Bees haven’t always fascinated me. I was aware of them, watching as they moved among flowers and appreciating the result: honey.

But then I became a beekeeper. Well, one of a pair of beekeepers. When I told my husband I wanted to keep bees, I knew what he was thinking: Seriously? Is this a good idea? These things sting people! But outwardly he said something like...”Really? We don’t really know much about bees...”

So we got the bees and he was on board, bee suit and all. He has become the head beek (or king) and finds them to be a great hobby. We love watching them, learning more about these smart creatures and using all things honey bee.

Alas, I am not the queen. The real queen bee deserves the title. Her personality dictates the nature of the hive. A docile queen has a docile hive. The hive is devoted to their queen. They feed her and keep her comfortable. When the temperature drops to 53° F., they cluster around her flapping their wings to keep her warm. Like 93° F. warm. She’s also a busy bee. During most of the year she may lay up to 2,000 eggs per day. This time of the year they are hanging out in the hive trying to maintain warmth and conserve their food: honey.

It’s good for them that honey keeps for a very long time. That’s good for us, too. Honey keeps best at room temperature because cold temperatures encourage crystallization. Over time, most honey crystallizes as the sugar molecules align. These crystals do not mean the honey is old, inferior or spoiled. If your honey crystallizes, just heat it gently in warm water. Bring a pan of water to boiling. Remove from heat. Set the honey container—without a lid or cap—in the water, stir honey occasionally and allow the crystals to melt. You many need to repeat this process. Microwaving is not a good idea because of uneven heating, plus honey heats quickly and can boil over. I speak from experience.

When I make Almond Thyme Honey, people gather ‘round the plate. I serve it drizzled over a hunk of cheese. It is super simple to make for a quick appetizer but also makes a lovely gift, so a relevant recipe for this time of year.

The recipe calls for almonds, but you can use walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, pine nuts...about any lil’ nut you like. Or a combination of nuts.

Manchego cheese is one of my favorites, but it’s great with blue cheese, Parmesan, white Cheddar or Swiss. Well, I guess I haven’t found a cheese I don’t like it on. But I’ve also eaten it on a peanut butter sandwich and drizzled it over yogurt.

Quick tip when you are cooking with honey: Measure oil before measuring honey. The oil helps the honey slide right out of the measuring cup. Use a liquid measuring cup to measure honey. The kind with a pour spout.

Judy Barbe is a registered dietitian, speaker and author of “Your 6-Week Guide to LiveBest: Simple Solutions for Fresh Food & Well-Being.” Visit her website www.LiveBest.info for every day food solutions.

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