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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.

FR-Sleeper-Spices-Annatto-Seed-Facebook (1)

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

Summer’s bounty: Potatoes

3 Sep

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

Summers-bounty-potatoes

By Tom Havran

Based on genetic testing of the potato, humans have spent as much as 10,000 years cultivating and perfecting this irreplaceable vegetable staple. Throughout this history, the starchy, waxy tubers have offered real stick-to-the-ribs nourishment and are the perfect compliment to virtually any meal, from entrée to sandwich to salad. Potatoes come in five basic varieties:

  1. Russets: Starchy, dry-fleshed, oval-shaped classic baking potatoes with russeted skin.
  2. Whites: Versatile potatoes which have crisp, snow white flesh and usually offer a balance of starchiness and waxiness.
  3. Reds: Red-skinned, often round potatoes with firm, waxy flesh that lends itself to boiled potatoes and potato salad.
  4. Yellows: Yellow-fleshed (due to the presence of betacarotene), creamy-textured, versatile potatoes with a balance of starch and wax.
  5. Purples/Blues: Crisp-fleshed potatoes that are usually starchy when cooked. The purple color (resulting from the antioxidant anthocyanin) holds better if these potatoes are boiled or baked with their skins left on.

How to prepare it: Choose starchy or versatile varieties for mashed and baked potatoes, chips and fries. Choose waxy or versatile potatoes for boiled potatoes and cold potato salad. The skins add texture, flavor, fiber and nutrients but whether you peel them or not depends on the dish and your personal preference. You should definitely leave the delicate skin on new potatoes. It may be wise to peel non-organic potatoes which are heavily sprayed and treated with an anti-sprouting chemical. Generally, simply washing and scrubbing organic potatoes should be sufficient, but consider peeling green, sprouted and blemished potatoes which can have elevated levels of the potentially toxic solanin alkaloid.

Spices and herbs to complement: The neutral flavor of potatoes will accept virtually any savory herb and spice seasoning from plain old sea salt and pepper to parsley, dill, garlic and more. Try adorning your mashed or boiled potatoes with a vibrantly green “gravy” made from fresh parsley or basil pesto to which you can add herbs like chives or rosemary.

Pairs well with: Almost every kind of meat, vegetable and cheese you can imagine. Dress with gravies, sauces, sour cream, yogurt, butter or a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

5 Tips for enjoying potatoes:

  • Try boiling potatoes in their skins and peeling them afterwards. Doing so will preserve more flavor and nutrients while producing a creamier, less watered-down texture.
  • Don’t miss the brief, summertime new potato season! Fresh, newly dug potatoes are sweeter, more delicate and creamier than winter potatoes which have been cold-conditioned for storage.
  • Leftover potatoes don’t reheat well as they become rubbery and grainy. Try them in a new cooking application such as fried potatoes or potato pancakes.
  • Save the cooking water from peeled, boiled potatoes to bake richer-flavored bread and smoother handmade pasta.
  • Add potatoes to cold, salted water for more even cooking.

Recipes to try:

Simply Organic potato salad

Purple Potato Salad with Dijon Dill Dressing

Potato Stew-3 (1)

Irish Potato Stew

 

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.

 

This mother’s little helper: One pot meals

26 Aug

By Sara Mallicoat

You worked late or spent a long day running errands, and the second you walk in the door you hear the dreaded words, “What’s for dinner?” If you’re like me, with a husband and two young boys, you know how this moment feels!

Processed “convenience” foods or a takeout order are things that I dread even more, but the last thing I want to do on an already busy evening is to spend it in my kitchen preparing a multi-dish balanced meal. I would rather serve toast for dinner (sometimes we do just eat peanut butter toast with apples!), but my heart screams, “Get in that kitchen and make your boys something tasty that includes vegetables!”

one pot meals

So, I started experimenting with what I like to call One Pot Wonders for nights like these. Continue reading

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

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