Cascade Natural Honey

Ingredient Impostors - Mourn or Celebrate?

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[et_pb_section admin_label="section"] [et_pb_row admin_label="row"] [et_pb_column type="4_4"] [et_pb_text admin_label="Text"] Ever since the time I bought Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP) crumbles as a meat substitute, on a vegetarian friend’s recommendation, I’ve been leery of food products masquerading as actual foods.

Better just to eat vegetables than fake meat! Even tofu climbed higher on my list than TVP.

So you could say I was leery of food impostors. No high-fructose corn syrup, no non-dairy creamer, no margarine, no soy cheese in our house. Recently, however, in reading about the vegan diet I posted on earlier, I gave almond milk a try. With guilt, of course, because almonds require so much water to cultivate, and I spoke to a Washington beekeeper who had stopped trucking his bees to California to pollinate the almonds because it was too stressful on them. I would have stuck with regular milk, except the vegan book suggested too much dairy might be linked to acne. I've got three teenagers at home; this caught my attention.

What was on sale at QFC

Almond milk in smoothies might prove to be the "thin end of the wedge," as 20th century British books like to say. Meaning, the first impostor ingredient that opens the door for many more. I haven't tried it straight or in cereal or my tea yet, but it's worked great in smoothies and baked goods. Moreover, I switched my kids from the sweetened varieties to the unsweetened, and no one noticed. I might give rice milk a go next time, though it's not like you can grow rice without a ton of water, either.

But maybe the thin end of the wedge had already been inserted. Because a couple years ago I had a to-die-for cashew "cheesecake" at sometime BFM purveyor Jujubeet, and I was a believer. I even went so far as to attempt to make them at home. (They were fine, but not as good as Jujubeet's. If you're curious about the recipe, here's the site.)

The (anti-)sugar book I posted on last week had me rethinking sugar substitutes because author Gary Taubes talked about the smear campaign Big Sugar launched against artificial sweeteners. But, as is the case with TVP, would it not be better just to eat less real sugar, rather than to replace sugar with chemical artificial sweeteners? That seems the easiest solution, although the food industry is excited about a new, "all-natural low glycemic index sugar" developed by a Nobel prize winner. This sugar molecule is "hollowed out" without losing its sweetness, thus possibly enabling manufacturers to reduce sugar by leaps and bounds without resorting to artificial sweeteners. Interesting.

Basic building blocks of the food industry [pic: Food Dive]One impostor I'm curious about is Bee Free Honee, basically an apple jelly gone awry that can be used interchangeably with honey in recipes. I still have real honey in the house and certainly want to support our BFM beekeepers, but I've definitely cut back on cooking with honey because of its price! Maybe I could save the real honey for tea and topping cornbread, but make granola with a honey substitute. At $8 for a 12-oz jar, however, it's not like the bee-free variety is exactly a bargain. I'll keep you posted.

In the meantime, there's always real food to be eaten. We had these "Launcher Quesadillas" from the vegan cookbook, so named because they reportedly "launched" doubters into the lifestyle. Not everyone in my family was launched, and they were a pain to try to flip, but they were certainly tasty. Sweet potatoes, black beans, bell pepper. I added the sour cream and thought they could have used some cheese, but whatever.

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Five Reasons to Hit the Market Before It's Over for the Season

Only two Markets left for the 2016 season, and they'll be held, rain or shine. In fact, the only time I can remember the Market being cancelled was that one Saturday Market with the huge gusty winds which blew canopies away, turning them into projectile missiles... As the sun and pleasant temperatures give way to that monoseason which lasts from October to July, I thought you might need a little motivating to get out there two more times:

ONE: The apple pie contest was moved to this week, October 20! It's not too late to turn out and have your mouth water while you look on.

apple_pie

TWO: It's time to stock up. Last year I experimented with "cold storage" for apples. I put a cooler outside and put a couple bags in and then just ate them at a regular rate. Worked just fine. This frees up refrigerator space for the bags of pears and Asian pears! Potatoes also keep fine in the fridge, and we let squash go all winter just sitting on the floor in the pantry.

THREE: Disaster preparedness! In our home I've been assigned gathering canned/boxed food in case of The Big One. Clearly last Saturday's storm was not The Big One, which means it's still out there. If this nameless disaster were to hit today, based on the current pantry ingredients, my family would be thrown back on lots of tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, chicken broth, tuna, a can of coconut milk, and some strange parsley sauce that was on clearance at QFC. Our Market offers tuna, of course, in more flavors and varieties than the grocery store, as well as pickled foods in jars, beef and tuna jerky, jams and honey, and beverages. Because if the power is going to be out or you've been pinned under a fallen bookcase, you might as well live a little.

preparedness

FOUR and FIVE and FIVE-POINT-FIVE: Because walking and vegetables and wine will improve your health. Read a great book this week, which I'll write more about later, but the author's main point was that "healthy habits matter more than weight." And, according to author Sandra Aamodt, "four health habits predict much of the risk of dying over the next fourteen years, regardless of weight." These silver bullets are: (1) not smoking; (2) exercising at least twelve times a month; (3) eating five servings of fruits and vegetables a day; and (4) light to moderate drinking. The Market can't help you with your smoking habit, but walking the stalls can be part of your exercising, and there are fruits, vegetables, and wine bottles galore. (FYI, "light to moderate drinking" was defined as a glass of wine per day for women and two glasses for men.)

So you see, I've turned the last couple weeks of the Market into a life-or-death situation for you. So please--choose life!

2015 Opening Day Shopping List

Woo hoo! It's finally upon us--Opening Day of the Thursday Bellevue Farmers Market. And just in time because I ran out of meat yesterday, I ran out of honey the last time I made granola, and I'm pretty tired of cabbage and carrots and mushy apples and no-longer-very-tasty Satsumas.

What's on your fresh and local shopping list? Here's mine:

1. Asparagus! Picked-in-the-last-24-hours asparagus is flavorful and almost nutty. I roast it with some olive oil or throw it on the grill. (Or see this Crawford Farms article for other recipe ideas.)

Crawford Farms pic

2. Spring Salad Fixings! Yes, it's time for a break from coleslaw and winter salads based on grated carrots and cucumbers. Grab whatever greens you find and dress them simply--fresh doesn't require a lot. The Food Network offers this suggestion. Great add-ons would be a tomato or some cubes of fresh cheese.

Food Network pic--it practically dresses itself!

3. Apples and Pears that have been properly cold-stored. There's a reason the grocery-store offerings are mushy now (or from Argentina).

4. Honey. Since I make my own granola, we go through a lot of honey. Time to re-stock. My daughter still remembers the chunk of honeycomb Cary Therriault of Cascade Natural Honey gave her when we visited him and his bees at work.

She even licked the cardboard

5. Meat. As in ground beef, ground pork, bacon, beef stir-fry, pork stir-fry, beef stew meat, sausage, and chicken. We are unabashed carnivores in our house, but we do like to think of our animals as happily fed and strolling about until Death comes for them.

6. Salmon. Brushed with a little teriyaki sauce and thrown on the grill alongside the asparagus.

7. Tuna jerky. A favorite family snack, and we're entering summer swim season, when I always need a little cooler full of snacks. Fishing Vessel St. Jude isn't at the Market every Thursday, but they're scheduled for Opening Day! See the website for other dates. And don't forget their volume discount, if you need to stock up on the world's best canned tuna!

Little Maggie knows what she's doing

8. Eggs. If I'd been thinking, I would have put this higher up the list. Because our family eats eggs like they're going out of style. And the eggs at the Market have the lovely, cohesive whites and bright yolks that signal more nourishment.

9. An impulse snack. Hmmm.... after such a long hiatus, will it be a soft pretzel? A piece of pizza? A hum bao from The Box? A cookie or pie-let? Ice cream or a pop? I can't say, because then it wouldn't be an impulse buy...

10. Dinner itself? This Thursday is already packed with kids' practices and a swim team meeting, so I'm not sure how cooking dinner will even happen. What better excuse to wave the white flag of surrender and just grab something at the Market? We could do soup and bread. Or a whole pizza. Or karagi chicken. Or a new discovery. And then we'd just plot right down at a picnic table, with the Haggis Brothers providing toe-tapping mood music, before we rush off to the next place we have to be.

So grab your own list, and we'll see you at the Bellevue Presbyterian Church parking lot from 3-7 pm this Thursday, May 14!

Last Two Markets of the 2013 Season!

And sadly, what might be my final Market because one of my kids has a swim meet on the Last Market Day (11/23). But I'll still be eating and blogging away through the off-season, dreaming of fresh, local food again.

Time to get out there and grab your fresh eggs and fruits and vegetables, plus a couple hostess gifts for Thanksgiving, if you aren't the one hosting the feast.

Did you see the Sunny Honey Company's array of offerings?

Lip balm, candles, honeycomb, creamed honey with cinnamon--things you can either smear on your face, stuff in your face, or keep the room lit so you can see your face.

Beeswax, you light up my life

And, of course, honey:

I got some of the last of the fireweed, but you can see there are several varieties. Beekeeper Anne Smith of Whatcom County and her 56(!) hives do all the pollination for our own Alm Hill Garden. Great little workers, those bees. I asked Anne whether her colonies ever experienced the dreaded "Colony Collapse Disorder" that mysteriously wipes out whole hives of bees, she said No. Neither had Cary Therriault of our Thursday Market's Cascade Natural Honey, that I recall. Good news for Washington State, at least for the time being.

If you aren't using honey in your tea or to make Deborah Madison's granola recipe, you might want to give this luscious fall roast a try. Just a few ingredients, and they all came from last week's market.

Honeyed Cranberry Roast (from Mabel Hoffman's Crockery Cookery)

1 pork roast (I got mine from Van Vuren Farms, of the egg fame)

1 cup cranberries, minced or ground (got these from Bloom Creek Cranberry Farms--they promise to be back at the last Market, if they haven't sold out by then)

1/4 cup honey

salt and pepper

pinch of ground cloves and ground nutmeg

Season the roast with the spices and throw it in the crock pot. Mix the cranberries and honey and pour on top. I also poured in 1/4-1/2 cup of water. Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours.

Delicious! I served it with orzo and roasted butternut squash. And there was enough roast left over that I used it with a can of refried beans for burritos the next day. One minute of work, two meals for five. Not bad!

So come by and stock up these last couple weeks. And don't forget that free parking at gracious Barnes & Noble.

Five Can't-Miss Items at the Market This Week

Portable Caprese Salad!

If you're anything like me, with the start of school and kids' sports, Thursday afternoons and Saturdays might have become crazy-time for you. Gone are my leisurely wanderings of the Market. Now I'm a Woman on a Mission: get everything on my list before I take off to arrange carpools/run carpools/attend a kid's swim meet/get to my book club, and then do some more running carpools for good measure.

So if you, too, have a short amount of time, you can still catch the last of summer's bounty. Make time for these goodies:

1. FRESH, RIPE TOMATOES. We're headed back into the months of gassed, green, supermarket baseballs that substitute for the real thing, so get the real thing now. We've been enjoying homemade Caprese salad, homemade tomato soup, homemade tomato sauce, homemade pico de gallo. If you have a food mill to remove tomato seeds and skins, there is nothing easier than tomato soup or sauce. You just cook until the quartered tomatoes break down, run it through the food mill, and then let it simmer until it achieves the desired consistency. Sometimes I add some sauteed onions and garlic, and other times it's just tomatoes, salt, and pepper!

1.5 MARKET CHEESE. If you're into Caprese salads (and who isn't?), you don't have to limit yourself to fresh mozzarella, although Samish Bay does carry that. In my zeal to avoid unnecessary plastic containers, I've been experimenting with other cheeses. A quarter baby wheel of their Queso Fresco works just as well, as would the Ladysmith. And just about every cheese at the Market would be awesome in a grilled cheese sandwich, to go with that homemade tomato soup.

2. LOCAL HONEY.

Cary at Cascade Natural Honey has some tasty varieties right now, and he's happy to sample them for you: delicate Baby's Breath, perfumed Blackberry, or dark and rich Purple Loosestrife. I've visited Cary in the fields with his bees, and this honey is as local as you get. When these jars are gone, we're out of luck, thrown back on honey of mysterious provenance. (One note to remember: if honey is cheap, it's probably from China and adulterated with who-knows-what.)

3. PEPPERS GALORE.

Roast 'em, grill 'em, saute 'em. It's all good. If I chop them small enough, I can hide them in spaghetti sauce and soup.

4. MELONS. Meltingly ripe, juicy and sweet!

5. A SNACK FOR THE ROAD. If you see me at the Market, I usually have my ten-year-old in tow. She's my pack mule, for which I pay her with one Market snack. She's done hum baos from The Box, cookies and hand pies from our marvelous bakers, granitas from Rockridge, hand-muddled drinks from Deru, raspberries and blueberries, and plenty of ice cream from Half Pint. I "tax" all her snacks, of course, and can vouch for their deliciousness. Last week's orange-chocolate-chip  ice cream from Half Pint was out of this world. But don't take my word for it--try it yourself!

What's on your can't-miss list this week? Eggs? Bacon? Salmon? Pasta? Veraci pizza? The Market has it all.

Well, We Still Have Our Farmers Market

Already missing the honey and berries (Photo: AP)

Okay, time to stop sniffling into my Bing cherries while I watch Ichiro videos, and get down to business. I wish our dear Seattle icon all the best (including--gulp--a World Series appearance), but he's only got two more days in our lovely, temperate corner of the country, so I hope he can send someone down to the nearest farmers market to grab these goodies before he goes:

Local honey. Imagine my thrilledness when I hit the Market last Thursday and found both Rockridge Orchard's Orchard Blossom Honey and Cascade Natural Honey's Blueberry Honey! I got a jar of each. Wade of Rockridge claims he can taste just a touch of the Broad Leaf Maple in his Apple-Pear Blossom Honey, and I've already posted about the luscious delights of CNH's Blueberry variety.

Wild Alaskan Salmon. Hit up Two If By Seafood (Thursday) or Loki Fish (Saturday) for the tastiest salmon this side of Seastar. We basted our last filet in olive oil and Market honey, seasoned with salt and pepper, and threw it on the grill. It was devoured.

Northwest Cherries. The season is brief, so load up. I've bought some of every variety so far and thrown in a jar of Camp Robber Jams' (Saturday) Cherry Jam with Kirsch for good measure. My visiting mom was inspired to buy a cherry pitter in the hopes of making a pie...

Northwest Berries. The first two blueberry pies are in the freezer, and I have orders to bring back another half-flat. The raspberries didn't even make it till dinner time. Clearly I didn't buy enough.

Pastries from Little Prague Bakery. Did I mention my mother was visiting? Every time we left the house, she seemed to come back with bakery boxes, and the visit to the Market was no exception. We had some beautiful berry cake-looking bar (my nephew called dibs), a melt-in-your-mouth apple cinnamon creation, and an apricot one that disappeared by the second time I looked in the box. These, in addition to granitas from Rockridge, scoops from Molly Moon's and a box of Dark Chocolate toffee from Pete's Perfect Butter Toffee. Yikes. That exploding sound is just my family blowing up after so many sweets.

Compile your own list of Can't-Miss Items at this week's Markets! Maybe we could send Ichiro a care package. He'll need it, with those Yankees fans.

Oh, Honey Honey

With the opening of the Saturday Market (forgot to buy snap peas on Thursday? Nooo problem!) there's plenty to write about, and I will get to all of it, but I've set aside this post to talk about my adventures with Cary Therriault of Cascade Natural Honey, who will put in his first appearance at this Thursday's Market, if all goes according to plan.

The eight-year-old and I caught up with Cary at the City of Bellevue's Larsen Lake Blueberry Farm, where Cary and friend Brandon's bees had been at work the previous four weeks pollinating this season's crop. This, after having returned from California where those--yes--busy bees tackled the almond blossoms. Next on the agenda? Fall City Farms' raspberries.

Bees and honey are Cary's heritage. His dad kept backyard bees in Monroe, and, because Cary's own son learned at his father's knee, Cary was able to outfit my daughter in this mini beekeeper outfit.

Q: Why are beekeeping outfits white?

A: So we aren't mistaken for bears. (Think Winnie-the-Pooh and Little House in the Big Woods)

While the child and I were hatted and gloved and taped (I was wearing impractical shoes), Cary slapped a hat on, filled his smoke can and called it good.

Cary, smoking 'em into mellowness

Q: Why do beekeepers puff smoke on the bees?

A: To keep them calm.

Cary could tell the different between relaxed, going-about-their-business bee buzzing and hey-what-are-you-doing-here-you-aren't-going-to-steal-our-honey-are-you buzzing.

We checked up on many of Cary's 180 boxes of bees(!), looking for bees getting too crowded, how the populations were doing, and how honey production was faring. When conditions get too cramped, bees naturally swarm and repopulate.

Opening one of the 180 boxes

Lotsa room here. The cells are manmade.

Filled and capped cells, each holding a future bee      

Q: How can you tell if a cell contains a future Queen Bee?

A: It bulges out in a peanut shape.
Cary broke one peanut shape off at one point, to transfer the queen to a future box.
 

The little white things in the cells are larvae. (Shudder)

I tried to get a picture of the bees when they return to the hive after a busy day of pollination because all the pollen sticks to their teeny legs (Cary said something about them storing it in "sacs"), and it makes them look like they're wearing cunning little yellow pants. So cute, as bees go. They take the pollen from their legs, mix it with honey, and feed it to their young.

But, you may be wondering, what about the honey?

It turns out, when Cary pulls out a tray where the bees have been making and storing honey, the difference is obvious. Check out the white beeswax:

A honey tray

 And look at the beautifully geometric cells made by the bees!

A bee-made comb full of blueberry honey

Cary pulled this one out for us to sample. All I can say is, after seeing how much work it is to tend bees, and how much work those little bees put in, in their turn, it seems a shame to steal their honey. But my qualms only lasted until I actually got to taste some of the blueberry honey, straight from the comb. Sweet, fragrant, rich, delicious. Like tasting a summer afternoon.

Why bears and people steal honey

 

My daughter spent the drive home licking honey off the cardboard box and making blissful sounds.

My other take-away was that producers cannot charge enough for real honey. Cary admits that there's more money in providing pollination services than in collecting and selling honey. The "honey" imported from China and other suspect places, the kind found in processed foods and plastic squeezeable bears, cannot possibly be as cheap as it is, if it's genuine. There's no way to automate the process, or make beekeeping less labor-intensive. If you're interested in my past research into fake honey, check this post.

Not to mention, once you've tasted real honey, there's no going back. Pick up a jar of local honey this week and thank your beekeeper!

Honey, I Adulterated the Goods

Someday someone will make a thriller about the global honey market. It's got everything: a dying species (Apis mellifera), failing supply, growing demand scheduled to pass 1.9 million metric tons by 2015, and people eager to make a buck by stretching or adulterating the goods. Mwahahahahahaha!

I posted on the topic of honey here after I watched The Vanishing of the Bees, but after seeing some of the recent news I am compelled to write again. With the US honey harvest at a record low, the temptation is great for food manufacturers to get their honey somewhere--anywhere. Journalist Andrew Schneider, who regularly reports for Food Safety News, estimates 60% of honey imported to the United States originates in Asia, "traditional laundering points for Chinese honey." What's the big deal with Chinese honey? Well, not only may it be "stretched" with additives like sugar- or corn-derived syrups, but it may also be "tainted with illegal antibiotics and heavy metals." In order to hide its origin, the honey is "ultra-filtered" to remove telltale pollen. The European Union has banned imports of honey from India to stem this tide of bad goods, leaving the wave to wash over the laxer United States.

There's no dark, twisting, thriller trail to the 136 ozs of honey in my house (we like our honey). Every last ounce comes from Daniel's Honey or Cascade Natural Honey at the Bellevue Farmers Market. In both cases I spoke with my beekeeper. I learned something about the bees' travel and pollination schedules (hint--they get around more than I do, including trips to California to pollinate the almond crop), and what makes a honey a certain "variety" like Blackberry, Wild Flower, or Knotweed. Genuine, unadulterated, local honey.

Although we're in the Market off-season, local honeys by small producers can still be found at some grocery stores. PAY THE EXTRA MONEY. If the honey is cheap or comes in a squeezable plastic bear or as a flavoring in processed goods, chances are you're getting the fake, antibiotic-laden imported stuff. Real honey is not cheap. A bee, in its lifetime, makes about 1-2 teaspoons of honey. It takes 10,000 worker bees to gather one pound of honey, and they fly the equivalent (each) of twice around the world to gather that pound. But the result is pure goodness. Not only has honey been used as a sweetener worldwide for eons, it has also been a cornerstone of ancient medicines for its health properties. Stick that in your sugar cane and smoke it!

So, I've gotten the bad honey out of the house. The New Year's resolutions? Avoiding the processed foods that contain it and reading this book:

Hope you'll join me!