UK Organic Box Delivery vs. Grocery Store Delivery

How many of you have tried an organic box delivery? What’s your perception? Here in the UK, they are marketed as a bit of a luxury and in the USA, people who use CSA vegetable share schemes are usually seen as hippies or tree-huggers. If you’ve never seen one before-they consist of a variety of vegetables, or fruit and vegetables, often from local farms utilising what is in season at the time. Each scheme is slightly different, but most will let you regulate or substitute items that you don’t like or will not eat. You can also add other things, bread, milk, eggs and more in the case of Abel and Cole and Riverford…much much more! I have always thought my weekly box delivery to be something of a luxury so  I have to say that I was quite surprised by the results of my research.  Here’s to debunking the myths! Please read on.

Last year we moved to Birmingham from London. We wanted a bit of a change of pace, and to get out from under London’s crippling rent and travel costs, not to mention the time we spent on public transport! One of the things I’d never thought about before the move was my organic box delivery that I’d been receiving for 2 years. I was with a company called Riverford…whom I LOVED. I’d had a couple of different driver/franchise owners whilst in London and both were brilliant. The North London one in particular. My veg was always perfectly put together and the medium box was an excellent value.

When I moved to Birmingham I was able to stay with Riverford, but the quantity and quality seemed vastly reduced. At this point I switched to Abel and Cole whom I’d had for several months when living on a Dutch barge in central London. The medium box didn’t seem to be as carefully prepared or have nearly the variety. But I’ve since switched to the large box I’ve been very happy indeed, with the exception of the driver coming at 6am and having to leave the box on my doorstep. That I don’t mind, it’s the neighbourhood cats that like to “claim” the veg as their own! Eww. Anyway, I digress. Let’s get comparing!


My Recent Abel and Cole Large Box Contents

  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Cucumber
  • Leeks
  • Milva New Potatoes
  • Portobello Mushrooms
  • Red Oak Leaf Lettuce this is ony my dislike list so they exchanged it for onions
  • Red Pepper
  • Savoy Cabbage this is on my dislike list so they exchanged it for Chicory
  • LargeTomatoes
  • Turnips

£18.50 + £1 delivery= £19.50


Sainsbury’s

  • turnips: 1
  • endive/chicory: 2.40
  • Carrots:  1.15
  • potatoes 1.75
  • portabello mushrooms 1.50
  • onions 1
  • red pepper .80
  • tenderstream broccoli 2
  • squash 1.80
  • leeks: 2
  • tomatoes  1.80
  • cucumber: 1.25

18.45 + 5.95 delivery= £24.35/ (£40 min required for delivery) 6 items not organic


Ocado

  • turnips: 1.15
  • chicory: 3.00
  • carrots: 1.69
  • potatoes: 2.99
  • portabello mushroom: 2.19
  • squash: 1.99
  • red pepper: 2
  • onions:  1
  • tenderstem broccoli:  1.99
  • leeks: 2.35
  • tomatoes: 1.80
  • cucumber: 1.38

£23.53 / +  6.99 delivery /total: £30.52/ £40 min delivery  (2 items not organic)
This is the time to mention that Ocado do their own organic box which I’ve purchased a few times. You get a LOT of produce. But for me the flavour just isn’t there. It’s the reason why I rarely buy produce and fruit from Ocado. It looks nice, but there’s something lacking.


Waitrose

  • turnips: 1.99
  • chicory: 1.50
  • carrots: 1.69
  • potatoes: 1.69
  • portabello mushroom: 1.59
  • squash: 1.99
  • red pepper: 1.5
  • onions:  1.07
  • tenderstem broccoli:  1.99
  • leeks: 4.99
  • tomatoes: 2.29
  • cucumber: 1.38

21.98 +(free delivery over £50) = £21.98/ (£50 min required for delivery) (4 items not organic)


Tescos and Asda do not carry enough organic produce in order to do a comparison but I feel quite sure that  they’d not be cheaper.

As for other box schemes that I’ve tried, there’s also Farm Fresh Organics. Whilst I loved the produce…I found the website rather difficult to use (in MAJOR need of a redesign) and almost no communication once I had ordered. I have a feeling if the website were sorted and there was more of an online presence and communication about them that they could get a lot more business here in the West Midlands. I’d love to see that happen and would be the first in line to order on a regular basis!
So there you go! Sainsbury’s came in under cost for the actual produce but went over with the delivery charge and a whopping 6 items were not organic. Again I was genuinely surprised by my findings! I always thought that my organic box was something that I splurged for each week because tasty organic fruits and veggies were something on which I wasn’t willing to compromise. Well, here’s to not compromising and getting the best for less! Please support local farms, and companies that make box deliveries like this possible!

I’d love to hear from all of you. Do you have an experience with organic box deliveries? What do you think of them? What made you consider an organic box delivery?

Many thanks to Sarah Braun for the lovely photo at the top of this posting. It is licensed though creative commons. Please click on the photo for more from her on her flickr page!

 

 

Too Many Careers? (Diversifying Your Talents and Energy)

I’ve always been creative. I can’t remember a time in my life when I’ve been satisfied just doing a task. I was the kid who liked to mow the lawn in circular patterns (much to the dismay of my parents) and fold and stack the towels in different ways as to make patterns. I have certainly come to love order in my life more and more as I’ve gotten older, but one fact remains, everything I do has a creative edge to it.

Growing up my Mum was incredibly creative. We had little money but she was always fixing, fabricating, painting, and we KNEW that she could do/fix anything. She had many careers over the course of my time at home from circuit board solderer, landscaper, horse trainer, maid, seamstress, vet tech and the list goes on and on. Now she and my father buy houses and redo them. (they’ve also set up an animal shelter/hospital) They can take a house with walls that are bulging out from water damage and transform it into a show-piece in a matter of a month. The living spaces they create are astounding.

I suppose I never thought having just one career was an option. I was interested in so many things and I was poor. Necessity will lead one in all kinds of directions. I needed to be able to do whatever interesting job that came my way and that’s just what I did. I started as a waitress, and then worked in a food packing plant, a old fashioned meat market, a grocery store, a catering business, a hot deli, preparing food for cancer drug studies, line cook, head of a restaurant, private chef, food consultant (all the while gigging weekly with music, writing songs and studying nutrition at university) Then I hit a bit of an impasse. I’d always had trouble with maths in school even though I was in honours English, and I found that as the maths and chem at university got harder, I just couldn’t hack it. By this time I had tired of the long exhausting hours of food service and was working at a jewellery store. My boss talked to me about studying gemmology (the study of diamonds and gemstones) and so I started studying at the Gemological Institute of America. I then also decided that it’d be a good idea to study to become a jeweller, so became an apprentice. It never occurred to me that it was a weird thing to do having just failed to complete my bachelor’s degree in nutrition, I just went with it. I was interested, it was a job, and it was creative.

Now years later, I’m still a professional musician, still a jeweller, and still a chef. I do none of these jobs full-time but I’m able to do one or the other based on where my life is at the moment. For example, for the last three years I’ve been raising a little dude, and as he gets older I’m taking on more and more work. I’m working on a children’s album and an accompanying children’s book, my jewellery designs as well as fine vintage items, various food production/consultant projects and a clean-eating allergy friendly cookbook. I’m so thankful at this point that I do all that I do and none of the time I spent in my lifetime learning these things seems wasted. I may have seemed like a bit of a career philanderer in the past, but now it all makes sense. Now I ask you, how many careers is too many?

The lovely painting at the top of this blog posting is from flickr and created by Paulo Colachino. It is licensed    under creative commons. Please click the painting to see more of Paulo’s work! 

Tideford Organics Review

My first impression of the line of soups and sauces that we were sent from Tideford was the simple fresh ingredients. For those of you who are “eating clean” or limiting the amount of ingredients in each meal, these may fit your lifestyle. I was so pleased to find that their products are not only wheat and gluten free but also vegetarian and organic. This includes many products for vegans as well! Every day we see more and more gluten free products on the shelves, but they are often filled with less than healthy ingredients and are rarely organic. Kudos to Tideford for raising the bar. Below are our opinions on the soups and sauces we were sent to try.


Organic Italian Tomato Soup with Red Pepper & Lentils

First impression was that this soup tasted fresh and home made. Lovely balance of tomatoes, red pepper and lentils. Garlic isn’t overpowering and you can taste each individual flavour in turn. A bit light on seasoning for my taste, but great for those who are concerned about sodium intake and you can always add more if you wish!

what the other taster said: (@solobasssteve)
Tastes wonderfully home made yet light on seasoning which means you can embellish.


Organic Jalepeno Pepper Salsa with Lime Juice

I was not keen on this salsa. My readers know that I’m a bit of a salsa snob and this tasted like the base was tinned tomatoes rather than fresh. That might not be the case, but it was what came to mind after the first bite. Tomato seemed to be the dominating flavour and the other ingredients were hard to perceive. Salsa for me needs a bit of a pepper bite, which this did not have. There was a hint of garlic but could not pick out the coriander and lime.. I liked the consistency, it was like a true mexican salsa…but it just needs more flavour to be considered a salsa rather than a bland tomato sauce in my opinion.

what the other taster said: @solobasssteve
This tasted like cold soup.


 Organic Spicy Butternut Soup with Sweet Potato

I wasn’t sure what to expect with this one as I am normally not a fan of butternut soup that isn’t home made but said “WOW” after my first bite. The first flavour to hit my palette was cumin which was unexpected. This soup was flavoured very much like a subtle Indian daal. Absolutely lovely favours that all mesh well together and it was perfectly seasoned.  Also I felt great after eating it. Fantastic combination of butternut squash, sweet potato and red lentils. Well done. My favourite so far!

what the other taster said: @solobasssteve “This not only tastes home made…but like you made it.” (I have him brainwashed!)


 Organic Beetroot Soup with Creme Fraiche & Dill

Ooh! Another lovely soup! Tastes light and delicious and comes the closest to the beetroot soup that I make at home.  I’d love to taste it with a tiny hint of acidity to balance the sweetness (apple cider vinegar would be perfect)  but this is being picky as it works fine without it. Again, not overly seasoned and lots of room for embellishment at home. Add some plain yogurt, soured cream or fresh dill on top!

what the other taster said: @solobasssteve
“Tasty. Feels like a well balanced canvas that has room for more paint. Understated but delicious.”


Organic Spinach and Split Pea Soup with Nutmeg

I enjoyed the soup but I think that the name is misleading. If it had been called Organic Spinach and Split Pea Soup with Cumin, I would have known what to expect. Tasty though, and just the right amount of salt. But don’t expect the subtle flavours of a normal pea soup or the flavour of nutmeg. I added a bit of strong cheddar to mine halfway through and it was delicious.

2nd taster skipped this one as he wasn’t feeling well that day. 🙁


Organic Tomato and Basil Sauce

This was my favourite of the lot. I NEVER buy pre-made pasta sauce but this is already on my shopping list. I defy you to find a better tasting pasta sauce with more flavour and less ingredients.   Deep rich tomato flavour, perfectly seasoned with a nice edge of basil. I used it to accompany my gluten-free penne and it was a perfect companion. Can’t wait to try this as a pizza sauce on a delicious wheat-free and gluten-free base!

 what the other taster said: @solobasssteve As the husband of a chef, one of the best complements that I can give to a product is to say that it tastes home made. This does. This sauce is perfectly balanced, rich and creamy and I’d be happy to have this on a regular basis. This does not taste like it came from a jar. Well done!!

If you’re interested in trying Tideford Organic products for yourself, including their range of porridge, rice pudding and jellies, click here to find a local stockist. Or buy online from Ocado!

 

5 Tips For Transitioning Into a Gluten/Wheat-Free Home Environment

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What happens once you are diagnosed with a wheat of gluten allergy or intolerance? Although it gets easier as awareness and need grows for gluten and wheat-free food, there are many concerns that one needs to address whilst adapting to a new lifestyle. Especially if you are living in an environment where other members of the household will continue to eat wheat and gluten containing products. There are a few steps that you can take in order to protect yourself from having a reaction through cross contamination.

1. You’ll need a separate toaster that has not been used with wheat and gluten containing breads. Setting up your own station for preparing gluten free bread products is a must. Clearly label your toaster GLUTEN FREE ONLY so that guests know not to use it for normal bread. Also make sure that normal bread products are being kept away from your food preparation area and that family members/ house mates know to clean up their crumbs!

2. Do no use/share condiments/butter  Unless it’s a squeezable bottle or something that a knife can not be inserted into. Condiments and butter are one of the biggest causes of cross contamination at home and in restaurants as people do not realise that these items are full of gluten and wheat. You’ve done it hundreds of times….you’re making a sandwich and putting mustard on it….you scoop some out on your knife and it’s not quite enough so you dip the knife back in again for a little more. Now the mustard is unusable for someone who is avoiding wheat/gluten.

3. Chopping Boards Collanders and pots are items that you should not share with people in the household who are using them for wheat/gluten containing products like bread and pasta. As a whole it’s worth it to invest in a few kitchen items only used for what you prepare for yourself.

4. Learn to cook this may be a fairly obvious one. But I do realise that in some ways, even though there was virtually no awareness about food allergies or easily recognised safe products at the time when I was diagnosed…I was already a cook/chef at the time so learning to modify ingredients in my diet was a challenge I embraced. I did go through some trial and error, but the cooking bit was always easy for me.  If you don’t like to spend loads of time in the kitchen…all you need to do is start out with a few simple recipes that you can do in 5 minutes or less.  Omelettes, quesadillas, GF pasta and simple salads are a good start. There are loads of pre-packaged gluten-free options out there now…but they are pricey and often filled with ingredients that are often less than healthy. Learning to cook will save you loads of money and keep you healthier.

5. Educate others  Don’t expect other people to know how to keep you from having a reaction. You need to educate other family members and friends on how to keep you safe. They love you…they want to help. Not long ago, it seemed that people viewed food allergies and mental illness in the same way. So many times I’ve been told..”It’s all in your head!” Things have changed. Allergy UK states that around 45% of people in the UK suffer from some sort of food allergy/intolerance. Don’t be afraid to ask people for what you need. You will probably encounter some resistance along the way, but being clear about what you can eat and how it’s prepared is a lot easier than spending the night doubled over or a trip to the hospital. Get used to speaking up…you’ll need to do it a lot.

Obviously there is a lot more to say on this subject, especially about the foods you now can/can’t eat…but that is for another time and I find there’s a lot of good info already out there on the web. I will be posting soon on that subject…but if you need help for now here are some great places to start:

http://www.coeliac.org.uk/

http://www.foodallergy.org/

http://www.glutenfree-crawley.org.uk/index.php

all photos used in this blog are sourced from flickr and licensed through Creative Commons. To find out more info about the photographer and enjoy more of their photos, please click on the picture itself and you will be taken to their flickr page! Enjoy!

Simple Mexican Quesadillas!

Quesadillas are a simple and delightful food. if you haven’t had one before…they are just a corn tortillas with cheese and other fillings that are grilled/fried and folder over. Despite the tex-mex versions that I grew up with in America, traditionally this fabulous recipe is made with corn tortillas and not flour tortillas…yet another win for those of us in the wheat and gluten-free club! Here in the UK, the ingredients for proper quesadillas are also not the easiest things to get hold of, so the recipe will take into consideration that you may use what you can get! 🙂 (if all you can get are flour tortillas and your body works with that, they are still quite tasty.)

Again if you want to order fresh corn tortillas made in England, you can get them here…along with lots of other delightful mexican delicacies! If you’re in the US, you should be able to get them at your corner store! (lucky!)

http://www.coolchile.co.uk/
http://www.mexgrocer.co.uk/

The cheeses that are normally used in quesadillas are Queso Oaxaca, (which is a cheese that is similar in flavour to medium cheddar but stringy like mozzarella) and manchego or queso typo manchego (manchego type cheese) which has nothing in common with Spanish manchego that we get here.  In the US,  monterey jack is probably the most similar and here in the UK a mild to medium cheddar would be closest in flavour and texture. You could also mix in a little pulled string cheese for texture.

A bit of olive oil or butter for brushing your pan or griddle
6 medium Corn Tortillas
1 cup shredded medium strength cheddar, monterey jack, or mexican cheese

place the tortillas on a medium hot griddle or pan brushed lightly with olive oil or butter.
turn them after about 30 seconds to the other side…they should be coloured a bit but not too dark.
add the cheese generously on one side of the tortilla and fold over.

Quesadillas are done when cheese is melted and outside is crispy!
Enjoy with salsa, guacamole, soured cream, and pickled jalepenos!

Don’t forget to experiment with fillings. I love to add black beans and chilies, roasted veg, and lovely fresh tomatoes!

all photos used in this blog are sourced from flickr and licensed through Creative Commons. To find out more info about the photographer and enjoy more of their photos, please click on the picture itself and you will be taken to their flickr page! Enjoy!