It's my third Thanksgiving at PCC headquarters, but the sense of wonder has yet to evaporate. I've been to office potlucks aplenty. But this seriously takes the cake.
Yes, we've transformed our conference rooms into a giant dining hall, complete with tablecloths and cloth napkins, candles, seasonal centerpieces and food galore. Each year, a team led by recently retired PCC legend (and fabulous cook) Goldie Caughlan begins scrubbing, chopping, mincing, stirring and roasting before most of us even reach the office kitchen for our first cup of coffee. Not that we need to head into the kitchen. Janice, our PCC Board Administrator, lays out a breakfast buffet each year, complete with fresh coffee. As if we needed more to eat on this day!
Read on for plenty of tasty photos.
Organic leeks, winter squash, potatoes, onions ... everything our team will need to create the feast!
Gorgeous, plump carrots, parsnips and sweet potatoes, scrubbed and ready to roast.
Eli, associate editor of the Sound Consumer, poses with potatoes.
Alicia from PCC Cooks gives the aple stuffing ingredients a good stir.
Goldie and Alicia, hard at work over the cast-iron skillets on the sherried leek and mushroom gravy (see last post for the recipe!).
Some of Goldie's tools of the trade. I've never encountered anyone who wields sherry vinegar so deftly.
And finally, it's time to eat! There are always several renditions of the most popular dishes to ensure vegan and gluten-free options alongside the traditional.
Green bean almondine at the ready.
Baked squash, stuffed with roasted root vegetables and rice pilaf.
My plate, piled high with roasted winter squash, wheat berry slaw, green bean almondine, turkey, roasted root vegetables and mashed potatoes ensconced in sherried mushroom gravy, fresh cranberry sauce with honey, marinated fava beans (but no chianti), braised winter greens and more!
It's Dulce's (aka DJ's) first office Thanksgiving! Tom from marketing fills her in on key strategy ... such as sitting around the corner from the dessert buffet.
And oh, the dessert... blueberry galette, pumpkin cheesecake, fresh fruit salad, pecan pie with chocolate chips, pumpkin pie and so much more.
Happy, happy Thanksgiving from all of us at PCC to you and yours!
One week to go! If your side dish lineup is not yet set in stone, we've got plenty of inspiration with ingredients that make the most of the flavorful fall harvest.
The recipe spread from our November issue of PCC Taste magazine offers a bevy of dishes to complete your "Side Show," including Pan-seared Brussels Sprouts with Apples, Bacon, Shallots and Rosemary. Yum. Paper recipe fans, snag your free copy of Taste at any PCC store.
For those of you hankering for mashed potatoes and more, get smashed with these creamy, hearty options!
- Mashed Root Vegetables
- Gorgonzola Smashed Potatoes
- Coconut Mashed Yams
- Parsnip Puree with Smoked Paprika
- Garlic Mashed Potatoes with Horseradish Cream
- PCC Parsnip Mashed Potatoes
Want a gravy that'll have your guests licking their plates? You can't miss with Goldie Caughlan's famous Sherried Leek and Chanterelle Gravy. We're about to eat it right now at our annual PCC office Thanksgiving and believe me, I intend to drizzle it over most of my meal!
Each Thanksgiving feast needs a centerpiece. Whether you make it a fragrant roast, a bevy of handcrafted squash turkeys or a satisfying, locally made vegan Field Roast is up to you. But hear this: if your plans include a turkey or complete meal from PCC this Thanksgiving, it's high time to place your reservations and orders.
Like everything else at PCC, our meat selection is carefully chosen with quality, flavor and health in mind. Our turkeys, hams, rib roasts and other meats are free of added hormones, antibiotics and growth boosters, from animals raised on vegetarian diets with room to roam. Why does this matter? On Thanksgiving -- and every day of the year -- it's good for the soul to nourish your body with foods raised in as near a natural state as possible. Access to good food is yet another reason to be thankful.
For those who avoid meat, we offer both a complete Field Roast dinner with all the trimmings or a selection of vegetable-happy side dishes, including our famous cranberry sauce and just-can't-get-enough-of-it mushroom gravy.
So take a gander at our selection of special holiday meats and meals. You can schedule pick up as early as Tuesday, Nov. 22 for both peace of mind and more time to enjoy with friends and family.
Many of us first encounter cranberries in gelatinous form, sliding from a can, slick and odd and jelly-like. How wonderfully different it is, then, to stew fresh cranberries on the stovetop, listening for those first pop-pop-pops of berries bursting into a brilliant jam that puts its canned counterpart to shame.
Organic cranberries at PCC hail from bogs along the Oregon Coast managed by the Coquille Indian Tribe near Coos Bay. tribe. Find them in our produce department bearing the LADYBUG organics label. They're plump, tart, snappy in everything from cocktails to salads, and it's a shame to use them only at Thanksgiving. Learn to make Baked Apples with Maple-Cranberry Butter, Pan-Seared Brussels Sprouts with Red Pears, Bacon and Cranberries, Ruby Cranberry Chutney With Warm Winter Spices and many other delightful cranberry recipes in our Recipe Database.
I've been daydreaming about Thanksgiving dinner since last Thanksgiving, recipes for my favorite sides all tucked away for safe-keeping in plastic folders and various recipe apps. But with just over two weeks left, it's time to get cracking. It's time to make sure key ingredients are in place. If you haven't already, don't forget to reserve your turkey or ham or order a complete traditional Thanksgiving or vegan Thanksgiving dinner from PCC.
This will be the third year I've reserved a turkey from PCC for Thanksgiving or other holiday feasts. Why PCC? To me, Thanksgiving is about gratitude. On that day, more than any other day, I consider the good fortune that has filled my table with fragrant, scrumptious delights. I think of the farmers and producers who have cultivated all aspects of that meal. I find great satisfaction in knowing the source of just about every ingredient on our table. For the turkey, that source is a family farm, Diestel Family Turkey Ranch. PCC has worked with the Diestels for more than a decade to ensure a selection of turkey raised the old-fashioned way.
But, back to that daydream. It involves the rich scent of gravy simmering on the stove. The satisfying bittersweetness of freshly stewed cranberry sauce. Sensory overload each time the oven door squeaked open, the aroma of roast turkey mingling with sweet potatoes, stuffing, rolls, pumpkin pie...
Yes. It's time to make sure all the pieces are in place.
We've got a special guest this month on the blog! PCC Grocery Merchandiser Scott Owen recently traveled to Peru sponsored by Equal Exchange and the coffee cooperative known as COCLA to visit coffee farms and meet the families that grow the fair trade, shade-grown, certified organic and locally roasted coffee we sell at PCC. Read about his adventure below and follow coffee beans along their journey with his slideshow.
Coffee cherries to coffee mug
How fair trade benefits consumers
On May 31, 2011, I started an adventure sponsored by Equal Exchange and COCLA that took me to Agualra, Peru, to visit coffee farms and meet the families that help feed our ever-growing obsession for our daily cup of coffee. I expected to learn quite a lot about the process of coffee growing and the business aspects of fair trade from this trip. But meeting the actual farmers, listening to their stories and seeing the families provided me with a deeper understanding of why fair trade products are so important.
In our consumer-driven economy we want the best we can find for the most reasonable deal we can find it, and who can blame us? We work hard for our money and we want it to go as far as possible. In this aspect of life, I think we are no different from any other culture; as Americans, we enjoy a standard of living that few other countries have attained. The world feeds our habits, and is happy to provide the goods & services we require to maintain our standard of living. The United States and our lifestyle help drive the world’s economy.
While on this trip, I tried to answer the question “why does fair trade matter?” As it turns out the answer is deceptively simple, but complex to explain. So here, it is in a coffee cherry: if you want your coffee to stay at reasonable retails, pay the farmers fairly. Fair trade ensures farmers a reasonable profit to grow coffee, which keeps the bean supply steady, and the steady supply keeps cost down. Wasn’t that easy! The importance of fair trade defined in 23 words, I should get a prize or something right? Now here comes the complex explanation I warned about, because, though the reason is simple, the explanation involves families, human blood sweat and tears, livelihoods, and an unwavering commitment to keeping things, well, fair.
Supply and demand
Most commodities costs are heavily influenced by supply. If the supply on something shrinks, the cost for the remaining goods is driven up by its scarcity, so long as demand does not wane. We have all experienced this with; oil, wheat, cars, even gold and diamonds, so why would coffee be any different? Of course the answer is that it is not. World demand for coffee is rising, and in some areas of the world the supply is falling, so the cost is rising. It's all very logical, though frustrating, if your coffee now costs $1 more per pound than it did last year.
Now comes the part where fair trade saves the day. Every coffee at PCC is fair trade certified. Even though costs will rise, fair trade will keep farmers interested in growing our favorite crop, thus feeding our love for that morning cup of coffee. Now let me tell you about this process. It's far more complicated than I thought, and I will forever thank all the families that make my morning cup of coffee possible.
Coffee trees grow best as a shade plant, and can live up to 25 years with proper care. Shade-grown coffee is important for a few reasons. The trees live longer, the native wildlife is supported, and the workers have a tolerable environment to work in. Now sit back and let me explain to you how we go from coffee cherry to coffee cup. It is not a journey for the faint of heart; this is hard labor, and requires a support network that spans the globe. Yet it starts with one family and one small farm in the middle of the jungle. My experience comes from Peru, which produces three percent of the world’s coffee, but this process is repeated by families all over the world.
On June 3 my group meet on the side of a dirt road to help pick some of the coffee crop and gain an understanding of the process. We ascended a steep hillside to join a family to pick the cherries. We toiled for about three hours, and I can tell you, the harvesting is difficult; hot, messy, and I have bug bites in places I would rather not talk about. Picking cherries requires knowledge of the species of coffee tree you are harvesting so that you pick the appropriate color cherry.
Once the cherries are picked, the bags are transported to the roadside, to be picked up and weighed at the processing plant. A full bag of cherries weighs about 225 pounds, and men nearly half my size were handling these bags with relative ease.
Coffee cherry processing
Once at the processing plant, the cherries are weighed, the farmer is given a receipt for his day's delivery, and processing begins immediately. The cherries are dumped into a cement holding tank, and water is used to wash the cherries into a mechanical de-pulper, which separates the fruit from the bean. The beans go one way into another holding tank, and the cherries go another to be composted.
The beans have a light coating of clear fruit on them still, and this is removed by letting the beans ferment for 12 hours. The beans have a definite “feel” to them when properly fermented, and are then washed into a flume that essentially does the grading of the coffee. The best beans are the heaviest and sink to the bottom. Once in the flume the beans are agitated with a wooden paddle, and the sticks, leaves, and bad beans float to the top, and much of this is composted as well. A series of wooden gates in the flume are successively removed, and up to three grades of beans are removed from the flume to be sun-dried to 12 percent humidity. Once the beans are dried, they are bagged in jute sacks, and transported to COCLA for further processing. At COCLA, the beans are tested for quality by the most experienced members of the co-op, and stacked in mountain high stacks to await the cleaning process.
Workers heft the bean sacks, now weighing a scant 125 pounds, to a grate in the floor. Here the beans start a journey through a maze of machines to remove the final paper hull from the beans and clean and sort them so they can be bagged into “COCLA”-stamped jute bag.
Now the beans are ready for export. COCLA finds buyers on the world market for the beans that its 8,000 family members have grown. Importers like Equal Exchange now transport the beans to one of their roasting facilities across the U.S. Once roasted, the beans are ready for consumption. Coffee mugs across the United States are filled with the fair trade fruits of these family labors.
Fair trade = fair treatment and a fair price
Seeing farming, families and economics at this level will change you. Coffee, like many products we consume daily, has a story both unique and personal. The coffee we consume has thousands of lives connected to it. Those lives are supported and enriched when we purchase fair trade coffee. I asked the president of COCLA how retailers can help farm co-ops. He simply said, “Buy our coffee; we will take care of the rest.” So buy fair trade products, buy from co-ops, buy from your local farmers market. Consumption is not bad, but thoughtless consumption profits few individuals. So when you next fill your coffee mug with fair trade goodness, think about all that went into it, and feel good about the fact you are supporting families just like yours across the globe.
I know few of us are ready to give up on summer quite yet. But retailers always think several seasons ahead. We must, to ensure our shelves are stocked and looking splendid when the Puget Sound's chilly mists return and we finally *are* ready for it to be the holiday season. And thus, August is prime time for events like our annual PCC Holiday Expo.
A Charlie Brown-style Christmas tree, courtesy of Bissinger's Chocolates (many thanks to Janice, our board coordinator, for these photos!).
The Expo is a chance for purveyors of chocolates, caramels, candies, gifts and more to show their wares and meet with Deli merchandisers from each PCC store in one place and on one convenient (and decadent) day. Take a peek at some of what you'll find in our stores later this year.
A full complement of Theo chocolate, truffles, caramels and drinking chocolate. Did you know PCC was the first local store to stock Theo?
Sweet treats from The Essential Baking Company in Seattle. The mini yule log is super cute.
Truffles and other treasures from Dilettante, another local chocolatier.
Who doesn't love a happy gingerbread man?
Decadence galore from Fran's, perfect for hostess gifts, stockings, or as a gift to yourself!
Next year I'm definitely going. Now, back to our regularly scheduled season: summer!
Did you know PCC carries more than 20 brands of energy bars, including vegan, gluten-free and soy-free varieties? If you ever get overwhelmed by all that great variety (I know I do!) it's helpful to have a game plan so you can find the bars that will best meet your needs.
To gain some clarity, I interviewed Liz Kirk, PhD, R.D., a faculty member in the Department of Nutrition and Exercise Science at Bastyr Univerity. Read her tips for choosing the best energy bar for your needs (and, a quick guide to energy bars at PCC) in this piece in September PCC Taste magazine.
Meanwhile, here are a few favorirtes from the staff of PCC Taste:
- KIND Bar: Sue, our art director, likes their flavor and short ingredients list (whole nuts, fruit and not much else). So does designer Angela, who enjoys them atop her stand-up paddle board while watching for rogue ferry wakes.
- BumbleBar: Sue’s daughter likes these calcium-rich sesame bars as a quick snack between classes. Made in Washington’s Spokane Valley. I'm a big fan of the Amazing Almond.
- Probar: Says Jovanna from our graphics team: “Not your usual boring raisin, oat and peanut bar.” She describes them as full of dried fruit, big chunks of chocolate and nuts, just right for an outdoor adventure or emergency snack.
- Lärabar: “They aren’t filled with a bunch of processed ingredients — everything’s pure, straightforward and simple,” says Lydia, Taste co-editor. “They’re perfect when you need a little something to tide you over between meals. She likes: Cocoa Mole, Chocolate Coconut, Peanut Butter & Jelly and Ginger Snap.
What are your favorite energy bars? When do you most like to enjoy one?
To quote Ciscoe, "Ooh, la la!"
The recipe for Peach-Raspberry Popsicles caught my eye. Lacking peaches or raspberries, however, I subbed in equivalent ratios of what I had on hand: local organic strawberries, ripe bananas, nonfat Greek yogurt and honey.
If you lack a proper blender, an immersion blender works just fine!
Making this recipe also meant the chance to bust out my new BPA-free popsicle molds! I received these as a gift; but you'll find some good options at your local PCC. In a pinch, you also can sub in shot glasses. Just cover them with wax paper secured with a rubber band and slit the paper to insert a popsicle stick or small spoon to serve as a handle.
Pretty stars, ready for the freezer!
It took about five hours for mine to set.
Here's what I learned.
- As with most things culinary, using fresh, ripe fruit produces the best results. The flavor of these local strawberries was intense and jammy, a true taste of summer.
- Next time, I would use reegular yogurt over Greek yogurt -- it seemed almost too thick when frozen.
- I also would refrain from testing the handles before the popsicles had spent their full time in the freezer (can you blame me? I wanted a taste!). Testing them too soon meant I yanked the handles out before they set, so I had to eat the results out of the mold with a grapefruit spoon. Thankfully, I limited my curiosity. The ones I left alone set just fine.
- Let them defrost for a minute or two before you attempt to release them from their molds, or run warm water over the molds to get them a bit loose.This will help the pop maintain the pretty shape of the mold.
A friend made the Watermelon-Pineapple Popsicles recently and noted that the honey settles at the bottom of the molds during freezing. That first bite is sweeet! To avoid this, Eli suggests blending the honey with the watermelon first, so that the honey gets dissolved in the juice.
Have you made any of these recipes? Post your photos to our Facebook page! facebook.com/pccnaturalmarkets.
You don't have to wait for the return of local organic pear season to bake a fragrant loaf of PCC Chef Lynne Vea's famous Warm Pear and Hazelnut Tea Bread.
Says Lynne: "This bread can be made with juicy seasonal fruits like plums or nectarines. Don't even bother to peel the fruit, just chop it and substitute in the same amount for the pears."
This robust bread is great to serve at brunch, take along to someone else's brunch, freezes well for future use and is great toasted and slathered with your favorite butter. If you don't often keep kamut, barley or hazelnuts on hand, visit the bulk section of your local PCC and head home with just the amount you need for this recipe.
Find even more baking ideas in our PCC Recipe Database.