MAIL-ORDER PRODUCE: “Imperfect Foods” and “Misfits”

I’ve been trying something new here, and I sort of like it.

About a month ago, I got wind of an outfit called Misfits Market and it sounded interesting.  The politically correct idea of this company is that they are sending out produce that was not “supermarket or organic food market quality” but was still good enough — as in, making one’s contribution to the idea that no food should be wasted.  The idea is that this company sends you a bunch of vegetables and fruit in a box for a prices which are probably a little cheaper than you would pay if you did your own shopping (especially considering that at least half of the produce was organic).  I ordered blindly, and received a box filled with a massive assortment of all kinds of produce. My initial impression was that it looked like those boxes of produce I used to get when I belonged to a CSA group – no way to know what would be in there, but, for sure, it would be a lot of interesting produce – enough to inspire the purchase of another recipe book!

Then, a week or so after I got that box from Misfits,  I received an email from another similar place called Imperfect Foods (I guess they were spying on Misfits).  This one has a similar mission, but you get to pick and choose from a series of lists, as to what you would like to see in your box.  I did not know that when I first signed up, so my box was similar to, but, I felt, somewhat better than, what I had gotten from Misfits.  Then, after I got another email from Imperfect Foods, I went to their website and discovered that, in fact, they let you decide what will be in your box, as well as how often  you will receive a box of produce.  That got me going, so I eagerly awaited the order period, which was from the Monday afternoon to the Wednesday afternoon of the week the box would be delivered.  So cool.  So I was there at 1:15 reading through what I could order. Since I had a lot left over from those aforementioned first two boxes, I made a kind of skimpy order and tried a couple of things I have never eaten – one was persimmons, but I don’t remember the name of the other one, also a fruit, maybe a guava? I will cut it open sometime this weekend and see if it looks like the pictures I saw on a Google search.

So, anyway, my box showed up this morning, decidedly emptier than the first one was, but still full enough to keep me busy.   

While I was unpacking it, I ate one of the persimmons: now there is an interesting fruit! It is cute, but, when you eat it, it has very little to no flavor at all, unless you count “sweet” as a flavor. Boy, was it sweet!  I have one more left, but it will likely disappear sometime in the next day or so.

So, anyway, I just wanted to talk about this experience in case you have never heard of it and you happen to be in one of the many places in the country where they ship to.

I feel that the prices are quite fair – in most cases, cheaper than what I would find in an organic market here in New York City and also cheaper than what I would be able to find in a farmer’s market,  You do have to be aware of the prices where you normally shop so that you can compare the prices and decide if it is worth it to you.  It certainly seems to be worth it to me, and the shipping charge is just a little more than the tax I would pay on my purchases in a brick and mortar shop.

In my case, I have also tried some pricey items that I have heard mentioned but have never been willing to pay the steep prices for,  Bubbie’s pickles and Califia Almond Milk.   Bubbie’s pickles did not immediately impress me – the first one I tried was just way too salty, yet, a couple of days later, when I cut a pickle into slices, it was a totally different experience.  I don’t know if I will make a practice of ordering Bubbie’s pickles, but now I know why so many raw food personalities recommend them as ingredients in their dishes.  The Califia Almond Milk was a total disappointment, though — first, they advertise that it is so natural and organic, but their ingredients label has some ingredients that are mostly alphabet letters and unpronounceable, and definitely not spelled almonds and water.  Red Flag!  (good! I can save money!)

Long story short: I will probably stay with Imperfect Foods for a while because it sort of encourages me to be more adventurous (a little, anyway) and it is one way for me to push myself to get to the kitchen and whip up some good food. 

If you like to avoid grocery shopping, or if you would like to free yourself from all of the impulse buying many of us like to do once we do get to the market, I think this is a very good way to curb produce expenditures and save some money in the bargain.

MORE COOL THINGS I LEARNED THIS WEEK -I don’t necessarily like smoothies

I have been grinding things up in the blender for a really long time, but…. for some reason I never had a problem before…. I just got it…. if I put things in the blender on my own, I eyeball what I am doing.

This week, I tried some “smoothie recipes and came out with some “sludge”, i.e. something quite thick, so thick, actually, that there is no delicate way to consume it other than to get a spoon. So.. I spent two days finishing a smoothie, because I kept going back and adding water, etc. to liquidify the mess.

So, if I find a new smoothie recipe from here on, I will probably halve the recipe to see how it goes and, also, to have more room in my blender if I need to add water.

Why am I sharing this with you? Well, you know, you might follow a smoothie recipe and find that you don’t like the thickness, the texture, or the taste (that happened to me this time, too) but you can MITIGATE the issue by adding water, most times.

My second boo-boo was including a salad mix of tomato, cucumber, celery, and onion. Whoops! The onion kept giving an “under-taste” that I could not abide. I had never tried onion in a smoothie, and, well, it won’t happen again! I did not want to waste the smoothie, but it took me about 5 apples over several trials to bring it around to where I wanted to drink it. I say apples because I had a huge amount of apples, and, with each apple addition, it got better.

Then, I realized that I do not really like a smoothie, well, at least, not the thick sludgy things that lots of recipes recommend. I would much rather drink a lot of thin nice-tasting ground up vegetables in a bunch of water, rather than considering whether I should get out a spoon to consume what I see in the blender. Long story short: I don’t particularly care for spoon-able smoothies.

I NEED TO FIND A TUTORIAL FROM WORDPRESS SO I CAN DO THIS RIGHT

It used to be that you could write a post and write search words, etc. easily, but now I cannot figure out where all of that stuff is hiding. As a result, if you have, indeed, found my spot for the first time, I salute you. If you have come back to my spot, I thank you.

COOL THINGS THIS WEEK

I mentioned that I wanted to know if you can grind chia seeds, and, just now, I saw a recommendation that you grind chia seeds if you don’t like to bite them in your mix. Done deal. Instead of rejecting seeds because I did not care for gritty business of biting them, I will just grind them up into a flour and happily thicken things. Now, maybe, when I get the yen and I have some time, I will look at what else people thicken with ground chia seeds other than yogurt. I think I might look for a comparison of thickeners do what (I mean, I know about Irish Moss, and I know about psyllium, and now I know about chia seeds…. okay… something to think about when I finish the other things I am already thinking about.

Interestingly, I recently purchased a book which, as it happpened, turned out to be a book I already have and, apparently, was ignoring. (please remember that I am not doing affiliate selling yet) called Raw Food for Dummies. Again, I saw that it was written by Cherie Soria, who sold off her business not too long ago, but whose recipes I have always admired. I started to read through it again, and I saw things in a new light. I guess that is the fun of growing older. As I have mentioned before, I am doing “simple raw” (i.e., no fancy machines: no super juicer, no dehydrator, just a Nutribullet, a food processor, and a simple knife– although I am thinking of getting another serious knife) So, reading anew through this book, I do, often enough, come across dehydrator recipes, and, at this time in my life, I try to figure out if those things actually NEED to be dehydrated. Right now, probably this week, I am going to do a grand experiment with the Vegan Bay Crab Cakes recipe, by NOT dehydrating the product. This is going to be interesting. I figure that the worst that can happen is that it is a kind of medium interesting salad. Tomorrow, I want to go off and buy the exact right seasoning for crab cakes that my Mom uses in the traditional crab cakes from where I come from (Southeastern Virginia). Of course, I figure that, if I have that seasoning, no matter what happens, the taste will be good. (Getting the Old Bay Seasoning will require a major trek uptown and over to the West Side of Manhattan, where, possibly, the Target there might have Old Bay Seasoning. (Bummer if it doesn’t, but I won’t think like that, and, anyway, the trek will take me to parts I haven’t seen in like 10 years, which sounds like it is being heavily re-developed into impossibly (for me, at least) expensive domiciles. So, even if I cannot find my Old Bay Seasoning, I can see what is going on there. It’s all good. This is all just an urgency because I got this box of vegetable in a delivery, and I need to work my way through all those vegetables, and there were two really big zucchinis, and they could go in that recipe, in addition to a hummus recipe I hope to put together before these vegetables die.

NOW THIS WAS INTERESTING

I decided to place an order at Imperfect Foods the other day. I had no idea what might happen, but I remembered that, a while back, I used to belong to an organization that delivered foods from farms to people who had subscribed to the service, so I thought it might be like that and I wanted to see if it was. I noticed that I could choose what should be delivered, and I thought that was a good idea, so I placed an order. On Friday, I got this rather heavy box of foodtuff. I was excited.

I’ll tell you: the first thing I pulled out was the Bubbie’s Pickles, because I have seen them mentioned so many times in the recipes of others (on the Internet or in books). I am so glad that these pickles came at a discount, because they are waaaaay too salty for someone like me. I will be able to use a 1/4 inch cube of one pickle to give enough salt to anything I might prepare. BOO!

I was quite curious about the Forager coconut yogurt, so I ordered that. The product I received was not even as thick as a commercial milkshake- it was just this side of a creme soup. Not wanting to waste it, I decided to finally find out what chia seeds do: I threw @ half a cup of the chia seeds I had bought but never tried out into the “coconut yogurt”, along with a small handful of banana chips, and took some along with me for breakfast yesterday.

Since this was my very first experience of chia seeds, I want to talk about it. I put kind of a lot of chia seeds in that yogurt. Not so bad- it came out REALLY thick after an overnight soak – quite a bit more than a normal yogurt texture. (I’ve never heard of anyone grinding up their chia sees, but I think I would like to try doing that the next time, because, although I got this food down, I think I would like it better if it were smoother, as in: I did not particularly care for biting all the little seeds. – I will likely do some research on the idea of grinding up the chia seeds in to a “flour” to use as a thickener.

My idea of throwing in the dehydrated banana chips I’d gotten from Trader Joe’s a while back was brilliant, but I still poured in some maple syrup (I’ve not used maple syrup or honey in forever, but there were remnants in a bottle at the back of my refrigerator, so I just decided to go with the flow- so many raw recipe book authors do suggest maple syrup, yet I am feeling ambiguous)

So, anyway, I got a kind or small whole pomegranate, some baby spinach in a bag, some nice red vine tomatoes, some shiitake mushrooms, a bunch of cilantro, some white onions, some radishes, and some teeny tiny avocadoes, and some celery stalks.

The whole order came in around $35 (delivered in a package with an ice pack and a reuseable “ice-pac bag” in which were the things that the shipper felt should be shipped refrigerated.

I was quite satisfied with my delivery, actually. I like that this vendor allows one to choose what they would like to see in their box. I also like the opportunity to sample something that might be available to me local in a local shop at a higher price .

It is a subscription-type thing, so I need to pay attention to what is going on, which, of course, I don’t like. Still and all, I have a bunch of food that I feel responsible for, and, so, tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow, I will go to the kitchen and try out a new recipe, or make up an old one.

a

I AM SO LOOKING FOR A RECIPE FOR RAW VEGAN SOUTHERN BARBECUE

I know, I know…. each area in the South has its own barbecue (and that is, of course, NOT take all your food outside and put it on the grill, but, rather, a way to produce a meat dish commonly made with pork and served on a bun – at least, that is the way I know it from Southeastern Virginia and Northeastern North Carolina)

I had a really good “barbecue” at a( raw restaurant in Brooklyn, NY, which no longer exists, and the name of which I cannot recall. That tasted so much like the real thing. (‘They also did a remarkable ‘crab’ dish). Of course, their recipes were “so valuable” that they would not tell me what their dishes were made of, but I do know that both the barbecue and the crabcakes had mushrooms in them.

Now, of course, that place has gone under, and my favorite place from before (Quintessence, in Manhattan) went under, unfortunately, a while back (fortunately, I was able to cadge a few recipes from Raw Chef Dan before he went under the radar, but just not these ones I want.)

I periodically feel driven and start looking again for a raw vegan Southern barbecue dish/sandwich or a raw vegan crabcake recipe, but I don’t find anything anywhere around. From research, I know that there are some raw vegan restaurants in the South, but I never see any which are offering any kind of “Southern barbecue”.

If you know of a recipe for (anywhere Southern) pulled mushroom
“barbecue”, or Virginia-style (or even Maryland- or Chesapeake Bay-style) mushroom “crab cakes” please let me know at prettysmartideas@gmail.com

WHAT’S UP? WHAT’S NEXT?

As I mentioned in the last post, I have been studying the Centre of Excellence Alkaline Nutritionist course. What I have noticed is that, if you are already a raw vegan, the Alkaline Diet is a walk in the park. (you just keep on doing right what you are doing right!) The thing in this course is that you might be working with people who have no clue, but want to start an alkaline diet (and the easiest way to do that is to go raw vegan), but they might be from any part of the spectrum of diets.

I have been raw vegan since the early 70s (I can remember the apartment I lived in, but the date? maybe 1973?)

When ive been invited to potlucks, I’ve always brought something that I figured anybody would eat, like, for instance, raw jalapeno sauerkraut (I mean, I could bring a salad, but isn’t that what all of the slackers would think of doing: hitting a salad bar and piling up a container for $5?)

So, anyway, this course has really made me dance. Right now, all I dream of is finishing the darn thing. They want me to do a 3-week menu plan, and then describe all of the nutritional benefits of all of the ingredients of all of the recipes that I have suggested (Dang! I feel like I am in one of the pickiest graduate school exams I ever took!)

So, after studiously gritting my teeth and, perhaps, having muttered a few words that I should shun, I set about making the menu plan with recipes, and, then, when I asked the trainer, and she said “more information is better”, I went through and listed every ingredient that goes into all of the recipes (yeah, I had to give recipes), and compiled a 20 page document toobadfor the test assessor! ha! you really don’t want to mess with me!)

Next, I need to juggle all of these recipes around into Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner, for TWENTY – ONE DAYS! All I can say is “thank heavens this not a course in food combining! (I mean, I will do my personal best at food combining, but, *fortunately*, that means using fewer ingredients and making sure they all work well together.–I started out with food combining, so it is kind of a no-brainer)

So, right now, I am just about to finish this final exam. Friday is my birthday, and I want to get this business done by then!

WHAT I’VE BEEN DOING DURING THE PANDEMIC

I live in New York City. Yeah, center of the universe, just about. (I’m excited every day! I *chose* this place, came here not full of dreams, but believing it was the best place in the world for me to be (mind you, I had already traveled from my home in Southeastern Virginia to, and lived in San Francisco, Washington, DC, Venezuela, Hong Kong, and Taipei, Taiwan). When I got here, I knew I was home. I’ve been here now for almost half of my life.

The pandemic has certainly made things interesting here. The building I live in has been in quarantine almost since the start. No visitors allowed in. The busy streets New York City is famous for are not so busy now, but they are getting more busy, step by step. Most stores have opened back up, but, since I played so much at shopping online during the summer, I don’t need to go to a store, and with 4 new pairs of shoes, 10 new tops, and 2 new dresses, I really don’t need to go shopping anytime soon.

Meanwhile….. I have been incredibly lucky in that the English school where I teach had just begun experimenting with online classes when the pandemic struck I volunteered to teach online (I had no clue how to do that, but I was scared to death of unemployment!) and I learned quite a bit about teaching on-line. SPOILER: this is the lead-in! Once I had started to teach online, I became more connected with the Internet (heck! was very there for most of the day!) So…. I started taking some online courses myself, to try to understand the student mindset, and, also, to broaden my horizons. I will probably never understand why students pay big money to take the courses my school offers and then sit there with their videos off, playing around at whatever they are playing around at, and not paying attention in class and not learning a single blessed thing. Meanwhile, I have have completed 10 “diploma” courses online in some of my areas of interest. (no, I haven’t taken any courses on how to teach on Zoom (haven’t seen any of those, or I might have)

I have learned a lot of stuff (and earned “certificates” and/or “diplomas” in some of my other areas of interest,,,,,,,, such as Raw Vegan Nutrition, Alkaline Nutrition, and Diet and Nutrition. I have also studied how to monetize a blog, but I am not really up to that yet (still thinking about how to make it work for me….) So, what I am going to tell you here and now is not connected to any affiliate marketing plan: it is just because I think you might like to know what I have been doing and how, if you like, you could do something similar.

A couple of years back, I was required to take a course of study and earn a certificate in my profession (teaching English to foreigners), and I found one at International Open Academy (nternationalopenacademy.com). I was happy with the course, and their diploma was really pretty, just like the average American high school or college diploma, and the diploma was accepted by my job. All good. l have since taken several other courses with this outfit which often lists discounts on Groupon.com. Then, again, on Groupon, I found a course in Raw Vegan Nutrition at an outfit called Centre of Excellence, centreofexcellence.com, and immediately signed up. Boy! that course was a heck of a workout, even though, ever since I started out raw, I have read just about every recipe, nutrition, and lifestyle book, and written three books, on the topic, and pretty much know it like the back of my hand. (I finally finished it last week… — never mind that, in the interim, I finished 6 other courses with them!)

Right now, I am working on finishing up their Alkaline Diet Diploma.

So, what is this about? if you want to explore raw veganism in-depth, but don’t, right now, want to read every single thing that has ever been written about raw veganism – as I have done!) be on the lookout for a Groupon discount coupon for COE’s Raw Nutritionist course. (or, you could just go to their site centreofexcellence.com, and peruse any number of interesting sounding courses)

Since this is not an affiliate marketing piece, there are no embedded links in my text. You will have to break down and copy/paste, or actually key in the URLs with which I have provided you.

BTW, COE does have a facebook group, where you can see what others are doing. I have found that interesting. it is like getting a recommendation ahead of time, and, also, seeing what others think are good things to study.

THAT RECIPE WITHOUT A DEHYDRATOR????

Have you ever noticed that many dehydrator recipes, particularly for “mock meats” can be done without the dehydrator as “pates”? I mean, think about it… the ingredients will be the same, but it will usually just be more sticky or gooier… but the taste will not ordinarily be that different.

Since I used to use a dehydrator, but now do not, I have been thinking about this often enough. What used to be a “burger” could now be a “burger pate”, if you can’t figure out a better name. These recipes could be forkable, good for leafy wraps (romaine, collard, or whatever), or thrown atop salad ingredients.

Why should those of us who do not use dehydrators dismiss the dehydrator- oriented recipes out of hand. Yes, of course, the cracker recipes might not be your main attack point, but all of those interesting burger/faux meat recipes could work perfectly well on your plate as “pates”, or atop your salad as protein as well as flavor additives, or even spread across a pepper slice as a snack or ‘hors d’ouerves’, used to top a mushroom, or plopped on the side of whatever else you are eating as another ingredient in the meal.

So, when you look at a new recipe book, which dismayingly seems loaded with “entree-like” recipes which call for a dehydrator, don’t just pass that section by… think what it would be like if you just made a pate instead. My experience with my old dehydrator recipes has been very enlightening.

Just saying….

EASY CHEAP RAW FOOD- FAST FARE

 

A lot of people ask how they can go raw if they have limited funds, or limited time, or both.  I’m going to talk about kitchen equipment, how to buy food, and, briefly, the mechanics of choosing a raw food diet system to follow.

KITCHEN EQUIPMENT:   The first thing I would suggest is that you consider your knife your best friend. Have a really sharp strong knife.  As I have mentioned before, my first knife was a solid stainless steel Chinese cleaver.  It was dirt cheap and it still works after all these years.

If you can swing it, get a blender – the best cheap one would be a Nutri-Bullet, but my mother, who gave me the NutriBullet swears by her Magic Bullet, which is even cheaper.  With this you can make all those exciting smoothies and juices you have read about.  You can also make sauces and grind soaked nuts.  

You can make a lot of things with just these two things.  

If you really want to get serious (on a budget), get yourself a food processor.  With these three things, you can rule the world  (or, at least, your world).  You can make almost anything that you read about on-line or in books if you have these three things.

To round out your equipment, you would probably like to have 

  • a vegetable peeler to peel vegetables and slice vegetables very thinly 
  • a Mason jar or two or three, to grow sprouts and make fermented foods such as sauerkraut.(Growing your own sprouts is easy, and it is cheaper than buying them, not to mention that you can get more varieties than you will find in the store.  When the quarantine started in March, while others hoarded toilet paper, I ran for the natural market to buy  2 pounds of lentils, because they are cheap and they make never fail sprouts that I find very delicious! — I figured I could survive a famine if I had a steady supply of sprouts! )
  • A spiralizer?  Maybe…This is really a splurge because, if you really want linguine-like slices of vegetables, you can slice them first with a vegetable peeler, then pile up the slices and go back and slice them very thinly with your very sharp knife.  Of course, you do not need to have zucchini pasta at all – I only learned of it about 15 years or so ago, but I had survived for many years before I found out about zucchini noodles.

Do you need a dehydrator? The answer, in a word, is NO.   All recipe books are exciting, and the dehydrator recipes so many books have sound enticing.   A dehydrator is, however,  a major investment (right up there with a high-end juicer), and a space consumer as well.  Amazon has a vast assortment of styles and prices, so, if you have the space and the patience (dehydrating can take up to 10 hours), go for it.  Caveat: for anything other than an Excalibur, be sure to check out the consumer reviews!    Something to think about: can you be home to supervise for 8 hours?  I live in a very small space, and I am not home for most of the day, so I do without dehydrating.  (There are several cookbooks out there which do not have extensive lists of recipes which require dehydration.  I’ll cover that in my next post, about books with simple and classic recipes, most of which have no dehydrated recipes whatsoever.)  

Where to get food cheap(ish):farmers’ market, supermarket, backyard garden, vegetable and fruit stand (in Manhattan, NYC – I’m not sure about your neck of the woods) If you are trying to go organic: farmers’ market (look for the organic sign, or a sign that says they do not use pesticides or chemical fertilizers- the farmer’s market I went to today had a couple of stands that said “un-sprayed”- when I asked, they said “un-sprayed” meant “organic without the certification”), Trader Joe’s, Aldi (Your local supermarket may carry organic, but it may be quite a bit more expensive than regular vegetables) 

GOING RAW:  you can and have the right to choose your own path to going raw:

  • Some choose to start eating raw, say, for breakfast and lunch, and enjoy a cooked dinner
  • Others choose to go raw for several days a week, alternating with days of cooked meals
  • Still other go the dramatic route of all raw right away (this is what I did, but I never thought about it, or even realized it was a thing – I was just a college student on a severe budget)
  • Of course, everything in between.

Then there are the “systems”, which are different approaches with rules (80-10-10, or food combining, for example. Food combining, by the way, is probably the oldest raw system, and it still works very well for me. It is about eating things that digest well together together, pretty much.) It seems to me that most raw food recipe books give a long spiel about how to be raw in a healthy way, and some propound specific ways, or systems..To my mind, most which do expound on a system seem to be following the food combining idea as propounded by Ann Wigmore, an early proponent of the raw food lifestyle, T.C. Fry, and Harvey and Marilyn Diamond in Fit for Life, which also led to the 40/30/30 food combining concept propounded by Joyce and Gene Daoust, which is a simplified approach to food combining, and (although their focus is not raw,  is pretty much what I have followed since I decided to take off 100 lbs. 20 years ago (yes, you can get fat on raw if you do not watch your food combining)