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)
How did I spend my Friday night? Why, ensconced in the aroma of sizzling bacon, of course!
After work I headed downtown with a PCC posse to Palace Ballroom, an event space that's part of Seattle chef Tom Douglas's local restaurant empire. There, we partook in Baconopolis, a celebration of all things bacon. And I mean all.
We were met at the door with Oscar Mayer bacon (above), a taste from childhood that served as a sort of ground zero for our taste buds. It was all uphill from there. Ten stations served up bacon hash, pea salad with bacon bits (my fave), a hot peanut butter, banana and bacon "sandwich" ala Elvis, a deconstructed BLT, butterscotch bacon bites, tempura fried bacon, braised bacon in pork and beans, bloody Marys with bacon garnish and a carbonara with pancetta. Mmm...
Above is that delightful bacon hash, cooked up in a cast-iron skillet (love that phrase) with Benton's Smoky Mountain bacon from Tennessee. Local pork purveyors Salumi Artisan Cured Meats, Bavarian Meats and Hempler's represented Washington.
Here's the crowd. The funniest part of the evening: a bacon-themed slideshow interspersed with shots of -- who else? -- actor Kevin Bacon. We loved the door prizes, which ranged from cookbooks to bacon air freshener to a bacon-print lunch box.
I headed home with a bacon-scented wardrobe as my souvenir. By Sunday I grew curious about the bacon options at PCC. I dodged Fremont Sunday Market traffic to check out the natural, uncured and nitrite-free merchandise.
Now to find the perfect recipe! I really enjoy this smoky beef and bacon chili but hope we're finally past chili weather here in Seattle. Perhaps some bacon-wrapped dates on the grill? Or this white-bean salad with bacon and tomatoes?
How do you like your bacon? (and never fear meatless folks. I'll discuss my foray into vegan cooking later this week :)
Who's that familiar face gazing out from today's Seattle Times?
(photo by Seattle Times photographer Mark Harrison)
None other than Nil Tilija, produce lead at the Greenlake PCC.
Our office is abuzz this morning with pride. Not only does Nil have a fascinating story, he finished last week's Boston Marathon in a commendable 3:14:33 (3 hours, 14 minutes, 33 seconds = whew!).
Fitness folks: Check Stir-fry in the coming months for profiles of our PCC athletes and what they eat to keep going strong. And by all means, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to share how you refuel at PCC!
I love it when a plan comes together. Heck, I even love it when another person's plan comes together. In this case, it's my colleague Eli, who had a hunch free chocolate tastings in the stores could be a hit.
She was spot on. More than 75 people made tracks to the Redmond store last weekend (despite it being a gorgeous, sunny day) for the first tasting. If you're in or near PCC Edmonds on Saturday stop by from 3:30 and 5 p.m. to pick up chocolate tasting techniques and taste several different varieties. To take away some of the guilt, try some fresh asparagus from 10:30 a.m.-6 p.m. at the Edmonds store as well. Check here for a list of demos in all stores.
We've been cooing over these adorable cards in the office, each from a different student at Maple Elementary School atop Beacon Hill.
Here's an example of what's inside:
About 95 kids and 170 of their parents played Farmers Market earlier this month (how come we never did this at my school?). The play money was fake but the organic produce the kids "bought" was real -- apples, pears, oranges, aspargaus, broccoli, carrots, lettuce and more, donated from our stores. It's a project shared by PCC, Seattle/King County Pubic Health and Seattle Public Schools to teach math and nutrition. Van Asselt Elementary will host the next one.
Who first taught you how to shop, how to select the best head of cabbage or find a good apple? I spent plenty of time watching Mom from my perch in the shopping cart back in the day. I still root through piles of cabbage to find one with a weight that belies its size, a telltale sign of nice thin layers inside, just right to slice up for my killer yakisoba.
On this Earth Day, five earth-friendly things about PCC I've discovered in my first few weeks:
- The Edmonds store is a recycling marvel. There are the wall tiles (recycled glass) the countertops (recycled paper and water-based resins) the pipes (recycled copper) and the tables (recycled bamboo). I could go on, but someone already did. Hey, check out that rain garden in the parking lot!
- You know that handy dandy Seafood Watch pocket guide that advises what's being overfished? No need to fish (ha!) it out of your pocket while shopping, because PCC only carries seafood that's sustainable.
- PCC phased out plastic bags in 2007.
- More than 30 years before that, PCC helped start and administer Seattle's first P-Patch program.
- And yes, we compost!