Your Right to Know

Yes on 522 logo-horizThe Community Food Co-op supports YES on I-522 and believes that all consumers have the right to know what is in their food.  The Co-op has always been a huge proponent of transparency with the consumer, and we have worked to educate our customers about the food they purchase since our organization was formed over 40 years ago; we have worked to educate consumers about genetically modified foods since the mid-90’s.  While the co-op endorses the Yes on 522 campaign, what follows is my opinion on the issue.

64 Countries graphic with earthWe believe that transparency is an integral part of our business, on every level. I believe that transparency within the food industry in general should be a given – you know the old saying “you are what you eat”…well, how are you supposed to know what you are if you aren’t allowed to know what you are eating?  I’ll admit that food is a huge part of my life – I’ve been employed by the food industry since I started working at 15 and I grew up (in part) in farming country.  I’ve worked for the co-op for almost 17 years, and strongly believe in the services we provide to our community and to the natural foods industry in general.  This is the first time in 20 years of being a registered (and annually active) voter that I have spoken up about a ballot initiative.

I’ll be voting YES on 522 for many reasons, but the primary one is that I believe it is every consumers right to know what ingredients are in their foods.  Consumers should have a choice on whether they want to purchase foods containing GMOs, just like we have the choice to purchase foods that are high (or low) in fat, contain certain allergens, or ones that contain high fructose corn syrup.

Voting pamphlets have now gone out and should already be in your mailbox – I would like to address some of the arguments against I-522 and the misleading statements that are being made about this initiative.

  • “For decades, agricultural biotechnology has helped improve food crops so they resist disease, require fewer pesticides or are more nutritious.”

This is untrue on many levels – not only have GMO crops failed to increase yields, but they are also responsible for creating super weeds, pesticide resistant crops, and have not been proven to be more nutritious (I couldn’t find anything on the internet to substantiate this claim on either end, as any studies that have been done are biased and industry based).  Not only have GMO crops not supplied the world with more affordable food, but they have been banned from a number of countries (many of which were the ones that we were supposed to “help” through the process), and 64 countries  require labeling of foods that contain GMOs.

  • “Today, 70-80% of grocery products include ingredients from these foods, and they’re deemed safe by the FDA and major scientific and medical organizations.”

While this isn’t untrue, it is very misleading.  This is from the FDA’s website: “FDA encourages developers of GE plants to consult with the agency before marketing their products. Although the consultation is voluntary, Keefe says developers find it helpful in determining the steps necessary to ensure that food products made from their plants are safe and otherwise lawful.  The developer produces a safety assessment, which includes the identification of distinguishing attributes of new genetic traits, whether any new material in food made from the GE plant could be toxic or allergenic when eaten, and a comparison of the levels of nutrients in the GE plant to traditionally bred plants.  FDA scientists evaluate the safety assessment and also review relevant data and information that are publicly available in published scientific literature and the agency’s own records. The consultation is complete only when FDA’s team of scientists are satisfied with the developer’s safety assessment and have no further questions regarding safety or other regulatory issues.”  What this essentially means is that it is a purely voluntary system that is based only on what information is made available to the public – which is supplied by the developer (note that they aren’t even referred to as farmers!) that is applying for the certification.  StarLink corn is a perfect example of how this system is set up to fail.  Check out Wenonah Hauter’s book Foodopoly for a wealth of information on why the USDA, the EPA, and FDA don’t always have the consumers best interests at heart.

  • “…I-522 wouldn’t even give consumers a reliable way of knowing which foods contain GE ingredients.”

Once again, this is a misleading statement.  While I feel I-522 may not cover everything it should, it is a great start.  All of the major manufacturers would be required to label any products that contain GE ingredients, farmers would have to label GE crops, and smaller manufacturers wouldn’t be exempt either.  Just because everything wouldn’t be required to be labeled under this initiative doesn’t mean that providing the information on the ones that would be required to be labeled is a bad idea.  I’d rather have some of the information than none at all.

  • “…studies show I-522’s Washington-only labeling requirements would hurt local farmers and increase an average family’s food costs by hundreds of dollars per year.”

Washington farmers support I-522, and there is no reliable way to know if food costs will indeed rise – the anti-campaign says they will, and the pro-campaign says they won’t.  My take is this – with 22 other states preparing legislation that will either ban or require labeling of GMO products, cost increases will eventually happen regardless of our state’s outcome.  Companies who choose to source non-GMO ingredients for their products rather than labeling may have increased costs that will be passed on to the consumer, but the cost to the companies for adding the label will be nominal and won’t (and shouldn’t be) be transferred to the consumer – companies change their packaging all the time to indicate “now made with whole grains” or “new and improved” and the like, and this adding this language to their packaging shouldn’t be any different.

  • “Existing food labels already give consumers the option to choose foods without GE ingredients by choosing products labeled “certified organic”.”

While this is true, it is also a little elitist in my opinion.  Yes, you can decide to purchase only certified organic foods, but a lot of people in our state either don’t have the access that we do in Whatcom County or don’t feel they can afford to purchase only organic foods.  By not requiring labeling of GMOs, we are allowing big business to limit your right to make informed decisions.  It shouldn’t matter if you are rich/poor, liberal/conservative, or young/old – you should be allowed to make your own informed choices on what you choose to eat.

I was thrilled to find out that the Co-op would be taking such an advocacy role in the Yes on I-522 campaign, as I feel that this is one issue that we have always been very transparent about our position on – since the mid-90’s we have worked to increase consumer awareness of GMO products through massive letter writing campaigns, signage in our stores, and the election of the Non-GMO Project’s Executive Director through a member vote to our own Board of Directors, just to name a few.  We have held several educational events, open to the public, in the last month in support of I-522 that have been well attended and chock full of information (the last one we have planned is this Monday, October 21st from 6:30pm-8pm at our Cordata store Roots Room – you can learn about non-GMO corn preservation from local experts Krista Rome and Courtney Pineau).

For more information on GMOs and food industry advocacy visit:

Center for Food Safety

Non-GMO Project

Yes on I-522

Food and Water Watch

Videos endorsing I-522

 

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!

Shanghai Cucumbers

One of my favorite dishes that I’ve had at a restaurant is PF Chang’s Shanghai Cucumbers.  The first time I had them, I went home and recreated them.  It is a quick and easy recipe that is delicious with a number of dishes.  All you need is a cucumber, toasted sesame oil, tamari or shoyu, and gomasio (toasted sesame seeds).  I found out recently that PF Chang’s also adds a small amount of white vinegar to the sauce, but I don’t tend to do that when I make it, although it does add a slight amount of tang (that isn’t unwelcome) to the dish.

Shanghai Cucumber ingredients

I believe that cucumber choice is the key to success with this recipe.  I am a huge fan of the local Dominion Organics Middle Eastern (or Persian) cucumbers and feel that this variety tastes the best, especially for this recipe.  English cucumbers are my second choice, when the Middle Eastern ones are not in season, and the nice thing is that those are generally local year round (they are grown in BC in a hot-house).  If neither of these varieties of cucumbers are available to you, then you can of course use your standard cucumber!

Another key ingredient that I use is the Ohsawa brand organic gluten-free tamari.  We don’t carry it at the Co-op, but owners can special order it in quantities of 3 (it works out to be about $9.60 a bottle – I saw it for as much as $21 a bottle on Amazon!).  It is much pricier than other tamaris on the market, but it is vastly superior so it is worth the extra cost.  We carry Ohsawa Nama Shoyu at the Co-op (if you can tolerate wheat) which is also pricier than other shoyus, but again, it is vastly superior.  It is the only unpasteurized (and therefore raw)  shoyu on the market – and neither the shoyu or the tamari is made with grain alcohol.

Anyway, back to the recipe!  Start by peeling strips off the cucumber – this is more for looks than anything else!

Once you have done that, hold your knife at a 45° angle to the end of the cucumber and slice into bite-sized chunks.  Rotate cucumber a 1/4 turn and slice again – repeat until you can’t cut any more off!

Next, mix your sauce ingredients in a small measuring cup or in a small bowl.  Pour over your cut cucumber, sprinkle with gomasio, and you’re done!

This dish takes about 5-7 minutes to make (depending on how quick you are with your knife!) – if you make it ahead, I like to reserve the sauce and add it right before serving.  If you have leftovers, they will still be delicious (and slightly more intense!) the next day, although they won’t look as pretty.  I make these at home to go with steak, Asian cuisine, and just for a snack.

Shanghai Cucumbers

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 Middle Eastern or English Cucumber
  • ~ 2 T GF tamari or shoyu
  • 1/4 t toasted sesame oil
  • Gomasio (to taste)
  • Optional—1 t white vinegar

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Wash your cucumber of choice.  With your vegetable peeler, peel strips off the cucumber, being sure to leave some of the skin.
  2. Holding your knife at a 45° angle to the end of the cucumber, slice cucumber into mouth sized pieces, rotating a 1/4 turn after each cut.  Place cut cucumber into a bowl.
  3. In a small measuring cup or bowl combine tamari/shoyu and toasted sesame oil.  Add vinegar if using.
  4. Toss cucumber with the sauce.  Sprinkle gomasio to taste.
  5. Enjoy!

To make your own gomasio:

  1. Heat a small sauté pan over medium heat.
  2. Add raw sesame seeds to pan, and shake continuously until the seeds become slightly browned and become very aromatic, about 2 minutes.
  3. Remove from pan; Optional—sprinkle sea salt (to taste) over seeds and mix well.
  4. Keep in airtight container in the fridge.

You can use any kind of cucumber in this dish, but Middle Eastern/Persian and English cucumbers work the best.  If you use a regular cucumber, then you will need to peel the whole thing and deseed it first.

Shanghai Cucumbers PDF

My Montana Adventure

Gallatin Mountain Range Photo © Sassy Sampler 2011

Last week my husband and I drove to West Yellowstone, Montana to meet members of my family (my brothers, father, and respective family members) for an adventure.  We had a fantastic time, and learned all kinds of new things.

We only spent one day in Yellowstone (we did the Upper Loop of the park, including Mammoth Hot Springs and Tower Falls), but we also traveled to Nevada City, MT to take check out the “Living History” weekend.

Nevada City, MT © Sassy Sampler 2011

Nevada City is along Highway 287 in Alder Gulch, known for the greatest Montana placer gold rush starting in 1863.  Within one year, almost 10,000 people had moved to the area to seek their fortune (which is pretty impressive considering it’s in the middle of the mountains, pretty cold 10 months of the year, and people traveled by foot and wagon!).  By 1869 only about 100 people remained, and by 1876 it had turned into a virtual ghost town.

My nephew-in-law panning for gold and garnets (he found both) Photo © Sassy Sampler 2011

Between then and 1900, many of the town’s buildings were destroyed as mining continued and the highway was built (there are still gold and garnets in them thar hills though!).

Nevada City, MT Photo © Sassy Sampler 2011

Today, the town is owned by the State of Montana and has been restored as an outdoor historical museum (complete with artifacts and furnishings), with buildings donated by philanthropists that were relocated from around the state as well as some original Nevada City structures that were saved by the last family to stay in the area after the gold rush.

We visited during a “living history” weekend – volunteers from around the state show up in accurate period clothing (right down to their underwear!) to show you what life was like back then.  Some speak in 3rd person (fun and informative) and some speak in 1st person (kinda creepy sometimes, but still fun).

Heritage Chicken © Sassy Sampler 2011

They populate the town for the weekend and perform every day activities,  like tending bar in the saloon (where you can play cards with Regulators – who were the “law” in those times), cobbling shoes, and cooking (my favorite part, of course!).  It almost felt like you were walking into someone’s home, and we felt compelled to knock and ask if we could come in!

Preparing biscuits - Photo © Sassy Sampler 2011

We take for granted the kinds of lives we live as “normal”.  It wasn’t really that long ago that everyone ate locally and from scratch, because that was the way life was lived.  Imagine having to build the correct kind of fire (slow and hot), inside your kitchen, in  a small iron oven, with no way to tell accurately what the temperature was, and no oven light to check the progress!

Cooking Sausage - Photo © Sassy Sampler 2011.

When we entered one of the cabins that housed a working kitchen, a mother and her two young daughters were busy preparing biscuits and gravy (that visitors got to enjoy when they were finished) in this manner.

© Sassy Sampler 2011

The other really cool food-related part of the town were the mercantile stores where miners could buy supplies.  It was surprising how many recognizable brands of canned foods there were that are still around, and it was great to see the bulk bins of coffee and tea – some of the few things that were imported in that time.

© Sassy Sampler 2011

© Sassy Sampler 2011

All in all, it was a really fun place to visit, both for the adult and kid in you.

As for my direct baking experience over the vacation, we were all together for Father’s Day, and I wanted to bake a cake to mark the occasion.  The hang-ups?  Well, our campground was above 6500 feet, and I had a tiny RV oven to bake it in, but I was determined to succeed.  I had brought a package of the Swan Bakery’s Gluten-free (and vegan) Chocolate cake mix and the fixin’s for my “Fluffy” berry sauce.  I was pleasantly surprised that  the cake turned out perfectly, with only a (very) small downward adjustment to the liquid ingredients and no change to the oven temperature or cooking time!  Everyone really enjoyed the cake, and I think it was my dad’s best Father’s day ever.

I would highly recommend a trip to this area – not only is the drive beautiful and manageable (it is about a 14 hour trip from Bellingham to West Yellowstone, easily done in two days), but the area is rich in history and there are countless activities that the whole family will enjoy!

Buttercream “Eggs” with Royal Icing Flowers – Part 2

Photo © 2011 Sassy Sampler

Buttercream eggs, also known as fondant eggs (although they really are neither) are very easy to make.  Just four ingredients (plus nuts if you add them) and chocolate chips for coating them, and you are on your way to sugar heaven!

As I stated in my last post, my mom used to make these when I was a kid, and this must have been a well-used recipe in the 70’s and 80’s as I had many customers exclaim that their mother or grandmother used to make these for them every Easter.  I don’t know where my mom got the recipe, but it’s one that will always be in my arsenal.

The recipe I have doesn’t have many instructions, so it is good they are so easy to make!  I started by melting a stick of butter and then I let it cool completely.  You put two pounds (yes, I said pounds) of powdered sugar in that largest bowl you have, and then drizzle the melted butter, sweetened condensed milk (we have Santini Organic at the Co-op) and a tablespoon of vanilla and then mix it all together – I tend to start with a wooden spoon and then use my hands once the bulk of the powdered sugar is mixed in.  If you are adding nuts (I used organic roasted almonds) you mix those in and voilà – you are almost done.

Form the dough into egg shapes using your hands – the dough is very pliable and should do this easily.  I like to let them harden in the fridge for at least a couple of hours (or overnight) so the melted chocolate doesn’t make them too smooshy.  I melted two bags of Tropical Source semi-sweet chocolate chips (dairy and gluten-free) in a large bowl over a barely simmering pot of water, and then removed it from the heat.  The dipping method that worked best for me was to place the egg on a fork and then lowering the fork into the bowl so the egg was resting on the chocolate.  Then I spooned chocolate over the egg and smoothed it out.  I lifted the fork out and let the excess chocolate drip back into the bowl and carefully transferred the egg to a parchment lined baking sheet.  If you made Royal Icing flowers, this is the point you need to place them on the egg, otherwise the chocolate will harden and they won’t stick.

Photo © 2011 Sassy Sampler

That’s it – aside from letting the chocolate harden, which you can do on the counter or in the fridge.  Once they are made, they should be good for about a week or so (kept in the fridge and wrapped up tight – especially if you have cut into it, although I think they are best at room temperature so I leave them out for a little while before I eat them), if you can keep them around for that long!

Buttercream “Eggs” Photo © 2011 Sassy Sampler

Buttercream “Eggs”

(recipe for Royal Icing drop flowers can be found here or in the PDF at the end of the post)

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 lb powdered sugar
  • 1 stick melted and cooled salted butter or margarine (8T)
  • 1T vanilla
  • 1 14oz can sweetened condensed milk
  • 2c chopped nuts (optional)
  • 12-18 oz chocolate chips for topping

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl.
  2. Form about 10 eggs and place on a parchment lined baking sheet.
  3. Refrigerate for a couple of hours (or covered, overnight) for best results.
  4. Take eggs out and melt chocolate in a double boiler.
  5. Either dip the eggs in the chocolate (using either turkey nails or a wide-tined fork in the bottom to hold the egg) and place them on the baking sheet (be sure to let the excess chocolate drip off) or place a spoonful of chocolate on the baking sheet and place egg on top—then spoon another couple spoonfuls of chocolate over it and spread until even.
  6. Place your icing flowers on the eggs while the chocolate is still soft.
  7. Let eggs sit until chocolate hardens (you can refrigerate them).
  8. Use leftover Royal Icing to write the name of the recipient on the eggs before serving.

(I also used the leftover chocolate – I put little blobs on some parchment paper and put a Royal Icing flower in the middle for tasty little candies.)

Buttercream Eggs with Royal Icing Flowers PDF


Fun Bellingham videos, plus cheese sauce!

I haven’t demo’d any recipes over the last couple weeks because my administrative duties have taken precedence, so since I haven’t posted anything, I thought I’d share some fun co-op/Bellingham related web content, and, randomly,  my recipe for yummy cheese sauce.

First, the videos:

This first video is a commercial made for us in 2010 by co-op member Don Scott.  It features both co-op locations, as well as many of our local farmers.

The second video was produced by a group called Journey of Action, a duo of siblings who highlight the culture of social activism around the world through short videos.  They produced a great video about Sustainable Connections and how they inspire our local living economy.  The Co-op is a Sustaining Member of Sustainable Connections, and we are also the originators (and a  sponsor) of their Food to Bank On! program.  This short video isn’t about the Co-op specifically, but outlines how our local businesses help sustain our economy.

The third video was made by a couple of co-op shoppers called “Bellingham State of Mind”.  They forgot to mention us in the song, but we forgive them because they made such an awesome video about our little community.

The following videos are from our Community Parties.  Each summer we hold an event at Boulevard Park with music and dancing, vendors, non-profit information, a kid’s parade, and burritos for a few bucks.  The first was posted by Community Concerts (with music by Yogoman Burning Band) and the second is a performance by Maggie’s Fury.

And, because there has to be a cooking related video – here’s one from Deb Slater’s show Experience NW with local chef Robert Fong.

Now for the cheese sauce.

I am allergic to tomatoes, so when there is sauce involved (pizza, pasta, etc.), I always make this quick and tasty cheese sauce.  I based the recipe on one from Martha Stewart that she uses for macaroni and cheese, but it used three pans, and that’s just too messy for me.

Mine uses only one pan, and although I don’t usually measure my ingredients (it is purely made on instinct at this point), I did make note of them when I made it earlier this week so I could give you a place to start from!  The three cheeses I use are ones that we always keep in stock at our house as they are our favorites.  You can feel free to experiment with yours!

Melissa’s Cheese Sauce

Ingredients

~ 1 T flour (GF or wheat)

~ 1 T butter

~ 1 c milk, cream, etc.

~ 1 1/2 c total of grated cheddar cheese (I use 2 parts Organic Sharp Cheddar from Greenbank Farms and 1 part Extra Sharp English Coastal Cheddar, which is super sharp and extra tasty!)

~ 1/8 – 1/4 c freshly grated parmesan cheese (Reggiano is imported from Italy, I really recommend using a high quality parmesan.)

Instructions

1. Take the milk out of the fridge and allow to “warm up” slightly – it is important that you not use “straight from the fridge” milk as it will affect the overall sauce.

2.  Heat butter over medium heat in a small saucepan.  When butter just starts to foam, add the flour and stir constantly to create a roux.  A lot of the moisture from the butter will be evaporated, and when it is ready, it will be just on the pale side of golden.

3.  Add the milk in a slow stream, stirring constantly with a fork or small whisk.  Reduce heat to medium-low.

4.  Continue to stir periodically until you notice the sauce beginning to thicken.  You want to keep an eye on it so it doesn’t scald/boil.

5.  Once sauce has started to thicken (it will start to cling to your utensil), reduce heat to low and start incorporating the cheese, starting with the cheddar.  Add it in small handfuls, stirring in between to fully incorporate the cheese.  Once you have added all the cheddar (be sure to taste it as you go along – you may need slightly more or less cheese depending on your taste preferences), add the freshly grated parmesan and stir until incorporated.

6.  Rem0ve sauce from heat and you are good to go!

The sauce will keep for a week or so in the fridge, in a container with a tight-fitting lid.  It will get denser as it sets, so you can add a little broth or hot pasta water to reconstitute it.  If you want to reheat just the sauce, place it in a heat-proof bowl set over a saucepan with simmering water and stir until warm.

Why does your Co-op Rock?

The My Co-op Rocks Video Contest is here!

The Community Food Co-op is excited to kick off this nationwide contest where you can show the world why your co-op rocks by making an original online video. Starting Sept 1, head to www.MyCoopRocks.coop to submit your original online video showing all the ways your co-op rocks, and put in your two cents on others’ videos with comments and ratings—people’s choice winners and judges’ favorites will be in for some super sweet prizes!

There’s no limit to the ways you can rock out your video. Unleash your sense of humor, show off your guitar god skills, or take on a full-scale co-op action adventure—just go wherever your imagination takes you in two minutes or less. The contest runs September 1 – 30 and the sooner you enter the more votes you can get!

Run with your own idea, or get inspired by one of these suggestions:

  • Top 10 Reasons My Co-op Rocks
  • My Co-op: The Rock Musical
  • Love and Lettuce: A Co-op Romance
  • An Amazing Race Through My Co-op
  • Rocking Around the Co-op: A Singalong

Stay tuned and check back often at www.MyCoopRocks.coop for contest details and updates.  If you submit a video, be sure to tell us about it on our Facebook page so you can get more votes!

The nitty-gritty:

Prizes will be awarded to 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winners in two categories – People’s Choice and Judges Choice.  The prizes in both categories are:

  • 1st prize – a 64 GB Apple iPad
  • 2nd prize – a $500 Co-op gift card (either to our local co-op or for one that is good at a large number of co-ops nationwide)
  • 3rd prize – a mini HD camcorder

Who can enter: Shoppers, staff, co-op fans, members – anyone who is 18 or older.

Video file formats: mpg, .mpeg, .avi, .divx, .mp4, .flv, .wmv, .rm, .mov, .asf, .swf.

File Size: 100MB is recommended, but up to 500MB files are allowed

Videos cannot exceed 2 minutes.

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions at sassysampler@communityfood.coop.  Co-ops Rock!

Local flavor is in full bloom! (and a GF product list is now available!)

Michael M showing off the new GF product guide. Photo © 2010 Sassy Sampler

First off, I want to let everyone know that we have a fully updated list of all the gluten-free products that the Co-op carries at both stores!  You can find it here, on the recipes/resources page on the blog and on our Resources page on our website.  It has been a long time coming, but we’ve got it worked out so it is good for both locations.  It lists all grocery products that state on their labels that they are gluten-free, so it doesn’t include bulk items, produce, spices, juice, etc. – things that are either naturally gluten-free, or things that we can’t guarantee are gluten-free.  I’ll note that both stores have items that are not on the list because they are only carried at one location, and I did notice that the Cordata store has a few more gluten-free items than the Downtown store while I was compiling the list.  Anywho…

Local herbs, carrots, green onions and more! Photo © 2010 Sassy Sampler

Have you been in our Produce departments lately?  Look around, and you’ll notice that the majority of the produce we have right now is either locally grown in Whatcom County or from Washington state!  We are so lucky to live in a community that experiences such variety from so many local farmers who are dedicated to growing high-quality (and oftentimes) organic produce.

Local tomatoes, garlic and shallots. Photo © 2010 Sassy Sampler

Look at the bounty available to our shoppers:

Whatcom County Produce

  • OG Carrots
  • OG Green onions
  • OG Basil
  • OG Arugula
  • OG Radishes
  • OG Fennel
  • OG Napa cabbage
  • OG Green, red and black kale
  • OG Beets
  • OG Red chard
  • OG Tomatoes and heirloom tomatoes (we also have conventional tomatoes grown in Lynden)
  • OG Garlic
  • OG French gray shallots (delicious!)
  • Blueberries
  • Mushrooms – variety
  • OG Broccoli
  • OG Cauliflower
  • OG Yellow and green zucchini
  • OG Summer squash
  • OG Sunflower sprouts
  • OG Cucumbers  – Mediterranean (yum!), English and regular
  • OG Fresh red and Walla Walla sweet onions
  • OG Hot peppers
  • OG Corn
  • Salad mix (OG and conventional), baby spinach and OG arugula in bulk
  • Local flower bunches
  • Assorted OG herb bunches

What? Local Walla Wallas are where it's at...all this for $1.98?!? Photo © 2010 Sassy Sampler

From Washington

  • Peaches – a variety (OG and conventional)
  • OG Melons – including watermelon
  • OG Apricots
  • OG Nectarines – white and yellow
  • OG Leeks
  • OG Lettuce
  • OG Cabbage
  • OG Sansa and Zestar apples (new crop)
  • OG Plums
  • OG Starkrimson pears
  • Potatoes

100% local flower bunches, hand tied at the Cordata Co-op. Photo © 2010 Sassy Sampler

And the best part is, there is still more to come!

Tell me what you want!

I’ve blogged for about six months now and I want to hear from you!  Please take a moment to let me know what you would like to see more of, and remember, I love it when people send me their own favorite recipes!

Thanks,

Melissa (aka the Sassy Sampler)

Shopping at the Co-op

Food is essential to us all, so why shouldn’t  it be fun and tasty?  We at the Co-op know that the better our relationship with our food is, the healthier and happier we will be.

Eating is an event that should be shared and enjoyed, not rushed through the drive-thru.  By cooking your own food from scratch you have much better control over the nutritional value of your food, as well as the satisfaction of creating something unique.  Whether you are an instinctive cook or one that goes by the book, I feel that everyone should take the time to slow down and reward themselves with food cooked from fresh (and local!) ingredients – there is nothing that can compare to a successful meal made from scratch that is enjoyed by those you love.

It is my firm belief that anyone can afford to shop at a co-op, no matter your income.  Ours isn’t any different – we are constantly comparing prices and always come in either on par or less expensive overall than every other grocery store in town (and we compare apples to apples).  Sure, they may offer a few items to customers at below cost, but we don’t use those kinds of gimmicks with our pricing – we cost items competitively for our local market and with a thought to overall impact, something other stores never think about.  We offer members further savings with Member-Only sales, and allow them to special order cases of items for a discount off the shelf price.

Cooking from scratch is not only tasty, but it is also cost-effective if you are eating on a budget.  With recipes online, you don’t even need to buy cookbooks anymore (although since I am a big cookbook fan I would never discourage anyone from purchasing them!).  Some keys to shopping smart at the Co-op are:

  • Check out our Co-op Advantage sale flyer each month to see what is on sale and create your meals from this.  You can stock up on your favorites (remember, if you are a member, you can special order cases of these items at a discount!) and try items new to you.  You can pick it up in the store or find it on our website using the link.
  • Join the Co-op!  It is only $3 a month (until you reach $90 – then you are paid in full) and $5 in Dues every year.  If you feel you can’t afford to join, check out our Member Seed Fund – we’ll set you up with three months of membership equity payments to get you started.  When you join, you will get weekly special sale pricing, the ability to special order, eligibility for a patronage refund, and periodic savings coupons.
  • Weekly Member-Only deals – we try to pick popular items and broker a better price with our distributors.  Stock up on these items when they go on sale.  You can find the deals at http://www.communityfood.coop/store/sales.html.
  • Shop the bulk aisle – we have more bulk products than you can shake a stick at!  You can find just about any grain, flour, nut, seed, sweetener and spice in bulk at the Co-op, as well as all kinds of mixes, sweets and even freshly ground peanut and almond butter!  Our bulk department gets a lot of attention, so the products are always fresh.
  • Utilize the Meal of the Month recipe – that’s a meal for four for about $10.  Find more information at the Service Desk or at http://www.communityfood.coop/resources/Resource%20recipes.html.
  • Use the Coupon Exchange box in both stores.  Downtown the box is at the member kiosk in the front of the store, and at Cordata it is on top of the library return box.  You can leave coupons you won’t use, and pick up ones that you will!
  • Plan out your meals – shopping with a list (only 20% of shoppers actually use one) keeps you on track.
  • Include the money you spend eating out in your food budget – you might be surprised how much you actually spend on non-grocery food items during the week.  Try to make meals at home 6 days a week (and pack a lunch of leftovers, it’s so much tastier!).
  • Learn to cook!  We offer many cooking classes, and you can always ask us for recipe help.  Cooking gives you greater control over your health and makes every meal customized to your personal tastes.
  • Try to make at least one meal a week out of items you already have in your kitchen.  If you are cooking regularly, then it should be no problem putting together a tasty meal with ingredients you already have in your pantry and/or freezer.
  • Special order items that you regularly use.  Members can special order for a discount off the shelf price (it is different in each department), so stock up on pantry items and you will always have your favorites around.  It may cost more initially to order the case, but it will save you time and money in the long run.
  • The less obvious reason to shop Co-op, but one of the most important: by shopping at a Co-op, more of your dollar stays local.  If you spend $10 at the Co-op, upwards of $8 of that stays in our community.  If you spend $10 at any other grocery store, then only $2-$3 stays in our community.  Shopping local keeps your money local, and helps everyone prosper.

So go co-op!  Your body and community will thank you!