• Leyla Hur, as featured in Munaty Cooking

    Leyla Hur, as featured in Munaty Cooking

    "In Hong Kong, everything revolves around food, and it was not different in my family. In my family, each meal was truly an event and that is something I still hold close. Right after we finished one meal, Dad would discuss with us what we would have for our next meal..."

  • About Leyla

    About Leyla

    "Even from my earliest years, I liked to feed people and share my food with others. I have been privileged enough to grow up in Hong Kong, live in Malaysia, Australia, Canada, and now the United States; and I have travelled extensively throughout the world, sampling the delicacies of..."

  • Asian Beef Lettuce Cups (with Vegetarian Alternative)

    Asian Beef Lettuce Cups (with Vegetarian Alternative)

    "In Hong Kong, this is very famous and usually comes when you order Peking Duck. The restaurant will then make three dishes from the duck. You will usually get the skin (Peking Duck) which is served with..."

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

"Bee-Free Honee" Review

A couple of weeks ago, my attention was brought to a bee-free honey. Just a few days prior, my husband was asking me if there was such a thing. At the time, I had never heard of it and told him that I felt it might be something he'd have to learn to do without. As vegans, we do not eat honey or use anything that comes from honey or bees. That is not for health reasons, but for ethical reasons, environmental reasons, and the idea of ingesting something that has been vomited up kind of rubs us the wrong way.

Some people balk at this idea, shake their heads, and even laugh at us because we choose to not eat honey, but let me explain further. To truly understand why we don't eat honey, I also have to explain that veganism is not just a fad diet or simply done for health reasons, veganism is a complete way of life. It is, a lifestyle.

"Veganism is a way of living which excludes all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, the animal kingdom, and includes a reverence for life. Even the most careful keeper cannot help but squash or otherwise kill many of the bees in the process. During unproductive months, some beekeepers may starve their bees to death or burn the hive to avoid complex maintenance." ~ Jo Stepaniak.

"Like other factory-farmed animals, honeybees are victims of unnatural living conditions, genetic manipulation, and stressful transportation ... Profiting from honey requires the manipulation and exploitation of the insects' desire to live and protect their hive." ~ PETA

For us, honey is simply not an option. And sadly, for many of us, we grew up eating and loving the taste of honey. Until two weeks ago, I had resigned myself to the fact that there was probably no substitute for honey and it may well be something that we would be without for the rest of our lives. For us, this "sacrifice" in order for taste, was worth it.

Enter Katie Sanchez, owner of RAES Foods Inc., and creator of Bee-Free Honee.

I first contacted Katie when I first learned about the honee and asked where I could find it and if there was a chance that my local Whole Foods Market was carrying it. I told her that I wanted to give it a try and then write a review about my experience with it. I was super surprised when she wrote back and sent me a bottle to try and review.

Eagerly I checked the mailbox each day anticipating receiving the bottle. My anticipation even traversed into my dreams and I dreamed about the amber liquid on toast. How was it going to taste? Was it going to be like honey... really? I was as excited as a kid waiting anxiously for Christmas morning. If she had truly created a product that would replace traditional bees honey, with the same textures, and multiple uses, both my husband and I would be in heaven. And, I promised myself that I would do all that I could to help promote the honey and get word out there about it.

So while I waited, I learned more about Katie and how the bee-free honee had come into being...

Like me, Katie's love of cooking started when she was very young. For her 10th birthday, she asked that as a gift, she'd like to cook dinner for the family. Like me, cooking inched its way into her blood stream, and passion began to take hold.  She grew up in Mound, MN, where her family had an apple orchard in their front yard and her father (ironically) was a bee keeper.

With that passion for cooking etched deeply within her soul, Katie went on to cooking school in Louisiana where she worked on a line in order to get her foot in the door of a pastry department, as making pastries was her preference.

Eventually, she found an opportunity at D'Amico Cucina, in Minneapolis where she worked as the assistant to Pastry Chef Leah Henderson and under Chef Jay Sparks.  After 3 years, she left D'Amico Cucina and went to work at an all natural bakehouse in St. Paul.  It was in this bakehouse that Katie began working with vegan products and learned about the all-natural-food world.

In her work at the bake house, Katie often wished she could use honey in some of the vegan items since the vegan sweeteners were very strong and they often masked the subtle flavors of vanilla or hints of lemon. However, being vegan items, this was not a possibility.

Then in 1999, a miracle for vegans everywhere took place. While trying to make a less sweet version of apple jelly and being a novice with jelly, Katie accidentally created something that was definitely not jelly.  Not wanting to be wasteful, she 'canned' it only to discover in the morning, that what she had was honee!

Like most of us, she heard about the decline of the bee population in Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) and the scary scientific estimation that bees will be extinct in the US by 2035.  Knowing that bees are vital to our plant life and food chain, she asked herself two questions, could she reproduce her honee and was there a market for it?

She went back to the kitchen and after much trial and error she was able to say that she had a solid recipe.

Bee-Free Honee is made with only three ingredients; apples, vegan quality pure cane sugar, and lemon juice. There is only enough sugar in the honee to achieve the thickness and stickiness of traditional honey.

Bee-Free Honee is safe for children under 2-years of age to ingest as there is no fear of the disease Botulism, which is a concern with bee-honey. It is also safe to ingest for those who have an allergy to traditional honey. Plus, it is all natural and vegan - YAAY for vegans like my husband and me who were beginning to really start missing the amber goodness.

When Katie began her journey, she was told that she would need to thicken the honee with chemicals or gum, as the process that she was using was too time consuming and it was not considered "manufacture friendly". With other factors in the mix, and learning that she would have to change the way she processed the honee altogether, so that manufacturers would find it profitable, Katie decided to not proceed. Instead, she found a local winery in Minnesota who were intrigued with her product and idea for manufacturing the honee, and decided to help her out.

The winery guided Katie through every process of manufacturing the honee on a large scale and she also learned about the industry as a whole. She has developed a great relationship with the winery, and is involved in the production of each batch of her honee.

Finally, the day arrived when my much anticipated package arrived. It was all that I could do to not run into the house tearing open the package. Yes! I was excited and anticipation was growing with each step into the house. Plus, I'd not had lunch yet, so possibly it was hunger that was fueling me forward.

Toast made, Bee-Free Honey in hand, I sat down to give it the all-important taste test. Days of anticipation building, waiting, imagination running in circles around my head for this very moment, were finally satiated in that first bite.

It was not exactly like traditional bee-honey, but it was as close as I can ever see anyone coming to it. It is absolutely delicious. There is even that delightful little sensational "burn" that honey creates in the very back of my throat as I am swallowing. My anticipation of this package was so well worth it and so well deserved of the build-up that I had given it. I have to say, I am in love! It is scrumptious.

I have used it in a few things that I have made, and have yet to create the recipe that Katie gave me for a fabulous ginger lemonade, but that is next on my agenda.

Katie has done a fabulous job and I urge you to go immediately to Amazon.com and purchase a bottle to try. If you are in Minnesota, Bee-Free Honee is for sale in 40 Cooperatives and grocery stores, as well it is available in Whole Foods Market in Minnesota and Chicago.

Because I loved it SO much, I spoke with Katie about having a give-away, to which she was really delighted to take part in. So tomorrow, I will post the details of the give-away. Make sure you have this page bookmarked (or Follow me with Google Friend Connect) and you "Like" Cooking With Leyla on Facebook, and/or follow me on Twitter @CookingWLeyla.

Happy Cooking, Happy Eating!


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