Provender Alliance conference and Co-op Month

I’ve had a busy last month or so, and haven’t been able to demo any recipes for the last five weeks, so I thought I’d update you on what’s been going on with me and with our co-op!

Smoke plume from the Hood River fire in September. © Melissa Elkins 2012

The Co-op is a dedicated member of the Provender Alliance, a group of natural food distributors, manufacturers, co-ops, and natural food stores in the Western Corridor (WA, OR, CA, ID, and MT) interested in networking, education, and inspiring their communities.  I was asked to serve as the Conference Kitchen Liaison for this year’s annual conference (held Sept 26th – 28th in Hood River, OR) and it was a fantastic experience.  The Best Western Hood River Inn hosted us, and it was my job to secure the donations of ingredients that their talented Chef and kitchen staff turned into delicious meals for conference attendees.  The hotel is unique in that they allow us to create the menu with them and source our own ingredients, and they were able to accommodate meals for just about everyone by offering gluten-free, vegan, and vegetarian options at every meal.

There was a forest fire 2 miles from the hotel during the conference – this is the view of the smoky haze from outside my room! The view is of the Columbia River, with WA on the left and OR on the right. © Melissa Elkins 2012

While my main focus was the food, I did get to attend some of the fantastic workshops offered as well as attend the amazing (and slightly scary – check out the links to see what I mean!) keynote addresses given by Maude Barlow from Food and Water Watch (if you drink water, you should watch her in the movie FLOW, which I highly recommend if you haven’t seen it) and Matthew Dillon of Seed Matters.  Both of these individuals are doing incredible work in raising awareness and fighting for two vital issues that impact our entire planet and should be on the forefront of everyone’s minds – access to fresh, clean water and access to organic seeds.

Happy customers! © Community Food Co-op 2012

On another note, October 1st marked the start of National Co-op Month (as well as Non-GMO month, and Organic Harvest Month), and we always have fun things going on to celebrate – unfortunately I was on a two-week vacation so I didn’t get to be here for the festivities.  We held two owner appreciation days earlier this month (one at each store) where we had food demos, giveaways, and a raffle for great prizes.  Both were a great success, and are a fun way for us to say thank you to all of our owners.

© Community Food Co-op 2012

We also co-sponsored showings of In Organic We Trust at the Pickford Film Center on October 22nd and Shift Change (also at the Pickford, and the filmmakers will be on hand to answer questions after the showing) coming up on November 3rd.  We held a plant pot collection day as well, where customers brought in their used pots to be recycled/reused by a local farm (see the photo on our Facebook page).  All in all, we’ve had a great month appreciating staff and owners for all that they enable us to do for our community.

Wynne Marks, Cordata Produce Manager, sampling local apples for customers during Owner Appreciation Day this month. © Community Food Co-op 2012

Next week I’ll be back to blogging about recipes…stay tuned!

Whatcom 4H Super Saturday (Homemade Ice Cream in a Bag)

4H kids enjoying the fruits of their labor!

For the third year in a row I taught a kid’s cooking class today at the annual 4H Super Saturday, held at Meridian High School.  It’s always fun looking for a good recipe that any age of child can make, and for this year’s class I found one that proved to be immensely popular – Homemade Ice Cream in a Bag.

The recipe is from, a website full of fun recipes and activities for kids.  The basic idea is that you put your ice cream ingredients in a plastic sandwich bag (cream, sugar and vanilla), and then you put that bag inside a gallon bag half full of ice and coarse salt and then you shake it for five minutes.  Guess what?  It totally works, tastes delicious, and is an appropriate recipe for kids of any age!

I knew this would be a hit for the 4H event, and I was right – normally I have about 12 kids in my class (along with a few parents), and this year I had 22 kids sign up ranging in age from 3 to 16!  The kids and parents loved the recipe because you don’t really need any special ingredients or equipment (oh, and because it was ICE CREAM!).

The recipe calls for half and half (we used local Fresh Breeze organic half and half), but you can use regular milk and I have even made it using coconut milk (and coconut sugar).  The coconut milk version is delicious and comes out tasting light and has a very nice texture.  I haven’t made the recipe with other alternative “milks”, like almond or soy milk, but I don’t see any reason why they wouldn’t work.  You can also use just about any sweetener in this as well, so it is only limited by your imagination!

Homemade Ice Cream in a Bag – chocolate and coconut © 2012 Sassy Sampler

Homemade Ice Cream in a Bag

serves 1


  • 2 T organic sugar
  • 1 c organic, local half and half
  • 1/2 t organic vanilla extract
  • 1/2 c coarse salt
  • Ice cubes (enough to fill the gallon size bag about half full)
  • 1 pint-sized resealable plastic bag
  • 1 gallon-sized resealable freezer bag
  • Mittens, gloves, or a dishtowel

Mix-ins (optional):

  • Chopped nuts
  • Candies (like SunDrops)
  • Chocolate chips
  • Chocolate or berry flavored syrup (add after making the ice cream)
  • Pretzels


  1. Combine sugar, half and half, and vanilla extract in the pint-size bag and seal it tightly.  If you have smaller children preparing this recipe, prop the bag inside a glass so it is easier for them to fill or hold the bag for them.
  2. Place the salt and the ice in the gallon-size bag, then place the tightly sealed pint-size bag inside the gallon bag.  Seal the gallon bag tightly.
  3. Shake the bags until the mixture hardens (about 5 minutes).  This is when you should put on your mittens, or wrap the bag in a dish cloth.  Feel the smaller bag to decide when it’s done.
  4. Take the pint-size bag out of the gallon bag and rinse in cold water to remove any salt residue.
  5. Add any desired mix-ins and eat the ice cream right out of the bag!


  • You can also use milk in place of half and half in this recipe.
  • You can use alternative sweeteners as well, just be sure they are in granulated/powder form.  You will also have to adjust the quantity depending on the kind of sweetener you use.
  • You can use table salt in a pinch, but you should increase the quantity to 3/4-1 c.
  • You can make a chocolate version using dry cocoa mix.  Check the directions to see how much to add for 1 c of milk and add it with the half and half before you shake up the bag and you may want to omit the vanilla.  You may want to omit the sugar if your cocoa mix is sweetened.
  • You can also make this using coconut milk (I used unsweetened Coconut Dream from Imagine in the aseptic container) and coconut sugar to sweeten it for a light tasting and textured ice “cream”.

Homemade Ice Cream in a Bag PDF

International Year of Cooperatives Video Premier

This last Saturday was the premier of the video series starring Kevin Gillespie from Top Chef, produced by the National Cooperative Grocers Association (NCGA) for the International Year of Cooperatives.  As you may know from earlier posts, our co-op was one of eight in the nation picked to be featured in the series.  Our videos don’t start premiering until February 20th, but the first three were released on January 21st, and if you look closely you’ll notice some familiar faces and surroundings in the intro to each video!

You can watch the videos on YouTube or at Stronger Together.  The first video, “A Community of Shared Values”, was shot in Minneapolis/St. Paul, and focuses on Seward Co-op and how they work closely with their community and their hands-on approach to the products they carry and the programs they run.  The second video is “Grow Where You’re Planted” and highlights Gardens of Eagen (an organic farm in Minnesota owned by the Wedge Natural Foods Co-op) and Valley Natural Foods Co-op who run a community garden in front of their store.  The third video is titled “Celebrity Farmers” and focuses on Just Food Co-op and all the local products they carry and L&R Produce, a local (Minnesota) producer of produce, poultry and maple syrup and their relationship with their local co-ops.

On February 20th the first of our Co-op’s videos will premier, with the focus on the Co-op’s relationship with Misty Meadows Farm in Everson and their free-range organic eggs.  On March 5th, the video about our relationship with  Heritage Lane Farm  in Lynden premiers, which raises rare breed livestock and heirloom vegetables.  March 19th is the last of our premiers, with the focus being on the Co-op’s involvement with Bellingham Urban Gardeners (BUGS) – I’ll note that our Co-op Cooperator of the Year for 2011 is Co-op staffer and Board member Beau Hilty-Jones (see this month’s Co-op newsletter), who started the Farm Implement Co-op that is part of BUGS.

We hope that the video series will show everyone how co-ops really do make their communities stronger, wherever you live.  For more information on cooperatives and how they can transform your community, visit Stronger Together or the International Cooperative Alliance.

Thanks for reading, and I’ll have a new recipe available next week!

The Eat Local BBQ is this Saturday!

Readers of my blog know that the Co-op has partnered with Sustainable Connections for the Eat Local First! campaign.  Last week we co-sponsored an event with Village Books and Sustainable Connections to benefit the Co-op’s Farm Fund (Frances Moore Lappé, author of Diet for a Small Planet came to town to promote her book EcoMind: Challenging the Way We Think to Create the World We Want with a reception at the Leopold Ballroom) and this week we are having an Eat Local BBQ at the Cordata Co-op.

Even if the weather doesn’t fully cooperate, it should still be a really fun event.  We’ll have beef or veggie kabobs (the grass-fed beef is from Matheson Farms in Bellingham and the veggies are local too!), grilled local corn on the cob (with flavorful butter choices, also local), local grilled greens or salad, and peach iced tea with Okanogan Farmer’s Co-op peaches.  We’ll also have local music, provided by Pretty Little Feet, an acoustic duo that plays old-timey American music and are a lot of fun.

There will also be a few local authors at the BBQ sampling recipes from their cookbook or blog.  Seattle author Debra Daniels-Zeller will be here sampling a recipe from her book The Northwest Vegetarian Cookbook (she also writes a great blog called Food Connections, and I have blogged about one of her recipes from her cookbook).  Local blogger Nancy Ging (Whatcom Locavore) will also be here sampling a recipe from her blog.  Her blog is a great place to get ideas and recipes for eating local in Whatcom County year-round.  And it wouldn’t be complete without Bellingham author and nutritionist Tom Malterre of The Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook fame.  He and his wife Ali collaborated on the cookbook and also write an informative blog with many recipes not found in the cookbook.  Jennifer Hahn, local author, blogger and WWU Fairhaven College professor may also be here promoting her book Pacific Feast: A Cook’s Guide to West Coast Foraging and Cuisine.  Foraging is looking to be the next big foodie trend, so stop by to pick up a copy.  We will also have the supplemental material to the book available – The Pacific Coast Foraging Guide, which is a pocket-reference guide for quick identification of wild foods.

So stop by the Cordata Co-op tomorrow – not only will it be educational, but it will be local-icious as well!