Adapting My Great-Grandmother’s Recipes for the Co-op’s Holiday Meal

Adapting my Great-Grandmother’s Recipes for the Co-op’s Holiday Meal

Reflections by Marketing Specialist Christine Ciganovich

Each July, at the peak of summer, the Marketing Team begins planning the Holiday Meal. The Co-op has hosted the Holiday Meal, a free hot meal on Christmas Eve, every year since 1985 (read more about the Holiday Meal here). The first meal was hosted by a LGBTQ+ couple, both employees of the Co-op, whose families wouldn’t take them in. Seeing that others in our community also had nowhere to go for the holidays they organized a meal for any and all to attend. The event continued the following year, evolving into a community wide effort on Christmas Eve to provide a free and warm meal for as many as 700 people. Scheming for this year’s Holiday Meal, its 38th iteration, began some weeks ago in a meeting in the Teaching Kitchen on a very hot July day.

The Co-op’s Ends say we exist to provide “access to healthful, local and high-quality food,” among other things, but we keep coming back to this one as we’ve seen food insecurity grow in our county and among our shoppers in recent years. Naturally, our conversation about this year’s Holiday Meal started with access. When considering need in the county, especially our most vulnerable unhoused or elderly housebound neighbors, most can’t get to the Vet Memorial Center in Davis, where the meal is, so that’s something serious to consider. In the past we’ve offered meat and vegetarian meals to accommodate as many diets as possible. We also pull this off with a volunteer team and as many donations as possible. 

Soon a plan came together: we partner with shelters and community organizations like Meals on Wheels, Yolo County with existing networks to provide meals to those who cannot attend the sit-down dinner, which will still take place as so many have made it a part of their holiday tradition. The meal itself needed deciding upon too. What would be delicious, nutritious, accommodate the most diets, and be relatively easy for a volunteer team to make 600 portions of in about 8 hours? In the past, we’ve done traditional American holiday foods (turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, etc.) This is my very favorite kind of puzzle to solve. Making a meal so large requires so many moving parts. It is the peak logistical and creative challenge for me. And then I had a lightbulb moment: tamales. In truth, vegan tamales.

“Hear me out: vegan tamales solve all of our problems,” I told Marketing Manager Vince. They’re a main course that serves both meat eaters and vegans and they’re gluten free too. We can make 1200 between now and December and freeze them, which means our main course is already taken care of before we even pull up to the Vet Memorial Center on 12/24. This also means I can train the whole Marketing Team on how to make tamales, a valuable skill! From there it was easy to decide to scrap the traditional sides in favor of spanish rice, (vegan) refried beans, and a kale and pepita salad. A quick text to my mom and subsequent trip to her little metal recipe box meant I was adapting my Great-Grandmother, Ofelia’s, recipes for rice and beans to feed 600 people just twenty minutes later.

My Great-Grandmother was born in Mexico in 1911 and immigrated to the United States as a girl. She was a gifted seamstress, making dresses for golden age Hollywood starlets. She would later make my Halloween costumes and teach me how to sew and crochet. Summers were spent with my Grandma and Great-Grandmother until I was a teenager and they watched me, my brother, and my cousins before we started school while our parents worked. 

Both matriarchs were gifted cooks and my Grandmother, Norma, still is. When we were young my brother and I pestered my mom to make “Nana’s rice and beans” at home, because five days a week wasn’t enough. The elder women always seemed to leave out an ingredient measurement or forget that the rice *has* to be *this* brand or just gave vague instruction (“Smash beans – not a lot of juice” for example) until, after many attempts, my mom had some recipes written down, possibly for the first time in their many decades of use.

Truth be told, I hadn’t made these recipes myself, but always looking over my Great-Grandmother or Grandmother’s shoulder. To make enough rice for 600 for the Holiday Meal, I reckon I ought to be able to make a single batch, so I grabbed ingredients from the Co-op and went to work in our Teaching Kitchen. Soon the whole building filled with the smell of rice frying in oil, something I hadn’t smelled in a very long time. It was a very special moment, essentially facilitated by my workplace, and so I was standing in the Kitchen, heart very full, crying a little bit about how beautiful it all was.

Since then, the weather has cooled, the students have returned, and our Tamale Tracker tells me we’re 3 ahead of schedule at 103 cooked and frozen tamales. Only 1,097 to go! Although the Holiday Meal is probably the largest undertaking of the Marketing Team each year, it is truly a store-wide and community wide cooperative effort, and this year more than most with so much preparation happening beforehand. I want to give a huge shout out to Fresh Operations Manager James, the Meat Department and the Deli Department for letting us use their equipment and freezer for tamale production and to Store Operations Manager Rocio and Center Store Specialist Mike H. for helping us secure ingredients at this early stage in the process. The team at Meals on Wheels, Yolo County is helping ensure homebound seniors in Davis get to participate in the meal in addition to donating the kitchen equipment we’ll need to make it all. Many more folks from the Co-op and from across the county will be responsible for the success of this year’s meal. I feel deeply humbled and so very proud to share my family’s food and history with our community as a small part of that effort.

The Meal is still several months away! We’ll share more about it, including how you can volunteer or donate, as we get closer to December. Until then, happy Hispanic Heritage Month! Myself along with General Manager Laura and Store Support Manager Briza have been sharing family recipes at the registers. Look for those recipe cards until October 15th or find them all here.

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Hispanic Heritage Month 2023 Staff Recipes

It’s Hispanic Heritage Month

Celebrated each year from September 15th through October 15th, Hispanic Heritage Month recognizes the cultures, histories, achievements and contributions of Hispanic Americans. September 15 was chosen as the starting point for the commemoration of Hispanic Heritage Month as the anniversary of the Cry of Dolores (1810), which marked the start of the Mexican War of Independence. It was this moment that eventually led to independence for the Spanish colonies that are now recognized as the countries of Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Honduras, and Nicaragua. For a great list of resources related to Hispanic Heritage Month, we encourage you to visit this page here from the National Museum of the American Latino.

 

For the last few years, we’ve asked our staff to share their favorite family recipes with our community during this month. You can find these recipes at our registers over the next few weeks or collected below for your enjoyment. All of the ingredients for these recipes can be found at the Co-op, excpet where noted. 

Laura Sanchez, General Manager

Ensalada de Nopales

This is my mom’s recipe for a nice salad, healthy and refreshing recipe. Perfect for summer barbecues. Buy Nopales that are already cut.” -Laura S. 

  • Bag of cut nopales, approximately ½ pound (find at La Superior in Woodland)
  • 2-3 fresh chopped tomatoes
  • 1 small onion, chopped 
  • 1 small bunch of fresh cilantro, chopped
  • The juice of a lemon 
  • ½ tbs of olive oil
  • A pinch of oregano, crumbled
  • Salt and pepper to season
  • For serving: queso fresco, chips or tostadas

In a pan with water, boiled the nopales with a small amount of salt and onion for about 20 minutes. Turn off the pan and rinse the nopales with cold water. Let them sit until the nopales cool off or rinse them with ice water.

In a bowl, mix the nopales, chopped tomatoes, chopped onion and cilantro. Set aside. 

In a small bowl mix the olive oil, the lemon juice, the pinch of crumbled oregano, salt and pepper. 

Put the olive oil and all the ingredients with the nopales. Refrigerate for about 1 hour and serve. You can add crumbled Mexican fresh cheese when serving. You can serve them on tostadas or eat them with corn chips.

Beef Chile Colorado

  • 2 pounds of beef, cubed
  • 1 28-oz. can of Las Palmas Red Chile Sauce
  • ½ white onion, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  • salt and pepper to taste

In a deep pot over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Sauté the onion until soft and translucent, but not brown. Remove cooked onion from the pot.

Add the meat and brown nicely. Once the meat is brown, add the onion and the can of red chile sauce. Let it simmer for about 20 minutes, then transfer to the crock pot.

Cook in the crock pot for 5 hours on high or 7-8 hours on low. Serve with red or white rice (recipe below).

Chicken Fajitas

  • 1-1 1/2 lbs chicken breast cut into thin strips (about the same size so they cook evenly)
  • Olive oil, about 2-3 tbsp
  • 1 tsp salt (maybe 1 and 1/2 tsp if you like your food on the saltier side)
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • Limes
  • For serving: tortillas, guacamole, sour cream, shredded cheese

Mix olive oil and spices to make marinade.

Add chicken to the marinade, mix, and marinate at least 1 hour (in fridge).

Heat pan, add a little olive oil, once hot add chicken and cook about 8 mins (turning about half way so they cook evenly) until no longer pink. Also, cooking time depends on how thick the chicken strips are, thinner = less time. Once done cooking squeeze some fresh lime if you like.

Serve with tortillas, guacamole, sour cream and/or shredded cheese.

Briza Ramirez, Store Support Manager

Sopa de Fideo

  • 8 oz. package of fideos (You can substitute with thin spaghetti, vermicelli noodles, or angel hair pasta broken into 1inch pieces if you cannot find fideos – we do carry fideos at the Co-op)
  • 3 very ripe tomatoes (Roma or Plum but any tomato will work)
  • ¼ white onion
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 cube of chicken bouillon or equivalent (you can also use a vegan vegetable cube)
  • 6 cups of water or broth
  • Salt to taste
  • Vegetable oil

Cut the tomatoes in half. Puree the tomatoes, onion, bouillon, 2 cups of water/broth and garlic in the blender. Set aside.

In a pan, preheat 3 tbsp. of vegetable oil to medium-hot. Add the noodles and stir to coat with oil. Continue stirring until the fideo pasta has turned golden brown and a few strands have turned deep brown. Browning the noodles adds depth of flavor to the soup. When the noodles are browned, add the reserved mixture and add the remaining 4 cups of water/broth and stir. Bring the soup to a boil at medium heat and then cover with a lid and cook for 10 minutes or until the pasta is soft but not mushy. Adjust with salt to taste.

You can garnish with queso fresco, avocado cubes, and my favorite, pickled jalapeños.

Red Tomatillo Salsa

  • ¾ lb of tomatillos (husks removed and washed)
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled
  • ½ white onion
  • 10 Chile de Arbol peppers for a spicy sauce, 5 if you want it mild
  • ½ teaspoon salt or to taste

Place tomatillos, onion and garlic in a medium heat skillet. Keep turning your tomatillos and garlic to get an even roast until they are soft and roasted, about 18 to 20 minutes. However, garlic cloves will roast faster so remove them and add to your blender or food processor after just a few minutes.

In a separate skillet or over the open fire, toast the chile de arbol peppers as evenly as possible. It takes about a minute. Make sure to not burn them or your sauce will have a bitter taste. Remove the stems once they are roasted..

Process tomatillos, onion, peppers, garlic and salt in a blender until a slightly chunky sauce forms. You can add some water in case it is needed and if you want it on the smoother side. This salsa will last up to 3 days refrigerated in an airtight container.

Pozole Estilo Jalisco

  • 2 1/2 lb stewing pork
  • 2 lb pork neck bones (call ahead and ask for the Meat Department to determine availability)
  • 8 cloves fresh garlic
  • 1/2 medium white onion, finely diced
  • 2 cans hominy 28 oz, you can use yellow or white (but if you can find purple, you should give that a try!)
  • 3 Chiles Anchos, deveined and soaked in hot water until softened
  • 1 very ripe tomato
  • 2 Chiles de arbol, toasted (optional)
  • salt 

Garnish

  • 1/2 sm green cabbage, finely sliced
  • ½ med onion, finely diced
  • 1 bunch radishes, round slices
  • Limes, cut into wedges
  • Tostadas
  • Hot sauce (Chile de arbol based)

Trim off excess fat of stewing pork and pork neck bones. Cut into 2-3 inch pieces if possible. Place in a large bowel with cold water and rinse well.

Place meat in a 6qt pan and cover with cold water. Water level must be approx. 6 inches above submerged meat. Add onion, 4 garlic cloves and salt (1 to 2 tablespoons) to the pot.

Bring to a fast and hard boil,then reduce heat to a gentle boil. After approx. 15 min of gentle boiling. remove and scoop off the gray foam that has appeared on the top. And taste for salt, if more is needed, add to your taste and boil the meat for 1 to 1 ½ hours or until meat is tender.

Open the cans of hominy and drain the liquid. Give it a quick rinse, reserve half a cup of the hominy, and add the hominy to the broth.

In a blender mix the chiles anchos, the remaining 4 garlic cloves, some salt, the ½ cup of hominy, 1 cup of the meat broth and the tomato. If you want your pozole spicy add the chile the arbol as well, otherwise you can omit it. Blend until smooth. Be careful when blending with the hot broth as this can cause pressure in the blender.

Add the sauce into the pot and let everything simmer for 30 more minutes.

Serve the pozole in a bowl, and garnish with cabbage, onion, radishes. Serve on the side lime wedges and tostadas.

Christine Ciganovich, Marketing Specialist/cooking class instructor

Spanish Rice

In truth, this is Christine’s great-grandmother, Ofelia’s, recipe.

  • 12 oz. long grain white rice
  • 1 tablespoon avocado oil
  • 6 oz. tomato sauce
  • 1 ¾ cups no salt veggie broth
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon garlic salt
  • ½ cup slices green onions (green and white parts)

Combine rice and oil in a pot with a well fitting lid. Heat over medium-low heat, stirring very frequently, until the rice is turning golden brown and smells nutty.

Add remaining ingredients and stir. Turn heat up to bring to a simmer. Once bubbling, put on the lid, turn heat all the way to low, and cook for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, turn off the heat and leave the lid on for an additional 10 minutes to finish steaming. Fluff with a fork and serve.

Chilaquiles

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons avocado oil
  • 12 corn tortillas, cut in half and then into 1-inch strips
  • 4 green onions, chopped
  • 38 oz. Las Palmas Red Chile Sauce (1 large can plus 1 small can)
  • 2 cups shredded Jack and cheddar cheeses
  • For Serving: cotija cheese, sour cream, avocado slices, fried eggs, black olives, pickled jalapeno

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Heat oil in a deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add tortilla strips and fry until the edges are lightly browned and crispy. Pour sauce over tortilla strips. Add green onions and 3/4 of the cheese. Stir to ensure all tortilla strips are evenly soaked with sauce and the cheese and green onions are well incorporated.

Transfer to casserole dish. Sprinkle remaining cheese over everything. Bake for 15 minutes, or until cheese is melty.

Serve as is or with all the toppings.

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The Lasting Impact of Cesar Chavez

Today is Cesar Chavez Day, a federally recognized holiday honoring a champion for social justice and advocate for the farmworkers who sustain our Nation.

Cesar Estrada Chavez (March 31, 1927 – April 23, 1993) was a Mexican American labor leader and civil rights activist who dedicated his life’s work to what he called La Causa (the cause): the struggle of farmworkers in the United States to improve their working and living conditions through organizing and negotiating contracts with their employers. Committed to the tactics of nonviolent resistance practiced by Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., Chavez co-founded the National Farm Workers Association (later becoming the United Farm Workers) and won important victories to raise pay and improve working conditions for farmworkers in the late 1960s and 1970s.

 

 

Most famously known for his strike against California’s grape growers*, Cesar Chavez asked Americans to boycott the popular fruit because of the meager pay and poor working conditions farmworkers were forced to endure. In 1970, after five years of the Delano grape strike, farmworkers won a contract promising better pay and benefits. A few years later, their efforts led to the passage of the California Agricultural Labor Relations Act of 1975, which established collective-bargaining power for farmworkers statewide.

 

 

 

 

*While Cesar Chavez continues to get credit for starting the strike, it was actually Larry Itliong, a Filipino-American organizer, who led a group of Filipino-American grape workers to first strike in September 1965.  (Larry Itliong is pictured in the bottom picture, in the center)

“The fight is never about grapes or lettuce. It is always about people.”

-Cesar Chavez

Farmworkers are among the poorest workers in the United States. Hazardous conditions are routine and include pesticide exposure, heat stress, lack of shade, and inadequate drinking water. Not to mention the discrimination tactics and abuse they receive from their employers.

In order to feed the country, over two million farmworkers labor on farms across the United States. They handpick the vast majority of fruit and vegetable crops produced here making them the backbone of our $200 billion agricultural industry.

It is the great paradox of our food system: the very people who work to feed the U.S. struggle to feed their own families.

Fast forward to August 3rd, 2022 where a historical, 24-day long march began where Farmworkers and Farmworker advocates marched 335 miles, starting from Delano, California and ending at the Sacramento State Capitol; ⁠The same march Cesar Chavez did in 1966.

 

This march was to get the attention of Governor Gavin Newsom and convince him to sign AB 2183, the Agricultural Labor Relations Voting Choice Act. This bill would give Farmworkers the right to vote for a union, free from intimidation and threats, allowing them to vote in secret whenever and wherever they felt safe.⁠

With just two days to spare, Governor Newsom signed the Farmworker Bill AB 2183, on September 28th, 2022. ⁠

While there hasn’t been much of an update on the AB 2183 bill, as it just went into effect as of January 1st, 2023, below are some events that have taken place recently with farmworkers.

California Governor Recently Vetoed Farmworker Bill 

In December 2022, Governor Gavin Newsom vetoed the California Farmworkers Drought Resilience Pilot Program, which would have offered farmworkers, many of whom have lost work hours due to the drought, $1,000 a month of supplemental pay from 2023 through 2026. And unlike all other social safety net programs, there would be no immigration status or eligibility requirements, meaning that undocumented farmworkers, who account for an estimated 50% of farmworkers, could receive funds.

New AEWR Wage Effect Final Rule protects Farmworkers

What is currently a very controversial topic amongst those in the agriculture industry, The Department of Labor recently amended it’s regulations governing the certification of agricultural labor or services to be performed by temporary foreign workers in H–2A nonimmigrant status. Specifically, the Department is revising the methodology by which it determines the hourly Adverse Effect Wage Rates (AEWRs) for non-range occupations (i.e., all occupations other than herding and production of livestock on the range). 

This rule follows the Trump Administration’s AEWR rule which was blocked by the UFW and UFW Foundation’s successful lawsuits against the Trump Administration. The Trump Administration’s proposal to reduce the AEWR would have threatened the jobs of countless domestic farmworkers and pushed those willing to accept the below-market wages even further into poverty. According to Farmworker Justice, blocking the Trump AEWR rule saved farmworkers an estimated $500 million in wages over the course of 2021 and 2022.

This newly amended rule goes into effect on March 30th, 2023.

California’s Late Winter Storm Events

California is responsible for producing 1/3 of the nation’s vegetables and nearly 2/3 of the nation’s fruits and nuts.

While this should be the busiest time for farmworkers, California has been receiving back-to-back rounds of Atmospheric Rivers(long, narrow bands of air that can carry water vapor for thousands of miles) since December 2022 (14 so far) that have decimated crops and flooded entire communities; severely reducing work opportunities for many of the state’s farmworkers, who lack social safety nets. One representative with the United Farm Workers estimated “workers have lost up to two months of income.”

47 counties are currently under a State of Emergency. In Monterey County alone, one of the largest produce producers in California, the most current report of agricultural losses is exceeding $450.5 million.

On top of dealing with loss of work, farmworkers are also dealing with the loss and/or severe damages to their homes and vehicles. An if there is work available for farmworkers, the weather means harvesting crops in more dangerous conditions. For Ventura farmworker Octavio Diaz, he recently injured his right leg trying to pull it out from deep, sticky mud. “I kept working after I hurt my leg because we sustain ourselves by working in the farms. We don’t have other sources of income. You have to work to be able to support your family.”

With devastating disasters like this, few have access to emergency relief or government assistance. Language barriers and immigration status being some of the biggest reasons.

California Governor, Gavin Newsom, visited Parajo on March 15th, after a levee burst on the Parajo River, flooding the entire community. He had promised relief, telling residents that “no other state does more for farmworkers.”  He stated that there would be an “immediate response” from Biden, and that FEMA aid would be coming to Pajaro as soon as his office put in a request for a major disaster declaration. It wasnt until March 28th that the governor’s office had finally submitted a request for that declaration.

“When the man who feeds the world by toiling in the fields is himself deprived of the basic rights of feeding, sheltering and caring for his own family, the whole community of man is sick.”- Cesar Chavez
Cesar may have passed away over 3 decades ago, but his legacy is still alive wherever farmworkers organize and stand up nonviolently for their rights.
We can continue to honor Cesar Chavez’s work by taking the following actions:

1. Educate yourself and others: Learn about the issues that farmworkers face and educate others about their struggles. This can include reading books, sharing articles, documentaries, and other resources on social media, and engaging in conversations with friends and family.

2. Support fair labor practices: Support fair labor practices by buying products from businesses(like the Co-op!) that support fair labor standards and treat their workers with respect and dignity. This includes supporting unionization efforts and advocating for policies that protect workers’ rights.

3. Volunteer: Volunteer with organizations that support farmworkers’ rights and work to improve their working conditions. These organizations provide a range of services, including legal aid, advocacy, and support for workers’ families.

4. Advocate for policy change: Advocate for policy change at the local, state, and national levels that supports farmworkers’ rights and improves their working conditions. This includes supporting legislation that protects workers from exploitation and ensures fair wages and safe working conditions.

5. Support farmworker-led organizations: Support farmworker-led organizations that are working to improve the lives of farmworkers and advocate for their rights.

For more information on Farmworkers and ways to support them, click here.

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Hispanic Heritage Month Staff Recipes

Hispanic Heritage Month Staff Recipes

Chilaquiles

Recipe by Marketing Specialist Christine Ciganovich’s Mom

Chicken Fajitas

Recipe by General Manager Laura Sanchez

Beef Chile Colorado

Recipe by General Manager Laura Sanchez

Sopa de Fideo

Recipe by IT Manager Briza Ramirez

Tomatillo Salsa

Recipe by IT Manager Briza Ramirez

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