Kabocha Squash (Japanese Pumpkin) Bread

This sweet bread is a great treat as the weather gets colder, with warm and comforting spices that are perfect for a fall day. Instead of using a regular American pumpkin, this loaf uses kabocha squash to make it moist and flavorful. Kabocha squash is also known as Japanese pumpkin, its flavor is somewhere between a pumpkin and a butternut squash and it’s texture is wonderful for baking. Enjoy this bread fresh out of the oven or toasted with some butter the next morning.

If kabocha isn’t in season when you make this recipe, you can substitute with pumpkin puree for a similar flavor. This recipe can also be made vegan very easily by using vegan butter and “flax eggs.” To make a flax egg, grind 1 T of flax seed with 3 T of water and set it in your refrigerator for 15 minutes before adding it in the place of eggs. I made a vegan version of this sweet bread for our Front End team meeting and it was a hit!

 

Ingredients:

2 Cups all purpose flour
½ Tsp salt
1 Tsp baking soda
½ Tsp baking powder
1 Tsp ground cloves
1 Tsp ground cinnamon
1 Tsp ground nutmeg
2 Cups brown sugar
2 eggs
⅔  Cup unsalted butter
2 Cups kabocha puree

 

To make kabocha puree:

Peel a small kabocha squash.
Cut the kabocha in half and scoop out it’s seeds, then chop it into large cubes.
In a large pot, add the kabocha cubes to boiling water. Boil for 20 minutes.
Remove the pot from heat. Using a colander, strain the kabocha from the boiling water.
Transfer the kabocha to a food processor or blender until it is smooth to form the puree.
Drain any excess water from the puree using a cheesecloth or a fine mesh strainer.
Set the puree aside until you are ready to bake.

 

To bake the bread:

Preheat your oven to 375℉
In a large bowl, combine your flour, spices, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Whisk them together and set it aside.
In a separate smaller bowl, add your butter and sugar. Cream them together by beating them with a whisk until combined.
Add your eggs to the sugar and butter mixture, beating until the mixture becomes fluffy.
Pour your kabocha puree into the mixture and beat it until the mixture is combined.
Add your dry ingredients and fold the wet and dry mixtures together until a thick batter is formed.
Transfer the batter to a 9″ x 5″ loaf pan.
Bake for one hour and 15 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Serve it warm and fresh out of the oven or the next morning toasted with a little bit of butter. Enjoy!

 

No-Bake Granola Bar Treats

These granola treats are my favorite snack to enjoy on a Saturday afternoon. With protein from peanut butter and sweetness from chocolate and honey, they’re filling and sure to satisfy.

This recipe calls for peanut butter, but any nut butter works perfectly in this recipe. Don’t hesitate to use whatever nut butter you have on hand, or what you like best. For those using chocolate in this recipe, make sure to add your chocolate after the granola has cooled slightly so it won’t melt. However, if you’d like the batch to be extra chocolaty, feel free to mix it in while the granola is still warm.

The base of this recipe serves as a blank canvas for all kinds of granola bar creations. I have a pretty persistent sweet tooth, so I enjoy making these with sweet additions like chocolate. You can add any kind of nuts, seeds or dried fruits you have on hand and omit the chocolate to make these bars even more nutritious.

Ingredients:

¾ cup peanut butter
½ cup honey
2 T sunflower oil (or any neutral-flavored oil)
1 Tsp vanilla extract
½ Tsp sea salt
2 ¼ cups old fashioned oats
¼ cup milk chocolate chips
¼ cup white chocolate chips

Variations:
½ cup chopped nuts
½ cup dried fruit
½ cup dried shaved coconut
½ cup pumpkin seeds
½ cup chia seeds

Instructions:

Line an 8x8inch pan baking pan with parchment paper. Set it aside.
In a saucepan over medium heat, add your peanut butter, oil and honey. Simmer it until it begins to bubble slightly, stirring occasionally. This may take 7 to 10 minutes.
Add your vanilla extract and salt. Stir the mixture to incorporate it and allow it to simmer for one more minute.
Add your oats and stir until combined, allowing the oats to fully absorb the mixture.
Place your granola to the refrigerator for 10 to 15 minutes, allowing it to cool slightly. Remove it and stir in the chocolate chips until fully incorporated.
Transfer the granola to your baking pan and press it into the pan. Packing the granola down firmly and evenly will help it keep its shape once prepared.
Allow the granola to chill in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 hours.
Once cooled, lift the granola out of the pan using the parchment paper. Cut them into your desired shape and enjoy!

Banana Yogurt Smoothie Bowl

This smoothie bowl is great for any breakfast, or even as a midnight snack. With added protein from greek yogurt and peanut butter, it’s sure to keep you full all morning while satisfying your sweet tooth.

This recipe serves as a base for a smoothie bowl. You can add your favorite toppings and come up with all kinds of great flavor combinations. If you have a peanut allergy, any type of nut butter works great in this smoothie bowl. For vegans or those with milk allergies, any type of thick vegan yogurt can be substituted in this recipe as well. Almond milk is added to ensure that the smoothie has enough liquid to blend properly, but you can substitute with any milk of your choice.

This recipe also makes great “nice cream,” a popular name for ice cream made with bananas. To make this recipe into nice cream, you can double or triple the ingredients and pour it into a loaf pan to place in your freezer to enjoy later.

 

Ingredients:

½ cup unsweetened greek yogurt
1 frozen banana
2 T peanut butter
¼ cup almond milk

Optional:
Granola
Chopped nuts
Sliced fruit
Seeds
Chopped coconut
Nut butter
Cereal
Chocolate
Honey

Instructions:

Add your almond milk, frozen banana, greek yogurt and peanut butter to a blender or food processor.

Blend until the mixture is smooth and fully incorporated.

Spoon into a bowl and top with your desired toppings. Enjoy!

 

Chilled Cucumber and Yogurt Soup

With the arrival of summer’s hot weather, you might be getting creative with different ways to cool off. Try out this chilled cucumber soup, made with greek yogurt. It’s a refreshing, creamy, tangy dish you can enjoy on a particularly warm afternoon or evening. Serve it as an appetizer or a palette cleanser along with your favorite grill fare – or, enjoy it on it’s own!

This recipe calls for greek yogurt. For vegans or those who are lactose intolerant, any type of unsweetened greek-style or thick yogurt will work great in this recipe.

 

Ingredients:

1 large cucumber
1 cup unsweetened greek yogurt
1 shallot
1 clove garlic
1 T fresh or dried dill weed
1 T lime juice
½ tsp salt or to taste

 

Optional garnishes:

A sprinkle of dill weed
A dollop of yogurt
Thinly sliced cucumbers

 

Instructions:

Dice your shallot and garlic clove. Set them aside.

Peel your cumber and remove the seeds. Chop into medium-sized chunks and set aside.

In a blender or food processor, add the diced shallots and garlic. Add your cucumber, greek yogurt, dill weed, lime juice and salt.

Blend the soup until it is smooth.

Transfer the soup into the fridge, in an airtight container and allow it to cool for 30 minute to an hour. Serve and enjoy!

2-Ingredient Chocolate Truffles

This recipe comes from one of our front-end team members, Delaney. She loves creating affordable, plant-based meals for herself and is excited to share her creations for you to enjoy!

If you have a craving for rich chocolate, this is a must-try recipe. You only need 2 ingredients, your microwave and one bowl. No mess, no fuss and lots of yummy chocolate truffles. You can even customize them and coat them with whatever toppings you’d like. I used some sprinkles I had in my cabinet, along with some powdered sugar and cocoa powder to coat these. I’ve put some suggestions for coatings along with the recipe, but feel free to get creative with them!

This recipe calls for coconut cream, but heavy cream also works to make the chocolate ganache base for these truffles. I recommend using chocolate that’s between semi-sweet or 70% dark to achieve the right texture and firmness for these truffles. You can store them in the refrigerator in an airtight container if you want to save some for later. They’ll stay fresh for 1 week, or up to 2 months if stored in the freezer.

Ingredients:

¼ cup of coconut cream (find it on the baking aisle)
1 cup of semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips
½ Tsp vanilla extract (optional)

Extras for Coating:
Cocoa Powder
Sprinkles
Powdered Sugar
Cinnamon Sugar
Chopped Nuts

Directions:

Scoop the coconut cream into a microwave safe bowl. Microwave the coconut cream on high for 1 to 2 minutes, or until it begins to boil. This will depend on the strength of your microwave, so keep an eye on your cream and adjust the time as needed.
Remove the bowl from the microwave and pour chocolate chips into the cream. Do not stir. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel for 5 minutes. This will allow the chocolate to melt and easily incorporate into the cream.
After 5 minutes, stir until the chocolate is incorporated with the cream and no chocolate lumps are visible.
Allow the ganache to chill in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 hours. Don’t cover the ganache while it’s warm, as covering it will form condensation that can cause it to split.
Once chilled, use a small scoop or a spoon to roll the ganache into balls.
Coat the balls in your desired toppings or enjoy them plain!

Meating the Needs of Our Community

During April and May, many meat processing plants in the United States temporarily closed or slowed their processing speeds due to COVID-19. This caused concerns that we could experience a nationwide meat shortage, impacting how we feed our families.

These closures and delays have shed light on issues in the commercial meat supply chain, as many farmers can’t get their products to consumers despite steady demand for meat. We spoke with our local vendors, Polyface Farm and T&E Meats, about how they’re serving their customers during this time, as well as how the locally-based supply chain gives them an advantage over large-scale agribusiness.

 

In a telephone interview, Daniel Salatin of Polyface Farm in Swoope, VA, discussed how the farm has changed operations to meet customers needs. “We used to have a 30/30/30 model before the outbreak. That was split between restaurants, retail from our farm or grocery stores, and our neighborhood drops.” Mr. Salatin told us that at the beginning of the pandemic, Polyface Farm was concerned about losing business, as many restaurants began cancelling large orders. “Then, everything else went crazy,” he said, “Retailers and grocers like the Friendly City Food Co-Op, our online and on-farm sales went through the roof.” Mr. Salatin told us that these changes didn’t present many problems to Polyface’s ability to provide meat to their customers, other than trying to meet the drastic increase in demand.

 

Mr. Salatin explained that being a locally-oriented farm gave them freedom to change direction when they needed to. “Because our supply chain is small and local, it’s flexible,” he stated. “The commercial meat supply chain is like an aircraft carrier. When you load it up and it takes off, it’s going to take awhile to reroute it. The commercial food industry is built around packaging huge amounts of food for public spaces like restaurants and cafeterias, but now people are eating in very different places. Our local supply chain is like a kayak. We can change course easily without so much resistance.”

 

This statement from Mr. Salatin brought our attention to an issue in the commercial meat supply chain which has caused supply shortages in the previous months. The equipment used to process livestock in commercial meat processing plants is very specialized. This machinery is designed to package products in a specific way, often in packages holding large amounts of meat. These quantities are meant to be sold to restaurants, commercial cafeterias and other foodservice industries that need lots of product to stock kitchens and feed large amounts of people. With many Americans staying at home, demand for these industrial quantities of meat has almost disappeared. However, demand for smaller amounts of meat, such as those found in grocery stores, has skyrocketed. Many of these plants weren’t designed to package smaller quantities of meat and can’t convert their processing lines to package it. This means they can’t get meat to market in amounts people and families want to buy.

 

Mr. Salatin told us that Polyface Farm sends its animals to T&E Meats, a local processing facility in Harrisonburg, VA. He stated that T&E Meats has been able to process and package their meat at quantities they need in order to sell to grocers and families in the Valley. Joel Salatin, a co-owner of Polyface Farm, has had a business relationship with T&E Meats since 2008, when he and Joe Cloud purchased the processing facility from it’s previous owners.

 

We spoke with Joe Cloud of T&E Meats through email to find out more about how they’re adapting to meet the needs of they’re customers. His customers are local farmers, who send their animals to T&E Meats for processing. Mr. Cloud also discussed the issue of specialized packaging in commercial plants and compared his business to theirs. “We have a number of packaging options, which give us flexibility for either retail or wholesale type of sales,” Mr. Cloud wrote. He told us that as a small-scale processor, T&E Meats doesn’t use the type of expensive equipment found in most commercial processing plants. “As a small local meat processor, we can not afford those types of investments, but in fact still do most of our work by hand, including putting individual cuts of meat into packages by hand.”

Mr. Cloud explained that because T&E Meats processes products by hand, they’re able to be flexible when packaging products and aren’t forced to package specific quantities every time. This means they can adapt to the needs of their customers, such as Polyface Farm, to package products for grocery sales or to families through on-farm stores. Mr. Cloud told us that initially, T&E Meats experienced the same concerns about restaurant sales in the beginning of pandemic. “When the COVID initially hit Virginia back in mid-March, there were a few days when it looked like it was going to have a major impact on our business, as farmers saw an overnight plunge in restaurant orders.” Those concerns were soon met with an “explosion” of demand for processing, as farmers were seeing an increase in sales from groceries and families.

 

In his interview, Mr. Cloud discussed another issue the commercial meat supply is facing due to COVID-19 that impacts farmers as well as customers. The specialized equipment at commercial processing plants may seem innovative, however, Mr. Cloud stated that “because the lines involve a fair amount of robotics, each hog has to almost exactly all the same shape and size, which accounts for why we hear about so many hogs in the Midwest being slaughtered and disposed of. Because after growing just two or three weeks longer due to a delay in processing, they can no longer pass down that meat cutting line.” Unlike small-scale farms, most commercial farmers depend solely on commercial plants to process their animals. When these plants close, they can’t sell their animals once they’ve reached the sale weight or size. Because the specialized equipment used at these plants can’t process animals over a certain size, they may be euthanized if farmers can’t sell them for processing to commercial plants in time.

 

Mr. Cloud told us that this hasn’t been an issue for T&E Meats. “We may only be able to break down 30 or 40 hogs in a day,” Mr. Cloud stated, “but each one of those hogs may be a different breed, a different size, and they may each be cut to a different set of instructions.” Because T&E Meats processes animals by hand, they don’t have the same size limitations or requirements as commercial meat processing facilities. While T&E Meats has not experienced the same delays in processing that commercial plants have, they have needed to limit the variety of cuts or products they produce in order to keep up with demand. However, these changes are done to ensure that customers and families can receive popular or staple products that are in high demand during this time, not due to a lack of supply.

 

Many are concerned that they’ll struggle to put meat on their dinner table in the coming weeks. The success of our small-scale suppliers demonstrates that issues in the commercial supply chain are causing meat shortage concerns, not a lack of livestock on American farms. Small farms aren’t constrained by the demands of the large-scale, commercial industry and supply chain. In our supply chain, animals go from farms, small-scale processors and arrive at the Friendly City Food Co-Op.

 

The ability of the local supply chain to be flexible and meet the needs of our community stands out during this time. You can trust us and our local vendors to keep high-quality proteins on your family’s dinner table.

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Happy 9th Birthday!

The co-op turns 9 years old this Saturday, June 6. We’re celebrating in a couple of ways.

First, we are expanding our store! Raising the funds has been ongoing for a little over a year, and now we’ve met our goal. Construction began on Monday June 1st and is expected to last around 9 months. It will be the best birthday present ever!

We are also giving away some presents as part of the celebration. Head over to our Instagram page @friendlycityfoodcoop and enter to win – there will be a different gift basket giveaway each day this week!

Frozen Fruit Cups

This frozen treat is a great snack or dessert to make with your kids on a hot summer’s day! With lots of fresh and fruity taste from the blueberries and a creamy punch from the Greek yogurt, these frozen yogurt cups are a surefire hit. It’s easy to whip up in an afternoon and your kids can even help you make it!

This recipe calls for blueberries, but you can use any fruit you’d like, or you can use multiple kinds of fruit. This recipe also calls for unsweetened Greek yogurt. You can use any kind of yogurt you have on hand, sweetened or unsweetened, although Greek is recommended to give it an extra-creamy texture. If the yogurt you’re using is sweetened, you may want to omit the honey or maple syrup to keep the sweetness balanced.

Ingredients:

1 cup unsweetened Greek yogurt
½ cup blueberries
1 T honey or maple syrup (optional)

Instructions:

Line a muffin tin with paper muffin liners.
In a small bowl, add your yogurt and honey. Stir to incorporate.
Add a few blueberries to the bottom of each muffin tin.
Spoon yogurt into each muffin tin, covering the blueberries. Fill the tins about ¾ of the way full.
Add the remaining blueberries to the top of each muffin tin.
Place the muffin tin in the freezer for 1 to 2 hours.
Remove the muffin tin from the freezer and release the yogurt cups from the tin.
Peel off the paper muffin liners and enjoy!

 

A Guide To Buying Real Honey

Using honey as a sweetener has all kinds of health benefits. Honey is a naturally produced, unrefined sugar that’s rich in antioxidants. It also has anti-bacterialand anti-inflammatory properties that can help heal wounds or burns, in addition to being a natural moisturizer.

However, products advertised as honey may contain large amounts of added sugars and a small amount of real honey. Ingredients like rice syrup, beet syrup, corn syrup or wheat syrup can be added to decrease costs while maintaining the honey’s sticky texture. Other products advertised as raw honey may have been heat treated to prevent it from crystalizing. It may also have been filtered, removing the beneficial qualities of authentic raw honey.

The FDA requires that honey labels list any additives in their products, but clever marketing can lead you to believe you’re buying a pure product. In some cases, imported honey bottlers are unaware their product contains added syrups or isn’t an authentic product.

If the honey you purchase isn’t pure honey or authentic raw honey, you will be missing out on the health benefits real honey offers. You could be paying extra for an inauthentic product with few benefits beyond use as a sweetener.

True Source Honey® is a company that gives honey producers a certification verifying their product is transparently sourced and pure honey. If a product receives the True Source Certified® sticker, you can be assured that it’s pure, authentic honey. They offer a voluntary certification system. Honey producers aren’t required to receive certification. For this reason, many local honey producers don’t seek out certification.

In order to avoid deceptive marketing and inauthentic products, you can take several steps to check if the honey you’re purchasing is pure.

  1. Check the ingredients label on your honey for added sugars. If the product is pure, it should only list honey as its ingredient.
  2. Purchase honey produced from your local area.
  3. If purchasing from a large commercial brand, check the jar or bottle for the True Source Certified® sticker.

If you’re still unsure about the authenticity of your honey, researching the brand can be a quick way to determine its quality. Using these tips, you can make sure you’re paying for the product you want and nothing you don’t.

 

Springtime and Southern Exposure Seed Exchange

Spring has finally sprung! Now is the time when garden beds and pots are being filled with fresh soil, compost, plant starts, and seeds. If you’re like me, maybe you’re growing more things from seeds this year than you have before. The process of growing fruits, vegetables, herbs, and flowers from seed can seem daunting, but it’s also an incredible experience. You get to watch something so small grow into food that you can put on your dinner table. I got all of my seeds for this year from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. We carry a large variety of their seeds at the Co-Op. Last year I had the privilege of visiting their headquarters in Mineral, Virginia. I learned about where their seeds come from and about their operation as a whole.

Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, as we know it today, was established in 1982. Their first catalogue only had 65seed varieties, but included some heirloom varieties that were interesting and uncommon. The term “heirloom” is tossed around a lot in the produce world, but it isn’t strictly defined like the way the term “organic” is. Southern Exposure Seed Exchange defines heirloom as “an open pollinated variety developed before 1940.” After 1940, most new plant varieties were bred for large-scale chemical agriculture and not small-scale farming. As a result, some varieties of seeds were lost. Growing, saving, selling, and trading heirloom seeds helps to preserve old-school varieties and diversifies the produce gene pool. From the conception of SESE, most of their seeds were grown by the founder and by members of a local seed saving group. This tradition continues today, with most of their seeds coming from a collection of 60 small farms in various parts of the USA. Many of their growers are located in Virginia or other states in southeast region of the country. Some varieties of seeds they grow are, cleaned, dried and packaged on their farm in Mineral, Virginia.

In addition to growing and acquiring seeds for their catalogue, they also partner with other local organizations, like Commonwealth Seed Growers, to do seed trials. They also conduct breed trials to test out varieties of crops in certain conditions and to develop new varieties with different qualities. When I visited their farm, I got to see two different breeding trials. One trial was with the South Anna Butternut and another was with pickling cucumbers. For both trials, they were trying to breed crops that were good quality and resistant to downy mildew. In breeding trials, the goal is to crossbreed the best plants and save the seeds. To learn more about different seed and breed trials, you can visit commonwealthseeds.com.

Southern Exposure Seed Exchange is not open to the public and they do not have a storefront, but they occasionally hold farm tours in the summer. Every year, they also help host the Heritage Harvest Festival at Monticello. This festival is a grassroots, volunteer-oriented event where local farmers, vendors, chefs, and educators come together to educate the public. They raise awareness about organic gardening, seed-saving, culinary techniques, history and more! Southern Exposure Seed Exchange helped to found this event. Each year, they grow and harvest many heirloom varieties of produce for the festival and offer tastings at the tasting tent. The late summer heirloom tomatoes are always a big hit! This year the festival is scheduled for October 3, 2020. For more information, visit https://www.heritageharvestfestival.com/.

Southern Exposure Seed Exchange offers over 700 varieties of vegetable, flower, herb, grain, and cover crop seeds. Sixty percent of the seeds they carry are certified organic and many of their seeds are heirloom varieties. If you’re interested in learning more about the seed varieties they carry, you can visit their website at https://www.southernexposure.com/ or pick up a seed catalogue from our racks next time you’re in the Co-Op. Starting your garden from seed is such a rewarding experience, even if it’s just a few pots on your windowsill. Knowing where your seeds come from helps to bring things full circle and raises awareness around proper farming and gardening practices. Happy Spring and Happy Planting!

 

Guest Blogger: Friendly City Food Co-op Assistant Team Leader, Produce 
Mackenzie Jenkins