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Fall Foods for the Whole Family | 08.24.2014
Fall is back-to-school time as well as harvest time for a variety of super nutritious fruits and vegetables. Why not send your kids back to the classroom full of the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants their bodies will need to stay healthy as cold season sets in?
Squashes are among the cheapest and easiest fall fruits to prepare, and they pack a powerhouse of nutrients, including potassium, carotenoids, folate, and fiber. Best of all, they are both kid friendly and baby friendly, being a great food for infants.
To prepare squash, simply split any variety (acorn, butternut, pumpkin, spaghetti) down the middle with a large knife, scoop out the seeds, place the halves flesh-side down in a pan with ½-inch of water, and bake at 350 degree for 45-60 minutes. The squash is done when a knife sinks easily into the flesh. To serve, scoop out the flesh and add butter and cinnamon to taste.
A high-quality butter from pastured animals will add Vitamins A and K2 to your dish as well as a healthy dose of saturated fat. Wait a minute, did I use healthy and saturated fat in the same sentence? Yes! Research is chipping away at the myth that saturated fat is bad, when in fact both saturated fat and cholesterol are essential for growth and development. See westonaprice.org for a wealth of information on the benefits of fat and other nutrient-dense foods—or do a Google search for the recent spate of articles in the news!
Spaghetti squash can be a fun food for kids since it looks like, well, spaghetti! After baking, scrape out the flesh with a fork and serve with butter, salt, and pepper, or with a little pasta sauce and Parmesan cheese.
Fall is also harvest time for that universal symbol of education, the apple. Making homemade applesauce or apple butter can be a fun project for the whole family, and can spare your kids the high-fructose corn syrup and other sweeteners added to commercial products.
To make your own applesauce, simply cut apples into 1-inch chunks (no need to remove the skin—it has lots of nutrition!), sprinkle with cinnamon, and steam for about 10 minutes, or until the apples are soft. Place steamed chunks into a food processor and puree with a few squeezes of lemon juice. You can also add a tablespoon or two of virgin coconut oil for extra flavor and nutrition.
For apple butter, place 10-20 sliced apples in a slow cooker with an inch of water (again, no need to remove the skin). Sprinkle with a generous amount of allspice and cinnamon and cook on low for 8-10 hours, checking periodically to make sure there is enough water in the bottom of the cooker to prevent burning. Puree the apples with the remaining water using a stick blender (or transfer to a food processor), adding a tablespoon or two of vanilla extract as you blend. If it’s too thick, add small amounts of water until you achieve the right consistency.
Cori Hart is the local chapter leader for the Weston A. Price Foundation, committed to reintroducing nutrient-dense foods into the Standard American Diet. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Eat Seasonally: Sweet Potatoes | 11.20.2013
One of nature’s simple pleasures, the humble sweet potato brings healthy, wholesome sweetness to home-cooked meals. Sweet potatoes are nutty, smooth and full of beta carotene, vitamin C and fiber. Bake small sweet potatoes whole (like baking potatoes) and top with scallions, sour cream, crumbled bacon or sautéed mushrooms for a flavorful alternative to an old favorite; or try something new and add steamed, cubed sweet potato to a coconut milk-peanut curry over rice. For updated comfort food, try a Cuban-style pork stew with seared poblano chilies and chunks of rich sweet potato in place of, or in addition to, regular potato.
Go to www.strongertogether.coop for more tips and hints on using seasonal veggies.
Yam What I Am
Try this twist on a holiday staple. Spicy and tangy, this salad is ready-to-eat in our Deli Café!
Ready in 1 hour
- 3 lbs. garnet yams, peeled and cut into ½” to ¾” cubes
- 8 garlic cloves
- 1/3 c. olive oil
- 1 pinch dry chipotle pepper (or more to taste)
- 1/3 c. brown rice vinegar
- 1 c. pecans
- 3/4 c. dried cranberries
- 1 bunch green onions, diced
Preheat oven to 350 F. Combine cubed yams, garlic and olive oil in a roasting pan and bake until yams are soft, but not mushy (about 40 minutes). Drain and retain olive oil and garlic cloves. Combine garlic, olive oil, and chipotle peppers in food processor or blender and blend until well-mixed. Add garlic mixture and all other ingredients to yams and mix well.
We still have lots of local squash and pumpkins rolling in of all sizes, shapes and colors!
Healthy Homemade Snacks | 08.29.2013
Kids and adults need refueling — or to satisfy a food craving now and then — in the course of a day. Preparing healthy snacks ahead of time can help you and your family make easy, healthful choices when hunger strikes.
In fact, developing a repertoire of healthy snacks provides the opportunity for you to boost nutrition while satisfying hunger. If your preschooler ordinarily won’t touch fruit, for example, offering her a banana smoothie or apple slices with yogurt dip when she comes home from school famished might just convince her.
If your high schooler hasn’t gotten his share of calcium today, a yogurt parfait or some string cheese can be added to his tally during the course of the day.
Snacks for Energy
Keeping energy levels up requires frequent, healthful nourishment. Kids, in particular, need to eat often because they have smaller stomachs and quicker metabolisms than adults. For energy, choose snacks that are high in complex carbohydrates, like whole grains, and combine them with protein foods, like nut butters, cheese slices, and low-fat yogurt. Nuts are also good for a quick energy boost. Fruits, which are easily digestible, can provide energy in a flash, too.
Of course, there are times when energy isn’t what you’re looking for. Some snacks can actually help you sleep better. For bedtime snacks, choose those with healthful carbohydrates, such as fruits and whole grains, and calcium, such as milk or cheese. (Dairy is also a good choice because it contains tryptophan, an amino acid that’s thought to be sleep inducing.)
Avoid foods that are high in sugar, because these can cause blood sugar levels to fluctuate, making it harder to nod off and stay asleep. And a little protein is fine, but too much can interfere with sleeping because it takes longer than some foods for your body to digest. Good bedtime options include a whole grain cereal with milk, a glass of warm milk with fruit, and cheese and whole grain crackers.
Snacks also provide the perfect opportunity for exploring unfamiliar foods like fruits (pomegranate or persimmon, anyone?), nuts and nut butters (expand your horizons beyond peanut butter!) and cheese (that local Gruyere or Edam), for example.
Here are some ideas for snacks that deliver great flavor and nutrition:
* Air-popped popcorn: Sprinkle generously with nutritional yeast, Parmesan cheese, garlic powder, a natural Ranch dressing mix, or pop in coconut oil (a staff favorite!).
* Fruit kebabs: Include fruits like berries, melon, and pineapple. Serve with a dip, such as softened cream cheese sweetened with just a drizzle of honey and a drop of vanilla. Or slide on cheese slices (cut into fun shapes, like stars or hearts for young kids). Try rolling a banana in peanut butter and chopped nuts and freeze for a healthy popsicle!
* Dips: Kids and adults alike love to dip, so serve up some hummus or white bean dip alongside some fresh veggies or whole grain crackers.
* Quesadillas: Use whole grain tortillas to make quesadillas packed with cheese, beans, corn and tomatoes. Add cooked tempeh cubes or leftover cooked meat or poultry pieces, if you wish.
* Homemade cookies: Cookies are hard to resist and some are more nutritious than others, so think about choosing recipes that include more wholesome ingredients like oats, dried fruit, and nuts.
* Extra-ordinary nut butter and jelly sandwich: Transform the usual PB&J by using a variety of nut butters and fruit spreads (rather than high-sugar jellies). Use whole grain bread. Or simply serve a nut butter with fruit slices on rice cakes or whole grain crackers.
* Fortified fruit crisp: Make a fruit crisp (sweetened with just a little honey or maple syrup), topped with wheat germ or granola and a dollop of yogurt.
* Smoothie sensations: Use any combination of fruit, yogurt, milk, soymilk, and fruit juice to make instant snacks in your blender. Add protein by including a spoonful of peanut butter (especially good with banana, and vanilla yogurt!). Add extra heft and calcium by including some milk powder. Toss in a couple of ice cubes to make the drink frothy.
* Squirrel food: Make your own trail mix with an array of nuts and seeds, dried fruits and, if you like, whole grain cereal. Add a few chocolate or carob chips to for a sweet treat.
* Ice pops: Pour unsweetened fruit juice and/or leftover smoothies into molds or ice cube trays. Include fruit, like raspberries or blueberries, and yogurt for a dairy boost. You can even blend in a little peanut butter for protein.
* Perfect pitas: Make your own pita chips: Cut into triangles, brush with a little olive oil, sprinkle with a little something (like Italian seasoning, garlic powder, or nutritional yeast). Bake until lightly browned. Dip in hummus. Or stuff pita bread with scrambled eggs or tofu salad.
* Fruit pinwheels: Spread cream cheese or nut butter on soft, whole grain tortillas. Add fresh fruit slices (or dried fruit pieces), then roll and slice.
* Fruit and veggie muffins: Substitute applesauce for some or most of the sweetener in any muffin recipe. Banana can often be substituted for eggs and it’s easy to ‘smuggle in’ zucchini or carrots for a produce boost.
* Fruit leather: Cut very ripe fruit into pieces and puree in blender or food processor. Add honey or maple syrup to citrus fruits (no need to sweeten other fruits). Pour into a cookie sheet that’s lined with waxed paper. Spread to edges. Bake in a warm (140 degree) oven for about four hours.
* Mini sandwiches: Whether or not you serve tea (an herbal iced tea would be nice!), offer mini sandwiches because they’re special. Cut whole grain bread slices with a cookie cutter, top with hummus and a cherry tomato (or cream cheese and a cucumber slice), and serve open faced.
Find it at the Co-op: Watch our endcaps and Co+op Deals for savings on lunch items.
Save time at the Deli Café: If you need a lunch in a flash for you or your kids, our deli can quickly create a custom bagged lunch of sandwiches (see our kids’ sandwich menu!) or other healthy foods. Call ahead and we’ll have it ready for you!
Preserving Tips: Dehydration | 08.15.2013
No added ingredients necessary! Air circulation and heat—from the sun or a dehydrator—are all you need to dry many fruits and veggies for storage. The dehydrated product is easy to store, too.
Here are a few tips:
• You can make simple drying racks out of untreated wood and screen. The racks, which can be stacked, are designed to keep the food off the ground and allow air to circulate underneath.
• Placing cheesecloth on the screen under the produce will help absorb the moisture.
• When drying produce in the sun, also cover with cheesecloth to protect from insects and birds.
• You can purchase a dehydrator, which evaporates the moisture. These are made up of stackable trays that sit over a heating element. Stovetop dryers are also available. (While our ancestors would dry produce in the warming oven of a wood stove, using your oven isn’t an energy savvy method of dehydration, no matter how low the setting.)
• Don’t dry food in the microwave; the food will usually burn before it dries.
• To make fruit leather, dry thin sheets of fruit purée.
• Another simple dehydration method is to string and hang herbs, onions, and garlic.
• To dry veggies, blanch them first, then dry in the sun or a dehydrator.
• Store dried produce in an airtight container in a dark place.
For more information on dehydrating, check out the Yellowstone County Extension Service and download their preserving guides.
Dehydrating Vegetables (pdf)
Dehydrating Fruits (pdf)
NCGA Resources for YOU! | 07.25.2013
In the spring of 2011, we became a member of the National Cooperative Grocers Association (a.k.a NCGA). Your little Co-op is growing up! Joining NCGA has given us access to numerous resources, helping our Co-op remain competitive in the marketplace.
You’ve probably noticed many changes already: more competitive pricing, new Co+op Deals sales program, an overall step-up in our operations, the little Co+op Stronger Together logo that peeked its little head and has now become a store foundation. The staff is working very hard to use the resources and implement the programs that work for the uniqueness and individuality of our own cooperative.
But along with the resources that have improved your shopping experience in the store, NCGA has numerous resources developed specifically for you, the member-owner!
NCGA’s consumer website. Check it out! You’ll find a plethora of helpful articles – seasonal recipes, how-to’s on gardening and making smart food choices, how to cook just about anything. For you travelers, you can search co-ops anywhere in the nation to ensure you get to eat the tastiest, healthiest food while on vacation. Visit www.strongertogether.coop and “Like” Co+op Stronger Together on Facebook.
A brand new NCGA release – 55 how-to videos by co-op experts from around the country, with more on the way! When it comes to cooking at home, choosing the right ingredients and understanding basic kitchen skills can make the difference between a good meal and an amazing one. In the video series, Co+op Kitchen, you’ll find handy hints from chefs and food enthusiasts who love sharing their passion for great food, plus easy recipes for delicious homemade meals.
And, be sure to check out the FREE Co+op Kitchen iPad app for iOs6 on iTunes.
Co+op Deals Ads
Two flyers monthly! Not only do these ads feature the top sales at your Co-op (with big savings!), look inside for tips and information on your food and where it comes from. Check out each issue for information on seasonal produce, cheese, cooking tips; as well as recipes!
NCGA is providing more resources all the time in an effort to support and build local food and local communities. At the heart of the mission is taking care of the individual member-owner, that’s you!, and building the value around your food choices at the Co-op and the impact it has in our community.
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!
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.