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....