How-To: Simple Strawberry Jam

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Spring has officially arrived on the Palouse and we’re finally starting to thaw! To celebrate the change in seasons, our Produce manager, Kyle, was able to procure a smokin’ deal on organic strawberries. They are currently on sale for $3.99 per pound and are available until we sell out. Now, we’re all for eating strawberries as they come, cut up in yogurt or layered in shortcake, but we also love a sweet and simple jam layered on freshly baked Co-op bread. To make the jam you will need:

2 pounds fresh strawberries, hulled
4 cups of sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice

In a large mixing bowl, crush strawberries in batches until you have 4 cups of mashed berries. In a heavy bottomed saucepan, mix together the strawberries, sugar, and lemon juice. Stir over low heat until the sugar is dissolved. Increase heat to high, and bring the mixture to a full rolling boil. Boil, stirring often, until the mixture reaches 220 degrees, about 10-15 minutes.

Test for jelling: Place three small plates in the freezer. After about 10 minutes of boiling, place a teaspoon of the liquid onto the cold plate. If it doesn’t run back together when you draw a line through it with your finger, it’s ready!

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 Transfer to hot sterile jars, leaving 1/4 to 1/2 inch headspace, and seal. Process in a water bath for 15 minutes. If the jam is going to be eaten right away, there’s no need to process it. Simply keep it in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

 

 

How To: Throw a Co-op Birthday Party!

Our Co-op Kids program turned 8 years old last week (that’s eight years of positive programming for the kiddos in our Co-op community), so of course we had to celebrate! Here are some photos from the birthday party, along with some tips for throwing your own little ones a birthday party- Co-op style.
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We know that there are a variety of dietary issues facing our little ones nowadays, so we offered a vegan chocolate cake and gluten-free vanilla cupcakes. It’s always good to check with other parents to find out if their kids have any allergies or food sensitivities. It’s really nice for children with dietary restrictions to feel like they can participate in the fun at a birthday party. Look for the recipes we used at the bottom of this post!

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While it’s easy to spend a ton on birthday parties, we like to recycle items we already have, like newspaper to make birthday hats and colorful paper to make decorations. For these goody bags, we used sample sizes of kid-friendly snacks, little puzzles, some temporary tattoos and plantable seed paper.

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We also made sure we had a special drink station for the grown-ups with coffee, tea and hot chocolate. We used a chalk runner to write a message, but you could also run this down the middle of the kids’ table and let them draw as part of the festivities.

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Vegan Chocolate Cake Recipe:
1 1/4 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup warm water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium bowl whisk together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt, until well combined. Add the water, vanilla, oil, and vinegar, and mix again so that it’s really well combined. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides if necessary. Line the bottom of a cake pan with parchment paper and pour batter into pan. Place in oven and bake for about 30 minutes, or until a knife comes out clean. Cool on a rack completely. To make a layer cake, double the recipe and bake in two separate cake pans.

Gluten-free Vanilla Cupcakes
1 1/2 cups all-purpose gluten-free flour blend, like Bob’s Red Mill
1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white granulated sugar
1 large egg
3/4 cup almond, soy or cow’s milk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a standard muffin tin with paper liners. Combine the flour mix, baking powder, xanthan gum and salt in a medium mixing bowl and whisk. In another mixing bowl whisk together the sugars with the egg, milk, vanilla and oil. Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and whisk until smooth and it starts to thicken slightly. Be careful not to over mix the batter or cupcakes will become dense. Divide the batter among the prepared muffin tins and bake for 18 – 22 minutes or until they are golden brown and the tops spring back slightly. Makes 12 cupcakes.

2 Ways to Preserve Your Valentine’s Day Flowers

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We know there are several schools of thought about buying flowers to show your love. We know that some of you think they’re already half-dead when they make it into your home (nothing says “I love you” more than something half-dead, right?) and some of you think there’s nothing more beautiful than a vase of fresh flowers to liven up your living space. This post is designed for both the flower nay-sayers and the petal pushers. Here are a few ways to preserve your flowers:

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We know you want to enjoy your flowers for as long as possible before preserving them, so here are a couple tips:

  • Cut stems at an angle to give them the best chance to take up water. Cut them about 3/4″ every couple days.
  • Add a couple tablespoons of white vinegar to the water to give bacteria a harder time to grow.
  • Change the water + vinegar every couple days.

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When you’ve enjoyed your fresh flowers for several days, it’s time to start thinking about their next incarnation. While you could add them to your compost heap, we have a couple of ideas about preserving them for the long haul. The first is to press them in a book. Be sure to pick a heavy book (a dictionary or, you know, Lord of the Rings). Pick a few blooms from your bouquet that are still healthy looking and blot them with a paper towel to remove any excess moisture. Place them between a couple pieces of paper inside the book and close. Wait a couple weeks and you’ll have beautifully preserved blooms that can be glued to paper and placed in a frame.

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Another option for preserving your flowers is to dry them. To dry them, take stems out of vase and  place them in small bunches. Tie the ends together with twine and hang them upside down from a hook, a bar, a nail or curtain rod. In a couple weeks, your flowers will be preserved and can be placed back in a vase.

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The Co-op will have your flower needs covered this Valentine’s Day with bouquets of mixed blooms and single-stem fair trade red roses available in our produce department.