I’ve always known bees are important to our ecosystem, though it didn’t really hit home until the Almond Board of California invited me as part of a group of dietitians up to Lodi, California to learn more about almond farming. After that trip, I signed up for a beekeeping class at San Francisco Honey & Pollen Company, which left me incredibly inspired to help the bees in any way possible. The following Spring I set out to home my own honey bee hive.
When I received my hive, the beekeeper and I were chatting and he said something along these lines: “Wait, so you’re allergic to bees AND you don’t really like honey? Why are you getting a hive?” Me: to help save the bees and the food industry!! Little did I know that I actually do like honey, I just hadn’t had much exposure to it until I became a beekeeper myself (sounds silly, but it’s true!). And let me tell you, fresh honey is on the next level of deliciousness.
The more I learned about bees, the more I discovered just how fascinating they are. For instance when a bee finds a good source of nectar or pollen, she returns home and tells her fellow bees by doing the “waggle dance.” The different movements of the dance indicate the direction and distance of the source so that the other bees can go there too. You can watch a clip of this adorable dance through the Smithsonian Channel.
Here are some photos of my first hive and honey collection!
Why the concern for bees?
Bees are responsible for pollinating over a third of the food we eat. Can’t live without your morning cup of coffee? Bees pollinate your beans. Love fresh cherries in the summer? Bees pollinate your fruit. Are almonds your go to snack? Bees pollinate your nuts. When we really start thinking about our favorite foods, bees are at the heart of their production, pollinating over 90 different crops.
Unfortunately, bee hives, particularly honey bee hives, have been declining for many years. Causes include fungal pathogens (read more here), pesticides, losing their habitat when rural environments turn urban, and from new threats like the Murder Hornet. Climate change is also causing some flowers that bees feed on to bloom and die too early while bees are still in hibernation for the winter. This means less food and nutrition for bees when they are looking for it. With bees disappearing, this puts our agricultural systems in a bind too. Domestic and wild bees really need our help!
How can we help the bees?
For the month of September, also known as National Honey Month, the National Honey Board (NHB) is celebrating bees and all that they do for the world. NHB has teamed up with Kashi, Justin’s and Frönen for their Honey Saves Hives program, which helps raise money for honey bee research. These companies will make a donation every time you purchase these select made-with-honey products:
Donations will go directly to bee health research organizations, including Project Apis m., the largest honey bee non-profit in the U.S. which researches ways to help honey bee colonies and improve crop production
Supporting these products means supporting beekeepers and their efforts to keep bees healthy!
Wishing you well,
It's pretty obvious how excited I get for the Annual Farm Crawl, and I get equally excited for the aftermath too. I spend weeks using my farm fresh apples in a variety of recipes, some new some old. One sweet treat I always make is applesauce in the slow cooker. It's easy, delicious and quite nutritious for a snack or a side.
The slow cooker is a staple in my kitchen simply because of its simplicity. For most of us our days are extremely busy running around from one place to the next. A slow cooker allows you to minimally prep for a meal and leave it to cook while you're taking care of business, only to return for ready to be deliciousness. I literally took ten minutes, threw all of the ingredients in the pot, pressed the on button, went to bed, and woke up to chunky applesauce. Okay, so maybe I didn't sleep enough this night but rising to smell of sweet apples, cinnamon and ginger drifting through the house made getting up earlier much easier. ;)
I'll write my 'recipe' below, but the truth is I just sort of winged it this year. First, I chopped up my apples (mixed variety from Riamede Farms) into big chunks. And yes, I left the skin on. You'll quickly learn, I don't peel much of anything. Why? Not only do fruit and vegetable peels contain fiber, which is lacking in most Americans' diets (and needed for more reasons than you want to read right now), but also a large percentage of a food's vitamins and minerals lie right under the skin. So when you peel a fruit or vegetable, you're discarding all of these other beneficial nutrients too. For an apple, that means you could be getting at least 1/3 less of vitamins A and C than you thought!
The next step was to add the seasonings. This part is up for interpretation because we all have different taste preferences. I like my applesauce with a little kick, so if you don't particularly like spicy applesauce, I recommend lessening the measurements of the cloves and ginger.
I mixed in the rest of the ingredients, set the pot to cook and ta-da!!
Despite the picture making the apples look like chili, I guarantee the applesauce looks prettier in person and also smells heavenly! :D
Since I knew my applesauce would eventually be part of an apple cake recipe, I used an immersion blender to get a smoother texture. You can use a blender or any other item to puree the apples, but if you use the immersion blender, go slowly because it may splash! And can be hot!
Now you're ready to have your homemade applesauce! See?! An incredibly nutritious and delicious sweet treat with minimal effort. My favorite eats include topping with some nonfat plain greek yogurt or spreading on some toast. Enjoy! :)
Seasonal Spicy Slow Cooker Applesauce
Yields ~4 cups
Chop the apples (with the peel!) into large chunks and place them into the pot. Squeeze the lemon juice over the apples. Mix in the maple syrup. Add the seasonings and water, and stir until the apples are evenly coated. Cover the pot with the lid.
Cook the apples on low heat for 4-6 hours. I leave this decision up to you and your preferences. The applesauce will be a bit thicker if you cook it longer.
Let the applesauce partially cool and puree until desired consistency. Serve immediately or store in containers in the fridge for later.
and Apple Quinoa Porridge
The one thing that makes the end of summer acceptable for me is the Annual Farm Crawl my friends and I do each fall. This tradition warms my heart because not only do I get to escape the city for a day and play in nature but one of my best friends (who's also my go to eating buddy) flies in from Los Angeles and we girls spend the whole day catching up. Plus, I know I'll be spending a lot of time in my favorite room, the kitchen, baking amazing apple treats and cooking delectable dinners while fueling my body in the most healthful, nourishing way. I mean, just look at the loot I brought home!!
We always get our apples from Riamede Farms in Chester, New Jersey. Last year with the excessive rain the selections were limited but this year, there was an abundance of variety: Macoun, Cortland, Liberty, Jonagold, Gala, Macintosh, and Golden Delicious Smoothie. Oh they were so crispy and juicy! I tried to be conservative but somehow walked away with 13 pounds of apples!! :/
On the way out of the orchards I usually pick up some teeny pumpkins and gourds. However, for the first time, we went to the tomato patch and plucked fresh red and orange cherry tomatoes. Seriously nature's candy!!
In addition to Riamede Farms, we like to stop at a new (to us) farm too. This year, we drove up to Miller's Hill Farm in Mendham, New Jersey (just a bit away from Riamede). We were blown away! There was a rainbow display of tomatoes and bell peppers, and loads of fresh squash, eggplant, sweet corn, onions, garlic and hot peppers. My selection to your right:
We actually went to Miller's Hill Farm before Riamede Farms, but many of us had regrets about the farm fresh items we didn't get, so we returned when we finished apple picking. My regret?? The fresh eggs. I met the chickens and am always amazed by the beautiful variety in size and color of the eggs.
Now that I'm done bragging over my farm fresh luscious loot, I'll share the first of my many apple creations: Apple Quinoa Porridge for breakfast today. Full of protein, fiber, healthy fats and the freshest of fruit, I feel grateful for good friends, hard working farmers and the marvels of nature, and am also properly fueled to get this day started. Hope you all have a great one too! :)
Apple Quinoa Porridge
Yields: 2 servings
In a pot, bring the quinoa and water to a boil, then turn down heat and simmer for about 10-15 minutes until quinoa is fully cooked. Add almond milk, apple and cinnamon and cook on low heat until apple starts to get slightly soft.
Pull porridge from stove and pour into bowls. Top with blueberries, almonds and cacao nibs, and drizzle with maple syrup. And yes, of course you can choose any toppings you like! Enjoy!
This month my friends and I went apple and pumpkin picking at Riamede Farms in New Jersey. I made loads of treats with the pumpkin meat, but what did I do with all the pumpkin seeds? I certainly wouldn’t discard those little nutrition packed crunchy bites containing phytosterols to help reduce your ‘bad’ cholesterol, protein such as the amino acid tryptophan that will help you get a good night’s rest, and many other vitamins and minerals (vitamin E, vitamin K, B-complex vitamins, potassium, zinc, iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, selenium, copper and manganese) that act as antioxidants, build up your immune system, produce energy, maintain the nervous system, brain, heart and cells, and promote teeth and bone health!
Check out my recipes for Roasted & Seasoned Pumpkin Seeds. These are just a few ways to prepare them. Toss onto your salads, soups, pastas, yogurt, porridge...basically anything and enjoy!