Practical Ideas for Co-op Meals From Chef Blu

Practical Ideas for Co-op Meals From Chef Blu

pasta1Several weeks ago, Manager Debbie Burgan stated a goal: for more customers and members to shop first at the Co-op, and look elsewhere only if they couldn’t find what they were looking for. So how does that translate into regular meals for everyone from vegetarians to people who are new at trying to eat healthy? We asked chef Blu Helida to take a look at what the Co-op offers and consider the issue from a meal-planning perspective.

In her eyes, the store has the right inventory for a diverse group of shoppers.  “The Co-op offers so much to choose from for everyone from vegans to people who want roast dinners,” she says. “There’s everything from the simple to the exotic.”

She looked at potential meals according to which type of customer would be doing the shopping. “If you’re gluten-free,vegan, or vegetarian, there are a lot of options for you,” she says. “For people who are new to the Co-op, look for things that are similar to what you normally buy. It’s all there. If you’re going to make pasta, it’s all the same ingredients, but the penne might be gluten-free, the tomato sauce is probably organic and you can use a substitute for meat if you want to.”

Meat lovers who care about locally-sourced food can find pork sausage that goes well with Olykraut sauerkraut or whole chicken that can be roasted with vegetables.  “They could also do curries, many different beef dishes or roasts,” she says. Those who are feeling more adventurous can find the ingredients for Asian chicken noodle soup, fajitas and a variety of other less common fare.

Vegetarians also have a lot options. “They can use locally made sauces, dressings and salsa or buy fresh ingredients and make their own.  If you’re looking for ways to add flavor or spice, there are plenty of choices for you to create your own fusion dish,” says Blu.

She is a global traveler who’s had the opportunity to learn about a wide variety of cuisines from far-flung places, including Japan, Sri Lanka, Morocco and many more. She has also participated in the organic food movement as both chef and gardener, and she knows what it’s like trying to shop for specific diet preferences. Her conclusion: “There’s enough at the Co-op that you can make the meal that you want, whatever your tastes.”

We hope this encourages you to plan your next breakfasts, lunches and dinners with the Co-op in mind. Thank you Chef Blu!

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Patronage Refunds=Happy Co-op Shoppers

Patronage Refunds = Happy Co-op Shoppers

easter happyDawn Young and her daughters got a welcome surprise last week when they went shopping at the Co-op: a more than $80 patronage refund based on how much she’d spent at the store in 2014.  “We did a happy dance and filled up a bag of mixed nuts from the bulk section without a thought of how much it was going to cost,” she says. “It was exciting.”

For the second year, the Co-op is providing this perk to current members in good standing and original members of the Co-op who joined before it became a non-profit organization. It’s based on the revenue generated in the previous year. “Once our sales reach the proper threshold, this is something we can offer our members as an acknowledgment of their support,” says General Manager Barnaby Urich Rintz. *

Current members and original members who have not renewed both get a 1% refund of what they spent in the previous year. Anyone who qualifies in both areas gets a 2% refund. Bulk items purchased through the Buy Club and certain products like newspapers don’t count toward the refund, and the purchases must be made under the member’s name and membership number. Shoppers have until December 31, 2015 to use their refund.

“The reward reinforced why we shop there,” says Dawn. “It’s a great incentive to continue to invest in the Co-Op’s goals of reaching a stronger buying base that will reduce prices throughout the store. We also feel appreciated for our contribution. The refund was twice as much as last year’s, so as a family, we achieved our goal of supporting the Co-Op more.”

To find out if you have a patronage refund waiting, visit the store and talk with one of our cashiers. We look forward to seeing you!

*Note: Patronage refunds are proposed to the Yelm Cooperative board of directors by the General Manager. The proposal is based upon profitability and the financial needs of the store. Consequently, Yelm Food Cooperative does not guarantee a patronage refund for any given year. However, members have expressed a great deal of support for the program, so management will consider proposing a patronage refund for every given year.

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4 Things You Didn’t Know About Wine Cellar of Yelm

4 Things You Didn’t Know About Wine Cellar of Yelm

anne marshIf you love wine and shop at the Co-op, odds are you’ve spent some time in the back of the store, sampling some of the local and international offerings Anne Marsh provides each week. But even if you’re familiar with this very popular department, you may not know everything about it. Enjoy this Q & A with the Co-op’s resident wine expert and stop by for a tasting!

How did you get inspired to learn about wine?

I was always passionate about food and wine pairing.  I became a gourmet cook and I thought I would enjoy being a sommelier, so I enrolled in a wine curriculum through Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET).  I hold a diploma in wine: WSET level II, Intermediate Certificate, Pass with Distinction.  I am very proud of that accomplishment as only a small percentage of students earn that distinction.

What was the original inspiration for the Wine Cellar?

After I completed my education I went to work for a very great lady, Linda Collier, founder of Collier’s of Centreville in Centreville, Delaware.    She taught me everything I know about wine from a hands-on perspective.  She gave me her blessing to model my wine shop after hers, with a “European Library” feel.

How has the community responded to the Wine Cellar?

“Thank you for what you do for us.”  Those who have discovered this enjoy the experience of tasting a wine before they buy.  They love that I learn their names and their tastes and can suggest wines they will surely love.  Each of us has had the experience of buying a wine and finding ourselves disappointed when we get it home.  It’s tragic, really.   Customers also love asking for suggestions of which wine to go with what they’re serving.  They want to have something that matches perfectly with a dish and compliments it.  It takes the experience of a dinner party to a whole other level of great.  I love what I do.

What do people not realize about the Wine Cellar?

We have over 300 wines in that little space!

The wines are from all over the world including the wonderful wines of Washington state!  That’s why we named it Wine Cellar of Yelm . . .Wines from around the World. I have a gift for finding quality wine and I handpick each and every bottle. I choose wine that is made with a lot of care, attention and love. The mission of the wine shop is to specialize in small batch, family-owned and handcrafted wine.

More than 50% of the wines in the shop are Organic and many are made without the addition of commercial yeast.  Large lot, mass-produced wines are made with many shortcuts and use lower quality grapes.  We hear so much about inferior quality food and the importance of putting good things in the body.  The wines in the shop are made with a passion for excellence and many are under $15.
I love what I do and finding the right wine for folks is fun.  I often open wine during the week and allow folks to taste.  It’s not just for Saturdays. When you see me, just ask.  I’ll help you find wine and help you match to a food if you wish.   I have developed a following of customers who regularly attend the Saturday tastings.  They tell me that their palate is expanding and they are enjoying all the new varieties and flavors they wouldn’t have thought to try.

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Embrace Spring With Local Honey and Bee Pollen

Embrace Spring With Local Honey and Bee Pollen

beekeeping class

If you’re one of the millions of people who suffer from seasonal allergies, consuming local raw honey and bee pollen is a great place to start getting your body in tune with the local flora. Bee Forever Apiary offers raw, unprocessed products developed in the Bald Hills area.

Thomas Mani, owner and operator of Bee Forever Apiary, explains why that’s important.  “A lot of stores offer honey that’s been ultra-filtered,” he says. “That process removes small particles like pollen.” But pollen, he says, has a fingerprint, just like people do, which reveals its origin. “Ultra-filtered honey loses its fingerprint, which opens the door for cheating or adulterating the honey,” he says. “A lot of honey that’s offered in grocery stores has corn syrup in it, molasses and water content of up to 25%,”

In contrast, Bee4ever’s honey has no corn syrup, and the water content is kept below 17% so that it can be stored for long periods.  No heating is applied during the extraction and bottling process, which means that all of the valuable ingredients like enzymes remain intact.

Additionally, some local residents have found that Mani’s honey helps them with issues that have plagued them for decades. “I have always experienced severe allergies not only during the hay fever season, but all year round,” says Judy Mezen. After trying Mani’s pollen and honey, she decided to give up he antihistamines ‘cold turkey’ and only use the pollen and honey, supplemented during the strongest part of the season with freeze-dried stinging nettle. “Beginning with day one, I was successful,” she says, “All I have to do is take a small pinch of the pollen and about a teaspoon (or less) of honey and within about 5-10 minutes I can breathe clearly, and it even takes away my sinus headaches. I have been able to do weeding in my garden and even mow the lawn.”

Bee4ever Apiary’s Raw Honey and Bee Pollen are available in the second aisle of the Yelm Food Co-op.

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What Breaking $2 Million Means for Co-op Members

What Breaking $2 Million Means for Co-op Members

millionManager Debbie Burgan on Loyalty, Passion and Why Numbers Matter

Debbie Burgan believes that Co-op members want to support the store – they may just not know how. Information, says the Yelm Co-op Manager, was a key to breaking $1 million in sales after less than ten years of operation. “It was important to make our members aware of what we were trying to do,” she says. “Once Tina Maggio made a sign showing our goal, they stepped up and did more.”

Burgan has been a key player with the Co-op since its beginning back in 2005. “There was so much passion to open this store,” she says. “We literally opened it up on  a wing and a prayer. We knew it was going to work. In the first few years, we had so little, just a lot of customers who wanted the store as much as we did. We still have that customer base.”

Expanding that base is a key for the Co-op to hit the next target. Breaking the $2 million threshold would be the first step in allowing the store to apply for membership with the National Grocers Cooperative Association, which would provide multiple benefits, including buying power. “If we can get the buying power that other co-ops have, our buying structure changes,” says Burgan. “That benefit would get passed on to our members.”

“I don’t think it will take us long to hit the second million,” she says. “We just need more of our members to show support by spending 80% of their grocery dollars with us.”  Right now, a core of approximately 200+ members are doing exactly that. Were that number to double, the additional revenue would make a lot of improvements possible, such as a deli section.

Doing the numbers comes easily to Burgan, who came to the Co-op after wrapping up a corporate career in the software industry. “I wanted to find a place where I could take the best of corporate structure and the best of what people wanted for the Co-op and bring them together,” she says.  Here’s one more number she has in mind: “I want to see six cash registers at the Co-op and they’re all busy.”

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Ice Chip Grannies’ Other Company Adds Humor to Health

Ice Chip Grannies’ Other Company Adds Humor to Health

ice chip granniesBefore Ice Chips Candy, before Shark Tank, before Beverly Vines-Haines and Charlotte Clary were the ‘Ice Chip Grannies’, there was Healing Leaf. This original line of all-natural salves was one of the first companies created by Vines-Haines and Clary (aka ‘the grannies’), and is still close to their hearts. “Healing Leaf is a perfect reflection of our goal to create natural and safe skin care products,” says Vines-Haines.

Their first invention was created as a way to help a friend who was suffering from a severe fungal infection. “He was an Air Force pilot who had served three tours in Vietnam and often had to wear heavy boots for days at a time. So we formulated an anti-fungal salve, went out and bought the ingredients, and cooked their invention up on Charlotte’s stove,” says Vines-Haines.  They mailed it off to their friend and eventually they heard from him that it worked.

From there, they went on to create a slew of products bearing creative names like Zappa Zit (acne solution), Splat! (Food Stain Remover) and Ahhh . . .  (muscle relief). The Yelm Co-op currently carries Sandal Toes (Nail Fungus Solution), Skin Wizard (Skin Care Solution), Massage in a Bottle (Extreme Joint Pain Relief ), and Psoria-Cease (Psoriasis Solution), which tends to fly off the shelves.  They are all non-GMO and are not petroleum based, unlike many skin care lines. “Often people forget products placed on their skin or scalp are rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream and circulating through their bodies,” says Vines-Haines.

While Ice Chips takes up much of their time, “we intend to continue our focus on natural products whenever possible,” says Vines-Haines. “We have employees who are well trained in making our skin care products and they often give us ideas and suggestions. Charlotte and I have many ideas we hope to implement in the future and our health and beauty aid line has a bright future.”

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Manager Jutta Dewell: Make the Co-op Your Meeting Spot

Manager Jutta Dewell: Make the Co-op Your Meeting Spot

co-op funWalk into the co-op on most days and you’ll inevitably run into Manager Jutta Dewell – inevitably, because Jutta has been pivotal to the life of the store. You might think that she was born knowing about gluten and GMOs, started volunteering for great causes in pre-school, and has always embraced the world of retail. You’d be wrong.

“In Germany, I worked for a car rental company and oversaw many, many BMWs,” she says. “Before I came here I’d never worked in retail and didn’t even know what a co-op was. I used to go to the one in Olympia and think, ‘Oh my God, it’s so expensive.” But when the idea for the Yelm Co-op was conceived nearly a decade ago, she became a member of the steering committee and was part of the team that led to the opening of the store. She continued to volunteer, at one point becoming a board member, and today, she’s one of three managers.

“I’ve never been a volunteer in my life before coming here,” she says, “ but I had the time to do it, and they needed help.” Years of volunteering and contributing in any way she could eventually led to her current position. “I was part of creating my own job,” she explains. “I was happy to do that. This is different than just working for a company.”

The experience has given her a special appreciation for those who donate their time today.  “I am impressed with how many people contribute. That is something I’ve never experienced before. Without working members and volunteers, we could not make it,” she contends. “We can’t pay everybody, unfortunately, and it’s amazing.  We have some volunteers who come every week, several times.”
To Jutta, ambience is a critical component. “The atmosphere has to be nice,” she says, “for the volunteers and also for the customers.  You want to come here. That’s what I always think. Just enjoy the atmosphere or learn something, or meet someone that you know and can talk to – that’s part of it all.”

Over the years, she’s been continually inspired by the idea of a sovereign community. “The co-op is part of that,” she says. “No corporation owns us. Our goal is to have more and more local people sell their products here. We also educate people about what it really means for the economy when you buy locally. More people are waking up to the fact that the food they eat is not the best. They are coming to the store and they want to know. That’s where I see the co-op is so important.”

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Sneaky’s Takes the ‘Junk’ Out of Junk Food

Sneaky’s Takes the ‘Junk’ Out of Junk Food

tish and sneakysThere you are, strolling the aisles of the Co-op and virtuously filling your cart with fruit, vegetables, and a few products whose names you can’t pronounce but they look healthy. Your intentions are good, your heart is pure – and then you get home. “If you’re like me, you buy all of these healthy foods but then the first thing to go is a bag of potato chips,”says Tish Watford. “Where we tend to break down a lot is in the snack department.” Her solution was to invent Sneaky’s, popcorn dusted with nutrient rich spirulina powder that is made of all organic, non-GMO, gluten-free ingredients.

“I hope that people will see it as a way of creatively incorporating  superfoods in something other than smoothies,” she says, “especially parents. Maybe it will light a creative spark.” She also hopes that Sneaky’s will help people “rethink what they’re buying; each ingredient and the purpose it serves. In the broader sense, it’s about understanding what’s in our food. Why is this in here?”

“Where we tend to break down a lot is in the snack department.”

Tish’s first taste-testers were her parents. She was living in a small town in Alabama that didn’t really have any healthy food options. After a visit to neighboring Tuscaloosa, she brought home some spirulina. Her son wanted popcorn, so she decided to experiment with it. “It was a little salty at first,” she laughs. Since moving to Olympia, she’s perfected the product and introduced it into local health food stores, including the Yelm Food Co-op.

Before launching Sneaky’s, the only business she’d owned was in tax preparation. Tish holds a master’s degree in accounting and financial management. “The food world is so much different from offering a service,” she says. “It’s so good to be in this area. I’ve learned a lot on my own but also from other Olympia-area foodpreneurs. Everyone is ready to share their knowledge.”

Her next step is an alternative version of kettle corn “without the corn syrup,” she says. For now, look for spirulina Sneaky’s in the snack section of the Yelm Food Co-op. You can put it right next to your vegetables.
Photo by Jennifer Crain

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Watching the Baby Grow Up: Robyn Hawk on Yelm Co-op Then and Now

Watching the Baby Grow Up: Robyn Hawk on Yelm Co-op Then and Now

robyn hawkFor Robyn Hawk, the Yelm Food Cooperative resembles a child she gets to see grow up. “It’s like a baby that’s been well-nourished,” she says. She ought to know. Robyn has been volunteering almost since the store’s inception, and she has seen all of the growing pains and changes that have occurred along the way. She is inspired by both the people who have stuck with it since the beginning, and the relatively new arrivals. “I wholeheartedly know that everything that goes on in the co-op is authentic and of pure intent,” she says. “Everybody gives of their heart and soul, paid and not paid.”

She remembers how the store began ten years ago. “A very small handful of people somehow got another small handful of people to get a fair amount of money so that they could start this co-op, based just on everybody’s brilliance,” she recalls. “Debbie Burgan, Tom and Jutta Dewell gave and continue to give their lives to it. Florence Vincent came in later, but she was amazing – because she was a different buyer. She researched everything and she was European. Rebecca Galbraith used to be there day after day in the small store. I’d say,’How can you be here and work so many hours?’ She’d just be sitting on the stool.”

The current leaders are equally dedicated, in her view. “Barnaby* is incredible,” she says. “The board that we have now is extraordinary. Bill Wyman** and that group are visionaries. There are so many people who do things behind the scenes.”

Compared to the early days of co-ops, she says, this store is extremely well run – and relatively tame. When she managed a co-op in the small town of Cave Junction, Oregon thirty-five years ago, “We used to meet the trucks on one of the side roads at 2:00 and 3:00 in the morning,” she says.  “For a while the cops would stop us. We would just load the products from their pick up to our pick up and go to somebody’s house.” Twenty people would gather around a table at the local alternative school once a week to place orders and once their shipments arrived, they would weigh everything and divvy it up between customers. “It was the very beginning of co-ops,” she says.

Today, volunteering at the Yelm Co-op allows her to fulfill a childhood dream. “Ever since I was a little kid, when we’d play house, I wanted to work with a cash register,” she explains, “but I’m totally dyslexic. There’s nowhere else on the planet that they’d let me run a cash register. It’s so fun for me. I love it. Working at the co-op is one of my favorite things that I do.”

*Barnaby Urich Rintz is the Yelm Food Cooperative’s General Manager.

**Bill Wyman is the Yelm Food Cooperative’s Board President.   

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For Brothers, Necessity Was the Mother of Liberty Lotion

For Brothers, Necessity Was the Mother of Liberty Lotion

4oz_libertylotion_productpicFor the Garner brothers, necessity really was the mother of invention. Samson Garner sustained a massive spinal injury several years ago and became a medical marijuana patient to deal with his pain levels. Not satisfied, he began to experiment with different ingredients in an attempt to create something that would be more effective. “The first draft was a combination of hash oil and coconut oil,” says his brother Levi. “It took him two years to get to the point where it was ready for market.” The end result is Liberty Lotion, a pain relief product that includes hemp oil and emu oil. Samson is in charge of production while Levi runs the business side.

For one local Yelm resident*, the lotion has been a godsend. After eight surgeries on one hip and another hip that had been broken in four places, the 84-year-old was in constant pain. “You learn to live with it and realize things like you can’t get out of the bathtub or your bed any more without pain,” she says. The first time she tried Liberty Lotion, she was amazed to realize that the pain was gone.

Levi recommends that people with chronic pain use the lotion heavily for two weeks, then ease up. “It’s like a time release capsule,” he says. “It takes time for the body to absorb the CBD (the non-psychoactive ingredient in cannabis).” After that, he says, they should notice a significant decrease in their pain levels.

The sales team for Liberty Lotion (whom the brothers have given the title “Proper Gentlemen” rather than sales reps)  are long-term friends who were converted by the product’s effects. “They were in the construction industry,” says Levi. “They came over after an 18-hour day of pressure washing amd tried the product. The next day they quit their jobs and joined us.”

Meanwhile in Yelm, our 84-year-old friend uses Liberty Lotion for very deep bone, joint and muscle pain. In her experience, it usually takes about 45 minutes to take full effect. “Now I’m able to get things done around my property, weed the garden and take care of all the little things,” she says. “It’s given me my life back.”

Liberty Lotion is now available at the Yelm Co-op. Check the front display racks or ask a clerk for help.

*She prefers to remain anonymous.

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