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5 steps to make curry your culinary soulmate

1 Mar
coconut chicken curry

Slow Cooker Coconut Chicken Curry (click image for recipe).

By Tom Havran

When I fix a great curry, I feel like I’m snuggling up to something warm, comforting and wholesomely good. The experience of fragrant spices, aromatic heat, and silky texture all combine to do more than simply satisfy my appetite; the effects of curry build to engulf all of my senses and nourish my whole being. If I’m feeling down, I turn to curry because it will give me an emotional lift. Curry is medicine that I love to take, a sort of gastro-therapy for my body, mind and spirit.

You can’t hurry love, nor can you hurry curry. It takes time to light this fire, and attention to detail before the dish can weave its complex culinary spell. Curry is a multilayered fusion of exotic spices, fresh aromatics and involved cooking techniques. Curry is born of a hands-on conjuring process that ultimately brings about a climax of sublime expression, proffered on a warm bed of pristine basmati or jasmine rice, with a side of pillowed flatbread.


Tofu Curry Noodles with Vegetables (click image for recipe).

If I wrote a book on this topic, I’d call it the Curry Sutra, and it would contain five steamy chapters. Here’s the brief for each:

1. Spices. SPICE is the spice of life! The seasoning line-ups, recipes and names for curries are as disparate as the preferences of the people that love them, resulting in an impossible-to-crack formula of match-making. There is no standard for a properly spiced curry, but most curries do share some fundamental DNA, having a core group of spices that includes earthy turmeric, smoky cumin, smoldering chili, lemony ginger and perhaps some nutty-floral coriander. After these, any combination from a long list of supporting spices gets involved in the affair: mustard, fenugreek, cardamom, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, mace, black pepper, celery seed, caraway and fennel. The common denominator is a complex diversity of aroma, flavor and heat, blended into a coherent and dazzling expression — similar to the way a fine wine, symphony or perfume would be realized. Continue reading

Start fresh for healthy meals: Cauliflower pizza crust recipe

17 Jan

By Sara Mallicoat

January is a time for setting new goals, but mine isn’t new. One of my missions as a mother and wife is to feed my family a wholesome, vegetarian, grain-free meal at least one night a week.

Considering my husband is not a vegetable fan (bless him for tolerating my experiments) and my 2½-year-old is very picky about the vehicle in which his food is served, this is next to impossible if I don’t want to be a short order cook for the night! This mission is even more critical after the holidays for two reasons: 1. We overindulged and need to get back on track; 2. My family thought we were feeding an army and sent me home with a ton of leftovers after each holiday gathering. My mother always sends home leftover vegetables, and I never really know what to do with them.

I tried a vegetable stir-fry, but that didn’t really float by husband’s boat, so I decided to come up with something that would work for both of us (and the 2½-year-old, too) — pizza!

cauliflower pizza crust recipe

This pizza starts with a grain-free cauliflower crust and is topped with anything your heart desires. My favorite is topped with a tomato broccoli sauce, sautéed mushrooms, onions, garlic, peppers, a little arugula or spinach, and a sparse dusting of Gouda and mozzarella cheese. Even the toddler ate it because to him it was pizza — and who can resist pizza? It left this momma overjoyed that I got my son and husband to eat vegetables! Of course, my husband’s concern was that I would quit making my flour pizza crust, but once I said that I would still on occasion give him that indulgence, he agreed to make this a permanent recipe in our house. Continue reading

Eating in season with winter salads

9 Jan

By Alan Miles

I’m always impressed with the great selection of salads at our in-house Organic Café, even in the dead of winter. The Café purchases some grocery items that aren’t in season here in Iowa during the winter months, but the salad selections definitely shift to winter fare.

Jami Kimm

Jami Kimm prepares the salad bar for the lunch rush.

I asked Jami Kimm — aka “CEO of the Salad Bar” — her secrets for making and stocking dozens of delicious salads when the local vegetable patches are all under six inches of snow.

Keep it simple
Jami’s first rule for winter salads: Keep it simple, especially compared to summer salads. Continue reading

15 best recipes of 2013

30 Dec

By Katie Staab

The best way to judge a recipe is to try it. Every year, we develop dozens of recipes to help you find new, interesting ways to use spices in your cooking. If your 2014 resolution is to cook more at home, then this list is a great place to start!

vegan butternut squash soup

This velvety butternut squash soup with warming spices like Garam Masala and ginger is completely vegan — and delicious!

Facebook: Our Facebook fans have spoken! Based on a show of “likes,” these were the biggest hits on Facebook this year.

The story of the mythical Havran fritters

23 Dec

By Tom Havran

It’s not just the ingredients, flavor or the visual appeal of the finished dish that make a food special; it’s the history behind it all.

In my family, a food’s history is usually a her-story due to the sturdy Czech and German women who’ve always been the primary keepers of culinary know-how. They’ve taught me the greatest cooking lesson I’ve learned: that it’s the remarkable stories behind the family recipes that imbue this simple food with its greatest savor.

The Havran fritters story begins with a cherished pan with the rare ability to produce fritters that bring folks together and gives everyone satisfaction.

The mystery of the coveted Havran fritter pan
The Havran fritters are basically just buttermilk pancake batter with stewed raisins mixed in. The magic happens when they are, as tradition dictates, subtly perfumed with lemon and fried in lard in a special, highly coveted, well-seasoned-from-generations-of-use cast iron fritter pan.


The Havran fritter recipe, recorded by my mother more than 50 years ago, and the coveted fritter pan.

Continue reading

Share the goodness through organic, Fair Trade Certified cocoa

17 Dec

By Alan Miles

The holiday season isn’t quite as sweet without cocoa — from your favorite chocolate treats to a mug of hot cocoa in front of the fire. To make the experience a truly joyous one, be sure your cocoa is produced without exploiting the people who grow it.

Fair Trade cocoa

A small town in the Dominican Republic, typical of where some of Frontier’s Fair Trade Certified cocoa is grown. Chris Anderson, a commodity manager for Frontier, visited our cocoa supplier there earlier this year.

Frontier’s three organic, Fair Trade Certified™ cocoa powders are sourced with the philosophy of sharing the goodness: the high-quality, organic cocoa that sweetens our lives also improves the lives of the farmers growing it in the Dominican Republic and Peru.

Here’s how we do it:

1. Keeping in direct contact with local growers of our cocoa.

Chris Anderson, Frontier’s commodity manager, recently traveled to the Dominican Republic to visit the co-op that supplies our organic Fair Trade Certified cocoa powder. Hearing about his trip, I was once again struck by how beneficial our direct sourcing and Fair Trade premiums are — in this case, to the small co-op of cocoa farmers themselves and their larger communities. Continue reading

A healthier culture begins in the kitchen

3 Dec

By Chef Kurt Michael Friese

You’ve been hoodwinked.

You got swindled. Hornswaggled. Flim-flammed. Took. You, and the rest of America, have been sold a bill of goods – one that has convinced you that cooking is hard, expensive and time-consuming.

We don’t have so much of a food problem in this country as we have a cooking problem. People have become convinced that cooking is a chore, but it’s not. It’s the most tangible way we have to demonstrate our love to our family and friends. It’s one of the things that separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom. It’s a sacred act, not a chore. And it should be given the due reverence that it deserves.


With an understanding of the basics, you can cook beautiful food at home. Find the recipes for these appetizers and more at

Vital fundamentals
That said, there are some basics to learn, a foundation on which to build your skills. In fact, the word “foundation” comes from the same Latin root as the French word “fond,” meaning “stock” or “broth,” which in turn is the basis of all of Western cuisine. Continue reading

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.


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