Using Natural Food Dyes In Your Home and At Chaco

Everything’s beginning to change for fall. The tree leaves, the sky, and the food around us are all taking on new colors. Natural food dye is the partner to seemingly all festivities this time of year, from icing on cookies to festive cakes and other homemade treats.

The Chaco kitchen has been resourceful in bringing our natural food ethos to our love for wacky-colored food. Turmeric, hibiscus powder, beet juice, and chlorophyll are all ingredients we use to color our raw cheesecakes, truffles, and cake frosting.

The pink coconut flakes on our seasonal raw truffles are dyed with beet juice, and our gluten-free chocolate mint cupcakes are made with chlorophyll for a green frosting.

At home, if you’ve ever cooked with fresh turmeric or beets, you know how easily they can stain your hands and cooking surfaces. I have yellow-tinted nails for days after juicing turmeric for the café. While I don’t find my yellow nails particularly pleasing, you can put that beautiful golden yellow color to good use, especially if you’re thinking about creating your upcoming Halloween costume. If you have any light-colored material or yarn you’d like to dye, turmeric makes a great natural fabric dye. All it takes is some ground turmeric, water, salt, and thick gloves to save your skin! Make sure the fabric you’re dying is a natural one—cotton and wool work great. You can follow a similar process with chopped beets for rose-colored results. Grab some yellow onions or red cabbage out of your vegetable drawer for even more color palate possibilities.

I’m constantly looking for ways to save my scraps and keep usable produce out of the compost bin. Not only does creating my own food dyes help me with this mission, it also prevents more chemical dyes from entering the trash and waste water system. Even food-grade dyes contain petroleum-based ingredients and animal products. Synthetic fabric dyes are also known to cause skin irritation and rashes. Ditch synthetic dyes and try making your own natural ones for a rewarding Halloween project!

 

Do you have a favorite food dye? Leave a comment telling us about your experience. Whether it’s with cooking or just for looking!

 

Recipe for turmeric dye:

4 cups water

¼ cup salt

Natural material (light-colored wool or cotton work best)

 

Bring the water and salt to a boil, then add your fabric. Let simmer for an hour. This process makes the dye take to your fabric much more easily. Then:

 

2 cups water

2 T ground turmeric

 

Bring water and turmeric to a boil, then add your fabric. Let simmer for 15-20 minutes. Remove your fabric and let it dry. Viola!

 

Happy Holidays

Annie
General Manager
Chaco Canyon Organic Cafe & Bakery, Greenwood

 

Building Bridges for U-District Youth

When I began training to be the next General Manager of Chaco University, one aspect I was the most excited about was taking on some community activism projects.

First, I wanted to settle into meeting members of the U-District community.

I took several walks around the neighborhood when I first started commuting from central Seattle.
Almost immediately, I noticed a disproportionately large number of homeless and disenfranchised youth on the streets of the U-district.

I thought, there must already be a great deal of effort going into helping this group of people find stability in their life.

I hoped that if I joined the people working on this that I could add a unique skill set. I wanted to use my resources to diversify and expand the scope of the work that they were doing.

I connected with several people at the annual stakeholder’s meeting with the U-District Partnership’s Buisness Improvement Area (BIA). I met folks working with U-Heights and ROOTS Young Adult Shelter. They were involved in working on improving the lives of homeless youth.

Roots

A few short weeks later, I was at a meeting with those same key people. We began hammering out the details for a homeless youth job placement program, hosted by ROOTS. We hashed out some initial details on doing outreach to other businesses with entry level work force needs. Then we outlined the creation of a pilot program for having light, general work training and UDP/City of Seattle wage compensation put in place. We were going to facilitate the push for these businesses to take on U-district youth as employees.

This project represents not only my personal drive to be a part of the community I work in, but the desire of the Chaco Family to be an active force for improvement in our communities.

There are many areas of my new post as General Manager at Chaco University that I am extremely excited about. The food and drink,

The amazing internal community that makes up the Chaco Family.

Our ability to drive forward sustainable, organic agriculture in Washington. Still, helping those in need in the greater U-District community is one area I feel most called to.

I’m really looking forward to continuing this work and to meeting many more wonderful members of the University District community. I’m excited to meet you all and build amazing things here!

Avalon Zanoni
Manager, U-District
Chaco Canyon Cafe

Choose Chaco Canyon Cafe for Heart of Seattle Award

There are a LOT of awards and recognition out there for businesses. Especially for restaurants.

Some are good, like Seattle Weekly’s annual poll – Chaco just got second place to Café Flora for best Vegetarian. Other awards are just spread around with no real meaning or actual achievement necessary. Awards like those handed out by Yelp and Zagat.
But then there are unique awards and recognition that go beyond good food. We get really excited about these kinds of awards at Chaco Canyon.

Last month, I wrote about the honors we received from 2013 Green Washington Award and the 2014 Recycler of the Year Award.

Earlier this year, we received our first international recognition as one of the

Top 10 Eco-Eateries

by Green Market Movers in the U.K.

I’m proud to announce, we’re up for another great award. Chaco Canyon Organic Cafe has been selected as one of only 15 finalists for the Heart of Seattle Award! The total pool of nominations was over 500 local businesses and nonprofits, and we have made it through to the final round of voting. This is a great honor, and something that is made for Chaco Canyon!
The Heart of Seattle Award is the brainchild of the renowned Chinook Book. The focus of the award is, “designed to recognize Seattle retail and service businesses that set a high bar for what good business should be…local businesses with stellar social and environmental priorities, ethical business practices, happy employees, and loving customers.”

 

We knew we had to apply as soon as we were notified about the award and read what it was dedicated to honoring. Furthermore, we thought we had a good shot of being recognized. Chaco Canyon embodies these traits and were founded upon them.

Vote Chaco Canyon Organic Cafe for the heart of seattle award
Vote Chaco Canyon Organic Cafe

 

 

So, please CLICK HERE to VOTE!

This one literally takes 15 seconds. You don’t need to enter an email address or sign up for anything. In addition to Chaco Canyon Organic Cafe, there are some other great businesses to laud and vote for, including two of our great community partners: Bootyland and Seattle ReCreative.
Please consider supporting Chaco for this award, we would love to be highly considered for this great community award for all we do!

 

Chris Maykut
Proud Owner
Chaco Canyon Organic Cafes

Great Weekend at Sustainable Ballard

I raised my eyebrows in surprise when I was told that we were going to be serving Banana Bread at Sustainable Ballard.

I’ve learned to avoid bananas at the grocery store, like other cheaply available and mass produced items. I’m always suspect of how a company can afford to pay it’s workers a living wage and still give me such a good price.

After asking around the kitchen, I learned that we source our bananas from Giving Resources and Opportunities to Workers (GROW). GROW gives restaurants and retailers an alternative to the questionable practices of other banana farms. The following short video tells us about the positive effects GROW has managed to bring to banana farming communities:
 

Saturday’s break in intense heat was ideal. Courtney and I arrived at Ballard Commons under the more familiar cloudy skies. We set up our tent for what became a lively and fun event that included live music, demonstrations, and free Chinook books! Our table was situated right across from the Food Empowerment Project (F.E.P.).

I love this organization’s mission, “to create a more just and sustainable world by recognizing the power of one’s food choices”.

F.E.P. recently sponsored a school supply drive for the children of farm workers, which is so cool!
 
While at the event, a KBFG DJ told me that Chaco Canyon Cafe is now on the Food Empowerment Project’s Chocolate List. This list recognizes companies who source chocolate that is not produced by means of child labor or slavery. I encourage you to read this article if you’d like to know more about where your chocolate is coming from!
 
Although I’m terribly camera shy, it only took about 10 minutes until I was asked to speak about Chaco on local radio station KBFG 107.3.

I was very excited to learn that KBFG is a local North Seattle broadcast, serving Ballard, Fremont, Greenwood, and Phinney Ridge.

Currently, KBFG is only streaming online, but they will be broadcasting as a low-power FM station in early 2017. Don’t you just love local community powered radio?! I do. Check out KBFG’s schedule. They offer musica  mexico, heritage hour African language programming, and local business reports. So much content is offered, and there are plenty of ways to get involved!

KBFG explores Sustainable Ballard!

 

All together, it was wonderful to see everyone who could make it! I love serving banana bread to someone and telling them there’s no eggs or butter in it. The shock! The awe. Good food simply needs good ingredients. As a buyer for the café, I know how much love and care goes into sourcing those ingredients. Honestly, it’s great to be at an event and see that folks come to our table because they know it’s food they can get behind.
 
All in all, thank you to everyone who came out to Sustainable Ballard. See you next year!
 
Cheers,
Bettina
Chaco Canyon Organic Cafe
Commissary Kitchen

Weeds You Could be Eating: Part Deux

Backyard Liver TonicIts mid summer and here I am, back again for “weeds you could be eating part deux.” Don’t mind the Hot Shots reference.

So it’s early August, you’ve already harvested lambs quarters, nettle, berries, and all those other plants, you know, the vegetables you intentionally planted. The summer days are getting shorter but hotter. Your apples, pears and plums are getting ready to be picked. Your neighbors apples, pears and plums are getting ready to be picked, by you, because they never do anything with them anyway, but you really should ask permission instead of sneaking over in the middle of the night. No judgement here.

 

Oh my dandelion,

it has taken over your front yard, your side yard, and just about everything in between. You haven’t mowed it down because it’s bringing in so many local bees that are doing their pollinating thing and making your harvest possible. Well good news the whole dang plant is edible. Lemme tell you a little bout dandelion. Dandelion, taraxacum officinale, is packed full of vitamin A, C, calcium and is quite the liver tonic. You can make tea, you can make wine, you can make soup, you can make salads, you can make medicine and just about everything under the sun. Dandelion flowers make a great wine, you may need a lot of flowers, or can be added to any mead or wine to add complexity. The root of dandelion can be boiled in place of any vegetable or roasted and ground in place of coffee. The leaves of dandelion can be quite bitter when raw so I would suggest cooking them before ingesting, maybe try them in soup. Not only is dandelion good for you it’s good for the soil too. Dandelion roots break up the compact soil (ahem grass lawns)  and aerate the earth. Their deep roots pull up nutrients and make them available to other plants.  Only since the idea of grass lawns have dandelions been looked upon so poorly. I think it’s about time we change our perception on Dandelion.

 

 A good alternative to fish oil supplements.

Purslane do your dang thing.

We may have just missed the cut off for Purslane as its starting to get bitter in my garden, but just in case you still have a little left. Purslane, portulaca oleracea, often used as a ground cover, is an edible plant that grows low to the ground. Purslanes succulent leaves are delectable and high in omega-3 fatty oils so no need to take that fish oil, yuck. You can chop the stems and leaves as an addition to any salad or cook them and add them to any soup or vegetable dish. Next spring throw down some purslane seeds on your broccoli bed and have a living edible mulch.

 

Sorrel Sorrel,

what ever will be will be.  Mountain Sorrel, oxyria dingyna, and Sheep Sorrel, rumex acetosella,  are both edible and both grow around these parts. Sorrel leaves are edible and can be added to salad or sandwiches. The leaves can be sour so I would not suggest ingesting too many leaves or making an entire salad out of them.

Just like any foraging adventure make sure you know %100 before you ingest. Common names can be misleading or misused and many plants have not so edible or even poisonous look a likes. If you are not sure, use a reference manual to help identify or don’t eat it.  That’s it from me this week. What wild edible plants are you eating, how are you preparing them and what do you suggest?

 

Nichole Criss
Chaco Canyon Cafe West Seattle
Assistant General Manager

 

Sources:
Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast, Pojar and Mackinnon
The Foragers Harvest, Samuel Thayer
Gardenguides.com
Ediblewildfood.com

Moving Beyond Green

togo wear and silverwear

 

In the days before I first opened Chaco Canyon in 2003, I found myself shopping for the last items we needed to be ready.

I came to the section with disposable utensils and paused for some time. This was in the dark ages before compostable was an option so we’re talking rigid plastic, single-use utensils.  I just couldn’t do it, and made a hurried trip to Goodwill to stock up on silverware to hand out to people until I could come up with a better idea.

A funny thing happened as we pondered a better plan: the ad-hoc one worked great for everyone.  Nine out of ten customers, when offered the option of a piece of silverware, said that they had a fork or spoon in the car or office, and they didn’t need anything.  Those that took them tended to come back and return their fork (great for retention), and most everyone understood that – while this was an admittedly weird system – they appreciated not feeling guilty for using a manufactured item from a far-flung country once and then tossing it into the waste stream.

Put this system side by side with the “normal” thing to do in the restaurant industry: putting a disposable fork, spoon and napkin (and knife and chopsticks….) in every bag, just to make sure everyone absolutely gets utensils.  Taking the time to ask everyone who gets something to go, and explaining that they can actually take utensils (or bamboo chopsticks) takes a lot more time and effort, but one of the main differentiators between a business that is “green” and one that has in its mission to have Zero Impact on the planet someday.

We’ve saved over a half million single-use utensils from production and disposal just by making this simple choice – that’s a good start.

Choosing not to have disposable utensils, and dozens of other ‘unusual’ behaviors and choices we make every day at Chaco Canyon, are what makes us unique and special.  It’s why we won the 2013 Green Washington Award and the 2014 Recycler of the Year Award for small businesses, as well as many other accolades and awards throughout the years.

WSRA

The sustainability and zero impact ethos permeate the café, from myself to the staff, to our customers and out into the city.  One of our staff recently contacted me to let me know that, as part of a bridal planning committee, she was assigned to buy a bunch of one-time use Solo cups for the reception.   “The environmentalist in me cringed”, she stated, and then asked if Chaco could buy some re-usable cups for her to bring to the wedding, and then put them into use at the cafes afterwards as water cups.  Of course we can!  I love our staff.

Working for a sustainable planet has changed over the last 30 years.  Recycling and composting are no longer the hallmark of environmentalism; they are the base expectation to start from.  Thanks to smart local legislation around Styrofoam and plastic bags, Seattle is a true leader in the movement for a sustainable planet.  We as a community should keep pushing for more, better, and weirder solutions to loving our planet.  What are you doing in your house?

 

Chris Maykut
Proud Owner
Chaco Canyon Organic Cafes

Eat Your Scraps: The Case for Eating the Whole Vegetable

 

In the sociology class I took in college, my professor shared some research with us that had been conducted on people’s trash cans:

what’s in them, and what our trash can say about our income and our social identities. One of the statistics he shared from this study always stuck with me: the amount that people cut off the ends of their asparagus directly correlates to their income levels. For years, I have lightheartedly recalled this piece of information every time I prepare asparagus—I wonder what the trash spies will think of this one!—but it has also caused me to see my food differently: pieces and parts of fruits and vegetables that I consider scraps can be valuable sources of nutrition, or at least sustenance.

Peave vines
You love peas, but do you love pea vines?

In a recent CSA box, I pulled out an item that was familiar to my eyes but new to my menu: leek scapes. I see these tall, green, hearty, sometimes flower-topped spears in sidewalk gardens and P-Patches all around Seattle and recognize each one as a sign that there are delicious homegrown alliums of some kind hiding beneath the surface of that soil. I had never considered its edibility before, only its indication of edible food below. I was pleasantly surprised to taste its mild and tender green skin and blossom, and I was even more excited by the knowledge that this was all hidden within what I had previously considered a food scrap.

These leek scapes inspired a scrap-saving crusade in my kitchen. I used to compost the green ends of the leek itself, now I cook the whole thing. Broccoli stems? They’re delicious sautéed or prepared just like the florets (especially when you peel them). That stringy brown stuff on the top of corn? Dry it and make a potassium-rich tea out of it! Beet, carrot, and broccoli greens are ideal for salads, pesto-making, or any other way you normally use hearty greens. The greenish flesh of the watermelon (before the rind) tastes just like a cucumber—and the rind itself is edible and nutrient-dense too! Just squirt some lime juice on it, or pickle it for best flavor. And one of the easiest ways to start using your food scraps is to start a broth bag:  save your onion skins, garlic remnants, celery butts, carrot shavings, and herb stems and simmer them with water to make a delicious fresh vegetable broth.

Trying to do away with vegetable “scraps” has left me feeling not only financially savvy (more bang for my buck!), but also like I’m properly honoring the time, space, and energy that went into growing my food, which makes my meals that much more satisfying. Give your scraps a second look next time you reach for the compost!

Annie
Cafe Manager
Chaco Canyon Organic Cafe & Bakery, Greenwood

Soups Out for Summer- Gazpacho is in!

Gazpacho
Gazpacho

Schools out, the heat’s on, and the tomatoes are ripe.

Okay, it’s actually been a rather cool summer, but those tomatoes will ripen up any day now. So what are you waiting for? Rinse your blender of frozen smoothie- or cobwebs- and get ready for this tasty summer time soup.

For this recipe, you will need a highspeed blender (i.e. Vitamix) and a juicer. If you don’t have a juicer for the celery juice, experiment with using a cup of chopped celery instead. This will change the consistency of the soup a bit, but you are the chef! You can do it. I believe in you.

Alternatively, you could head to the closest Chaco with your stalks of celery and we will juice it for you. 🙂 We won’t be offering this soup in the cafe this summer, the least we can do is juice some celery to make your foodie dreams come true!

Gazpacho

Puree in highspeed blender:

2 1/2# Heirloom Tomatoes

3 c celery juice

¼ c lemon juice

1 T salt

2 cloves garlic

½ red onion

After you have blended all of the ingredients together, drizzle in 4 Tbs olive oil while the blender is on med-low.

Once you have your soup base, add the following:

2 heirloom tomatoes, ½” dice
1-2 cucumbers, deseeded, 1/2″ dice

I find the easiest way to deseed my cucumber is to cut it in half, lengthwise. Then I take a spoon and scoop out the seeds. You can also quarter the cucumber, lengthwise, and fillet the seeds with a knife.

For a finishing touch, add your own spice. Mint, cayenne, or black pepper to taste would all make great additions.

This recipe yields about 16 cups. I recommend a half batch unless you’re planning a summertime party.

Until next time!

Bettina
Chaco Canyon Organic Cafe, Kitchen

Why I Work To Make Clean Food Accessible To My Community

Chris Maykut and his daughter took fresh squeezed orange juice to her school and compared it with bottled brands for a little taste testing and nutritional experiment.

Are you formulating a hypothesis yet?

As a father of two public school kids, I have been able to witness firsthand what happens in the lunchroom of my children’s schools. As a foodie I’ve been surprised, disappointed and appalled.   This isn’t going to turn into a rant about what is served – I get the budget constraints and what the lunch staff has to work with. What shocks me is what kids bring from home and worse, the lack of knowledge and – honestly – concern for basic nutrition. Lots of Lunchables, candy, pasteurized juice and juice-like products. It’s pretty disappointing.

Fast forward to this year’s Science Fair, where I finally convinced my daughter, Raina, to engage in a nutritional science experiment.  She chose to compare three versions of orange juice in terms of (a) nutritional content and (b) blind taste preference.  She decided to examine variables between fresh organic orange juice from Chaco Canyon Organic Cafe, Odwalla pasteurized 100% orange juice, and…. the incomparable “Sunny D”.

While the nutritional analysis is fairly predictable, the tasting was what really stood out to me.  We conducted a blind taste test in her 4th Grade classroom at Greenwood Elementary a couple weeks before the science fair.  We predicted there would be a fairly even preference distribution throughout her twenty-five classmates, since the three options are fairly distinct from each other as far as sweetness, freshness, and flavor.  That turned out to be a very optimistic prediction.

Survey Results
Survey Says…
Not Freshly Squeezed
Sunny D

I knew things were going to go off the rails when the first taster tried the fresh, organic orange juice from Chaco. She scrunched up her face, spat the juice in a trash can, and blurted out “what the heck is that?” Wow. Twenty-two of twenty-five students voted Sunny D (option C on the example slips pictured) as their favorite. Only one student chose the fresh juice as their favorite and only three others even chose it as second.

What was even more surprising to me was the blind tasting at the Science Fair itself. While it was good that about 95% of adults preferred fresh, still 90% of students preferred Sunny D. The really disappointing reality was revealed in speaking to the parents themselves; while they generally preferred fresh, there was massive misconception about Sunny D itself.  Many thought that it’s “mostly juice” or has “good nutritive properties” and “some wholesome ingredients”. Aargh!

We can purchase a gallon of Sunny D here in Seattle for 99 cents – I wasn’t clear I could buy water for that price.  It’s a product that has absolutely no redeeming qualities, yet their marketing has established them as a “not bad” option for parents, while their formula is much more appealing to kids than real options.

The upshot: read ingredients and dedicate yourself to feeding your family good, wholesome food.  Fresh orange juice isn’t the best thing in the world for a healthy body, but Sunny D may be one of the worst.

 

Thoughts from the Owner at Chaco Canyon Organic Cafes
Chris Maykut

Weeds You Could Be Eating

Local plants that “invade” your garden beds but if harvested could nurture your bodies.

If you are from Seattle or if you have traversed Discovery Park during spring time you probably have been stung by Stinging Nettles. These annoying weeds that irritate your skin and cause a stinging sensation aren’t weeds at all but really a local edible plant. Stinging Nettles (Urtica dioica) are packed full of nutrients including vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, iron and can be high in protein.
Although they can be eaten raw I wouldn’t advise it as a certain technique is required and failure to do so correctly will leave your tongue stinging. The sting is best removed by cooking them. Nettles are great in pestos, soups, sauces or in smoothies like we do seasonally in our Really Green Smoothie. Their leaves can also be dried to make a allergy fighting tea.
Lambs Quarter was our seasonal green in the Really Green Smoothie last year. Should we bring it back?
Lambs Quarter was our seasonal green in the Really Green Smoothie last year. Should we bring it back?
Now that you know about nettles you maybe wondering what other “weeds” you’ve been missing out on. Here’s a few other local weeds you could be eating.
Lambs quarters (Chenopodium album) also known as Goosefoot, having nothing to do with hoofed or feathered creatures, is another wild plant that grows locally.  Well, I guess you could say each leaf is in the shape of a goose’s foot. Lambs quarters contain high amounts  vitamin A, vitamin C, manganese, and calcium.  They taste similarly to spinach and can be used the same in most recipes. You may seem them pop up late spring early summer.
berries
The delicious salmonberry
Berries, berries, berries. Thimbleberry, salmonberry and blackberries are a few of the many local edible berries. Salmonberries (Rubus spectabilis,  named so for their salmon coloring, bear fruit mid spring to early summer.  Thimbleberries (Rubus parviflorus), not meant for transport, can be eaten as you pick or expect to use them for jam as they fall apart quickly. We have multiple types of blackberries in the region including; Himalaya, Evergreen, and Dewberry. Look for blackberries mid to late summer.  All these berries are packed with antioxidants. Antioxidants play a large role in degenerative disease prevention such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease to name a few.  As with any foraging id advise to know the area. Often roadside berries are sprayed with harsh chemicals that you do not want to be ingesting.
Wrongful plant identification can lead to some nasty stomach issues and even death so don’t ingest unless you are 100% sure you have identified the right plant. A safer beginners route with some of the less easily identifiable plants maybe to purchase these from a local forager first.  We often purchase our wild edibles from Foraged and Found Edibles who you can find at the Queen Anne, University District, Ballard and West Seattle farmers markets.
There are so many PNW plants that are not only edible but delicious and nutrient dense. Next time your “weeding” your garden you might think twice about what you pull and what you keep.
Nichole Criss
Chaco Canyon Organic Cafe, West Seattle
Sources:
Plants and Animals of the Pacific Northwest by Eugene N. Kohloff
The Foragers Harvest by Samuel Thayer
www.Nutritionalvalue.org