Carrots and veggies, no meat? Oh My

Thinking about next season, Bryan Blum, who has worked for Riverbank for many years talks about his experience with food and how Riverbank Farm helped him eat his vegetables.


Realistically, I am the last person who should be writing for this blog. If possible I would probably get a side of steak with my steak and politely ask the waiter for a glass of bacon bits instead of a beverage, so I could dribble some over my main and side steak.

However, after spending practically an entire summer surrounded by vegetables and vegans on an organic farm, my view of the vegan culture has changed dramatically. I used to laugh at the salad eater at McDonald’s while I pounded down my second Big Mac, but now, I can’t even go into a fast food restaurant without questioning the process the meat was obtained. Or if what I’m eating is actually meat.

The change, in all honesty, came from necessity on my half. Living on a farm without transportation, I had three options when it came to eating. 1) Ask one of the nice car-owning farm employees to drive me to the market to buy what I need. 2) Use the vegetables that were literally twenty feet from my cabin door to cook. 3) Starve.

After my social anxiety prevented me from asking someone to go out of their way to drive me some place, I contemplated just not eating since I didn’t have meat, but then realized I would have a hard time explaining to my mother how I died of starvation on a farm.

So, I grabbed some vegetables from the field,  googled vegetarian/vegan recipes, stole spices and oil from the community and commercial kitchen (and by steal I totally mean borrowed; I’m definitely restocking everything from my college dorm), and made myself dinner.

After a week of this, I noticed something very peculiar; I didn’t die. I spent a whole week without eating meat or cheese, and I was still a functioning human being. I didn’t know what to think of that.

Later in the summer, I was joined by vegetarian and vegan teenagers on the farm, and for convenience shared meals together. Since my cooking talents are one level below prison chef, the others cooked, and I was again deprived of meat and dairy. The same results occurred: no death.

Not only was I not dead, I actually found myself having more energy than I usually did. Waking up, although still painful, became easier (slightly). I didn’t always need to take a nap immediately after work. I didn’t change anything but my diet, but I noticed the difference.

And with a little push from a friendly vegetarian, I stopped eating cold cut and other unhealthy processed food. My meat dairy intake has dropped exponentially, and I feel healthier because if it.

Does this mean I will convert to my newly respected vegan lifestyle? No. Blame it on the bacon. I believe the only reason people can be vegans is because they haven’t tried that crunchy, fried pig meat. However, I now have a better understanding of how to eat better after living in a vegan environment, and this comes at the perfect time too, as I am about to head off to college where yesterday’s meatloaf is today’s chicken parm.

So I thank you vegetarians and vegans for helping me put down the Baconater from Wendy’s and add some lettuce and tomatoes. I may not be one of you, but you have certainty gained my respect.

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Vegetable Teriyaki Stir-Fry


Now that broccoli and red peppers are in on the farm, I decided I needed to make a stir-fry. Following this recipe I found at the Plant Powered Kitchen, I whipped up a truly tasty meal. Honestly, next time I will make twice as much because we ate it all in one sitting and were wishing we had more for lunch the next day! I didn’t have cashews at the time, so instead I used Roasted Chickpea Nuts and I think they tasted even better than cashews. I also don’t eat tofu so I just left that part out. If you eat meat, you can add your favorite local meat here instead of the tofu. Happy eating!

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Romano Flat Beans

Our second planting of green beans is in on the farm. Sadly this is our last planting of beans this summer, so I’m soaking them up while I can! In the planting we have green beans, flat beans, and purple beans. While I enjoy all of these (especially mixed together), I’ve recently fallen in love with Romano Flat Beans. They taste a bit like your traditional green bean, except they are meatier and hold up better when cooked. Thus, they make a great addition to any soup, stew, or ratatouille.


Reading about flat beans online I found this great blog post with a recipe for Braised Romano Beans that sounds amazing. Wanting to make this recipe, but having none of the ingredients (except for Romano Beans), I decided to try something simpler. The thing is, working on the farm we are always searching for quick yet high protein breakfasts so here is what I threw together: Buttery Romano Beans served with sautéed kale and toast with cream cheese. It was the perfect start to the day; now I just need to freeze some extra beans so that I can have this breakfast all fall long.

Buttery Romano Beans

Blanch the Romano Beans by boiling them in hot water until they are bright green. Strain the beans and spray with cold water to stop the cooking process. While the water is heating up, melt some butter (I used Soy Free Earth Balance). Liberally add salt and pepper to the butter. As soon as the beans are done, poor the melted butter over them and serve with sautéed kale and bread with cream cheese (I used home-made Cashew Cream Cheese).


If you love this as much as I did, you might want to buy some extra Romano Beans now while they are available and freeze them for later. If you blanch them you can then store them in freezers approved ziplock bags in the freezer for at least 8 months, and they will taste loads better than any produce you can buy at the supermarket during the winter.

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CRAFT: Local Farm

At Riverbank farm all first year apprentices get the chance to participate in CRAFT (Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training). This means about every other week all participating apprentices in Western CT get together and visit one of the farms in the area to hear a lecture on a specific farm technique. In addition to the lecture, apprentices also get a chance to tour the local farm and observe how it functions. For a list of the participating farms please visit: CRAFT “our farms.”


This week at CRAFT Riverbank Apprentices visited Local Farm in Cornwall, CT. Local Farm is a raw milk dairy farm run by Debra Tyler. Although she stopped selling raw milk last year, her and her daughter Margaret run a non-profit called Motherhouse which “is a unique community resource dedicated to providing place, support and time for all mothers and their families. Motherhouse inspires and empowers families and community through events, homesteading workshops and promotion of local goods.” – Motherhouse website.

Apprentices walk out the mobile fencing.

Apprentices walk out the mobile fencing.

This week, the focus of our CRAFT visit was rotational grazing. We learned how to quickly set up a movable fence so that the cows can be moved into new pastures daily. Before Debra started grazing cows on this land, the whole farm was full of mostly inedible weeds. However, because of proper rotational grazing the land is now full of grass and clover. Debra told us she never planted any grass or clover seed, but she did pay close attention to the land and made room for the clover to grow. To do this, she had to control where the cows ate grass from. If she let them free on the whole property they would only eat their favorite foods until they killed off all of the grasses and clover and then there would be nothing left they would want to eat. To prevent this, Debra uses mobile fencing to keep them eating in one section of the land at a time.

These small lightweight clips make it easy to attach the rope.

These small lightweight clips make it easy to attach the rope.

This way, instead of just eating their favorite grasses and clover, the cows are forced to eat their 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and even 5th favorite foods and really mow an area down. When they move to the next area, those grasses and clovers have time to grow back before the cows munch on them again. To give the grass and clover an extra push, her landlord mows the field once a year setting back all the plants the cows refused to eat and making extra space for the grasses and clovers to grow. Additionally, during the late fall when grasses are storing up for the winter, and early spring when they are just starting to grow, the cows are kept in a piece of sacrifice land so that the rest of the pasture has time to develop healthy grass and clover. Debra’s Jersey cows are 100% grass fed in the Spring, Summer, and Fall. In the wintertime they are kept outside and given hay when there is no grass to eat. It’s a beautiful system where the grasses nourish the cows and the cows by spreading their urine, manure, and grazing rotationally have nourished the land and created nutrient dense pastureland in what was once land unfit for any type of farming.

In the Fall and Spring, the cows are confined to this area allowing the rest of the pasture time for the grass to store up for winter or really get going in the Spring. Thus, you can see how the grass in this sacrifice land is pretty much destroyed.

In the Fall and Spring, the cows are confined to this area allowing the rest of the pasture time for the grass to store up for winter or really get going in the Spring. Thus, you can see how the grass in this sacrifice land is pretty much destroyed.

While the focus of this CRAFT was rotational grazing, we also got a chance to learn a good deal about small dairy farming and homesteading in general. We had the oppertunity to visit the cows, bunnies, chickens, mule, and horse.

Barn Animals


Each of us took turns milking the cows and made ice cream with fresh raw cow’s milk. As always, our CRAFT ended with a delicious pot luck, this week featuring a ground beef stew made with beef from Local Farm, chicken stew made with chicken from Chubby Bunny, cheese made with milk from Local Farm, Napa salad made with veggies from Riverbank Farm, and many other delicious dishes.

The home-made ice cream stole the show though, and since it was so good I convinced Debra to give me the recipe so I could share it with all of you.

Amazing Raw Milk Ice Cream by Debra Tyler



Scald over low heat 7 cups whole raw milk from happy jersey cows.
Stir in ’til dissolved 1 1/2 cups evaporated cane juice (sugar) + 1 tsp salt.
Pour the hot milk slowly over 6 beaten egg yolks stirring til well mixed.
Cook over low heat, stirring constantly until mixture thickens.
Stir in 2 Tbsp vanilla.
Churn-freeze and serve.


A final look at Local Farm before we headed home.

A final look at Local Farm before heading home.

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Crazy About Cabbage

Lately Riverbank staff seem to be crazy about cabbage. Everyone has been making cabbage salads for dinner, slaw for picnics, and even grating it onto other dishes as a garnish. This is great news for us, because cabbage is nutrient dense and high in antioxidants. Also, it stores well in the fridge which is awesome for those days when you forgot what vegetables you have, think everything must be funky by now, and low and behold the cabbage persists.

Below are some recipe ideas to get you inspired for how to use the cabbage currently available at our farmer’s markets, or the cabbage you might have just found in the back of your fridge because you forgot it was there;)

Napa Cabbage

Napa Cabbage

Napa Cabbage

Napa Cabbage, sometimes referred to as Chinese Cabbage, is a used heavily in Korean, Japanese, and Chinese cooking.

Riverbank farmers can’t get enough of this cabbage. It tastes amazing with any tahini based dressing. To make a complete meal out of it, try some chopped Napa and tahini dressing with stir fried tofu in soy sauce. Instead of, or in addition to tofu, you can include any number of grilled/roasted/or stir fried veggies on top. Looking for more ways to cook this cabbage? Check out these awesome ideas: 8 Things to do with Napa Cabbage.

Green Cabbage


Green Cabbage

This Spring Green Cabbage will almost melt in your mouth it is so tender. It is Laura’s favorite food lately, and she loves to grate it up, add a little salt pepper and lime/lemon juice, and eat it raw. She also admits that she tends to add this mixture to many of her meals for a little extra crunch.

You can also use this cabbage in any of your favorite cole slaw recipes, or use it as the basis of a salad instead of lettuce!



Green and Caraflex Cabbage Taking a Rest

Caraflex Cabbage


Caraflex Cabbage

Caraflex Cabbage tastes a lot like our Spring Green Cabbage, except it comes in a fun cone shape, which is great for kids (or the kid in all of us). Last week Madeleine, a former Riverbank apprentice, made a delicious garlicky cilantro slaw for our community dinner using this cabbage. It was such a hit she agreed to write the recipe up and share it with the world. You can check it out by clicking on this link: Garlicky Cilantro Slaw.

Garlicky Cilantro Slaw

Garlicky Cilantro Slaw

Finally here’s looking forward to our next planting of cabbage where we have some red varieties growing:


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Baby Goats are Born

Three girl goats for three farm girls!

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Happy Spring 2012

Greetings to everyone!  The season has started here at Riverbank with a bit of sunshine, wind and now all we are missing is rain.  David and I continue to ask ourselves what weather will visit our farm this season.  We have learned to stay diversified as some crops are bound to thrive every season.  I look out at our fields and imagine them in three months, fully planted  and growing a bounty of food for all to enjoy.  We look forward to busy market days, harvesting hundreds of heads of lettuce and arranging   a rainbow of flowers into bouquets.    The crew is slowly arriving over the next few months. Some are coming to experience the farm season, while others are serious about growing food and farming on their own one day.   All we can hope for is that everyone..crops and crew will thrive.  For now we will  sow seeds, sing a few songs and enjoy the calm.  Thanks to all who support us, we appreciate you more than you know. Happy Spring!

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