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4 ways to dish up a holistic holiday season

27 Nov

By Tom Havran

The sensory overload of the holiday season often leaves you feeling overwhelmed, exhausted and just plain over-indulged. Instead, take a more holistic approach to the holidays. Choose to live in the moment and make a more conscious connection to the sights, aromas, flavors and sounds of this wonderful time of the year.

apple pie-6

Make a point to slow down, appreciate the beauty of food and savor every bite.

Together, let’s cultivate a sense of:

Gratitude over gluttony. Holiday feasts usually center on a table loaded with roasted meat, savory stuffing, piles of potatoes, rich side dishes and calorie-laden desserts. It’s good to celebrate with a bountiful meal but not when over-indulgence turns what should be a meal of gratitude into a debilitating episode of regret. Besides simply cutting back on overeating, or at the very least eating consciously, there are other ways to embrace thankfulness. Make a point to slow down, appreciate the beauty of the food and savor of every bite. Most of all, be sure to express your appreciation to the people you love. Continue reading

Holiday traditions: Sharing experiences through food

21 Nov

By Chef Kurt Michael Friese

The holidays bring a wealth of soul-nourishing rituals and traditions, mostly having to do with gratitude, light, family and – of course – food. These traditions come from a place of love and respect, and our holiday tables wouldn’t be the same without them.


New traditions might be a result of appropriating an old standby, like making potato pancakes from your leftover mashed potatoes.

Sharing experiences through food
There are many items that must be present at my family’s holiday table, including the clam dip, the wild rice dressing, Grandma’s cranberries and Mom’s bourbon pound cake. My wife Kim’s family had different food traditions, including oyster stew and tamales (odd for her Scots-German heritage) as well as some more conventional Midwestern items like green bean casserole. But the best tradition of her family, and the one that made it so easy for us to combine our holiday traditions when we married more than 25 years ago, was having a modest meal of cornbread and beans every Christmas Eve. Continue reading

Thanksgiving traditions display importance of a Public Hearth

17 Nov

Kurt Micheal FrieseBy Chef Kurt Michael Friese

Thanksgiving is America’s best holiday. People often talk about making every day Christmas, but I’ve always wished for making every day Thanksgiving. It’s not about presents; it’s about presence. It’s not about giving gifts; it’s about giving thanks. And my favorite part – it’s about the food, the Thanksgiving traditions! Thanksgiving is the one time of year when nearly every household in the nation is obsessed with the family meal. Would that it were always so.

Vanishing traditions
One day per year, most of America pays attention to its food and its family traditions.  Even though we all know that when we think back to the happiest moments of our lives, most of them are spent around a table brimming with our favorite foods and surrounded by family and friends, we ignore most of our opportunities to create more of these moments. There is a reason, after all, that words like companion, carnival and festival all have culinary etymologies. Yet these days food has become secondary in our lives.

So many important traditions have been lost over the last seven decades of chemical agriculture, processed foods and expedient mediocrity, and the most important of these is that we’ve stopped teaching our children how to cook. I believe my generation might be the last that learned to cook at Mom’s apron strings, where I inherited family recipes like my mother’s wild rice portobello dressing.

Over my half-century of life in America, I have witnessed what might one day be referred to as the most rapid and uncontrolled period of social evolution in human history, in which a mind-boggling array of influences conspired in a perfect storm of high technology and rampant, vapid consumerism. Cause and effect were conflated to a point where it was impossible to tell, most of the time, which was which. And somewhere in that rigmarole, America made the decision, as a culture, that it was preferable to leave not just food production, but also the actual act of feeding our families, up to large, distant corporations. With few exceptions, we feed our families the same way we feed our cars, and often with the same ingredient: corn.

sweet potato pie

This light, whipped sweet potato pie is one of my favorite Thanksgiving recipes.

The Public Hearth
What’s needed is variety, “the spice of life,” as they say, and that comes from the hand of a solid home cook who knows ingredients, knows technique and has a deep and abiding love of family and friends.

With just a rudimentary knowledge of the foundations of cooking – how to make a stock, basic knife skills, the difference between fry and sauté – anyone can cook frugally, healthfully, deliciously and well. Add in an understanding of the nuances of flavor in each ingredient and a knowledge of herbs and spices, and you have the makings of a competent home cook. Toss in a few organizational skills and you’ll have a great home cook, one who does not stress out about the roast turkey leaving no room in the oven for the sweet potato pie.

One good way to spread the knowledge and passion for cooking would be what I call “The Public Hearth,” a clearinghouse for best practices and simple ideas that teaches the fundamentals of cooking to anyone young or old, rich or poor, and inspires legions of cooks to inspire legions of cooks.

Cooking is the most tangible way we have of expressing our love to our family and friends, and we need a lot more of it.

About the Author: Chef Kurt Michael Friese graduated from the New England Culinary Institute, where he also served as a Chef-Instructor. With 34 years of professional food service experience, he has been chef and owner, with his wife Kim McWane Friese, of the Iowa City, Iowa, restaurant and bar Devotay for 17 years. Chef Kurt is partnering with Frontier and Simply Organic to bring you recipes and tips for rediscovering and reinventing your own traditions this holiday season. Find more recipes at and or watch cooking videos on YouTube.

Snuggle up with homemade chai tea latte

7 Nov

By Sara Mallicoat

Fall is my favorite time of year because we get to slow down again! Summer with two boys under the age of three is exhausting – now that it gets darker earlier, they go to bed on time and I get some much-needed “me” time. Lately, I’ve been using the fireplace and snuggling with my husband for a mini date night in the comfort of our home. After working all day, caring for the kids and putting a healthy and delicious meal on the table, I like to over-achieve and treat us both with chai lattes.


A customized cup of heaven
In many parts of the world, chai is the word for tea. In India it’s a spiced milk tea. It is becoming increasingly popular around the world and is generally made with black tea, milk, spices and a sweetener. To me it provides a warming, soothing and wonderful sense of well-being sensation – a cup of heaven!

Chai drinks are easy to find in many local coffee shops, but I’m not about to splurge for a cup of something that now tastes sub-par to my own version. I also feel the coffee shops have overly sweet chai. Chai should be a little sweet to help complement the robustness of the spices, but I do not want to drink a cup of sugar.  So, I resorted to making a concentrate to enjoy tea at home. This way, I control what goes in my cup. I know what flavors I like, so I go heavy on cardamom – the beauty of making my own. Continue reading

8 fall recipes to help you get over your pumpkin spice latte

7 Oct

By Tom Havran

 Each fall a certain inescapable hot beverage retailer ingeniously takes advantage of our seasonal craving for pumpkin and spices by getting us hooked on its oh-so-delectable, limited edition, and let’s face it, pricey pumpkin spice lattes. How much have you shelled out so far to feed the beast?

There’s no denying that the sweetly aromatic, seasonally comforting flavor of spiced pumpkin anything is addictive: pumpkin pie, cake, muffins, cheesecake, even ale, all of them irresistible. But is it the pumpkin, the spices or the season itself that captures us?

This pumpkin pie parfait proves that your latte is not the pinnacle of spiced pumpkin desserts.

This pumpkin pie parfait proves that your latte is not the pinnacle of spiced pumpkin desserts.

Continue reading

Organic recipes for fall: September web finds

30 Sep

By Katie Staab

This month, the autumnal sunshine and bright harvest moon seemed perfectly appropriate as we celebrated Organic Harvest Month. As September slips into October, and the days get shorter and the nights chillier, we’ll turn to the bounty of the hearty, organic recipes we found this month.

Enjoy our favorite webfinds from September — recipes for your belly and your body!

1. While we hate to say goodbye to summer’s abundance of fresh produce, we can’t complain about the return to hearty and warm comfort foods during fall. Try indulgent lobster macaroni and cheese or a veggie-packed vegan gumbo, both new recipes we provided in September to give you ways to try Frontier’s new organic Seafood Seasonings.


Eggs in Purgatory from Cindy’s Table was one of our favorite organic recipe finds this month.

2. Speaking of new flavors to try, we discovered Cindy’s Table this month, a great website if you are interested in Italian cooking — and we’re not just talking spaghetti or pizza! Check out her recipe for Eggs in Purgatory for a flavorful weekend breakfast. Continue reading

My organic living “Aha!” moment: Confronting my mom’s cancer

28 Sep

By Mariah Andrews

My organic “aha!” moment was literally a wake-up call.

I got the call from my sister Fran at 3 a.m. on a Sunday morning eight years ago. My mom was in the intensive care unit at the University of Iowa Hospital & Clinics. She had nearly died from heart failure the night before.

At the time we didn’t know whether Mom would live or die, or what caused the heart failure.

We soon found out: non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer of the disease-fighting network in the body known as the lymphatic system.

Me (third from left) with my sisters and mother in 20XX.

Me (second from right) with my sisters and mom.

A series of “Aha!” moments

My first organic living “Aha!” moment was learning about one of the risk factors for non- Hodgkin’s lymphoma: chemicals. Continue reading

Overfed yet undernourished: The importance of nutrient-dense foods

22 Sep

By Tom Havran

In my youth, I squeezed extracurricular school activities in between my cow-milking duties on my family’s farm in Norway, Iowa. Washing udders in the dark barn on below-zero mornings, and again after school, wasn’t much fun for me (or for the cows, I’m sure), but the experience did serve to educate me about where whole, unpasteurized, non-homogenized milk came from and what that nutrient-dense product should taste like.

Many years later, I’m learning that the farm milk of my youth was very different — and far more nutrient-dense — than what today’s dairy industry supplies to America’s supermarket shelves. In fact, I’m learning that much of what fills the standard American diet is indeed filling us up, but not with the nutrients we need.

top nutrient dense foods

Chronically undernourished yet grossly overfed

I recently read a compelling article in Mother Earth News that describes the declining nutrient values in modern agricultural products (supported by data from our very own USDA). The article, written by Lynn Keiley, left me with a sense that the American ag industry seems most focused on industrialization, ever-increasing yields and mechanized efficiencies at the expense of a holistic quality effort. Continue reading

Making spices safer

12 Sep

By Tony Bedard, CEO Frontier Natural Products Co-op

I’m often asked how we make sure our spices are safe and of high quality. These questions spike every time there’s something negative about spice quality in the news — sensible or sensationalized. We understand your concerns and are glad to answer questions regarding our Frontier and Simply Organic spices.


In fact, I believe aggressive programs like the ones we have at Frontier are the key to improving the overall trust in spices.

We take quality and food safety issues very seriously, and we’ve taken a number of simple, but significant, steps to avoid the kinds of problems that raise safety and quality questions — and inspire bad press.

Here’s what we do:

  • Buy direct. Buying direct from responsible, sustainable sources — certified organic whenever possible — provides an important advantage in food safety and quality. Having personal contact with suppliers builds reliable relationships that are often missing when buying from middlemen. Direct buying allows meaningful supplier evaluations and approval, along with opportunities to facilitate changes at the source that improve quality and food safety. Continue reading

My organic living “Aha!” moment: What’s in that jar of baby food?

6 Sep

By Sara Mallicoat

My organic ‘Aha!’ moment was at my baby shower, playing the “Guess the baby food!” game. 

We were all struggling to figure out what that reddish, funky smelling jar of baby food was supposed to be. I work in product development, so I’m used trying different things — and I figured it couldn’t be any worse than the time we tried Kala Namak Salt (a salt that is often used in Indian cuisine and tastes and smells a bit like rotten eggs). So, I tried this mystery jar of food, and found it didn’t taste like any fruit I’d ever eaten!

We all guessed strawberry banana — it turned out to be apple and cherry.

That sealed the deal for me; I knew I had to make my soon-to-be-born son’s baby food. In that moment with the mystery jar of baby food, I became passionate about feeding my child organic, healthy food options that would actually taste good (that was my hope anyway!).


Now with two little ones in tow, eating healthy, organic meals is more important to me than ever.

There are some good pre-made baby food options out on the market. However, I was already striving to eat organic fruit and vegetables and cut down on processed foods. I was determined to feed my son yummy, wholesome food that was made with love — even though I had no idea how to do it. But I figured I had plenty of time to figure out how to make it happen. Continue reading


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