My organic living “Aha!” moment: Walking into a co-op for the first time

This post is the first in a series in which Frontier employees share their organic living “Aha!” moment – an experience that shaped their commitment to a more mindful lifestyle.

By Alan Miles

My life changed in 1971 when I walked into New Pioneer Co-op at 518 Bowery Street in Iowa City.

New Pioneer Co-op, 1971

New Pioneer Co-op opened in Iowa City in 1971. It was after walking through this door, at 518 Bowery St., that I first encountered organic living.

It wasn’t that I suddenly saw the whole truth about natural and organic food in that moment, of course — it was more a butterfly effect from a seemingly minor event that reverberated across decades and almost every aspect of my future life. Continue reading

Loving yourself and the planet: A homemade body scrub and other February web finds

homemade body scrub

Give your skin some attention with this homemade body scrub from WholeGreenLove.

By Katie Shatzer

Forget the standard flowers and chocolate. This Valentine’s, it seems people fell in love with natural and organic goodness of all kinds. We felt the love — for our partners, families, communities, planet and even ourselves — all month long.

Let’s keep the love going with some of our favorite web finds from February: Continue reading

Tallgrass Prairie Update

by Kathy Larson

In celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Frontier tallgrass prairie, we’ve planned several enhancements to the prairie and its surroundings.

First, we’re planting an additional six acres into prairie.  The prairie was originally planted to include these six acres but was used a few years later to grow herb crops.  It’s been in grass for the last dozen years; we’re excited to bring it back into tallgrass prairie.  We’re ready to plant as soon as it is dry enough, with an eight prairie grass mix: big bluestem, sideoats grama, Indiangrass, Virginia wild rye, little bluestem, Canada wild rye, rough dropseed and sanddropseed, and two legumes — Illinois bundleflower and partridge pea. Early next spring, we’ll plant wildflowers into the area.  We hope to add flowers that aren’t in our current prairie so we can increase the diversity of blooms.

Continue reading

What Makes a Co-op?

Since Frontier was founded in 1976, we’ve been a co-op. But what exactly does that mean?

Our co-op members are the owners of Frontier. They guide our business decisions, share in our success, and support organic farmers around the world.

Since the co-op began, we’ve remained firmly committed to our founding values — values like integrity, openness, social responsibility, and respect for the environment.

We’ve always considered the way we do business an essential part of our success — and we consider it a requirement of our success that we grow and prosper by contributing to the world rather than exploiting it.

We feel this special relationship of ownership is at the heart of our success. Not only do we have unique insight into natural products by having our member/owners in direct contact with the consumers of the products, the co-op structure has fostered our honest, responsible business practices that are increasingly valued in the marketplace.

A sentence that came out of one of Frontier’s earliest planning sessions expresses one of our most important commitments:

“In all that we do, at all times and with all people,

we will conduct our affairs and the affairs of the company with absolute integrity.”

We apply this test to everything from our product ingredient decisions to the sharing of information with our customers.

And we invite you to join us as a member of our co-op!

Fire on the Tallgrass Prairie

by Kathy Larson

photos by Kathy Larson and Joe Coffey

On March 16, I watched the eastern half of the Frontier prairie go up in flames.  This part of the prairie hadn’t been burned for seven or eight years and the plant litter was thick, so the fire burned hot and fast.

Fire has been important to maintaining the prairie that covers the Midwest since before the arrival of settlers.  Native prairie grasses and flowering plants carry the buds for next year’s growth underground where they are protected from fire.  The buds of trees are above ground where they’re easily damaged or killed by fire.  Young trees and seedlings are killed by fire.

Fire also helps rid the prairie of the build-up of heavy plant litter which can smother or shade other plants.  Burning opens up the land to sun and rains and returns nutrients back to the soil.

Our local fire department volunteers are our prairie burn heroes.  They take the opportunity to practice handling grass fires by conducting a controlled burn of our prairie.  For us, it’s assurance that the fire won’t get out of control.

The day was perfect for the burn: sunny, warm and breezy.  While we didn’t want a strong wind, the 10-mph wind out of the south was perfect to help hurry the flames along.

The burn began with a water truck driving around parts of the perimeter and wetting down trees and bushes that were close to the prairie.

The firefighters then started a back fire on the north side of the prairie using a small drip torch.

The back fire burned more slowly because it was burning into the wind.  It created a burned area that would corral the main fire.

The firefighters left an opening in the backburn to provide exits for wildlife. We saw pheasants, rabbits, snakes, mice and many red-winged blackbirds moving to the unburned section of prairie.  We always burn our prairie in alternate years to leave nesting sites for the prairie wildlife.

As the backburn started to die out, another was started on the lower east and west sides of the prairie.  The east burn came up over a small hill, and catching the wind, began to turn hot and strong with flames shooting up into the air.  It was our first sight of the strength and ferocity of a prairie fire.

The final phase of the burn came when the rest of the east side and the south sides were set on fire.

If all went well, the fire would burn the rest of the way across the prairie and end at the small pond.  I walked to the pond to watch the approach of the fire.  As it came over the ridge the sound was loud and a bit frightening.  Flames were 20 feet high and the fire was advancing very fast.  I looked up from my camera and it suddenly seemed that it would overwhelm me and my small pond area refuge.

Not to worry, though. Minutes later it was all but over and lingering smoke and the ashes of the dead foliage puffed across the blackened prairie.

Five days after the burn, the blackened prairie is already turning green.  Helped along by rain and warm temperatures, the benefits of fire can quickly be seen as newly exposed soil hastens the emergence of plants.

Next month we’ll look at what’s coming up — in both the burned and unburned portions of the prairie –and we’ll see how they compare.

Our Tallgrass Prairie in Winter

by Kathy Larson

Iowa winter has been warmer and drier than normal. In fact, it wasn’t until nearly mid-January that we had our first real snowfall.

With a fluffy blanket of four inches of fresh snow covering the prairie, I grabbed tall boots and camera and headed out to take a look.

I expected to see a lot of tracks, but the winds were still blowing the light snow around, keeping the surface smooth except for a few small snow tunnels.

The tall grasses lean over, and, with the other prairie plants, form small caves that are havens for rabbits and rodents.

The abundance of seeds produced by the prairie’s grasses and forbs have mostly been harvested and stored as winter food. Viburnum berries still cling to the bushes edging part of the prairie.

Other than the biting wind, all was still. I could almost imagine myself wandering, lost on a winter prairie of the 1800s, when it was not uncommon for settlers to be caught in a snowstorm and not be able to make their way home.

As I made my way along the path, I played a little game to see how many of the plants I could still identify. Their dark shapes against the snowy whiteness was striking.

Coconut Rum Truffles

Now that we have your attention, let’s pause and think about holiday desserts.

Close your eyes and anticipate the sights, the sounds, and the aromas of the winter holiday season. How far did you get before food entered the scene? Were you baking sugar cookies with the kids, or serving cranberry bars to the carolers? Did you attend a community potluck, with its high dessert ratio, or an open house rich with the aroma of gingerbread?

There’s good reason we center much of our celebrating around food—especially lavish, almost sinfully indulgent desserts. Holiday baking warms our hearts along with our kitchens, heightens our senses, and encourages the spirit of sharing and celebration. It’s a perfect opportunity to express the festive extravagance that marks the season.

And oh my…here’s a little extravagance now. As if chocolate, rum and heavy cream aren’t enough, we’ve added some coconut to put these over the top, decadence-wise. These truffles can be packed in a beautiful tin as a gift to someone you love that much! Hello, adult dessert.

COCONUT RUM TRUFFLES
Ingredients
3 tablespoons butter
8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
3 tablespoons dark rum
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1  egg yolk
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 1/2 cups shredded, sweetened coconut, divided
Directions

In a small, heavy saucepan (or double boiler), melt butter and chocolate together until smooth. Remove from heat.

Add rum, cream, egg yolk, sugar, almond extract, and 1/2 cup of the coconut. Whisk until well blended. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

Roll into one-inch balls, then roll the balls in the remaining 1 cup coconut. Set on waxed paper to harden. Store, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 2 days, or in the freezer for up to one month.

(Good luck with that one month thing…)

Please let us know what treats you like to bake and give for the holidays!

Spice Minute: Chef Jorge Pineda, Candle 79, New York City, NY

We recently stopped by Candle 79, NYC’s “premiere vegan oasis” to chat with Chef Jorge Pineda about why he uses Frontier spices.

Here’s what the rather camera-shy chef had to say.

 

Candle 79 is the sister restaurant of the famous Candle Cafe.

The Candle story began in 1984 when Bart Potenza purchased a  health food store and juice bar on Manhattan’s Upper East Side which had a nightly ritual of lighting candles to bless the establishment. Bart renamed his place the Healthy Candle, and was later joined by Joy Pierson, a customer and friend.

Their dedication to the vegetarian movement combined with some luck (think lottery) has allowed them to grow into one of the power teams in New York’s restaurant industry.

More on Jorge, Bart, Joy and the team at Candle Cafe.

An Adventure in California

Some of our marketers had quite the adventure on their way to product development meetings in San Francisco last week.

Follow along with them as they’re treated to some very special hospitality by one of the pioneering local/organic chefs in the Bay Area, restaurateur and cookbook author Jesse Ziff Cool. Jesse has traveled the world meeting farmers, chefs, shop keepers and families, seeking and enjoying local and sustainable foods and traditions along the way.

We met Jesse at an Expo event, and have maintained a friendship and mutual admiration ever since. We’re also fans of her cookbook, Simply Organic.

She invited our group of marketers — Kory, Brian, Clint and Brett, to visit her at her beautiful home and one of her restaurants while they were in the area.

First stop was Jesse’s beautiful home. Kory and Brian posed for a photo in front of the house. Note the CoolEatz license plate – the name of Jesse’s restaurant and catering company.

Inside, Jesse graciously treated the group to some delicious appetizers featuring our herbs and spices.

Jesse has served a colorful array of guests in her home. Her neighbors include some of the most famous names in Silicon Valley. Here, Clint and Brett decide to reenact Steve Jobs and Bill Gates’ visit to Jesse’s house, since they were sitting at the same table.

Jesse spontaneously showed off the contents of her spice drawer. Very impressive!

She then hosted a tour of the grounds, including her garden and chicken coop.

The group then moved on to one of Jesse’s restaurants, the Flea Street Café in Menlo Park. From left, Brett, Clint, Jesse and Kory.

The Flea Street Café menu features fresh organic local and seasonal foods. Menu items range from superb salads to elegant entrees.

The crab cakes – beautiful presentation and delicious, by all accounts.

Jesse truly believes that sustainable cuisine links together people, ingredients, respect for the environment and culinary traditions.

Our group certainly enjoyed her demonstration of living these principles on a daily basis.

Thanks again, Jesse!

Homemade Salad Dressings

Today’s post is from Luann Alemao, a chef and health/wellness speaker we’ve worked with over the years. Luann hosts a TV show titled Get Fit, operates several Kids Culinary Camps and offers presentations to corporations on healthy eating.

Here, Luann offers a quick tutorial on making your own simple oil and vinegar dressings. 

Oil and vinegar don’t mix. I had heard that phrase while growing up, but as I attended food and nutrition courses and did my own experimentation in the kitchen, I recognized they are compatible on the salad plate.

When making basic vinaigrette keep in mind that it’s 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar.

From that point, the type of oil, the kind of vinegar and the choice of seasonings or add-ins are up to you.

Here are some basics.

EVOO, Virgin, Pure or Seasoned– these are referring most of the time to olive oils in recipes. Other oils, such as soy, almond, and avocado will make great vinaigrettes too and will offer a distinction of their own originality in your vinaigrette.

You can make fine vinaigrette in just a pint jar or a salad cruet; you just need a vessel to shake up the ingredients and create an emulsifier for a short duration anyway.

So let’s get started:

1) Olive oil is the typical choice of taste and rightly so, as it has a fresh taste and natural fruitiness. My second favorite is soy oil as it is clean and light and doesn’t add an oily taste to vinaigrettes.

Light and extra light refer to the color of the oil and not the caloric content – don’t be misled. Fats do have calories and so does olive oil at 120 calories per tablespoon. Experiment with different regional oils and you will notice the differences.

2) Next is the acid or the vinegar.  Balsamic vinegar is my favorite, with its sweeter aroma and sweeter taste. It is rich in color, has undergone a special aging process and may be cured 12-25 years. Vinegar, because of its strong acidic makeup, does not require refrigeration. Other vinegars such as flavored vinegars, apple cider or rice wine vinegar are great culinary choices as well. White distilled is too harsh and best used for cleaning purposes afterward.

3) The add-ins: The combinations you can create are endless. Some dried mustard or Dijon adds a savory flavor.  Don’t forget the garlic and seasonings. Beyond the salt and pepper you can flavor with basil, Italian herbs, ginger, cilantro or tarragon.

Use the zest from limes, oranges and lemons. They add a citrusy blend that is clean and fresh.

Don’t have vinegar? A lemon will work just as well. I personally use a lemon along with the balsamic vinegar as I like the aroma and the pungent taste it offers. Make sure you use some of the zest (the outside peel) for more flavor and aroma.

Making your own salad dressing is cheaper too. It costs just pennies per tablespoon and to buy will be 4-5 times more. Save and FLAV! What more could you want?

Here are some recipes for delicious vinaigrettes:

BERRY-GINGER VINAIGRETTE

½ cup of oil

4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 squirt or 1 teaspoon of lemon juice from a real lemon

1 tablespoon berry preserves

2 Frontier crystallized ginger pieces

Shake in a tight container and serve over greens.

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HERBED SALAD VINAIGRETTE

6 tablespoons oil

2 tablespoons vinegar

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon Frontier dry mustard

1-2 cloves crushed garlic

1 tablespoon of Frontier Italian Seasoning or Herbes de Provence

Fresh ground pepper

Shake in a tight container, let sit for about a ½ hour for flavors to macerate and pour over dark greens.

How do you use oils to make dressings?