Calling all foragers! The Greenest Allergy Aid You’ll Ever Eat

I’m going to go out on a limb here (though I think it’s a pretty sturdy limb) and guess that you usually avoid stinging nettles. My first childhood experience with the tiny teeth of the woods was enough to teach me to give them wide berth, though on that particularly prickly woodland romp, my parents also made sure I met jewelweed (stinging nettles’ natural neighboring antidote – also helpful for poison ivy). It’s so interesting when nature offers poison and remedy as nearby neighbors.

New Pi Eats Nettle Soup

What does this have to do with soup? It turns out that stinging nettles may help alleviate allergies and hay fever and are particularly good for you, presuming you bite them first.

Let the forager in you lead you to the woods this time of year and there are quite a few offerings (morels, mustard greens, and even garlic mustard, anyone?). But you’ll want to use gloves for these ones! I recommend standard kitchen gloves for dexterity, though any impervious gloves will do. Pick from plants shorter than knee-high for tenderness, and just pluck the top of each plant (typically a cluster of 4 leaves), as the stems can be tougher.

Wild Stinging Nettles

Make like the Swedes, who traditionally usher in spring and summer with nettle soup, and try out the extremely green and pleasant recipe here. Or use them in one of these other delicious-looking recipes – they can be used however you like once blanched to remove their sting, and their flavor’s been likened to spinach, cucumber, and… the forest! Nothing boosts your system like a little forest foraging and kitchen magic to transform this leafy green from foe to friend.

Stinging Nettle Soup

Adapted from this recipe

1 lb. stinging nettles
2 t. salt
1 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 white onion, diced
1/4 c. basmati rice
4 c. chicken broth
salt and pepper to taste
juice of 1/4 lemon, to taste

to serve: sour cream or crème fraîche or plain yogurt and a drizzle of olive oil

Bring a large pot of water to a boil with 2 teaspoons of salt. Drop in the stinging nettles and cook 1 to 2 minutes until they soften. This will remove most of the sting. Drain in a colander, then rinse with cold water. Trim off any tough stems if there are any, then chop coarsely.

Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium-low heat and stir in the onion. Cook until the onion has softened and turned translucent, about 5 minutes.

Stir in the rice, chicken broth, and chopped wilted nettles. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until the rice is tender, about 15 minutes. Puree the soup with an immersion blender and season to taste with salt, pepper, and lemon juice.

Serve with a dollop of sour cream or crème fraîche or plain yogurt and a drizzle of olive oil.

Delicately Addictive Marinated Mushrooms

[Enjoy New Pi Customer Service Coordinator Genie Maybanks's guest post on our beautiful local mushrooms, which you'll see more of - and a presentation of this recipe - in your May/June Catalyst! --Allison]

Jacques's Marinated Mushrooms New Pi Eats

Oyster and Lion’s Mane Mushrooms Preparing to Marinate

I was doing researching for a story about morel mushrooms for a piece we did in the Catalyst a few years back, and I learned that someone claimed they had figured out how to domesticate the wild morel.  There is, apparently, such a thing as a morel mushroom growing kit! For a mushroom lover like me, that is amazing news.

Mushroom Mills Oyster Mushrooms New Pi Eats

Oyster Mushrooms growing at Mushroom Mills in Columbus Junction

My dad loves to garden, he loves to cook, and he too loves morels.  He also has a big aversion to special gizmos and prefers to stick to the basics—a sharp knife, a cutting board, a small shovel… Really, he already has just about everything garden-kitchen-gizmo that he wants. So, birthday gifts can be a real challenge.

I set out to buy him one of these new-fangled morel kits.  It seemed to me to be the perfect fit of gift, but it turns out that most of these morel mushroom kits are not actually guaranteed to produce.  It can take years for them to mature, and even more daunting, they are very complicated to site.  In learning about these morel kits, I learned that the world is full of other edible mushroom varieties, and there are numerous, much more fool-proof kits available!

I found kits that were so kid-friendly, that you were supposed to be able to take a toilet paper roll, dip it in water, sprinkle it with spores, and leave it on your table for a week or two before, voila, mushrooms!  (That didn’t seem appetizing to me.) Other kits required tree stumps be drilled with 1 inch holes, the spores needed to be inserted and the plugs replaced. (Pretty complicated.) There was absolutely every level of difficulty out there.  But, one variety, one kit, really caught my eye.  It was something called a “lion’s mane” or “hedgehog” mushroom, so named for the tooth-like, hair-like fringes that cascade out of the mushroom ball. I sent my dad a kit.

Mushroom Mills lion's mane mushrooms New Pi Eats

Lion’s Mane Mushrooms, which show promise in treating neurodegenerative diseases, Mushroom Mills

I’ll be darned if these beautiful white balls didn’t quickly begin to spring from the pre-inoculated sawdust-filled logs. They were soft, like a funny spongy ball covered in silky hairs. There really weren’t many recipes online, and no one I knew had ever seen one at that point, let alone cooked one.  So, we rolled with the tried-and-true morel-handling recipe: Lots of butter!  We sliced it thinly, dredged it in flour, and browned the slices on each side.  They are very delicate little creatures, so stirring was a no-no. Simple!

It does taste reminiscent of lobster or crab. A taste all its own! Vegetarian crab meat, golden brown, dripping in butter…

Todd Mills of Mushroom Mills New Pi Eats

Todd Mills of Mushroom Mills prepares straw for oyster mushroom innoculation

Turns out, lion’s mane mushrooms are being studied for their rumored abilities to boost the immune system, ease arthritis, lessen inflammation, improve digestion, and even increase memory potential by stimulating nerve growth in the brain!  Some studies even demonstrate positive signs for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients who consume the mushroom.

So, whether you’re brave enough to dive in and try growing your own or not, give this unique fungus a try.  Your Co-op now carries them in our produce department, from Todd Mills of Mushroom Mills, who harvests them at his farm in Columbus Junction. He brings them to us fresh weekly, and will also have a stand at the Downtown Iowa City and Cedar Rapids Farmer’s Markets, where he’ll have kits available!


Marinated Mushrooms

Delicate, refined, and addictive! – Allison

Recipe from Jacques Pepin’s Essential Pepin

“These will keep for a couple of weeks in a jar in the refrigerator. In fact, the flavor improves after a few days.” – Jacques Pepin

serves 8 as an hors d’oeuvre

1 ½ lbs. mixed unusual mushrooms (wiped with a damp cloth if needed – do not wash)
3 med. onions (about 12 oz.), quartered, layers separated
3 bay leaves
½ t. crushed thyme leaves (fresh preferred)
1 t. salt
2 t. black peppercorns
½ t. coriander seeds, crushed
1 c. dry white wine
1/3 c. olive oil
3 T. fresh lemon juice

serve on toasts or in small lettuce, endive, or radicchio leaves

Quarter large mushrooms and halve medium mushrooms (easy bite size). Combine with all the ingredients in a stainless steel saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, and boil, covered, 6-8 min. Transfer to an earthenware or glass container and let cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate.

Extra Extra… Eggs!

They’re, quite likely, hanging out in your fridge right now. Their limelight’s passed, but they’re still full of protein and deliciousness, if you can get past the (quite possibly) hints of colorful dyes alluding to the fun they’ve been party to!

Jen's Deviled Eggs New Pi Eats

This recipe from New Pi Marketing Manager Jen Angerer – her take on her mother’s deviled eggs – gets a special zing from green or kalamata olives, setting them apart from the usual deviled egg crowd.

To dress these eggs up for their next party, pipe the yolk filling into the whites with a pastry bag, or simply a ziploc plastic bag with a corner snipped off.


TIP: If you’d like your deviled eggs to stay sunny-side-up, trim a sliver from each round bottom-to-be of the white halves to make a flat surface.


Finally – full of tips today – if you’re not starting with already boiled eggs, try this Alton Brown baking method I just learned about from Midwest Living Magazine‘s food editor, Hannah Agran!

Deviled Eggs with Olives

Recipe by Jen Angerer, New Pi Marketing Manager

If your party is outdoors, place your plate of eggs on a bed of ice just in case, but they probably won’t last long enough to spoil!

1 dozen eggs
7-10 olives, chopped (kalamata or green are Jen’s favorites)
2 t. olive juice or vinegar
1 t. spicy brown mustard
½ c. mayonnaise
to taste: dash of garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper
optional: parsley, green onion, and/or paprika to garnish

Boil eggs (or try this Alton Brown baking method!) and cool. Peel, slice in half lengthwise, and remove yolks. Set whites aside.

In a mixing bowl, mash egg yolks, and add all ingredients but olives. Mix until smooth, then mix in olives. If too dry, add mayo and olive juice or vinegar.

With a pastry bag (for slick-looking eggs), fill the egg whites with the yolk mixture.

Garnish with parsley, green onion, or paprika.

New and Mysterious

When I brought the new local oyster and lion’s mane mushrooms home from the Co-op, I just stared at them. Dramatically lit on my cutting board, minutes passed before I could bring myself to let a knife near them. I’m not used to this form of beauty!


I’ve adjusted to (but still stop to wonder at – what else is life for?) the splash of color from opening up a beet, or noonday light glancing through salad greens, or the fresh perfume and ode to summer wafting up from a just-sliced perfectly-in-season tomato. But in March, with the season change stirring, when we’ve just gotten the earliest spring gift of our snowdrop bulbs peeking into the world, the thought of fresh and new to the senses is awfully delicious.

Yet with delicate, very fresh mushrooms like these, the beauty isn’t in color but in texture and in wonder. Their growing formation is fascinating, at least to me. (They’re packed in blue-labelled plastic boxes, like grape tomatoes, still in their growing formation from Mushroom Mills in Columbus Junction – meet Todd Mills in our article here.) Their delicate gills are such a contrast to the beets and carrots and potatoes I’m still eating from my garden, stored all winter long.


If you pick these oyster or lion’s manes up and sit spellbound like me, well, I have a quick trick for you. Ditch whatever recipe you’d conjured. Get out the sauté pan and a thick pat of butter and salt – and that’s all you need. Cut off their stems and slice the mushrooms a third of an inch thick, get the butter hot in the pan over medium heat, brown both sides of each slice until dark golden, and sprinkle them with salt. Aaaand eat. The gills turn crispy, the mushroom still juicy: Best snack or casual appetizer ever. Gosh they are delicious.

Mushroom Mills, Columbus Junction, Iowa

(Okay, disclaimer: What, fried in butter, isn’t delicious? However, people go to great  lengths – and big dollars – for a buttery taste of morel around here. Well, to my palate, this satisfies the same desire. I think these are just as good… but that’s hearsay! Don’t tell anyone I said that.)


If you can make it past wondering at their beauty with enough time to make an actual recipe with them, this mushroom tart from my favorite cookbook is delightful. Ideal for a special meal – lunch, brunch, dinner, or simply a celebration of these new fungi friends – it’s light with a perk from lemon and earthy at the same time.

Mushroom Tart

from Tartine, by Elisabeth M. Prueitt and Chad Robertson 

partially baked and cooled 9-inch flaky pastry (baked until pastry just turns opaque) tart shell  – your recipe of choice, not a sweetened dough, or pre-made frozen dough
1 lb. mix of fresh mushrooms (the more flavorful the mushrooms, the more interesting the end result) – do not wash but wipe caps with a damp cloth if needed
3 T. unsalted butter
packed 1 c. shallots, halved and thinly sliced
¼ t. salt
¼ t. black pepper, freshly ground
lemon juice from ½ a medium lemon
2 T. water
1 c. crème fraîche or heavy cream (I used cream, though I’m sure the former would be delicious)
3 large egg yolks
¼ t. freshly grated nutmeg
1 T. fresh thyme, coarsely chopped

Have pre-baked tart shell ready.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Prepare the mushrooms by removing stems if spongy. Slice depending on shape and size and how you’d like them to look in the finished tart.

In a heavy saucepan, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add shallots and sauté for a few minutes, until they start to color. Increase heat to high, add mushrooms, salt, and pepper, and sauté until the mushrooms are soft, about 5-10 minutes.

When the mushrooms are soft, push them to one side of the saucepan. Add lemon juice and water to deglaze the pan, scraping up any brown bits from the pan. Remove from heat.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together cream and egg yolks until smooth. Mix in mushrooms and gently pour the mixture into the tart shell (or put mushrooms into shell and pour cream and egg mixture over). If the sides of the pre-baked tart shell have slumped unevenly and putting all the filling in would cause it to overflow, egg mixture that doesn’t fit in the shell could be carefully poured in, 5 minutes into baking.

Bake until the custard is barely firm in the center, about 20 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack. The tart will continue to set as it cools.

Serve warm or at room temperature, sprinkled with thyme and freshly grated nutmeg.

Dr. Terry Wahls Algerian Chicken

March is what makes us strong Iowans. We hear crocuses have sprung in Kentucky, but ours are not ready for that yet. Here, we still have time for winter mulling, garden planning, cozy cooking, and reading whatever last rights of winter you like.

Dr. Terry Wahls's Algerian Chicken - New Pi Eats

It will probably be blustery; March nearly always is. Yet this is precisely what steels us, makes us the resilient folks we are, and makes those crocuses – when they do emerge – that much sweeter.

Meanwhile, not getting ahead of ourselves with talk of crocuses, back to the cooking!

After taking these photos for the March/April Catalyst that’s about to hit the shelves, we gobbled up a few bites, then packed it to share with co-workers. It was a huge hit with our crowd, particularly when they found out just how easy it was.

Ben, who took these photos, took a portion home to share after the shoot: “My [then-]pregnant wife, who couldn’t stomach anything in the last week of her pregnancy, loved this.” I believe he made it twice more in the following week and again the next. (And yes, they have a lovely baby boy home now!)

Terry Wahls Algerian Chicken New Pi Eats

The recipe comes from Dr. Terry Wahls, a local doctor whose story is so amazing you’ve probably already heard it, but if you haven’t: She treats her MS symptoms through what she eats, successfully taking her from wheelchair-dependent to fully active, independent, walking, biking, you name it. We all know food can be powerful – but turns out it can be powerful medicine as well. Her new book The Wahls Protocol: How I Beat Progressive MS Using Paleo Principles and Functional Medicine comes out March 17.

You may have seen her at the Co-op (like below); she’s one of our great fans!

Dr. Terry Wahls at New Pi!

Dr. Terry Wahls with her signature kale at New Pi!

Keep your eyes peeled for her book – and get a preview in the March/April Catalyst, and – in the meantime – make this for dinner! So easy, tasty, and healthy.

Algerian Chicken or Vegetarian

Courtesy of Dr. Terry Wahls, from her soon-to-be-released book, The Wahls Protocol

serves 4

This is delicious, fast, and easy! Enjoy it as part of the Wahls Diet (serve over quinoa with red pepper), or Wahls Paleo Diet (over spaghetti or winter squash, yams, sautéed cabbage, or Cauliflower Rice – recipe in The Wahls Protocol), or – as plated above – with Dr. Wahls’s Greens and Bacon recipe in the March/April Catalyst.

4 cloves garlic, minced 1.5 lbs. chicken, skin on (breasts, legs, or thighs)
14.5-oz. can chopped tomatoes
2 c. sliced leeks
1 c. broth (ideally Dr. Wahls’s Bone Broth – recipe in The Wahls Protocol)
1 med. banana pepper (we substituted the adorable mini peppers we carry), sliced
1 med. carrot, sliced
1 T. coconut oil
2 t. ground turmeric
1 t. ground cinnamon
1 t. ground cumin
1 t. kelp powder (optional)
1/2 t. iodized sea salt
4 c. green beans or asparagus
2 c. cilantro, stems reserved

Mince garlic and let sit for 15 minutes to allow sulfur to stabilize. Add garlic, chicken, tomatoes, leeks, broth, peppers, carrots, coconut oil, spices, kelp powder, and salt to large skillet over medium heat (in this instance, putting everything straight into a cold pan at once seems to be just fine!). Simmer for 15 minutes.

Add green beans or asparagus and chopped cilantro stems to the skillet and simmer for another 5 minutes.

Stir in chopped cilantro leaves just prior to serving.

Reprinted by arrangement with AVERY, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company.
Copyright © DR. TERRY WAHLS LLC, 2014.

Throwback Thursday: Alicia’s Sunflower Sprout Salad

Moments ago: a dark thunderstorm – like a spring thunderstorm – plus hail. Within minutes? Gorgeous sunshine. Gosh, Iowa’s got the most fascinating weather. At the end of February, this little taste of spring is making me hungry.

Mostly, it’s bringing on a craving for more green in my life. Yet, really now, it’s way too early for that in Iowa. It’s time to start things like onion and leek transplants (like some good friends have growing in their window right now, but I can’t claim to be on it myself this year) and start revving our engines to start the rest of our transplants in March, in preparation for this year’s gardens… but our growing season is still a few months off.

LUCKILY for us, our local growers are on the job, with lettuces from Rolling Hills Greenhouse in West Union, Iowa, and local sprouts from Organic Greens in Kalona, Iowa, on our shelves. Thank goodness for sprightly spring sprouts. Whew - that’s a lot of s’s… this little bit of spring is going to my head.

Organic Greens Sprouts

So what makes this ‘Throwback Thursday’? Well, we just re-discovered our archive of recipes, and it really wouldn’t be co-operative of us to keep them to ourselves. (Isn’t that what February is for? To give us enough time indoors that we can’t help but rediscover _____ ? What [fill in the blank] have you rediscovered this February?) 

This rejuvenating recipe from the Spring 2011 Catalyst is perfect to start up our Throwback Thursday series. On a personal note, it happens to be the first Catalyst issue I had the pleasure of editing. Start the reel and read all about our good friends – and great growers – at Organic Greens, where:

“Paying attention to the health of the environment, the seeds, and the soil creates healthy roots, which produce healthy shoots – organic works.”

Meet owner James Nisly of Organic Greens and hear his vision for feeding our community in the Spring 2011 Catalyst on page 8 here.

Alicia’s Sunflower Sprout Salad

Alicia Diehl, Organic Greens Marketing Coordinator and New Pi Member

sweet potatoes, cubed and roasted (I bet winter squash would also be nice)
local Organic Greens sunflower sprouts or mixed sprouts (their combination includes radish, red cabbage, snow pea, & sunflower sprouts)
red onion, thinly sliced
local Maytag Blue Cheese, crumbled

Maple-balsamic Dressing:
1 clove garlic, minced
½ c. olive oil
¼ c. balsamic vinegar (preferably aged)
3-4 T. maple syrup (depending on how sweet you like it – Alicia usually uses 4 T.)
sea salt
freshly ground pepper to taste

Assemble or toss salad ingredients. Mix dressing ingredients by whisking or shaking in a tightly-lidded jar. Dress the salad to your liking and enjoy!

Lickety-Split (Pea) Chili

Some nights are the right nights for chili. 20 below? Yes. Game time? Yup. Looking for homey and cozy? Definitely.

Lentil Chili New Pi Eats_Ben Partridge photo

A couple days ago (a day in that 20 below zero category), chili seemed right. But we were out of beans. Well, to be more precise, our beans were 5 miles from the house, at our garden, in a wheelbarrow, sheltered yes, but… Waiting to be shelled, assuming we’d long since forgotten them. I guess we had.

A pantry search determined: it was lentil time.

The verdict on “lentil time”? Great! This will put a nice, rich chili on the table in about 45 minutes (even if you’re out of beans). Also: the delicious chorizo accent (New Pi’s chorizo sausage links, which are made in-house from non-confinement-raised pork) is on sale right now!

I highly recommend topping it also with our Rumiano Pepper Jack cheese- it’s organic and the most flavorful Jack cheese I’ve tasted, with vibrant, vivacious red peppers (You can see in the photo too: it’s much more yellow. Attribute that to the good grass they’re eating.). Notes on those gorgeous red chips below.

My Husband’s Lentil Chili

4 oz. brown lentils
4 oz. yellow split peas
4 oz. moong dal
4 oz. red lentils
(OR 8 oz. brown lentils + 8 oz. yellow split peas)
2 New Pi chorizo sausages (handmade in the meat case)
2 ribs celery
1 large or 2 medium onions
½ t. cumin
¼ – ½ t. chipotle powder
1 t. salt
a splash of beer (optional)
2 c. chopped tomatoes (canned, frozen from summer, or whatever you like)
6 c. water
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 bunch cilantro, leaves removed, stems minced
toppings: see below

Remove the sausages from their casings and fry (in a little oil if needed), breaking them up, in a soup pot. When it begins to brown, add celery, then onion, and cook until wilted. Then add the spices, salt, and pulses, and stir for a minute or two, until fragrant. If it starts to stick, add a splash of beer (or liquid of choice). Then add the tomatoes, 6 cups water, garlic, and minced stems from the bunch of cilantro. Cover and simmer for half an hour or until tender. Use an immersion blender to partially blend until a nice thickness.

Serve with pepper Jack cheese, luxurious local Kalona SuperNatural sour cream, cilantro leaves, avocado (optional), and tortilla chips  – the Food Should Taste Good jalapeño chips are delish, and that beautiful red.

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