Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Foodie Field Trip- Wheatsfield Cooperative and a very cool recipe

I carry a list in my purse. Old school style. In a teeny little spiral notebook I actually have lists- restaurants I want to try, recipes I want to make, places I want to visit/check out such as ethnic markets. Without the lists, I'd never remember all the cool stuff I want to see, like the Wheatsfield Cooperative in Ames. The Co-op is a very cool store with roots reaching all the way back to 1974, when a group of like-minded citizens decided to form a sort of buying club. Today the co-op serves its member-owners as well as the general public with a full service grocery store that focuses on local produce, organic foods, sustainability, environmental and social issues.

The co-op enriches the community as well, with educational programs focusing on health, diet and nutrition. The co-op's calendar is loaded with classes and programs with something for everyone, like a class on fermenting and kimchi, brewing beer at home, classes focusing on essential oils and using them for self-healing, recipe, baking and cooking classes of all kinds, and much more.

Kids 12 and under can join the Co-op Explorers Club. Programming with children in mind and free fruit when kids stop in to shop and cookies on birthdays make it fun for kids to learn all about where their food comes home and how to be a good citizen of the planet. The Nickel Club encourages shoppers to use reusable bags. For each reusable bag used the shopper gets a Co-op Nickel. The nickels can be redeemed on purchases or donated to the monthly cause. Since the program began in 2013 over $22,000 has been raised. That, my friends, is a LOT of nickels!

This is one time I'm ok with a sticker on my produce!
As you guys have been with me on several different shopping trips, you know the bulk of my food dollars are spent in the produce section. We all know fresh fruits and vegetables are good for us, and I live by those words. Checking out the unique and beautiful fresh produce in the Co-op store was my favorite part of the visit. Loads and loads of organic items and most, seriously, most of the produce was not only in-season but locally grown. That is hugely important to me and a lot of other people out there. Those huge grocery chains get produce from all over the world and it makes no sense to me to buy an imported tomato that was artificially ripened in a warehouse before being shipped when I can get a beautiful red ripe Iowa-grown tomato. Local wins every time for me. Not only is the quality better, the food is fresher and my purchase is putting money into the pocket of a local grower, who will then spend the money locally, and our economy is happy.

This weekend The Chef and I are committed to using up what we have in the house already- from our pantry, our freezer, and leftovers. I love repurposing leftovers into a whole new dish and the pasta sauce he made the other night was in the fridge waiting to be used. I've been craving zucchini for the last few days and that was all I really needed to make this dish happen. The Co-op had some gorgeous local zucchini, the cutest organic baby bella mushrooms and freshly baked baguette so my dinner was complete with just those three ingredients!

One tip I simply must share for making the zucchini boats- use a melon baller! After you cut the zucchini in half lengthwise you have to scoop out all the guts, and a melon baller is the perfect tool. The sharp edge of the cutting scoop makes it easy to get exactly the right thickness of remaining shell without poking through the bottom. Be sure to save all the scooped out zucchini because you'll chop it and add it to the filling.

Another tip for making this recipe successful is to use the super high quality olive oils and seasoning from Sinful Food. I used the Italian Herb oil but the basil or garlic would have been equally delicious. The garlic olive oil is also perfect for brushing over thick cut slices of Italian bread or baguette and grilled for easy garlic bread. Of course, the Signature Seasoning also makes the dish even better- no need to measure out a bunch of spices, the seasoning mix has it all!

To get your Sinful Food products for your own creations, click HERE.

Summer Zucchini Boats

2 medium zucchini, about 1 lb each
1/2 medium onion, diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
4 ounces fresh mushrooms, chopped
1/4 cup chopped tomatoes
1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
1 cup marinara sauce
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons Sinful Food Italian Herb olive oil
1 teaspoon Sinful Food Signature Seasoning

Heat the oven to 375 degrees.

Cut the zucchini in half lengthwise. I left the stem attached but you can remove that if you want. Scoop out the inside of the squash, leaving about 1/2 inch shell. Place the zucchini boats on a baking sheet and set aside.

Chop the squash that has been scooped out and add to a bowl. Add the onion, garlic, mushrooms and tomatoes. Season with the Signature Seasoning. 

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat, add the Italian Herb Olive Oil. Add the chopped vegetables to the skillet and cook over medium high heat until softened and all the liquid has evaporated. Remove from heat and stir in the breadcrumbs and the marinara sauce.

Spoon the mixture into the zucchini boats. Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese evenly over the boats. 

Place in the oven and bake for 45 minutes.

So delicious! Not only is this an easy recipe, it's healthy and low in calories. It's a great option for meatless dinners, and can be vegan if you swap out the Parm for a non-dairy cheese. My recipe was not vegetarian since I was using up some of The Chef's pasta sauce from the night before and the sauce was made with pork loin and salami. This dish had something to make everyone happy- locally grown zucchini, organic mushrooms, purchased from a food Co-op and finished with recycled pasta sauce! How's that for thinking outside of the box?

Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a "sponsored post." As a Brand Ambassador for Sinful Food, the company compensated me via a cash payment, gift or something of value. Regardless,  I only recommend products or services I believe are of good quality and safe. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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