Explaining M”Bee”Well with the Help of Bees

M”Bee”Well Explained

Bees, especially honeybees, are an important part of my life. I’ve always felt a connection to them.  Maybe because my name, Melissa, means honeybee in Greek or maybe it’s their hard working mentality. For every holiday, I can count on one of my loved ones to gift me with a jar of organic honey which I enjoy with hot tea, brie,and toast or even some sort of bee pendant. The name of this website, MBeeWell is a little play on words – I didn’t spell anything wrong, it was meant to contain the word “Bee” in it because to me, bees are one of the most important sectors of not only my life, but also a cornerstone to our entire food system and health.

Fruits and Vegetables are the “Bee’s Knees”

If you go way back to your Biology days in the classroom, you’ll remember that bees are pollinators and if you remember the Imagenews in 2006-2007 of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) you’ll recall how important bees are to our current agriculture system. To refresh your memory, more than 100 of our food crops such as blueberries, apples, cherries, grapefruit, avocado, squash, and onions are dependant on bees as pollinators. Bees contribute to 35% of the food we eat, that’s $15 billion worth of US produce and $215 billion worldwide! Some of the only crops that don’t need bees are grain crops that rely on the wind. If you look a little closer, most of the crops that are pollinated by bees are fruits and vegetables that contain so many compounds that have kept animals and humans alive and healthy – just like nature intended!

Bees are so important for these crops that beekeepers create colonies by “domesticating” them then bring them to farmer’s crops in order to pollinate the field. Due to the expansiveness of crops, bees no longer “naturally” live there and wild bugs and habitats have been destroyed. Bees are brought in to do what Mother Nature intended.

This act of nature where two species cooperate to benefit both is called mutualism. We need bees to pollinate our crops and bees need pollen to survive. Unfortunately, CCD has taken a major toll on bees. In 2006-2007 32% of honeybees vanished, in 2007-2008 an additional 36% disappeared in the US. Other countries are having the same problems: the UK lost 30% in 2007 and Italy lost 40-50%. Scientists have yet to find an exact cause for the disappearance of bees, but some beekeepers believe it may be a pesticide known as neonicotinoids and countries such as Italy have now banned its use.

CCD has brought the spotlight back on the importance of bees as our ancient partners in the art of growing food. Haagen-Dazs came to the aid of the honeybee when they announced that 40% of their ice cream wouldn’t exist without them, so they donated $250,000 to the cause and created a new flavor, Vanilla Honey Bee (which is delicious), in their honor.

“Bee” a Supporter

Anyone can do their part in restoring bees. If you have a yard or small garden, be sure to have plenty of flowers, fruits, and vegetables for bees to “snack on.” A yard with just grass doesn’t draw any bees! Also, look for organic honey to decrease the amount of pesticide use and be sure to purchase real raw honey (about 75% of the honey sold in the US is not 100% honey). The best option is to purchase your honey from a local beekeeper (maybe me one day!)

Another Benefit of Bees – Honey Image

As I said before, I love bees, especially for their honey which has been a known superfood for centuries. It’s not just for mixing in your tea or providing that sweet taste on your muffin. Honey is loaded with polyphenols (the same group of antioxidants found in superfoods such as extra virgin olive oil) which protect cells from free radical damage. Honey also has antibacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-septic qualities. Allergy suffers may even see a 60% reduction in symptoms! The most recent study showed that honey treats mild nightime coughs caused by upper-respiratory infections among children aged 1-5. These studies are just proving what our ancestors have known all along – honey is a food that you want to have in your cabinet!

If that wasn’t reason enough to start adding honey to your superfood arsenol, let’s see if this convinces you: raw honey is high in nutrients and enzymes that kill bacteria, it increases calcium absorption, helps athritic joints, is a natural laxative, it increases muscle restoration and glycogen after a workout, and it contains calcium, iron, zinc, potassium, phosphorous, magnesisum, copper, chromium, and selenium. Honey also provides instant energy without the insulin jump of white sugar (1 tablespoon of honey is 64 calories to 15 calories of sugar) because it contains carbohydrates which easily convert to sugar and help maintain blood sugar levels.

Tip: Try honey on baked brie with raspberries and while you’re eating it be sure to thank all those hard working bees.

Still interested? Good… check this out!

Eating Healthy on a Budget – 5 Popular Myths Debunked

My friends always come to me and ask how I eat so healthy while staying on a budget. A lot of them shy away from cooking and tend to buy pre-packaged food whether it’s at the grocery store or at a fast food restaurant then they complain that they feel sluggish and their bank account is taking a dive. When I tell them they would save money and feel healthier just by going food shopping once a week and learning how to prepare a few meals, they usually come back at me and say vegetables are too expensive, they have no time time to cook, and even if they did, they don’t know how.

I’m here to give some advice to those of you who feel the same way because I promise that once you learn how to shop correctly and prepare a few basic healthy meals for yourself, your waistline and your wallet will start feeling much healthier!

5 Popular Excuses Debunked!

1) Vegetables are expensive so I don’t buy them. – If you’re on a budget, be sure that plan ahead when you go grocery shopping to be sure that you don’t purchase fresh produce that you won’t use and therefore have to throw away. If it’s in your budget, buy organic produce that doesn’t have a covering for example it’s better to buy organic berries but not organic bananas because the outside of berries are eatable while the outside of the banana is not. When buying, don’t forget to let the sales dictate what you will be eating that week. If there’s a sale on potatoes and onions, be sure to stock up. You can use them this week and in the coming weeks for various dishes, saving you money in the long run. Also, always stock up on frozen vegetables such as peas, corn, broccoli, and spinach. They are always inexpensive and a great way to complement your fresh options.

2) Meat comes in large packs and is expensive too. – If you are not a vegetarian, chances are you will be buying some sort of meat product at the grocery store and most likely the best prices will be on the bulk items, so that’s what you should plan on purchasing and you will save money. When you’re planning your weekly shopping list and you see that chicken, beef, or lamb is on sale (same goes for any type of seafood), be sure to purchase your favorite even if it’s in bulk. Those of you  living in small households should still purchase the bulk item. The trick is, as soon as you get home, unpack your groceries and separate the meat into meal portions. For example if you have 3 people in your household, be sure to put three servings of the meat into one Tupperware container or plastic freezer bag. Do this with all your meat and seafood. That way when you’re looking to make the hamburger, all you have to do is defrost one of the containers. It’s also a great way to have a well stocked freezer.

3) I don’t know how to stock my pantry. – A well stocked pantry includes basics such as pasta (rigatoni and spaghetti are my two favorites); canned whole peeled or crushed tomatoes; tomato paste; beef, chicken, and/or vegetable broth; canned and dried beans (black, white, and garbanzo); brown rice; olive oil; vegetable oil; spices (salt, pepper, hot pepper flakes, paprika, oregano, cumin); flour; eggs; milk; and some sort of cheese whether it’s cheddar or Parmigiano Reggiano, it will last you a week or two. You don’t have to go out and purchase all of these ingredients at once, but be sure to try to incorporate them into your budget so that these ingredients become a part of your daily meals.

This meal is simple, nutritious, and affordable! Stay tuned for the recipe.
This meal is simple, nutritious, and affordable!                  Stay tuned for the recipe 🙂

4) I don’t have time or the skills to cook. – In my humble opinion everyone has a little time and some skills to cook for themselves. You don’t have to cook an elaborate meal that’s going to take you two hours, but you can put together a quick soup that will take 10 minutes of prep then hands off until it’s done. Stay in touch with my website to get quick and simple recipes and techniques that you will be able to use in your own kitchen.

5) It’s easier to pick up lunch and/or dinner from a store or restaurant. – It’s not that I don’t enjoy going out to lunch and dinner, it’s just that I can’t afford to do it all the time, not only for my wallet but also my health. When you go out to eat, you have no control over what you are putting into your body. But, when you’re cooking for yourself, you control the ingredients. It’s also much cheaper! You can buy a bowl of soup for $5 or make a large pot of soup for $5 that will be your dinner and lunch. If you’re making dinner, be sure to make a little extra for lunch the next day or roll the ingredients into your next meal (keep in touch at MBeeWell because I’ll be sure to give you some ideas for rollover meals).

I hope the next time you plan on calling for take out, you decide to go food shopping instead and try out a simple recipe. I promise you will be living a healthier life with some extra cash in your pocket and a smile on your face!

xo MBeeWell

Food Lover’s Dream for Heart Day

Part of my Valentine's Day gift from my husband. Now what to do with the goodies...
Part of my Valentine’s Day gift from my husband. Now what to do with the goodies…

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart.” ~ Helen Keller

The other day my husband (that still sounds weird for a newlywed) came home with a bag full of goodies after a trip through Amish Country.

“This is part of your Valentine’s Gift” he said, holding the bag high above my head.

“Ok! Let me look!!” I said as I tore through the bags.

In the bag he came home with maple syrup breakfast sausages (they’re amazing cut up in scrambled eggs!), three kinds of caffeine-free teas, snicker doodle cookies (which Layla my dog ate one of shortly after), red velvet whoopee pies, shoe-fly pie, fresh mozzarella cheese, Parmigiano Reggiano, and two types of sauce/dips (raspberry and mango) -YUM!

That night I cooked up his favorite, Chicken Parmigiano with the fresh mozzarella cheese of course and grated Parmigiano Reggiano over the al dente spaghetti.

Tonight for Heart Day I’m cooking up some of his favorites: butternut squash risotto with sun-dried tomatoes and marinated grilled steak dipped in spicy extra virgin olive oil. For dessert, fried ice cream. It’s a first for me. If it turns out good, I’ll post it, otherwise I won’t ; )

xo MBeeWell

Healthy Comfort Food for Cold Winter Nights

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Last week I had a few hurdles that I had to jump before I even started cooking dinner. I had a pre-made pie crust that was about to expire (usually I use these to make chicken pot pie, but I wasn’t feeling that tonight). I also had black beans that I had soaked the previous night and a whole bunch of sweet potatoes. So I did what I normally do when I’m faced with a kitchen ingredient conundrum – just start cooking!

When I started I knew that I would be looking for some Southwestern and Mexican flavors. Sweet potatoes are nutritious and packed full of flavor! They’re also sweet so of course I had to pair them with something spicy – that’s where the chipolte in adobe sauce comes in. How to use the pie crust? Make an empanada of course! Let’s just say this recipe came from cooking with ingredients that I know and love, just going step by step and tasting your way through each bite!

Spicy Sweet Potato Empanadas (makes four)

Ingredients:

1 pre-made pie crust (or homemade if you prefer)

4 large sweet potatoes (peeled)

1/2 large onion (I used a Spanish onion)

1 can black beans or 1/4 lb dry black beans (rinsed)

1 tablespoon chipolte in adobo

1/4 cup pepper jack cheese

1 bunch chopped cilantro

1 tablespoon cumin

1 tablespoon paprika

1 clove garlic

1 jalapeño

1/4 cup frozen corn kernels

1 tablespoon butter

1 lime

salt/pepper

olive oil

Putting It All Together:

~ Chop the peeled sweet potatoes into chunks and put in a pot of salted water. Turn to a boil. Cook until fork tender.

~ If using a pre-made crust, follow the instructions on the label for preheating the oven.

~ While the sweet potatoes are cooking, in a frying pan combine a tablespoon of olive oil, the 1/4 cup diced onions, diced garlic, jalapeno, chipolte in adobo, cumin, paprika, salt and pepper. Stir until fragrant. Add the beans and 2 tablespoons cilantro to the pan and take off the heat.

~ Once the sweet potatoes are fork tender, drain and put back into the hot pot. Add salt, pepper, butter, and the cheese. Smash until chunky/smooth consistency.

~ Take half of the mashed potatoes and combine them with the onion mixture.

~ Cut the pie crust into four equal pieces. Once the mixture is cool enough to handle, put 1-2 tablespoons of mixture in the middle. Wet the sides of the dough with water and close up like a little wonton (bring all four edges together so they meet in the middle over the mixture). Score the top of the mini empanadas so the steam can be released. Follow the package directions to bake (normally 425 degrees for 10-12 minutes).

~ While the empanadas are cooking away, take the rest of the cilantro, 1/4 diced onions, salt, pepper, zest and juice of 1 lime, and olive oil and combine in a food processor or get an arm workout with a mortar and pestle. The consistency should be slightly chunky with no large pieces.

~ When the empanadas are finished, plate with a scoop of the mashed sweet potatoes, then the empanada, and finish with a drizzle of the cilantro sauce. Enjoy!

“The secret to …

Travels in Tuscany
Travels in Tuscany

“The secret to staying young is to live honestly, eat slowly, and lie about your age.” ~ Lucille Ball

2012 was a crazy year. I got married, quit my desk job, and decided to pursue my passion of writing and living well with healthy food, yoga, and peace of mind. I realized life isn’t waiting for me to step up to the plate, it’s just zooming by, leaving others in the dust while things just keep changing and the calendar turns.

Now that I have jumped on that metaphorical train, I am taking charge. This website will bring you a wealth of information that I find will help you live a whole life. People have so many different interests and it’s important to be creative in every avenue. For me those things are cooking, understanding the true value of real food, mindfulness, yoga, traveling, writing and basically living well.

So, welcome and enjoy. Let your creative juices flow and enjoy everything that I’m offering!

I’m looking forward to sharing other secrets of living well with you.

xo Melissa (MBeeWell)