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!).

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