Connecticut Farmer & Feast Book Review

I found the Connecticut Farmer & Feast: Harvesting Local Bounty book at the library, and took a few weeks to read it.

The book opens with an introduction and I was saddened & shocked to learn that Connecticut’s farmland is disappearing at an unbelievable and alarming rate of 8000 acres a year! The author, Emily Brooks, states that it is one of the fastest in the country! In less than 20 years, CT has lost 21% of their farmland; residential and commercial building is taking over.

She also states that farms require less than 50 cents in town services for every dollar they generate in local taxes while residential development costs towns more than 1 dollar for every dollar of revenue generated.

That statement puzzled and intrigued me, so I did some research. With the cost of schools/education, police/fire, road maintenance, towns that have a choice to purchase & save open space vs allow commercial/residential development, are much better off in the long run choosing to save the open space. Real estate taxes go up for everyone to recoup the cost of more children attending schools.

Here is a great link I found while searching:
http://www.greatswamp.org/Education/anjec.htm

When I think about it though, we can’t blame the farmers for selling out to developers. The local farmer is overworked and vastly under-appreciated.

That’s why this book is so important. It shines the well-deserved light onto local Connecticut farmers.

The book is divided by county. Each farm is highlighted with a few pages, including their location info and a full description/interview with several photos.

There are many different types of farms including many that grow vegetables, several that raise animals, and some even operate a fishing/shellfish business.

I was amazed that there were also a few maple syrup producers, although the book states that only tenth of % of all maple trees in Connecticut are actually tapped for their syrup.

This is not necessarily a cookbook although there are lovely recipes using some ingredients that the highlighted farm sells. It’s more like a history book with stories from each farm with photos so you can really see each farmer and the land they work.

Some stories are heart warming and some are heart breaking. For instance, the owners of Futtner’s Family Farm (3 generations) are going through financial problems due to health issues. They are drowning in medical bills. Theirs is a sad but hopeful story of family and deep love for each other and farming.

I wish we lived just a little closer to Connecticut and some of these marvelous farms.

It’s exciting that the author is currently writing a ” target=”_blank”>similar book for NYC. I really hope she considers a Massachusetts version in the future! It’s something that could be a fantastic reference for every state!

If you live nearby to Connecticut, I recommend finding a copy of the Connecticut Farmer & Feast: Harvesting Local Bounty book, even if it’s from the local library. It’s a great resource to learn more about specifically where your food comes from!

Disclaimer:
I love reading cookbooks, like some people love reading novels! I am inspired by recipes, and enjoy learning ideas from cookbooks, which means I’d rather put my own spin on a recipe than follow it exactly. Please keep in mind that my opinions might be completely different from the other home cooks.

True Blue Bay Tuna from West Coast Seafood

Important Disclaimer: Although there are organizations like the MSC (marine stewardship council) that suggest certain seafood choices are sustainable with an abundant supply, I don’t believe ANY seafood or meat can be completely sustainable, because there are just too many people eating it! Restraint is always needed; United States caught tuna should not be taken for granted and shouldn’t be over-consumed even though it’s a much healthier choice than imported tuna.

I was contacted by West Coast Seafood to try their albacore tuna in pouches. Since I love USA-caught tuna, I happily agreed. I received two 6 oz pouches of tuna: “no salt” and “garlic & pesto” flavors.

true blue bay tuna - sample packs

True Blue Bay albacore tuna is packed in pouches, not cans, which is more environmentally-friendly, since it’s lighter to ship. Their tuna is cooked once, which they say retains 6x the omega 3 fatty acids, unlike canned which has to be heated/cooked twice.

It’s also much lower in mercury than the big commercial brands (Starkist, Chicken of the Sea, etc) because the fish are smaller when caught. And of course the tuna is caught in the US, not Asia, with hook & line, which is a more environmentally friendly method.

The tuna is packed in the US, unlike Wild Planet which unfortunately packs its US-caught tuna in Vietnam, stating there is no US sardine or tuna cannery capable of processing their larger volume. :(

Yes, Wild Planet is my usual brand of tuna, and yes, I do worry sometimes about the quality-control regarding packing outside the US. I’m concerned about the possibility of their product being altered or tainted somehow. But it’s still heads & tails above any grocery brand of tuna.

For more information about the problems with big commercial grocery tuna brands, check my prior post. In the post, I also include reviews for American Tuna & Wild Planet.

True Blue Bay Albacore Weight

As I said above, I received two different flavors of tuna from them. We consumed the “no salt” flavor first.

I weighed the liquid (natural juices) in the pouch, and it weighed 1.25 oz, while the full package contents weighed in at 5.85, just slightly under the 6 oz claimed on the package.

In my prior tuna reviews, both American Tuna and Wild Planet cans contained 1 oz natural juices and American contained 5 of solid tuna (6 oz can), and Wild Planet contained 4 oz (smaller 5 oz can.) I’ve since weighed the Wild Planet 5 oz can, and the liquid weighed under 1 oz this time, at approximately .65oz. The total weight of both liquid and fish was over the 5 oz as well at about 5.5oz.

Note: Don’t discard the natural juices from these premier brands, they contribute to the tuna’s full flavor.

how much liquid in pouch

how much total tuna in pouch

True Blue Bay Tuna Taste Review

I tasted the tuna, and I’m sorry to say that it was a bit bland. Yes, it is unsalted, but that doesn’t automatically mean it is flavorless. The true flavor of the tuna should shine whether on it’s own or mixed with other ingredients. Unfortunately, the True Blue Bay tuna tasted a little boring and “washed out.”

I then mixed the tuna with avocado, lemon juice & a little Earth Balance “mindful mayo” and made yummy sandwiches for our lunch. There was enough for sandwiches the following day as well.

tuna with avocado, lemon and vegan mayo

In general, we both enjoyed the tuna. Even though it was a little bland, it is so much tastier than commercial supermarket brands, it’s fresher and more flavorful, just like “real” tuna should taste.

A few days ago, I opened the 2nd pouch, garlic pesto, and only added Earth Balance mayo. I made tuna & spinach sandwiches for lunch, with a side of fruit. Yummy. I’ve never tried flavored canned seafood, so it was a first for me. It tasted good, but I prefer a pure no-salt version. That way I can add my own flavorings.

tuna spinach sandwich with a side of fruit
tuna spinach sandwich with a side of fruit

There was enough tuna for one more sandwich for lunch the following day.

So, would I purchase the True Blue Bay tuna again? As it is now, I have to admit probably not. If they sold at Whole Foods grocery (or another local outlet) then yes, I would probably consider it again.

My usual brand of Wild Planet can be found at Whole Foods, as well as through Amazon’s Subscribe & Save at less than $3 per can.

I have bought American Tuna a couple of times at Whole Foods, and it is a good tuna as well, but at $5 per can, it’s a budget buster.

True Blue Bay tuna is offered as low as $5 a can (inc/shipping) when purchased in as an “unlabeled” 24 pack from their web site, but it’s a big commitment to plunk down over $100 to purchase such a large quantity all at once. Again, I would consider them if they were available in a store in my local area.

So, bottom line, the True Blue Bay tuna is a little bland, but still delicious for sandwiches, similar to other US-caught canned brands, but the expense would probably deter me from purchasing again unless I could find it locally. It’s too bad, because they are a great company, and I’d love to support them, but after shipping costs, it would make more sense to purchase locally caught fresh tuna instead.

Important Disclaimer: Although there are organizations like the MSC (marine stewardship council) that suggest certain seafood choices are sustainable with an abundant supply, I don’t believe ANY seafood or meat can be completely sustainable, because there are just too many people eating it! Restraint is always needed; United States caught tuna should not be taken for granted and shouldn’t be over-consumed even though it’s a much healthier choice than imported tuna.

I LOVE Chocolate! But There is a Dark Side!

I love dark chocolate, and it’s so good for you, as long as you’re eating 70% and higher!

But there is a secretive dark side to chocolate (no pun intended) and it’s hidden in the form of cheap, overly-available cocoa!

Cocoa products are in high demand, but the cocoa “market” demands low prices. To remain competitive and cut costs, many cocoa farmers force young children into slavery, pushing them to work endless hours on their farms, where they live in brutal conditions. They are exposed to toxic pesticides & fertilizers, dangerous tools like machetes, and countless beatings when they are too slow or try to escape.

This unspeakable abuse happens in Western Africa, where children from nearby countries are lured away from home with false promises and transported to farms in Côte d’Ivoire (also called the Ivory Coast) and Ghana. These two countries supply 75% of the world’s cocoa supply, selling to the main chocolate companies, Hershey, Nestle, Mars, and Kraft.

Luxurious Chocolate

Over the last few months, I’ve transitioned to purchasing local humanely-raised animal products. To balance the extra cost, I eat less of them.

How could I be so concerned about animal welfare, but turn a blind eye to humans being treated so poorly for a block of cheap chocolate?

In the same way, chocolate should be thought of as it was in the past, like a luxury; chocolate is not something to take for granted, something that we should have in small amounts for special occasions, savoring every bite.

So, I’m really going to make an effort to look for specific brands that are open and honest about the origin of their ingredients; this should ensure that the cocoa was farmed ethically with environmentally-friendly practices.

Yes, it will be more expensive, but just like I’m budgeting my food expenses, I’ll have to budget my chocolate intake.

This will cause me to appreciate chocolate a lot more, and really think about where it comes from. I am concerned about how my vegetables, fruit, meat and eggs are grown, so it should really apply to all foods I eat, chocolate included.

What’s On a Label?

So, how can we find “fair-trade” or slave-free cocoa products? Who can we trust?

Unfortunately, “fair trade” is a buzz-phrase we hear a lot when it comes to coffee and chocolate, as well as other products like bananas amp; sugar. But just as the labels “natural” and “free range” are abused in the meat industry, “fair trade” labels are also misunderstood and abused.

We cannot rely on the Fair Trade USA organization, as it’s recently been called out on their less than strict accreditation of requiring only 10% of fair-trade ingredients for a product to gain their label.

The Rainforest Alliance requires only 30% of ingredients be fair-trade and IMO Fair For Life requires 50% of ingredients be fair-trade.

That’s not good enough.

I found an unbiased list of recommended chocolate brands on FoodIsPower.org and I’ve saved it to my iPhone so I can refer to it when I’m shopping.

There are several online articles about the dark world of cocoa slavery, but their lists of recommended brands don’t always match the Food is Power list. That’s why I’d rather trust their list, as they don’t seem to be driven by labels and accreditation. They did their own research and came to their own conclusions.

Unfortunately, our regular brand Green & Black (owned by Kraft) is on their “not recommended” list, even though they have been recommended by other authors writing about “fair-trade” brands. I think I always knew in my heart, I wasn’t making the best choice, but Green & Black’s lower price was so tempting.

Changing the World – Vote With Our Forks

I can’t promise that every single thing I eat will be 100% ethical, but I’m willing to make a real effort for change.

We cannot rely on food companies and our governments to ensure that our food is produced safely and ethically. It’s up to each of us to “vote with our forks

If we consciously make a choice to purchase chocolate and chocolate brands using ingredients that are 100% free of abusive child labor, then perhaps Hershey, Nestle, Mars and Kraft will take these matters more seriously. Plus, we will be supporting smaller food companies, and that is always a good thing!

Online Resources:

http://smallbites.andybellatti.com/?p=8471 – this is the article that convinced me to look more closely into the matter of cocoa slavery.
FoodisPower.org – offers a list of recommended chocolate brands that are open about their ingredients, and the details behind the project.
http://www.johnrobbins.info/blog/is-there-slavery-in-your-chocolate/ – great article, except that their recommended brands don’t exactly jive with the list from FoodIsPower.org, which looks to be a more comprehensive list.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1497785/ – Details on child labor in Ghana
My blog post about dark chocolate and what the % mean.
http://www1.american.edu/ted/chocolate-slave.htm – child slavery in Cote d’Ivoire (the Ivory Coast.) Includes the story of Aly Diabate, a little boy who was released from a cocoa slave farm.

Cheap Food (Turkey) Is NOT the Answer!

The holiday season is upon us, and everyone is scrambling to find the best deal on cheap turkeys, stuffing, potatoes and gravy for their holiday meal(s). Grocery stores are promoting their sales, and home cooks are rejoicing!

But in what kind of world does it make sense that a turkey can be raised and sold for only .40 to .50 per pound??? That is scary when you really, truly think about it.

(Note: Yes, some stores offer low prices as “loss-leaders” to try to gain additional sales from a customer, so one way or another, there is a higher cost to all cheap food.)

Americans are brainwashed to expect cheap products, but we need to reprogram our minds to reject food raised in “factory-farmed” conditions.

Cheap meat (including poultry, eggs and dairy) is a direct result of factory farming, which abuses animals and is destroying our environment.

And it’s not just animal products, cheap produce is causing poor soil quality, which then demands toxic fertilizers and pesticides; this affects the health of farm workers, as well as the health of those consuming the produce.

It’s unfortunate, but we’ve become a nation that is dictated by the thrill of a “bargain.” I’m not saying that we shouldn’t strive to save money when grocery shopping, but we shouldn’t expect unreasonably rock-bottom prices either. There’s a reason that it’s so cheap, and we’re paying the price with our health and our environment.

There can be a middle ground. Consuming less animal products and more plant-based products will allow you to buy better quality food.

Do we not love ourselves enough to give our bodies the best we can when it comes to food? We can change the world when we vote with our forks!

I suppose it’s easy for me to get on a soapbox and spew advice; I don’t have a large family to feed (there’s just two of us) so I consider myself lucky that I am able to make a choice to purchase better quality food.

My little family is not “well-off” – we’re middle-class, actually lower-middle-class. I worry about what will happen when we “retire” in a few years; how will we survive with the money we’ve saved?

Medical costs are exploding sky high; I see that as a direct correlation to the cost of cheap food, so I intend to try to keep our bodies healthy! I’m hoping that spending more on good quality food will pay off in our older years with a fuller active life without obesity, cancer, diabetes, and chronic pain.

Helpful Links:

http://blogs.forward.com/the-jew-and-the-carrot/145869/
google search “high cost of cheap meat and produce

Farmer Dave’s CSA 2011 Review – Season 2

Last year, I wrote a detailed review of my first CSA season with Farmer Dave’s in Dracut MA. We just finished this season’s CSA and the veggies were just as plentiful and delicious!

If you are new to CSA’s, please read last season’s review as it includes a lot more detail about CSA’s and their benefits. There is also information on the Farmer Dave web site.

I won’t repeat too much information here, but to summarize, Farmer Dave offers small & regular sized vegetable CSA shares with pick-ups in Beverly, Burlington, Lanesville, Dracut, Lawrence, Tewksbury, Somerville, Putnam Investments (for Putnam employees only), Downtown Gloucester, Boston Medical Center, Jamaica Plain, and newly added Reading.

They also offer summer fruit shares, as well as late fall and early spring shares.

Here are the details for the 2011 weekly “small” vegetable share pickup:

Week One

Keep in mind, I had a “small” share. The larger shares received at least double the amounts, and depending on the pick up location, the variety could be slightly different.

Peas, Spinach, Turnips with greens, Beets with greens, Red leaf lettuce, Garlic scapes, Tatsoi, and Pea tendrils; I also bought 3 pickling cukes for $1.17

Farmer Dave's CSA Week 1

I originally swapped the tendrils for more lettuce, but as I left I decided to go back and grab them back. Why shy away from something different and cool! They are tiny little flowers and lots of green stems leaves and tiny squiggly bits.
Farmer Dave's CSA Week 1- pea tendrils

Week Two

Bag of lettuce, Pea tendrils, Peas (bought extra 2 bags), Romaine lettuce, Arugula, 2 lettuce (Boston?), Tatsoi (choice of bok Choy), 2 zucchini squash, Beets with greens (or choice of turnips with greens), Garlic scapes

Farmer Dave's CSA Week 2

Farmer Dave's CSA Week 2

Week Three

Fennel (with extremely long fronds over 2 ft I think), Beets (or choice of radishes or turnips), Tatsoi (swapped for more beets), Gorgeous kale, Gorgeous chard, Red leaf lettuce, Spinach, Shelling Peas, Garlic scapes.

Farmer Dave's CSA Week 3

Fennel:
Farmer Dave's CSA Week 3

Week Four

Keep in mind, I had a “small” share. The larger shares received at least double the amounts, and depending on the pick up location, the variety could be slightly different.

red leaf lettuce, snap peas (choice of snow peas), fennel, scallions, beets w/ greens (choice of radishes, turnips), swiss chard (choice of arugula or spinach), (2) zucchini (choice of squash), pickling cuke

Farmer Dave's CSA Week 4

Week Five

sugar snap peas, kohlrabi, zucchini (choice of summer squash), pickling cuke, corn on cob, lettuce, basil, radish with greens, scallions, swiss chard

Farmer Dave's CSA Week 5

Week Six

cilantro (choice of parsley, basil), arugula (choice of mustard greens, option to take extra mustards, I didn’t take any), kohlrabi (swapped for extra onion), spring onions, kousa squash (choice of summer squashes), carrots (choice of beets), pickling cukes, (choice of) lettuce, 4 corn on cob

Farmer Dave's CSA Week 6

Week Seven

Keep in mind, I had a “small” share. The larger shares received at least double the amounts, and depending on the pick up location, the variety could be slightly different.

(4) corn on cob, scallions, cilantro (or choice of basil, chives), swiss chard, beets with greens (or choice of carrots), wax beans, green pepper, (3 total) slicing cukes and pickling cukes, (3 total) choice of summer squash: yellow, zucchini, or kousa, take up to 4 jalapeno peppers, green leaf lettuce

Farmer Dave's CSA Week 7

I love me some Jalepeno Peppers!
Farmer Dave's CSA Week 7

Week Eight

On vacation, no pickup, but the newsletter stated Pickling or slicing cucumbers, Zucchini, kousa, patty pan or summer squash, Lettuce, Carrots, Beets or Kohlrabi, Bok Choy, Kale or Swiss Chard, Scallions, Green Beans or Wax Beans, Asian Eggplant, Cubanelle Peppers, or Green Bell Peppers, possibly Cherry Tomatoes or Slicing Tomatoes

Week Nine

cilantro, green leaf lettuce, green beans, (2) jalapeno peppers, (2) zucchini squash, eggplant, scallions, garlic, 1/2 pint cherry/grape mixed tomatoes, (2) slicing tomatoes, (3) cukes, batch of carrots

Farmer Dave's CSA Week 9

I love larger sized scallions, and I love purple scallions even more!
Farmer Dave's CSA Week 9

Week Ten

This week we received a huge delivery! 3 heavy bags full!

(4) cukes, scallion, eggplant (choice of smaller round Thai, regular black/purple, & long thin purple), (2) summer squash (choice of yellow, zucchini, kousa), green bell sweet pepper (of choice of cubanelle pepper), romaine lettuce (or choice of kale), beets with greens (or choice of radish with greens), cilantro (or choice of basil), pint of mixed cherry/grape tomatoes, (2) slicing tomatoes, (1) heirloom tomato, (4) corn, small bag of cranberry shell beans (or choice of green beans), purple or green kohlrabi – swapped for more scallions, Take extra (4) seconds tomatoes or chile peppers

Farmer Dave's CSA Week 10

Week Eleven

On vacation, I didn’t pick up, but the newsletter stated Corn, Slicing Tomatoes, Cherry Tomatoes, Plum Tomatoes, Heirloom Tomatoes (if we’re lucky!), Cucumbers (pickling or slicing), Zucchini, kousa, or summer squash, Bell Peppers or Cubanelle Peppers, Swiss Chard, Kale or Lettuce, Hakurei Turnips, Scallions or Kohlrabi, Chives or Cilantro

Week Twelve

Keep in mind, I had a “small” share. The larger shares received at least double the amounts, and depending on the pick up location, the variety could be slightly different.

(2) cukes, waxed beans, (2) corn, (1) onion, (1) red pepper (cubanelle?). (2) poblano peppers (or choice of green bell), 1/2 pint cherry/grape mixed tomatoes, (1) heirloom tomato, (2) plum tomatoes, (1) slicing tomato, (2) summer squash (choice of zucchini, yellow, kousa), arugula (or choice of chard), scallions (or choice of kohlrabi), cilantro (or choice of chive), eggplant (swapped for chive), radishes (swapped for 2nd cilantro)

Farmer Dave's CSA Week 12

Week Thirteen

(2) cukes, (3) choice of peppers (poblano, red bell, or green bell), (1) carmen red sweet pepper, 1 pint box of 7 aji dulce mild chile peppers, (3) plum tomatoes, (1) slicing tomato, 1/2 pint mixed cherry/grape tomatoes, bag of green beans, beets (or choice of radishes), parsley, kale (or choice of chard) – swapped for 2nd parsley, (2) corn, as many as you can use – chile cherry chile pepper (medium hot), as many as you can use – 2nds tomatoes

Farmer Dave's CSA Week 13

Farmer Dave's CSA Week 13

Week Fourteen

Celery with greens, bag green beans (or choice of wax beans), (4) corn, small onion, (1) bell pepper, eggplant, pea tendrils (or choice of chard or kale), parsley (choice of chives or basil), beets with greens (or choice of radishes w/greens or purple topped turnips), (1) slicing tomato, (4) plum tomatoes, pint of mixed cherry/grape tomatoes, as much as you can use: chile peppers – aji dulce, jalapenos, and very hot (did not take very hot), as much as you can use: 2nds tomatoes

The pea tendrils didn’t have very many blossoms this time, but they seemed hardier and fresher than the spring batches, with lots of leaves and stalks.

Farmer Dave's CSA Week 14

Farmer Dave's CSA Week 14

Week Fifteen

Keep in mind, I had a “small” share. The larger shares received at least double the amounts, and depending on the pick up location, the variety could be slightly different.

beets (or choice of turnips or radishes), bok choy, chard or arugula or pea tendrils(?), kale, chives (or choice of parsley), (2) plum tomatoes, 1 onion, green beans, eggplant, 1/2 pint mixed cherry grape tomatoes, aji dulce or jalapeno peppers as much as you can use.

Farmer Dave's CSA Week 15

Week Sixteen

a lot of goodies this week!

large cabbage, carrots with greens or choice of beets, radishes or choice of turnips, large bag of green beans, carmen red pepper (horn shaped), (2) plum tomatoes, 1/2 pint mixed cherry/grape tomatoes, garlic, parsley or choice of basil or chives, celery or choice of scallions, arugula or choice of chard – swapped for 2nd celery, eggplant, butternut squash, aji dulce peppers (7) as many as you can use

Farmer Dave's CSA Week 16

Huge heavy cabbage!
Farmer Dave's CSA Week 16

Week Seventeen

small head of green lettuce or choice of arugula, tatsoi or choice of chard, cilantro or choice of basil chives or parsley, (2) onions, beets or choice of radishes, poblano pepper or choice of cubanelle, 1/2 pint mixed grape/cherry tomatoes, acorn squash, cranberry shell beans, large bag of green or choice of waxed – swapped for 2nd bag of shell beans, as many as you could use of habanero very hot peppers (didn’t take any)
and as much as you can use of plum tomatoes (took 8)

Farmer Dave's CSA Week 17

Farmer Dave's CSA Week 17

Week Eighteen

Keep in mind, I had a “small” share. The larger shares received at least double the amounts, and depending on the pick up location, the variety could be slightly different.

1/2 pint mixed Cherry grape tomatoes – choice of green beans, Red leaf lettuce or choice of arugula
Carrots with greens or choice of beets or scallions, 2 poblano peppers or choice of green bell, Eggplant or choice of other eggplant, Radish with greens, Butternut squash, Tatsoi or choice of chard or collards, Parsley or choice of cilantro or chives

Farmer Dave's CSA Week 18

Farmer Dave's CSA Week 18

Week Nineteen

Green bell pepper, Small bag of potatoes, 2 onions, Carrots with tops or choice of beets, Kohlrabi or choice of radishes – swapped for 2nd cilantro, Cilantro, Small bag of broccoli crowns, 2 Boston lettuces or choice of chard kale or arugula, 1/2 pint cherry/grape tomatoes, Butternut squash, Sugar snap peas or choice of green beans, Jalepeno peppers- As much as you can use (took 3)

I was psyched at the cool choices this week. Potatoes and broccoli are exciting!

Farmer Dave's CSA Week 19

Farmer Dave's CSA Week 19

Farmer Dave's CSA Week 19

Week Twenty

Keep in mind, I had a “small” share. The larger shares received at least double the amounts, and depending on the pick up location, the variety could be slightly different.

Last week! :(

Huge sweet potato, Garlic, Leek, Carrots or choice of beets, Romanesco or choice of broccoli or lettuce, Green leaf lettuce or arugula, Green bell peppers or choice of jalapeño or carmen red peppers, Bag of cranberry shell beans, Radish or purple top turnips swapped for extra bag of shell beans (I’ll have enough shell beans to last in freezer for many months I think!), Cilantro, Chard- as much as you can use

Farmer Dave's CSA Week 20

Farmer Dave's CSA Week 20

Romanesco is a little bit broccoli and a little bit cauliflower…but 100% delicious and such a treat to look at!
Farmer Dave's CSA Week 20

Next Season?

Unfortunately, I do not plan on joining the CSA for 2012, and it has nothing to do with Farmer Dave’s, or the quality and price of the CSA.

I simply decided that it was just too much pressure, especially in the summer months. It was just too overwhelming to process, cook and eat all the vegetables we were receiving. I just couldn’t keep up with cooking ideas, and I felt like I was missing out on other vegetables that I was craving (like broccoli) but couldn’t buy because we already had so much food from the CSA.

So next season, I’ll continue to support and shop at Farmer Dave’s farm stand but also venture out to other farms and farmer’s markets. I’m excited that I’ll be able to choose exactly the vegetables I want, and it’ll be easier to plan my menus, especially when we’re on vacation.

It will be so helpful to shop earlier in the day if needed, which will give me more time to organize and process my produce before I needed to start dinner. I also hope this will help with maintaining a grocery budget and meal plans, since I can purchase exactly what I need in smaller or larger quantities.

I’ll play it by ear, and see how it goes, who knows I might miss it so much, I’ll go back the following season, or I might decide to sign up for their late fall CSA share. We’ll see.

I want to make it clear that I do not regret participating in the past two CSA seasons; I learned about many amazing new foods, and learned how to prepare them. For this reason and many others, I do not want to dissuade anyone from joining a CSA.

To those that want to try a CSA in the Eastern Massachusetts area, I highly recommend Farmer Dave’s! They have many pick-up locations and it’s a great bargain for all the food you receive. PLUS, you are supporting a local farm!

Almost Meatless – Recipes That Are Better for Your Health and the Planet – Book Review

I found the Almost Meatless: Recipes That Are Better for Your Health and the Planet by Joy Manning & Tara Mataraza Desmond book at the local library.

It is impossible to continue to feed ourselves and the world, unless we reduce our consumption of animal products. That includes local humanely raised animal products, as well as inferior cheaply-raised Big Food animal products.

Eating as a “flexitarian” is so much better for your health and especially good for the environment. AND it’s good for your food budget too!

almost meatless book review

We eat several meatless meals each week, but when I do cook meat, poultry or seafood, I really try hard to limit our portion to no more than 4 oz (raw) or 3 oz (cooked). It really helps to view animal products (including dairy, poultry, eggs, meat, and seafood) as an enhancement to the dish, not the main attraction. Adding more plant based foods like vegetables, fruits, grains, beans and nuts, to make those the centerpiece of home cooked recipes.

And this is where the “Almost Meatless” book comes in handy for inspiration. From inside the book’s dust cover: A little meat can go a long way…. So true!

Keep in mind, this is not a vegetarian cookbook, all the recipes include animal products, but they are not the main component of the dish. Meats are used sparingly, but wisely, to build layers of flavors in the recipes.

The book is sectioned by each animal product (chicken, turkey, seafood, pork, beef, lamb, eggs, and broths), not by recipe subject. While browsing through the book, like I love to do, reading it cover to cover, it’s wonderful to see all the chicken recipes or all the beef recipes together, but for the home cook, it might be confusing not to be able to find one chapter for all soups, or pastas, or sandwiches, salads, or side dishes, especially when meats can sometimes be used interchangeably with each other. It might be more difficult to find what you’re looking for unless you know how the recipe is categorized in the index in the back of the book.

But that is really a small price to pay for the benefits of the book. It’s packed with loads of inspiration and ideas! I especially loved the tips on making your own stocks and broths on page 130. They tell you WHY you need to use cold water and why you only want to simmer (not boil) and why you should skim the foam. Stuff I never really understood!

At the beginning of each “meat” section, there is a terrific explanation. What to look for when purchasing (ie labels like “free range” which mean nothing in today’s terms), why and how to avoid the factory farmed version and find a local farm that raises their animals with care and respect.

For instance, what do the terms organic or grass fed for beef mean? It’s on page 84!

The “Bring Home the Bacon” blurb on page 37 was an eye-opener for me! I don’t ever buy bacon (turkey or pork) from mainstream Big Food companies anymore, but if I did, I’d certainly not want to buy one that included “mechanically separated turkey” as an ingredient!

There are a lot of beautifully detailed photographs in the cook book, only a few recipes do not have an accompanying photo. On the negative side, some of the photos are useless; for example, page 127 displays a yummy bowl of seeded tomatoes instead of the actual finished Pizza Strata dish. Same problem on page 95, instead of showing the finished Chimichurri Fajitas, there is a lovely eggplant photograph. Lovely yes, but not helpful for those of us cooking the dish. For the most part though, the photos do compliment the recipes, and really show great detail on what to expect for the finished recipe.

One other small complaint, I wish they didn’t use so much white flour and/or white bread as ingredients. I’m NOT dead set against never using white flour or white sugar, but after all, we’re eating less meat for the health of our bodies and the planet, so give us more healthy whole grains.

But I loved that they really encouraged finding local food, especially local animal products! That’s so important!

I recommend the Almost Meatless: Recipes That Are Better for Your Health and the Planet cookbook. It’s a beautiful detailed book and even the more experienced home cook will find something inspiring in the recipes as well as the tips and information. I enjoyed reading through it!

Some favorite recipes that inspired me:

Disclaimer:
I love reading cookbooks, like some people love reading novels! I am inspired by recipes, and enjoy learning ideas from cookbooks; I like putting my own spin on a recipe rather than exactly following it. Please keep in mind that my opinions might be completely different from the other home cooks.

Wilson Farm in Lexington MA

I’ve always wanted to visit the Wilson Farms store in Lexington MA. It’s not very far away, but it’s still a little bit of a drive.

Well I was planning to be in the Lexington area yesterday, so I decided it was definitely time to check them out.

The night before, I browsed their web site, looking at their “sale” page. Wow, exciting. Prices look great, but I was a little skeptical. Then I found their growing page – actually their IPM (integrated pest management) page. Perfect!

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is a way to control insect pests and diseases on crops by combining several complimentary strategies such as sanitation, soil enrichment, variety selection, pest detection, and biological controls. Chemical pesticides may be used, but only if absolutely necessary.

That’s how I want my food to be grown!

Yes, I know “organic” is supposedly better, but truthfully, I would rather buy from a local farm using sustainable and responsible growing practices like this, than an organic farm in California. Organic does not mean sustainable, especially when referring to the high yield organic farms.

My First Wilson Farm Visit

When you arrive, there is an open area full of produce bins. There are large canopies covering part of the area, but the sun beams in, depending on the time of day. I was concerned about the bin of mozzarella cheese, sitting in direct sunlight. No one thought it was necessary to move it. I wondered how long it was out there and how easily it could spoil.

Anyway, I was a little intimidated as I walked around. There was so much to take in. I felt like a newbie, slowly wandering around, pushing my grocery cart, looking in amazement at the bins of fresh produce. I was in heaven!

So, all their farm fresh produce is located outdoors. Every kind of tomato you could possibly imagine…including lots of heirloom varieties. A whole outdoor wall/bin of many varieties of apples, some local, some further away, in PA.

I also loved that they offered some of the more unusual produce, like purple carrots! You do not find those at the local grocery or even at Whole Foods stores!

After browsing outside, I walked into their large indoor area as well. They offer cheese, meats (hormone-antibiotic free), seafood, baked goods, lots of locally produced foods along with a wall of their own fresh-made packaged convenience foods, like soups, salads, meats, etc.

When you first walk in, under the potatoes/onions, that’s where I found the bags of Baer’s Best Heirloom beans. I heard about Baer’s Beans when I became interested in learning more about heirloom bean growers. I learned there aren’t any local growers….except Baer! How sad!

So, I looked at all of the varieties, and it was a tough choice between Jacob’s Cattle and Vermont Cranberry. I chose Jacob’s Cattle. They looked interesting (loved the color, too bad it doesn’t stay after cooking) and truthfully, the bag was a buck cheaper than the VT Cranberry, so frugality won out. I figure I’ll be back for more, so they’ll be plenty of time to try more varieties!

The one favorite thing about Wilson Farm is EVERYTHING is specifically marked where it’s from, which I appreciated. You knew right away if it was grown on their farm, or another farm in MA or in California.

Note: I’m trying to boycott any produce from Florida since I heard about their poor soil conditions, which necessitate using harmful pesticides and other chemicals PLUS more importantly the horrific treatment of their employees. I will never knowingly purchase a Florida tomato, so it’s nice to see specifically which state/area my produce is coming from.

There are lots of employees busily buzzing inside and outside, stocking shelves and bins with fresh produce and freshly prepared foods. It’s a friendly homey store! If you have a question, there is always someone close by to help. I was looking for fresh-made ricotta cheese, and couldn’t find it in the cheese shop; a helpful employee pointed me to the dairy department where she said she stocked the fresh ricotta.

So it was a very exciting, fun visit to Wilson Farm yesterday! I will certainly return.

What Did I Buy?

  • A big box o’ tomatoes – $5.99 – got home and weighed it, over 7 pounds. That’s under a dollar a pound. Perfect for roasting for tomato sauce!
  • Ginger Gold apples (local MA) – 1.1 lb for $1.64
  • Gala Apples (I think from PA – 1.2 for $2.31
  • Honeycrisp Apples (MA) – .71 lb for $1.41
  • Butternut Squash (their own) 2.13 lb for $2.11
  • Various shell beans (their own) – cranberry, fava & romano .90 lb for $2.69
  • 1 Sweet potato & 1 AP potato – $1.84
  • Baer’s Best Jacobs Cattle Beans – 1 lb bag for $4.59
  • Fresh Ricotta cheese – small container $3.89 ($4.99 lb)

Looking forward to autumn veggies, like potatoes, leeks, squash, fennel, lettuces, etc. Life is good!

Note: Wilson Farm is located at 10 Pleasant Street in Lexington MA

Eating From the Freezer

I have decided to try to eat what’s in my freezer before purchasing any more meat or seafood.

I have lovely scallops, shrimp, boneless chicken, whole chicken, ground beef, etc. and I think it’s important to save some money and just concentrate on eating what’s there first.

So far so good! I roasted a chicken on Sunday, and it’s given us 6 meals! 4 dinners (including soup!) and 2 lunches!

I can’t believe that I haven’t been to Whole Foods since the end of August! I did shop at the local Market Basket grocery store to pick up a few things, I desperately needed a bag of King Arthur white whole wheat flour, yogurt, and some bananas.

This week, I’m glad that there isn’t much on sale again at Whole Foods. I’ll just pick up a few necessities at Market Basket, and grab all my produce from the local farms and from my CSA share at Farmer Daves.

With our lower meat consumption, I could actually be sustained for a few weeks, and possibly not need to visit Whole Foods until October. Wow, now wouldn’t that be a feat!

But for now, one week at a time!

Wild Alaskan Salmon One Day Sale at Whole Foods

Troll caught wild Alaskan salmon is on sale at Whole Foods Market – one day, Friday for $8.99/pound.

Quoted from Whole Foods:

Coho salmon fillets from a Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)-certified fishery are on sale. They’re hand selected by Whole Foods Market’s Alaska port buyer who spends the summer at Alaska’s port openings choosing the freshest salmon to send to our stores—within 48 hours or less of the catch! The blue and white “Certified Sustainable Seafood” MSC seal ensures that the salmon are abundant and come from a well-managed fishery. And, having our own port buyer means that only top-quality salmon that are bright-skinned with a firm texture are chosen.

I love Whole Foods’ one-day-friday sales! I’ll be heading there for sure tomorrow to take advantage. I was concerned about storage, so I spoke to the seafood dept and they said they could certainly wrap it tightly for freezer stockpile. Since Mike doesn’t like much seafood, I am the lone salmon lover/eater.

I feel I should also mention that just because this salmon is MSC certified, doesn’t mean that it’s safe to consume huge portions. We need to remember that no animal product is completely 100% sustainable, especially at the current rate we’re consuming! We can never stop worrying about our seafood supplies, and the only way to keep our future safe is to consume LESS, but spend MORE for higher quality responsibly-caught seafood.

Here are some intriguing recipes from Whole Foods web site. I like the burger recipe, looks like the rating is not to hot, but the recipe comments have suggestions to make it better!

Wild Alaska Salmon and Avocado Salad
Poached Wild Salmon with Skillet Tomatoes
Rosemary-Lime Wild Alaska Salmon Kabobs
Grilled Salmon and Lemons with Herbs
Mini Wild Salmon Cakes

EDIT: The salmon was lovely! Beautiful and fresh! I purchased 2 pounds, and came home and sliced it into 6 individual servings. 5 went into the freezer in freezer bags, and I ate a piece for lunch with some homemade guacamole. Wonderful!

Picked My 1st Tomato

Yay, I picked my first “early girl” tomato this morning. It had turned red a couple of days ago but I kept it on the vine so it could ripen a little more.

We planted 4 tomato plants along with basil and oregano in a small garden. We also tried planting 4 organic sprouted potatoes and I’m curious to see what will become of them later this season!

first tomato from the garden this year