Thursday, November 2, 2017

Vegan Options at TGIFridays

I saw something come across my Facebook feed about vegan options at TGIFridays.  The gave you options that I don't believe are remotely accurate.  As per the email I received from TGIFridays:

"Thank you for emailing TGI Fridays.

We apologize for the inconvenience. The only vegan item we have on the menu is Beyond Burger on Test Locations in Boston Area.

Thank you for your interest in TGI Fridays!"

So yeah...nothing.

Just look at their Allergen Menu.

Vegan Menu TGI Friday
Picture from go check out her experience at TGIFridays

Side salad has dairy.  The fries have egg, dairy, fish and and shellfish!  What the....?  And why does 99% of their menu have dairy?  Ewww.  I'm going to bet their bread has dairy, so I'd double check that before ordering their Beyond Burger.

I'm surprised so many sites are listing things like the fries.  Never trust any site...even this one.  Always do your own research.  Asking a server isn't enough.  Check out their allergen menus.  Whenever possible, ask to see the packaging of the food (that's how one person from my vegan Facebook group discovered the salt at her movie theatre had dairy in it and how I discovered my local White Castle doesn't stock vegan bread for their veggie burgers even though they're supposed to).

And please, before I get comments from people talking about cross contamination, that is not what this is.  If it was, they would specifically state that due to cross-contamination they can't guarantee that their food won't have allergens.  Also, if they were listing possible cross-contamination, then every item would list everything.  No.  This is a list that, based on the ingredients in the food, contain these allergens.  If you think I'm wrong, and that the TGIFridays representative was wrong, then contact them yourself.

I'm not a chain person myself.  I prefer supporting local restaurants.  But, perhaps you should check out a different chain when you go out, because no one wants fish in their french fries...or maybe you each their own.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Don't Eat a Turkey, Sponsor One Instead: Woodstock Farm Sanctuary

Thanksgiving is just around the corner and while this holiday is filled with gratitude and happiness, it is a day of violence and loss for 46 million turkeys. But this Thanksgiving, you can celebrate peace and compassion by sponsoring a turkey friend at Woodstock Farm Sanctuary. 

For the month of November, sponsor a turkey for only $50 and receive a beautiful sponsorship package – a card, photo, and story of your rescued turkey. Be an effective advocate by introducing your family and friends to one of our friendly turkeys who has a name, unique personality, and lives a happy life, like our friend Antoinette.

At just a few weeks old, Antoinette was found near a live-kill market in New York City, a type of market where people go to pick out a live turkey among the hundreds of other young, terrified birds and rabbits trapped in small crates. He or she is then killed on-site while the others await the same horrible fate.

At Woodstock Sanctuary, Antoinette is safe and free to be her friendly, affectionate self. She is very sociable and will come right up to sit on your lap and cuddle. Many visitors are blown away by her cheery personality and come to realize that, though she has feathers instead of fur, she is just like the dogs and cats who we love and care for. She is a beautiful individual deserving of life and happiness.

Antoinette is an inspiring ambassador who moves people to view animals as friends, not food.

Introduce Antoinette to your family and friends this Thanksgiving by sponsoring her for only $50. It is a great (and affordable!) way to help us cover the costs of caring for turkeys in need while raising awareness of their plight on this holiday.

This holiday season, let’s give turkeys something to be thankful for by leaving them, and all animals, off our plates.We encourage everyone to celebrate ThanksLiving with us – in reverence and gratitude for all life.

From all of the animals and people here at Woodstock Sanctuary, thank you for caring!

(Yes, I stole this whole post from Woodstock Farm Sanctuary, but I don't think they'd mind me sharing this info.  I'll post the emails I get from other sanctuaries about their Sponsor a Turkey programs this month.  Thanksgiving is a horrible holiday, celebrating a horrible thing.  Don't be part of that.  Start a new tradition of getting together with the people you love and share a cruelty-free meal.)

Monday, October 30, 2017

Should I Buy a Vitamix?

Yes, you need a Vitamix, to varying degrees.  What the heck does that mean?  Read ahead.

If I'm being completely honest, if you eat the standard American diet, then you could probably live without this.  How much liquifying of things are you really doing?  Maybe soup?  Chances are, people eating the standard American diet tend to eat more soup out of cans than homemade soup, not being an ass, but have you seen the millions of casserole recipes using canned soup?  Yeesh.  So, yeah, you probably won't get your money's worth.

If you're in between the standard American diet and trying to be healthy, then yes, you could get some real use.  Other than soups you could use them for the smoothest smoothies, nut milk and sorbets or banana based ice creams.  When I dump in whole chia and flax seeds in my smoothies, they get ground up so fine, you wouldn't know they were in my smoothie.

If you're vegan, then unequivocally, yes.  You have to have a Vitamix. You can obviously make all the above, but you really need a high powered blender for making vegan sour cream or cheese sauces.  You're never going to get the perfectly grain-free and luxuriously rich mouth-free without a high-speed blender. Maybe you'll get close but I am betting, not as good.

Let me add, if you're gluten-sensitive, this would also be a great investment piece because you could grind all your own flours.  Gluten-free stuff is hella expensive, so this would certainly pay for itself.

I use my Vitamix literally every day to make everything from smoothies to snack, cheese sauces, nice cream and soy milk.  Is it expensive?  Hell yes, but it's an investment.  You can buy a $20 blender every other year for your life, none that will work as well as this.  Or save up and just buy it once and probably have it for a lifetime.

I used to always buy cheaper stuff until I realized how dumb that was.  Especially since most of the people saying it's too expensive spent...what? $600 on an iPhone...and pay probably close to, if not more than, $100 a month for service.  You will always find the money for the things you want...this Vitamix is something you want.  Believe me.

On a final note, there are a lot of options model-wise.  I chose the wider, shorter container over the tall skinny one.  I thought it would be easier to clean, but I don't know if that's true.  I have, use and love this OXO Good Grips Jar Spatula, so far it works to best to get almost all of my smoothie out.

There are ones with fancy pre-sets and that are computerized or whatever...not my thing.  I bought the Vitamix 5200 because of the wider container, plus this package came with the grain container.  I also liked the pulse option and not all of them have it.

Vegan Mayo

Make the investment.  Stop researching whether you should buy it, and just do it. 

Yes, the links are affiliate links for which I get paid some nominal something if you buy something.  Read my disclosure on my blog's sidebar.  I'm sure there's some more official way I'm supposed to say this, but since everyone's using affiliate links now, I'm sure you know the deal.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Vegan Butternut Squash Mac n Cheese

My CSA box came with a butternut squash, and I had no desire to make soup...which it seems is the most popular recipe for butternut squash.  It's fine, it's just not my thing.  I started looking around for recipes online when I realized I could just substitute out the squash for the veggies in my go-to vegan mac n cheese recipe.  For the record, I hate when people don't give you specific amounts and say a small/medium/large whatever.  In this case, I have no choice because 1. I didn't measure it 2.  It's not that serious, just wing it, it'll be fine.


1 pound of cooked elbow macaroni
1 cup of reserved pasta water
1 cup-ish of frozen peas

1 butternut squash
1/2 a medium onion (again, not that serious) roughly chopped
2 cloved garlic, whole
1-2 TBS of olive oil

1/2 cup of cashews
3-4 tsp of salt (I use kosher, but use what you like)
5 TBS of vegan butter
1/2 tsp dijon mustard (whatever you have will be fine)
2 TBS lemon juice (fresh or from a bottle)
black pepper to taste (I crank my pepper grinder 10-20 times)
1/2 tsp paprika


Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees.

Peel and cube a butternut squash.  Put squash, onions and garlic on a baking tray with a silpat or parchment liner.  Coat lightly with olive oil (or whatever oil you like).  Put the tray on the middle shelf of the oven and bake for approximately a half hour.  Flip everything around half way through.

While that's baking, put pasta in a pot of salted water.  Yes, put it in before it boils.  Pasta in cold water is pasta that doesn't stick together.  Don't waste time waiting for it to boil

Now that you're waiting on things to bake and boil, put everything from the last set of ingredients (cashews down to the paprika) into blender.  And...wait.

Okay, you're pasta should be boiling...don't forget to flip around the veggies in the oven.  They should be more or less cooked through and starting to brown a little.  Carefully take a cup of pasta water  (I dip my pyrex measuring cup in, do what you want, just don't burn yourself.)  Pour that hot water into the blender.  (Since I don't pre-soak the cashews, I feel like this helps to soften everything up.)

Carefully blend everything.  Drain your pasta (assuming it's done) and put it back in the pot.  Pour in the peas and mix it up.  Take your veggies out of the oven (also assuming it's done) and dump everything into the blender.  Blend again until everything is creamy and super smooth.  Now pour this mix in with the pasta and give it a stir.


Friday, October 6, 2017

Honey Brook Organic Farm CSA Review

Do you see this crappily-staged photo of our box?  Did you notice I haven't been posting about the CSA?  I know it's too early to write a review, but clearly, I'm not going to post about my CSA boxed share anymore, so now is as good of a time as any.

When we started, I was very excited about being in a CSA.  I had talked about joining one for a long time, searched through all the farms in our area, and was happy to find one that sounded good (despite not great Yelp reviews) and that was both organic and vegan-friendly.  After taking the tour, I was excited at the prospect of not only the fruit and veggies it appeared we were getting, but by the idea of helping support a farmer.  No farms, no food, right?

I posted religiously so I could keep track of what we got to make sure this was a worthwhile endeavor.  As the weeks went by, I realized I haven't wanted to post about each weeks box because I've become so disillusioned with the whole process.  Here are the reasons I won't be rejoining the Honey Brook Organic Farm CSA:

1.  Both Chesterfield and Pennington are about an hour away.  Had they been more transparent about the differences between the farms (i.e. Chesterfield gets figs, Pennington does not, etc.) I would have joined Chesterfield instead since you seem to get a larger variety of items from there.  

2.  Chesterfield's season started sooner, due to weather issues which I understood.  But then they were going to allow on-farm pickup people to start PYO at Pennington earlier than the off-site, boxed share is that fair?  I think if people hadn't started emailing about it, the boxed share people would have gotten a week or two less produce than the on-farm pickup people.  They don't seem to understand that they should treat all CSA members equally.

3.  I am STILL annoyed with the PYO program.  I don't like that if you do the PYO during the week, you get more than on the weekends.  I especially don't like that the amount they post online is about less than what they actually let you pick; and that when I questioned it, they acted like I was crazy.  It literally happened every single time.  And I'm saying they posted it, and I was there a half hour later...not five hours later...

4.  People picking up at the farm seemed to pay less, yet get more produce as well as more of a variety of produce.   By my perception from when we were there and there were a lot of on-farm pick up people picking up their shares.  I don't know that for a fact.

5.  The amount of greens I got was unmanageable for us, and unless I remembered to freeze it, a lot went to waste.

6.  They started having some man sell honey and beeswax products at the farm.  I know people are all like yay honey!  But honey doesn't have the beneficial properties it used to.  It did when it was seasonal and the bees weren't being fed fast food (aka sugar water).  Sorry, but I'm not interested in animal agriculture of any kind.

7.  Not a direct issue with the farm, but someone from my pick up location was rifling through the boxes and either swapping stuff or outright taking things.  So I had to switch from going after work to going on my lunch break which was very annoying.

8.  It didn't feel like a community coming together as much as I'm a customer who didn't really matter to such a large scale CSA. I think they cater more to their local community, which is a more high-end crowd, who I'm sure care more concerned with telling their friends they're in a CSA than they actually care about how the CSA is run.  I could be totally off about that, but based on some of the people on the tour, and the kinds of cars in the parking lot...I don't think I'm totally off base.

It wasn't the right CSA for me, but maybe it is for you.  If you live close to the farm and can get your CSA pickups from there and do the PYO during the week, then you are definitely going to get more bang for your buck than I did.  The produce was really good, fresh and crisp. I enjoyed the newsletters. The corn was phenomenal.  There was also a convenience factor to picking up a box of veggies without having to go search around the grocery store trying to figure out what was fresh that week.  Since the items weren't necessarily things I would buy on a regular basis, I had to think outside the box in using everything up.  Follow me on Instagram if you want to see what I've made.

I am on the fence about taking part in a CSA next year.  We did find some really great farmers markets near us.  Well, actually the ones near us, like Rutgers, does it during the week during work hours...perhaps they also want to cater to higher-income folks that don't work, who knows.  I mean, why make organic, locally grown produce easily accessible to middle and lower-middle-class folks...but that's a different discussion for another time.  But further away from us, there are great ones, selling produce from local, organic farms on the weekends.  We were thinking about going to a farmer's market on the weekend, put aside the same amount we were spending to be part of this CSA and buy our own produce.  Let's see if that works out better or not.  If not, then I'll try to find a CSA.

I'm not disappointed that we joined this CSA.  It was an interesting experience, and I am still very pro-CSAs.  I would recommend that everyone look into CSAs in their area.  Try it out for a season and see what you think.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Are the Veggie Burgers at Bobby's Burger Palace Vegan?

The short answer is a resounding no.

I emailed Bobby's Burger Palace's customer service about their vegan options, as they provide no nutritional information online, and this was their response:

Picture from their twitter https

"Hello Naomi. My name is Jim and i am one of  the area managers for Bobby's burger palace.

1st as of right now we do not have any specific nutritional information regarding our products. The info I do have for you is that our fries and all of our sides are fried in canola oil. The salt we use is kosher salt and contains no dairy but the sauce that is served on the side does. The onion rings contain buttermilk.  Our veggie burger contains our BBQ sauce as 1 of the ingredients which contains honey, It is also basted with egg and dredged in quinoa flour before cooking. You can always ask for that part of the procedure to be skipped but the honey cannot be omitted. 

Other vegan options include our Chopped Crunch Salad, Super Kale Salad and our Palace Quinoa Salad but all do contain some sort of cheese. The dressings that we offer also contain either honey or pomegranate Molasses. Hope this was helpful. Thanks." 

I appreciate the detailed response, so thank you, Jim, that was more information than I expected.  I really do appreciate that they took the time to give me a complete answer.

I am disappointed that their only vegan option are french fries.  Maybe I should have messaged back to say if the salads have cheese, then they're not vegan. I feel like all these Food Network chefs are in cahoots with Big Pharm, working hard to keep us all sick.  Here...let me show you how to make unhealthy food!  Let me feed you unhealthy food at our restaurants!  Everything's better with butter and bacon!  Oh, now you're diabetic and have high cholesterol?  Go talk to our friends at Big Pharm!  I wonder if they get kickbacks...  All alleged and all my opinions, don't sue me.  Do we still have first amendment rights?  Yeesh.

Yay, no dairy in the salt like certain movie theatres.  And yay, they don't fry their french fries in beef fat or anything weird.  But all their salads have cheese?  Why is there honey in everything?  How don't people know that honey doesn't have the health benefits it used to?  And most importantly what is the point of a veggie burger that isn't vegan, and if you include the entire process, isn't even vegetarian?  (Yes, I know there are sub-groups of vegetarians that eat eggs, but sorry, that's not actually vegetarian.  But feel free to identify as whatever and call yourself whatever.  I'm not trying to argue about it, I'm just happy you're not eating meat.)

I also take issue with restaurants that don't make this type of information readily available on their website.  If you're proud of your menu, then be transparent...  It should be required that all menus make notations for eggs, dairy, and gluten at the very least.

Anyway, I'll continue to steer clear of this place.  I hear TGIFridays may start carrying Beyond Burgers.  Or I'll just buy them and make a burger at home.  Making a good burger isn't rocket science, and definitely doesn't need to include eggs or honey.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Honey Brook Organic Farm CSA: Week 13 Pennington Premium Boxed Share

This week we picked up: 

spaghetti squash, potatoes, parsley, summer squash, heirloom tomatoes, peppers, hot peppers, slicing tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, snap beans and a leek.

Things have been hectic, and there has been some food waste.  I hate food waste.  I have to get on top of using these veggies.  Thank goodness for the tomatoes.  My garden has been a mess this year thanks to the rain.  I need to pickle these bell peppers or freeze them, we can't eat them fast enough.  I've also been super sucky drying or freezing the herbs.  That's been annoying.  They're such nice bunches and I'm letting them go to waste.  And I have no clue what I'll do with the leek.  I braised them using a Martha Stewart recipe a million years ago, I may have to dig that up.

In terms of the CSA, I will say on weeks that I'm not cooking as much, it's been hard to use things up before they go bad.  I'm also on the fence regarding value.  At about $26 a week, I'm not sure it's worth it.  Also, having to get there early because some crappy person is either taking things out of boxes, or perhaps swapping stuff so they get the bigger produce, is annoying.  

The PYO (pick your own) stuff has seemed good with tomatoes, peppers, okra, herbs and flowers being offered.  But knowing that just because they list a pint and a half of something in the morning, that when I drive an hour there, it'll be down to only a half pint make it not worth it.  The whole situation with the PYO has really left a sour taste in my mouth about the CSA at Honey Brook.  If their attitude was more, "Thank you for telling us, that is something we'll work to correct" as opposed to "Sorry if that happened to you once...sorry YOU had such an EXTREME issue..."  Okay, that's not a direct quote, but you get the gist.  They acted as if I were making up a problem that didn't exist... If you post a quart, then it should be a quart.  If half way through the day, you have to reduce that to a pint, fine...but not right after you post it.  And to always reduce the amount you can pick on weekends...I mean come on.  Box share people can't come during the week, we shouldn't be penalized because I have to work and can only come on weekends.

Whateves.  I was so excited about this CSA, and now I'm getting more and more blah.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Honey Brook Organic Farm CSA: Week 11 and 12 Pennington Premium Boxed Share

I forgot to take a picture of the veggies from last week.  We were on vacation, had grabbed the box, threw everything in the fridge and ran back out the door. Sorry.  Here's a list of what we got: 

Cherry Tomatoes, Onions, Potatoes, Parsley, Chard, Heirloom Tomatoes, Shallots, Slicing Tomatoes, Summer Squash, Peppers, Watermelon.

Then last Tuesday, we went and picked up our Week 12 box.

Eggplant, Potatoes, Parsley, Sage, Chard, Heirloom Tomatoes, Peppers, Hot Peppers, Slicing Tomatoes, Cherry Tomatoes

If you want to see what we're going with our box, you should follow me on Instagram.  I made a black rice with bloody mary tomato salad from Anna Jones' book A Modern Way to Cook.  I also fried up a bunch of eggplant slices using panko and VeganEgg by Follow Your Heart.  I served it with a simple tomato, garlic, onion sauce for a quick weeknight dinner.

We even did some veggie sushi with tomato "tuna," mirin and rice vinegar pickled peppers, and carrot lox.  Nothing tasted really fishy, but everything was really good.

Sorry again for posting everything late.  In addition to the vacation, I was remodeling the bathroom.  I'll post links to that later.  I'll try to get Week 13 out on Wednesday.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Honey Brook Organic Farm CSA: Week 10 Pennington Premium Boxed Share

This week's box had:

Garlic, Onions, Potatoes, Parsley, Chard, Heirloom Tomatoes, Scallions, Shallots, Slicing Tomatoes, Summer Squash, Peppers, and a large Watermelon.

If I ignore the newly acknowledged bee keeper, the mismanagement of the Pick Your Own program and the inequality of the produce being given to on-farm pickup and boxed share people, then I will say I am really starting to feel like this CSA was a good idea.

In the beginning, all the greens were overwhelming.  But I understood, what's in season is in season.  We got through those greens, between salads and smoothies, and stir-fries.  It's just been extra nice to start getting the "good" stuff, the tomatoes, melons and squash.  I've even loved the onions, shallots, garlic and potatoes.  While inexpensive to buy, usually what you find in the store is old produce.  The fresh stuff is a whole different world.

That watermelon was so sweet. You know how to pick a good melon?  There should be a yellow patch on the bottom from where it naturally ripened in the sun, and it should feel heavy for its size.

I realized this box along with my large assortment of overgrown cucumbers, I have the makings for gazpacho!  I had it last night after the gym and today for dinner.  Mmm gazpacho...

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Honey Brook Organic Farm CSA: Week 9 Pennington Premium Boxed Share

This week's box had:

kale, chard, parsley, garlic, tomatoes, onions, shallots, summer squash, jalapenos, bell peppers, scallions and potatoes.

I have so much kale growing in my yard, I don't really need extra kale!  But this kale is great for chips, my kale is better for salads, smoothies and juices.  I tried pickling scallions, but that didn't go well.  The color bleached to a pale gross color from the vinegar.  I'll keep trying, there has to be a way.  I will pickle the shallots, I have a recipe I've been meaning to try.

I used to grow potatoes but I stopped because it was such a hassle for something I can buy very inexpensively at the store.  Nonetheless I was excited for these potatoes.  There is nothing better than a fresh potato.  My husband used to wash them off when I'd harvest them and eat them raw.  The onions and potatoes you get from the grocery store were probably sitting in storage for months.

I still haven't bothered with the PYO as it's all been pint or half pints.  Not really worth it.  I wish someone else was documenting a CSA around here so I could see how this compares.  Heck, I wish the people in this CSA would comment on my posts so I'd know if us boxed share people really are getting the short end of the stick.  Oh well.  I like the produce we've been getting.  I don't like having to get to the pick up spot early to ensure no one's rifled through my box.  Like I said before, if they continue with this bee guy I'll have to find a new place.  I don't care what anyone says about this is how we've always done it.  That's bs.  We can all survive on fast food, but it's unhealthy and bad for us.  If you're replacing the bees healthy food with fast food, i.e. sugar water, how can you not expect it to have a negative effect on them.  This isn't rocket science, just common sense.  Just saying.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Honey Brook Organic Farm CSA: Week 8 Pennington Premium Boxed Share

Parsley, Cilantro, Sweet Corn, Cherry/Grape and Regular Tomatoes, Salad Onions, Beets, Salad Mix, Summer Squash, Sweet Peppers, and Kale.

I got there early this week so I didn't have any issues with people with sticky fingers.  

The corn at Honey Brook is amazing.  Seriously.  The best corn I've ever had.  They literally cost 10 times what the corn at the grocery store is going for, but I want to say it's worth it because it's really that much better.  Super crisp and so sweet.  I cook them for 1 minute on high pressure in my Fagor Lux Electric Pressure Cooker with 3/4 of water.  When it's done, do a quick release of the pressure and voila!  So much easier and faster than boiling a big pot of water.

I don't know what's going on with the PYO.  I haven't really looked into it.  I'm rather disillusioned with that whole process.  I was so excited to be part of a CSA and while I think the value is there, and I whole heartedly believe in CSAs and I think everyone should join one, this might have just been the wrong one for us.  But it's hard to find organic farms near us.  There are also no good farmer's markets...except for one at Rutgers that is only open during the day on Friday (wtf is up with that?  So regular working folk can't have access to the produce?).  There are also very few farms that don't support animal agriculture.  There is one that's run by vegans but it's way up North.  

When it gets to be time to join a CSA, I'll make up a chart and share it on here, listing who's doing it and whether they're vegan-friendly, organic, etc.  Until then, hope you're all enjoying your summer.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Honey Brook Organic Farm CSA: Week 7 Pennington Premium Boxed Share

Yup.  That's it.  Kale, cabbage, tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, parsley, cilantro, basil, two peppers and a tiny melon.  My onions are missing.  It kinda looked like someone was in my box.  Maybe they swapped out their smaller things for my bigger stuff?  Maybe they stole my onions?

I'll have to get there earlier.  I feel like the other boxes are worth what I was paying.  
This box....not so much.  This box looks more like a personal share than a premium share.  Other CSA's post pics of what they're putting out that week.  I wish they did that here.  I'll try to get there earlier next week.  Hopefully, my box won't be so lame.

Also, this might be my last getting a CSA box from Honey Brook anyway.  One of the primary reasons I chose this farm was because they didn't support any animal agriculture.  They now apparently have a beekeeper who's selling honey and beeswax.  Seriously?  Bleh.

What's my issue with honey?  Way back when, honey did have a lot of amazing properties.  It was also a seasonal item sold in limited quantities.  Now it's being mass produced year round, with bees being fed a constant fast food diet of sugar water (not good for you, not good for them) and constantly terrorized with billowing smoke.  Now, if someone consistently made you think your house was on fire, so they could steal all your stuff, would you be happy and calm or living in a constant state of fear?  I don't believe the honey being produced today in the current "traditional" method is producing anything that resembles the honey that used to be good for you.  I want no part of that crap, so I'm going to start looking into different CSA's for next year.  I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Honey Brook Organic Farm CSA: Week 6 Pennington Premium Boxed Share

You know who's always excited by our CSA box?  Chloe.  As soon as I bring it inside and lay everything out, she hops ignores that fact that this is the one counter she's not allowed on.

Looks around it.  Walks around it.

And then the inspection begins.  She loves to smell everything.  So bizarre.

This week we got the usual lettuce mix, cilantro and basil, chard, cabbage, onions, corn, kale, summer squash, peppers and a melon.

The summer squash looks a little sad and I've never seen a cabbage with such a point head...but otherwise all seems good.  I've been letting the basil and cilantro go to waste, I don't know why.  I'm going to make sure they get used up, or at least frozen.  Otherwise, I have continued to be on top of the veggie usage.  I plan on doing some kind of quick pickle for the onion tops.  I've only used about half before they'd dry up.  I think pickling them will let me use them well into the fall.  I'll keep you posted if I come up with a good recipe.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Honey Brook Organic Farm CSA: Week 5 (Plus Week 4's PYO) Pennington Premium Boxed Share

Let's start with Week 4's PYO.  On their web page, they list the current day's PYO status.  Consistently, the people coming on weekends (I'm betting most of whom are boxed share members.  If you had the time to go during the week, you'd pick up your box at the farm, right?) get less PYO than the people coming during the week.  That's annoying.  

What's more annoying is that this is the second time the site lists a certain amount we can pick, in this case 1 1/2 pints of blueberries; but, when you get there they tell you a lesser amount.  Hence my pint of blueberries and not a pint and a half.  I know you're thinking it's only a half pint, but it's the point.  If you went grocery shopping and the circular said 10 ears of corn for a $1 and you get there and they'll only let you take 8 ears for a $1...well, first that's false advertising, but also it's annoying.

 And for the record, there were a ton of ripe berries waiting to be picked.  I think in their effort to make sure everyone gets some, they are stingy with the amounts.  Then a lot of it winds up going bad, the strawberries are an easy example.  They didn't respond to my Facebook message, but I emailed today and got an immediate response:

We update the 'This Week' page on our website about 3 times a week. Office staff is split between the two farm locations and cannot update by the hour. Sometimes the PYO quantities can change due to the need for additional ripening or low quantities. What is posted online is a guideline for members to plan ahead but also comes with the understanding that these quantities may increase or decrease occasionally.
Our PYO attendants are following the Farm Manager's instructions and are not responsible for those decisions.

My question still stands, what's the point of that page is the information is immediately inaccurate?  Wouldn't the farm manager and the person updating the page be working together to post accurate information?  If I get a response to that, then I will let you know.  None the less, we picked our pint of blueberries, plus some beans and herbs.

That brings us to our Week 5 boxed share.  We got red onions, carrots, basil, broccoli, cherry tomatoes, zucchini, kale, salad greens, and corn.  They were selling the GMO-free corn for $1.25 an ear for members, I didn't buy any at that price, so it was nice it's in our box.  

This was dinner last night, with some vegan cheese sauce (recipe from Veganize It!) on the side. 

The downside to the kale...I'm already growing a million pounds of kale in my yard.  Oh well, I guess I'll be baking more kale chips.  I'm not sure what I want to do with the carrot tops.  They used to say they were toxic, somehow now it's not.  Who knows.  I think with fewer greens, we'll definitely get through this box without anything going to waste.  

Friday, June 30, 2017

Honey Brook Organic Farm CSA: Week 4 Pennington Premium Boxed Share

This week's Honey Brook Organic Farm CSA's Premium Boxed Share included Lettuce, Spinach, Broccoli, Cilantro, Beets, Fennel, Blueberries, Kale, Cucumbers, Lettuce Mix, Swiss Chard, and Dill....except there wasn't any Dill.

I was disappointed not to find dill, because I was planning on making some quick dill pickles with my cucumbers, but I guess it wasn't in the cards.  They are boxing up a lot of stuff, so I'm sure things slip through the cracks.  After the last debacle where I thought they forgot my beets, but didn't, I'm not emailing them about the dill!  Yeesh.

As it turns out fennel fronds are edible and yes, pesto is an option.  You can also simply add it to salads and really anything.  Or you can always juice them or add them to your smoothies.  I don't make lox with salmon anymore (now I make mine with carrots) but I'd bet they'd work well as a substitution for dill or tarragon.

I've been making a lot of salads out of Food52 Mighty Salads cookbook, but I think we're all saladed out.  The Hubby still wants to take salads to work for lunch, but I have to start switching it up for dinner or we're all going to lose it.  

FYI I washed then stuck the whole bag of spinach in the freezer.  It turned into this amazingly crispy frozen spinach that crumbled when touched.  I have learned that this is a much better way to add them to my smoothies.  Try it, you'll see I'm right.  I'm usually right.  Everyone should just listen to me....

I did have a few items starting to wilt away in my crisper drawer from last week, but I threw together a stir-fry that included the beet tops, turnips and turnip tops, as well as some lettuce.  Voila!  Clean slate for our CSA box produce.  I do still have the string beans...I forgot about them! I have some potatoes that are on their last legs, so I think I'll serve them for dinner with a few Gardein Lightly Breaded Turk'y Cutlets. 

I need to get my butt in gear as we are behind in using anything from this last CSA box!  I think the biggest issue with the CSA for us so far, is that it's just been such a plethora of greens.  There's only so much lettuce you can eat.  Is it a good buy?  I think if you normally buy organics, yes.  If you don't...then maybe not.  As usual, I will keep you posted each week on how our CSA experience has been.  

      Lettuce        Spinach      Broccoli     Cilantro
        Beets       Fennel     Blueberries       Kale
     Cucumbers     Lettuce Mix       Chard       Dill
      Lettuce        Spinach      Broccoli     Cilantro
        Beets       Fennel     Blueberries       Kale
     Cucumbers     Lettuce Mix       Chard       Dill

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Honey Brook Organic Farm CSA: Week 3 Premium Boxed Share

This week's Honey Brook Organic Farm CSA share included the lettuce mix, swiss chard, spinach, lettuce, kale, broccoli, beets, turnips, fennel, green beans, scallions and blueberries.  

I emailed them because I confused the beets for radishes.  I'm an idiot.  Next time, cut the thing open, try a piece and then, and only then, if you're still confused, email them.  Yeesh.  They were very nice about the whole thing.

As usual, everything was super fresh and crisp.  Those scallions...come on...they look amazing! Scallion pancakes, anyone?  My bestie likes to slice up fennel and just eat them plain, which is great; but what do you do with the tops other than pesto?  I'll have to do some research.  It's like Christmas every week when you open the box.  Sounds crazy, but I love it. No more strawberries.  That season is officially over, but blueberry season has started!  The birds eat all my blueberries and most of my raspberries, so it'll be nice to do the PYO and get them at the farm.

The Premium Box has been the perfect size for us.  I've been using up almost everything before our next week's pick up.  I really haven't been pickling anything.  No kimchi or radish greens....nothing.  I've been trying to just cook what we've been getting.  I've been adding a handful of spinach to our morning smoothies, baking up kale chips and trying a bunch of recipes from Food52 Mighty Salads, which for as simple as some of them well as some seeming to be quite the stretch to call it a salad...they've all been really good.

The Chesterfield farm is starting their PYO blueberry picking this week, fingers crossed I'll get a notice from Pennington this week too!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Honey Brook Organic Farm CSA: Week 2 Pennington Premium Boxed Share

My Honey Brook Organic Farm Premium Boxed Share for Week 2 included arugula, swiss chard, salad mix, spinach, napa cabbage, turnips, oregano, sugar snap peas and two types of lettuce.

I knew the beginning of the season would involve a lot of greens, so I was prepared.  For some, this would seem very daunting.  Here are some ideas:

1.  Freeze anything you don't think you can use before they go bad.
2.  Add greens to your smoothies or juice them!  We all know adding spinach or kale is a great way to boost protein, vitamins, and minerals in your smoothies, but lettuce is also a great addition.  Lettuce is chock full of vitamins and minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, zinc, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, and vitamins B6, C, A, E, and K.
3.  You don't have to eat salads all week.  Add greens to your soups, pasta, spring rolls, stir fries or even make pesto.  Try non-traditional American recipes, there's a whole other world of food out there.
4.  Get into pickling!  There are a bunch of easy recipes for pickled radishes, or even kimchi.
5.  Dehydrate them, or season and bake at 200 degrees for a few hours and make them into chips.  Or don't season them, dehydrate them, and grind them up into a green powder to add to whatever.
6.  You could can them, but in my opinion, you're better off freezing them.
7.  Check out, not just vegetarian or vegan recipe sites/blogs, but tap into the raw vegan community.  They have some amazing, out of the box ideas for all veggies.

We've been using up a lot trying out Food52 Mighty Saladswhich initially I thought was a dud of a cookbook, but has turned out to be really good!

Inequality in share distributions aside, I will say I am getting my money's worth.  A CSA might be hard for some, but if you're willing to expand your horizons and try out new plant-based recipes, I think you'll do just fine.  If I was counting the discrepancies in share distributions, I'd give this a C, but if I ignore that, I'd give Honey Brook's CSA a B.

Honey Brook Organic Farm CSA: Week 1 PYO

Turns out the Pick Your Own at Honey Brook Organic Farm runs Monday to Sunday.  Which means that day we picked our strawberries...Week .5....really was a week we should have received a box.  Yet, we didn't and the people picking up their boxes at the farm did.

Let me tell you a story.  I have to smoosh around my dog's wet food and then mix in his dry food.  I also have to smoosh around my cat's wet food for no real reason, other than she will absolutely not eat it if I don't.  Why?  Because she wants the same treatment as our dog, and I don't blame her.

So far this is my biggest complaint about Honey Brook, the inconsistencies in shares.  The people picking up at the farm pay less and get more.  How would you feel if Costco said, all local customers get 25% off of everything, but if you live out of town, you have to pay full price?  You'd be annoyed and take your business elsewhere.

Additionally, on Monday, they said Premium Box Share members get 3 quarts of strawberries, Friday they changed it to 2 and then Sunday, they changed it back to 3 quarts.  Since I went Saturday, I only got 2 quarts.  I also watched on farm pick up members get strawberries as part of their Week 3 (my Week 2) box, yet we didn't get any.

Do you see how this is annoying?  I would love this CSA if not for all this nonsense.  I don't know if Honey Brook will ever read any of this, but I hope that they understand running a service like this requires someone running the program that understands the basic idea that all your customers want to feel equal.  I'll keep their grade at a reluctant B-.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Honey Brook Organic Farm CSA: Week 1 Pennington Premium Boxed Share

We picked up our official first premium boxed share on Tuesday: strawberries, bok choi, collards, spinach, kale, lettuce, salad mix and swiss chard.  Everything was super fresh, with bright, green, crispy leaves.  And unlike the strawberries you buy at the grocery store, each container was filled with perfect, firm and sweet strawberries with no random fuzzy moldy ones hiding in the box.

In reading The Local Harvest, Honey Brook's newsletter, I learned that the issues with the box shares had more to do with driver issues than actual farming problems:

The Boxed Share program has had an unusual number of setbacks for us this season.  Our former driver, Chino, got married during the “off” season and decided to remain in Texas with his bride.  After several rounds of interviews, we narrowed the field of replacement drivers to two, who accepted our offers but then decided not to report to work. Farmer Jim is now our delivery truck driver for the time being, but we are seeking to hire two professional drivers on a part-time, seasonal basis. 

I wish they had just said this earlier!  It appeared (I don't know if this is true) but people with on-farm shares were picking up boxes before the boxed shares.  If this was the reason, then be transparent.  Tell everyone what is happening, we are supposed to be in this together.  That's the whole point of a CSA.  Maybe they could have offered people the opportunity to pick up on site until the situation was resolved.  There were definitely better ways to handle this, but hopefully moving forward, they will continue to keep everyone better informed.

They mentioned that this unusually wet weather has delayed the transplanting of some summer crops.  I already knew about the tomatoes from their Facebook post, so I was prepared for this news.  Again, I was totally cool with it, because they told everyone ahead of time. 

They also said the strawberry quantities were slowing down (we got 6 quarts with our Premium share last week, this week we'll get 3 quarts) and that blueberries won't be ready until June to early July.  I wonder what that means in terms of PYO (pick your own) for the weeks in between.  Again, a head's up to what the plan is would be nice.

So far I'm happy with what I've gotten.  I'm not happy that it seems on-farm pickup people got more benefits from joining the CSA than boxed share people.  I'm not happy that Chesterfield seems to have started earlier and are giving out a greater variety of produce than Pennington.  I am happy they are starting to be a little more clear with what's going on with the program, and I hope they start to understand the importance of that.  I'll bump their grade from a C to a B-.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Book Review: Food 52 Mighty Salads

I make the same two salads.  A kale, apple, craisin salad with a lemon vegan honey dressing or a regular lettuce or salad mix salad with carrots, cucumbers, apples, nuts and whatever seeds I have on hand in a basic vinaigrette.  So yeah, not exciting, but good none-the-less.  When I saw this book pop up on Blogging For Books, I thought, hey!  A book about salads sounds boring as all heck, but Food52 always puts out good stuff, let me give it a shot.

There was a big delay in receiving Food52 Mighty Salads: 60 New Ways to Turn Salad into Dinner--and Make-Ahead Lunches, Too but when it finally arrived I started leafing through it, expecting some amazing outside of the box recipes.  Instead, what I found were salads that were meat and cheese heavy.  I understand this is not a vegan salad cookbook, and perhaps the eggs and meat on the front cover should have been a warning, but really?  Did Food52 not get the memo that dairy and meat is bad for you?  There have been a lot of studies that aren't funded by people being paid by the dairy and meat industry, maybe they should read some of them.  Just saying.

IS IT VEGAN-FRIENDLY?  Eh.  I mean, I can easily convert most of these recipes to be vegan, but that's not the point.  I think Food52 really missed an opportunity to make amazing salads. Throwing meat, cheese, eggs or seafood at something doesn't make it a meal, nor does it make it better.  Just look up salads on Pinterest or heck, just Google it.  There are a million, amazing salads that don't have dairy or meat that are incredibly filling.  A book of primarily here's green with a bunch of meat and cheese on top is not a book of mighty salads.

WOULD I BUY IT?  No.  I might pick up at the library and try a few recipes, but call me unimpressed.  There was nothing in here that made me want to run in my kitchen to make for dinner, or lunch, or whatever.  Maybe if you have no idea how to make a decent salad, this is good.  Or maybe if you can't imagine eating anything without meat or dairy, you'd like this.  For me, this book was pretty disappointing.

**UPDATE:  I'm changing my Would I Buy It to a YES.  While I stand by my opinion that a dinner salad doesn't have to include meat and cheese to be filling, I've just been subbing in plant-based meats and cheeses.  I haven't attempted anything with eggs or seafood, but maybe in the future.  So far everything I have made has been a hit.  It has been a great way to use up my CSA greens.

Hoppin' John Salad with Crispy Cornbread (I substituted with black beans, porkless pork, and rye bread croutons.)

Chard Salad with Garlic Breadcrumbs and Parmesan (I used Field Roast Garden Loaf and Follow Your Heart Parmesan.)

Chicken and Rice Salad with Poached Radishes and Nuoc Cham (I substituted with chickenless chicken, basmati rice, a salad mix and obviously vegan fish sauce.)

I received a free copy of this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review.  There was no obligation to give a positive review, and if you read my blog, you know I'm a tell-it-like-it-is kind of girl.  I mean what I say and say what I mean, that holds true for my review.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Honey Brook Organic Farm CSA: Week .5 Pennington Boxed Share

We finally started our CSA at Honey Brook Organic Farm.  Well, kind of.  Let's start with the bad.  They have two farms, one in Chesterfield and one at Pennington.  You have two options with your CSA pick up: either get your produce and do your PYO at one farm, or pick your boxes up at a non-farm location and they assign you a specific farm to do your PYO at.

It seems that Chesterfield people started their PYO earlier than Pennington.  And then there was a message that people that pick at Pennington could start their PYO, but non-farm pick up people couldn't.  WTF?  Then they said, everyone can go, but that was on Memorial Day, we already missed the weekend and we had to work.  The whole thing was bonkers and honestly, unfair.

We went this Saturday to do the PYO.  It seemed liked on-farm members were picking up their vegetable shares, which I think means they were getting an extra week than non-farm members in both boxes and PYO. Also, Chesterfield had strawberries, roses and herbs.  Pennington had strawberries and herbs, but when we got there, no one said anything about the herbs, so we didn't get any.

It seems like they've been doing the whole CSA thing for a while now, so I'm surprised it's not more streamlined.  Why all the inconsistencies?  They should be transparent from the beginning that one farm might offer items the other isn't, or that people at one farm might be able to pick up items before the other.  Certainly, on-farm pickup members shouldn't be getting benefits non-farm pickup members aren't getting since they're already paying less than the latter.  Everyone there seems nice and I don't believe these to be malicious acts, but merely the issues of a badly managed and run CSA program.  One way to destroy a program like this is to make your customers feel they are being shortchanged and that all members are not equal.  Hopefully, things will improve.

The equally annoying part was the weather was lovely over the weekend...ya know when on-farm pickup members got to get their strawberries.  Saturday was raining, but we still had fun.

The man at the tent was very nice.  I will say, I think doing the PYO at the farm makes this worth the price.  Organic strawberries in Jersey are hella expensive.  They're about $6.99 a quart, so we picked about $42 worth of strawberries.  All were perfectly ripe and delicious.  The farm is about 45 minutes from us, but it's near the Trader Joe's, Whole Foods and "the good" Target we go to.  I think we'll keep going down during berry season.  After that...we'll see....