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The Latest News from Wheatsville

Posts by Aldia Bluewillow

Local Vendor Spotlight: Kala’s Kuisine

Owner and founder Kala Uprety gives us the inner scoop about her delicious authentic Nepalese + Fusion vegetarian food!

1. How and why did Kala’s Kuisine get started?

In 1973, when I first came to the US as a student, I always dreamed of being in the food business. My grandparents had a brown sugar and molasses factory in Nepal, and I was always enjoyed seeing them turn raw ingredients into healthy, natural treats. 20 years later, while working as a computer programmer, I brainstormed ideas of what type of food I would want to sell. Then, while I was traveling abroad in Europe with my husband, I saw that there was packaged vegetarian food that was easy to grab and go. This made it very easy for me to eat abroad, whereas I had a difficult time finding interesting vegetarian options to eat at home. I saw an opportunity in the Austin market to create healthy vegetarian food that combined flavors from my home country of Nepal with the flavors native to Texas. I started with a few fresh products that were twists on traditional Nepalese dishes. By taking these traditional recipes and adding southwestern ingredients, I created a taste that was unique to Kala's Kuisine. Beyond fresh food, we have expanded our offering to include a variety of salsas, chutneys, pestos, hot sauces and fermented products. We started by supplying our fusion products to local grocery stores like Wheatsville co-op and other premier health food stores and now also operate booths at the 3 main Austin farmers markets every week.

2. Tell us a bit about the fusion flavors.

We sell a wide variety of products from fresh foods to fermented products, all with unique combinations of flavors that fuse influences from the East and West. For instance, our Roti Wraps and Saag Wraps combine a tortilla filled with curry-spiced vegetables making them both twists on the taco/burrito concept, but with eastern flavors.

Samosas, our most popular product, are filled with a potato and vegetable mixture that is seasoned to appeal to the western palate. The blend of spices is unique to Kala's Kuisine and offers a milder curry flavor than traditional Samosas.

Our Pasta Salads, Nepali Pasta Salad and Saag Pasta, take traditional dishes and mix them with pasta to create two brand new concepts, not available anywhere else. Saag Pasta, for example, has a nut-free spinach pesto base tossed with great northern beans and semolina rainbow noodles. This creates a tangy-spicy flavor in a cold noodle salad. Our Nepali Pasta Salad starts with a tomato-carrot based "spaghetti sauce" with eastern spices that make it unique to us. This sauce base is mixed with almonds and angel hair semolina noodles to create a milder spiced cold salad.

All of our salsas have a combination of eastern and western flavors that make them completely original. Our Curry-Chipotle and Mirchi Masala salsas, for example, combine Nepalese curry spices with the peppery flavors of the southwest to create flavor-filled hot sauces. Our newest addition, fermented products, are age old traditional Nepalese recipes that use western techniques to create crispy condiments that spice up any dish.

3. What are your favorite accompaniments to your food?

The great thing about all of our products is their versatility. I could name over twenty ways you could use each of our salsas, hot sauces and fermented products to create unique and interesting dishes. Here are a few of my favorite combinations:
Our Samosas pair perfectly with our Mango Chutney making an appetizer combination of salty, spicy and sweet that is impossible to resist. If you want to create a new take on a TexMex dinner, take our Mirchi Masala salsa, add some sour cream and pour over your favorite enchiladas for a Nepalese twist. For a flavorful breakfast with some extra kick, try adding our Curry-Chipotle salsa to some scrambled eggs. Then add some cheese and your favorite sautéed vegetables and you have a spicy breakfast taco.

You can also get creative with our condiment products by using them in surprising ways to add additional flavor to a variety of dishes. Our Pestos are great for tossing with pasta, spreading over naan or mixing with brown rice and vegetables for a healthy lunch bowl. Fermented products have a ton of unique uses apart from being great garnishes. Kimchi radishes are a great addition to salads or rice to add texture and tang. Carrot and Ruby krout are both tasty condiments that spice up any simple sandwich. For a unique salad dressing, combine our Lemon Preserve with Italian herbs and olive oil and pour over your choice of mixed greens.

4. How long have you been selling your food at Wheatsville?

Over 20 years. We started with fresh foods, expanded with our salsas and hot sauces, and have recently added our fermented products to our assortment. Striving to provide unique and interesting flavor combinations in every product, we have been working closely with Wheatsville to curate a collection that appeals to their clientele.

5. What is your favorite thing about Wheatsville?

Our favorite thing about Wheatsville is the environment. It is absolutely a joy to work with such friendly people who have supported Kala's Kuisine from the very beginning. They always provide us with great shelf space and they are inviting to local vendors like us as opposed to other grocery stores that ignore local vendors and focus on mass market brands.

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Local Vendor Spotlight: Pie Jacked

Bukki Sittler of Pie Jacked, filled us in on this excellent local company!

1. How and why did Pie Jacked get started?

One of Mama Joyce's grandsons was diagnosed with Autism when he was very little. After a lot of research, we found that eliminating food allergens has shown to help with some of the symptoms of Autism, including digestion and even some of the "brain fog" aspects. We had him tested for food allergies and the results were overwhelming. Mama Joyce especially reworked basic recipes to help his mother with meals. Once the problem foods were removed from his diet, his entire aspect changed. His digestion improved, he started speaking in full sentences, and his entire face would light up when he smiled instead of just a crinkle at the corners of his mouth. As holidays came around, she knew she had to come up with something for pies - Grandma Buck, Bukki's namesake, had taught Mama Joyce when the family art of pie making when she was a child and it was too important to lose that legacy. With her decades of experience, and experimenting over three years, she finally came up with a crust that matched the flavor and texture of the original pies created 2 generations before her. That little man is Jack, so we named the company Pie Jacked.


2. What allergens are avoided in your pies?


We are top-8 allergen-free. This includes wheat (and all gluten), soy, dairy, eggs, tree nuts, peanuts, fish, and shellfish. As if this is not limiting enough, we also avoid corn and GMO ingredients. Our pies are allergen-friendly and vegan. This extends to our entire product line, including our coffee cakes, Mud Pie Crusties, and some other goodies we are still developing!

3. Tell us a bit about the taste and flavors of your pies.

Our pie crust is what people rave over - it is tender and flakey as a pie crust should be. That has been the biggest hurdle to overcome, as so often gluten-free crusts can feel crumble or powdery. They have a light flavor that complements the sweet of fruit pies or even savory pies. Our fruit is based off of the original family recipe. We use evaporated cane juice that enhances the natural flavor and sweetness of our fruits rather than overpowering them. We let the fruits speak for themselves - just the right amount of tartness with our cherry, a light warmth to our apple, a freshness to our peach, and simple sweetness to our blueberry. We use traditional depth pie pans for all of our sizes so that we don't skimp on the fruit filling. We find they create the best balance of crust and fruit to complement each other.

4. What are your favorite accompaniments to your pie?

Either a full holiday meal with all the trimmings ;), or Sweet Ritual Salted Carmel frozen dessert on the apple and cherry pies. Their vanilla is great with all of our flavors.

5. What is your favorite thing about Wheatsville?

I love coming into the store and seeing the seasonal displays that are featured. I love finding new brands, especially new local brands, that way.

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Local Vendor Spotlight: Pederson’s Natural Farms

Stacy Dudley, "The Paleo Cowgirl", Vice President of Marketing and Hans Van Der Enden, Sales Manager, filled us in on the Pederson's story.

1. How and why did Pederson’s get started?

Based in Hamilton, Texas, we have been producing fresh and smoked natural meat products since 1992. Our mantra is "real people making real food using natural meats raised with humane and environmentally safe practices.

What do you get when you throw two good ol’ boys and lifelong best buds into a business together? Success! Pederson's hired Comanche native Cody Lane for Quality Assurance straight out of college in 2001. With a degree in Ag Business Food and Fiber Marketing from Texas A&M University, Cody quickly gained respect from the owner of the all-natural meats producer. Within a year, Cody was promoted to President of Pederson's Natural Farms. And, it didn't take long for him to realize that this company could grow and grow steadily. With that in mind, he called upon his lifelong best friend Neil Dudley to come work alongside him as Vice President.

Growing up, the pair were respectable and hard working young men. Their personal integrity and work ethic pulses through the company which they've successfully grown since coming on board ten years ago. Since these two Comanche homegrown boys took the reins, the pair have nearly doubled the gross annual sales.

As Cody is celebrating his tenth year with Pederson's, the company celebrates its 20th year as a premier producer of  all natural fresh and smoked meat products. Started in 1992 with just two employees and the sale of the famous Applewood Smoked Bacon, Pederson's faced all the obstacles that any small business faces and then some.

Despite two fires leaving the company's production plant in ashes, Pederson's has steadily grown. Pederson's credits its success to its unwavering  integrity, and the company is sure to back up their words with actions. With top priorities being safety and quality, Pederson's has taken every rigorous step to become Safe Quality Food (SQF) 2000 Level 3 Certified.

"That certification aligns with everything we value: safety and the highest quality standards. We're of the belief that actions speak louder than words. We can make claims all day long, but this certification brings the highest level of validation,”  Cody Lane, President.

The company's down home, honest to goodness business model has been rewarded with loyal employees, a loyal community, and loyal customers – not to mention steady growth. And, Pederson's gladly offers a steadfast loyalty in return. After a devastating fire in June of 2001, the small Texas community of Hamilton rallied around Pederson's in an effort to get the company up and running again. With only one production day lost, Pederson's chose to honor their roots and rebuild in Hamilton County.

The support of countless folks from the very beginning combined with Pederson's principles has culminated in the successful production of superior quality all natural meats. Specifically famous for "makin' bacon", here are some interesting statistics from Pederson's Natural Farms about just how much bacon they make annually:
• 1.5 million pounds of bacon each year
•  21 million slices
•  End to end, that's 2,982 miles of bacon
•  It's enough bacon to stretch across North America and halfway back
That's a lot of bacon!

Whether asked to reflect on Pederson's first 20 years in business or to look toward the future, Vice President Neil Dudley's assessment remains the same.

“We run our business as a marathon not a sprint. Our goal is to build our business on well-founded relationships! We believe in honesty, safety, quality, and efficiency…in that order. Pederson's Natural Farms isn't the biggest; it's just the best!"


2. How does y’all’s pork differ from other producer’s?

We make food you can feel good about feeding your family. All of our products are made from pork that is humanely-raised without the use of antibiotics or growth stimulants and fed no animal by-products ever. They have no preservatives, no artificial ingredients, and no added nitrites or nitrates. They are gluten free, MSG free, and, aside from the Jalapeño & Cheese Sausage, they are lactose-free, too.


3. Tell us a little about the No Sugar products.

We were listening to our consumers and team members, and we recognized the huge gaping hole in the market. In fact, in 2012, we had a consumer plea submitted on our website that read as follows: "Us health conscience eaters prefer the sugar out of our bacon. Please produce a product that contains NO SUGAR! Your bacon is too sweet for our group of Paleo dieters. Would appreciate your consideration on the matter." Eight weeks later, we took No Sugar Bacon to retail!

So, guess what?! We value the varying and ever evolving needs of health conscious eaters and bacon lovers. We valued the voice of this one single consumer. We made No Sugar Bacon. We are grateful that Pederson's is in the position to provide this kind of superior product to nationally well known and loved markets like Wheatsville that share our same values.


4. What is your favorite thing about Wheatsville?

Wheatsville is a grassroots Texas local co-op that sells good for you foods. They are a big supporter of Pederson's Natural Farms. We deeply appreciate that!


5. Do you have a favorite recipe that you’d like to share?

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Response: How to Raise Worker Wages

On Thursday, March 30th, the Chronicle reported on the work we’ve done with livable wages & benefits at Wheatsville over the past year, How to Raise Worker Wages by Jack Craver, as part of a much larger article about the challenge of workers making a livable wage in Austin. The co-op has worked long and hard on behalf of both our owners and 235 staff members to get all staff earning a livable wage with benefits and we’re pleased to be the concrete example of a business doing right by its employees in the article.

We know that you have a lot of choices for where you buy your food. This article strongly suggests that the kind of businesses you choose to support matter. Sure, in many ways choosing your grocer seems like such a small act – buying a loaf of bread, apple, or jug of milk. But the fact is when you shop here at the co-op, you support livable wages & benefits and a co-op full of PEOPLE, just like you, that come to work every day and try to make a positive impact in this world.  YOUR SHOP MATTERS. PEOPLE MATTER.

While we know that we have not satisfied every staff member or owner around our wage issues, we have worked very hard, and have done our best to address a very complicated problem as shown in the article. This issue is not just a Wheatsville issue, a box store issue, an independent business issue – this is a community issue. How are we lining up to take care of each other? How do we ensure good paying jobs for the future?

Our co-op was started 41 years ago as an alternative to other grocery stores. We listened, we fought, we joined together, we worked hard, we changed, we grew, we acted. We approached the Livable Wage & Benefits problem the same way we’ve been operating years - TOGETHER. Each of us brings a different perspective – but through open and honest dialogue and respectfully listening to each other’s point of view, we solve problems.

We’re happy the Chronicle decided to dig deeper into a complicated issue and glad that we can be a positive example of a good approach to dealing with this challenge. At the same time, we’re pressing forward to ensure that our co-op thrives and survives for another several decades and are glad that we can do so by being a good employer.

We appreciate your support, patronage, feedback, contribution, and criticism. It’s all part of the ecosystem that allows us to grow stronger together!

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Local Vendor Spotlight: Better Bites Bakery

Leah Lopez, Founder and CEO Better Bites Bakery, answered a few questions about her very special baked treats.

1. What led you to start your business?


I founded Better Bites Bakery with a simple mission in mind - I wanted my son to be able to enjoy delicious treats and not feel left out due to his severe food allergies. I believe that food is a BLESSING, but there was nothing on the market that was safe for my son - and delicious enough to be enjoyed by the entire family. Given this discovery, we embraced our new journey and the creative cooking began! It wasn't long until I realized that people were loving what was coming out of my kitchen and I was thrilled to share the passion that I had for baking with others.

2. What kind of ingredients do you use?


We strive to be very intentional with our ingredients. Our bakery sources only the finest gluten-free, vegan, non-GMO, Kosher Pareve certified, real food ingredients. We never use artificial colours or preservatives. We believe this is not only better for our bodies, but our taste buds, as well.

3. What allergens do your products NOT contain?


Our products are free of the top 7 allergens. Those allergens are dairy, eggs, soy, wheat, fish, shellfish, and peanuts. We also do not have tree nuts in our facility or products, with the exception of coconut in our Mostess Cupcakes. We are confident that our stringent sanitation procedures will avoid cross contamination for those who avoid coconut.

4. What are some of your favorite things about Wheatsville?


The fact that the Popcorn Tofu is now gluten-free is AWESOME! Also, my employees are definitely hooked on the vegan donuts. I love that we can be inclusive with our breakroom snack choices and not leave anyone out.

5. Do you have a favorite cool tip?

I love Cookie DO Bites au naturel, but I have a weakness for milkshakes. I love to throw in vanilla ice cream, milk, ice, and a few DO Bites into a blender for a chocolate chip cookie dough milkshake. Try it – you’ll love it!

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Local Vendor Spotlight: The Natural Citizen

The Natural Citizen founders, Angela and Nadia, share the scoop on their nutritious smoothie add-ins.

1. What led you to start your business?


ANGELA: We believe in honest-to-goodness wellness, and that's why we set out to create a transparent, real-food nutrition company that is a force for good. I have been a plant protein smoothie drinker for several years, so when I got pregnant, I started to question the quality of the ingredients that I was adding to my smoothie. I called up Nadia, who is a regulatory lawyer and quality expert, and together we went through everything on the shelf. Nothing was exactly what we were looking for, which were just super clean, incredibly simple and high-quality smoothie add-ins that deliver a functional benefit.

NADIA: That's when we went to work formulating our own blends. From our experience in the natural food industry, we knew that the fewer ingredients we used, the more attention we could give to the quality and sourcing of our ingredients. Angela and I spent tons of time doing research, working with different ingredients and formulating blends in our kitchens. We wanted a product line that we could use personally, but also feel confident recommending to our friends and family. After hundreds of hours developing these products to meet our extremely high quality standards, I am proud to say that I use them daily and my friends and family have become huge fans of the line as well.


2. What kind of ingredients do you use?


NADIA: We use only real food ingredients, and each ingredient that we selected serves a unique purpose in its formulation. For example, our Organic Digest, which supports digestion and regularity, offers 5 grams of fiber, which is a balanced blend of both soluble and insoluble fibers. Plus, you get omega fatty acids from the chia seeds, prebiotics from the Jerusalem Artichoke to help nourish your naturally-occurring probiotics, and the soothing effects of Aloe vera. You get all of this in only four ingredients that work together to nourish the digestive tract.

Additionally, we selected very nutrient-rich plants that you won't find in the produce section, some might call these "superfoods." Our Organic Greens is the perfect example. This blend combines the best of the land and sea with moringa leaf, spirulina, alfalfa and barley. All four of these super green ingredients brings a unique nutritional profile to the formulation, and when combined, you get a nutrient-rich boost. Our Organic Greens has 30% of your daily value of iron plus 120% of your daily value of Vitamin B12 - and it's all from plants!

ANGELA: I think it's also important to point out that we know where our ingredients comes from. This is extremely important to us, and that's why as often as possible we source directly from the farm. We pay incredibly close attention to our supply chain and conduct rigorous quality testing before and after production, making sure that all of our ingredients surpass our quality standards.


3. What is different about your product as opposed to other smoothie ad-ins on the market?


ANGELA: First, we offer something very unique. The other add-ins on the market are either single "superfood" ingredients, or they are blends with a laundry list of ingredients. Unfortunately the ingredients on that laundry list tend to be there for flavor or marketing purposes and do very little for your health. We formulated our add-ins by selecting only four ingredients per blend, and each ingredient serves a very specific purpose. All four ingredients work together to deliver the functional benefit. We really believe that less is more, and with our blends you get fewer, but better ingredients and none of the unneccessary "extras."

NADIA: Additionally, our quality is the best of the best. By limiting the number of ingredients to only four, we are able to test the ingredients multiple times throughout the supply chain. Plus, all of our blends are certified organic, certified gluten free, certified vegan, and manufactured in an allergen-free facility in the USA. Very few of the other add-ins on the market can make all of those claims about quality.


4. What are some of your favorite things about Wheatsville?


NADIA: As a member of the co-op, I love the sense of community and how it supports local businesses. I also love the smoothie bar where you can find our blends as add-ins! Wheatsville has some of the best smoothies in town.

ANGELA: I love that I can find my favorite local brands all in one place! Additionally, working with Wheatsville has been amazing. The company is incredibly supportive of our business and we truly feel like it's a partnership.


5. Do you have a favorite/cool tips or recipes?


ANGELA: A lot of our fans use our blends for smoothies, but since they are unflavored and unsweetened they are so versatile. You can use them in oatmeal, overnight oats, stir them into yogurt, add to pancake batter - the possibilities are endless.


Now, as the temperature has dropped in Austin, a lot of people might not find a cold smoothie appealing, so I suggest making a warm smoothie!
You simply heat your almond milk on the stove or in the microwave and add to your blender. Warm liquids will create steam, so start your blender on low and vent often. Here's an easy recipe that is absolutely delicious:

Apple Pie Smoothie

1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1/4 cup rolled oats
1 raw apple, cored
1 serving The Natural Citizen Organic Digest
1 serving The Natural Citizen Organic Protein
1 tbsp. cinnamon
Sweeten to taste with honey (optional)

Combine the milk and the oats in the blender and let them soak for a couple minutes, then add the rest of the ingredients and blend.

NADIA: When we do events, we make a simple PBJ&Greens smoothie that people love, they often ask us for the recipe. This is such an easy way to start making green smoothies if you don't already make them at home, and you can mix and match and use any of our blends in it!

PBJ&Greens

1 frozen banana
1/2 cup frozen berries
1 heaping tbsp. peanut butter or nut butter
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 serving The Natural Citizen Organic Protein
1 serving The Natural Citizen Organic Greens (or 2 handfuls of spinach)

Add all ingredients to blender, and blend to desired consistency. Enjoy!

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Local Vendor Spotlight: FOND Bone Broth

Anna Obert and Alysa Seeland, co-founders of FOND Bone Broth, kindly answered a few questions to help us know more about their company.


Tell us about the name of your company, Fond Bone Broth.

FOND is french for “base” or “foundation.” We want people to see us as the foundation of their culinary and nutritional life - the first thing they reach for when they need a delicious meal, the first thing they think of when their body needs a boost. For too long taste and culinary craft were thought to be separate from nourishment. We came to believe that good tasting food was an indulgence and nourishing food was to be tolerated. The solution? FOND Bone Broth™. Whether you use it to elevate a meal or as a drink to nourish your body whole, our goal is to bring nourishing food to the height of culinary taste and ingenuity!

How long have you been making bone broths? Did you start for personal use? What made you start offering it for sale?

I used bone broth in my cooking for years — since I opened my first cook book — but drinking bone broth was a last ditch effort to find relief from a long history of medical complications. At the time I was taking $400 a month of quality supplements that were not being absorbed in my body. After seeing the dramatic benefits of drinking bone broth, I started telling others to drink it too. But there were two barriers: it was difficult to make (even find the ingredients to do it the right way) and even more difficult to flavor. So we decided to do it for you, to make it delicious and delightful and to support local farmers in the process who make this nourishing food even possible.

While it was started from a personal journey, our team is integral in creating the experience you have when you open the jar. From the care in production (still hand-crafted!) to the aesthetics on the label, our team’s commitment to excellence and the love and care of the land is the reason our product is set apart.

What farms do you work with to get your produce and animals?

We work with COBB Creek Ranch, Tandem Farm Company, Parker Creek Ranch, Braune Family Farms, Markley Family Farms, Johnson’s Backyard Organics, and many others on a case-by-case basis. We add to the list of farmers we work with weekly. We are ALWAYS looking to work with and support more and more farmers and we invite farmers who are intentional about their growing practices to reach out to us!

What’s your favorite flavor? I think mine is Liquid Light. I made a chicken and pasta dish with a light creamy sauce using Liquid Light and it was the most delicious thing I’ve EVER cooked.

Everyone on the team has their own favorite for sure, our Founder’s favorite for cooking is Trolley Dodger, but for drinking it is The Spur. The customer darling is definitely Youth Tonic and a close second is Liquid Light so to each their own! 

Can you share a simple recipe, one that might not be obvious?

FOND-A-ROUX

2 TB oil (we use ghee)
2 TB flour (we use non-gmo, organic heritage wheat but even coconut flour will do!)
4oz of Trolley Dodger
pinch of pink salt

Melt oil in a pan, add flour whisk together and let cook for 2 minutes - mixture will start to brown. Add Trolley Dodger whisking continually until the mixture thickens. This recipe is GOLD it will have you saying “put a roux on it” for every culinary instance going forward. Over easy eggs, roasted veggies, fresh tomatoes, french fries, chicken, potatoes - something delicious, something to nourish!

Are there any new products or broth flavors on the horizon?
We are always working on a new flavors, we’ll be launching one every month this fall and winter and will debut a new one shortly in October, but we’re also working hard on a fish broth. The primary issue with fish broth is finding a sustainable source. Our first journey was out the backdoor to the pasture, now we’re heading out to sea!

What are some of your favorite foods to buy at Wheatsville?
There are so many! We love SRSLY Chocolate (almond sea salt can’t be beat!), we’re also big fans of Argus cider, Cuveé coffee is swoon-worthy, but we also love the many farmers that Wheatsville supports like EIEO Farms, Engel Farms, and Prickly Pair Farms.

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