Farm Tour

Recently members of the cafe were invited by Charlie’s Produce to participate in a Farm Tour scheduled to look at the operations of a few local farms. Schols Organic Farm, located near Olympia in the Nisqually River Valley, was the first on our agenda and, to me, the most exciting!
Schols Organic Farm is a certified organic 40 acre farm run by John Schols and his crew. John specializes in growing chards, kales and leaf lettuce. John, a shy, gentle man graciously walked us through the growing process of his crops from start to finish, starting with the seeding process.
Located in the rustically beautiful antique outbuildings of his family’s former dairy operation, John’s seeding process begins. He uses metal seeding trays and clay coated seeds to help somewhat streamline the time consuming and meticulous process of accurately planting 200 cell trays measuring about 2 feet in length by 1 foot in width. Peat based soil is used to nurture these seedlings into forming strong and healthy root systems.
Once seeded, the cell trays are then transferred into the open greenhouse where these seeds become plant starts. Watering becomes a full time job in the sprouting process. Cell trays are placed on water absorbent felt mats, helping keep each cell hydrated. A close eye must be kept on the plant watering system at all times because conditions have a potential to change many times throughout the day. Over watering can lead to rot while under watering can lead to burned plants. Fertilizing is also challenging to manage in this growing stage because organic fertilizers tend to be more dry matter-based, requiring more time to activate than conventional, fast-acting water-based fertilizers.
After about 6-8 weeks of nurturing, these plants are ready to be transplanting out into the black loamy soil fields. John fertilizes the land every other year, waiting 120 days after fertilization to plant his first crop. From there it takes about 6 weeks for the plant starts to grow into full heads. Cabbage root maggot is one of the main predators to watch out for in the fields. This fly larva feeds off of the root system of the plants and is devastating to crops.  John uses Integrated Pest Management strategies as opposed to pesticides to combat this predator by simply avoiding these pests during the peak of their life cycle and planting a little later. Once fully grown these greens can be clipped and harvested until the plants go to seed, thus ending its productivity. From there the plants are uprooted and turned into compost, the soil is churned and the process starts all over again.
John Schols provided great insight into the mind of a farmer. It was very apparent just how much time, thought and intuition is needed to battle all of the ongoing changes in the lifecycle of these organic plants, just so they can be brought to our dinner table. Next time you eat a salad or sauté some braising greens, I recommend spending a moment appreciating the time and energy spent nurturing those beautiful, nutrient rich greens.


This post was contributed to by Heather M & Lois R.

Gluten-Free Vegan Baking

If you are vegan and gluten free you may have found yourself wondering what is left for you to bake with. As you scan recipes on the web or look at the variety of gluten free cookbooks at your book store or library, you will find that many of them use eggs to help make up for the lack of gluten. Leaving the eggs out of gluten free baked goods is not quite as easy as it is with glutinous baked goods but it is possible.


To start, read our previous blog post about substituting for eggs in vegan baking to give you an idea about what you need to keep in mind about eggs.


Substituting gluten free flours begins with the same question as substituting for eggs: What is this (flour, egg, etc.) doing in this baked good?


Wheat flour has two parts – the gluten is protein composite (that’s what we make our Lentil Burger with), while other part of the wheat flour is starch. In addition, gluten has a special property whereby when it is mixed with water it become sticky and forms a stretchy dough. Gluten helps dough to rise and hold its rise after being baked, it helps control the moisture of a baked good and it can give a chewy, crusty texture when baked.


A gluten free baked good needs to substitute for all these things: protein, starch and the binding quality of gluten. In addition, wheat has its own flavor that ranges from almost invisible in refined white wheat flour to strongly whole-grain and nutty in whole wheat flour. Gluten free flours have a variety of flavors and sometimes which one to use comes down to what flavors work well together.


But for the basics:

Starch: this should comprise about 60% of your total flour mix. The two main starches we use are tapioca flour which is a very fine white starch and white rice flour which is more granular and gives more texture. Both flours are very mild and the flavors hardly add anything to the final product. We also use cornstarch, potato starch and arrowroot in some of our recipes.


Protein: these flours should be about 40% of your mix. The most common ones we use are sorghum, millet, amaranth and teff. We also use chickpea flour in our gluten free bread, but as it has a very savory, beany taste we only use a little and only in savory items. Sorghum and millet are the mildest of these flours – both taste a little like cornmeal. Millet can taste bitter, but it gives a nice cakey texture. Teff and amaranth taste more whole-grainy – good for spice and chocolate cakes, or cookies, but not as good for a very mild “white” cake.


Binding: at Chaco we use xanthan gum, which is a polysaccharide made by fermenting sugars with a specific type of bacteria. The resulting gel is dried and powdered. We recommend Bob’s Red Mill as it has consistent quality and good results. It adds viscosity and volume to your Gluten Free dough as well as texture. You have to be careful though – too much and you will get a rubbery texture and a slippery feel in your mouth. Usually 1/2 to 1 t per cup of flour mix is enough. Start with the lower amount and increase as needed.

Other options besides xanthan gum include other gums (such as guar gum), flax or chia seeds. Each one acts differently though, so do your research and be ready to experiment.


Try this flour mix for cakes and cupcakes – for each 2 cups of wheat flour use:

1 c tapioca starch

1/2 c white rice flour

1/4 c millet flour

1/4 c sorghum flour

1 t xanthan gum


If you run into any trouble, or questions. Please Reply in the Comments Below!

Cheers & Much Love,

The Chaco Canyon Bakers!


This post was created by Laura Wilson.

Vegan Eggs, which do you use? “Egg”istential Questions

What Vegan Egg to Use in your Baked Goods

If you are experimenting with converting baking recipes to a vegan version, you’ve probably run into the question of what to use instead of eggs. There are so many suggestions out there, it can be confusing to decide which one to use. The main guideline that we use here at Chaco, when converting or inventing recipes, is to ask what do we want our egg-substitute to do?

Eggs do a lot of things in baked goods: they act as a binder, as leavening, provide substance, provide texture, add color and add moisture. So it is important to figure out what the egg you are replacing is doing, before you choose a replacer.

Binding: our two favorites for this are ground flax and banana. Flax: The easiest way to use ground flax for an egg is to mix 1 teaspoon ground flax with 2 Tablespoons water for each egg you are replacing. Do this at the start of your recipe and as you let the flax sit in the water it will form a thick goo which can be mixed into your recipe as you would mix an egg. Pre-ground flax can be an iffy purchase as the oils go bad very fast. We grind our own flax fresh, but it will store in the refrigerator for a little while if you grind too much. Flax will add a nutty flavor to the baked goods. Banana: Baked goods with banana will have a fruity, sweet flavor, so adjust your sweetener down a tiny bit. The pectin in bananas helps bind the baked goods as does the protein. Use ¼ cup very well mashed banana for each egg. These work well to make delicious chewy chocolate chip cookies if you don’t mind the hint of banana in the flavor.

Leavening: Frequently, this can be as simple as increasing the baking soda or baking powder slightly – about ¼ t baking soda or ½ baking powder per egg. Remember if you are using baking soda you need something acidic to activate it. We usually use a baking soda/apple cider vinegar combination in our cakes and cupcakes. Remember to add a tiny bit more liquid to replace the liquid lost from removing the egg. Also, 1 Tablespoon cornstarch or tapioca starch with the dry ingredients can help with a little of the lost binding action, if you are not adding flax or banana.

Substance (for custards, quiches, puddings and whips): Our favorites are blended silken tofu and blended soaked cashews. Depending on your recipe you will most likely need a binder as well. Agar works well to create unbaked pastry creams, puddings and whips. Cornstarch and arrowroot work well in baked items. One trick is to add as little liquid as you can get away with, so that you are not trying to later subtract liquid by baking or binding.

Color: Lastly, if you want a hint of the yellow of the egg yolk, try adding a little bit of ground turmeric dissolved in your dry ingredients or a little bit of hot water. We’ve used this method to color lemon bars and custard pie, among other things. Use a light hand as you don’t want to taste the turmeric, however it is surprising just how much you can add before it starts changing the flavor.

Pictured: Strawberry Rhubarb Custard Tart – using both cashews and tofu with cornstarch and a little bit of turmeric for color – delicious early summer pie!




This post was created by Laura Wilson.

Wedding Season – a Cake for the Ages

Tips for Vegan Wedding Cakes

Did you know Chaco Canyon does vegan wedding cakes and we can do gluten-free cakes as well? Summer is the most popular time for weddings, but it is important to consider how the extra heat will affect your delicious cake.
Plan ahead! The sooner you begin the process the more likely we can make a cake for your special day. We will arrange a tasting so that you can choose your favorite flavor of cake, frosting and fillings. Some of our past wedding cake flavors flavors include Lemon Mousse, Chocolate and Vanilla, Gluten-Free Curried Carrot, and Coconut with fresh Strawberries.
If only a few of your guests are gluten-free, consider getting gluten-free cupcakes in the same flavors as your cake, so that there is something for everyone.
Because we believe in using the most healthful and natural ingredients, we never use artificial colorings in our frosting. This does limit the colors we can create; however we can do lovely designs with ivory, yellow, peach, pink and all colors of chocolate, from pale tan to deep, dark brown.
Our vegan frostings are more fragile than non-vegan options and our cakes do best refrigerated until close to serving time. They should never be set out in direct sun, so if your reception is outside consider a shady space for your cake. If your venue has a refrigerator that can fit your cake, be sure to have it cleared out and ready to hold it. Another option is to have us deliver your cake right before you want to serve it.
If you are planning your wedding or another special occasion keep us in mind for you special cake needs – and congratulations!

wedding cake display for blog post



This post was created by Laura Wilson.