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Whole Foods Market snapshot

Whole Foods Market: It's a Natural

by Lori Grossman

By Lori Grossman

It seems like they've been around forever, but – can you believe it? – Whole Foods Market started out in 1980 with one store in Austin, Texas. This forerunner of the big "natural and organic" food chains has grown to over 270 locations in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom.

Twenty-five year old college dropout John Mackey and Rene Lawson Hardy, 21, started the ball rolling in 1978 when they borrowed $45,000 from family and friends. They opened a small natural foods store called "SaferWay" – a spoof of the Safeway grocery chain stores. The store became their home when they were evicted from their apartment for storing food products there. It wasn't a comfortable existence, but they made do. There wasn't anywhere to bathe, so they used their Hobart dishwasher, which had an attached water hose!

Their next hurdle was a flood in 1981. Losses to the store's inventory and equipment totaled approximately $400,000. With no insurance, it took a group effort from customers and neighbors to get the store open again.

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From there, it was onward and upward. In 1984, Whole Foods Market expanded to Houston and Dallas, then to New Orleans in 1988. A year later, California's first Whole Foods opened in Palo Alto. North Carolina, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Northern California, Detroit and Boston soon followed. The 100th store opened in Torrance, California in 1999.

The concept spread to Canada in 2002, and the United Kingdom in 2004. Whole Foods Market started with only 19 employees – now there are over 34,000! This retailer of natural and organic products has come a long way.

It’s recipe time.

Sweet Potato Quesadillas
I know – you're thinking, "sweet potatoes?" Try them!

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 cup red pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 cup yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (1 teaspoon)
  • 1 large poblano chile, roasted and chopped
  • 2 large sweet potatoes (about 1-1/2 pounds) , cooked, peeled, and mashed (about 4 cups)
  • 1/8 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/4 cup blue cheese, crumbled
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 12 (8-inch) flour or corn tortillas
  • 1-1/2 cups Monterey Jack cheese, grated
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Heat the canola oil in a large sauté pan. Add the red pepper, onion, and garlic, and sauté until the onion is translucent (about 2 or 3 minutes). Add the chopped poblano chile.

Mix the sweet potatoes with the red pepper mixture. Add the cilantro, blue cheese, and salt. Blend well.

Place 1/2 cup of the sweet potato mixture in the center of a tortilla, and spread the mixture out evenly to within 1/2 inch of the outer edge of the tortilla. Sprinkle with 3 tablespoons of the Monterey Jack cheese. Place another tortilla over the filling to form a sandwich. Repeat with the remaining tortillas until all of the filling is used. You will have six tortilla "sandwiches."

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, or spray it with vegetable spray. Place the filled tortillas on the sheet. Don't allow the sides to touch. Bake in the preheated oven for about 5 minutes, or until the cheese has just melted.

Remove the quesadillas with a wide spatula, cut into wedges, and serve immediately. Makes 6 servings.

Cornmeal and Pecan-Crusted Catfish
A great way to prepare catfish, but tilapia, flounder, sole, or orange roughy work equally well.

  • 1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Cajun spices
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
Preheat oven to 375°F. In a dish, combine the flour, salt, pepper and Cajun spices. In a shallow dish or bowl, blend the eggs with the buttermilk until well-mixed.

Cornmeal and Pecan Crust

  • 1-3/4 cups fresh breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup cornmeal
  • 1 cup pecans, toasted and finely chopped
  • 1/8 cup parsley, chopped
  • 1/8 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1-1/2 pounds catfish fillets (4 fillets)
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
In a third bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, cornmeal, pecans, parsley, cilantro, salt, and pepper. Line up the three dishes from left to right – first, the dredging flour, then the egg mixture, and last, the pecan-cornmeal mixture.

Dredge each fish fillet in the seasoned flour, then in the egg mixture, and then in the pecan-cornmeal mixture. Press the crumbs and nuts into the fillets if necessary. Place each of the breaded fillets on a large piece of waxed paper.

Heat the canola oil in a large nonstick sauté pan over medium-high heat. The oil is hot enough when you see faint ripples in the oil and a light smoke appears over the surface of the pan. Carefully add the breaded fillets, and brown them quickly on each side for 2 minutes, turning once.

Remove the fillets from the pan, and place them on a large baking sheet. Place the fillets in the oven, and cook until the fish feels firm when pressed with your fingers (3 to 5 minutes). Makes 4 servings.

Honey Mousse with Fresh Fruit
Now's the time to use those luscious berries to make this cool and delicious dessert.

  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 2 packages unflavored gelatin (1/4-ounce packages)
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1-1/2 cups low-fat sour cream
  • 1/2 cup orange blossom, clover or other light-colored honey
  • Seasonal fresh fruit, such as strawberries, pineapple, grapes, raspberries or melon balls, for garnish
  • Fresh mint leaves (for garnish)
Pour the water into a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over it. Set the bowl in a pan of hot water and set aside until the gelatin has soaked through (about 5 minutes).

Transfer the dissolved gelatin to a large mixing bowl. With an electric mixer, beat in the juices, low-fat sour cream, and honey until light, fluffy, and smooth (about 2 minutes).

Lightly brush the inside of a 4-cup mold with vegetable oil or water. Spoon the mousse mixture into the prepared mold and smooth the top with a rubber spatula. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator until firm (about 3 to 4 hours).

Unmold the mousse onto a serving platter and garnish with fresh fruits and mint leaves. Makes 10 to 12 servings.

Many more yummy recipes can be found on the Whole Foods Market website at www.wholefoodsmarket.com.

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