Sleeper Spices: Mustard Seed

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 brown and yellow mustard seed — and get tips for using it to awaken your next cooking endeavor.


By Tom Havran

What it tastes like: You’re likely familiar with mustard from its use as a condiment on sandwiches, but using the seeds in whole or ground form as a spice will open up exciting new flavors for you to experience. In their inert state, mustard seeds have a rich, nutty, oily flavor. But when combined with a liquid, watch out! An enzyme in the seed reacts with other compounds called glucosinolates to create a complex of flavors including hot-pungent, vegetal and garlicky. The more heated and acidic the liquid, the hotter the mustard will be.

What it looks like: Mustard seed comes in three basic varieties: black, brown and yellow. Brown and yellow mustards are the most commonly used, with the brown being a bit more pungent than the yellow. The seeds are tiny, nearly perfect 1-milimeter spheres.

How to use it: Many Indian dishes begin with whole mustard seeds fried in oil along with curry leaf. Besides imparting the oil — and every subsequent ingredient that passes through the oil — with a pungent mustardy flavor, the seeds themselves become a nutty, toothsome delight in the finished dish. The ground seeds form a slightly oily powder that’s the basis for the condiment mustard, but it can also be used in any powdered seasoning blend, marinade or dry seasoning rub.

Here are a few tips about how to use mustard seed:

  • Add whole seeds to pickling brines and meat brines.
  • Fry whole seeds in oil and then add them to rice before topping it with curry.
  • Fry whole seeds in oil along with whole cumin seeds and add them to samosa or curry pot pie fillings.
  • Grind seeds and combine with other seasonings in dry rubs for grilled meats and tofu.
  • Grind seeds and make your own fresh mustard by stirring in plain water, wine, fruit juice or vinegar.


Recipe: Beer Mustard

Have you ever tried mustard seed? Share what you thought of it in the comments below!

Tom-HavranAbout the author: Tom is communicator of natural living for Frontier, Simply Organic and Aura Cacia brands. In other words, he’s a very imaginative copywriter. A local boy, raised on a farm just down the road from the company’s headquarters in Norway, Tom enjoys drawing, plant hoarding, cooking and living the simple life in the beautiful state of Iowa.

How to make everyday moments a celebration of living

By Alan Miles

Birthdays, weddings, graduations, holidays — most of us have calendars peppered with major events to celebrate throughout the year. But for every one of these calendar-worthy events, there are many more modest, everyday milestones and accomplishments that deserve celebrating too. They’re the little things behind the big things, and finding simple, fun ways to acknowledge them cheers us, motivates us and develops our sense of gratitude.

When my daughter

My daughter Emma taking her first jump in horseback riding was cause for celebration in our home.

Opportunities for fun
There are opportunities for spontaneous celebrations almost every day. And it isn’t always necessary to plan ahead and create big-deal parties for them. A simple, favorite meal is always great way to acknowledge someone’s accomplishment. Also, look to special events in the world at large to celebrate, such as an impromptu picnic on the living room floor to celebrate the lengthening hours of daylight at the winter’s solstice. Almost anything fun can work as a celebration. Continue reading

Secret Ingredients: Grandma’s poppy seed bread recipe

The secret ingredient that makes every recipe better is a story. In this installment of our Secret Ingredients series, Grandma’s poppy seed bread recipe bakes into a loaf full of sweet, buttery nostalgia.

By Kailee Meskimen

Ever since I was a young girl, going to Grandma’s and Grandpa’s house has always been a treasured time. I remember their house was always stocked with bubble gum and smelled of spiced gum drops — a kid’s dream.  And, I knew if I asked nicely (which I always did), Grandma would make me a small loaf of her light and fluffy poppy seed bread. This melt-in-your-mouth bread has long been a staple dessert for my family’s gatherings.


I recently convinced Grandma to bake a few loaves of her poppy seed bread to inspire this story.

Sweet, buttery nostalgia

I was hooked after my first bite nearly 20 years ago. There’s just something about that bread that makes me feel warm inside. The crunchy texture of the poppy seeds complements the buttery bread perfectly. I had never had poppy seed bread before trying Grandma’s, but now I crave it. Not that we weren’t served dessert at home growing up, but Grandma’s sweets were always just a little more special — and this bread is no exception.

The recipe is tucked away in Grandma’s cookbook — but highlighted, starred and bookmarked for easy access because it’s so good and addicting! It’s so popular my grandma continues to make personal mini-loaves for everyone in the family every time we get together, even to this day.

Grandma’s perfect poppy seed bread is surprisingly simple. There are no unique or secret ingredients, other than the nostalgia I feel every time I taste it. The only true surprise is to open up the tin foil-wrapped loaf to see if she brushed her signature hot orange glaze sauce on top, which makes the best bread ever taste even better. The sweet, citrusy glaze acts as a coating, wrapping the delicate bread in a sugary cocoon. She doesn’t add the glaze (also known as the sweet nectar of gods) often, but when she does, it’s an extra-special treat.

I can’t call this recipe healthy, but I can say it’s good for the soul and light enough for a post-dinner snack any time of the year. For a unique twist, try adding chia seeds, crushed almonds or lemon peel. Continue reading

Reclaim the Casserole: Healthy casserole tips

Shepherds Pie

Shepherds Pie — one of six delicious new Simply Organic recipes to help Reclaim the Casserole and turn it into a more wholesome and satisfying meal.

By Sara Mallicoat

During the cold winter months in Iowa, my family tends to hibernate, only coming out when we have to. This means I get a little homesick since we don’t often make the short drive over the river and through the woods to Grandma’s house (sorry, I couldn’t help it!). This leaves me craving some of my childhood favorites to fill the void and keep my heart happy. Since my extended family has faced health issues in the past year, I’m rethinking what my family eats again. I’ve been working on tinkering with some of the not-so-healthy ingredients in our favorite casseroles so that I can breathe new life — and nutrition — into them.

Whether you want to sneak more nutrition into a favorite dish or simply make weeknight meal planning a little easier, turn to these tips to make healthy casseroles and other comfort food favorites!

Tip #1: Make your own cream of “something” soup

Too many casseroles are weighed down by heavy creamed soup bases. I use this recipe as a swap for a can of creamed “something” — it’s quick and easy and not loaded with sodium. This would be a great base for your tuna and noodles, tator tot casserole or cheesy hash brown bake (party potatoes)! Continue reading

Healthful bowl game eating pep talk

By Alan Miles

The bowl game experience isn’t exactly all about eating naturally and well. The game is packed with commercials for less-than-healthy foodstuffs, and watching it triggers a feeding frenzy on snacks and party food that are often laden with chemical preservatives, colorings and flavorings. How can someone who wants to eat well take part in this grand sports holiday?

First of all, you’ve gotta believe! If you believe that you can eat right and are willing to give 110 percent to make it happen, you can do it. Use these sports clichés to keep your eating on track and come back with a good-eating victory in a hostile environment:

Simply Organic root vegetable chips

Swap unhealthy chips for baked root vegetable chips.

Stay focused. It can be hard to eat right in a festive atmosphere. But you’ve got to execute your game plan just like it’s any other day. Remember your long-term goals, and don’t try too hard. Just let it come to you. Try to find your comfort zone — the foods you feel good about eating — and do what you do best. Continue reading

Secret Ingredients: A simple scone recipe and other ‘good things’

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.

simple scone recipe

By Katie Staab

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

Sleeper Spices: Juniper Berry

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.

Frontier juniper berries

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

January treat: Lemon-balm infused simple syrup

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

7 steps to an easy stir fry (without a recipe!)

easy stir fy

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

8 New Year’s resolutions that begin in your kitchen

sustainable kitchen tips

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