Archives for July 2012

  • How to Keep Your Fruits & Veggies Fresh | 07.30.2012

    I’ll admit I’m one to go a little crazy in the produce department and farmers’ markets.  Especially this time of year, I’m enticed by the colors and freshness of all the local produce and end up with a little extra in my Market bag.  I’ll find a way to work in that kohlrabi that just came in from Tom Kress or Danly Farms!

    Alicia with Co-op kid Carmen playing on the produce wagon

    And my fridge looks beautiful!  For a while.  My plans to cook delicious meals all week long fade (as do my veggies!) when more summer outings with friends present themselves – events in Downtown Billings, baseball games, concerts – summer fills up fast!

    So I was excited to stumble across this handy guide, “How-To: Store Fruits and Vegetables”, from the Ecology Center’s Berkeley Farmers’ Markets to keep my produce fresh a little bit longer, or at least until I can make time to cook them.  The guide lists how best to store 60 popular fruits and vegetables – without using plastic.

    A few tips from the guide:

    Apples (I’m anticipating the delicious varieties from Ross Orchards in Fromberg) – Store on a cool counter or shelf for up to two weeks.  For longer storage, they can be kept in a cardboard box in the fridge.

    Stonefruit (apricots, nectaries, peaches, plums) – Store on a cool counter at room temperature.  Only refrigerate when fully ripe!

    Berries – Keep them dry (wash only before eating) and don’t stack too many high when storing.  They’re very fragile.

    Greens – Most greens should be kept slightly damp (not wet or they’ll rot faster) in an airtight container.  The hardier greens, such as collards, chard, and kale, can be placed in a cup of water on the counter or fridge.  Yes, please – I’ll put an edible bouquet on my kitchen table.

    Tomatoes – Shouldn’t be refrigerated.  Keep them on the counter until ready to eat.

     

    Who you store the veggies with makes a difference in their longevity, too.  Check out this guide from the Vegetarian Times to find out which fruits and veggies should and shouldn’t be neighbors.

    Would you use plastic to store your fruits and veggies?  Is there another type of container you use for produce storage?  If you have any other tips, let me know!

    Alicia Reyer, GEM staff member, can be found either dancing or at the Market, usually with a cup of tea on her desk.


  • Protecting Your Skin | 07.24.2012

    Alba Suncare products are ON SALE for $6.99 through July 31. Regular price $9.99.

    Summer poses great challenges with managing our skin care. We love the warm sun and how comforting it feels on our skin. We feel the freedom of unencumbered movement due to less clothing or, at the least, lighter weight clothing. The smell of fresh air seduces us out from behind our walls of our homes or places of work.  Oh, it feels so good to be free!

    How do we enjoy the sun, which is natural and integral to the function of life, yet protect ourselves from its dangerous and life-threatening rays? The first way to protect ourselves is to be well informed of the types of ultraviolet rays and how they affect our skin.  The second way is to educate ourselves on what the SPF ratings really mean. The third way is to know what ingredients are most effective.

    Understanding the UV Rays
    UVA = Aging, UVB = Burning and cancer.   We know there are two main ultraviolet rays that we need to be aware of. They are the UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays have less energy, but penetrate deeper into the skin, causing damage to the connective tissue and creating aging, sun spots, hyper pigmentation, wrinkles, and leathery skin. UVA is always emitting, even on cloudy days. These rays increase the risk of skin cancer.

    Susan out for a ride. Pay attention to exposed areas!

    UVB rays are damaging, but only on the surface. Don’t let that fool you. UVB rays are the burning, redness, sunburn, blistering, and dryness that often causes skin cancer. They are strongest during the mid-day and are able to reflect off of water and snow.

    What’s SPF?
    SPF ratings can be confusing and are relevant only to the UVB rays. SPF is a measure of how sunscreen works against UVB rays. We are prone to think that the higher a reading is, the more protection there is. In reality, the higher rating diminishes in effectiveness. The difference between SPF levels gets small as the numbers go higher. For instance, the difference between 15 and 30 is bigger than between 30 and 45, therefore, using an SPF of 45 is not much more effective than SPF 30.

    Which ingredients should you look for?

    • Look for sun protection that includes zinc oxide. Zinc Oxide is a physical block and is the most effective. Titanium Dioxide, is also a physical block but less effective than zinc oxide, and Avobenzone is a chemical screen. Both Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide are the most important to have in the list.
    • Look for the words “Broad Spectrum”. A Broad Spectrum will protect from both the UVA and UVB rays.

    Local suncare products are healthy for your skin.

    The best way to apply sunblock is very liberal. Some doctors say to be a “grease monkey”. Reapply every two hours and, if you are in the water, apply every hour. Wearing a hat and other protective clothing is advised.  And don’t forget the little areas, such as, ears, back of neck, tops of feet, and scalp.

    That area of skin that didn’t get covered? Add the back of hands to the list of little areas. Ouch!

    Susan Reddig, B.S., L.E., is a licensed esthetician and owner of Clinical Skincare Solutions. located at 2900 12th Avenue North.


  • Discover Local Foods | 07.19.2012

    It has become vital to our health in recent years to find safe, healthy foods, especially in light of modern industrial diets and recent food scares.  Buying fresh local food is the easiest way to know where your food comes from and to avoid eating processed food loaded with added sugar, fat and preservatives.  Locally grown food also tastes better because it’s fresher – local producers can grow better-tasting varieties of fruits and vegetables that don’t need to hold up to long-distance shipping.  The case for eating locally grown food is strong, but how do you make it happen?

    Start small.
    Sticking to a strict local diet can be intimidating, so think baby steps – start spending $10 a week on local foods, buying all your potatoes locally, or trying something new each week.  Starting small and phasing in gradually will help these changes become a part of your lifestyle.

    Be adventurous and flexible.
    Exploring new foods will increase your options of eating locally.  Ever tried Jerusalem artichokes, garlic scapes, or black beluga lentils?  All are grown here in our region and can lend variety to your meals.   Fruits and vegetables have specific growing seasons, so stay flexible with your menu planning and take advantage of these delectables while they’re in season.  For cooking tips, find a good cookbook, watch the GEM blog or ask local producers and co-op staff for advice.

    Shop your co-op and Yellowstone Valley Farmer’s Market.
    Food co-ops and farmer’s markets are committed to providing local foods to the community and building a sustainable regional food system.  Shopping these venues gives you an opportunity to purchase local foods and discover new ingredients, meet your local producers, and learn cooking tips and tricks.  Plus, a Saturday morning at the market, with its live music and bustling energy, can add even more enjoyment to your food experience.  At GEM, local products are easy to find by looking for the yellow tags around the store and perusing our free Local Producer Map to see at a glance which products are available.

    Because you value your health, it’s also important to source local foods raised organically or sustainably as they have higher nutritional value and are grown without toxins.  Eating locally doesn’t have to be overwhelming or tough on your pocketbook, but with a few small changes, you’ll be on your way to healthier eating and enjoying Montana’s bounty!


  • General Manager’s Comments: The Co-op/Corporate Difference | 07.06.2012

    by Perry McNeese, GEM’s General Manager

    Photo by James Woodcock

    Working with Alicia, GEM’s Marketing Manager, to promote the International Year of the Co-op caused me to stop and think about what it means to be a part of a Cooperative and how it differs for me as a manager.  The difference hit me immediately as I stepped in the General Manager’s position 5 years ago.  I have always believed in strong customer service, but as a Co-op manager I realize that my customer is now the owner!  Yes, the boss, CEO, and share holder all rolled up into one, the shopper!  Therefore fulfilling your needs is not only important, it is a critical part of my performance standing.  If you aren’t happy, I am not doing my job.

    That cuts to what I see as the purpose of a Co-op.  For me, the Co-op’s purpose is to service its owners/members with goods and services that match their reasons for buying into the Co-op in the first place.  Additionally, as this primary objective is met, the management and staff must conduct business in a way that keeps the entity viable and growing in both sales and membership. Thus, our first strategic objective, “Strengthen the Co-op”.  That differs from my conventional corporate experience.  Primary objectives were typically tied to market share, return on investment or share price.  It is much more rewarding to please customers than it is to please Wall Street.

    Our second strategic objective, “Make GEM a Great Place to Work” is also much different from my corporate experience.  As I budget and manage expenses, I am charged with pleasing the employees too?  Oops!  Don’t forget they are all member-owners as well.  So rather than seeing where I can cut labor expense, I am looking at where I can improve rewards and work environment.  As examples, we have added health insurance benefit for full-time employees and employees get 10 to 20 percent discounts.  This is a first for me.  We close major holidays so they can have the day off with their families.  We optimize the use of full-time employees rather than keep them to a minimum.   This job is the very first time I have built wage scales considering the “Living Wage” model and it is rewarding.

    The differences between a Co-op and a corporation continue as one looks at our third objective, “Build the Local Sustainable Foods Economy”.  What!?  I/we have to be concerned about something other than our own growth?  Yep!  We must endeavor to help local producers sell their goods so they too can grow.  By contrast, I used to be trained to see how much I could get from a supplier.  Now I am building relationships and trying to find ways to market more of their produce and meats.  Its fun because my boss, you, also want to have access to more and more local!

    I take pride in another Co-op difference.  This is the first time in my 40 year grocery career that I have worked in an Energy Star facility; our 4th strategic objective is to “Build Environmental Sustainability into the Facility”.  With the improvements that have been made to the building, GEM is now in the 96th percentile for supermarkets around the country.  Ah!  What?  Many of the energy improvements were completed by working members and what a difference it makes.  Yes, our customers, being owners, really do want to see the Co-op succeed and step up to help us in numerous ways from construction to laundry to maintenance projects.  Some members even donate money so we can have a nice patio and, most recently, a new bike rack.

    While I am on strategic objectives, just as well mention the 5th strategic objective, which is to “Increase Community Engagement, Outreach and Education”.  Again, something new to me.  Free workshopsNewsletters that educate rather than sell?  Providing Farmer’s Market space free to producers to sell their goods?

    Seems like everyday I run across a decision that is motivated by what is right verses what is profitable.  Not that being profitable is a bad thing, it just needs to be a means to an end rather than what drives everything.  I have to tell you it makes a guy want to come to work every morning.  I want to thank you for not only reading through my article, but for being the center of what makes GEM a great place in so many ways.  I look forward to continuing to serve you.  The reward is your support!

     


  • A Healthier “Pasta” Salad | 07.03.2012

    Trying to eat healthy over Fourth of July celebrations?  Keep it simple!  It can be as easy as looking at your favorite picnic foods and making a few simple changes.

    Take the iconic pasta salad.  Through processing, white wheat pasta loses some of the nutritional qualities!  Substituting the pasta in your favorite pasta salad recipe with a grain in its whole form will provide a broader range of nutrition.

    Cooking methods are similar to your pasta salads!  Cook the grain and cool (see below for details).  Add your favorite local, seasonal vegetables and a little cheese (feta works well), then add dressing, a little garlic powder, salt and pepper.  Get creative!  If you’re making your own dressing, combining the vinegar and herbs with the salad first, and then adding the olive or flax oil at the end, will enhance the flavor absorption.

    Here are a few grains to try:

    Quinoa
    An ancient, gluten-free grain cultivated in South America, quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) is considered a complete protein, containing all the essential amino acids in a nearly perfect balance, and has a nutty flavor.  It is easily digested and provides a good source of iron, magnesium, calcium, vitamin A and vitamin E.
    To cook, use 2 cups of water per cup of quinoa.  Combine quinoa and water in a pot, bring to a boil, then lower the heat to medium, cover, and cook for 15 minutes.

    Short Grain Brown Rice
    A popular grain used in much ethnic cooking, rice is a good source of fiber, vitamin E and trace minerals.  Using a cooking method similar to pasta will decrease the soft, sticky qualities, making it more suitable to a salad.
    To cook, bowl 5 cups of water.  Lower heat and add brown rice.  Cover and simmer for 50 minutes or until tender.

    Farro
    An unhybridized and ancient type of wheat cultivated in Europe and North Africa and said to be the grain that fueled the Roman legions.  Today it is cultivated especially in Tuscany and other areas of Italy.  It has a chewy texture and depth of flavor, is similar in looks to a short-grain brown rice and is rich in fiber, magnesium, vitamin A & E, and B vitamins.
    To cook, combine 3 cups of water per cup of farro and combine in a pot.  Bring to boil, then lower heat, cover, and simmer until tender, about 2-3 hours.  To speed up cooking process, soak farro in water for 6 to 12 hours, then simmer for 50 to 60 minutes.  For pearled farro, soaking is not necessary.  Simmer for 30 minutes or less, using 2 cups of water per cup of farro.

     

    Pesto Farro Salad 

    Serves 4

    Ingredients:
    • 1.5 cups farro (Timeless Seeds, Inc., Conrad, MT)
    • 3 cups water
    • 1 tsp salt
    • 2-3 cups fresh basil leaves (Yellowstone Valley Farms, Laurel, MT)
    • 1-2 cloves garlic
    • ¼ cup pine nuts or walnuts
    • ¼ cup parmesan cheese, grated
    • ¼ cup olive oil
    • ½ tsp. salt
    • 1.5 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
    • 1.5 cups grape tomatoes, halved (Negaard Greenhouse, Grass Range, MT)

    Method:
    1. Cook rice in salted water until done. Cool.
    2. Prepare pesto. Chop garlic and nuts in food processor until fine.  Add basil and process while slowly adding olive oil. Blend in parmesan cheese.
    3. Combine rice, pesto, tomatoes, and balsamic vinegar. Salt and pepper to taste.
    Add more olive oil if necessary.