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.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

What to do With Too Many Overgrown Overripe Large Yellow Cucumbers

I have a live and let live policy in my garden.  If you want to grow, then I will not stop you.  Even if you're a tomato plant (my "wild" cherry tomatoes grow about 6 foot tall) who decided to grow right in front of my garden door.  Or if you're a multitude of cucumbers that decided to grow in my strawberry boxes where pumpkins decided to grow last year, I will let you.  Which is how I wound up with this insanity.  Mind you, I planted additional cucumbers thinking these were pumpkin plants.

These plants are much, much bigger now.
Everyone loves a cucumber for all it's like, crunchy, awesomeness.  Some people love them more as pickles.  So what happens when you wind up with this many cucumber plants?  (Let's be honest, even if you only have a few plants.)  You will miss a few that are hiding, and they will grow into immensely large yellow cucumbers, with thick skins and large seeds.  The only thing they're really good for is compost or senfgurken (a German pickle made out of overgrown cucumbers).  

That is until now. 

My friends, and blog passerbys, I have discovered a better use for these cucumbers that certainly would prefer to be eaten than to left to rot in a compost bin. 


I know, smoothies?!  Have I lost my mind?  Nope.  Stick with me here.  First, I thought, I'd juice them, but honestly, cucumber juice didn't sound appealing.  Then I thought, cucumbers are more than 95% water, so they'd probably freeze really well.  And instead of adding ice or extra liquid to my smoothie, why not some frozen cucumbers?  (How many people do you think are going to suddenly post this on their page like it was their idea?  Link stuff back, people.  Don't be a jackass.  I always feel bad for Somar McCowan who created an awesome vegan mozzarella and then everyone on the internet stole it, pretended it was theirs and never linked back to her.  Well, not everyone, but a lot of people.  Don't do shady stuff people.  It will bite you in the ass.  Karma.)

Cucumbers are water and fiber rich, have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and they reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease.  Go Google it, you'll be surprised how amazing the simple little cucumber is.

All you have to do is peel, seed and cut up the cucumbers.  Now, I try to avoid plastic all I can, but I had no choice but to swipe some of my daughter's storage bags to put my cucumbers in.  Freezing them in glass jars is unrealistic...for me anyway.

I stick these bags in the freezer and use my no longer used meat mallet to pound on the bag and loosen up the cucumber pieces.  Then I replace ice in the recipe I'm using at a 1 to 1 ratio.  Or I just add whatever I think will work when I'm winging a smoothie.

My current weekday morning smoothie, for anyone interested goes like this:

1 1/2 cups non-dairy milk
1 TBS flax seeds
1 TBS chia seeds
1/3 cup oats
2 TBS sweetener
1-2 bananas (optional)
2 handfuls of frozen spinach
2-3 cups of frozen cucumbers
1 1/2 cups of frozen berries.

Pop everything in your blender (I have a Vitamix and I think it's well worth the investment). Initially, this turns into more of a sorbet, so I let it sit and re-blend when it's defrosted a bit.  If it's not thin enough, feel free to add less cucumbers or more non-dairy milk.  For my sweetener, I use maple syrup, agave, vegan honey or even sugar.  I remember to add bananas about half the time.

Hope this helps some of my gardening friends out there.  And if it does, pop back over here and say hi or thanks or you suck, this didn't work...either way, I'd love to hear from you.

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.  

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

New Jersey Zone 7 Garden Tour: July 4, 2017

Why haven't I posted a garden tour sooner?  Because the weather in this part of Jersey has been insane.  It's been cold longer than usual and we've had a ton of rain.  Only now is it more like normal summer weather.  Amidst the cold, nothing was really growing.  It was all thriving outside, but not growing.  I've basically had seedlings outside for weeks.  

The carrots have really taken off.  The peas are pretty much gone thanks to my bunny friends.

The beets are also growing nicely.

As usual, we have 500 pounds of mint growing.

The tomato plants are flowering.

My 100 pounds of cilantro, that grows by itself, I never plant them, are now all going to seed.  I have to get out there, cut them down and collect all those seeds.

Stupid moths are eating my broccoli and cabbage.  I have to spray them!  I asked my husband to bring my industrial sprayer down from the attic.  I'll talk more about that later.  (Ignore my ugly old sneaker in the picture.  My garden boots were in my car.)

My extra large kale bush finally died, and in its wake, it left behind several baby plants.  Now I have four extremely large kale bushes that I really need to start eating...

Here is the fourth and largest of the group.  GMO free and organic.  I should start selling it.

The zucchini are starting to flower.

The peppers and eggplant are still small, and yes, I know I need to weed.

My pole beans have finally sprung from the ground.

My original cucumber seedlings died, so I put more seeds in the ground.

They're about a foot tall now.

Unbeknownst to me, what I thought were pumpkin plants...which would make sense since that's where the pumpkins were last year and some were eaten and rotted away in those boxes.  But nope...they are not pumpkins, they are cucumbers.  How?  I have no idea.

The Hubby thinks it's from the compost, but how did they survive the heat in the composter?  And then why wouldn't I have a bunch of things growing out of the compost.  I'm not buying it.

Strawberry box #1.  Overrun with cucumbers and a random tomato plant.

Strawberry box #2, also overrun with cucumbers.  What are those white flowers?

A leftover carrot from last season (something tunneled under, ate all the carrots and left me the green tops) over-wintered and produced these beautiful flowers.  I'm waiting for them to go to seed so I can save the seeds and plant them next year.

The cucumbers in Strawberry box #3 have already begun its ascent to the top of the garden fence.

I'll take better pictures next week.  I'm going to make sure I get on top of the weeding over the weekend.  I picked 12 pounds of cucumbers yesterday, so I'll be busy making some pickles today.