Thursday, January 29, 2009

Making Your Food Dollars Go Farther... without compromising your health

This week, we're beginning a series of healthy, good-tasting, easy, and inexpensive recipes that use ingredients that you can find at Mountain People's Co-op; many use ingredients that are grown or produced within our local region.

These recipes have been trial-run by Co-op member Julie Z. and taste-tested by her family of 4. Julie has gone a step farther and calculated the cost of each recipe, whole and per-serving, when the ingredients are purchased at the Co-op.


Baked Tofu
2 Tablespoons soy sauce (or tamari or shoyu)
1 minced clove garlic or 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger (optional)
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 16-oz. package drained tofu, firm or extra firm
(use WV-made Spring Creek tofu for a local flavor!)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil.

2. Drain water from tofu. Wrap tofu in paper towels. Let set for about 5 minutes.

3. While tofu is draining, combine soy sauce, garlic, ginger and vegetable oil in a small bowl.

4. Slice tofu into 1/2 inch thick slices. Place tofu slices on foil lined baking sheet.

5. Pour soy sauce mixture over tofu. Using a spatula or pancake turner, gently turn slices over to coat both sides with sauce.

6. Bake tofu for 15 minutes. Turn slices over and bake for another 15 minutes. Tofu should be light golden brown and firm. Serve hot in place of meat or cut into slices or cubes and add to a stir-fry, fried rice, soup or salad.

Per Recipe: $ 2.13
Per Serving: $ 0.53

"I made this last week and it was quite yummy!"
-Julie Z., frugal mom

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Product Reviews: Tres Rios Chips, Yoder's Salsa, Moldzyme

I just tried the Tres Rios Blue Corn Chips from the Co-op. These chips are made from organic blue corn by Reyna Foods in Pittsburgh. They are on the shelf right behind the register. They are fantastic! They are super thin and therefore super crisp. They have just the right amount of salt on them--not too much, not too little. At $2.25/bag, EVERYONE who loves chips should give them a try. Be careful though, you might end up being addicted. Good thing we can get stuff by the case!

I also bought a jar of Yoder's Country Kettle medium salsa. I had this salsa at a class at the Co-op and really liked it. The unique thing about this salsa (besides it being fairly local--yay!) is its sweetness. I would not have labeled it medium. To me, a heat lover, it is merely mild. Even so, it has such a great flavor I'd buy it anyway. My kids all liked this salsa which is a coup in itself. It is great with the Tres Rios chips.

-Diane, Co-op member, mom, creative spirit

I wanted to get away from the harmful chemicals used to make vinyl, so when our old shower curtain became brittle and torn, I replaced it with a curtain made from hemp. Hemp is a sturdy fiber with natural anti-mildew properties, and, I admit it, I pushed it to its limits and pretty much abused it. After every shower, it dried out slowly in my humid, poorly-ventilated bathroom, and after several months of this treatment, it started to develop a mildew odor. I washed it with laundry detergent. No good. Washing soda. No help. Vinegar. Borax. Essential oils. None of the natural odor remedies I tried totally got rid of the pervasive mildew stink. Then one day, I saw Moldzyme natural mold and mildew remover at the Co-op, and I thought, why not give this a try before I resort to toxic chemicals or buying a new shower curtain? Moldzyme is made from water, coconut-based surfactants, naturally derived citric acid, and naturally occurring enzymes.

I sprayed my shower curtain generously with Moldzyme, and I was impressed with how quickly the mildew odor actually disappeared. Then I tried Moldzyme on a spot of mold on the wall by the kitchen sink. I had already scrubbed this spot with a natural kitchen cleaner, and it didn't do much, but after I let the Moldzyme sit on it for a few minutes, it wiped away with no problem.

To be honest with you, Moldzyme is a very effective product, but it isn't a miracle cure for every mold problem. The caulk around my kitchen sink is stained black from mold. I know I should just dig the old caulk out and put new in, but I would rather avoid that job if I can. So I sprayed the caulk with Moldzyme, waited, and scrubbed gently for about 30 seconds. This decreased the darkness of the stain, but it didn't get rid of it completely. Same thing happened around the bathtub - the surface mold got lighter, but there was still that buried mold underneath the caulk. Still, it saved me from feeling like I needed to replace the caulk right away. And it didn't put anything toxic next to the kitchen sink and tub!-Chris, Co-op Member

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Closer to Home

Mountain People's Co-op is continually striving to bring you products that are healthy for you and for the planet. Part of this mission is offering products that are made locally, and if a local alternative is not available, regionally. Foods produced closer to home require fewer fossil fuels to transport, and they support the local and regional economy. This week, our blog is showcasing two new regionally-made granolas: Antioxidant Superfruit Granola and Gluten-Free Vanilla Crunch. The gluten free granola is particularly significant. Specialty products such as this are more difficult to find, and we used to source our gluten-free granola from California, over 2,500 miles away. Our new granola is from Massachusetts: not exactly next door, but less than one-quarter the distance that our previous granola had to travel. Here is a review of these two granolas by one of our Co-op taste-testers:

Gluten-Free Vanilla Crunch
This granola is super crunchy thanks to cornflakes and (brown) rice krispies. It makes it very un-granola-like which is a good thing. It's a nice other option to have around. The raisins add chewiness but they're not so numerous that they're overwhelming. Three kinds of seeds add protein--sesame, sunflower and pumpkin. There is a nice vanilla flavor to this granola. I kept refilling my bowl and I'm already looking forward to breakfast when I can have more. I really liked this cereal; can you tell?

Antioxidant Superfruit Granola
This granola was very dense, due no doubt, to lots of really healthy whole grains. The density of the granola necessitates lots of chewing. It reminds me of muesili. A number of varieties of berries (including the power house gogi berry) offer antioxidant benefits. However, there is not a strong berry flavor (like there is in my personal favorite Blueberry/Flax granola from Mountain People's). If I were to guess, I'd guess that this one is healthier. But if I were to buy, and I plan on it, I'd go with the gluten free!

- Diane T, Co-op member, mom, creative spirit

Thursday, January 08, 2009

After the holidays, many of us feel the need to return to a simpler lifestyle that is easier on the pocketbook as well as the body. The foods we eat are an important part of this transition. Mountain People's Co-op's Featured Recipe, Winter Hearth Soup (see recipe below), embodies many of these ideals:
  1. Buy fewer processed foods, and discover the joy and satisfaction of cooking from scratch.
  2. Take advantage of dried foods; they are less expensive and also use less fossil fuel to transport than their liquid counterparts. For example, the organic vegetarian chicken-style broth used in this recipe is the dried powder from the Co-op's bulk cooking ingredients section; the amount used in this recipe costs only $3.20. The equivalent amount of organic vegetarian chicken-style broth in aseptic packs would cost about $5. Similarly, cooking dried chickpeas in your slow-cooker is much less expensive than buying pre-cooked beans in cans.
  3. Save money by buying in bulk. During tough economic times, it isn't necessary to forgo the luxury of herbs and spices in our daily cooking. Buying herbs from the Co-op's bulk jars allows you to buy only as much as you want, and it's much less expensive than buying herbs and spices in jars. Typically, the cost of one of the Co-op's organic dried herbs or spices will be anywhere from 10% - 50% of what you will pay to buy the equivalent product in bottles in the grocery store!
Winter Hearth Soup features a new addition to the Co-op bulk bins: kamut (pronounced ka-moot). Kamut is an ancient relative of wheat. When cooked, it looks like a giant wheat berry, or according to some of our younger taste testers, like a "little canoe". Kamut has a sweet, nutty flavor that lends a heartiness to soups, stews, pilafs, and breads. Nutritionally, kamut contains more high quality protein, unsaturated fatty acid, and minerals than wheat; a 1-cup serving contains 22% of the RDA of protein but only 250 calories. Kamut is also an excellent source of selenium, a trace mineral that helps to protect the body against damage from free radicals. The Co-op now carries both kamut berries and kamut flour. Look for them in the bulk section of the Co-op.

Winter Hearth Soup Recipe
2 c. cooked garbanzo beans (chickpeas)*
3/4 c. kamut berries, rinsed
2 c. boiling water
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 c. chopped onion
1 c. chopped carrot
1/2 c. chopped celery
4 tsp. dried parsley
1 tsp. dried tarragon
1 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. turmeric
2 cloves garlic, minced
9 Tbsp. organic chicken-style broth powder
7 c. water
2 dried bay leaves
1/3 c. dried lentils, rinsed
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 scant Tbsp. light miso

Place kamut in a heat-safe bowl, cover it with boiling water, and let it stand for 30 minutes while you prepare the rest of the soup.

In a stock pot, saute the onion, carrot, and celery in the olive oil until the onion begins to soften (about 10 minutes). Add the parsley, tarragon, thyme, turmeric, and garlic, and cook for 2 more minutes, stirring often.

Combine the broth powder and water, then add to the stock pot along with the drained kamut and bay leaves. Simmer for 30 minutes.

Add the lentils and pepper, then simmer for 20 minutes or until the lentils are soft. Add chickpeas, simmer several minutes until heated through. Remove a small amount of broth from the pot, whisk in the miso to dissolve, and return it to the pot. Serves 5.

Two Co-op member households met for the evening and taste tested this recipe, along with a salad and fresh loaves of walnut wheat bread and seven-grain bleu from our local artisan bakery, New Day Bakery. We all enjoyed it - what a fabulous meal!
*In a pinch, you can use a 15-oz can of cooked chickpeas. My family prefers the taste (and I prefer the economy and no exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals in cans) of dried chickpeas, cooked in a slow cooker all day: 3 cups rinsed chickpeas + 5 cups water.