The secret ingredient that makes every recipe better is a story. In this installment of our Secret Ingredients series, a simple scone recipe becomes a reminder to pause and enjoy life’s goodness.
By Katie Staab
Blustery is the best word to describe winter evenings in western Tennessee. There might not be snow falling, but the desire to take refuge in a cozy kitchen is just as strong as if there were. I spent one such evening at a friend’s apartment six years ago listening to Ingrid Michaelson’s ukele melody “You and I” on repeat, baking scones and learning to treasure life’s small, yet immensely good, things.
This friend of mine, Jennifer, believed in the value of scattering little, elegant pleasures throughout your day — like fresh flowers on an end table, her grandmother’s delicate china teacups, a piece of dark chocolate after dinner. Years before Pinterest came into existence, she taught me to keep a “good things” notebook, filled with dreamy recipes, practical how-to articles, fashion inspiration and photos that spoke to me of beauty. Continue reading
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 juniper berries — and get tips for using them to awaken your next cooking endeavor.
What it tastes like: Juniper berries combine a fruity-tangy essence with a forest-fresh, palette-expanding note. The aroma is a bit reminiscent of grapes and evergreen tree resin.
What it looks like: Blackish-purple, plump little berries about the size of wild blueberries. Continue reading
By Tom Havran
January can be a dreary time of year, making rituals like a cup of hot tea all the more important. For a special treat, sweeten your cup against the bitter cold winter with lemony-herbal simple syrup. It’s especially good in a light, flowery tea such as white peony.
Simple syrup is a classic liquid sweetener that is employed to more effectively and precisely sweeten iced beverages that tend to prevent granulated sugar from dissolving fully. A simple syrup infused with lemon balm leaves is a lovely way to flavor and sweeten beverages — both when you want to avoid using lemon juice and when you want to intensify its lemony flavor. Lemon balm herb (also called melissa) has a fine lemon-like flavor that is both suave and intense. Continue reading
By Alan Miles
I love stir fries. Not so much the ones on restaurant menus or from recipes in cookbooks, but the kind of easy stir fry I make out of leftover rice and odds and ends in the refrigerator and pantry. I love how much fun it is to cook them, how good most of them end up tasting and how no two of them are ever completely alike.
I’ve never made a stir fry from a recipe. My history with them goes back to my college days, when I first began to care about what I was eating, had little time or money to cook, and pursued a lifestyle that in no way included planning meals ahead of time.
With stir fries, I could load up on ingredients like bulk grains, nuts, seeds and fresh produce and throw it all together at the last minute for a healthful meal. Every so often I’d have the added step of cooking rice or another grain (usually a 2 to 1 mix of rice and wheatberries) — but I always made plenty extra, so most times I had cooked and refrigerated leftover grain to add to the pan as an ingredient.
Stir fry time machine
As I was making a quick stir fry the other day, I realized how little had changed from those college days — in either my cooking methods or my enjoyment of cooking and eating stir fries. My college stir fries were often pretty minimal. That was the situation with this one, too. Just like in college, I had few ingredients on hand, but I knew I was still going to be able to put together a satisfying stir fry. Continue reading
By Alan Miles
If you’re thinking about 2015 resolutions that make both your world and the world better, start in your kitchen. It’s probably a hub of activity in your life, offers plenty of opportunities to save money and — because it’s a key area of resource use and waste production — it’s a great place to make changes with an environmental impact.
Here are 8 simple, kitchen-centric New Year’s resolutions that benefit you and the environment:
The resolution: I will make fewer shopping trips.
Shop less frequently (especially for non-perishables) with a shopping list to eliminate forgotten items.
How you benefit: Save gas and time, and make fewer potentially unhealthy and expensive impulse purchases.
How the environment benefits: Less fossil fuels used.
The resolution: I will buy local food.
Take control over your purchase of food and prioritize what you can find that’s locally grown and in season to put your eating in sync with your geography. Many co-ops and natural food stores champion local food. Also, check your local media for info about farmers markets and CSAs, or look them up on the Local Harvest website.
How you benefit: Get fresh, in-season food from people in your community and support your local economy.
How the environment benefits: Lower carbon footprint with less travel and packaging for food that’s in harmony with your geography and seasons. Continue reading
The secret ingredient that makes every recipe better is a story. In this first installment of our Secret Ingredients series, a shared recipe for gingerbread used to make gingerbread houses turns into a memorable Christmas experience for a family.
By Alan Miles
We have a lot of recipes at our house. Besides shelves full of cookbooks, there are notebooks, folders and card boxes overflowing with handwritten ones. But we have only one recipe that’s framed and hanging in the kitchen. Ona Yoder’s recipe for gingerbread houses is singled out in commemoration of a person and a Christmas my family never forget.
Ona Yoder in one of her many blue dresses.
Ona Yoder was our nearest neighbor when my wife, Karen, and I rented a farmhouse in the Iowa countryside in the 1980s. Ona was in her 80s by then, unmarried and still living (by herself) in the same house she had been born in. She grew up with farm-girl responsibilities when the family raised almost all their own food, made their own clothes and cut their own wood. As far I could tell, she owned only blue dresses. She said things like, “Oh my gracious!” and, “Well, I’ll be!” and peppered her conversation with endless homilies like, “Clear moon, frost soon.” And Ona was humble and generous to a fault. Continue reading
By Tom Havran
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 and spicing capabilities of grains of paradise — and get tips for using it to awaken your next cooking endeavor.
What it tastes like: With the most romantic name in all spicedom, grains of paradise warrant their illustrious title with their vivid, peppery flavor. Even though the flavor is reminiscent of black pepper, this exotic West African spice is actually distantly related to cardamom. It has an aromatic, volatile, slightly citrusy flavor and creates a pungent sensation on the tongue. People who find the taste of black pepper too sharp and unvaried may prefer the more suave, lingering heat of grains of paradise.
What it looks like: Whole seeds are brownish-black, 1/8-inch wide, irregularly shaped and grain-like. Continue reading
By Kailee Meskimen
As the holiday season comes into full swing, our awareness of healthy habits is clouded by an endless succession of tantalizing treats: creamy spiced eggnog, boats full of gravy, piles of mashed potatoes and slices of pie. An abundance of shared food is a given at holiday gatherings, but eating it consciously and still celebrating the bounty doesn’t have to be overwhelming.
Rather than depriving yourself of festive food and drink or feeling guiltily about over-indulging, stick to these five simple tips during holiday celebrations to keep ravenous behavior at bay and fully enjoy each bite. Continue reading
By Tom Havran
Liquid flavors and extracts are essential ingredients for successful cooking and baking. For example, the whipped cream topping on your pie or the icing on your sugar cookies wouldn’t go over so well if all you had to flavor them with were great chunks of diced vanilla beans. But how does all of that intense vanilla essence get into the vanilla extract that you do use in your whipped cream?
Extracts have greater flavor than the sum of the plants that are used to make them and flavors are a slightly different ingredient altogether. To use them properly, learn where they come from and how they’re made in our Baking Flavors and Extracts 101. Once you’ve grasped the basics, keep these important tips in mind. Continue reading
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.
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