Butternut squash tacos recipe: A picture of two butternut squash tacos served with corn tortillas

Butternut Squash Tacos

This butternut squash taco recipe is a deliciously decadent meal to enjoy during your next #TacoTuesday!

Jump to Recipe

I am a huge fan of Taco Tuesdays. No joke! I try my best to make sure that I have a yummy and unique recipe to concoct each week, during our taco Tuesdays. Sometimes, I have cravings for the classics, such as tacos with carnitas, chicken, or fish. Other times, I want something a little different inside of my corn tortilla. Guess what? If you don’t know me by now, you should know that I am definitely a fan of unique delicacies.

You Butternut Doubt It!

This particular recipe contains an ingredient many of you already admire: Butternut squash. But wait! Before you begin to twitch your eyes and smirk with disgust, please stick with me! Butternut squash makes a really delicious filling. In addition, this yummy gourd is a power house in nutrients. One serving of butternut squash contains over 100 percent of your daily value in vitamin A, approximately 40 percent of your daily Vitamin C requirement, approximately 18 percent of your daily potassium requirement, and around 15 percent of daily requirement of Magnesium ¹.  

Delicious chunks of diced butternut squash ready for roastin’!

The Verdict?

I’ll admit that I’m not the first, nor the last person on this planet to come up with a butternut squash taco recipe. However, I am proud of my version. For this recipe, I coat my squash with a tasty, aromatic seasoning, and then roast the squash, along with a clove of garlic. The roasted garlic really enhances and compliments the sweet and nuttiness of the squash, and cumin-the recipe’s main seasoning. Afterwards, I top this with some deliciously cool avocado. One of the best parts about this dish is that all of the ingredients can be roasted in one pan. Hello, convenience!

Butternut squash tacos recipe: A close-up of the filling in the butternut squash tacos, such as sauteed onions, avocados and roasted butternut squash chunks.
Butternut squash taco filling

For those of you scratching your heads, yes! This butternut squash taco recipe is also vegan, and contained squash locally sourced from my friends over at Steed Farm.

Alright, I’ve spent enough time rambling about this yummy dish. Let’s move onto the recipe now, shall we??

Butternut squash tacos recipe: A picture of two butternut squash tacos served with corn tortillas
A picture of two butternut squash tacos served with corn tortillas

Butternut Squash Tacos

These butternut squash tacos are a deliciously decadent way toenjoy during your next #TacoTuesday!
Cook Time1 hr 15 mins
Course: Appetizer, Main Course
Cuisine: American, Tex-mex
Keyword: vegan, vegetarian
Servings: 4 Servings
Calories: 133kcal

Ingredients

  • 1 medium butternut squash
  • 1 bulb fresh garlic
  • 2 bell peppers
  • 1 onion
  • 2 tbsp. cooking oil
  • sriracha (optional)

Spices

  • ½ tsp. red chili powder (to your heat preference)
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. smoked paprika
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. cracked black pepper
  • ¼ tsp. allspice

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  • Carefully cut squash into 4-5 large sections,and de-seed. Then with a paring knife, gently cut away outer skin layer. Afterwards,dice each chunk into 1” pieces. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, combine all of the seasoningsuntil well mixed. Afterwards add squash and gently incorporate the cooking oil.Gently stir everything until each squash cube is well coated. Place in largecookie sheet and bake for about 45 minutes, and flip halfway. Make sure toreserve at least 1/3 of the space in the pan.
  • While the squash is roasting, slice the onionand bell pepper into ¼” slices, add to the same sheet the squash and garlic areroasting in, and place in the oven to roast for the last 25 minutes of thesquash roasting time.
  • Take everything out, and gently cut and mixthe smashed roasted garlic puree into the squash chunks.
  • (Optional) Add to your tortilla of choice andserve with avocado .
  • Enjoy!

Nutrition Information per serving (without tortillas or avocado)

133 calories/ 3 grams protein/ 2.8 grams fat/ 28 grams carbohydrates/ 5 grams of fiber

References:

¹ https://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/butternut-squash-health-benefits#1

RECIPES | ABOUT | FARM TO SPORK | VIDEOS | FACEBOOK



Strawberry hot chocolate served inside of a short see-through glass cup

Strawberry Hot Chocolate

This strawberry hot chocolate recipe is a really delicious and unique way to enjoy delicious strawberries with your family!

Jump to Recipe

I have a confession to make: I really love hot chocolate. In fact, drinking hot chocolate is kind of an addiction for me. No matter the temperature, or time of the year, nothing feels more satisfying than curling up somewhere, and allowing the creamy warmth of hot cocoa massage my taste buds and soul. It’s kind of a spiritual thing.

Being that I am a Florida gal, it’s actually a big deal for me to be such an avid hot cocoa lover, given the fact that I spend half of the year in notoriously hot and humid conditions. But as someone once told me, you make time for what’s important.

Strawberry Fields, Forever!

For those who do not know, I live in a lovely town, known as Plant City, Florida. Aside from the contributions that Henry B. Plant made towards our establishment as a historic railroad hub, we are also known for something else: Strawberries! Winter is the season that strawberries grow and thrive, and the region around Plant City and Central Florida has a pretty prevalent array of strawberry growers. More specifically, according to Fresh From Florida, if you are interested in purchasing these sweet berries, depending on climate conditions, strawberries typically grow from December until early April. According to the Florida Strawberry Growers Association, the sweet spot to enjoy these berries is typically from late January-early March, when the growing season begins to peak.  But overall, when the temperature and soil conditions align, one can expect to enjoy some pretty sweet and juicy berries.

When Strawberries Meet Hot Chocolate

As you see, I just made a pretty vulnerable confession about my love for hot chocolate, and I also provided some 101 information about Florida’s strawberry season. But what do strawberries and hot chocolate have to do with each other? Well, everything.

You see, I have been trying to figure out a very creative way to enjoy my favorite beverage that incorporates my town’s beloved fruit. Hence, I am very proud to say that I concocted a pretty darn tasty and satisfying strawberry hot chocolate recipe. Forgot the processed strawberry syrup from your grocery store. This recipe contains real strawberries, and white chocolate, which beautifully compliments the berries.

If you’re based out of the Central Florida region and looking for some tasty berries to purchase, I definitely recommend shopping for a flat (or two!) of Strawberries. They can be found at and around the premises of the Florida Strawberry Festival. You will definitely get a good bang for your buck. If you live in the Plant City area, and are looking for some quality white chocolate, definitely hit up my friends over at The Corner Store. They sell quality European white chocolate buttons, by the pound!

Strawberry hot chocolate served inside of a short see-through glass cup
Strawberry hot chocolate

Did I mention how delicious this recipe is?!? If I didn’t mention it, I will assure you that it is!

Even though this recipe will take about 20 minutes to make, I assure you that it’s a pretty simple one. This will be well worth every precious second of your life. Trust me.

Let’s move onto the recipe, shall we??

Strawberry Hot Chocolate

This strawberry hot chocolate recipe is a really delicious and uniqueway to enjoy delicious strawberries with your family!
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time15 mins
Course: Dessert, Drinks
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Hot chocolate, strawberries
Servings: 4 Servings
Calories: 367kcal

Ingredients

  • 1 cup white chocolate chips
  • 2 cups strawberries
  • 4 cups unsweetened almond milk (or any other milk of choice!)
  • 4 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1 pinch salt

Instructions

  • De-stemand coarsely chop the strawberries. Set aside.
  • In a medium-large sauce pan, heat to medium. Gradually add in water, vanillaextract, brown sugar, and strawberries. Take a masher and gradually stir andmash every couple of minutes for about 10-15 minutes, or until the strawberrieshave disintegrated and the sauce reduces into more of a syrup consistency. Then sieve out excess strawberry puplp with a fine straine or cheesecloth (optional).
  • Continue to use the same pot at medium heat with the strawberry syrup, and graduallystir in the milk. Afterwards, gradually add in the white chocolate chips andsalt. Stir for about 2-3 minutes, or until all of the white chocolate chipshave dissolved.
  • Servewith diced strawberries, or whipped cream & enjoy!

Nutritional Information per serving:

367 calories/ 11 grams protein/ 16 grams fat/ 45.6 grams carbohydrates/ 1 gram of fiber

RECIPES | ABOUT | FARM TO SPORK | VIDEOS | FACEBOOK


A stack of nine miniature two-inch savory sweet potato pancakes topped on a white plate. The pancakes are topped with sliced scallions.

Savory Sweet Potato Pancakes

Yes, Savory Sweet Potato Pancakes!

Jump to Recipe

I know I have said this before, but I will say it again: If you know me, you KNOW that I absolutely LOVE both American breakfast dishes and Asian-inspired cuisine (Yes, I love the nuanced array of cuisines from this entire gorgeous continent). Moreover, one of my guilty pleasures is Yachaejeon, a very delicious Korean or vegetable pancake. Every few months, I get intense cravings for one of these bad boys, and drive over 30 miles to sink my teeth onto one of these delicacies.

Lately, I have had some serious cravings for Yachaejeon. Being that I want to improve at saving my precious pennies, I challenged myself with making my own version of a vegetable pancake meal, inspired by the mouth-watering Korean dish. After trying my best to be resourceful, I looked around at my own pantry and fridge to see that I had two solid ingredients: green onion, and local sweet potatoes.

The Verdict?

After experimenting with this dish and making some measurement (and ingredient!) tweaks, I am proud to say that I came up with a pretty darn tasty vegetable pancake recipe. While this dish is nothing like Yachaejeon, it is very delicious. Moreover, the sweet potatoes give this dish creaminess with a very subtle sweetness, while the green onion gives this dish a beautiful sultry aroma and tiny bite. Furthermore, this dish is also unique in that I used almond milk, and two eggs to bind the mixture together. I HIGHLY recommend following this recipe closely, and keeping the pancakes small in size, because the batter is very delicate and WILL crumble if you make them any bigger. Trust me.

Alright, folks. That’s all I have to say: A delicious savory pancake recipe that can be enjoyed for breakfast or any other time of the day. Let’s move onto the recipe, shall we?

A stack of nine miniature two-inch savory sweet potato pancakes topped with scallions
A stack of yummy & savory sweet potato pancakes

Savory Sweet Potato Pancakes

Yes, Savory Sweet Potato Pancakes!
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Course: Breakfast
Cuisine: American
Keyword: savory pancakes, sweet potato pancakes, vegetarian
Servings: 4 people
Calories: 308kcal

Equipment

  • Griddle or large skillet
  • Spatula

Ingredients

  • 1 cup almond flour
  • 1 medium sweet potato
  • 2 cups milk (any variety)
  • ½ tsp. low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • ¼ cup finely sliced green onion

Instructions

  • Coarsely dice the sweet potatoes into 1”-2” cubes and boil/steam for about 15-20 minutes or until tender with a fork. In this step, you will also peel the garlic cloves and place them in the same pot as the sweet potatoes to cook for the same amount of time (cloves should feel very tender with a fork). Remove from heat, rinse with cold water (to cool down), and gently peel the skin off. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, combine eggs, milk, garlic, and soy sauce into a bowl and whisk until everything is well combined. In a separate bowl, combine all of the following dry ingredients:  the almond flour, baking powder and garlic.
  • Gradually combine the wet and dry ingredients, as well as the sweet potatoes and whisk for about two minutes, or until virtually all of the lumps are gone. The batter should look more liquid in nature. Once all of these ingredients are combined, mix in the green onion.
  • Heat skillet to medium and lightly grease with cooking oil of choice. Using a ladel, gently pour in batter to form miniature pancakes no bigger than the two inches in diameter in size (roughly the size of silver dollar pancakes). Allow to cook for roughly two minutes until the surface begins to bubble. Gently flip with a spatula, and allow to cook for two more minutes. Repeat until all of the mixture has been cooked.
  • (Optional step) Serve with a drizzle of sriracha, additional green onion slices, and enjoy!

Nutritional Information per serving:

308 calories/ 15.11 grams protein/ 19.6 grams fat/ 21 grams carbohydrates/ 4.5 grams of fiber


An eagle-eye view One savory Greek-inspired stuffed waffle stacked in half on a plate against a wooden backdrop.

Greek-Inspired Stuffed Waffles

Are you looking for something delicious & unique to prepare for your family? These Greek-inspired stuffed waffles are sure to be a crowd-pleaser!

Jump to Recipe

Happy Valentine’s Day! To be honest, I’m not a chocolate and rose type of person. My husband and I have made a lovely little tradition out of making breakfast for dinner each year. Why? Because breakfast is literally our favorite type of cuisine!

One of my favorite breakfast items are definitely waffles, for sure. I love em’ with pecans, and I definitely love them with either whimsical sweet potatoes or topped with some good ol’ fried chicken. But me being the quirky individual that I am, I knew that I couldn’t just come up with any plain ol’ waffle recipe.

This past week, as I was trying to figure out what to cook for the week, I had a huge craving for Greek-inspired cuisine. But at the same time, I was also having a huge craving for breakfast. After playing around with a couple concepts, my Greek-inspired waffles popped in my head like nothing! Why not create and enjoy a savory waffle stuffed with amazing Greek delicacies, was my thought.

One savory Greek-inspired stuffed waffle stacked in half on a plate against a wooden backdrop. All of the stuffing is spilling out.

I finally came up with something that I really think you and your family will enjoy. Heck, you can even make this for tonight’s Valentine’s meal, and skip the hassle of eating out! The ground lamb is deliciously seasoned, and balances so well with the melted feta cheese-all of which is ‘waffled’ between two layers of crescent rolls. If you are plant-based, please feel free to swap out the ground lamb and feta cheese for an alternative ingredient, such as vegan feta, or chick peas for your protein. Either way, this Greek-inspired stuffed waffles dish will be a good one. I promise!

Recipe

Savory Greek-Inspired Stuffed Waffles

These yummy savory Greek-inspired waffles are sure to be a dish that you and your family will enjoy
Prep Time6 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Course: Appetizer, Breakfast, Main Course
Cuisine: Greek, Mediterranean
Keyword: Brunch, Waffles
Servings: 4 Servings
Calories: 483kcal

Equipment

  • 1 large skillet
  • Waffle iron

Ingredients

  • 2 cups rainbow Swiss chard or raw spinach
  • 1 small eggplant
  • ½ cup grape tomatoes
  • 8 oz. feta cheese
  • 8 oz. low-sodium tomato sauce
  • 16 oz Cans crescent rolls (or two 8 oz. cans)

2 tbsp. All-purpose Greek seasoning, or:

  • ½ tbsp. salt
  • ½ tbsp. pepper
  • ¼ tbsp. oregano
  • ¼ tbsp. parsley
  • ¼ tbsp. garlic powder
  • 1/4 tbsp. onion powder

Instructions

  • Dice eggplant into ½” cubes. You will then sliceeach grape tomato in half, and slice the Swiss chard into 1” pieces. Set allthe veggies aside.
  • Take a skillet and heat to medium-high for about30 seconds. Gradually add in the ground lamb and break into chunks. Once you doso, add in the rest of the chopped veggies, cover, and allow to steam for about5 minutes, or until the produce begins to sweat. Afterwards, remove the lid,stir several times, and finish cooking for 5 more minutes. During the last 5minutes, add the Greek seasoning to the mixture. Once the meat has browned, addin the tomato sauce, stir, and turn off the heat.
  • Take a cutting board or a large flat sheet, andbegin to spate each of the crescent pieces. Set aside.

Making the Waffles

  • Prior to pre-heating the waffle iron, use anonstick spray to coat both griddled sides. Cover each of the bottom quadrantswith two crescent triangles, until both form the shape of a rectangle, andcover the shape of each quadrant.
  • Divide the meat mixture into 8 sections (roughly2-3 tablespoons each). Spoon over each of the bottom pastry quadrants with 1section of the meat mixture. Afterwards, add 1 tbsp. of feta cheese on top.Then top each quadrant with two crescent roll triangles, until those form intoa rectangle big enough to cover the stuffing. Seal each pastry pocket closed.
  • (Optional) take a fork and crimp the edges ofeach pastry pocket.
  • Turn on the waffle iron, cover, and allow bothwaffles to cook for 6-7 minutes, or until golden brown.
  • (Optional step) You may have leftover meat. Ifyou do, feel free to spoon the remaining meat sauce mixture over each waffle.
  • Enjoy!

Video

483 Calories | 39g. Protein | 16g. fat | 49g. carbohydrates | 6.5g. fiber

RECIPES | ABOUT | FARM TO SPORK | VIDEOS | FACEBOOK


A closeup of creamy butternut squash rotini served in a bowl

Creamy Butternut Squash Rotini

This roasted butternut squash rotini pasta dish is warm, creamy, delicious, and oh-so-nice! If you’re looking for a yummy vegan pasta dish, here ya go! 🙂

Jump to Recipe

In case any of you weren’t aware…I love food. All types! But I’ve got to admit, nothing makes me happier than a warm serving of comfort food.

Here in Central Florida, we have been experiencing a “Winter” all weekend, with temperatures dipping down to the ‘40s (Fahrenheit)! Yes northerners, laugh all you want. But don’t come complaining to me, once you decide to move down here, and then eventually complain about our frigid 40 degree weather!!!

As many of you know, my husband and I try to eat as locally and seasonally as we can. Luckily, we have had some great produce shares from Steed Farm, our local Community-Supported Agricultural system (also known as CSAs). Among this week’s most recent share of seasonal goodies, we received a very large, 5 pound choctaw squash. Now-I know what you’re thinking. The recipe that I’m about to provide is for butternut squash, yet I used a different variety. Choctaws taste almost exactly like butternut squashes, and are very close cousins. If you do not have access to butternut squash in your area, please feel free to opt for choctaw-vice/versa. Trust me when I say that once I saw that beautiful squash, my taste buds became very happy.

Pieces of chopped butternut squash

After trying to figure out how I was going to prepare this lovely fruit, an ‘A-ha!’ moment came: Why not transform this into a delicious comfort pasta dish? And so I did.

Folks, I would like to present you with this creamy butternut squash rotini recipe. This dish specifically calls for rotini pasta, as it holds its shape and does nicely with absorbing the creamy butternut puree.  While you can technically opt for whatever type of pasta you’d like, I went for pasta enriched with protein. Because the squash (and garlic!) are roasted, this recipe takes slightly over an hour to prepare. But please trust me, it’s well worth your time. While the squash and garlic are roasting, you can even do other things, such as yoga, walking, reading, or catching up on Netflix 😉 -You do you! The moment your fork digs into the rotini which later lands onto the tip of your tongue, your taste buds will feel like you gave them one of the creamiest and most delicious bites of comfort food heaven, ever.

Chunks of roasted butternut squash with the skin

Did I also mention that this specific recipe is vegan and dairy-free? Well, in case I haven’t, now you know!

I can practically hear your stomach grumbling form here…so let’s move onto the recipe, shall we??

Creamy Butternut Squash Rotini

This roasted creamy butternut squash rotini pasta dish is warm, creamy, garlicky, delicious, and oh-so-nice! 
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time1 hr
Course: Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine: American, Italian
Keyword: pasta, vegan, vegetarian
Servings: 5 Servings
Calories: 416kcal

Ingredients

  • 1 medium butternut squash
  • 1 bulb garlic
  • ½ cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. cracked black pepper
  • 1 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 3 tsp. yellow mustard
  • 14 oz. rotini pasta

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Whileoven is preheating, carefully cut the squash in half, remove the seeded coreand then cut each of the half pieces, until the squash has been cut into largequarters. Take 1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, to lightly grease the bottom ofa large sheet.
  • Take the remaining 2 tbsp. of olive oil andgently lather each quarter and place into the tray, skin side up. Place thegarlic bulb into the same tray. Allow to bake for 50-60 minutes, until the skinof each piece can be gently pierced with a fork. Allow to cool down for about 5 minutes.
  • During the last 10 minutes of roasting time,begin to boil a large pot of water. Once water is at a rolling boiling point,lower heat to medium-high, place pasta into water, and allow to cook for 7-9minutes until al-dente. Drain, and then place back into lot, with a cover. Setaside.
  • Once squash has cooled down, gently scoopsoftened squash and garlic, and place into a large food processor. Gently addin the almond milk, salt, pepper, and remaining spices. Puree the mixture for1-2 minutes until the blend has turned into a thick liquid consistency.
  • Once the puree has been created, gently mix intothe pasta until well-combined.
  • (Optional) Add in fresh spinach leaves.
  • Enjoy!

Nutritional Information per serving:

416 calories/ 7.4 grams protein/ 10.5 grams fat/ 76.7 grams carbohydrates/ 11 grams of fiber

*Substitute for any other milk of your choice

**Feel free to rinse, season, lightly oil and bake the seeds at 350 F for about 10-15 minutes, or until crispy!

RECIPES | ABOUT | FARM TO SPORK | VIDEOS | FACEBOOK


Curried chickpea collard wrap split into two

Curried Chickpea Collard Wraps

These curried chickpea collard wraps serve as a delicious way to eat a savory curried dish-on the go!

A while back, I went to my fridge, and was trying to figure out what to do with all of the borderline produce that was about to go bad. After scratching my head, I thought ‘Why not make a curry??’

So I did. If you have not caught on, Curried anything is one of my favorite ways to eat my food. Ther’s something about that combination of spices and creamy consistency you get when you ingest that morsel of goodness.

Back to my story.

I decided to make a curry with some leftover veggies, and added chickpeas for their protein and delicious flavor. I wanted to take it up one step and turn my curried medley into wraps. I realized that I had some leftover collards, so I decided to use the collards as the wrap vessels. Doing so gave this a nice, lower carb bite with a hearty dose of vitamin K. While many boast using lettuce as wraps, I really think that using collards is the way to go. The leaves are large, pliable, and can easily fit a decent amount of food. You just have to make sure that the collards are blanched, and I will guide you through that step in the recipe.

I used a vegan mayo to make this recipe completely plant-based, but you can use whatever type of mayo you want! Don’t have access to dates?? Sub dates for 1 small pear or apple, and that will taste just as mouth-watering!

If you are looking for a simple and delicious way to enjoy chickpeas (and your veggies!), I highly recommend that you give this delicious curried chickpea collard wraps recipe a try. So let’s move onto the recipe!

Curried Chickpea Collard Wraps

These Curried Chickpea Collard Wraps are a delicious way to eat a savory curried dish-on the go!
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Course: Appetizer, Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Keyword: gluten-free, vegan
Servings: 4 servings
Calories: 275kcal

Equipment

  • Large skillet
  • Large pot

Ingredients

  • 32 oz. can of chickpeas drained
  • 1 carrot large
  • 1 onion medium
  • 2 dates finely minced
  • 4 collard green leaves large
  • 2 tbsop. cooking oil

Seasonings

  • 1 tsp. smoked paprika
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • 4 tsp. mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp. curry seasoning

Instructions

  • Prepping collard leaves-Allow large pot of water to boil. While boiling water, afterrinsing collards, gently remove stalks from center of collard leaves. Oncewater is at a rolling boil, gently place collard leaves and Blanche for 30seconds. Immediately remove, place in ice cold water for 25-30 minutes, oruntil collard leaves have softened. Pat down with clean towel, and set aside.
  • Finelydice the onion and carrot until there are 1/4” cubes. Set aside
  • Take askillet and preheat and add the cooking oil to the skillet.
  • Oncethe skillet is warm enough, add all of the ingredients (except mayonnaise andchickpeas) together, and sauté on medium-high heat for about 7-10 minutes,until the carrot/onion mixture has some light golden brown charring. Add thechickpeas during the last 4 minutes of the sautéing.
  • Once the chickpea mixture has finished sautéing, turn off skillet & remove fromheat. After cooling off for about 2 minutes, add in the veganaise, and mixwell. Serve over your favorite type of bread (or wrap/ or leafy green wrap!)and enjoy!!

Nutritional information per serving (without bread):

275g calories/ 9.8g protein/12g fat/35g carbs/ 10g fiber

RECIPES | ABOUT | FARM TO SPORK | VIDEOS | FACEBOOK


Farm to Spork: Meet Jon of The Well

Jon Dengler, Founder and CEO of The Well

Throughout the course of my mere 30 year existence on this planet, I have had the privilege of meeting and connecting with some incredible folks who are doing beautiful things to help make this planet a better place for all. Jon Dengler is no exception. Jon wears many hats: He’s a chef, an artist, a handyman, an entrepreneur, a community leader, and a good friend of mine.

Among other hats, Jon is also a survivor. When he was 17, Dengler survived a major car collision which nearly took his life. A couple years later, Jon encountered Jesus through an LSD trip he had with friends. This magical encounter led to a transformative life re-direction, which eventually led him to connecting with the houseless on the streets, and eventually founding what we now know as The Well.

Today, Jon is the founder, and Executive Director of The Well, a Tampa-based organization and movement of people committed to living in direct relationships with the poor. The work that The Well is doing is encompassing, and involves the intersections of social enterprise, community empowerment, and food justice.

The Well’s origins are faith-based, and inspired by the teachings and examples of the life that Jesus lived; a life that centered on loving the poor, feeding the hungry, and giving voices to the voiceless. The Well movement facilitates meal sites, hosts a monthly open mic. night (known as The Conscious Party), operates a bicycle shop social enterprise (known as Wellbuilt Bikes), among other amazing things. This is truly an organization that works diligently to put their faith in action. Everyone is welcomed to have a seat at their dinner table.

I have worked on and off with Jon throughout the years, and wanted to reconnect with him, to learn more about his life, and what he has been doing with The Well. In this edition of Farm to Spork, I am proud to feature my good friend, and introduce you to this fabulous organization, known as the The Well. The following is an interview that I had with Jon Dengler back in late August of 2019. Please note that this transcript of our interview has been lightly annotated and edited, for clarification purposes.

Photo of a pepper growing in The Well’s Tampa Eden Project community garden sites, located at Waters Avenue Church

 [The Funky Spork] What is The Well?

[Jon Dengler]  The Well is a Community of people that are trying our best to try to walk in relationship with folk, who are often in material need. Over time, we became a 501c3 organization. That community is making up excuses to build bridges between folks who have and need resources. Sometimes we build tables, and sometimes we build bike shops for the excuse of bringing people together across racial and socioeconomic lines. In these tables we sit together, and listen to one another’s stories, and hopefully form relationships.

We do stuff with food, gardens, and bikes, and open miss. We use different excuses to bring people together.

[The Funky Spork] It definitely sounds like The Well is a movement, and not just a place. A place you put yourself what and wherever the needs are. 

[Jon Dengler] Yes. We did have a place at one point, which did cause an identity crisis. The Well, that was a community, that was clear to us, rented out a space to do our work. For many, the physical location, rather than our social movement, became regarded as The Well. As the neighborhood our headquarters was located in began to gentrify and experience a demographic change, we got pushed out of our building, and therefore had to leave. Because of this, many thought that The Well had come to an End.

The eviction from our physical location resulted in us forcing ourselves how to adapt and continue to bring the services of The Well to the community. For example, our free pantry, which previously ran in in the previous location eventually became a mobile market, which we now call The Kinship Market. The Kinship Market now goes out to neighborhoods and other areas around Tampa which are either considered as food deserts or have a lot of people experiencing food insecurity. The Kinship Market gives us the opportunity to bring food to families-food which might have otherwise gone to waste. 

[The Funky Spork] What geographic areas do you serve? I understand that a lot of the work you do has been focused in Tampa. But do the services of The Well reach any other part of the Tampa Bay area?

[Jon Dengler] It is all in Tampa right now. Our services are focused on familiar neighborhoods and areas we already know. For example, through The Kinship Market, we serve dinners at locations, such as The Good Samaritan Inn, the Sulfur Springs neighborhood, the University Area (dubbed ‘Suitcase City’), and here at Waters Avenue Church. I am currently in talks about bringing services of The Kinship to St. Pete.

The beauty of The Kinship is that it is a community-driven movement. If there is a group, such as a church or other organization with a group of members who are interested in volunteering with us on a consistent basis, we can connect them to one of our meal site locations, where the volunteers can eventually form meaningful relationships with the people that they are serving.

Produce donation. Photo courtesy of The Well.

[The Funky Spork] What inspired you to launch The Well?

[Jon Dengler] When I became a Christian, I began to read The Bible and take it seriously. But I never went to church, for years. And then eventually, I did and hated it. I found that my experiences going to church had nothing to do with the Jesus I’ve been reading about in the scriptures, besides hearing his name in the worship songs. I didn’t get it, and thought that something was probably wrong with me. Once I heard about the church’s $6 million capital campaign, I became disinterested, and left that church.

I eventually heard about a church that was sharing food with the homeless. Their outreach resonated with me, and I became interested in volunteering.  The name of the church was Bethel. One Florida winter night, I joined other volunteers, and hoped in the church van in order to pass out blankets and food to the homeless around downtown Tampa. That night, I remember walking down a dark alley, which smelled of strong urine. While there, I connected with a man, squatted next to him, passed him a blanket and warm food, and awkwardly asked him to share his story with me.  I remember strongly resonating with him and his story.

Later that night, after volunteering, I remember going back home, and lying in bed with my warm blanket, and pillow. All night, I kept thinking about how people often do this type of outreach and became perplexed about the fact that people often do this type of outreach and feel good, afterwards. I was not feeling good, and was feeling like crap. I remember thinking about the fact that I had clothes in my closet, a car in the driveway, a roof over my head, running water that heats up, a refrigerator with food in it. I kept thinking about the fact that I had access to all this stuff, while this brother that I just connected with was sleeping in that alley, and was probably sleeping in his own urine, hoping that someone comes by with some food. 

That night began a haunting. It was that cold night that really pointed to the beginning. It was that night that made me realize that I cannot continue living in a world that works this way. So if I’m not going to kill myself, I’m going to kill myself trying to change it.  I’m not really sure if I have made a difference, but I know that it’s made a difference to me.

[The Funky Spork] The Well has a food pantry and a garden. How do you see The Well fitting within the overall food systems process?

[Jon Dengler] In North America, we waste a tremendous amount. Over 40 percent of food produced is winding up in the garbage. This may be because of buffet lines, expiration dates, and a bunch of other reasons. Part of what we are trying to do is capture perfectly good food from the waste stream, save it from landfills, and bring it to people who might often go without food.

I will tell you that in the United States, nobody is really starving. There is food to be had. People, on the other hand, might be malnourished, with limitations to unhealthy, processed junk foods. What we are trying to do is bring healthy food to those in need. While we know we are not solving world hunger, we know that we are building relationships through our time serving food.

As far as our gardens are concerned, we are inviting people into the production of food. Someone may be without work or food, and we can help empower them by providing them with a space to grow their own food.

Not only do I love food, but food is one of our most intimate connections with Creation, with the planet. It is something that we all depend on. Food is sacred. Food is so central to existence and relationships.  We bond over a shared meal, we connect with the Earth over a shared meal, and we encounter God over food.  I really want to invite people into the production of food, the preparation of food, the harvesting of food.

Ultimately, I believe in building bridges in unity and connections, because I think that poverty grows out of relationships that they should. We have houses that are empty, and people without houses. Food that goes wasted, and people without food. The relational healing that is needed is access to one another. I believe that that happens with relationship, and relationship happens around the table. This is why I use the image of the table, even if we are just turning wrenches around a bike. For me, it’s common tables that we want to set.

[The Funky Spork] Has your view of food changed at all, since establishing The Well?

[Jon Dengler] My view of food has changed dramatically. Back in the day, my now fiancé and I did an experiment. We did a 40-day fast, where we only ate food that was sourced within a 100-mile radius of us. We didn’t even consume oils, such as olive oil, and only consumed salt later on into the fast. Our bodies eventually became so physically deprived of salt, we went out into the Gulf of Mexico to obtain a few buckets of seawater, and laid them out in flat pans above my roof, until all of the water was evaporated, and sea salt remained (something that I don’t recommend!).

The experience of the fast deeply affected me, for the first reason being that we even did the fast in the first place. The experience also made us realize how little locally-sourced food there was readily available around us. For instance, I found that since the Gulf of Mexico encompassed a large portion of the 100-mile radius of Tampa, I spent a lot of time fishing out on the gulf. One of the reasons this fast had deeply affected me was because I realized that if we didn’t have systems that were bringing in food, the cost of a tomato would be bloodshed, and I want to do something about that. And I want to do something about that with gardens, I want to do something about that with community-building and development. We have got to do something to work on food security, collectively.

Jon in front of the Wellbuilt Bikes store at The University Mall, Tampa, FL.

 [The Funky Spork] What’s next for The Well?

[Jon Dengler] There’s a lot that we want to do! Our vision statement is for us is ‘To see needs met, bridges built, and a city made whole’. We especially want to build as many bridges as we can. We want to use as many excuses as we can to do so. We have a lot of ideas on how we can do that, including our current social enterprise initiative, known as Wellbuilt Bikes. Wellbuilt Bikes has been a powerful lesson for us to deepen our conviction around social enterprise, and leveraging business for the sake of our aims. Wellbuilt Bikes has been a powerful lesson for sustainability and impact purposes. So we want to iterate on all of that by focusing on food.

Stay tuned. As we aim toward developing a well-built city, you will see lots of initiatives beginning. We want to get our hands in a lot more places. We believe we can use our movement to address needs around food, housing, clothing, and transportation. We also believe that we can develop sustainable opportunities for folks to earn income, as well. And we are going to work like hell on that. We would like to invite everyone to contribute to our vision of a well-built city.

Photo Courtesy of The Well.

To donate, volunteer, or get involved with The Well, visit www.welltampa.com, or contact Jon at jon@welltampa.com.


A close-up of five zucchini fritters served with marinara sauce

Zucchini Fritters

WARNING: These zucchini fritters are extremely addictive.

A close-up of five zucchini fritters served with marinara sauce
Zucchini Fritters

This year, my husband and I decided to become members of a local CSA (Community-Supported Agricultural system), and decided to become members of Steed Farm, the local CSA in our hometown. For those who are unfamiliar with the concept, a CSA is a system where the consumer has the opportunity to subscribe to the local harvest of a local farm or collective of farms (Click here if you’re interested in seeing my CSA video-its good stuff!).

I recently received my first share of produce, which was super exciting. No joke…we probably came home with about 7 pounds worth of produce. Among all of the goodies I received, I had two very large and hefty zucchini fruits. After trying to figure out how I was going to prepare them, I had an ‘A-ha!’ moment: Why not turn them into fritters?!?! I had most of the ingredients, to do so.

The Moment of Truth

After experimenting with this dish three different times, and modifying each of the ingredient quantities, I am proud to announce that I finally came up with a recipe that I am super proud of. Folks, I present you with my very tasty zucchini fritters. These fritters contain feta cheese, which naturally gives these the salt and amount of zing these babies need. If you don’t want to fry them, no worries! I included a step which shows you how to bake ‘em. These fritters are pretty low in carbs, which is why I opted for Almond flour in my recipe. But you can use whatever other type of flour you’d like! The flour ratio should still be the same.

A vertical stack of zucchini fritters

A couple disclaimers before I proceed:

  1. The quality of the skillet you use matters (take it from me). If you opt for frying, these fritters are prone to sticking on the bottom of the skillet and WILL crumble a part if you do not make sure that you do not have a non-stick surface.
  2. WARNING: These fritters are addictive. Even though they are low in carbs (per serving), you may wind up wanting to eat the whole batch. Just a heads up…

Aright, alright…here’s the recipe!

Zucchini Fritters

WARNING: These zucchini fritters are extremely addictive.
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Course: Appetizer, Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Keyword: low-carb, vegetarian
Servings: 8 servings
Calories: 197kcal

Equipment

  • Cheesecloth
  • Skillet
  • Spatula

Ingredients

  • 2 zucchinis medium
  • cups almond flour
  • 8 oz. feta cheese crumbled
  • 4 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 onion small
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 tbsp. cooking oil

Spices

  • 2 tbsp. dried oregano
  • 2 tbsp. parsley
  • 1 tbsp. crushed red pepper flakes

Instructions

  • Finely dice onion into ¼" cubes, and set aside.
  • Coarsely chop zucchini into 1” Cubes, separate them into three batches. Place each batchinto a food processor and pulse for about three seconds, two-three times, untilthe zucchini pieces are roughly ¼” in size. Repeat this step for each batch.
  • After all of the zucchini has been pulsed, take a cheese cloth, and squeeze as muchof the water out of the zucchini chunks, until almost all of the liquid has drained out. This will take about 3-5 minutes.
  • Combine all of the ingredients into a large bowl, except the oil. Gently stir untileverything looks evenly mixed.

Cookyour zucchini fritters using one of two methods:

  • Frying:Heat your large skillet to medium heat, and add the cooking oil. While theskillet is heating, take your batter, and create balls which are about one-one anda half inches in diameter. Creating the mini patties is best to use with atablespoon. Gently drop each medallion-sized patty into the skillet, and allowto fry on each side for about 2 minutes on each side (no more than three minutes),until each side is golden browned. Try not to fry more than five patties at atime. Repeat until all pieces are cooked.
  • Baking:Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Once oven has pre-heated, lightly grease a largebaking sheet, and form mini patties the size of 1-1.5 inch medallions. Bakefritters for about 25-30 minutes, until the fritters have golden browned.
  • Enjoy your zucchini fritters with some marinara sauce, or sour cream!

Nutritional Information per serving (serving size- 4 fritters):

197 calories/ 10 grams protein/ 14.3 grams fat/ 8.6 grams carbohydrates/ 6 grams of fiber

RECIPES | ABOUT | FARM TO SPORK | VIDEOS | FACEBOOK


Smiling woman in front of a plate of spicy honey-baked chicken thighs

Spicy Honey-Baked Chicken Thighs

These spicy honey-baked chicken thighs are a beautiful dance filled with sweet, bold, and juicy flavors that you and your family will love!

A plate filled with spicy honey-baked chicken thighs
Spicy honey-baked chicken thighs

You may be similar to me in the sense that you do the best you can in order to consume ethically-sourced food, as often as humanly possible. This could include sourcing your veggies from a community garden, or making your own batches of vegan ice cream. Others, including myself, have been on a quest to find ethically-sourced meats.

Is that even possible?

While this specific question can certainly be seen as controversial, and filled with arguments from the sides of vegans and omnivores, I would like to take the argument and say ‘Yes!’ It is possible to find ethically-sourced meat.  The key is to find sources of meat that come from local, small-scale farmers. As an alternative to environmentally-degrading factory farm systems, there are many small-scale farmers what are intentional about raise their livestock in a free-range manner, free of any use of antibiotics or added growth hormones. Many of these farmers work to ensure that the animals are not only provided with ample space, but are raised with dignity.

Local Meat FTW

I recently had the opportunity to befriend John Roberts, the owner of Olivor Farms, a small-scale livestock operation based out of Dover, Florida.  John and his wife Chrysti raise free-range chickens and grass-finished beef cows on open pastures around the Dover area. This couple and their brand truly believe in the importance of transparency and honesty. I wrote a recent Farm to Spork feature about Olivor Farms, which can be accessed here.

Spicy honey-baked chicken thighs fresh out of the oven
Spicy honey-baked chicken thighs fresh out of the oven

After interviewing John, I knew that I had to try some of their chicken, for myself. And let me tell you…it’s delicious and worth every penny.  Being that I absolutely love eating dark meat, I developed a mouth-watering recipe that I believe you and your family will enjoy.

The Verdict?

The thighs turned out absolutely juicy, and had a lovely tangy-spigy-sweet flavor. But in my opinion, the heat was very tolerable, and not at-all unpleasant. I sourced the particular spicy honey that I used for this recipe from The Corner Store, a Plant City café and natural goods market that specializes in the sale of gourmet, organic, and locally-sourced items. If you have sensitivity to heat, you can definitely opt for a milder honey!

Describing the baked chicken sure is making me hungry…let’s move onto the recipe!


Spicy Honey-baked Chicken Thighs

These spicy honey-baked chicken thighs are a beautiful dance filled with sweet, bold, and juicy flavors that you and your family will love!
Prep Time35 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Chicken
Servings: 4 servings
Calories: 462kcal

Ingredients

  • 4 raw chicken thighs with skin

Spices

  • 2 tbsp. spicy honey
  • ¼ tsp. garlic powder
  • tsp. chili powder
  • 1 tbsp. yellow mustard

Instructions

  • In a large bowl, combine the entire set of spicesby whisking with a fork until well-blended. Gently puncture each of the thighswith a fork until there are several small holes in each piece. Place each thigh in large bowl and gently mix marinade into chicken until each thigh iswell-coated. Cover and marinate in the fridge for 30 minutes-overnight.
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Once oven has finished pre-heating, take a onoven-safe casserole dish, lightly grease the bottom of it, and place thechicken thighs in the dish. Allow to bake for 30-35 minutes, or until thejuices run clear. If you have a food thermometer, the internal temperatureshould be at 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Allow chicken thighs to cool for at least 5 minutes, and enjoy!

Video

Nutritional Information per serving:

462 calories/ 32.14 grams protein/ 32.24 grams fat/ 9.6 grams carbohydrates/ .3 grams of fiber

RECIPES | ABOUT | FARM TO SPORK | VIDEOS | FACEBOOK


Farm to Spork: Meet Olivor Farms

Chrysti (left) and John Roberts (right), owners of Olivor Heritage Farms

You can have your meat, and eat it too! This became evident, as I had the chance to become acquainted with the husband and wife duo John Chrysti Roberts, owners of Olivor Heritage Farms.  Olivor Heritage Farms is a Dover-based farm which specializes in the raising of pasture-raised poultry, and eggs. The farm also specializes in the production of grass-fed beef, heritage pork (such as Berkshire hog), cheese, butter, wild game meats, and pasture-raised duck. At the end, The Roberts’ mission is to encourage the public to eat more humanely-sourced and raised meat and animal products. This couple also believes in the importance of transparency, by informing consumers about where and how their products are sourced.

Aside from their products, this couple is very intentional about placing their family at the epicenter of their lives. Even their company name Olivor, was a hybrid between the names of Jon’s two grandkids: Olivor and Ivor! Before the farm began raising a wide array of livestock, the Roberts’ thought about their own family’s needs, and the value of wholesome foods. This couple wanted to make sure that they knew at all times where and how their food was being sourced, and wanted to not only instill these values upon their family, but to share this passion with the community at-large. Hence, Olivor Farms, as we know it, was born.

Pasture-raised chickens. Photo courtesy of Olivor Heritage Farms.

The following is a portion of an interview that I recently conducted with John Roberts. Please note that this interview has been lightly annotated and edited, for clarification purposes. Interested in the delicious Spicy Honey-Baked Chicken Thigh recipe I created, using their chicken? Click here.

[The Funky Spork] How long have your been farming, and what inspired you to go into this venture?

[John Roberts] My wife and I retired back in February of 2016, and began raising chickens and eggs back in 2015. We had started the farm a year beforehand and were primarily served as a source of retirement income. My former work consisted of 30+ years within the produce sector.  Since my wife and I were already retired, our intention was not to start a full-time business. My interest in establishing Olivor Farms generated as a result of my frustration with meat coming from factory farms, and the inhumane treatment of animals in the process. So I originally raised beef for me and my family to consume, as a result.

We should be responsible in our supply chain. If you’re rising your animals in a healthy, clean environment, not only are they happier, but the quality of the meat will be better. It just makes sense on both sides: It’s not only good from an ethical stance, but it’s also good for our food supply. Its healthier food, its cleaner food, and the animals are more humanely raised. It’s just better all the way around, and raising livestock in this manner is completely sustainable.

A selection of some of the Olivor Farms meats available at Chucks Natural Fields Market in Brandon, Florida.

[The Funky Spork] What differentiates your operation from a more conventional produce and meat operation?

[John] I’ll give you one example: In the space that we raise two of our Berkshire hogs, the conventional or factory farming type of situation would have 200-300 pigs in that area. Or, similarly to a space size where we would raise 25 chickens, a factory farming operation would raise a couple hundred chickens. So, factory farming is not as sustainable.

What we are also doing is good for everything around us, including the supporting of other farmers. For example, we work with other local farmers that grow row crops and berries. We can put our chicken tractors in their fields where they may be growing a crop, such as strawberries. As a result, our chickens leave fertilizer, and also till the land, which regenerated the land. We are getting with other farmers in the area to create a complete cycle: We will have our chickens go behind the cattle of a host farmer. As a result, the grass around the chickens begins to grow, and we can then place the cattle back in that area to consume the grass. We are therefore helping to create a sustainable cycle.   

[The Funky Spork] Are there any other types of sustainable practices that you are utilizing in your operations?

[John] We use Non-GMO feeds. We also don’t use any pesticides, herbicides, or fungicides on our land, at all. We stray away from using products, like Roundup. We don’t use any of those products or chemicals on our property or on our animals.

[The Funky Spork] What would you recommend look for, ask for, or consider when purchasing meat?

[John] Don’t be afraid to ask questions: Definitely, ask about its source. Country of origin matters, because they don’t necessarily have to label the country of origin. Most meat sources also do not have to label whether or not their products are genetically modified. So you would want to ask your vendors where does the meat come from, where is it processed, and was it genetically modified.

Labels matter: We can look at grass-fed beef, as an example. Grass-fed and grass-finished piece of meat. The finishing during the last 90 days is where all of the bad stuff takes place. If the beef is grass-finished, it’s going to more likely be sustainable pasture-raised cattle. USDA only requires that a ‘grass-fed’ label be applied to cattle which have only eaten grass for duration of 30 percent of its lifespan.  Therefore, as a consumer, you will want to ask whether or not the beef you are about to purchase is grass-finished. Don’t be afraid to search the company brand online to find out where and how their meat is sourced.

Never-ever antibiotic: The antibiotic-free label is also a joke, because it’s illegal to use human antibiotics in animal production. In the meat industry, we have to different categories. Antibiotic free just means that the meat was tested antibiotic free, where most antibiotics take about 30 days to get out of an animal’s system. As a consumer, you want to ask if the product is never ever antibiotics, which means that the animal was never given antibiotics in during the course of its life. 

There is economic value in locally-sourced meat: For example, if you went to McDonalds and purchased a value meal for one person, you could pay anything from $8-$10. With that same amount of money, you can buy a pound of grass-fed finished beef, hamburger bunds, and toppings for about the same cost, and feed four people. With smart choices, good shopping, and complete (heat-to-tail) use of the animal, you can have a good economic value. If the livestock is raised, and consumed properly and ethically, you can actually have a good system.

Get to know your farmer: One of the best ways to source quality meat is by supporting local farmers. You can not only get to learn more about the person farming and raising the livestock, but you will get to build a relationship, as well. We want to build a trusting, relationship with our customer, who becomes part of our family. Our customers value that we are giving them truthful information.

Olivor Farms at  the Downtown Lakeland Farmers Market

If you live in Hillsborough County, you can purchase Olivor Farms meat at the Brandon location of Chuck’s Natural Fields Market, located at 114 N Kings Ave, Brandon, FL 33510.

To learn more about Olivor Farms, visit www.olivorheritagefarms.com

‘Like’ and follow on Instagram: @olivorfarms