Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Food Trends to End Summer in Style


This past summer, we've been noshing at and enjoying wine, beer and food festivals in the area. Booze and food just about makes any summer event near perfect. After all, summer is all about great eats against the backdrop of the season's longer days and warmer weather.

With it all about to come to a close with August's end, here are the hot late summer food trends to wrap your summer up in style and kick off fall right when it comes to what you're eating:

1. Peppers -- The pepper has always held a place in the food world, whether it were hot and spicy or crisp and sweet. Cayenne pepper is turning up in everything at the moment from chocolate to beverages and drinks, and just about everything in between. Whole peppers stuffed with everything from cheese to meats are equally as trendy. The great part is this is an easy trend to play with at home -- just add a little cayenne to whatever it is you're eating.

2. Leaf Vegetables in Unexpected Pairings -- Leafy vegetables might seem to be standard and a little bland or plain, but the new way to eat this classic food item is in ways you wouldn't expect. It goes beyond the lettuce wrap to leafy greens paired with everything from pasta to couscous or quinoa. Mustard greens and beet greens are also on trend at the moment -- try them sautéed with a little olive oil as a side to any dish.

3. Root Vegetables at Breakfast
-- The explosion of low carb eating has brought a lot of unexpected vegetables to the breakfast table. Tomatoes on the side has always been a classic, but now roasted or even raw root vegetables are fast making a spectacular appearance.

4. Herbs -- Many herbs are in season during August through early fall, but the trend of using herbs of all kinds has been a big thing in the food and drink world this past year. Sprigs of rosemary, fresh sage, thyme, you name it -- especially in desserts and sweets. It's a savory twist to a lot of classics. Have fun and experiment!

5. Fruit at Dinner -- The appearance of fruits at the dinner table isn't new, but it's certainly making the rounds as a chic menu play. Grilled peaches with meat or fish, persimmon served in a savory sweet sauce over chicken and rice, apples raw or baked into everything from turkey dishes to sandwiches, have been popular.

6. Creative Vegetarian -- The vegan and vegetarian dishes at the moment are incredible -- and rarely signal to being completely free of meat. Long gone are the days of bland and strange tastes and textures! There are so many incredible pairings, creative ideas, and unexpected dishes everywhere. Even meat eaters will crave it! It's particularly popular in cheese alternatives -- cashew cheese is so good, you won't know you're eating something dairy free.

Need a Pizza Crust Recipe? Here are 10 that Don’t Use Flour


When it comes to finding a good pizza crust recipe, many are on a lifelong search. Because let’s be honest- there’s nothing better than pizza made at home. But what if you can’t tolerate traditional flour? Or even any kind of flour at all? Is a good pizza crust recipe then simply an unattainable dream? No, my friend, it is not. There are plenty of ways to make creative pizza crusts without going anywhere near a bag of flour.

Here are 10 different pizza crust recipes that use everything from polenta to broccoli for the pizza base.

1. Polenta Pizza Crust
While you may think of polenta as a creamy side dish, it can also be used to make up a pizza. You can even make them in smaller rounds, since mini pizzas are perfect as a dinner party appetizer.

2. Almond Flour Pizza Crust
Using a bit of arrowroot flour to hold it all together, this almond flour pizza crust is the perfect base for a margherita pizza.

3. Cauliflower Pizza Crust
Cauliflower for a pizza crust? As long as you have a little cheese and egg, yes. The perfect way to make sure you’re eating enough vegetables too. And not to worry, if you need a dairy-free version, there’s that too.

4. Broccoli Pizza Crust
Don’t let broccoli feel left out with all the cauliflower pizza crusts you’ll be making. The concept for broccoli pizza crust is the same as with cauliflower, but you get a very green crust, which will brighten up the dinner table.

5. Carrot Pizza Crust
If you’ve got an overload of carrots, why not turn them into a pizza? This crust, which is made using grated carrots, can also work well for other crust-worthy recipes, like a quiche.

6. Zucchini Crust Pizza
Summer days are close, and when they get here, chances are you’ll be wondering what to do with all of that zucchini. Your answer? Test out this creative pizza crust recipe.

7. Portobello Mushroom Pizza
If you really want to simplify the pizza making process, you can skip the crust entirely and opt for portobello mushrooms instead. They make perfect individual pizzas and you don’t have to do any more work than layering on a few toppings.

8. Sweet Potato Pizza Crust
This pizza crust recipe involves mashing together cooked sweet potatoes with almond flour. The result is a crust with a crispy outside and soft center that’s full of nutrients.

9. Plantain Pizza Crust
Plantains are common in Caribbean cooking, but often, those of us living further north don’t always know what to do with them. Why not use them to make pizza? The plantains are mixed with a little tapioca starch and coconut flour to hold the crust together.

10. Butternut Squash Pizza Crust
This recipe takes on the same concept as the portobello mushroom pizzas, using the shape and consistency of butternut squash to simply serve as a crust replacement. All you have to do is slice the squash in the desired thickness and top away.
[via Organic Authority]

Friday, August 15, 2014

50 Grain-Free & Paleo Ground Beef Recipes

Whether you’re in a time crunch or are responsibly planning a week in advance, here are some mouth-watering grain-free dishes that call for ground beef (or ground beef can easily be substituted). Enjoy!

Burgers and Meatloaves

http://lovelovething.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Paleo-Burger-with-Caramelized-Balsamic-Onions-Avocado-6.jpg

Paleo Burgers with Caramelized Balsamic Onions & Avocado – Joyful Healthy Eats

Salted Mocha Burgers – Popular Paleo

Stuffed Cheddar Beef Burgers – Delicious Obsessions

Burgers with Egg and Garlic Butter Balsamic – Primally Inspired

Sweet Potato Patties – Cinnamon Eats

http://paleospirit.com/2013/paleo-mini-meatloaves/

Paleo Mini Meatloaves – Paleo Spirit

Gluten-Free Kangaroo Burgers – Economies of Kale (Can use ground beef! ;) )

Meatballs & Kebabs

Bacon Meatballs with Mango Honey Mustard Sauce – PaleOMG

BBQ Meatballs – Healing Cuisine by Elise

Butternut Squash Meatballs with Zucchini and Carrot – Cinnamon Eats

Hidden Liver Meatballs – Real Food RN

Sweet and Sour Paleo Meatballs – Gutsy By Nature

Meatballs – Food Your Body Will Thank You For

Sweet & Sour Meatballs – Homemade Dutch Apple Pie

Grain-Free Italian Meatballs – Primally Inspired

Baked Chili Meatballs – Recipes to Nourish

Chelo Kebabs – And Here We Are

Kebabs with Roasted Butternut Squash and Zucchini – Cinnamon Eats

Entrees

http://www.theorganickitchen.org/blog-tutorials/zucchini-noodles-with-cranberries-and-walnuts/ 

Zucchini Noodles with Cranberries and Walnuts – The Organic Kitchen

Meatballs with Zucchini and Carrot “Pasta” – Cinnamon Eats

Easiest Crock Pot Taco Meat Ever – Delicious Obsessions

Shepherd’s Pie – Healing Cuisine by Elise

Twice-Baked Cheeseburger Spaghetti Squash – Popular Paleo

Potato-Free Shepherd’s Pie – It Takes Time

Healthy Butternut Squash Shepherd’s Pie – Primally Inspired

Ground Beef Cabbage Wraps – Fearless Eating

Sloppy “Rose” Lettuce Wraps – Recipes to Nourish

Creamy Plantain and Squash Ground Beef Mash – The Healthy Foodie

Paleo Ground Beef Stir-Fry with Wilted Napa Cabbage – Popular Paleo

Homemade Hamburger Helper – Healing Cuisine by Elise

Stuffed Winter Squash – Gutsy By Nature

Italian Spiced Beef Kefta with Avocado Cream Sauce – A Happy Healthnut

Paleo Cabbage Rolls (Galumpkis) – Sweet Potatoes and Social Change

Crock Pot Stuffed Peppers – Homemade Dutch Apple Pie

Furious Furikake Chilli Beef Hash – The Paleo Network

http://www.primalpalate.com/paleo-recipe/zucchini-lasagna/


Zucchini Lasagna – Primal Palate

Spiced Beef Kofte with a Pomegranate Glaze – The Paleo Network

Seriously Delicious Spaghetti Sauce – Holistic Health Herbalist (You can use zoodles (made with this) or spaghetti squash for the noodles)

Grass Fed Meat and Vegetable Muffins – Cinnamon Eats

Grass Fed Persian Spiced Beef and Roasted Butternut Squash – Cinnamon Eats

Spaghetti Squash Frittata Meatza – Real Food RN (you can sub the ground pork for ground beef)

Grain-Free Mexican Flatbread – A Happy Healthnut

Soups & Salads

Bacon and BBQ Burger Salad – Primally Inspired

Black Bean and Kangaroo Chili – Can use ground beef! :)

Grilled Hamburger Salad – Healing Cuisine by Elise

Vegetable Beef Soup – Raising Generation Nourished

Beef & Cabbage Soup – Raia’s Recipes

Love Your Body Chili – Food Your Body Will Thank You For

Slow Cooker Sweet Potato Chili – Farm Fresh Eats (Can omit the corn)

Spicy Paleo Slow Cooker Chili – Oh Snap Let’s Eat

Taco Salad with Cilantro-Mint Guacamole Sauce – Recipes to Nourish

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

What To Plant in August


The garden doesn’t have to stop producing just because summer is waning. In fact, August is the perfect time to add some variety and get a second season harvest from your space. Plant these garden favorites and harvest right through the fall and have plenty to preserve for winter as well.

Kale

If you haven’t grown kale yet, there is no time like the present. Start it now and in many zones you’ll be able to harvest right through the winter months. In fact, a bit of frost will just make these tasty greens even sweeter.

Lettuce

Cooler temperatures are on the way, and that’s perfect for lettuce. Plant now for fresh salad greens (and reds) for weeks and months to come.

Beans

Believe it or not there is still plenty of time for another round of beans. Select fast growing varieties and get ready to preserve the bounty because beans love this time of year almost as much as I do.

Radishes

Radishes are one of the fastest growing garden vegetables, usually ready from seed to table in less than a month. Plant a few rows every two weeks for fresh radishes all season.

Spinach

Spinach thrives in the cooler temps of fall, and getting those seeds in the ground now will give them plenty of time to get a strong root system before the weather cools off.
[via Urban Fig]

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Vegan Pantry: 10 Essential Foods That Make Your Plant-Based Diet Nutritious And Healthy

Whether you are new to a plant-based vegan diet, have been plant-strong for a while, or just stumbled upon my blog out of curiosity, you’ve probably wondered how to stock your pantry and fridge with foods that are the most beneficial for your health. So what are the essentials that can be found in pantries of almost all vegans? And is it true that you’ll have to start cooking at home, even if you’ve never been a fan of it?

Yes, it’s a well-established fact: if you want ‘thy food to be thy medicine’, as Hippocrates proposed, you’ll have to cook the majority of your meals at home from whole, fresh ingredients, takeout be damned. If your average at-home cooking adventure used to include microwaving a store-bought frozen pizza, and now you’ve decided to become a vegan out of health concerns, you’ve probably noticed that there are very few options of premade plant-strong vegan dinners in grocery stores, and restaurants you used to love don’t seem to be very accommodating. As always, I can’t leave you hanging without any good news: if you find a few easy vegan recipes and try making them at home, you might find that cooking is actually a lot of fun! I’ve heard multiple stories about people who used to hardly ever cook at home, and when they switched to a vegan diet, they found cooking so awesome that they ended up creating wonderful vegan food blogs and even publishing cookbooks!

Okay, not all of us are superhuman to do all that, but we all can make an attempt to be a little healthier, right? Today I’m going to help you out a little with a list of great vegan pantry essentials. If you stock your pantry and fridge right, cooking any newly found recipe will become easier as you won’t have to run to a store to buy whatever the recipe calls for.

By the way, if you still think that cooking healthy vegan meals is too much hassle, check out this post with 10 super-easy plant-based meals that can be put together in no time.

What’s In The Vegan Pantry?

Let me clarify right away: my definition of ‘vegan’ includes consuming the healthiest plant-based foods with little to no junk of non-animal nature. The closer to their natural state the ingredients are, the better they are for us. Cooking food at home from scratch always allows you to control what you are putting in it, thus giving you a chance to make it as healthy as possible. Many people agree that it is easy to be an unhealthy vegan if you live on potato chips, soda, Oreo cookies (did you know that they are technically vegan?), and other processed store-bought foods. We have a different goal here: to make our vegan diet the healthiest it can be!

So here’s a list of pantry essentials that can do a lot of good for our health. Most of them can be found in your local health food stores, grocery stores, and online.

1.Ground Flax Seed. 

Benefits. This plant-strong pantry essential is a great addition to any diet: flax seed is full of omega-3 fatty acids, fiber and antioxidants. A tablespoon of ground flax has 1.8 grams of plant omega-3s. Flax has a very high amount of lignans that have plant antioxidant and estrogen qualities – between 75 and 800 times more than any other plant food! To reap all of the benefits of flax seed, you need to grind it up in a coffee/spice grinder (our bodies don’t break down whole seeds efficiently), or buy preground flaxseed meal, like this organic ground flaxseed by Bob’s Red Mill.

This image shows (clockwise from top) chia seeds, ground flaxseed, and whole flax seeds.

To Use It: add ground flax to dough and batters when baking; sprinkle over breakfast cereal or add to smoothies; make ‘flax egg’ – an all-natural vegan egg substitute in pancake/waffle/baking recipes – by combining equal amounts of ground flax and water (recipes usually have guidelines for that).

2. Chia Seeds. 

This rather interesting ingredient is not just for hippies anymore! Benefits: chia seeds contain high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, antioxidants and minerals (phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, manganese). British scientists have published a study in which consumption of chia has shown a reduction in the amounts of blood triglycerides and cholesterol levels while increasing the amounts of HDL (‘good’) cholesterol. When mixed with water, chia seeds turn into a gel-like substance. Some studies suggest that this chia jelly absorbs toxins from our intestines when going through our digestive tract, thus removing them from our system. Chia seeds are becoming a common staple in grocery stores these days, plus you can always find a good selection of chia online, including some certified organic varieties like these chia seeds from Navitas Naturals.

To Use It
: chia seeds can be added to cereals, sprinkled on wraps, sandwiches, soups, salads etc. Chia is great for baking: just like ground flax seed, it can be used as an egg substitute when mixed with water. Unlike flax, chia doesn’t need to be ground up to release its nutrients inside our bodies.

3. Nutritional Yeast. 

Benefits: contains 18 essential amino acids, thus being a complete protein; has 15 minerals such as chromium, manganese, copper, vanadium, molybdenum and lithium; is rich in B vitamins, with some brands being enriched with vitamin B12 (the only vitamin that vegans might get deficient in on an otherwise balanced plant-strong diet); maintains good intestinal environment; improves liver health and function; aids in balancing cholesterol levels; promotes healthy skin. How did we ever live without this stuff?

When choosing nutritional yeast, it’s best to opt for a brand that fortifies it with vitamin B12 (some people may become deficient in B12 after following a vegan diet for a while). Both Bob’s Red Mill  and Red Star fortify their nutritional yeast with B12.

To Use It: thanks to its natural cheesy flavor, nutritional yeast is a great ingredient in vegan cheesy sauces (vegan mac’n’cheese recipes are a good example). It can be also sprinkled over just about any entrée or soup for an extra kick of flavor. Some open-minded people even mix it with blackstrap molasses and eat it by the spoonful!

4. Beans and Lentils. 

Benefits: great sources of plant protein, fiber, complex carbohydrates (the ones that don’t cause your blood sugar to spike), essential fatty acids, potassium, iron, calcium, and folic acid. Beans and lentils promote digestive health: they are a great food for the good bacteria that live in our intestines. They also prevent polyps from forming in our intestinal tract, thus reducing a possibility of developing colon and rectal cancer. Lastly, beans and lentils are very cheap and filling!

This picture shows (clockwise from top) speckled butter beans, green (brown) lentils, blackeye peas, and green split peas.

To Use Them: beans of all forms and shapes have been used in many world cuisines for thousands of years! A lot of delicious recipes from Mexican, Indian, African and Middle Eastern cuisines include beans and lentils. You can use both dried and canned beans from the store, or purchase certified non-GMO beans in bulk online, like these garbanzo beans from Palouse Brand. If using dried beans, soak them for at least 4 hours or overnight in water, then drain them, and boil until soft, 30-60 min depending on the variety, adding salt (or not) at the end. If buying canned beans, look for the low-sodium varieties; drain and rinse them in cold water and use according to a recipe you’re using them for. Also, check out this post about cooking dried beans.

5. Canned Tomatoes. 

Tomatoes are considered one of the healthiest fruits and vegetables known to us! You’ve probably heard that they are technically a fruit, not a vegetable. Using (BPA-free) canned tomatoes is easier when they are not in season. Benefits: tomatoes are a great source of lycopene – a powerful antioxidant that does wonders to our health, from fighting free radicals to promoting strong bones. Tomatoes also have a number of vitamins (C, A, and K) and minerals (potassium, folate, magnesium, copper). Their consumption has shown a decrease in cholesterol and triglyceride levels in our bodies.

To Use Them: A lot of dishes from all over the world call for tomatoes. My pantry is always stocked with diced tomatoes, tomato paste and sauce (San Marzano tomatoes are my favorite); it’s also good to have crushed and fire-roasted canned tomatoes on hand. Aim for no-salt-added varieties at the store. Of course, when tomatoes are in season, it always makes sense to use them instead of their canned versions! By the way, the levels of lycopene in cooked tomatoes are higher than in fresh ones.

6. Grains. 

Benefits: a great source of carbohydrates to provide us with lots of energy, a number of B vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate), and fiber. Historically, many great civilizations used some types of grains as their staple foods: barley in Middle East, corn in Central and South America, millet and sorghum in Africa, and rice in Asia. Consuming whole, minimally processed and even sprouted grains is more beneficial to our health than eating their processed versions because more nutrients and fiber are available in whole grains. However, billions of people in Asia have been consuming mostly white rice for centuries, and have had no problems with obesity or diabetes until recently, when Western-type food became more available to them. The conclusion: aim to consume whole grains, but don’t shun white rice completely.

Pictured here (clockwise from top): millet, brown rice, kamut, barley.

To Use Them: to reap the most health benefits of grains and to fuel your body (especially if you are athletic), aim to add a variety of whole grains, such as barley, oats, brown rice, whole wheat, kamut, etc. to your diet. Bob’s Red Mill sells a large variety of grains both in stores and online. If you are gluten-intolerant, choose gluten-free grains such as rice, corn, sorghum, and millet. Experiment with sprouting: it’s very easy, but can increase the amount of available nutrients in sprouts up to 10 times compared to the same non-sprouted grains. Sprouting technically converts grains into vegetables.

7. Whole Grain Pastas. 

These pastas have similar benefits as the whole grains described above, especially when made with minimal processing techniques. A variety of pastas can add some oomph to your diet and lets you explore different world cuisines, from Italian to Thai and Japanese.

This picture (clockwise from top) multigrain penne and whole wheat linguine pasta from Italian cuisine, and rice vermicelli and Japanese buckwheat soba noodles from Asian cuisines.

To Use Them: shop for whole wheat, quinoa, amaranth, rice, and soba (buckwheat) pastas and noodles. Try sprouted pasta, like this Ezekiel 4:9 Organic Sprouted Penne pasta. Experiment with sauces and add vegetables and beans or tofu to create delicious vegan meals inspired by various cuisines of the world!

8. Nuts and Seeds. 


Benefits: contain good amounts of healthy mono- and polyunsaturated fats, plant protein, and fiber. Nuts and seeds also nourish us with a number of minerals, such as magnesium, calcium, zinc, and phosphorus. Raw pumpkin seeds are high in iron. Due to a relatively high amount of fats found in nuts, they should be consumed in moderation (a small handful, or about 1 oz a day). Aim to include a variety of nuts and seeds in your diet to provide your body with different nutrients, and pick raw/minimally processed ones with no added salt.

Pictured here (clockwise from right): raw pumpkin seeds a.k.a. pepitas, raw walnuts, roasted cashews.

To Use Them: chop them up and add to your morning cereal; add a handful to batters and dough when baking; enjoy as a snack – but watch the serving size! Experiment with making your own nut butters: homemade nut butters tend to be much healthier than store-bought ones because you know exactly what ingredients you used. Raw, unprocessed nuts and seeds can be sprouted just like grains – this technically turns them into vegetables!

9. Sea Vegetables. 

Before I hear ‘Whaaat?!’, let me introduce you to a somewhat new for us Westerners, but a very common in Asia group of these vegetables : kombu, wakame, nori, hijiki, arame, and kelp. You might be a little more familiar with them if you like sushi. Benefits: sea vegetables have one of the broadest varieties of minerals available among any foods. They are an excellent source of iodine and vitamin K, a good source of magnesium, calcium, riboflavin and folate. Sea vegetables contain the type of iron that is more bioavailable to us than the types found in other vegetables. They contain a different source of antioxidants than other vegetables, and are rich in phytonutrients.

To Use Them: the above named sea vegetables are widely used in Asian (especially Japanese) cuisines. At home, we can use nori sheets to make sushi rolls, or sprinkle powdered kelp on entrees for a boost of nutrients. Kombu strips are great for cooking beans: a 1-2 inch strip added to a pot of beans (or a soup) reduces their cooking time, enhances flavors, thickens the broth, and even makes beans more digestible to prevent gas!

10. A Variety of Spices. 

Using spices in cooking is a great low-calorie way to add lots of flavor to any dish! Spices allow you to explore cuisines from all over the world without leaving your house! A lot of spices have numerous health benefits, especially when it comes to delivering antioxidants! Cinnamon, for example, is known for its ability to prevent blood sugar spikes if you consume it with sugar and carbohydrate-rich food. Capsaicin in hot chilies and cayenne pepper promotes heart health, pain relief, and may aid in cancer prevention. Indian cuisine is hard to imagine without turmeric: it helps with digestion of fiber-rich foods (especially with beans in them), and also aids in reducing inflammation, especially in arthritis patients.

To Use Them: it’s hard for me to imagine my pantry without cumin, cinnamon, turmeric, chili powder, paprika, thyme and oregano! I also have a few pots of fresh herbs on my balcony (currently I’ve got basil, sage, rosemary, and dill). Italian and Indian dishes are especially big on using certain spices. My advice: get a good variety of spices in a bulk section of your local health food store, and include both ground and whole-seed versions (the latter is for cumin, celery, and fennel seeds). Avoid pre-mixed spice bottles that contain salt and other additives, and always stay away from mixes that contain monosodium glutamate (MSG)!

To make a conclusion, I’d like to emphasize that it’s very important to use lots of fresh or minimally processed fruits and vegetables in addition to all the foods listed above. My other refrigerated vegan staples include non-dairy milk, tofu, and tempeh; my pantry also has dried fruit, brown sugar, blackstrap molasses, maple syrup, and agave nectar. As you find more and more vegan recipes, you’ll discover even more healthy and delicious ingredients to add to this list!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Portion Sizes: What you need to know

Healthy eating can be confusing, with mixed messages coming form media, friends, family and even health professionals – but one thing everyone can agree on is that portion sizes have grown and many of us can no longer identify what an ideal portion looks like.


Food portion sizes in our country have doubled, and then some in the past twenty years. The National Heart Blood and Lung Institute offers visuals to empower eaters of all sizes to understand the differences between the way we used to eat - and how we eat today.

Twenty years ago a plate of spaghetti and meatballs clocked in at about 500 calories and today its more than double, with double the pasta and instead of small meatballs‚ we are eating 3 large ones. The average bagel size has doubled in the past 20 years. The normal soda serving size today is about 20 oz, compare that to a mere 6.5 oz 20 years ago, that’s just a bit over 3 times the calories‚ and not to mention the sugar! And when it comes to the basics - like a turkey sandwich, years ago it averaged in at 320 calories versus today’s whopping 820 calories!

How can you determine what a portion should look like? Here are some tips:

http://www.webmd.com/diet/printable/wallet-portion-control-size-guide


Meat (animal protein) about the size of the palm of your hand, or a deck of cards, 3.5 to 4 or 5 ounces depending on your size.
3 oz of fish is about the size of a check book.

Cheese portion should be about the size of three dice, which is 1.5 ounces or approximately 170 calories.

One cup of yogurt, is about the size of a baseball and accounts for one serving.

23 almonds, ¼ cup, is a great snack, and is about the size of a golf ball. You can also use the golf ball measurement for 2 tablespoons of hummus.

A portion of crunchy veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, kale or carrots is about the size of a baseball, which equals about 1 cup. The same portion stands for leafy greens like salad, which one could easily eat two cups.

What about fruit? Think baseball again, a good-sized apple is about the size of a baseball or even a little smaller. Dried fruit portion should look more like a golf ball.

A cup of soup should also be about the size of a baseball.

Craving a sweet treat? Keeping the sweet to the size of a pack of dental floss will keep you within your health goals.

For a great visual of more foods visit the portion size plate from WebMD.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Other Bees

There are thousands and thousands of bees that are not honeybees out there, pollinating our flowers and helping plants produce food. Who knew?


Hear that hum as a bumblebee settles onto a tomato blossom? It’s a faint but powerful sound: The bee is working hard. It’s grabbing the flower with its jaws, vibrating its flight muscles and producing a tone that’s close to middle C. That vibration causes the flower to release pollen – a process called sonication, or buzz pollination.

More than 85 percent of the world’s plants either require or benefit from animal-mediated pollination. Farmers know this and have panicked in the face of the colony collapse disorder that’s reducing populations of honeybees around the country. (Some were even flying in packaged bees from Australia at $200 a pop until the USDA halted the practice for fear of importing new diseases and parasites.)

But what most farmers don’t realize – and the rest of us, too, as we anxiously search our gardens and parks for honeybees – is that there are another 20,000 species of bees. Four thousand are native to North America – including 50 native bumblebees – and they are busily at work in our landscapes.

We rarely notice our wild native bees because most are small and solitary and gentle – they aren’t likely to draw our attention with a sting.

But their impact on flowering plants is huge, with studies suggesting that they’re twice as effective at pollination than honeybees.

“The value of honeybees is that you can truck mobile hives to a farm and release tens of thousands of bees into the landscape,” says Eric Maden, the Assistant Pollinator Program Director of the Xerces Society, an organization that advocates on behalf of invertebrates and their habitat. “And people are fascinated with their social structure and with honey production. But bee for bee, most of the wild ones are vastly more productive.”

We rarely notice our wild native bees because most are small and solitary and gentle – they aren’t likely to draw our attention with a sting.



For one thing, Maden says, not all honeybees are even interested in pollen. Some are pollen foragers, but most are nectar foragers that ignore the critical spot where the flowers display pollen, called anthers. For another, honeybees are exceptionally finicky about the weather. They won’t fly when it’s cool, cloudy or rainy, whereas our native wild bees are game for inclement days. And honeybees sleep late.

Maden points to squash bees, the same size and color as honeybees, which co-evolved with squashes and make their individual nests in the soil near the plants. Pumpkin farmers and other squash growers are often unaware of these wild bees and unnecessarily pay to have honeybees hives trucked in for the season. “The squash bees go out before sunrise and are finished foraging by noon,” Maden says. “Honeybees don’t even wake up until it’s sunny and bright and, by that time, the squash bees have already gotten the job done.”

Valuable as our native wild bees are, their populations are dropping – for instance, an analysis by the Xerces Society ‘s Rich Hatfield suggests that 30% of our native bumblebees are threatened by extinction.

But Maden says that this is one threatened species story that can easily have a happy ending: Just plant wildflowers.

The loss of native flowering plants from development and conventional agriculture – especially the vast stretches of Roundup-resistant GMO crops in which everything but that commercial plant has been blasted away – has eliminated habitat for wild bees. Quite simply, there isn’t enough food for wild bees when there is only one plant – the commercial plant – blooming for a few weeks. They need a flowery source of food spring, summer and fall.

“Pesticide use is also an issue, but the single most important factor is habitat loss,” Maden says. “The solution is not complicated, and everyone can have a role. If you’re a farmer, plant native wildflowers around your farm. If you live in the city and your only access to the outdoors is a fire escape, put a pot of wildflowers there. If every person planted one wildflower, conditions for bees in this country would be significantly better.”

Farmers who create habitat for wild bees are doing themselves a favor. Maden points to a study by biologists Lora Morandin and Mark Winston showing that canola growers who took 30 percent of their land out of production and let native plants flourish grew as much or more seed on their remaining land.* A soon-to-be published study by Michigan State University entomologist Rufus Isaacs and former student Brett Blaauw shows that blueberry farmers who put in wildflower borders had more wild bees per bush and up to 800 pounds more fruit per acre adjacent to the plantings.


Planting wildflowers not only helps our wild bees thrive. It also saves butterflies. They aren’t essential pollinators, but they provide food for birds and have a place in the ecosystem – and they’re so darned pretty. Butterfly scientists are alarmed at the rate of disappearance of several common species including the Monarch, whose numbers may be so low that they will be unable to manage a migration this year. Their favored plant, the milkweed, has been decimated by the use of Roundup in cornfields planted with GMO glyphosate-resistant corn.

“I remember when I was a kid in North Dakota and we’d drive a few hours – even if we were just going grocery shopping, we’d have to drive a few hours,” Maden says. “The front of the car would be a sticky mass of insects. Now I can drive across the US in July and not have as many dead insects on my car as we did from a two-hour drive in North Dakota.”

You get the point. He doesn’t want you to kill bees and butterflies with your car, but it would be great if there were once again so many of them that they’re hard to miss. Find some wildflower seeds native to your region, and go sow.

[via Modern Farmer]