combos, too. “Think of it as the perfect balance of salty and sweet,” she says.

Coffee with Honey & Chocolate

Honey? In coffee? Yep. Frugal Foodie was inspired by this recipe from Coffee-Mate: Heat four cups of milk with three-quarters of a cup of milk chocolate chips, two tablespoons instant coffee and a tablespoon of honey over high heat for five minutes, until chocolate is melted. Divide into five mugs and top with whipped cream.

Pear & Pine Nut Salad

Ashley Bartner of La Tavola  farm, inn and cooking school in Le Marche, Italy, volunteered this simple salad. Or just use the honey-based dressing on your favorite salad. To make, juice a lemon with a spoonful of good honey. Drizzle in twice as much good olive oil as you have lemon juice. Toss a head of cut lettuce with one sliced pear, a quarter-cup pine nuts and the dressing. Add pepper and salt to taste. Top with another sliced pear and a sliver of Parmesan.

Honey-Nut Energy Bars

Honey makes a great binder for homemade energy bars. Jonathan Dunsky of World of Diets.com uses it, along with oats, nuts and a few other ingredients, in this recipe.

Slow Cooker Honey-Garlic Chicken

North Dallas Honey’s Sheets recommends this slow-cooker meal to set and forget on a weekday. Heat a tablespoon vegetable oil in a skillet over medium heat, and cook eight boneless, skinless chicken breasts just until evenly browned on all sides. Place chicken breasts in a slow cooker. In a bowl, mix three-quarters of a cup each of honey and soy sauce, three tablespoons ketchup, two cloves garlic, one tablespoon of crushed fresh ginger and the juice from one 20-ounce can of pineapple. Pour into the slow cooker. Cover, and cook four hours on high. Stir in reserved pineapple chunks before
serving. Add two tablespoons of cornstarch mixed with a quarter-cup water to sauce to thicken just before serving, as needed.

The Brown Palace “Bees Knees” Cocktail

Denver’s Brown Palace Hotel  started keeping bees on its roof to provide honey for its signature afternoon tea service. Now, it uses the honey in spa treatments, a local beer and cocktails, too.  To make this one, shake two ounces of gin with three-quarters of an ounce of honey and half an ounce of fresh lemon juice with ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Honey Prosecco Cocktail

Lea Richards of BBQ site PigoftheMonth.com says she plans to serve this for Rosh Hashanah as a “modern take on apples and honey.” To make, add a teaspoon each of honey and honey liquor to a cocktail glass. Top each with dry Prosecco, and garnish with a slice of apple.

Frugal Foodie is a journalist based in New York City who spends her days writing about personal finance and obsessing about what she’ll have for dinner. Chat with her on Twitter through @MintFoodie http://www.twitter.com/mintfoodie.