A bell rang in my head when my friend Laura bought PCC vitamins a couple months back.
"Dude, did you know you helped fight childhood blindness?" I asked her via Facebook.
"Oh really? That's great! No, I had no idea. I didn't see a sign or anything."
Alas, too often at PCC we neglect to let people know the big and little ways that shopping here nourishes your body *and* contributes to the community. Back when Laura bought those vitamins in March, 25 cents from each sale of vitamins and supplements went to support Vitamin Angels, a nonprofit group that aims to eliminate childhood blindness by 2020 by distributing vitamin A to kids at risk.
In a similar vein, you've probably helped Children's Hospital this month without knowing. Through June 15 five percent of all Kid Picks purchases goes to support pediatrics at Children's as part of PCC's Families Helping Families program. Here's the essence of how Kid Picks works: Kids taste test a variety of foods and those that receive thumbs up from two-thirds of testers are flagged as Kid Picks items in our stores. Plenty of adults make a beeline for KP stuff as well (myself included).
Here's just a handful of the 1,500-plus Kid Picks options:
Hero jam, my favorite! I recommend the strawberry.
Who doesn't love English cucumbers? So good cut into sticks for a snack with salt or a creamy dip or sliced atop salad.
How now, Brown Cow?
I need to learn more ways to cook up polenta. It's such a pleasant comfort food.
Turkey bacon: One of life's great compromises.
I wish I'd tried more cereal like this as a kid. Perhaps it would have diminished my sweet tooth.
Those of you who follow PCC on Facebook and Twitter already know him by personality and reputation. Now you can learn more about Ricardo, PCC's man behind the scenes on social media -- he's today's featured guest on Seattle Social Media Profiles.
Check out his video debut!
Happy Friday, everyone! In honor of the upcoming weekend, here's Tom and Thom's recipe for chili-cheese fries from our PCC potluck (they're lying in wait in those glass baking pans in the middle of the spread. Wish I'd snapped a close-up).
Thom and Tom’s Chili Cheese Fries
4 chopped links of Applegate Farms’ Organic andouille sausage
1 organic diced onion
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon dried oregano
12 ounces Guinness beer
1-14.5 ounce can of Muir Glen Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes (love these!)
1-14.5 ounce can of Muir Glen Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes with Chilies
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2-14.5 ounce cans of Westbrae Natural Kidney beans
1-14.5 ounce can of Westbrae Natural Garbanzo beans
Salt and pepper to taste
Melinda’s Extra Hot Sauce
French fries (Thom and Tom used 3 orders of fries from Burger Hut at 42nd and the Ave.)
Pepper jack cheese
Heat olive oil with sausage and onion on medium heat. After sausage is darkened and onions are soft, add all spices and sauté. Pour in beer and scrape the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Next, include the tomatoes, paste and beans. Combine and bring to a simmer for about 40 minutes. Season with salt, pepper and hot sauce to taste.
Pick up French fries from your favorite restaurant (or bake your own using potatoes and olive oil). The crispier, the better! In an oven safe container, assemble the fries so that they are about 1-2 inches thick. Cover with the chili and then the cheese. Broil until the cheese has melted. Once the pan is removed from the oven, top with green onions.
Lord knows we all watch enough Food Network, Top Chef and KCTS 9 food specials. And since we never can have enough food in our lives, PCC has branched out into the video world as well. The most popular of our efforts thus far is PCC Cooks instructor Lynne Vea's guest spots on KING 5's "Gardening With Ciscoe" show. I went to PCC Issaquah yesterday with a fun crew to watch it come together.
Cooking videos appear effortless on TV, but man, is that ever deceiving. Lynne says she spends about 10 hours on each two-recipe shoot, to shop, chop, style and finally, cook. Each recipe is shot twice: Once at a wide angle to capture the banter between Lynne and Ciscoe, another for tight close-ups of each step of the process to help viewers see just how it's done. That means two sets of every ingredient. Lynne is a miracle worker (and yes, Ciscoe is every bit as ebullient in person as he is on TV).
On the menu: French Roasted Potato Salad With Beans, Walnuts and Smoked Salmon for the show airing May 16 and a Fava Bean Hummus for May 23.
For the salad, Lynne chose Russian fingerling potatoes for their sweetness (good stuff!):
And here's the finished product (the smoked salmon adds a savory punch of richness):
I discovered that the insides of fava bean jackets are plush and soft, like a new baby blanket.
And voila! (the hummus is a dainty spring green from the favas. Lynne also included a radish salad with dill as a garnish.):
I enjoyed watching her transform the kitchen via her styling. She stores a huge variety of serveware and linens in a big closet at her house. I made her promise to let me take a peek (and I promise you I'll bring my camera). Here's some of her work from the shoot.
Accompaniment for the potato salad:
Next to the hummus:
I also liked this merry display in the background, especially the lemon slices:
We've developed a bunch of fun new PCC cooking videos, which debuted at our annual membership meeting this spring. Click here to see producer profile videos. And check out PCC on Facebook for even more videos!
I've worked here nearly three months now and still each day I learn of some new way PCC helps the community. This month, it's raising money for Children's Hospital (5 percent of all Kid Picks item sales goes to the cause).
Come summer, our "community" will stretch around the globe. You may remember our first Alaffia Bike Drive last spring, when you helped us donate 500 used bikes to help boys and girls get to and from school in Togo, West Africa. (as we all know, bikes sure beat walking, especially when you're walking upwards of 18 miles roundtrip. It also makes a lot more time for homework).
We get a second chance this year to put all those used bikes just sitting around in the garage to good use. My colleague Angela is THRILLED to pull together this event again because she really believes in the cause. Stay tuned for details, but the drives will be going on 11 a.m.-3 p.m. July 25 at Edmonds PCC and 11 a.m.-3 p.m. July 26 at View Ridge PCC. We'll accept bikes in any condition, plus bike parts.
PCC sells Alaffia's sustainable skin care products, which include fair trade shea butter from Togo. This is one way Alaffia gives back to its community. We're proud to help.
I was wandering through the Fremont store the other day when I spied a bunch of PCC take & bake pizzas in a case at the deli. I remembered reading a piece my colleague Lydia wrote about them a couple months back in the Sound Consumer, how they're fresh and $9.99, with an organic crust and sauce plus rBGH-free mozzarella (and there's even a vegan pesto version!). I grabbed one of the PCC Supremes and squeezed it into my cart alongside most of the produce department.
I wasn't sure what to expect. It looked nice enough, with fresh vegetables, meats and cheese, yet it seemed so thin. My fiance, who despite my chiding still sometimes equates "natural and organic" with "lame and flavorless," peered at it in the fridge but didn't seem especially excited to try it. So there it sat there for a few days as we ate through the rest of our groceries. Finally, on that gorgeous, sunny, I'm-so-glad-it's-finally-May Friday, I popped it in the oven.
Oh, happy day!
It turned out to be a pleasant, nicely seasoned, well-balanced Supreme, with a good ratio of meat to vegetables (some Supremes pack on so much meat you run the risk of developing what our friend Danny dubbed "the meat sweats." Never heard of them? You'll know it if it happens to you). This one is topped with organic pepperoni, natural salami, PCC's Italian sausage, roasted mushrooms, onions and peppers. Plus, the peppers are big enough to actually enjoy, unlike those wizened, shriveled bits you wind up with at some pizza places.
I think everything tastes better when served on china. Even pizza!
I'm excited to try the other flavors: Cheese, pepperoni, roasted vegetable and vegan pesto. Seems like a good way to go when we have "mixed company" at dinner. That's code for friends of different dietary persuasions ;)
If you're minding your pennies like me, buying things like flour, spices, grains and other items in bulk really saves a lot. Beyond cost, it saves on packaging. And I like the freedom to buy the precise amount of fresh cumin, turmeric or thyme I need rather than being stuck with a whole bottle of a seasoning I might not finish before 2012 (Hmm. Perhaps I need to cook even more? LOL).
Our computer wizard Chris just added health and beauty items available in bulk to our searchable database. Ever curious about some new lotion, shampoo or bath salt but not sure you want to spring for an entire bottle? Buying a bit of it in bulk first is a great way to test drive new lotions and potions.
First potlucks can be intimidating. Especially when you work for a certified-organic grocery store and the majority of your co-workers adore cooking and great food.
Check out the spread from earlier this week!
Quite possibly the healthiest potluck of which I've ever taken part. Also, among the tastiest.
(Yes, those darling cupcakes are from our bakery!).
It helps having a kitchen at work with a gas range and oven.
Here's my plate.
My colleague Rachel made the lovely watermelon/feta/mint appetizer. Tom and Thom threw together chili-cheese fries at the last minute with fries from up the street and leftover chili (they were great). That's my garlicky kale with white beans in the foreground (not bad vegan, but I prefer it simmered in chicken broth). We had a tasty lentil stew and kale soup, both made fresh in the kitchen that morning by Trudy and Goldie. The scent wafting through the office was tremendous.
What are some of your favorite potluck dishes to share? What makes a potluck great? Among my favorites was a Thanksgiving-in-spring potluck where a co-worker who is an amazing cook lugged a portable oven to the office and roasted a turkey (we all brought the sides). Incredible. I can still remember the scent of that turkey greeting us at the door when we arrived at work that day.
I struggled with my dish this time around, wanting to create something everyone could eat regardless of diet. Next time I think I'll go for something more creative! But I'm still proud I met my goal. Here's the recipe, from "Vegetables Every Day" by Jack Bishop, a cookbook I turn to when stumped by new produce or in search of a new preparation method:
Garlicky Kale with White Beans
(Serves 4 as a vegetarian main course)
- 1 1/2 pounds kale
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 medium garlic cloves, minced
- 2 15-ounce cans cannellini or other white beans, drained and rinsed
- 2/3 cup chicken or vegetable stock
- Freshly ground black pepper
1. Bring 4 quarts of water to boil in a large pot.
2. Meanwhile, wash the kale in several changes of cold water, stripping off the leafy green portion from both sides of the tough central vein. Discard the veins and tear the leafy portions into small pieces. Add the kale and 1 teaspoon salt to the boiling water. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally until the kale is tender, about 8 minutes. Drain well.
3. Heat the oil and garlic in a large skillet set over medium heat. When the garlic is golden (this will take about 2 minutes), add the kale and cook, tossing well, until heated through and evenly flavored with garlic, 1 to 2 minutes.
4. Add the beans and stock and simmer just until the beans are heated through, about 5 minutes. Add pepper to taste. Adjust the seasonings and serve immediately.
First off, thanks so much to everyone who joined us for the annual membership meeting! Are you already making plans for all the great recipes in the program? I'm planning to bust out the warm roasted asparagus salad asap.
And now, for our weekly produce report from Joe Hardiman, PCC's produce merchandiser. I sit a few desks down from Joe's office and overhear many an interesting phone conversation. This week, Joe has been muttering on the phone with our suppliers about celery.
Ever see celery in its growing state? It's fun to see our food before it reaches the produce department, all groomed and lovely:
Anyway, Joe points out that organic celery supplies are tight. The growing regions just shifted north with the warming weather and the celery crop in Bakersfield is still still shy of harvest ready. We're a few weeks out from a bountiful supply, he suspects.
Did you know 95 percent of the fruits and vegetables in PCC's produce department are organic?
Holy moly. Now I better understand why Joe's constantly on the phone to make sure it keeps coming in, given the growing number of organic produce sections that need to be filled around the country.
In other news, organic salad mix should arrive from Full Circle Farm by next week. And, PCC and Full Circle soon will use sturdy, recyclable corrugated plastic containers to haul all that produce between farm and store in place of cardboard boxes. Each container lasts at least 75 trips, Joe says. I also learned that PCC and Rent's Due Ranch in Stanwood have done something similar with big plastic tubs. Combined, these various efforts mean less waste. Good to know our farmers keep trying to find new ways to tread lightly.
Talk about a busy day at work. Colleagues are rushing about to prepare for tonight's annual membership meeting at St. Demetrios Hall in Montlake. I'm sure the phrase "annual meeting" sounds like a snoozefest, but trust me, I've learned ours is different. For one, we feed you! On tonight's menu (and in cooking videos online): Warm Salad of Roasted Asparagus With Hazelnuts and Balsamic Vinaigrette, Festive Cuban Tortilla Torta with Warm Spices, Caribbean Spice Crusted Breast of Chicken with Sunny Mango Salsa and Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp. We have interesting speakers from a variety of backgrounds, from farmers and ranchers to chief executives.
Plus it's a chance to meet with others who share your passion for sustainability and good food. Mark or set your calendar for the next meeting Oct. 27.
Had to miss the meeting? Tune your TV to KING 5 at 7 p.m. to watch PCC Cooks instructor Lynne Vea take on Evening Magazine's Cheapskate Challenge. She feeds a family of four (her lucky brother Clark and his family) for $10 with Chipotle Shredded Pork with Tomato Lime Salsa, Spicy Black Beans and Handmade Tortillas. Delish. And if you look closely, you'll see the whole segment is filmed at PCC Issaquah. Click here to see those recipes.
(Photo courtesy Tom Monahan)