Market Musings Blog

My co-op valentine

I first met my co-op valentine about 13 years ago.  I still remember the first words he said to me: “Hey, do you want some free carob rice milk?”  I won’t say it was love at first sight, but I think we both knew that not everyone would be as excited about carob milk as we were.

We worked the closing shift at the store on Randolph and Fairview (may it rest in peace) each Saturday and Sunday night, me with newly formed dreadlocks and him in overalls and straightedge shirts.  He stocked groceries and I cashiered, but we would both meet up in the aisles to face the shelves together near the end of the night.  It was among the Puffins and the rice noodles and the tamari that we got to know each other.

Liz & Michael

After a year of stocking shelves and facing products side by side, he started walking me home each night after work.  I found myself looking forward to each shift, just so I could see him again.

It was at the co-op that I first met my future stepsons, too.  They were just toddlers then, with squeaky voices and weird twin-speak that I couldn’t even understand. Now they’re teenagers with feet bigger than mine and hip new slang I can barely understand.  But it still brightens my heart like nothing else when they come to the co-op to see me and grab an amazake or a smoothie.

I don’t give the co-op all the credit for making my little family what it is today, but I know for certain we never would have found each other or been as well-fed without Mississippi Market and for that, I’ll always be grateful.

Tea – finding the perfect mug

That great warming morning beverage, that iced and sun-brewed afternoon cup, or that mug at the end of the day to help the sleep come.  Mmmm, tea.

tea plantNot being able to stand the taste of coffee, in high school I turned to tea to help get that morning caffeine kick or power through the night-before-the-due-date papers, and in the years since, I’ve really tried to develop a wider appreciation for the drink, its history, and its various forms.  Given the variety of flavors and styles out there, it’s very surprising to remember that it all tracks back to one species of plant, and it’s up to the drying, cooking, aging, and flavoring to get to that final, unique product.

When thinking about tea, most people might first name the bitter green teas or the standard black or earl grey blends (hot or iced), or perhaps mention some of the health benefits to tea drinking.  Mississippi Market has a wide selection of teas, ranging from the classic stand-bys to herbal blends with extra, healthy characteristics to the occasional seasonal specialties.  Looking to try something new, or have a favorite style and want to get a lot at one time?  Check out the bulk teas, by the herbs and spices.  Bulk vs. bagged?  I usually buy bulk, because when I sit down to get school work done, I’ll often go through a pot as a time.  Also, I find that loose-leaf tea has a stronger flavor than the bagged varieties.  However, sometimes nothing beats the convenience of being able to drop a bag in a mug of hot water while getting groceries stocked out in the morning!  Many of my favorite teas can be found on the co-op’s shelves; here are some suggestions on what to check out next:

Lapsang Souchong has become one of my morning standbys ever since I moved to working early shifts because it’s hard to over-steep and it’s got a pretty high caffeine content.  This tea is one of very few to be dried by smoking, and the pinewood used in the process imbues a bold smokiness that comes across in both aroma and flavor (very reminiscent in this to another brown beverage I enjoy from Islay.  Somewhat sadly, we don’t currently offer a smoked tea in bulk, but I’m a fan of the Taylor’s of Harrogate box—50 tea bags for under 9 bucks!

pu-erh tea brick

A pu-erh brick

Second on my favorites list is also my newest passion: Pu-erh.  This ancient Chinese-style tea (which you may find in a variety of spellings) is processed in a fascinating way.  Leaves are usually air-dried, then lightly pan-toasted to stop the natural enzymatic processes within them.  At this point, the leaves are allowed to ferment over the course of multiple months, during which time the chemicals that give tea it’s normally characteristic bitterness are all but eliminated and the anti-oxidant levels rise in replacement.  The end product steeps into an incredibly smooth, earthy-tasting tea, often looking as dark as coffee.  We offer pu-erh in bulk loose-leaf, and at specialty tea shops you might be able to find bricks, where the leaves have been highly compressed to preserve the flavors.

Blue Flower Earl Grey is one of my wife’s favorites (as I think it appeals to her sweet tooth without actually being sweetened).  This blend is a standard Earl Grey (black tea with a touch of citrus oil) with dried petals of blue malva flowers.  The oils from the flower give an ever-so-light floral essence to the tea, which helps to mellow the boldness that often comes with the typical Earl Grey, and the ever-so-slight natural sweetness that’s hard not to enjoy.

Jasmine_PearlsJasmine Pearl is another slightly sweet tea you can find in the bulk set.  The fresh, still-green leaves are hand-rolled, dried, and then set overnight in a room of jasmine flowers at their peak of fragrance; even this short exposure is enough to turn the pearls from just green tea to something magical.  A fun aspect to steeping pearls of tea is watching them unfurl as they sit in water; I find this a reminder that tea is in fact a leaf, not a bag of dried herbs. Want to see what I mean?  Try some!

While talking about green teas, matcha also comes to mind.  Most people see the green powder and think of the Japanese Tea Ceremony, which makes prominent use of the fine-ground leaves.  However, having matcha around can help bring tea out of the mug; it’s strong flavor and light color lend themselves to a number of food uses, such as cakes, frostings, ice cream, smoothies, and light cream sauces for desserts, salads, and entrees alike.

Lastly, let’s not forget about chai.  While the chai lattes offered in many coffee shops today are often very milky and sweet, it’s really easy to make a calorie-friendly spiced tea bev for yourself at home.  We carry a couple different bagged forms (from Tazo and Tulsi, for example), as well as the 500 Mile Chai in bulk.  Prepare as directed, and add just a splash of milk and maybe a pinch of sugar—sweetened condensed milk works well, too—and this way you can control the interplay of the spice, sweet, and fat to make your perfect mug.

Ben Zamora-Weiss is a staff member and blogger for Mississippi Market’s Eat Local Challenge. As mentioned above, you’ll also find him at the Selby store keeping the shelves stocked with the best locally baked breads we can find.

Hey, there’s a game on!

Chicago-Bears-SuperBowl-ShuffleIf truth be told, there are only two Super Bowls from over the years that I really remember. The first is the 1985 Super Bowl with the Super Bowl Shuffle Chicago Bears vs. the New England Patriots. The Bear’s song would have been enough to capture my 4th grade self’s attention and awe. But, it seems that I was also looking for a way to wage a small rebellion against my dad.

You see, I grew up in Wisconsin and there were few things that would rile my dad up like a Packers Game would. The Packers were pretty bad back then and I could not understand why he would want to root for a losing team. So, I chose the Bears as my team. If you know any Packer fans from the ’80s, you can appreciate how much this irked my dad. I ate it up. At some point during the season, I actually started paying attention to the games and understanding the rules. By the time the Super Bowl came around, much to my father’s chagrin, I was pretty invested.

favreThe second Super Bowl I remember was in 1997. By this point I had changed my tune, left the Bears behind and embraced my roots (I know, fair-weather fan). I was ready to cheer the Packers onto victory against the New England Patriots (Sorry, Patriots fans). I even called my dad to share the good news! I doned my green and gold. I hung a sheet I’d spray painted announcing my allegience to Wisconsin outside the house. I invited all my friends and passed around enough plates of Wisconsin cheese and sausage to make my dad proud. I was all in.

I remember the fun of getting behind a team and going a little over the top with it. But, the real reason I remember this game has nothing to do with football. It has to do with the tall, thin, bearded fellow who walked into the party with no interest what-so-ever in the Packers. This year, we’ll be watching our 17th Super Bowl together (everyone now… Aww!)

So, yes, the Super Bowl holds a special place in my heart. Plus, it gives me something to look forward to in the dead of winter. It’s a reason to chill out with friends. It still gives me something to talk about with my dad. And, increasingly, it’s a reason to take snacking to a higher level.

Whether your a football fan or not, don’t be shy – make some memories during the Super Bowl this year.

Recipe Cards header

1 bag local La Perla tortilla chips
Mississippi Market Made chorizo
1/2 can organic black beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup local Snappy Dog or Salsa Lisa salsa
local Fancy Brand cheddar cheese, shredded
local Chippewa Valley habañero jack cheese, shredded
local Organic Valley sour cream (optional)


  • Arrange the tortilla chips on 1-2 rimmed baking sheets in a single layer.
  • Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add bite-sized pieces of chorizo.
  • Cook chorizo until browned and thoroughly cooked. Drain any fat off with a slotted spoon. Sprinkle the chorizo over the chips.
  • Stir together black beans with salsa and spoon over chips.
  • Generously distribute the shredded cheeses over the chips, chorizo and beans.
  • Broil the nachos for just a few minutes, until cheese is melted and slightly browned (watch these closely!).
  • Serve nachos immediately with cool sour cream and extra salsa for dipping.

Cooking Tip: You can prepare a single-serving of these nachos in a toaster oven !



Snow days!


Looking out the window, watching the snow fall makes many of us at the co-op want to be home, curled up on the couch with a good book and a cup of hot cocoa.

Others of us want to be outside, feeling the flakes on our faces, because we know that our homes will feel so much warmer when we go inside.

No matter which of these camps you fall into, it’s hard to deny the draw to comfort that a snowy day brings. Here, we offer some tips to make your winter warmer.

hot_cocoa_enewsOur top 5 hot chocolate mix-ins:

  • For peanut butter cup hot chocolate, put a little spoon of smooth peanut butter in the pan while you heat the hot chocolate -let it dissolve.
  • Real. Whipped. Cream. (We love Cedar Summit organic.)
  • Stir the hot chocolate with an all natural candy cane for a minty essence
  • Make your hot cocoa with 1/2 Thai Kitchen organic coconut milk and 1/2 any other dairy or non-dairy milk. It’s lightly coconutty and oh so rich!
  • For adult hot chocolate, add a splash of Knob Creek maple bourbon. Enough said.

Board_Games_enewsGet cozy!

With that cup of hot chocolate warming your hands, it’s time to get cozy. Our favorite ways are:

  • game night!
  • movie marathon
  • work a jigsaw puzzle
  • finish that knitting project
  • spend some quality time in the kitchen. Visit our recipe page for inspiration.

Winter_Carnival_Logo_ba78a4The coolest!

Ready to go back out into the snow? Saint Paul’s Winter Carnival is just around the corner. You can purchase carnival buttons at both of our stores.

And, during the carnival, January 23-February 2, you’ll receive 25¢ off any hot drink from the deli if you’re wearing your button. 

Mississippi Market at your door tileWe’ll come to you!

Remember that on days when the roads are dicey and you don’t want to take off your slippers, we can come to you, too. Mississippi Market at your door is designed to be a helping hand. Simply order your groceries online, schedule your delivery time, and we’ll bring them right to you.

Where our deli sources its ingredients

As an individual born after 1985, the power of the internet is certainly not lost on me; Instagram, Yelp, Twitter and a myriad of other distractions have become my personal tastemakers.  As a manager in a natural foods grocery store, I’ve seen my personal procrastinations begin to have a wider impact on customers in my store, and my friends’, family and colleagues purchasing habits. No longer is Facebook just a place to see the pictures from last weekend’s totally awesome party, but also a platform to build community, educate, and hold a dialogue that steers the food trends, that as a member of the food industry, I’m trying to stay two steps ahead of.

This weekend, one such dialogue addressed the use of Sysco as a vendor in Twin Cities’ food co-ops.  At Mississippi Market, we are committed to sourcing ingredients that help us to achieve our mission :

“Mississippi Market creates positive change in the community by influencing the production distribution and enjoyment of food.”

Our product policy, created to support this mission, dictates a preference for vendors that supply organic, local, sustainably produced ingredients that are free of genetically modified ingredients, and fair in price.  This last piece, so often forgotten in the discussion on what qualifies as a “clean” product, is taken especially seriously in the deli.  In our communities the delis are a food access point for new shoppers.  The smells of chili, whole roasted chickens, or fresh brewed coffee, can help to introduce new shoppers to the cooperative business model and a more healthful and sustainable diet.  In my opinion, they are also some of the most enjoyable types of food in our store!  To be able to offer things at a fair price is crucial to the continued success of co-ops.

To that end, we purchase our ingredients from a variety of vendors.  Because of delivery schedules, limited food storage space, and our high production volume we are not able to support as many small local famers as I would like, but we do our best to source from local distributors whenever possible.  Below you will see the breakdown of our deli purchases, by vendor, from our current fiscal year.

Deli purchases year to date

As you can see we do use US Foods as one of our vendors.  They are able to provide us with commercial sizing on products that are simply not available, at a reasonable price, from our other vendors.  It was disappointing to hear that they were bought out by Sysco earlier this year, and even more disappointing when Sysco purchased European Imports this past summer.  Our tangential relationship with Sysco means that their subsidiaries are able to continue to offer ingredients that fall within our product policy at a low cost that can be passed on to our customers.

More illustrative of our commitment to sourcing products of integrity is the breakdown of our ingredients by category: organic, local & organic, local & conventional, and conventional.  Below is a graph of a recent week of deliveries.  As you can see, even in the winter, more than two thirds of our incoming product was local or organic.  Of the conventional items we received that week the many were clean products that were delivered from UNFI or Alberts Organics; Applegate sliced meats, Earth balance margarine and shortening, brown rice syrup, etc.  The only conventional fresh produce we buy with any regularity are bell and hot peppers, and avocados.

deli purchases 1.3-7.14

Every day we are committed to sharing healthy and sustainable foods to our community at a reasonable price.  To do that, and remain competitive with conventional stores that are steadily encroaching on our traditional customer base, we must work with a variety of vendors and continue to source the best values to be passed on to our customers, without compromising our product policy and mission.

Written by Anne O’Gara, the deli operations manager at our Selby store. You’ll find her overseeing the Selby deli team, including the commissary cooking for the West 7th store, as they create wholesome and delicious food day in and day out.

Impromptu – Celery Almond Salad

It’s the dead of winter and I can only eat so many bowls of soup before I start to crave something fresh and crisp. This salad comes together quickly and satisfies the need for something light and flavorful. I was so happy with it that I figured I’d share, for those who are looking for a bit of freshness these days. Read more …

Get your greens!

Hearty greens are perfect for winter meals – they pack a nutritious punch of vitamins and minerals. Dark leafy greens are known for being high in iron, calcium, magnesium, vitamin C and carotenoids, as well as many anticancer factors. If you haven’t cooked greens before, don’t be shy! They are one of the quicker, easier vegetable to prepare. Here are some of our favorite ways to get our greens.

kale webChickpeas, sausage & kale

Ingredients (serves 2)
Olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 large can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 uncooked sausages, sliced into rounds or chopped
1 bunch kale, chard or spinach (rinsed and stems removed), chopped
Beer, wine, or water
Salt & pepper to taste Read more …

Hoppin’ John for good luck in the new year

New Year’s Day in the American South is celebrated in many families with Hoppin’ John, a stew made with black eyed peas. Some people add a penny or other small trinket to the beans when serving them. Whoever finds it is promised especially good luck in the new year. As many recipes can be found for Hoppin’ John as there are cooks who make it, so use this one as a foundation for creating your own version. Read more …

Frattallone’s Ace Hardware on Grand Ave – St. Paul’s Kitchenwares Mothership

FrattallonesIf you live in the Mac-Groveland neighborhood, you’re probably already familiar with the depth and breadth of kitchenwares at Frattallone’s Ace Hardware at Cambridge & Grand, kitty-corner from Ramsey Middle School. If you’ve instead assumed that one Ace Hardware is pretty much like another in terms of its kitchenwares, you are in for a very welcome surprise: this particular Frattallone’s/Ace, one of nineteen Twin Cities stores owned by the Frattallone family of St. Paul, is completely unlike the others. For sensibly priced, sturdy, practical cookware and kitchen tools, it is simply unrivaled; for customer service, it’s as responsive and supportive as our very own Mississippi Market. Read more …

Citrus Paradisi – The Grapefruit

Citrus is a promiscuous family: witness the grapefruit (pomelo x orange), the Meyer lemon (lemon x orange), the Persian or Bearss lime (Mexican lime x orange or lemon). Most citrus fruits we eat were initially spontaneous crosses that an alert orchardist noticed and improved upon. Grapefruits are one such cross, first appearing on the island of Barbados in the 18th century, a hybrid of the imported pomelo and orange. Grapefruit trees are true to their name: the fruits cluster, rather like vine grapes, though in spreading, densely shady and thorned trees. First brought to the U.S. in the 1820s, grapefruit didn’t exactly take the country by storm; initially no one could figure out what to do with them. This isn’t surprising, for compared to other members of the citrus family, early grapefruit had very thick and bitter pith, the genetic gift of their pomelo ancestors.

Read more …