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.