I hear more and more talk about the importance of eating “real,” and I’m convinced an important component of that is eating local. I appreciate that will require me to adjust my own expectations – for example, not fretting when I can’t get good fresh tomatoes in the winter, because fresh tomatoes don’t grow in Iowa when the temps drop and the snow flies. Still, it’s an effort I plan to pursue more in my grocery shopping.
To that end, in central Iowa we’re lucky to have a new retail cooperative, Tallgrass Grocery Co-op, that provides healthy, locally grown organic food and products “at prices that respect the livelihoods of local producers and the budgets of consumers,” says its website. Located in historic Valley Junction at 116 5th Street in West Des Moines, the co-op has goals including helping people learn more about healthier and more environmentally friendly lifestyles, building stronger relationships between farmers and consumers, and reinvesting in our local economy and neighboring rural economies. Amen! While Tallgrass is open to everyone, shoppers can also purchase a membership that offers product and co-op event discounts, bulk and case order discounts and more.
Carlyn Crowe, one of the founding organizers and members of Tallgrass, was thrilled that on the date the co-op opened to the public, on Sept. 15, close to 700 people had signed up as members. Tallgrass organizers were hoping for 200. In celebration of its creation and as a hats-off for its continued success, below is a mouth-watering recipe from Carlyn that uses apples and squash now plentiful at Tallgrass and elsewhere in Iowa. The coconut products are available at Tallgrass, too, and are a healthier alternative to the standard ingredients listed.
Baked squash and apples
- 2 pounds butternut or buttercup squash, peeled, seeded and fibers removed, cut into 1/2-inch slices
- 2-3 baking apples, cored and cut into 1/2 inch slices (use red-skinned apples, peels on, for an attractive, colorful dish)
Arrange squash in an ungreased oblong baking dish; arrange apples on top of squash.
- 1/3 cup coconut crystals (or brown sugar)
- 3 tablespoons coconut butter, melted (or butter)
- 1 teaspoon coconut flour (or flour)
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground mace or nutmeg (optional)
Combine in a small bowl, then sprinkle on top of apples and squash. Cover and bake at 350 degrees until squash is tender, 40-50 minutes. Serves 6.