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Creating the Perfect Cheese Plate | 11.29.2012
If there’s one plate of food that says “party,” it’s the cheese platter. Enticing and satisfying enough to carry a celebration on its own, the cheese plate is also the perfect attraction for introducing guests to one another before the main course.
Putting together a spectacular cheese platter is easier than you might think. Here are a few tips:
The Cheese Platter
- Serve cheese at room temperature. The cold from the refrigerator inhibits its flavor, so take your cheese out half an hour before guests arrive to allow it to “bloom.”
- Provide a serving utensil for each variety of cheese on your tray.
- Serve a selection of three to five contrasting cheeses. Think different tastes, colors, and textures, like mild with robust (like Brie with blue cheese), fresh with aged (like Boursin with aged Gruyere), or soft with hard cheeses (like chevre with Parmesan).
- Create a themed tray by offering cheeses from one region or source, or showcase an array of cheeses made from different milks (cow, goat, sheep).
Whether you serve them individually or on the same platter, some foods are perfect complements to cheese. These include:
- Fresh and dried fruits
- Crostini, flatbread, and other crackers
- Hearty and crusty breads
To create an antipasto platter, include a mix of marinated vegetables and cured meats.
Wine and Beer Cheese Pairings
In general, a wine that comes from the same geographic area as the cheese will be a good match. Here are some other pairings:
- Goat cheeses and dry red wines
- Cheddars with sweet wines and pale and brown ales
- Fresh, medium, and hard cheeses with crisp, fruity red or white wine
- Cheeses with bloomy rinds (like Brie) and fruity red wines or light, dry champagnes
- Swiss cheeses with dark lagers, bocks, and Oktoberfest beers
- Feta and wheat beers
- Sweet cheeses with fruity beers
Check out the cheese offerings—especially any local cheeses—at the co-op. And if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the array of choices, just ask the staff for recommendations (including wine pairings). Then just sit back and wait for the doorbell to ring—your celebration will be off to a flavorful start!
Reprinted by permission from StrongerTogether.coop. Find articles about your food and where it comes from, recipes and a whole lot more at www.strongertogether.coop.
Holiday Meal Makeover | 11.16.2012
A celebratory dinner should be exactly that: a time to share delicious food with family and friends. While many people wish to serve traditional family favorites, for most, there’s still plenty of room to liven up your holidays with a few new flavors, local foods, and even nutritional boosters. Here are some ideas for making your holiday meals fresh, easy, and fun.
- Consider a slightly new twist on the centerpiece of many a holiday meal, the turkey, by choosing a local, heritage breed, and/or smoked turkey (these are very popular items at many co-ops). Heritage breeds are typically moister and more flavorful than commercial turkeys. For more information on heritage breeds and general turkey tips, check out this turkey tutorial.
- Give that classic green bean casserole a makeover with fresh green beans, a spritz of lemon, and a topping of toasted pine nuts. Boost the cranberry sauce with a handful of fresh or dried fruit and a dash of cayenne. Use brown rice or quinoa as the basis for your turkey-day stuffing this year, and toss in some walnuts and chopped local apples.
- Instantly transform the typical fare with seasonings: spice your eggnog with cardamom instead of (or as well as) cinnamon this year, and sprinkle tarragon on plain mashed potatoes. Or add some festive flavors to an otherwise ordinary recipe, like these Eggnog Spiced Sugar Cookies.
- Make gravy like Grandma (or your favorite cooking show chef) if you like, but don’t feel obligated! There are some top-notch, healthful cooking mixes available that are especially helpful this time of year. You’ll find delicious, organic gravy mixes, dessert mixes, and seasoning blends for salad dressings and dips at your co-op.
- Bring the unexpected to the table by adding an entirely new recipe or two to this year’s menu. Sweet Potato, Red Onion & Fontina Tart or a Winter Squash Risotto are two great options that use seasonal vegetables in new combinations. Focus on just one or two “special” dishes to complement your main course—especially if you’re serving appetizers, a couple delicious sides are all you really need and will allow you to spend more time with your guests.
- Great dishes needn’t be complicated made-from-scratch recipes, either. Purchase some strikingly flavorful, easy-to-prepare foods to serve alongside the usual. A plate of Brie with Orange Preserves and Almonds would be a memorable addition to any menu.
- Unless you adore kitchen duty, never refuse a guest’s offer to bring food — and remember you can count on your grocery store for prepared foods, too. Visit the bakery department for lovely desserts (you may want to order pies, cheesecakes, and other specific favorites ahead of time). While you’re there, choose some cranberry date scones or pumpkin pecan muffins to treat family and/or guests to special breakfast fare. You may even consider picking up a couple of extra quick breads to give as gifts!
- If you’ll be hosting guests for more than just the main meal, look to the deli for speedy main course items and sides (like lasagna, smoked salmon, wheatberry salad, golden beet and kale salad, or roasted root vegetables).
- Don’t forget to stock up on some local wine and beer, too. Pair a good beverage with an array of cheeses or cookies for an instant party when unexpected guests arrive!
It takes just a little planning and a good source for great food to pull off a wonderful holiday meal — something full of tradition, genuine nourishment, and good will.
Posted by permission from StrongerTogether.coop. Find articles about your food and where it comes from, recipes and a whole lot more at www.strongertogether.coop.
Values in Action Everyday | 11.08.2012
We are proud to be part of a movement that proves respecting people is good for business. Millions of consumers around the globe have joined cooperatives for many reasons, including finding that they fill a need for housing, electricity, food, insurance and financial services…the list is endless. What attracts people to cooperation is that their co-ops operate on their behalf with honesty, fairness and transparency—they are based on values not unlike those people aspire to for themselves: self-responsibility, democracy, equality, and social responsibility (www.ica.coop). In the United States, 30,000 co-ops provide two million jobs, and one of every four people is a member of a cooperative.
These values connect us. Co-ops foster real relationships with their customers by providing service rooted in community. It’s all about trust. For example, at Just Food in Northfield, Minn. they actively support and seek out local farmers such as L & R Poultry and Produce (see more about them in the Celebrity Farmers video), wherein they have a handshake agreement to buy their products each season. The farmers know that the co-op will keep its word, and Just Food shoppers can expect the highest-quality food grown with integrity. At food co-ops, it’s not uncommon for customers to know the real people who stand behind the products available.
Cooperative values also transcend co-op size. It doesn’t matter whether your cooperative is so large that it employs thousands of people, or so small you can fit everyone involved in a single room; co-op values remain the same.
The outdoor adventure retailer REI (Recreational Equipment, Inc.) is the largest consumer co-op inAmericawith 4.4 million members. Their size allows them to act on their ideals in places all across the country. This has a big impact. In addition to adhering to the stated co-op values, they also take them one step further by actively protecting the environment. That’s what co-ops do. They strive to go above and beyond to do what’s right. At REI, how they operate their stores, the products they carry, and the millions of dollars they have donated to safeguard forests, lakes and prairies, have the end goal of preserving natural spaces and keeping the earth a better place for everyone.
The food co-ops that make up the National Cooperative Grocers Association (the organization behind this site) have over 1.3 million members across a “virtual chain” of over 120 retail food co-ops nationwide. Collectively, food co-ops have a strong social and economic impact. They work with an average of 157 local farmers and producers (compared with 65 for conventional grocers). They contribute to the community with high levels of charitable giving, an average of 13% (compared to 4% for conventional grocers). Plus food co-ops generate more money for their local economy—1.5 times more than conventional grocers. Find more info on how food co-ops do things differently and the impact they have in our Healthy Foods Healthy Communities post.
Co-ops demonstrate their commitment to ethics by extending them in an ever widening circle. When a co-op makes a profit, you can be assured it was gained through fair business practices, and in most cases, any surplus is reinvested in the co-op or shared equitably among member-owners.
Some of those co-op value circles start very small and grow into greater influence, changing lives in the process. Four years ago in Whatcom County in Washington state, four women got together to start the Circle of Life Caregiver Co-op. Theirs is a worker-owned health care co-op dedicated to excellent home care for the elderly and disabled. In an industry rife with low-pay and apathy towards clients, Circle of Life offers a refreshing alternative, where self-help provides everyone with more options.
We know none of the great things co-ops accomplish would be possible without the people worldwide who use co-ops to meet their needs. This year, co-ops are celebrating with us the United Nations declaration of 2012 as the International Year of Cooperatives. We are thrilled by the international recognition of co-ops’ fundamental values: that making people and communities our top priority is good business.