Tag Archives: pepper

Magic Soup

14 Mar

Even though winter’s winding down, we keep encountering folks who have that ‘change of seasons’ flu- especially here in the northeast right now. It seems the timing is perfect for this soup recipe sent to us by Kathy Larson, Frontier’s VP of Sustainability and Education. It might be just what’s needed if you’re battling the blahs while waiting for spring.

by Kathy Larson

Some years ago while we were in the city shopping, I started getting a sore throat, feeling achy and blah.  We had planned to eat supper before going home but I was looking forward to getting home and wrapping up in a warm blanket with a cup of tea.  However, my husband really wanted to stop at a Thai restaurant that was on our way home, so thinking perhaps some hot soup would be good, I agreed.

I got a hot, spicy and brothy soup with cilantro, mushrooms, onions, chili peppers and other goodies at the bottom of my bowl.  I like spicy foods, but this was just at the limit of comfortable eating and I remember taking careful spoonful after spoonful to avoid coughing.  Soon I was sweating and panting a bit but I cleaned up every drop of that tasty soup because it just felt healing.  And the best thing was that the next day, I felt healed!

Ever since, when I start getting that achy, sore throat feeling I make a hot, gingery soup that always warms me up and makes me feel better.  I vary this soup depending what I have on hand, as I usually am making it when I can’t plan ahead.

Magic Chicken Soup

1 small chicken (or 2# deboned, skinless chicken pieces)

Water to cover and cook chicken (2 to 3 quarts)

3 astragalus root slices

3 bay leaves

2 to 4 whole red chilies

2 large onions, chopped

1 cup chopped carrot

3 celery stalks, chopped

1 ounce dried shiitake mushrooms

2 tbsp tamari

1 2-inch pieces of fresh ginger, chopped

4 cloves garlic, chopped

1 tbsp parsley flakes

3 cups bok choy or other Chinese cabbage, chopped

juice of one lemon

Garnish: 2 tbsp fresh cilantro leaf chopped

Place the chicken, bay leaf, chili peppers and astragalus in a large soup pot, cover with water and cook until tender (about an hour).  Remove chicken from pot and set aside to cool.  Rinse shiitakes under cool water to remove any grit, then place in a small bowl and cover the mushrooms with hot water to soften (15 minutes).  Add onion, celery, carrot, tamari and drained, chopped mushrooms to stock and simmer for 10 minutes.  Remove chicken from the bone and add it along with the garlic, ginger and parsley flakes to the soup and continue simmering another five minutes.  Add bok choy and lemon, stir well, taste and adjust seasonings if desired.  If soup is not as spicy as you would like, add cayenne ¼ tsp at a time.  Serve piping hot and garnish with chopped cilantro if desired.

Kathy says: I also make this soup without chicken and add chicken broth powder to the veggies while they are cooking to get a richer broth.

 We’d love to hear about your magic soup recipes!

New Twists on Everyday Spices

16 Aug

As we seek healthier eating habits while dealing with tighter budgets, cooking and eating at home is more attractive than ever. If you’re an at-home cook looking for an easy way to expand your culinary horizons, you might try creating some new taste sensations in familiar dishes by using new versions of your favorite spices to liven up family favorites.

Here are some to consider:

Cinnamon is an especially popular spice that comes from the bark of an evergreen tree. For an even sweeter seasoning, try Vietnamese cinnamon. Compared to the more familiar Indonesian types, Vietnamese cinnamon has a distinctly sweet flavor and exceptionally high volatile oil content, the key flavor component. Gourmet cooks rate it as the highest-quality cinnamon in the world. Try using it in everything from oatmeal and baked goods to desserts, beverages and savory dishes.

If you love heat in your food, you’ve probably learned the ways of cayenne. Cayenne adds color and flavor to Southwestern salsas, Indian chutneys, Thai curries, Mexican enchiladas, Chinese stir-fries, Texan chili con carne, Cajun hot sauce and many other recipes. But for a smokier flavor, try chipotle peppers, which are actually dried, smoked jalapeno peppers. Their smoky-sweet flavor is often used in Southwestern and Mexican dishes. Add a dash to liven up everything from chili to barbequed fare.

Freshly ground black pepper is popular in a wide variety of foods, works well in combination with other herbs and spices and is commonly found in spice blends. To change things up, try using Sichuan (Szechuan) pepper instead of black pepper to add an exotic twist to recipes. Gourmet Sichuan pepper is grown in China and offers an unusual, pungent flavor that begins as warm and lemon-like with woodsy overtones and finishes with a more intense bite. It intensifies the flavor of fish, poultry, cheese, and vegetables.

You’ve probably been using vanilla extract to flavor all kinds of desserts, beverages and other dishes. One way to ramp up the flavor is to switch to vanilla beans instead of using the liquid extract. Simply substitute one vanilla bean for each teaspoon of extract, cooking it with the liquid used in the recipe and then removing it. The most common type of vanilla, Bourbon vanilla beans, are grown in Madagascar and are very aromatic with a full, rich taste. But to bump up the flavor, try Papua New Guinea vanilla beans, cultivated in the lowlands of the Pacific Basin. They have a fruitier taste than that of the Bourbon beans, with some notes of cherry that add a deep, longlasting flavor to ice creams, frosting, and many beverages.

Nutmeg is the dried seed of the fruit of an evergreen, which most often comes in ground form. However, nutmeg, like many spices, loses both flavor and aroma after it’s ground. Instead, buy whole nutmeg and grind it yourself using a special nutmeg grater or a fine grater. Grinding it fresh produces a much more robust and fresher flavor. Warm and sweet, nutmeg adds depth to desserts, cheeses, savory dishes and a variety of vegetables. Don’t forget to sprinkle it on eggnog, mulled wines and punches. Mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes are delicious with a light dusting of nutmeg, too.

With just a few simple substitutions like these, you can go beyond the everyday with your spices and create a whole new meal experience. You’ll be amazed at the difference small changes like these can make — and you’ll have fun bringing new, creative flavors into your cooking.

Don’t forget, it’s easy to try these spices by buying from the bulk section, because you only buy the amount you need.

Here’s an easy recipe that allows you to experiment with some varieties of the spices above.

Pumpkin Parfait

Ingredients:

1/2 cup pumpkin purée
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons milk
2 teaspoons sugar
6 ounces lowfat vanilla yogurt
1/4 cup granola with raisins

Directions:

In a small bowl, stir together pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, milk, and sugar. In 2 small bowls or ramekins, layer the pumpkin mixture and yogurt. Sprinkle with granola.

Layer in a parfait glass for a fun visual treat.

Moroccan Food

13 Jun

A team from Aura Cacia, our essential oil brand, recently traveled to Morocco on a sourcing trip. We always like to hear about the cuisines encountered on these trips. A few notes they shared with us about the food: Tagines were often used to cook the food, no pork was ever served, fruit was served as dessert, argan oil was used in many dishes, and the photos don’t really show how large the dishes were!

Because of Morocco’s interaction with many other cultures and countries throughout history, today’s Moroccan cuisine is surprisingly diverse. In addition to imported spices, many ingredients are home grown, including saffron, olives, lemons, and mint. Common spices used daily include cinnamon, turmeric, cumin, pepper, paprika, ginger, coriander, sesame seeds and anise seeds.

We’re going to let the team’s photos do the rest of the talking.

Veggie and meat dish.

Salad in Morocco.

Main course served in Moroccan home.

Honeycomb appetizer, for dipping bread.

Fruit platter, served as dessert.

Cous cous veggie dish made with argan oil.

Chicken dish with almonds.

Here’s a recipe from our recipe files for creating your own Moroccan spice rub, using coriander, fennel, cardamom and cloves.

Moroccan Barbecue Spice Mix

Dry toasting whole spice seeds intensifies their flavor and fragrance. You can liberally rub this enticing spice mix over salmon, halibut, pork, chicken or beef before cooking, or add it to sautéed onions with chopped kale, collard greens, or cabbage, sea salt, and black pepper with a little bit of broth, then cover and simmer for a delicious side dish. Thanks go to Chef Bruce Sherrod of Berkeley, CA, for sharing this recipe.

Ingredients:
1/4 cup whole coriander seeds
1/4 cup whole fennel seeds
1 teaspoon whole shelled cardamom seeds
2 teaspoons whole cloves
Directions:

To toast seeds: Combine spice seeds in a dry, medium-size skillet over moderate heat. Stir until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Pour seeds into a shallow bowl to cool.

To grind: Finely powder the toasted spices in a spice-dedicated coffee grinder (not the same one you use for coffee) or mortar and pestle. Store in an airtight jar at room temperature for up to 6 months (use sooner if possible).

To use with fish or meat: Season steaks, chops, fish, beef or pork roast with coarsely ground black pepper and finely ground sea salt; roll the meat in a portion of spice mix and press firmly to coat all over. Allow the seasoned meat to rest at room temperature for 15 minutes, or cover loosely with unbleached parchment paper and refrigerate for up to 4 hours before cooking.

Sear seasoned fish or meat in a heavy, oven-proof skillet with coconut oil, clarified butter or ghee (2 tablespoons per 1 1/2 to 2 pounds fish or meat) until hot but not smoking. Sear 1 to 2 minutes per side, then finish in a preheated 400°F oven.

To shell whole cardamom seeds, place 1 tablespoon of whole cardamom pods (they have a beige color) on a cutting board. Rock over them with a heavy-bottomed skillet or chef knife. Pull away and discard the shell fragments, then measure the black seeds. Repeat as needed. To skip this step, buy shelled cardamom seeds.

Let us know if you have experience with Moroccan foods, or any favorite recipes you’d like to share!

Grilled Vegetables – Endless Possibilities

27 May

What a great feeling it is to clean off that grill and get it ready for the summer season. Some of you are lucky enough to live in climates that allow you to be outside grilling all year. Some of us relish an all-too-short season. We’re here to help you make the most of it, no matter how long it lasts.

Experienced grillers are familiar with how flavors and textures of vegetables are enhanced by grilling. But with a little direction, even beginning grillers will find that soft, juicy vegetables like squash, asparagus, peppers, and mushrooms are well suited to grilling because they absorb oils and seasoning well.

Try artichokes, eggplant, garlic, and all varieties of onions and beans on the grill as side dishes or main dishes. Imagination and exploration are key. Hit up your local farmer’s market for whatever is in season.

We decided to turn things over to our Facebook fans for some new ideas on grilling vegetables. We posed this query, and the responses that followed are downright mouth-watering.

Grilling and fresh veggies — a match made in heaven. Tell us your favorite way to prepare grilled vegetables.

  • Garlic, cayenne pepper, oregano, and a little bit of water.
  • Marinate peppers in garlic, olive oil, basil & capers…then grill. Zucchini only needs a little olive oil, salt & pepper. Love to skewer asparagus, brush with oil, salt & pepper and sprinkle with Parmesan as it comes off the grill!
  • Olive oil and garlic salt!
  • I use your All-Purpose Seasoning on everything. I like to brush veggies with coconut oil and then season with the All-Purpose Seasoning. Key is doing both sides!
  • Lots of extra virgin olive oil, garlic cloves, and chopped shallots, plus whatever dried herbs mix compliments the rest of the meal; e.g., Italian Herbs, Herbes de Provence, Fine Herbs, etc. Your Garlic and Herb marinade is the best.
  • Your pepper grinders truly make a difference on all the roasted vegetables that I love to grill – corn, tomatoes, squash, onions.
  • I discovered your Salad Sprinkle is a great rub not just on veggies but on meats, and for grilling bread!
  • I put olive oil on mushrooms, squash, eggplant, red peppers, tomatoes, zucchini and then usually I sprinkled with salt and pepper, but I have now discovered your Lemon Pepper Marinade!
  • My favorite roasted veggies are sweet potatoes, zucchini, yellow squash, with onions and mushrooms. I like to season them with a little olive oil and a little safflower oil to cut down on the burning because we like them to be a little bit crunchy on the edges like fries. I season them with several different varieties of seasoning, depending on the evening.
  • I frequently add fresh lemon juice and lemon pepper, or lemon juice and Tuscan seasoning, or lemon juice and fresh garlic, or lots of whole cloves.

It sounds like our fans think the key is finding a mix that adds just the right flavor to whatever you put on the grill.

We’ve got a multitude of grilling features on our website; help yourself to some ideas.

We’d LOVE to hear more of your tips!

Meet Liz Hopkins, chef at the Frontier Café

13 May

In a recent blog post about our LEED® Silver certificatied renovation, we showed you a photo of the beautiful café at Frontier’s Norway facility.

A real bonus for our café is its wonderful chef, Liz Hopkins. Liz creates the healthy organic lunch offerings our employees enjoy each day. Talk about an employee benefit you don’t find just anywhere! Besides being the chef at Frontier, Liz makes beautiful jewelry that we look forward to seeing at our employee craft fairs. She’s a dragon boat enthusiast too. Versatile gal.

Liz Hopkins, chef at Frontier café. Photo by Kathy Larson

Liz took time out from her duties in the Café kitchen to talk to us about her work at Frontier.

Tell us a bit about what you do at Frontier. What was your background that prepared you for this?

I’m the chef and café manager in the employee Café at the Norway facility.  When I was in my early 20s, I worked at a resort hotel in Arizona and was taught the basics of cooking, so that’s how I knew I could handle this.  A lot of what I do is also self-taught.

What are your favorite go-to spices when you work in the Café?

I really like Simply Organics Vegetable Seasoning, and basil is a favorite spice of mine.  Seriously, I use the Simply Organic Vegetable Seasoning in almost everything: grilled veggies, salad dressing, and salads.

What have you learned about spices from working in the Café that you can share with us?

I have learned to experiment with herbs and spices.  It’s important for people to remember you can add a small amount of a spice to your cooking, and then build on it. You can always add but never take out. Soon you’ll learn what you like.

Can you tell us a few quick tips that you use all the time? Any spices that match certain foods perfectly? (For example, we love the veggie seasoning on the fish you serve at the Café.)

Dill goes with fish.

Thyme goes with chicken.

Basil is always good with tomatoes.

Simply Organic Vegetable Seasoning goes with anything, and I use it on grilled veggies a lot.

For more savory flavor, use oregano or rosemary.

Also, I’ve learned that if food looks good, it usually is. People eat with their eyes! It’s really true.

Do you have any dishes you prepare that seem to be crowd favorites in the Café?

People seem to like my potato pancakes, grilled tofu, roast beef w/smashed potatoes, grilled veggies, and garden burgers. Lots of varieties of sandwiches are popular.

Can you share one of your favorite recipes with us?

GARDEN BURGER

1 cup finely shredded carrots

3/4 cup of cooked brown rice

1/2 cup shredded cheese (what ever flavor you like)

1/4 cup finely chopped onion  (I use a green onion)

1/8 cup finely ground sunflower seeds

1/4 cup dry bread crumbs

2 tablespoons parsley, chopped

1/4  teaspoon ground ginger

1/4  teaspoon ground coriander

2 egg whites

1 tablespoon tamari

Mix carrots, rice, cheese, onion, sunflower seeds, bread crumbs, parsley, ginger and coriander together in large bowl. Mix well.

In another bowl, mix egg whites (beaten) with tamari.

Add this to dry ingredients and mix well.

Cover, place in refrigerator for one hour.

Scoop into patties and bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 min.

What do you like to cook or bake at home for your family?

We like Mexican dishes, and I make a rhubarb crisp we like. To be honest, I cook more at work than I do at home!

A Chat with a Customer

28 Apr

We’re always grateful when one of our customers takes the time to drop us a line to let us know what they think about our products. Awhile back we got a nice message from Gina, a customer in Minnesota, telling us she was a fan of our spices. We shared her kind words in our internal employee newsletter.

Gina, Frontier customer from Minnesota.

We thought we’d reconnect with Gina for a more in-depth conversation to share with you. Happily, she was willing to share some thoughts and a recipe. We can’t say it enough: our customers are the best.

Hi Gina. We know you cook and bake often. Let’s start by talking about which spices you use most in your kitchen.

OK, I had to clean out my spice cabinet to get a good idea on this one. And I hope you don’t mind, I grouped them!

  • Pepper: we use fresh ground peppercorns every day. It’s the first bulk spice I bought after getting a nice pepper mill.
  • Cinnamon: fresh cinnamon is great in both sweet and savory dishes; I love to use several varieties for different dishes and baking. My current favorite is Vietnamese because it has a great kick!
  • Ginger, allspice, nutmeg, and cloves: key for making my son’s favorite, molasses ginger cookies. I recently tried mace because I love to experiment and try to concoct the perfect match to make a great taste.
  • Garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes are needed to make my daughter’s most requested dish, Gramma’s spaghetti sauce with pork.
  • Cumin, cayenne, and paprika for chili, pulled pork and ribs.

Wow, that’s an array. You really know your way around your spice cabinet. And we don’t mind that you grouped them, we do that often in our web features. It really helps when you’re learning about flavors and uses.

So where did you get your love of cooking?

My mom is an incredible cook; even at 85 she experiments with new recipes. I owe my love for everything in the kitchen to her. She encouraged me, and I had a chemist for a father, so I’m still hooked solving the science of cooking and baking.

But interestingly, my mother used very few spices. Honestly, even today when I cook at her house I have to bring my own. So my love for spices is something that came about when I started cooking for friends and family.

Here’s that recipe I mentioned earlier that my daughter loves.

Gramma’s Pork Spaghetti Sauce (serves 6)

2 tablespoons butter

3 pork chops

1 chicken breast

4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 28-ounce can peeled tomatoes, preferably with basil

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper

grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

Heat butter in a large pot or skillet over medium heat.

Add pork and chicken and simmer until browned.

Remove to plate to cool.

Remove all but 1 tablespoon of fat in the skillet.

Add garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add tomatoes with puree, oregano, and crushed red pepper scraping bottom bits into sauce.

Simmer sauce over medium-low heat until thickened, breaking up tomatoes with spoon, season with salt and pepper.

As soon as you can handle the meat, remove it from the bone and add it along with any juices back in the sauce.

Cook until meat falls apart.

Serve over spaghetti, and top with cheese.

++++++++

Do you buy spices in bulk? If so, which ones? And go ahead; give a shout-out to your favorite co-op.

We joined a co-op in 1995 to get fresh organic produce and bulk spices right away when we moved to this community.

My first choice is always bulk for spices, because I buy just what I need, and that way it stays fresh. There are so many varieties of paprika and cinnamon to explore and bulk allows me to do that. My next adventure is to enhance fresh berries using flavored tea in baking.

I’m very fortunate to have River Market Coop in Stillwater, MN, less than 1 mile away and they have a large assortment of tea and spices.

Thanks so much, Gina. We expect a report on the intriguing-sounding fresh berries baked with tea!  See you in the spice aisle.

And now, readers, we’d love to hear what spices you use most often in your kitchen.

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