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My organic living “Aha!” moment: Learning the benefits of eating well and sustainably

20 Nov

By Liz Hopkins

My organic living “Aha!” moment was when I was hired as the chef at Frontier’s employee cafe.

I didn’t really have a sudden moment of revelation when I fully realized the value of eating organically. Instead, I gradually learned about the benefits of eating well and eating sustainably. I converted over a period of years from a meat-eater to a vegetarian committed to buying organic whenever I can.

But even though there wasn’t a moment of sudden realization in my progression, there was that definite turning point — when I was hired to run the employee café at Frontier. I’d worked in hotel kitchens for many years, but when I started at Frontier Co-op, I found for the first time a sizable group of people who appreciated natural food and preferred to eat organically.

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Learning on the job

The new job was definitely a learning experience — natural ingredients replaced the highly processed ones I was used to, and the nutritional value and wholesomeness of the food moved front and center. Efficiency was still important, but it didn’t trump food quality in the Frontier Café.

My outlook — and my skills — changed. I enjoyed the experience of learning to cook with whole grains, dried beans, seasonal produce and the like. It was easy converting familiar recipes to more natural versions, and it was fun to experiment with the almost unlimited seasoning palette of the spices Frontier sells. I felt great about the food I was making at work, and soon I was cooking the same way at home. Continue reading

How to eat consciously with gratitude

18 Nov

FS-WEB-Cayenne-Room-Pondering-Hunger

By Tom Havran

Feasting. Throughout history, humans have enjoyed transitory moments of bliss induced by the sensual enjoyment of superlative food. The food might be humble and rustic or sophisticated and composed, but when it’s beautiful and delicious, something remarkable occurs. Our eyes, noses, taste buds and minds elevate the base experience of merely eating to rapturous and rare heights of joy where gratitude finds the space to flow in.

This phenomenon creates the mental space necessary for our minds to open to the whole story of the food we’re eating and the path it took to give us such pleasure. Eating good food consciously with a sense of gratitude not only turns mere gratuitous consumption into a grateful repast, it gives us profound insight into ourselves and how our minds work in relation to food.

Hunger and faith

I was raised by a father who is a skilled butcher and a mother who is a skilled cook. They both marshaled their talents to nurture a large family, all of whom participated in the raising, killing, cooking and eating of all kinds of animal and vegetable life. On the farm, I raised pigs, cows and chickens from their births on, growing fond of them in the process. I cared for and even loved these animals, then participated in the horrors of their deaths at slaughter and subsequently savored their flavor at the table. Experiencing the whole process, I learned where food comes from, but more profoundly, I understood that getting it to the table involved a continuum of tenderness and caring through pain and death, to tenderness and caring again during shared meals. How was my mind able to hold this? Continue reading

Sleeper Spices: Fenugreek

14 Nov

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

Frontier fenugreek

By Tom Havran

What it tastes like: Fenugreek seed has a raw, nutty, moderately bitter flavor and a pungent aroma. Dry-roasting the seeds in a hot pan helps decrease the bitterness and transforms the raw, nutty flavor into a mellow, maple syrup-like sweetness.

What it looks like: The yellowish-to-tan seeds of fenugreek are small (1/8-inch) irregular rectangles. They are in fact little beans, as fenugreek is a legume. Continue reading

Homemade lip balms, lotion bars and body butters

30 Oct

homemade lip balm, lotion bar, body butter

By Charlynn Avery

I look around myself in the kitchen. Pots, pans, glass measuring cups, a digital scale, essential oils, beeswax and a whole lot of oil take up all of the available counter space. The music flows and the aroma of cocoa butter fills the room as I am immersed in one of my favorite activities — experimenting with new DIY body care recipes.

A simple solution to dry skin

My goal on this particular occasion was to create my own lotion bar to travel with. As a frequent traveler who doesn’t like to check a bag, I have my liquids all under control with the exception of lotion. Prone to dry skin, I have been moisturizing my skin since I was a child, and lotion or a skin care oil is something I cannot live without. Natural oil is my preferred method of moisture these days, but flying with the quantity that I need is a hassle and (can be) messy. A simple solution was introduced to me several years ago by a dear friend. We were traveling for a month out of the country and didn’t want to check bags, so she made lotion bars — whoa! What a perfect solution.

I spent a few years after that purchasing others’ lotion bars, and finally made it a priority to make my own. I found the process to be so easy and, in addition to making body butter and lip balm for several years, I now have a new item to add to my bag of natural skin care tricks. Continue reading

Trade out the take-out: Spaghetti squash pad Thai recipe

27 Oct

spaghetti squash pad thai recipe

By Sara Mallicoat

One recent evening with the kids in tow after a few errands, my husband convinced me to go out for dinner. We chose a place that was fast and, of course, had something my toddler-aged boys would eat. I was the last to order and after realizing my husband got something my boys would enjoy as well, I got a meal I crave, but rarely eat (especially now with a less spicy menu to accommodate the toddlers at home) — spicy pad Thai. It was tasty, but I felt so guilty eating it — I did not want to know how many calories I had just ingested!

I’m always trying to introduce my boys to new cuisines that let the vegetables shine — some go over well, others flop! One night I was inspired to develop this tasty spaghetti squash “pad” Thai recipe while chowing down on another spaghetti squash pasta dish. The squash replaces the rice noodles traditionally used, but we kept the name kid-friendly and called it “Peanut Butter Noodles.” It was a hit!

This meal comes together quickly if the spaghetti squash is already cooked, but if it’s not, I use the roasting time to play with the boys before making dinner!

Spaghetti Squash Pad Thai (or Peanut Butter Noodles) Continue reading

Sleeper Spices: Fennel Seed

17 Oct

Wake up your palate and expand your cooking repertoire with spices you may not have experienced before. In this third installment of our series highlighting “sleeper” spices, learn about the unique seasoning and coloring capabilities of fennel seed — and get tips for using it to awaken your next cooking endeavor.

Frontier Co-op fennel seed

By Tom Havran

What it tastes like: The flavor of fennel seed and its close cousin, anise seed, are often described as licorice-like, which is actually backward. Since extracts of both are used to flavor licorice (usually in much greater quantities than licorice root), the taste of the candy should be described as anise or fennel-like. The constituent most responsible for fennel’s taste is anethol — it provides a volatile, vegetal sweetness that has a slight warming sensation.

What it looks like: Whole seeds look like ribbed, fat little parenthesis symbols, greenish tan in color. (They should not have any of the dried stem, or “whiskers” attached.) Ground fennel seed is a brownish, granular powder that has a slightly damp, oily texture when fresh. Continue reading

Autumn’s abundance: Squash recipe roundup

6 Oct

By Kailee Meskimen

Squash is one of nature’s most fibrous and versatile products. Most varieties are native to the United States, and a good number of them are available year-round — although now is the time to find the best winter squash at your farmer’s market, co-op or grocery store.

Because of squash’s versatility, cooking and baking with the variously shaped and colored vegetables is never boring. Experimenting with how squash is cooked, how it’s seasoned or how it’s served is fun! Before you venture into the kitchen, check out our cooking, storing and preparation tips for winter squash.

From soup to pizza, you can come up with nutritious (and delicious) squash fare for almost any occasion. This fall and winter, try some of our favorite recipes:

Simply Organic black bean acorn squash chili

Black Bean Chili with Acorn Squash and Toasted Pepitas

Warm up with a hearty, squash-based soup:

Continue reading

Hearty, healthy and authentic: Growing up ‘co-op’

1 Oct
Maia Pugh at New Pioneer Food Co-op

Digging in at the bulk bins at my own local co-op, New Pioneer Food Co-op in Coralville, Iowa.

By Maia Pugh, Frontier Co-op marketing intern

I didn’t always feel lucky to be raised by parents who were concerned about the importance of wholesome, ethically sourced food.

My family lived in northeast Tennessee for the first ten years of my life, and we weren’t exactly surrounded by a booming community of people seeking to live “all-naturally.” I was likely the only one in my elementary school to have been born at home with the help of a midwife (whose small, organic farm we visited often), and certainly the only one whose placenta had been planted under an oak tree in the front yard. While other kids in my neighborhood learned how to train their talking Furbies and went on exhilarating adventures with Mario and his brothers, I learned how to tell an earthworm from a grub worm and helped my mom with the deliveries for her cloth diaper service.

When I went over to friends’ houses, I remember enviously browsing through what seemed like endless cupboards of delectable snack foods — Rice Krispies Treats, Doritos, Cocoa Puffs cereal and double-stuffed Oreos. At my house, we got organic carrot sticks and whole grain crackers with unsweetened peanut butter.

I didn’t look forward to my turn to bring refreshments to share at school. Why couldn’t my mom just get that all-natural, homemade Pop Tarts just weren’t as good as the real things, coated in high fructose corn syrup and vanilla frosting, and oozing with artificial cherry filling?!

Maia Pugh at La Montanita with Frontier Co-op spices

Pointing out my favorite spices during a visit to La Montanita Co-op in Santa Fe, New Mexico, this summer — proof that my family’s vacations always include at least one stop at a co-op!

My first co-op: La Montañita Co-op

When I was ten years old, my family moved from good ol’ rocky top country to “the city different” — better known as Santa Fe, New Mexico — where all things funky are eagerly embraced, and countless bumper stickers preach the importance of wholesome, natural living: “Let food be your medicine,” “Say no to GMOs,” “I’d rather be gardening,” and, my personal favorite, “Eat more kale.

After working in conventional retail food stores for more than twenty years, my dad had accepted a position as general manager of La Montañita Co-op in Albuquerque. Although my parents had always been committed to making sure the house was stocked with nutritious food, they hadn’t previously been members of a co-op.

I remember the first time I walked into La Montañita Co-op. Instead of the bright white floors and clean-cut symmetry of the conventional grocery stores, I was greeted by natural light streaming in through the large windows and a rustic, somewhat eclectic atmosphere of earthy colors and smells and light-hearted chit-chat between customers and employees.

I can’t say this very first experience brought some sort of overwhelming tidal wave of awe over me. I was, in fact, quite skeptical. Where were the service clerks in their pressed white shirts and ties and bright white smiles? Where were the big yellow signs screaming for my attention, “SALE! SALE! SALE!”? Where was the brightly colored candy aisle with Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and Skittles that never failed to trigger wide eyes and salivating cheek glands? And what on earth was all that food doing in huge plastic bins for people to just scoop out as they pleased?

But I do remember it feeling so real. So hearty and healthy and authentic. And over time, I stopped wishing for pressed white shirts and brightly colored candy aisles. Continue reading

Sleeper Spices: Annatto

19 Sep

Wake up your palate and expand your cooking repertoire with spices you may not have experienced before. In this second installment of our series highlighting “sleeper” spices, learn about the unique seasoning and coloring capabilities of annatto — and get tips for using it to awaken your next cooking endeavor.

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What it tastes like: Annatto seeds, or achiote, come from a tropical South American tree. The seeds are usually ground into a powder for culinary use and have a nut-like, slightly peppery-spicy flavor. Some liken the taste to a less emphatic melange of nutmeg and black pepper.

What it looks like: The whole seeds of annatto are irregularly triangle-shaped and about an eighth of an inch wide. They have a brick- to barn-red color, as does the powder due to the intensely yellow to orange-colored carotenoid compounds bixin and norbixin. The red color of the spice becomes orange to yellow when diluted in the cooking process in the same way that the red color of saffron spice colors dishes a saffron yellow. Annatto lends a yellow to orange color to commercially-produced cheddar and American cheese, butter and many other foods. Continue reading

Summer’s bounty: Winter squash

17 Sep

In the final installment of our summer series about enjoying in-season organic produce, learn simple tips for highlighting winter squash in fresh, well-spiced meals as summer turns into fall!

Frontier Co-op Winter Squash

By Tom Havran

Winter squash are time capsules of summer’s bounty that you can enjoy all through the autumn and winter months. These hard rind fruits contain richly colored and flavored flesh that is a power house of beta-carotene laced nutrition. Because they lend themselves so well to both sweet and savory side dishes and main courses, there’s no reason not to enjoy winter squash as much as possible!

Some of the most popular, readily available and versatile varieties include acorn, delicata, butternut and spaghetti. Learn more about each type’s characteristic color, texture, flavor and application here.

How to prepare it: Thick-skinned squash, such as acorn and butternut, lend themselves to storage, while thin-skinned, small squash like delicata should be used as soon as possible. The simplest, and arguably best, way to prepare squash is to cut it in half, scoop out the seeds, drizzle with oil, adorn with spices and roast until fork-tender.

Spices and herbs to complement: Squash offers a balance of starchy, neutral flavors and nutty sweetness that allow it to work well with both sweet and savory seasonings. Classic pairings include cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice and maple for sweet, and cayenne, sage and thyme for savory. Try creating mashed squash flavored with garlic, thyme and black pepper, or immerse tender boiled or roasted cubes of squash in a smoldering curry dish or creamy corn chowder seasoned with cayenne.

For a different flavor twist this fall, season your squash with Simply Organic’s new Crazy Awesome Veggies Sweet Cinnamon Chili seasoning mix. Continue reading

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