Cookies Can Be Good For You

By Kelcie Moseley, Daily News staff writer
From the Moscow-Pullman Daily News, April 17, 2012



Bonnie Hoffman left Pullman 14 years ago to live in Redondo Beach, Calif., with her husband, but she is still connected to Washington and Washington State University in big ways.

Hoffman started cooking when she was young and has worked for restaurants over the past 30 years, often as a line cook. She found herself working long hours at Swilly's in 1995 while also attending WSU for a Bachelor of Arts in English. Battling exhaustion and hunger was difficult during double shifts.

"Normally, on the line you're not supposed to be snarfing on the food," Hoffman said.

So, she started baking bite-size cookies at home. But rather than using butter, flour and other normal ingredients for the standard definition of cookies, she developed ones with grains, oats, nuts and a bit of coffee to keep her alert.

"And three years ago, because of the downturn in the economy, my husband's work started taking a hit, and we were really feeling that," Hoffman said. "So, we had to figure something out, and I said, 'I know what I'm going to do.' "

That something was easier to say than to start. Hoffman began looking at places to rent near Redondo Beach to make and sell the cookies, but said it was so "prohibitively expensive" that she had to figure out other options. At that point she called WSU to ask for advice, and they directed her to the university's small business development center, where she said they were instrumental in giving her assistance.

"Of their own volition ... they would set up and have meetings with me (and) they would help me brainstorm and scrimmage," Hoffman said.

They also directed her to the idea of finding a co-packer, which they said many small business owners do when they don't have the capital to build everything from scratch. A co-packer will take the recipe, make the product and package it and fulfill orders.

"I started checking and talking to different bakeries," Hoffman said, "and the one bakery was ready. They'd already done a co-packing project, so they knew what they were doing, but they were small enough to let me do a smaller run."

That bakery was Sweetwater Bakery in Post Falls, Idaho, and the run of cookies hit WSU's campus March 20. They are sold at Northside, Southside and Hillside Cafes.

Part of Hoffman's focus with Survival Cookies is to make them hyper local and organic, with a particular emphasis on giving back. The run of cookies that went out on March 20 was part of a fundraiser to save steelhead trout through Caffe Vita, who also work with the Stewardship Partners at WSU.

Hoffman came to Pullman for Mom's Weekend to launch the business officially after three years of efforts, and the cookies she brought with her this time had Chukar Rainier cherries and 12,000 Rain Gardens coffee blend in them. The 12,000 Rain Gardens project aims to create that number of rain gardens by 2016 to capture and filter 160 million gallons of polluted runoff that would otherwise flow untreated into the waters of Puget Sound.

"It's a really WSU cookie," she said.

One cookie is 380 calories, 21 grams of fat and 7 grams of protein, on average. But the fats, Hoffman said, mostly come from ingredients like hazelnuts or other nuts and other "good" fats.

The cookies are also wheat-free and dairy-free, which Hoffman said she knew she was going to do from the beginning. While she's not a vegan, she is a vegetarian and feels strongly about nutrition.

"It was a really good way for me to not add preservatives into the cookie by leaving that dairy out and having it be much more stable," she said.

The cookies can be frozen or kept at room temperature for an extended period, which wouldn't be as feasible if they contained dairy ingredients. She is also working to get the cookies organically certified.

"Basically, it's an upscale camping or hiking cookie," she said.

While the cookies will be primarily focused in the WSU area and 10 percent of each sale will be donated back to WSU, they are also available online and Hoffman plans to expand at some point if her meetings with investors in the near future go well. She said there are more variations of the brand that they can roll out over the next five years, including cookies made with tea or decaf instead of regular coffee.

She is also hoping to move back to Washington within the next 18 months, since her entire family lives in the state and she feels so close to the WSU community.

"The thing I'm most focused on is sharing my story ... (and) I really want to put my foot forward on singing the praises about how WSU helped me out."

Survival Cookies are available for purchase at survivalcookies.com. The original and Chukar Cherry recipes are available for shipment anywhere in the U.S.