Monthly Archives: January 2012

What’s FRESH & LOCAL in February? Easy Healthy Meals on the Bulk Trail

Loris Sofia Gregory, Healthy Kitchen Coach, Apple Valley, MN

Valley Natural Foods, 13750 County Road 11, Burnsville, MN 55337

“A chickpea leaps almost over the rim of the pot where it is being boiled. ‘Why are you doing this to me?’ The cook knocks him down with the ladle. ‘Don’t try to jump out. You think I am torturing you. I’m giving you flavor, so you can mix with spices and rice and be the lovely vitality of a human being. Remember when you drank rain in the garden? That was for this.’” And so goes “Chickpea to Cook” by renowned Sufi poet Rumi writing in the 13th century. What a lovely vision of soft garden rain bringing us vitality. And considering their nutritional punch, there simply is nothing in our co-op that is healthier for you and your pocketbook than the legumes—the dried peas, beans and lentils found on our bulk trail. 

Only fresh dark leafy greens compare with legumes for nutrient-dense, calorie-sparse economical eating.  Not only a great source of low or no-fat plant protein and fiber, legumes are outstanding champions of the low glycemic foods that offer a slow, steady source of energy. They are loaded with nutrients that our bodies crave and need, including B vitamins necessary for a healthy brain, skin, nervous and digestive systems; calcium for strong bones and teeth and to keep the body more alkaline than acidic; and potassium, reducing the risk of high blood pressure and stroke. Along with the leafy dark greens, legumes are a stellar source of folate, the B vitamin that our bodies wisely utilize in protection against heart disease and cancer.

Humans did not start eating beans, peas and lentils after first reading about their nutritional goodness. Legumes have been a tasty meal staple across millenia, grown by wise gardeners worldwide. Visualize cowboys and cattle drivers keeping strong with pots of beans around the camp fire. Native Americans have grown and enjoyed a diversity of beans for generations, as East Indian families have survived on split peas and lentils. Vendors were selling hot pea soup in the streets of Athens as far back as 2500 years ago. Sick of city life, the Roman poet Horace longed for a rustic dish of chickpeas and pasta

Located conveniently closer in Welcome, Minnesota, Doug and Lin Hilgendorf of Whole Grain Milling Company grow and process the green split peas, red kidney beans and black turtle beans found on our bulk trail. About 140 miles southwest in Martin County and certified organic since 1989, the Hilgendorf’s commitment to high-quality, earth-friendly foods has helped them flourish for over 20 years. North Bay Trading Company, a small family-owned business in Brule, Wisconsin, brings healthy convenient “32 Bean & 8 Vegetable Soup Mix” to our bulk trail. Exercise your family brain cells by trying to name 32 beans over dinner hour!

Legumes make terrific soups, stews, chili, main dishes and salads. Cooking time can be shortened by soaking overnight first. Either way, fill a pot of water two inches above the dried legumes, cover and simmer until cooked (30 minutes to two hours depending on size and hardness), checking occasionally to add water as needed. Season during or after cooking, but add salt last. Beans love a touch of acid from tomatoes or vinegar, as well as Mediterranean and south-of-the-border spices.  It’s impossible to tell you all delicious ways that legumes can be your next best friends. Here are a few ideas that will have your taste buds begging for more. (You can always substitute canned legumes if you are short on time and longer on cash. Support BPA-free companies such as Eden Organic.)

  • Cook or drain chickpeas (also called garbanzo beans), throw them in a bowl, sprinkle with salt and nutritional yeast (also found on the bulk trail), and enjoy their mild nutty flavor warm or cold. Did you know that “hummus” is Arabic for chickpea?
  • Toss warm cannellini (white kidney beans) with sautéed garlic and fresh rosemary. Toss cooked yellow or green lentils with diced and sautéed celery, onions and carrots. Combine red lentils with olive oil, red onion and balsamic vinegar.
  • Simmer green split peas in water or vegetable stock with sautéed onion and garlic until soft. Puree, swirl in a little Greek yogurt and top with fresh mint. Enjoy warm or chilled.
  • The deliciously creamy texture of cooked pinto beans makes them idea of mashing and refrying or using in bean dips. Pinto beans play well with chiles, cilantro and lime.

Our new booklet “Discovering Bulk Foods: A Co-operative Guidebook” (available soon) and my FRESH & LOCAL demos and classes in February and March will show you how to easily buy and prepare package-free, earth-friendly bulk foods, while saving an average of 30 to 50% on our 300+ choices. Are you ready to reap all these healthy benefits in your life?

FRESH & LOCAL DEMO, VALLEY NATURAL FOODS: Chickpea Tacos, Tuesday, February 14, 11 am -2 pm. Stop by for a tasty sample and my recipe plus receive complimentary coaching for FRESH & LOCAL eating. 

FRESH & LOCAL CLASS, VALLEY NATURAL FOODS: Easy Healthy Meals on the Bulk Trail, Tuesday, February 21, 6:308:30 pm, $17 for VNF members; $20 for non-members

Sign up for classes at least one week ahead. Register online here or call VNF Customer Service at 952.891.1212, Ext. 221.

Valley Natural Foods, 13750 County Road 11, Burnsville, MN 55337

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FRESH & LOCAL health coach Loris Sofia Gregory is based in Apple Valley and can be reached at 952.431.5586 or Loris would love to hear your ideas and questions about eating FRESH & LOCAL. Request her earth-friendly seasonal recipes if you miss her monthly demos and classes.


What’s FRESH & LOCAL in January? From Soup to Nuts on the Bulk Trail

Written for “Healthy Updates from Valley Natural Foods,”  Burnsville, Minnesota

If “eat healthier,” “try new foods” and “save more money” are on your list of resolutions for 2012, consider the dazzling diversity of our bulk foods trail from nourishing soups to energizing nuts. Our new helpful booklet “Discovering Bulk Foods” and my FRESH & LOCAL classes from January through March will show you how to easily buy and prepare package-free and earth-friendly bulk foods, while saving an average of 30 to 50% on our 300+ choices. Most of us are not looking to “get bulkier” in this New Year. So what’s the real story behind “buying bulk”? Read more to realize the benefits of shopping on our bulk trail.

First of all, don’t confuse “bulk foods” with buying in bulk from a big box store. For instance, when you purchase eight cans of soup in bulk at a big box store, you might get the soup in cans that are usually placed in a half box, and then wrapped in plastic. When you purchase fresh bulk foods out of package-free bins, you buy as little or as much as you need. Bulk foods are economical, fun to explore, easy to use and guarantee less waste for you and the earth.

Shopping on the Valley Natural Food’s Bulk Trail promises to:

Save you money: Buying natural, organic and many locally-produced foods in our bulk section offers an average savings of 30 to 50 percent over pre-packaged products. Stop by my BULK TRAIL DEMO at Valley Natural Foods on Tuesday, January 10, from 11 am to 2 pm to find out just how much you can save. Pick up a “Packaged or Bulk?” cost comparison handout and my monthly recipe, try a few samples and receive free coaching to create an FRESH & LOCAL inspiring kitchen for yourself and your family this year.

Introduce you to new foods while improving your health: There are infinite possibilities for creating easy delicious healthy meals from “mix and matching” the beans, lentils, peas and other legumes, whole grain pastas and rices, soups, seeds, seasonings and more found on our bulk trail. Bulk bins are an excellent way to expand your food repertoire. Purchase a small portion of something new, and return for more if you like it. Buying in bulk also offers hearty doses of plant-based vitamins, minerals and fiber, essential to heart health, building muscles, lowering cholesterol and blood pressure and keeping waistlines trim.

Offer convenient flexibility to buy a pinch or a pound: Buying in bulk offers you a broad selection that can be purchased in the exact quantity you desire. If you need a large bag of nuts for a party or just a pinch of chili powder for a new recipe, our bulk foods, herbs and spices provide many options. When your winter soup calls for 1 cup of dried beans, you can purchase exactly 1 cup from our bulk foods bins and put that amount in one of our convenient bags or jars or use one of your own reusable bags or containers. (Just remember to weigh your container first to subtract that amount from your final product weight.)

Ensure FRESH & LOCAL: Buying “as you need” on our bulk trail is always fresh, as opposed to purchasing a pre-determined packaged amount that may sit on your shelf for months (or years) and may not get used before its expiration date. The purity and quality of our bulk products are always visible prior to purchase plus we clean, fill and rotate our bulk foods regularly, rotating the scoop bins daily. Come to my January demo and class to learn more about the LOCAL companies who help keep our bulk trail FRESH.

Reduce waste and improve our environment: Buying in bulk radically reduces the amount and costs of packaging and transportation required from farm to table, as well as the amount of garbage that ends up in landfills. Nearly 80 million tons of waste is generated from packaging and containers annually, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and adds up to a third of our annual municipal solid waste. Bulk “fill-er-up” stations are the best way to cut back on food packaging, especially if you tote along your own reusable bags and containers.

Ready to reap all these benefits in your life? Sign up for my FRESH & LOCAL CLASS “FROM SOUP TO NUTS ON THE BULK TRAIL,” Tuesday January 17 (6:30 to 8:30) to learn more about the basics, the unique and the surprises of our 300+ bulk trail choices; including trail tips and etiquette; cost comparisons of your favorite packaged brands also in bulk; nutritional and allergy information and our local bulk producers and partners. Take home plenty of inspiring healthy ideas for “rise and shine” breakfasts, healthy super suppers and sustaining snacks. Bring your questions for what you would like to know about our bulk trail.

Please sign up classes at least one week ahead by calling VNF Customer Service at 952.891.1212, Ext. 221. Only $15 for members and $18 for non-members per class (ask about a discount coupon).

FRESH & LOCAL health coach Loris Sofia Gregory is based in Apple Valley, Minnesota. Contact her directly at 952.431.5586 or through her CONTACT page. Loris would love to hear your ideas and needs for eating FRESH & LOCAL, and request her healthy recipes if you miss her monthly demos and classes.