Summer’s bounty: Tomatoes

20 Aug

In this installment of our summer series about enjoying in-season organic produce, learn simple tips for highlighting tomatoes in fresh, well-spiced meals.

tomatoes

By Tom Havran

Fresh, local, vine-ripened heirloom tomatoes may be the highest incarnation of summer produce bliss. Nothing matches the juicy texture and flavor of a fresh tomato with it’s balance of acidic tang and musky, fruity sweetness — unless it’s the concentrated and mellowed flavor of a perfectly home-canned tomato, or the sticky, fig-like, chewy-sweet density of a lovely sun-dried tomato.

Tomatoes come in three main varieties:

  1. Slicers/beefsteak: Great for fresh use on sandwiches and in salsas.
  2. Paste/plum: Fleshy with few seeds — great for canning, drying and sauce-making.
  3. Salad/cherry: Great to snack on and for adorning salads.

Tomatoes also come in a rainbow of colors from red to orange, yellow, green, purple, pink and white. In general, lighter-colored and green tomatoes can be dramatically less acidic and fruity (or dramatically tart and fruity). As the tomato’s color darkens, the richer and more complex the flavor becomes.

How to prepare it: How NOT to prepare tomatoes is the question. Slice and serve them with fresh mozzarella, sweet basil, olive oil, salt and pepper. Grill them whole with onions, jalapenos and garlic, and coarsely puree the mix for an unforgettable fire-roasted salsa. Puree and strain a selection of dense, meaty tomatoes to use fresh as tomato juice.

Spices and herbs to complement: Oregano and sweet basil are both referred to as the “tomato herb,” as they both complement the sweet, tart, vegetal properties of tomatoes. Garlic, likewise, adds a much-needed aromatic, sulfurous depth to the bright zing of tomatoes. Continue reading

Sleeper Spices: Coriander

15 Aug

organic coriander seed

By Tom Havran

Wake up your palate and expand your cooking repertoire with spices you may not have experienced before. In this first installment of our series highlighting “sleeper” spices, learn about the unique seasoning capabilities of coriander and get tips for awakening it in your next cooking endeavor.

What it tastes like: Coriander seeds are the fruit of the same plant that gives us cilantro leaves. If you are one of the rare individuals who has a natural aversion to the flavor of cilantro, you may want to try coriander in its place because it lacks the soapy aldehyde flavor of the cilantro herb. Instead, it contains the flavor constituents of limonene and linalool — which also happen to be the primary constituents in the spicy rind of the bergamot orange. Coriander adds an aromatic, fruit-like and mildly spicy lift to foods. Continue reading

From cooking for one to cooking for a crowd

12 Aug

By Kailee Meskimen

It took me until I was 23 to start cooking dinner. Not that I couldn’t pick up a whisk, spatula or ladle if needed, I just didn’t have the experience or know-how to regularly cook wholesome meals that also tasted good. A few years (and a few burnt pans) later, I’ve finally converted cooking from burden to pleasure. Whether you’re cooking for one or cooking for a crowd, it doesn’t have to be a chore. By stocking up on wholesome, organic foods and pantry staples, you can make homemade meals a part of your routine.

Simply Organic spices

Every pantry needs at least a few basic spices.

Cooking for one: Stock your pantry

Building your pantry with quality, organic ingredients can be expensive and time-consuming, but this is the foundation of cooking well. As a newly-wed and recent college graduate, I certainly empathize with those just starting out. A well-stocked pantry doesn’t need to be filled with fancy ingredients — or even a lot of ingredients, especially if you’re cooking for one or two people most of the time. You simply need the staples that will form the basis of a variety of meals.

Although staple foods differ among households due to preferences, ethnic backgrounds and dietary restrictions, nearly every pantry starts with flour, sugar, olive oil and a cooking oil with a high smoke point, such as cold-pressed grapeseed oil. Next, stock up on basic seasonings like garlic powder, onion powder, cinnamon, basilcrushed red pepper flakes, cayenne, cumin, coriandersea salt and black peppercorns. Nuts, beans, whole grains, fruits and vegetables, as well as locally-farmed eggs, meat, milk, butter and cheese are also great to have on hand.

Once your pantry is fully loaded, your culinary creations can commence. Turn mediocre meals into memorable ones with these helpful tips: Continue reading

Summer’s bounty: Melons

6 Aug

In this installment of our summer series about enjoying in-season organic produce, learn simple tips for highlighting melons in fresh, well-spiced meals!

melons

By Tom Havran

Juicy, fragrant and fleeting, melons come in a variety of glorious flavors and forms when they appear at your summer market. The popularity of the big four — watermelons, muskmelons/cantaloupes, honeydews and casaba/crenshaws — have never waned (for good reasons), but there are also a host of heirloom and specialty melons that you should grab up as well, including galias, charantais and canaries.

How to prepare it: Clean the surface of the melon with a veggie wash and plenty of cool water, and pat dry. Using a heavy chef’s knife, remove a small oval of rind to create a flat spot to stabilize the melon for slicing in two equal halves. The sweetest flesh surrounds the seeds, so very carefully remove them without damaging too much flesh. Melon should be served cool but not overly chilled so that the flavor and aroma nuances are fully available to the senses. Continue reading

My organic living “Aha!” moment: Connecting micronutrients to organic food

31 Jul

By Charlynn Avery

My organic living “Aha!” moment was during my study of micronutrients for a holistic nutrition diploma.

The word “organic” has always been important to me. What is derived from living matter is organic – not only in the context of plants, but all life. Organic means authentic, real and alive.

Charlynn (1)

My conscious choice to live organically was an early moment in adulthood when I realized that I wanted to live a life that was authentic and real. I had already began surrounding myself with organic products and making choices that reflected that ideal. However, it wasn’t until I educated myself about the impact of organic living on my health and wellbeing that I made the shift to where I am today. Organic ceased being an idyllic word and became a life priority. Continue reading

Summer’s bounty: Kohlrabi

23 Jul

In this installment of our summer series about enjoying in-season organic produce, learn simple tips for highlighting kohlrabi in fresh, well-spiced meals.

FR WEB Cayenne Room - Kohlrabi

By Tom Havran

What if you took the flavor of the sweetest cabbage and put it in a crisp, juicy, round shape? That’s what kohlrabi is. Kohl-rabi, German for cabbage-turnip, is like kale and Brussel’s sprouts in that it is a specially selected variety of the common cabbage, bred for its succulent, tender stem, which can be eaten raw or cooked. The dark green leaves of kohlrabi also are edible with a taste similar to mild, sweet kale.

How to prepare it: Select firm, freshly harvested stems, preferably with leaves still attached. Slice away the base (root) and top (leaf) ends. Wash the stem and leaves in cold water. Peel the green (sometimes purple) stem to expose the cream-colored inner flesh. Slice it into rounds, sticks or cubes to eat raw with salt and pepper or add it to salads and slaw for sweetness and crunch. Alternatively, the stem can be quartered and boiled until fork-tender and use like potatoes. Use the leaves as you would kale. Continue reading

Community giving: Doing a world of good

15 Jul

By Alan Miles

Dennis Knock knows how to lend a hand to communities — whether it’s providing much-needed processing equipment for a farmer co-op in South Africa or rescue equipment for a volunteer fire department in a town just down the road from Frontier Co-op’s headquarters in rural Iowa.

Frontier Co-op in Bulgaria

Dennis (left) visiting our lavender supplier in Bulgaria. This field is located near the villages where Frontier Co-op is building soccer fields and establishing other outreach programs for underprivileged youth.

As a commodity manager for Frontier Co-op’s Global Sourcing team, Dennis travels the world to meet with the growers who supply Frontier’s high quality herbs and spices — often poor farmers with very small individual plots of land who form co-ops to work together. The growers’ communities (commonly small villages) often lack some of the basics we take for granted, like medical care, education, water and electricity. Through our Well Earth® Sustainable Sourcing Program, Frontier Co-op helps these communities with projects like digging wells in Madagascar. One project Dennis has been instrumental in coordinating this year involves building soccer fields and establishing other youth outreach programs in underprivileged villages in Bulgaria.

When he’s home, Dennis travels to nearby towns in Iowa to lend a similar helping hand. As head of Frontier Co-op’s Community Giving Program, Dennis gives $10,000 to our employees’ communities each year. The funds are allocated by an employee committee, going to organizations, charities, events and causes in local communities.

I asked Dennis what it’s like being on the front line of our company’s community donations both at home and around the world.

“I love being able to see the expressions of gratitude for the people, communities and events we help support,” he said. “It’s an honor to work for a company that recognizes the needs that exist both locally and globally — and then walks the walk when it comes to taking an active role in meeting those needs.” Continue reading

Summer’s Bounty: Strawberries

9 Jul

In this installment of our summer series about enjoying in-season organic produce, learn simple tips for highlighting strawberries in fresh, well-spiced meals.

Summer's Bounty: Strawberries

Like the flowers that produce them, fruits are sweet-scented —  and perhaps no fruit is more so than strawberries, whose Latin name Fragaria, means fragrant. Just thinking about fresh, summer strawberries conjures a sense of their aromatic essence and unique, luscious flavor. Don’t miss the brief season when locally grown strawberries appear fresh at your market; they won’t taste as good any other time of the year.

How to prepare it: Conventional commercially grown strawberries are a heavily sprayed crop, so opt for organic strawberries whenever possible. Strawberries don’t ripen after they’re picked so select completely red, firm, shiny, just-picked berries at your local market, or seek out a pick-your-own farm. Rinse the strawberries gently to avoid bruising them, dry on a kitchen towel, remove stems and sepals, and enjoy. Continue reading

4th of July recipe roundup: 6 undeniably American ways to celebrate

1 Jul

By Katie Staab

The 4th of July holiday is about honoring long-standing traditions and celebrating what we love about America. This holds true for the food — the centerpiece of any holiday party. While burgers, hotdogs and potato salads hold dominant places as traditional Independence Day fare, the recipes below are undeniably American for their own reasons:

Red, White and Blue Vanilla Bean Cupcakes

Red, White and Blue Vanilla Bean Cupcakes with Simply Organic Vanilla

How it celebrates America: The world has Americans to thank for the cupcake’s rise in popularity, and this one is decorated in a fresh, flag-inspired fashion.

Grilled Blackened Shrimp Skewers

Grilled Shrimp Skewers with Frontier Co-op Organic Blackened Seafood Seasoning

How it celebrates America: When you season your shrimp with Frontier Co-op’s Organic Blackened Seafood Seasoning, you’re helping restore America’s wetlands. One percent of sales from the seasoning line is donated to wetland restoration projects. Continue reading

Tea tree: There is more to you than people know

27 Jun

By Tim Blakley

I once swam in a lake that was such a dark red color that I couldn’t see my arms or legs. While striking, the reason for the color was perfectly natural – the lake was surrounded by trees with roots that reached into the water and released tannins that produced the distinct color. Often called Tea Tree Lake (it’s actual name is Lake Ainsworth), this unique body of water is located in eastern Australia, where tea tree plants grow wild.

Tea tree essential oil has been popular for several decades here in North America, and even longer in Australia. The best-known species, Melaleuca alternifolia, became popular in part because it grows abundantly in the populated areas of eastern Australia.

lemon tea tree

Tim with lemon tea tree.

Although most consumers are aware of just the one species, Melaleuca alternifolia, there are 300 species of tea tree that grow throughout Australia and New Zealand. At least a dozen of these are in commercial use today, and several more are on their way to the marketplace. My two “new” favorites are Aura Cacia Lavender Tea Tree, Melaleuca ericifolia, and Aura Cacia Lemon Tea Tree, Leptospermum petersonii. When I first “discovered” the plants used to make these oils while visiting one of our farmers in Australia, I immediately fell in love with them for their unique qualities and great potential.

What’s to love about lavender tea tree

Standing less than 10 feet tall, lavender tea tree, sometimes called Rosalina, is a smaller plant than Melaleuca alternifolia and is presently cultivated on a fairly small scale. The aroma of traditional tea tree doesn’t appeal to everyone, so lavender tea tree is a much better-smelling alternative! While this oil contains similar constituents you’d find in Aura Cacia Lavender and Aura Cacia Tea Tree, it is a single-botanical oil with unique constituents that you won’t find in a blend.  Continue reading

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