My organic living “Aha!” moment: From discovering organic food to growing it myself

By Joanna Mouming

​My organic living “Aha!” moment ​was when I first discovered the quality of organic food.

I am fortunate to have grown up eating meals that were prepared using fresh ingredients, rather than canned and frozen foods. I served, in a way, as sous chef to my mother in the kitchen as I became old enough to do so. I can’t snap beans, toss a salad or shuck corn without being reminded of doing so for the many years I lived in Syracuse, New York, with my family.

Our dream farm has a lovely view of the Iowa countryside and gives us new opportunities to explore the value of organic growing.

Our dream farm has a lovely view of the Iowa countryside and gives us new opportunities to explore the value of organic growing.

But despite having been raised on freshly prepared meals, I wasn’t raised on organic foods. While I was a young foodie in college, my interest in, and eventual commitment to, eating organic foods didn’t surface until a friend joined the New Pioneer Co-op in Iowa City, and I went there with her. The food I saw on the shelves and the many farmers stopping in to deliver organic vegetables, fruit, flowers, eggs, etc., piqued my interest in organics.

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Sleeper Spices: Mace

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 mace — and get tips for using it to awaken your next cooking endeavor.

Frontier Organic Mace

By Tom Havran

What it tastes like: Mace and nutmeg are derived from the same fruit of the same tree (Myristica frangrans). The aroma and flavor of mace recall nutmeg, but mace is a bit more delicate and ethereal.

What it looks like: Mace consists of the fleshy aril, a fruit-like structure that surrounds a whole nutmeg. They appear as filamentous tendrils which are bright red when fresh and dry to a rosy-orange color. Mace can be purchased whole, cut and sifted, or ground. The latter appears as a slightly oily, tan-orange powder. 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

The American Tea Revolution

frontier_tea

By Tom Havran

What Americans have done with tea as a beverage is revolutionary — quite possibly as revolutionary as the actions of the Sons of Liberty on the night of December 16, 1773, when they dumped 342 chests of English tea into the Boston harbor to protest the British tax on tea.

In those days, the only proper way to drink tea was the British way, which is still very much adhered to in Britain today:
1. A kettle of water is brought to a rolling boil.
2. Some of the boiling water is swirled around in the teapot to warm it and then poured out.
3. Loose leaf black tea is added to the warm teapot, which is then filled with hot water. The tea steeps for up to 5 minutes.
4. The tea is poured into a cup with milk, and perhaps sugar, and is drunk.
5. The most common time to serve tea is 4:00 PM.

The only questioned aspect of this protocol was, and still is, whether to put the milk in the cup before or after the tea.

America vs. England/Coffee vs. Teateacup
In the days before the American Revolution, tea was a wildly popular beverage in the American Colonies, enjoyed by all classes of people in all types of formal and informal settings. However, the revolutionaries were willing to give up their beloved tea rather than pay the tax imposed on it to the crown without representation. That’s how the American Revolution had its defining moment — and the revolution of how Americans drink tea got its jump start as well.

In the post Boston Tea Party days, drinking tea substitutes became a popular way for Colonists to express their revolutionary spirit for Independence from England. Coffee soon became the most favored tea substitute in America and that’s still the case 241 years later, with more Americans drinking coffee than tea. (The Specialty Coffee Association of America estimated the retail value of the U.S. coffee market at $30-32 billion dollars for 2012, compared with the Tea Association of the U. S. A. estimate of retail supermarket sales of tea at around $2.25 billion that year.)

The Tea Bag
The revolutionary spirit of Americans seems to embrace convenience and immediacy, along with a disdain for anything potentially fussy, such as the fancy teapot, tea cozy and hand-painted porcelain cup and saucer that are necessary for proper British tea service. We like our tea fast, neat and easy, and the most significant development in that regard has been the development of the paper tea bag. Bagged tea was an inadvertent invention by New York tea merchant Thomas Sullivan in 1908. He had been sending samples of his tea to buyers in little silk bags, and his customers started to plunk them directly into cups of hot water rather than messing with a teapot and strainer. Sullivan saw the potential, and the paper tea bag was born. To this day, the most popular way to brew tea in America is one bag and one cup at a time.

Iced Tea
Unlike the moderate, maritime climate in the British Isles, it gets hot in America in the summertime. As early as the late 1700s, recipes for sweet iced tea punches and cocktails can be found in historical cookbooks, especially in South Carolina and Virginia. These references are rare, partly due to the fact that only a very small, wealthy population could afford to import and store ice from the North before the invention of refrigeration. The watershed moment for iced tea is widely considered to have occurred at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, Missouri, where English tea merchant Richard Blechynden couldn’t give away free samples of his hot tea in the sweltering summer heat. He scored some ice from an ice vendor, iced his tea samples, and the fair goers went crazy for the stuff. The popularity of iced tea has been growing in America ever since, especially during the warm summer months. According to the Tea Association of the U. S. A., 85% of the tea consumed in America is iced.

Instant Tea
Eventually the quest for American convenience dispensed with the tea leaves altogether and brought us the development of instant tea, a powder that can be dissolved in hot or cold water. The first commercial version was introduced by Nestle in the 1930’s, but more versions appeared post WW II. The Tea Association of the U. S. A. states that instant tea accounts for less than 10% of the tea consumed in America and that number is declining.

Even though tea captures a minority of the beverage interests of Americans, we’ve revolutionized the way tea is consumed.

How do you take your tea?

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.

5 tips for eating consciously at the holidays

By Kailee Meskimen

As the holiday season comes into full swing, our awareness of healthy habits is clouded by an endless succession of tantalizing treats: creamy spiced eggnog, boats full of gravy, piles of mashed potatoes and slices of pie. An abundance of shared food is a given at holiday gatherings, but eating it consciously and still celebrating the bounty doesn’t have to be overwhelming.

small plates-2

Rather than depriving yourself of festive food and drink or feeling guiltily about over-indulging, stick to these five simple tips during holiday celebrations to keep ravenous behavior at bay and fully enjoy each bite. Continue reading

My organic living “Aha!” moment: Learning the benefits of eating well and sustainably

By Liz Hopkins

My organic living “Aha!” moment was when I was hired as the chef at Frontier’s employee cafe.

I didn’t really have a sudden moment of revelation when I fully realized the value of eating organically. Instead, I gradually learned about the benefits of eating well and eating sustainably. I converted over a period of years from a meat-eater to a vegetarian committed to buying organic whenever I can.

But even though there wasn’t a moment of sudden realization in my progression, there was that definite turning point — when I was hired to run the employee café at Frontier. I’d worked in hotel kitchens for many years, but when I started at Frontier Co-op, I found for the first time a sizable group of people who appreciated natural food and preferred to eat organically.

ChefLiz_Feb2013-001a

Learning on the job

The new job was definitely a learning experience — natural ingredients replaced the highly processed ones I was used to, and the nutritional value and wholesomeness of the food moved front and center. Efficiency was still important, but it didn’t trump food quality in the Frontier Café.

My outlook — and my skills — changed. I enjoyed the experience of learning to cook with whole grains, dried beans, seasonal produce and the like. It was easy converting familiar recipes to more natural versions, and it was fun to experiment with the almost unlimited seasoning palette of the spices Frontier sells. I felt great about the food I was making at work, and soon I was cooking the same way at home. Continue reading

Homemade lip balms, lotion bars and body butters

homemade lip balm, lotion bar, body butter

By Charlynn Avery

I look around myself in the kitchen. Pots, pans, glass measuring cups, a digital scale, essential oils, beeswax and a whole lot of oil take up all of the available counter space. The music flows and the aroma of cocoa butter fills the room as I am immersed in one of my favorite activities — experimenting with new DIY body care recipes.

A simple solution to dry skin

My goal on this particular occasion was to create my own lotion bar to travel with. As a frequent traveler who doesn’t like to check a bag, I have my liquids all under control with the exception of lotion. Prone to dry skin, I have been moisturizing my skin since I was a child, and lotion or a skin care oil is something I cannot live without. Natural oil is my preferred method of moisture these days, but flying with the quantity that I need is a hassle and (can be) messy. A simple solution was introduced to me several years ago by a dear friend. We were traveling for a month out of the country and didn’t want to check bags, so she made lotion bars — whoa! What a perfect solution.

I spent a few years after that purchasing others’ lotion bars, and finally made it a priority to make my own. I found the process to be so easy and, in addition to making body butter and lip balm for several years, I now have a new item to add to my bag of natural skin care tricks. Continue reading

Sleeper Spices: Fennel Seed

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

Hearty, healthy and authentic: Growing up ‘co-op’

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

5 reasons to include aromatherapy massage in your wellness routine

aromatherapy massage

By Charlynn Avery

I still remember my first massage. It was my 20th birthday, and I wanted to do something special to commemorate the beginning of my third decade of life. I decided to get a massage because I wanted to be pampered and to feel relaxed. At the time, the thought of massage as a regular practice was the furthest thing from my mind. It would be a once-a-year luxury experience; something I couldn’t budget on a regular basis as a struggling college student.

Once I got off the table, however, my perspective had changed completely. Of course I felt relaxed but it went so much further than that – on every level, I was improved. My skin glowed, my muscles felt loose, I stood up straighter, I slept better and I felt happy. I remember saying that it was the best $60 I had ever spent on myself. And a few years later, I found myself in massage school with the goal of helping others achieve that very same realization.

Benefits of massage

I hear a lot of folks say that massage is a luxury and is too expensive to do on a regular basis. However, with the many proven benefits of massage it should be part of a regular health care regimen for long-term physical, emotional and mental well-being.  One of my favorite clients from a few years ago shared the way she was able to budget massage into her life – she simply swapped a detrimental habit (smoking) for massage. She said, “I decided to reward myself for not smoking by getting a monthly massage. In addition to making my doctor happier, the expense of massage was much less than my pack-a-day smoking habit.” Continue reading