Monday, November 15, 2010

Playing Catch-Up

I am so proud of Roger's newly developed farming skills. He comes from a long line of city folks, so it is a major accomplishment that he can grow anything in my opinion. This spring mix he harvested Saturday morning for us to take to the market was the most beautiful I had ever seen, and delicious to boot. Am I blessed, or what?

I never got a blog out last week, and now I'm very disoriented! I also have two week's worth of beast reviews, so I think I'll get those on here first so that I don't have to worry about them anymore.

2 weeks ago box (delivered 10/30/10)

tomatillo salsa 5.56
almond butter cacao cups 5.50
Tamales 5.06
almond butter smoothie base 5.00
Hoisin sauce 4.86
caramel bars 4.63
soul dates 4.63
ensalada 4.57
chili lime corny chips 4.29
onion flat bread 4.20
Mu Shu Filling 4.00
Taco soup 3.93
Thai salad 3.92
chili mac topping w/ cheese sauce 3.86
cottage cheese 3.58

Some people may be wondering why some of the scores are higher than 5.0 when 5's are the highest score. There are 2 reasons for this: one is that some people like these items so much they give them higher scores than 5 to indicate this. When I average them, they raise the overall score, sometimes higher than 5 (especially when most of the other scores were high). Generally when someone likes something well enough to give it a higher than 5 score, everyone else liked it too.

The second reason there are scores higher than 5 is how much it bugs Darius. hehehe. You'd have to know how OCD he is to understand why... I know, he doesn't seem like the type, does he? Well, he's an engineer by trade, and they tend to be a little neurotic about their numbers. All of the numbers are legit, but I do enjoy averaging in those higher than 5 scores!

We're pretty happy about everything being above a 3.5. Of course, we'd love to have everything above a 4, but we see a three as average, as in "I like it all right, but I like this other thing better."

now for last week: 11/06/10

crunchmeister 5.83
Waldorf salad topping 5.75
raspberry granola 5.42
Asian salad 5.33
key lime pie 5.30
creamy broccoli soup 4.88
date bars 4.75
sushi & dipping sauce 4.42
stir fry 4.42
parsnip rice 4.33
enchiladas w/ sauces, cheese 4.25
lasagna layered veggies 4.10
everyday bread 3.70

So there it is. Some surprises. I always think it is funny when the stuff we just think is okay scores high, and the stuff we love doesn't do as well as other things.

We're pretty stoked about our menu for Thanksgiving. We've actually been working on it for several weeks (the menu, not the food). We finally decided on having a regular beast box that week that would be delivered 2 days early on Wednesday. Since some won't be having Thanksgiving vegan style, we decided to make an add-on with the holiday foods (stuffing, sweet potato souffle, and cranberry relish). Included in the weekly beast box will be some marinated portabello "steaks", braised greens, and mashed no-taters that can be used for any meal if one didn't want to eat it on Thanksgiving. Then we're going to load the rest of the box with LIGHT food so we can come down off the feasting!

The management of the Beaver Street Market has come to us twice in the last few weeks to ask us to extend the number of days we are there. They had asked us before, but they are really pushing for it now. Since we physically could not do it and keep up everything we normally do, we have not known what to do. There is a critical factor in that the market does not generate enough revenue to seriously consider it as a viable business decision, but we are wondering how many more people we could reach if we were able to be there most of the week. We'll have to wait and see if things fall into place.

I also owe the blog readers a couple of recipes. One of our customers really doesn't like any of the soups in the beast box. I think this might be 1) people like their soup hot, and 2) soups are best made fresh. We'd like a little more feed-back on this from our readers who have also eaten our soups so we know whether to keep working on this. Here's a nice soup to help lighten the load of the heavier foods everyone is eating this time of year:

Cucumber Soup

4 medium cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and shredded


2 bunches celery juiced with leaves for 2 cups juice
⅔ cup tahini
6 T lemon juice
2 cloves garlic
1 t sea salt
½ t white pepper

Blend the broth well and stir in your shredded cucumber.

This is good topped with chopped scallions, diced avocado, and/or diced tomato. If you decide to heat this soup, please do so gently so as to preserve as many enzymes as possible.

Another recipe we are asked for a lot is our kale salad. This is another recipe that we think tastes better made fresh, so you won't see it in our beast boxes very often.

Savory Kale Salad

1 head kale, shredded
1 c tomato, diced
1 c avocado, chopped
2 ½ T olive oil
1 ½ T lemon juice
1 t sea salt
½ t cayenne

Mix all ingredients together, squeezing as you mix to wilt the kale and creaming the avocado. Serve immediately. We also like it with a little chopped sweet and/or green onion (but we like onions in everything).

We had a group over for a church activity this week, and we were excited to see how they'd like our vegan menu since they were meat eaters. We served tamales made with no-bean and marinated mushrooms, tomatillo salsa, crema, cotija (sesame parm), ensalada, creamy cabbage, veggie crisps, rooibos tea, and caramel bars. Either it went over pretty well, or they were very polite. I think the men wondered what they were eating, but they didn't say anything. The women all knew our lifestyle and had been pretty curious about it, so they asked a lot of questions. I think the main message we would like to get across is that raw vegan food can be good. At the market, we have learned that a lot of the vegan food that people have tried has not been very appetizing, so they are leary about trying it again. They are usually pleasantly surprised when they try some of our dishes.

I often wonder what it will take for people to eat more plant foods. As one of our customers put it last week, "God created them for us to eat not just look at and think 'Boy, they sure are pretty.'" In fact, they are as beautiful as they are so that we would be enticed into eating them. Imagine the garden of Eden where Adam and Eve were salivating over a pomegranate just coming into season or the first tangerine of the year the way we did last month. (I wonder if they even had seasons...Did everything just spring forth spontaneously regardless of the time of the year?)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Rough Times Ahead!

Rough times ahead for everyone. I don't believe there is any way around it. I don't know anyone that is not struggling in at least one area of their lives, and many feel their lives are in complete chaos. How do we find a safe harbor?

It seems we have an inability to cope with our difficult circumstances. More and more people are using prescription medications to help them deal with the stress of everyday life. The non-legal coping mechanisms continue to thrive as well and are out of control. Is that what our Creator had in mind when He sent us to earth? Was life here on earth so difficult that the only way through it was to be numbed?

I personally spent a lot of years numbing myself with food. When I hurt, I ate. When I didn't want to think about something, I ate. When I didn't want to think about coping in a different way, I ate so I wouldn't have to think about it. (I can still remember having panic attacks everytime I watched The Biggest Loser. I would literally eat myself into an oblivion while watching the show. I guess I was worrying about what my life would be like without the foods they taught needed to be eliminated.)

I have known I was a compulsive overeater for many years. In fact, I attended a 12 step program in the early 80's and was successful in overcoming some of my problems. After moving back here however, I let my program slip. (I have lots of good excuses for why, but I digress...) It wasn't long before I was using the food again to help me forget my "pain". (I say it that way because I, unlike many others, have not had a horrible life that has given me difficult things to bear. In fact, I have had a wonderful life with a wonderful family. I suppose I am just a wimp in that I cannot cope with the stress of day-to-day life without using my drug of choice.)

When we discovered the lifesyle of eating mostly living foods could help us maintain a level of health previously unknown, we were unprepared for the emotional impact this would have on each of us. No longer would we have our crutches that had served us so willingly for so many years. We were forced to actually deal with the pain of everyday living. We found we did not know how to do this. All of my life, I had "used" so that I didn't have to do this. I didn't even know what really feeling my emotions would be like.

Actually where we see this the most is with our grandchildren. Because they live with us, they adopted our lifestyle choices along with us. I can see in them how difficult this change is. As little people who do not have a strong emotional base anyway, they are totally unable to deal with their feelings in constructive ways. Because they have had difficult things happen in their lives, they have a lot to deal with, a lot more than I have ever had. I really don't know how they do it without a crutch especially since they don't have the tools to which adults have access.

While thinking of this, I found myself asking this question: If we were not supposed to have to be numbed while living here, what tools do we have exactly that can help us climb that mountain? Being a religious person, I found comfort in several examples in the scriptures of people who moved ahead and even endured to the end. I also found comfort in knowing that the Savior had endured all pains and had taken all my burdens upon Him. Why then did I have to hurt?

I remember something my youngest son told me when I was struggling. How could we hope to have anything great in this life or the next if we did not have to pay any kind of price for it? Personal growth does not come in being perfect - it comes in the effort to be perfect. Once perfect we would stop growing. How grateful we should be for the challenge then!

I had to find the exact quote from my son(it's from Neal A. Maxwell):
“How can you and I really expect to glide naively through life, as if to say, Lord, give me experience, but not grief, not sorrow, not pain, not opposition, not betrayal, and certainly not to be forsaken. Keep from me, Lord, all those experiences which made Thee what Thou art! Then let me come and dwell with Thee and fully share Thy joy!” (Ensign, May 1991, 88).

Time to find out what kind of cloth I really am cut from. I am always telling others, "It is never as bad as we think it is going to be." You'd think I'd believe it as many times as I've said it. We just build it up so much in our mind that it seems insurmountable. Well, it's not. There's nothing we can't handle one step at a time. It's when we quit moving ahead that we falter.

Here's our beast box scores for last week (not too many items make it to the top that are not desserts!):

tomato chewies 5.50
marshmallow cream cheese (fruit dip) 5.14
Caesar salad 5.00
honey almond butter 5.00
All Am Veggie Burger 4.71
rawky road 4.64
creamy spinach soup 4.57
zucchini nests (for pizza) 4.43
veggie crisps 4.43
macadamia ricotta 4.33
Alfredo sauce 4.14
tangy coleslaw 4.14
sweet potato chips 3.86
living taco fixins 3.57

We were pleased with these scores (none lower than a 3.5). Once again, it is a lot of fun experimenting with recipes we have been collecting and thinking about but have not had much time or room in the fridge for.

Recipe this week - the smoothie base from last week was a big hit, and here's the recipe:

4 tablespoons coconut oil
2 teaspoon lecithin
2 teaspoon vanilla
2 pinches sea salt
2 cups cacao nibs
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 ½ cups agave nectar
1 almond mylk recipe

Mix well. Blend 1 cup of this base with 2 frozen bananas.

Almond Mylk

2 cups almonds, soaked 4 - 6 hours
8 cups water

Blend well and strain.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Compost's the Thing

Well, I have to be honest. I am having a hard time getting everything done, and I'm not sure why. Maybe my age is slowing me down or something. I really can't figure it out, but it sure is frustrating. There are so many things rattling around in my head these days, it is hard to center on a topic. Let's see...

I've been thinking about the upcoming gardening season. I've always felt like this is the optimal season to get crops in the ground, plus I love greens and lettuces, which do much better over the winter. Roger has been doing such a great job with composting our crops and keeping the weeds down. I marvel at this because that was my job for many years, and it is very difficult to stay on top of it.

Last year one of our customers told us how she mulches with cardboard boxes, so we have been excited to be able to use up all the cardboard that seems to find its way to our house. It really is a great way to mulch the crops and helps keep the weeds down, plus it gives us some great pathways through the rows.

Roger is much better at keeping up with the composting than I was for a number of reasons. First of all, we eat a lot more vegetation than we did back when it was my job, so we fill up our bins much faster. Because we have so much, he is motivated to clear out the first bin in the cycle so he can have another one when he fills up the last one. We've got it timed out so that the first one is usually ready when the last one gets filled up.

Another reason he's better at it than me is because he's just so darn much taller and stronger than me. It used to give me fits trying to use the pitch fork and move it around and so forth. It really is a job better suited to someone his size. (Of course, there aren't too many jobs well suited to my height, now that I think about it!)

I really believe compost is the most important thing we can do for our crops. If tasks have to be prioritized, which of course they do, I would have to say work on the compost and let other things like weeding and even irrigation go. Good compost rotation will go a long way in helping to solve other woes.

Besides just adding organic matter to the soil which is very important in Florida due to the high percentage of sand, I think compost is important because it is a living soil. We talk alot about eating living foods and preserving the enzymes in our food, but how our food is grown is an important part of how it will turn out when mature and ready for the table.

I'm convinced that a lot of people think they don't like their fruits and veggies because they have never eaten any that have grown in soils teeming with life. They really do taste differently.

For example, last year, Roger grew the most tender and tastiest collards imaginable. I couldn't believe it. I know his excellent management of the compost is what contributed to this. I use this as an example as many don't think of collards as a raw food nor a particularly tasty one. These were definitely the exception to that rule. We can't wait to start cutting them later this week and making some veggie wraps with them.

What else has he got out there? The pepper plants are producing bumper crops this fall, and that is a blessing as we use them in many of our recipes. Hopefully we'll be able to make some rellenos next week. He's also got some nice looking lettuce and the broccoli should be up in a couple of weeks. The cherry tomatoes he picked this week were out of this world as well. We've ordered more seed of our favorite kind to see if we can protect them over the winter and keep them going. They make other tomatoes seem like ugly stepchildren...

Well, I've rambled on about that long enough. We're having so much fun with our beast boxes and our beasties (the name we lovingly give our customers who purchase them), that we can hardly think about anything else. We're finding a box that will suit it better and will be looking for artwork with which to decorate it, etc. Who would have thought this would be this much fun.

My oldest son and his girlfriend finally tried some of the foods from it last week and had mixed reviews. I think they understand why the beasties all enjoy them so much anyway. He's been going with me to deliver them, and he's seeing how neat everyone is too, so he can see why I enjoy doing it as much as I do (I think).

Here's the results from the survey for the box from the week before last week. Highest ranking items are on top. (Some have asked why there are scores over 5 when 5 is the highest score, but some people assign higher numbers indicating 5 is not good enough. That's ok by me!)
5.40 Chocolate brownie mousse trifle
5.18 sushi rolls w/ dipping sauce
5.00 smoothie
5.00 fruit add-on
4.50 veggie add-on
4.70 spinach salad w/ sliced pear, candied pecans, & raspberry vinaigrette
4.67 cheesy crackers
4.45 Mexi-cali wraps
4.39 mushroom, pepper, onion fajita filling
4.31 peanut sauce
4.30 Hawaiian granola
4.20 sweet bell pepper soup
4.14 carrot patch dessert
4.05 Mexican rice
4.00 pickled beets
3.21 cashew flower cinnamon yogurt
This was a good week; nothing scored less than a 3! We appreciate everyone's kindness and effort they took to respond.

Last week's survey just went out, so we'll see how everything fares this week. We work in so many weeks at the same time, it is hard to keep it all straight.

This week we are making something that is new to me, mu shu with hoisin sauce. Apparently this is a popular food at Asian restaurants and though I've never tried it, it sounded delicious, so we are excited about it. We've made the tamales several times before and love them, so we are anticipating good reviews on them. Desserts are always popular, and we are trying two new ones this week: almond butter cacao chunks and caramel bars. Well, I'm not going to say anymore; I'll send out the e-mail on that shortly.

For our recipe this week, I'm posting a sauce to copycat fish sauce for Brian, one of our customers. He was excited to see we had bok choy as they have a great recipe they love, but it calls for fish sauce, and they didn't know what to substitute for it so the dish could be healthier.

Here's info I found about it on the internet -
Fish sauce is a thin, salty liquid that is used in place of salt as a seasoning in many Asian recipes, and also serves as a dipping sauce. Made from salted fish, it is rich in Vitamin B and protein.

Although associated primarily with Vietnamese and Thai cuisine, fish sauce is also found in southern Chinese dishes. Depending on where it was made, you'll find it sold under a number of names. Chinese brands are often labeled "fish gravy" or "fish sauce," while it is called "nuoc mam" in Vietnam and "nam pla" in Thailand. However, they are all basically the same product, although the Thai and Vietnamese brands are considered superior.

Fish sauce can be stored indefinitely without refrigeration in a dry place.

Written by Rhonda Parkinson
Also Known As: Nuoc Mam, Nam Pla, fish gravy
Recipes Using Fish Sauce: Tom Yum Gung - Thai Hot and Sour Soup

Instead of fish, this recipe uses sea vegetables. This ones for you, Brian:

Better-Than-Fish Sauce

yields 3/4 cup

3 tablespoons hiziki seaweek, soaked in 1/3 cup water (reserve water)
1 1/2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons dulse flakes
1/2 large date
1/4 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons nama shoyu

Blend all the ingredients including the soak water together until smooth.

Let me know how it turns out!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Better Late Than Never, Right?

Better late than never, right? I've been behind for about a week and a half now and wondering when I can play catch-up.

Since I didn't blog last week, these survey results are for the beast box the week before last...
3 + pumpkin seed cheese (dip for crudites)
4 Olive, tomato, & basil cheese spread (for open-face sandwiches)
5 cilantro pesto (sauce for veggie or other kind of pasta)
5 + guacamole (dip for corn chips)
4 + chili con crema
5 House salad; lettuce, celery, carrots, onion, topped with sunnies, raisins, dulse, and Ranch dressing
3 + creamy coleslaw
4 + vinaigrette for a side salad
4 + everyday bread (open face sandwiches)
4 + chili lime corny chips (dippers for the guac)
4 + buckwheaties (dip for bananas)
4.5 soul dates
4.5 chocolate macaroons
5 + pumpkin pie

The scale is 1 for "hated it" (Yay, we didn't get any of those!) and 5 for "can't wait to eat it again".

Last week's box had some neat stuff in it, but I'll post survey results of them later since all of that is gone now. This week we're having some fun with party foods since Gayle is having a yoga retreat in Florahome and is wanting hors d'euves. If anyone is interested in going to her shindig, let me know, and I'll pass on the details to you.

The beast box this week will have the following items:
All American veggie patty with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle, tomato, mustard, and mayo
Alfredo pasta sauce
living taco fixings: unfried no-bean, salsa fresca, crema
macadamia ricotta
tangy coleslaw
sweet potato chips
Caesar salad: Romaine lettuce with croutons, sesame parmesan, dulse, and Caesar dressing
creamy spinach soup
zuccini nests (on which to nestle your pizza toppings)
veggie crisps
honey almond butter
tomato chewies
marshmallow cream cheese (for dipping fruit)
rawky road

Our recipe this week is for "Everybody's Favorite Salad" (according to the Top Raw Men - get it? They made a joke!) You can make everything ahead and just pour it over cleaned and trimmed Romaine. Easy peasy.
Everybody's Favorite Salad

2 large heads of Romaine lettuce, washed and torn into small pieces
2 avocados, pitted and spooned into salad bowl
2 tomatoes, diced
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons raw apple cider vinegar (i.e. Braggs)
3 tablespoons extra virgin cold pressed olive oil
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 teaspoons sea salt or to taste
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup raisins

Mix ingredients together. Let is sit for 10 minutes before serving.

The dressing ingredients will keep for a couple of days in the fridge. When you're ready to eat, just pour them over the fresh salad greens.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

Breaking up with old patterns for living that aren't working for us can be one of the most difficult things we ever do in our lives. Even when we realize it isn't working, many of us stick with it long after we should have made a change. Why? Comfort zones? Maybe. I'm wondering how much of it is because the behavior is somehow addicting to us. (The definition of addiction is "psychological and/or physical dependency; ... often cause guilt, shame, fear, hopelessness, failure, rejection, anxiety, or humiliation symptoms associated with, among other medical conditions, depression and epilepsy" (Wikipedia, "addiction").

To me, one of the most profound acts done by any human being has been the creation of 12 step programs for the recovery of addiction. When I think about the first men and women who began these programs and how incredible it was that they had the courage and inspiration to do so, it baffles my mind.

What has this to do with a living foods lifestyle? First, I believe most of the food issues in the media nowadays stem back to the highly addictive lifestyle most of America eats. The word addiction is rarely used to describe it; however, how else can one explain the harmful continuation of a practice that ultimately leads to destruction? The raw vegan lifestyle, to me, not only eliminates addictive and destructive foods, it is the only one that does so in my opinion.

As I came to understand the raw vegan lifestyle which is viewed as extreme by even those who have embraced vegetarian or veganism, I found a way of eating that provided the perfect food plan for me, a compulsive overeater. While there are recipes I have tried and/or developed that are delicious and enjoyable, none could be defined as addictive (despite comments to that effect by those that try them).

To quote a pamphlet from Overeaters Anonymous, a 12 step program for people who cannot stop eating foods that are harmful for them, "Using a plan of eating is the beginning of freedom from compulsive overeating. Instead of depending on resolutions and willpower to help make good decisions in front of the refrigerator or in the restaurant, we develop a sensible plan of eating in advance" (A Plan of Eating, OA pamphlet, p. 2).

While it is important to accept a food plan for abstinence from harmful foods in order to "cure" an addiction to unhealthy foods, I have found I also have to work the 12 steps to be able to accomplish this. I don't know if this is true for everyone, but I am hoping it will be helpful to at least one other person. If I can help anyone recognize this and overcome their personal addiction to unhealthy foods, that would be a great thing. We come into contact weekly with folks that can't break the cycle of destructive substances; rarely do they even recognize it as addiction. That would be the first step: recognizing we are powerless over food (especially those foods that destroy health) and that our lives have become unmanageable.

This week I have found a vendor for kelp noodles that carries a larger size for a better price than we were able to get the smaller 12 oz size usually found in markets. This is exciting, because it brings it into a price range where we can use it in our beast boxes and give everyone a chance to try these. We like them in Asian cuisine where they are most suited as a substitute for glass noodles, but they are great to use in any recipe where you want a real noodle instead of (or with) a vegetable style noodle.

I hope by now everyone has at least tried substituting veggie noodles for white flour pasta noodles. I was surprised at how good this was and wondered why we hadn't always chosen to shred up vegetables as a base for yummy sauces. The kelp noodles add another dimension to it.

We have found that many people have an aversion to sea vegetables maybe because they are not so lovingly nicknamed sea weeds. According to, a weed is "an undesirable plant growing in cultivated ground", hence wild plants growing in the ocean would hardly fit the definition. (Of course, I take issue with most plants that are normally called weeds being considered "undesirable" since they can all be used in some way. Just because we are unfamiliar with their use does not justify the name calling...) Anyway, I digress.

My personal aversion to sea vegetables was because of their appearance I think. It all seemed so foreign and un-foodlike. I was in a living foods restaurant the first time I had the courage to try some, and I've loved them ever since. If we could get enough of them in the house, I'd eat some every day, but my granddaughter eats them by the pound, so it is hard to keep a supply on hand. I believe we will find out some day that there are nutrients in the sea vegetables that her little body needs for healing purposes. Our family favorites are dulse, arame, nori, kelp granules, and kelp noodles. I expect our repetoire will increase over time. We had some great sea vegetables in Miami the last time we were there, but I haven't located a source for them yet. Maybe my readers will have additional suggestions too. I'll try anything now. It hasn't always been like that.

My favorite way to use nori is as a wrap for salad. We all like to grab a few sheets, lay a few forkfuls of salad on one end, and roll. I like to do mine all at once, and by the time I've finished the fourth one, the first one has softened up a little bit due to the moisture in the salad. Then I have a handy dandy sea burrito! Delicious.

My favorite way to use kelp noodles is to mix them with shredded zucchini and us the mock peanut sauce to dress them. Some shredded bell pepper and onion is good too. We'll have some as one of our entrees next week, I promise.

According to The Complete Idiot's Guide to Eating Raw, sea vegetables "are a source of important minerals and nutrients such as calcium, zinc, protein, and trace elements like iodine." Here's a recipe from their book using arame, one of the mildest flavored sea veggies:

Rainbow Salad

1 cup arame, soaked 30 minutes and drained
1/4 cup carrot, peeled and grated
1/4 cup red cabbage, sliced thin
1/4 cup green onion, diced small
1/2 teaspoon ginger or garlic, peeled and minced
4 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon raw apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons agave nectar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 teaspoons nama shoyu or to taste

Place all ingredients in a large mixing bowl mixing well. Serve immediately. Garnish with sesame seeds if desired. This would also be a great filling for Nori rolls.
Our beast box menu this week has some interesting surprises. We love cilantro so much, we decided to try a cilantro pesto. We'll mix it into shredded zucchini and yellow squash noodles. We might chop a few tomatoes into it. The cilantro gives it a beautiful green color. We'll also have a side salad with it. (The pesto and vinaigrette for the side salad will be included with the beast box; the salad and veggie noodles can be purchased as part of the veggie add-on.)

Our main dish salad this week will be our classic ¡ Viva La Verde ! House salad which includes lots of yummy toppings: ball park sunnies, raisins, and dulse along with our delicious Ranch salad dressing.

The big dipper this week is a pumpkin seed cheese for use with crudites of your choice. (The veggie box has baby cucumber spears, parsnip sticks, baby carrots, celery sticks.)

We are also having a chip n dip: guacamole and chili lime corny chips. (Corny because no corn!) You might also enjoy this with some veggies.

As an aside, I have always been troubled by guacamole since it turns dark and ugly so fast. For that reason I took it out of the catalog because I just couldn't figure out how to keep it nice for the market. I asked Laurie, who orders it several times a month even though it isn't in the catalog anymore, how she dealt with that problem, and she told me that she freezes it until she's ready to eat it. I knew it froze well, but for some reason, I had never thought of doing that even though a few of our desserts (including a couple made with avocado) are sold frozen. So, it's back in the catalog. Just keep it frozen until you're ready to eat it, and let it thaw for a few minutes. This week it is available with or without tomato. I can't tell the difference in the taste, but Laurie claims there is.

Also featured this week is one of our favorite meals, the open-faced sandwich. For the base, we've made some of our everyday bread, a sprouted buck wheat cracker with carrot and honey to help flavor it. The spread is a delicious sun-dried tomato, olive, & basil cream cheese spread. We're going to top it with sliced tomatoes and some sprouts (veggie toppers are in the add-on).

The soup and salad this week is chili con crema & creamy coleslaw. Prior to this recipe for chili, we had varying degrees of success. One day while I was at the Beaver Street Market, this recipe came into my head, and I called home and asked Alicia to put it together, so we could see what it tasted like. It was really good, so we make it regularly now (at least in the colder part of the year). It's a simple recipe made with lots of good veggies and a delicious tomato base. We top it off with some of our hemp cashew cheese sour cream. The cole slaw is a creamy one made with a cashew sour cream base sweetened with agave nectar. (I can't stand cole slaw that is not sweet. It's just wrong. Sorry to those who aren't as sweet challenged as I am.)

Our snacks this week are some buckwheaties and soul dates. Buckwheaties are a dehydrated sprouted buckwheat. I think it tastes a little like grapenuts. We use them most often to dip bananas into, and Darius likes to use them to fill the little cavities in raspberries. So we've put both bananas and raspberries in the fruit add-on this week.

Soul dates are a little snack that goes a long way to satisfy your hunger in between meals. Roger used to buy these at health markets where they are outrageously priced. I told him he would have to figure out a way to make them as he was breaking the bank with buying 5 or 6 boxes a week. Surprisingly, he did! (By way of history, he can barely cook, let alone figure out a new recipe. That goes to show you how much he loves these things.) We named them soul dates as they are the heart and soul of Roger's success as a raw vegan. He goes NOWHERE without a box of them or a jar of dates in his backpack. They are good and very satisfying. You don't need much and can pinch off a piece of one to stave off hunger.

These also make a good pie crust. Smash one into one of the little cups we put all your food in, slice some banana on there, and top with any other fruit you have on hand (or something in the fruit add-on box), and you have a nifty fruit pie. You can even make a glaze by blending some of your raspberries in the fruit add-on with some agave nectar and spooning it on top, though the pie is good as is.

The desserts included this week is our “pumpkin” tart, a spicy little number in our regular line-up that we enjoy every week. No pumpkin though; we use carrots instead, but it tastes like the filling we enjoy by that name; the name "carrot tarts" just wouldn't do it!

We're also putting some chocolate macaroons in our box this week. This is a neat little cookie to help satisfy the chocolate monster that attacks every so often. We mix carob and raw cacao as we found cacao alone to be too stimulating. For some reason, the carob helps dissipate that.

Our survey results from last week were pretty good with the lowest score only a 3.25 on the kale chips, 3.75 on pita chips, and nearly a 4 on the lasagna. Our highest rating went to the BBQ veggie patty (a 6!), the Greek salad was a 5, veggie crisps a 4.75. Everything else fell between these: onion dip (4.25), sweet n sour sauce (4.7), butternut squash soup (4.0), carrot raisin salad (4.7), tomato chewies (4.0), and both desserts, apples layered with baklava filling and coconut cream banana dessert got 4+. Of course, not everyone votes, so we don't know if some of those would be lower (or higher) votes. It you'd like your opinion to count, please let us know what you like and don't like. High scores will be repeated; low scoring items won't.

Anyone ever hear of Mu Shu? I'm not a Chinese officiando, but the recipe for this sounds great. When the napa cabbage comes in, we'll have to get that on the menu. I'm not sure of everything on the menu next week, but I'm excited to find out. Hope you are too!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

God is Great, God is Good

I can't even begin to imagine where this is going to go this week as my brain is a blank canvas right now trying to get myself organized and done with everything I have to do.

Here's the results for our survey last week. Our personal overall favorite was the fajita mixture we placed on corn tostados with some cashew sour cream. Man, that was good. Our survey results gave it a 4.25 out of 5 as a couple of recipients weren't as crazy about it as we were. The highest scoring last week was the corn chips, the cumin flat bread, and the skinny mints with an average 4.5 rating. Greek dates were also up there with a 4.3; mac n cheese and corn tortillas both got 4's. Taboulleh, queso dulce, Caesar salad, salsa fresca, were in the high 3's, almost 4's while my beloved apple crisp only got a 3.25. Not unexpectedly, the miso soup and the down home greens only got 3's, which was the lowest score, thankfully.

We really are trying to give people lots of different choices to let them know how much is possible. People who try the beast box will definitely know that being a vegan or even a raw vegan is not about just eating salads and apples, oranges, and bananas. We are even trying to put more non-traditional fruits and veggies in the add-on boxes to give people what they might not buy themselves.

We've also reformatted our catalog; we're going to have a few staple things each week, and then items from the beast box can be ordered ala carte during the week they are available. We couldn't keep making all the things in our repetoire every week, and it was limiting how much we could experiment. Now, the sky is the limit!

I have "resigned" as head chef and turned the wheel over to Alicia. She is certainly capable of doing this, but that doesn't mean I like giving over the control. So far she hasn't worked me too hard...

We've got some new and different things in our beast box this week. Because some of the items were more expensive, and we wanted to keep the price the same, some of the veggies for the meals are included in the veggie box.

First off, there's some onion dip. One of our friends introduced this to us a few months ago, and we really like it. We are putting broccoli and cucumber in the veggie box to cut up to have with it. There's also some pita chips and or veggie crisps in the breads if people want to spread it on them.

We are also making a lasagna. This is zucchini noodles layered with marinated broccoli, marinated mushrooms, shredded carrot, baby spinach leaves, marinara sauce, macadamia ricotta cheese, and sesame parmesan sprinkled on top.

We are spiralizing some zucchini for the veggie box and preparing a sweet and sour sauce to pour over it. I love this with chopped pineapple, so we're putting a little bowl of that in the veggie box along with some slivered red pepper.

Something we don't have very often, but we wanted to include in our beasts every 6 weeks or so is a raw vegan veggie patty. Generally these are a combination of a few kinds of nuts; we are using walnuts, sprouted sunflower seeds, and almonds. These are combined with tons of veggies and some seasonings to make things interesting. We are also doing a great barbeque sauce to put on top. We have some carmelized onion to put on top too. I can't wait to see how people like it. I love them on top of a side salad so that I get a bite of salad with each bite of burger. Hence we are including the makings for a side salad in the veggie box. The vinaigrette included in the beast is for the side salad. No french fries though...

On a side note, I've seen where some raw fooders cut up jicama or a similar vegetable into french fry cuts and call them french fries. Wait a minute, my fake food blog was last week...

Our soup and salad this week is carrot raisin salad with a yummy mayonnaise made from cashews along with a squash soup. We'll be getting our vitamin A this week! I really love squash soup and look forward to it every fall when the winter squashes make their debut. We're not sure how it will hold over in the beast box as we always eat it when it is first made.

Greek salad is a delicious way to end the day. We're providing lettuce in the beast box, and in the veggie box are some extra veggies if people want them. We've got some delicious kalamata olives to sprinkle on there along with scoops of feta cheese. This is not the little cubes of feta like they have at the store. I make a cheese from cashews, sunflower seeds, and pine nuts, and mix it with onion, garlic, cilantro, oregano, and marjoram to give it some classic Greek flavor. It can then be scooped onto the salad and mixed in as it being eaten. (I had some last night with the leftovers, and it was delicious!) We've got a nice lemon herb vinaigrette to pour over the top.

Our snacks this week are two veggie ones: kale chips and tomato chewies. Both are marinated first and then dehydrated; we find them both irresistible. Our first dessert is a banana coconut cream pie with a nice chocolate crust. Our next dessert was pure inspiration. We made up a baklava filling for dates a few months ago, and we were thinking, "How would this taste layered with apples?" You can taste the result this week. In my humble opinion, it is sublime...

For my recipe this week, I'm going to post a paté. I really didn't know what these were when I first read about them. This one is called "Sunny Paté" and is from Nomi Shannon who wrote Raw Gourmet. These are an easy way to add variety to your salad meals.

Sunny Paté

3 cups sunflower seeds soaked 8 to 12 hours and sprouted 2 to 4 hours
1 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup roughly chopped scallions
1/2 cup raw tahini
2 tablespoons nama shoyu or 1 teaspoon celtic sea salt
2 to 4 slices sweet onion, cut in chunks
4 to 6 tablespoons coarsely chopped parsley
2 to 3 medium cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or more to taste (optional)

In a food processor, process the sunflower seeds, lemon juice, scallions, tahini, nama shoyu, onion, parsley, garlic, and cayenne to a smooth paste. Adjust the seasonings to taste. The paté will develop a stronger garlic flavor after a few hours, so don't overdo it at the beginning. This recipe tastes better if allowed to sit in the fridge for a few hours.

I'm not feeling too philosophical this week, so I guess I'll call it a day. I've got some apples I need to go layer. I think one of the reasons I love raw food cookery so much is there is plenty of time for peeling off my own layers while I peel, slice, and chop. Nearly all of our menus involves handling living food the earth has offered up for our enjoyment. Gabriel Cousins calls it "Conscious Eating" - thinking about what we eat and what a miracle of creation each substance is. What a loving Father to give us so much variety and deliciousness. How could anyone not see Him as generous?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Fake Foods

A lot of things have been running around in my mind this week, so it has been hard to narrow it down to something that was intelligible. We were asked an interesting question at the market last week. A woman asked, "Is everything here in your section organic?" When I answered that it was, she asked, "How do you know that?" At first I didn't understand her question, but then I understood that she was asking how does anyone know that what they are getting and paying a higher dollar for is of any different quality than the lower priced product.

This is an interesting question. When we first brought Darius home from the hospital after his 30 day stay there, he was in a very weakened state. I prayed to know what to do to help him, and I was inspired to feed him "mild" foods. Not knowing what that meant, I had to think about it and pray a little more. I did some research and found the following scripture: "And whosoever among you are sick, and have not faith to be healed, but believe, shall be nourished with all tenderness, with herbs and mild food, and that not by the hand of an enemy" (Doctrine and Covenants 42:43). My mind conceived this to be foods that could digest easily so that his body could use its vital energies to help him heal.

I remembered a book I had read many years before, Fit for Life, where the authors explain this concept. I was grateful I had learned this though I had not implemented it to any great degree at that time. Foods that are easy to digest are fruits and vegetables primarily, especially juices of them. Darius' wife and I were now on a mission to get as many "mild" foods into him as we could. We purchased 25 pound bags of carrots, pounds and pounds of spinach and celery, and trays and trays of wheat grass. As we poured these elixirs in him, we were relieved to see his strength returning. It was truly a miracle!

We decided that as we purchased these "mild" foods as well as the other foods he would be eating, we should buy the ones as chemical free as possible so as not to tax his digestive system even more. This meant buying organic. So how would we know what was organic?

We had long grown our own vegetables and fruits in a chemical free manner using compost and mulch to build up the soil. We had hand-picked off the insects that occasionally came around for their daily munchies. To produce the quantity Darius needed though, vegetables would need to be purchased, so we had to rely on the vendors at the health food stores in the area.

We have learned that organically grown food is different than certified organic. Which one is better? There is a trust factor, certainly. For me, I visit the farms of those who claim to be growing organic but do not as yet have certification. Because I have grown food this way for many years, I know what I am looking for. It is not just the absence of poisons that makes it organic; it is the soil that makes it organic as far as I am concerned (assuming the farmer has the aversion to poisons that I have).

What I have come to learn is that organically grown food really does taste better. I think one of the reasons that so many people don't think they like a plant based diet is because the thought of eating all those gross tasting (i.e. chemical tasting) things is pretty disgusting. Even before this happened to Darius, I had started buying only organically grown lettuce as I found the chemical taste of conventional lettuce to be very off-putting. Now that I only eat plant foods, I am very sensitive to that chemical taste. I feel that fruits and vegetables that are grown properly (i.e. with soil that is highly developed with organic matter) have a sweet well-rounded rich flavor with no chemical aftertaste at all.

2 examples: one of our customers got a spinach salad from us last week where we provided a pear to slice over it to go with the candied pecans and raspberry vinaigrette. She e-mailed to say it was the best pear she had ever had, and could she please have some more. I don't think we have the best pears available; I think she had just never had an organic pear.

On the reverse side, another customer told me that she has a friend dying from cancer. When our customer suggested she change her diet to a plant-based diet to relieve some the stress a conventional diet was putting on her, the other lady said she would rather die than eat only that "stuff" -- and she will! That lady has never sat down to a whole day of plant-based goodies, now has she? We often remark at our house how blessed we are to have all these wonderful things to eat.

So this brings us full circle back to our beast boxes. You knew I would get around to them, didn't you? As we strive to come up with menus and foods that inspire our customers to eat a more plant-based diet, we want folks to know that these foods really are good. There really is not a sacrifice involved in eating this way. We may have to develop our palettes to appreciate some things we aren't used to, but time will give us that. If God intended us to eat a plant based diet (you know Adam and Eve were raw vegans, right?), He would not have wanted it to be a negative experience. Of course, our addictions to our former way of eating color our appreciation of the foods that we were really intended to eat.

Reminding me of something another customer said in her response to our beast box survey: "We have really enjoyed trying new food. It has opened up a new world of fun possibilities. I guess the biggest thing is to realize that while the raw versions are very good they are not going to really have the taste or texture of the real thing."

Ha! the "real thing" is really only our perception of what it should taste like. For example, we have a red pepper, onion, and mushroom fajita as one of our foods this week. Who is to say what a fajita is supposed to be? If all you knew is the one you get in the beast box this week, you would be content. If you, however, expect it to taste and feel like the one at the cocina, you will probably be disappointed. It's not that you won't like this one; it is just that your brain is expecting it to be something else.

Perhaps we should not call the foods by names by which other foods are called. Perhaps we should think of all new names for them so there are no pre-conceived notions. We'll work on that. Using familiar names helps us know what we are getting into.

My biggest problem with this is the raw vegan breads. To call them breads at all is an atrocity. I baked yeast breads for 30 years before entering this lifestyle, and I cannot wrap my brain around this cracker thing being called a bread. Nor can I accept that this cracker thing is anything like the little orange crackers I ate a box of every week of my life before adapting healthier habits. My solution? I don't eat raw vegan bread very often. I don't need it or want it. I don't dislike them, I just can't get my brain to accept them as bread. When I need a vehicle to hold my avocado mayo and tomato slices, I can eat them and enjoy them immensely. Just don't call them bread... they are tomato holders!

Well, I didn't think all the things running around in my head were in any way related to one another, but I got every one of them into the same discussion. Well, kind of. The reader is probably totally lost and gave up paragraphs ago. On to a more sensible subject: this week's menu.

As mentioned previously, we are making a mushroom / red pepper / onion "fajita". The "tortilla" is an actual corn chip in a circular shape dehydrated until it is hard. We have to dry them to that extent so that they do not degrade. Because there are absolutely no preservatives in them, molds will find them if there is any moisture there to help them survive. If you'd like a more pliable fajita wrapper, you will find the filling itself will soften it up a little bit so that it can be folded around it. We are also including a cup of cashew sour cream to add to your little sandwiches. Can anyone think of a better name for this than "fajita"?

Next, we have a cup of what we call queso dulce. I don't remember how we came upon this, but we loved it from the first day we invented it. We love it as a dip for celery, apples, and mixed into fruit salads. Are you noting a pattern here? Celery is not a food we would eat a lot except that we come up with all these delicious ways to eat it. Now we eat it by the bunch. Often for dinner we'll clean up 2 bunches for the 6 of us and devour it with our dip of choice. It is extremely satisfying and easy on the digestive system. So nearly every week, you'll find some kind of celery dip in the beast itself, and a bunch of celery in the veggie add-on.

Also, every week, there's usually a "pasta" type dish. Here again, squash might make a poor substitute for an actual pasta dish, but I think of it as a wonderful vegetable dish especially considering all the many toppings we've come up with to put on it. One of our favorites is this one: mac n cheese. The cheese is in a separate cup to add to your "noodles" when you are ready to eat. Both products hold up better that way. The "cheddar" is a cashew based cheese sauce with red pepper and cilantro. We think it is delicious. We've included some of Lil's down home greens to have along side or mix right into the squash noodles. Lillian Butler is a woman we met in New York. She runs a restaurant in Harlem called Raw Soul. She has done a wonderful work helping the poor black community there overcome some of the cultural choices that were ruining their health. These greens reflect her southern roots.

Our soup and salad choice this week is not entirely congruent: Asian soup and Italian salad, but I hope you enjoy it anyway. Miso soup is very satisfying. I am not a big fan of raw mushrooms, but I like how they taste in miso. Miso is not actually a raw food since it is made from cooked beans, but because it is cultured, it is considered live. Isn't that interesting?

The Caesar salad is also one of my favorites. It took us awhile to come up with satisfactory substitutes for the SAD diet counterparts, but we love this dressing which uses miso for both flavoring and saltiness. I'm anxious to see how you like the crouton we've provided, and don't forget to sprinkle on the dulse. Dulse is another sea vegetable. Some people really had an aversion to the surf n turf last week because it had seaweed in it, but we are hoping we can convert you over to the raw side where these foods are an important part of a nourshing diet.

Our "chip and dip" feature this week is more familiar: vegan corn chips (made from corn and flax and seasonings) and salsa fresca. We think this tastes great with a sliced avocado and maybe some olives if you are so inclined.

You have probably noticed we don't eat a lot of grains even if they are sprouted. One exception to this is tabbouleh. It is made from quinoa which is an ancient grain; the indigenous people of Bolivia have been cultivating "the rice if the Incas" for over 5000 years. Quinoa is superior to other grains because it is a complete protein, containing 8 essential amino acids. It is actually a seed, not a grain, and is gluten free. When cooked, the grain itself is soft and delicate, but the germ is crunchy, creating a delicious combination of flavour and texture.

What we've prepared for you this week is a mixture of sprouted quinoa, cucumber, tomato, and onion in a lime vinaigrette. We would suggest you use it as a salad topping over some sliced lettuce. We are also including some cumin flatbread (which again, is not really very bready) to have with it.

Since we have 3 breads this week, we only have one snack, so we made it a rich one: something we call Greek dates. These are dates stuffed with a baklava type filling of almonds, walnuts, and honey. They are very tasty, but don't try to eat them all in one sitting. A half one a day will probably be very satisfying. One of our customers slices them into her salads, but we haven't tried that yet. Sounds intriguing.

We're having my favorite dessert this week: apple crisp. I've always been a fan, but I like this raw vegan version far better than the SAD version. We make a base from raisins, dates, pecans, coconut, and spices. Then we spicily sauce up some apples with more raisins and dates. It is topped by more of the crunchy topping and some maple cream made from cashews and maple syrup.

The development of this recipe took many months as I experimented with different combinations until I got it where I wanted it. I could eat it every day if it weren't such an involved recipe. You can count on it being in the beast box on a monthly basis.

(Which reminds me, Darius wanted a survey question wondering how often you would like certain items in the beast. Are there some things you'd like every week or every other week? Or would you prefer lots of different things? We are changing our catalog to only list about 15 items that will be available weekly. Hopefully they are items you like! We will also have extra of items being offered in each beast box for people to purchase ala carte if they don't want the whole beast. We are hoping this model will work for everyone.)

Our other dessert is the skinny mint (pictured above) so called because it won't make you fat like its SAD counterpart! The downfall of these is that they must be kept frozen or they disintegrate. We are working on that aspect of it and will hopefully come up with a different recipe, but it is so tasty, that we can't wait for the final draft before enjoying them. They are made from almond flour, raw cacao, maple syrup and sugar and coconut oil along with vanilla and peppermint extracts.

Our recipe this week is for a soup we love love love, but it is seasonal and difficult to hold so we can't put it in the beast. We thought about giving you the ingredients and letting you blend it up when you are ready to eat it. One time we put it in thermoses when we were going on a trip, and it exploded all over the van when we opened it to eat it. It was still good, but we were eating it and smelling it in our van for a long time!
Cauliflower Soup

2 cups cauliflower
2 - 3 cups water
1/2 cup cashews or pine nuts
2 T lemon juice
sea salt to taste

Put everything in high speed blender and blend til thick and smooth. Serve at room temp.

I almost forgot to post survey results (5 means really, really good, and 1 is stinky):

4.0 sprouted garbanzo bean hummus
3.8 olive cheese spread
5.0 pad Thai
3.7 surf n turf
3.2 raita
3.3 savory kale salad
3.1 spicy broccoli cheese soup
4.4 spinach salad
4.7 pita chips
3.8 Alicia crackers
3.3 zucchini chips
5.1 crunch meister
4.6 chocolate cheesecake
3.8 panna cotta

Everyone seems to like menu suggestions. Since our goal is for everything to be a 5 (or better), obviously some of these choices were not up there on everyone's list although none of them "failed" miserably. Rating them for us helps us to know which things you will like more than others. So thanks to those who took the time to let us know what they liked. We like it all!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Social Expectations

This week one of my son's who has no interest in our dietary changes was telling me that it was a selfish thing we are doing since it benefits no one but ourselves. He pointed out that we have paid a dear price for our newfound health and have sacrificed our relationship with our family to do this. I can certainly understand where he is coming from, and I have had to deal with some of these feelings myself.

It is true that many of our social conventions revolve around food and drink. There is hardly an activity you can think of that doesn't. Believe me, we've tried. The closest we have come is having a birthday party at the baseball field during one of the games (since I have a summer birthday). Not only was there the game for those who liked baseball, but there were alternative snacks for those who didn't care for our healthier fare. We played some family games as well, and it was a lot of fun. At least I thought so. But, as my son notes, it just isn't the same...

Could it be that a lot of what we are missing is the knock-out effect these foods have on us? We're all aware of the drug induced reaction we get after Thanksgiving dinner. Scientists have discovered that roast turkey induces a drug-like state after consumption. Maybe we're looking more for anesthesia than companionship...

Beast box results are in with some surprising results. Some of our family favorites have lower scores than items we personally don't like as much, so that goes to prove our palettes are different than most others. Here's the results (scale is 1 bad, 5 great):
4.9 unfried no bean
3.8 elotes con crema
5.3 macadamia ricotta
4.7 Waldorf salad dressing
5.5 marinara sauce for pizza
5.3 cucumber salad
3.7 Mexican rice
4.4 Asian salad
4.0 everyday bread
4.2 Mexi-cali wrappers
5.3 honey almond butter
4.5 ballpark sunnies
5.3 chocolate trifle
5.5 pumpkin pie

Anyone with better analyzing skills than I have want to figure this out?

This week's menus have a Mediterranean angle with sprouted garbanza bean hummus, pita chips, and raita. Dessert is a nice coconut frozen custard called Panna Cotta. We're also making a delicious spinach salad with a raspberry vinaigrette, crunchy candied pecans, and a sliced pear. Fantastic!

Our olive cheese spread is very popular. Each of us in our family likes this a different way; I love it as a dipper for celery, and Roger likes to smear it on veggie crisps. Darius likes it on cucumber slices and tomatoes. It is also good as a salad topper. It isn't as olive-y as it sounds, but since I am a big olive fan, maybe I wouldn't know if it is.

Pad Thai is an Asian addition to our menus this week. We shred zucchini, sliver up some red peppers and onions and toss with a delicious mock peanut sauce (almond butter substitutes nicely for the peanuts in the traditional sauce).

Our version of surf n turf is some nice arame sea vegetables mixed with sweet pepper, onion, and carrots (for the turf part). These are tossed in a nice ginger marinade. My favorite way to eat this is on top of shredded romaine.

Our soup this week is a spicy broccoli cheese soup. There are people who would literally walk (drive) miles to have some of this soup while others don't see what all the fuss is about. I am anxious to see how this one does in the survey. In our family, we like this with Alicia crackers which have a cheesy flavor all their own. The salad part of the soup / salad combo is a savory kale salad. Julienned kale, chopped onion and tomato are dressed with avocado and a nice vinaigrette. Very tasty... Who would have thought kale could be tasty not cooked?

We're also including zucchini chips and crunch meister in our box this week, both of which should be very popular. There's also a chocolate topped cheesecake. My brother who is a professional chef says this is the best cheesecake he's ever eaten, baked or unbaked. Ours is made with cashew cheese and the chocolate topping is made out of the best raw cacao I've ever tasted. Nothing else to say about that...

We've had requests for a few other items, including my favorite dessert: apple crisp. We also have pumpkin pie, chocolate mousse trifle, and key lime tarts. Hard to decide... We're also making Waldorf salad, veggie crisps, Mexi-cali wrappers, guacamole, sweet kale salad, more of that delicious spicy almond dressing, unfried no-bean, veggie soup. Wow, I'd better get to work! Enjoy and have a delicious week...

I almost forgot the recipe!

I'm going to share the recipe for our spicy almond dressing. This has been hugely popular. You will never see it available again as my family will probably kill me for sharing this with you...

Spicy Almond Dressing
2 cups almond butter
4 Roma tomatoes
½ cup braggs liquid aminos (or Nama Shoyu if no gluten intolerances)
¼ cup sesame oil
2 T lemon juice
2 T maple syrup
1 t miso
3 inch piece of ginger
1 jalapeno pepper
cayenne pepper to taste
1 scant t sea salt

Blend in a blender until completely smooth. Thin with water as needed. Yield: 1 quart.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Beast Box Saga

I'm trying to think of something new and profound to say, but our lives are consumed with beast boxes. We call them beast boxes because we call the vehicle in which we drive to the farmers' market "The Beast", so the boxes delivered in "The Beast" would naturally be called "Beast Boxes".

I e-mailed out a survey to the recipients of last week's box to see where we were at with everyone. The ones returned were very interesting to say the least. Rochelle said that she was very surprised that each time she opened a new container, she was happier than the last one. She even added that it was helping her give up fast food restaurants! Now that's a nice compliment. Michele said that the granola was better than any granola she'd ever had before. Wow, that's incredible.

The funniest one was Laurie who said, "The pickled beets were MUCH better than when Grandma served them...however" [I'm translating here], "they still sucked." Thankfully, others gave them a higher rating.

Of course, everyone didn't like everything. Keith said the kale salad surprised them by being sweet which they did not enjoy. Everyone else gave it a high rating. The beets got mixed reviews from Laurie's suck vote to Rochelle's 5. (The rating scale was 1 to 5 with 1 being "stinky, never want to see it again, what were you thinking giving me this stuff..." to 5 being "I loved it and want to order some with my next beast box."

Almost every thing got mixed reviews: half the people gave it 5's, and the others gave it a 3. Exceptions to that was the cashew cream cheese which got a 5 from everyone except for 1 person who gave it a 3. The marinara got 4's and 5's from everyone. The desserts got 5's across the board except Rochelle gave the key lime pie a 10! There really wasn't any item offered that got poor reviews across the board.

Some folks didn't vote, so I don't know if they didn't like the food or just hate surveys (like me). Most people that try the food say that they like it. We get lots of interesting comments at the market when people try our samples. We kinda don't like to give samples to people drinking soda pop as we're pretty sure their palette is going to be unreceptive. Sometimes that is the case, but surprisingly, sometimes they do like it.

This week we are trying a a couple of foods new to us: macadamia ricotta, and Spicy Almond Dressing. That is one thing about doing the boxes we really like: we can try something we don't have in our catalog just to see what kind of reception it gets. If is wildly popular, it will probably make its way into the catalog. Likewise, if people really don't like something we have in the catalog, we'll pull it. A lot of times, people won't order something in the catalog because it sounds weird, or they are afraid they won't like it. The boxes serve as a sampler of a large number of products they otherwise might not get to taste.

Another suggestion that was made was to let people know expiration dates. I'm not scientific enough to know exactly what date a food will go bad, but we do know which ones have to be eaten within a couple of days. We try to include some foods in each one that will last until the end of the week, but if the one getting the box doesn't know which foods that is, it won't do them any good. Anyway, we're going to mark the menu sheet with an asterick for those foods which need to be eaten at the beginning of the week. We always make these on Friday so they will be the freshest possible.

We also decided to make add-on boxes for vegetables and/or fruit that would compliment the items offered in the box. For example, on weeks when a pasta sauce is part of the menu, we will have zucchini in the vegetable add-on box. The fruit add-on isn't so much because it's part of the menu (although it will be in some cases), but it provides some of the fruit one might need for snacks, breakfast, and/or smoothies.

We are having a lot of fun with this, and I found my mind wandering earlier this week as I started planning the box for the week of Thanksgiving. We prepared several dishes last year for Thanksgiving, and many of our customers loved them, so it will be fun to put them in the box this year.

One issue we are having that we aren't sure how to resolve is the quantity of food. In coming up with the price, we simply added up the cost of the items. We played with the serving sizes to try to keep the price affordable since that is such an issue in these tough economic times. Some said that while the price was fair, it wasn't as much food as they wanted for some of the meals and that they wanted larger servings even if it meant paying more.

I think the way we will resolve that is we'll offer an upsize version for those who want the larger portion sizes. It will require more organization on our parts to keep the various sizes straight, but we'll figure it out.

Blogging this now strikes me as a rather boring medium right now, but I guess I felt I wanted to document our early efforts in this. We feel like this is a good way to reach a lot of people and help them incorporate more plant foods in their diet. Most people have two obstacles: money and time. We are trying to help in both those areas by keeping prices as low as we possibly can and saving people prep time.

I'll close with a recipe to satisfy some sweet teeth out there. We have the most incredible raw cacao that anything made with it turns out like a dream, and these truffles are no exception.

Chocolate-Coconut Truffles (40 of them)

In a high speed blender, combine until well blended:

1/2 cup coconut oil, warmed to soften
3/4 cup raw agave nectar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon unrefined sea salt

While continuing to blend, add 1/2 cup of coconut blending until smooth; repeat with a second 1/2 cup of coconut.

Transfer to a bowl, and stir in 2 cups raw cacao powder until thoroughly combined. Place the bowl in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes so that it can set up a little.

Place another 1/4 cup cacao powder onto a small plate. Forming balls from the chocolate mixture with a tablespoon, roll them in the cacao powder on the plate. Store in the refrigerator (assuming you don't eat them all in one sitting!).

Thursday, September 2, 2010

In Over My Head!

I've only got about an hour left in me, but I didn't want to let a week go by without making a couple of notes. Last week I mentioned my idea about a weekly box which would have a few meals in it for the week, and I sent out an e-mail to our living foods list on Monday. We have gotten a good response, and it is pretty exciting to think that a few more people will be trying our cheeses, salads, sauces, and desserts for the first time. I hope they like them and that they help them incorporate more plant based foods into their daily lives.

I didn't think this through as well as I should have, so we are flying by the seat of our pants getting it organized. I'm glad most of our customers are patient people!

The box will have 4 mains/cheeses, 4 sides/soups/sauces, 2 breads, 2 snacks, and 2 desserts. All servings are single size servings. The cost of the box is $30, we think. Right now we are delivering it on Saturday, but I'm wondering if folks would like having it on Monday or Tuesday better. People like to do their partying and eating out on the weekends which means they wouldn't get to their box food until Monday. Because everything is freshly made with no preservatives, shelf life is limited on some things. Just something to think about and tweek...

This week's box contains the following:
no net tuna
queso verde
marinated mushrooms
cashew creme cheese
pickled beets
kale salad
veggie soup
veggie crisps
chili lime corny chips
banana bark
Hawaiian granola
rawky road
key lime pie

We also need to work out the details on refrigeration, labeling, sorting; I'm feeling a little overwhelmed right now. Tomorrow is a new day, and things will look better, I'm sure. Maybe I'll write more when I get through some of the rough spots.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Can Good Habits Be Habit Forming?

What a crazy week this has been with school starting back up. Our grandchildren talked us into taking the summer off from their studies (against our better judgement), and let's just say we won't be doing that again. Which speaks to habits and how they are formed and how hard they are to break.

It's interesting how good habits seem harder to form than bad habits. I'm sure that's not true. It's just that we prefer the bad habits over the good ones. It might be a lazier way to do something in some cases. I am trying to teach my grandson to make his bed every day. He was having such a time of it that I just let him throw the sheet over the top and then the bedspread on top of that the first time. Now he thinks that is the definition of a made bed, and there doesn't appear to be anything I can do to convince him otherwise. Lesson learned: do it right the first time no matter how hard it is because they'll never let you back up and do it the right way. There are no do-overs in their world! Of course, I could decide I well-made bed is not that important and not worry about it. The lesson there is to pick my battles...

I'm convinced that many of the problems we face in our daily eating choices are the results of bad habits formed. I met a young lady once who was reared as a vegan. She had never eaten at a fast food restaurant, had never had white flour or sugar, and she was a most beautiful creature, spiritually, emotionally, and physically. I marveled at that and wondered how many others there were in the world like that. Then I started thinking about the rest of us. All of us come from varying levels on the healthful eating scale. To me, this young lady was a 9 1/2 (with 10 being a perfect diet), while many of us have had some pretty gross stuff in our bodies. Like the un-made bed, what difference does it make? How do we decide if this battle is worth fighting?

For me, the way I feel makes the battle worth fighting. When I don't eat the food upon which my body was created to thrive, I don't feel well, and I don't think as clearly. That is the bottom line. As an overweight person, I tried every diet out there I think, but there was never a diet that I couldn't wait to get back to because of how it made me feel until I went raw vegan. I did not start eating like that for weight loss or to feel better; I did it because we were hoping it would help Darius fight cancer. Feeling terrific, having more energy than I knew what to do with, and weight loss were just fantastic side benefits.

When I have slips, I suffer physically and mentally. I do not enjoy feeling badly anymore especially when I know I don't have to. When I know there is a way to feel great, why would I purposely endure suffering? If all I have to do is wash in the river to rid myself of leprosy, why wouldn't I do it? (See 2 Kings 5: 1 - 14 in the Old Testament of the Bible for the whole story.)

The fact is, most of us want a fancy solution. I saw advertisements on the TV yesterday for some kind of probiotic pill people can take to restore their intestinal balance of good bacteria and yeast. Why do we need a pill for that when there are wonderful probiotic foods we should be eating every day? We seem more comfortable when there is an 800 number attached to what's good for us, or if a doctor will write us a prescription for it. We think, "How in the world can the food I eat make a difference in how I feel?" Really, are you kidding me? How can it not?

At least once a week, someone calls us who has heard Darius' cancer story telling us someone in their family is dying from cancer, and can we help them? This week it was a little 8 year old girl in Texas. I do not know why people get cancer or if eating only the foods upon which we were intended to thrive can heal us. I am not a doctor or medical professional. I do know our bodies are created as perfect "machines" with self-healing mechanisms. If we overload them in anyway (food and otherwise), they must divert their energy to waste removal instead of other functions. Eventually the body will fail when the other functions are ignored long enough.

Those bad habits are killing all of us at an alarming rate. We must face the addictions to which the habits have led us to fall victim and overcome them if we are to have a decent quality of life. Like Kris Carr said when asked by Dr. Oz how she would feel if she ended up dying anyway, she answered that her quality of life was so much better since having cancer and making changes in her lifestyle that she would not regret making the changes. There's something wrong when our bad habits blind us to reality! We've got to get honest with ourselves. For me, it takes doing the AA 12 steps to do this, but it doesn't matter HOW we do it, just that we do do it!

I've been thinking about putting a box together each week for those who would like to try to add more plant-based foods into their lives. I think a lot of people are over-whelmed when they try to do this, and maybe this would help them. There's a restaurant in Los Angeles called Rawvolution that has been doing this for quite a while, so it is helping people in these highly populated areas.

We have no idea how much to charge for this and are not inclined to sit down to do the math with everything else that's going on. We are not so much interested in doing it for profit as we are trying to get people to get turned on to how good some of these foods can be. If we can come up with a price that can cover our expenses and be affordable, than that would be a win-win. We're going to start with $40 which will include the following (each week will be different) (each is a single serving size) (menu suggestions will be included):

4 main dish starters (pasta, main dish salads, terrines, pizza, burritos, sandwiches, etc.)
1 sauce
1 pate or dip
1 cheese
1 salad topper

4 soups/sides
1 fermented or marinated vegetable
1 shredded salad
1 soup
1 VV salad

2 breads
2 snacks
2 desserts

We could also offer a discount on any produce ordered to round it out like lettuce, zucchini for pasta, veggies for dip platter, tomatoes, fruit for breakfast or smoothies, etc.

What goes into the box each week would depend on what our regular customers order for the week. This week's box includes the following:

1 peanut sauce
1 no bean pate
1 cheddar cheese
1 sweet potato souffle

1 cucumber salad
1 Mexican rice
1 broccoli soup
1 ¡ Viva La Verde ! Salad

1 each: everyday bread, mexi-cali wraps
1 each: honey almond butter, crunch meister
1 each: skinny mints, pumpkin pie

Well, that's our menu for the week as well. Good stuff.

How about a nice tahini dressing this week? This one's from the Raw Food Bible. Good as a dip too.

Tahini Dressing

Yields one pint
½ cup raw sesame tahini
½ cup cold-pressed, extra-virgin olive oil
freshly-squeezed juice of 4 limes or 3 lemons
1 tsp mustard powder
3 garlic cloves
1 tsp Celtic Sea salt
3/4 cup water

To make:

In a blender, process until desired consistency is reached. Add more water if necessary and always add more garlic and salt till you love it and want to eat it on everything. Sesame seeds are a great source of Calcium.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Have I Done Any Good in the World Today?

I know every week that I will need to think of something to write at the end of the week. Things float through my mind constantly, and sometimes they actually seem as though they might be interesting for those who read this blog or for posterity who may read it later. At the market we are constantly asked questions for which the answer is, "You know, we did a blogpost on that a while back. Here's our blog address." I don't know if they ever read it; I guess it depends on how interested they are in an answer. Hopefully there will be a few tidbits here and there which are helpful to someone.

I suppose it helps me more than anyone as it helps me clarify a lot of things in my mind when I put them into words. I have always loved writing, and it comes easily to me as a means of sorting out mixed up thoughts. For that reason I've never cared if anyone reads what I write, so I suppose I will never be a successful author. I would think they have to care if someone reads what they right, and in turn, they would write to the reader instead of for themselves.

Of course I have enough of an ego to be glad when someone does read it and especially if they are benefitted by what they read. Do I have illusions that I am saving the world? Not hardly. I rarely talk about the lifestyle changes we have made, but sometimes people ask me about them when something comes up. The biggest thing is when I see people I haven't seen for a few years. They're pretty shocked by the weight loss Roger and I have had. (We've each lost over 100 pounds. Darius and Alicia have too. As a family we have lost 450 pounds. That's a whole other family!) Our driver's licenses still have our old pictures. One time a lady at the store refused my check because she thought I was using someone else's license to cash it.

There are a lot of people doing the stomach stapling thing and the rubber band thing, so big weight losses aren't all that surprising until someone asks how you accomplished it. One lady actually argued with Alicia and I about it when we said we just changed our diet when she asked us. She assumed we were lying and didn't want to tell her we had had stomach stapling. She even asked if we got a group rate since all four of us evidently had the surgery.

Being overweight most of my life, I feel so much empathy for those who suffer from this. Those who have never been overweight can't imagine how difficult it is to struggle with everything obese people do. I couldn't even put on a pair of shoes with laces! I think the worst part was knowing that if I could just control what went into my mouth, I wouldn't have to go through this. I had so much pain in my joints that when I got out of the car I would have to stand there a few minutes for the pain to subside so that I could walk to my destination a few feet away. I had acid reflux nearly every night to the point that I'm sure I burned my esophagus. I went through a roll of antacid tablets almost every day.

(Note about this picture: I am on the right, and Roger is on the left. I can't believe I am posting this. I can't believe this is even us. It seems so long ago, and yet it is a very vivid memory - a horrible one. I hope that before I die I can help at least one person not have to continue their suffering as I did.)

I have always had an aversion to medical doctors. I'm sure they would have prescribed various medicines for the ailments from which I was suffering. That is their job: to relieve suffering. It is assumed if the patient could handle this themselves, they wouldn't be seeking professional help, so therefore their approach is warranted. We get what we deserve when we suffer the side effects of the drugs they prescribe.

Rather than seek professional help, I always knew there must be something I could do about my "disease". I wasn't sure what it was as I had tried everything, but I continued to pray for inspiration. Isn't it odd that it came to me through my son and his brain tumor diagnosis? We have all said more than once how grateful we are for that ugly old tumor even though it had so much power to devastate us at the time. I will be forever grateful for the inspiration we received to change our life and the way we were eating.

I was talking to my older son the other day who has no interest in our lifestyle changes. I was mentioning that a mutual acquaintance has a lot of curiosity about our lifestyle but not enough to make the changes himself. My son said that he thinks most people fall in that category. I remembered once when I read about a man who only ate raw fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. This was back in 1985 or so. It was in an Organic Gardening magazine. I remember thinking at the time, "Man, that would be so cool, but I could never do that." I had in fact tried to do it and had failed. So what makes the difference?

I don't think anyone is ever perfect in the way they eat any more than they are perfect in the way they dress or talk or think. It is all a process. If we have a problem with bad language, every day we will try to not use bad words (once we become convinced they are inappropriate). So it is with diet. Once it rings true to us (which may not happen initially), we will struggle with it, and just try a little harder each day. The important thing is to find out if it is a correct principle: Is a diet of raw fruit, vegetables, nuts, and seeds the ideal diet for humans? If it is, we have to make efforts to incorporate them into our lives. We can expect it to be difficult as all changes are. We can expect to struggle and evolve.

I am thoroughly convinced that this diet is the ideal diet for humans. I do not expect anyone to believe me when I say this. They will have to come into it as I have. They will have to experience the miracles I have experienced. They will need to gain their own confirmation. Without a belief that something is true, we will never have the ability to incorporate it into our lives. So that is the first step...

Is bad language something I should abstain from? How about alcohol? Tobacco? Pornography? Caffeine? Meat? Dairy? Sugar and refined foods? Cooked and unsprouted grains and legumes? Cooked veggies and fruits? All of these things are related in that they all induce an addictive response. If I am to be totally free, I have to back away from them - one shaky step at a time.

It is a journey, and a very fulfilling one. I am so thankful to my Heavenly Father for giving me the opportunity to learn these truths and benefit from them.

This week: fresh everyday bread, pumpkin pie, sweet potato souffle, waldorf salad, marinated broccoli, olive cheese spread, queso verde, cuke salad, and no net tuna.

Plus lots of glorious glorious fruit. I can't get enough of it this time of year.

This recipe is from Pansy, someone in an e-mail group I ran across. She says, "This recipe is from and we have it a couple times a week."

Mexican Vanilla Frozen Shake

1 1/2 cups water
handful of almonds
maple syrup (add as much as you like for sweetness. Can also use honey or agave.)
1 baby young thai coconut (all the meat and water)
2 tsp. vanilla extract or 1" piece of vanilla bean
Cinnamon (sprinkle in as much as you like)
8 ice cubes

*I also add hemp seed*

Blend till creamy!

This make two huge glasses!

Enjoy! There's a few more months when we'll enjoy having cold, frosty drinks like this. Then we'll be scrambling for something to help us warm up!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Another Time Around the Moon for Me...

Wow! 57 times around the sun doesn't seem possible, does it? Doing something 57 times doesn't seem so difficult, but when one considers it takes 365 24-hour days to do one of them, it takes on a little more significance. Now that I think about it, from an eternal perspective, 57 times around the sun seems kind of puny! I'd better get busy so that I can turn this into something grand... What would be significant? 157? 257? How about 1,057? Heaven help me. I'd be bored to death if I had to stick around that long. I've got quite a few years before I will be able to clear my desk, so I hope I can be around a little longer.

Longevity is a big issue in the health industry right now. It is interesting the things they are finding out about how we shorten our lives, but how to extend it is still a mystery to a certain extent. No one has lived long enough yet to prove the theories. I just keep looking at that stack on my desk. I have to live long enough to clear it off as I'm sure my kids will just throw it all in the trash. That would be a disaster on many different levels!

Which brings me to the next step in my thought process: what is really important? Why do we waste time doing and worrying about things that really don't matter? Are we just trying to keep busy like a little child playing with his blocks? Does our need to feel important and to feel our work is important drive our actions? Does what we do really matter to anyone else?

Like the toddler, we don't really care as long as we feel like we and our work is useful. Like the toddler, we occasionally become bored and wander over to the toybox to see what else there is to do.

As you can see, birthdays don't treat me kindly, and yet this year, I felt full of gratitude for all the blessings that I have in my life. I couldn't think of a single person with whom I'd switch places. Regardless of how many years I'll be given, I've had a wonderful life, and I'm looking forward to whatever is ahead, no matter what. How can it be anything but exciting? What does it matter whether others find what I do worthwhile? I am amused and fulfilled and every once in a while I actually think what I do does some good. (Whether that is an accurate observation is not relevant... It is only relevant that I think it is doing good which motivates me to keep doing it which in turn, keeps me busy and amused... you know, like how we try to keep the toddler from getting bored.)

I haven't actually thought all of this through, mainly because there is a shiny red toy over there in the toy box that keeps distracting me. I must go check it out...

If you've read this far, you deserve a reward. Here's a reasonable sounding recipe for a smoothie that can easily be turned into a green smoothie by adding a kale leaf.

Vanilla Bliss
This is something a bit heavier to keep from being hungry for several hours. Blend in some kale to increase consumption of greens and also to lighten the sweetness.

3/4 cup water
2 tablespoons raw tahini or other nut butter
1-2 frozen bananas.
Dash of vanilla
sweetener if desired: maple syrup or a date or two

Blend until thick and smooth. Serve immediately. Serves 1.

Lots of breads this week due to customer requests. I think we ended up making everyone of them, so let's talk about bread...

On a raw vegan regime, yeast breads are not in the picture which makes a few of our favorite foods a little bit of a challenge. So what's wrong with bread anyway? That's a whole post in itself; maybe next time...

But I digress. If we don't eat yeast breads or quick breads or wheat based crackers, or anything baked, what do we eat? Buckwheat is the basis of several of our breads and is a very interesting food. Despite its name, it is not a cereal or a grain. The seed of the buckwheat plant is an achene , a fruit containing the seed, like the "fruit" from the sunflower plant. So even though it is botanically a fruit, it is a little different in that is high a higher starch content than most fruits. It contains no gluten but is used in bread and cereal applications because of its starch content.

Anyway, when one starts to use buckwheat to substitute for common bread products, one needs to do some powerful paradigm shifting. Buckwheat breads and cereals will not taste like their high gluten alternatives, nor will they "act" like them in their production. We must forget everything we thought we knew about bread and bread baking. It is interesting to think how what we consider normal becomes that way. At one time in the United States (18th and 19th century), buckwheat was a very common crop and buckwheat use was prevalent. It was not until the introduction of chemical nitrogen fertilizers (to which wheat and corn responded well) that the use of buckwheat declined. Isn't it interesting that a crop that does well on low-fertility soils was pushed aside for ones that required fertilization and therefore fattened the pocketbooks for those providing the fertilizer? Talk about a profit-driven crop!

Anyway, we use this ancient starcy fruit as the basis for most of our breads combined with a little flax for stick-togetherness. (Now there's another ancient crop - flax.) Lots of veggies get mixed in there. In fact, you can experiment with just about any veggies sitting around to come up with a million different combinations. Seasonings help make it a little more interesting as buckwheat is VERY bland tasting (in my opinion anyway). Here are some of the buckwheat breads we make (all have sprouted buckwheat as their base, some flax to hold them together, a little honey or sweetener of your choice, unrefined salt, and maybe some extra-virgin olive oil plus the ingredients in parenthesis):
everyday bread (carrot)

chili lime corny chips (zucchini, tomato, sprouted sunflower seeds, chili powder, cumin, cayenne, garlic, lime, whole pumpkin seeds, sprouted)

veggie crisps (cabbage, carrots, onions, tomatoes, garlic, jalopeno, cilantro, sprouted sunflower seeds, cumin, chili powder, oregano)
We also have an onion bread that has lots of onions, flax, and sprouted sunflower seeds - amazingly good for something so simple. Coconut, zucchini, and flax is the basis of our new pita chip, and Mexi-cali wrappers have no flax or buckwheat in them, just lots of veggies, avocado, and a little psyllium to hold them together.

Having that much variety really does help us not miss our traditional breads especially when we remember why the breads we grew up with really aren't the best food for our bodies no matter how much we might think we want them.

Besides all of the above-mentioned breads, this week we also have the following:

cheddar kale chips (By the way, our kale experiment from last week was a great success. This week we are experimenting with cheddar chips and they smell fantastic!)

Olive Sandwich Spread is still a family favorite. I like it with celery, but Roger and Alicia like it on the veggie crisps with a slice of tomato.

We're making some raita (cucumber in a vegan cashew sour cream base) this week which will be another nice sandwich addition.

Our beloved queso verde is back after a little hiatus. That again will make a nice addition to our sandwich menu this week. It also makes a great "sliced" cheese when we dehydrate it in thin circles.

We're making unfried no beans this week to use in our weekly taco fest. We're going to enjoy them with our Mexi-cali wrappers. The moisture of the "beans" helps to soften up the wrappers so that they bend better and do their job of holding in the beans and other fixins'. Hopefully we can get Alicia to make some Mexican rice (cabbage, tomatoes, and lots of spices) to go with that.

Of course, we must have our elotes con crema too and some nice avocados to stuff it into. We usually have that with ensalada (cabbage, cilantro, lemon juice, and salt).

We have a couple of regular salads during the week: lettuce (looking forward to the red butter lettuce that came in this week), celery, carrots, onion, raisins, dulse, and Ranch dressing. Kale salad again this week too; it is sooooo good (kale, tomato, avocado, olive oil, lemon, and salt). Can't forget some cucumber salad too. I had some on my regular salad today, and it was delicious. I think it was the sweetness of the cucumber salad mixed with the saltiness of the dulse that made it so good.

Sweet potatoes from North Carolina have been fantastic, so we're glad someone wanted some sweet potato souffle. Very nice. Always makes me think about Thanksgiving...

We made some mock peanut sauce which we love on shredded zucchini. We also like to slice a little red pepper into it and a little onion. By the way, we got a great buy on "choice" red peppers this week. When we get them, they are a great buy. We don't have to feel guilty using them! Choice in the produce world means not as good as premium or prime, but we feel like they are just fine for our uses.

Customers requested pizza roll-ups, so we'll be making marinara for one of our meals. Maybe we'll do a "leaning tower": sliced zucchini and tomatoes layered with queso verde or crema and sauced with a little marinara. Marinated mushrooms are a good addition too. We can't make the roll-ups til we get all the bread out of the dehydrators, so we'll probably have that ready Monday.

Alicia has been wanting another dressing, so we're going to have some raspberry vinaigrette made with some of the beautiful raspberries we've been getting this summer (olive oil, apple cider vinegar, lime, raspberries, agave nectar to sweeten, and a little salt). I love this dressing over greens with a few candied pecans and some sliced apples. You gotta love that the new crops of apples are finally in too right alongside all the summer fruits still in season. We do love them with our honey almond butter, too. It's official - everyone in the family has their own cups of it now except me.

Desserts: vanilla panna cotta (An experiment from a few months ago that resulted in a delicate vanilla flavored custard (no eggs or milk though - vegan, remember?). The base is coconut milk, and it's topped with a mango coolis.

We're also making marshmallow topping which is delicious on top of our almond coconut ice cream, but we also use it in our coconut cream pies: chocolate date crust, bananas, and a marshmallow layer. (The marshmallow is coconut based. I don't remember why we started calling it marshmallow except that it is like that stuff you make out of marshmallows when you're doing rice krispie treats.) Roger better get busy busting up some coconuts!

Since Roger and I are celebrating our birthdays together this weekend (mine's the 10th and his is the 25th), we'll be making some ice cream to enjoy under that marshmallow! I think I'll have my ice cream with some apple crisp...

We also have rocky road, pumpkin pie, and key lime pie. Nobody's suffering in this family for something sweet to finish off their dinner.