Tag Archives: natural

All About Sage

By Angela Keyser, Director of Marketing for High Quality Organics

When I ask you what herb reminds you of Thanksgiving, most of you will probably say sage.  This perennial herb, native to the Mediterranean, is indeed quite popular at Thanksgiving. Often added to a stuffing or roasted turkey recipe, sage has a wonderful, slightly sweet and citrusy smell.  Some say it smells camphorous, cleansing or purifying and it can linger for some time – good if you enjoy the smell, not so good if you don’t!

The botanical name for sage is ‘Salvia’ which, in Lattin, means “to heal” or “to save.” The reason sage was named this way is because it’s essential oils contain antioxidant and antimicrobial properties. (Sage is an excellent source of vitamin A, C, E and K  – important antioxidants for health and wellness.)

Sage has been used for centuries not only in cooking but for medicinal purposes for many things including healing the common cold or flu and soothing insect bites.  The Native Americans believe it wards off evil spirits and the Arabs believe it helps with immortality. At one time, the Chinese regarded sage so highly they would trade up to four pounds or sacks of tea (camelia sinensis) for one pound or sack of sage leaves to make tea. (While sage tea isn’t commonly found in most grocery stores, you can find it online.)

The sage plant is quite easy to grow, will weather over the winter and is fairly drought tolerant. So, it’s a great herb to try if you’re new to (or not so good at) gardening.  It’s leaves are soft and blue-greyish in color and the plant can have delicate purple or blue flowers, depending on the variety.

Sage is an extremely versatile herb to use in the kitchen. Here are just a few delicious ways to play with it in your everyday cooking:

Steep in hot water for tea
Infuse in water with blackberries
– Added to ice cubes (fresh only)
Eggs
Flavoring for white bean dishes
Infuse with salt
Rub on poultry, pork or lamb
– Incorporate into sausage
Savory flavor to bread or rolls
Simple syrup for cocktails
Savory flavor for homemade crackers
– Soups and stews
– Vegetables or potatoes

Chef Dawn’s Super Simple Compound Butters

By Chef Dawn Wykoff

Click on the picture to watch our short video on super simple compound butters. Recipes are below.

Click on the picture to watch our short video on super simple compound butters. Recipes are below.

Compound butters – or flavored butters – are an wonderful way to infuse flavor into everyday cooking.  The options or limitless and the butters can be made in less than 5 minutes.  Here are some of my favorite combinations for Thanksgiving.

Asiago Pesto Compound Butter

Use plastic wrap or wax paper to form a log before refrigerating.

Use plastic wrap or wax paper to form a log before refrigerating.

1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature

1 tablespoon of pesto
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Dash of tobacco (optional)
2 tablespoons shredded Asiago cheese
 
Instructions: Mash butter in a medium bowl with fork. Add remaining ingredients and stir until well incorporated.  Place onto a large piece of plastic wrap, roll into a log and tightly wrap. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes. Use on bread, pasta, flatbread, pizza and more.

Sweet Vanilla Compound Butter

Compound butter log ready for refrigeration.

Compound butter log ready for refrigeration.

1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature

2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon seas salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon or apple pie spice
 
Instructions: Mash butter in a medium bowl with fork. Add remaining ingredients and stir until well incorporated.  Place onto a large piece of plastic wrap, roll into a log and tightly wrap. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes. Use on sweet potatoes, french toast, pancakes, muffins, toast, and more.

Blue Cheese & Walnut Compound Butter

Compound butters are an easy, make-ahead way to add flavor to your Thanksgiving Day meal.

Compound butters are an easy, make-ahead way to add flavor to your Thanksgiving Day meal.

1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature

2 tablespoons crumbled blue cheese
2 tablespoons finely chopped walnuts
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
 
Instructions: Mash butter in a medium bowl with fork. Add remaining ingredients and stir until well incorporated.  Place onto a large piece of plastic wrap, roll into a log and tightly wrap. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes. Use on bread, crackers, mashed potatoes, red meat and more.
 

Have you made compound butter before? If so, share your favorite combinations!

Paleo-Friendly Easy Mashed Cauliflower

By Chef Kyle Boesen

Mashed cauliflower is a great addition or substitute to your classic mashed potato side dish.

Mashed cauliflower is a great addition or substitute to your classic mashed potato side dish.

As the Paleo diet – a diet that encourages one to eat like our ancestors and limit processed foods, dairy, many grains and sugar – becomes more popular, we’re seeing a lot more people searching for recipes that meet the diet’s criteria.  (In fact, even Whole Foods is opening a new store in San Francisco with a Paleo Bar! Read about it here.)

In leu of this food trend, we thought it would be helpful to provide you with a great-tasting recipe that could easily be swapped for mashed potatoes at your Thanksgiving meal.

NOTE: If your party isn’t on the Paleo diet and you’d still like to try this, I’d encourage using 50% cauliflower and 50% mashed potatoes (non-Paleo ingredients and directions are below the Paleo version).  For some people, the taste of cauliflower can be quite strong so this softens the cauliflower flavor a bit and makes the dish all the more nutritious…and an excellent way to get children to eat cauliflower!

Mashed Cauliflower

Mashed Cauliflower is essentially like making mashed potatoes - just swap the cauliflower for potatoes.

Mashed Cauliflower is essentially like making mashed potatoes – just swap the cauliflower for potatoes.

Ingredients – Paleo Diet Version
1 head of cauliflower
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon of any of the following: ground sage, rosemary or thyme
1 tablespoon chopped chives, reserving half for garnish on top)
Salt and pepper to taste
 
Step 1: Wash and chop cauliflower. Place in a microwavable bowl with 1-2 tablespoons water, cover with plastic wrap and cook on high for 5-8 minutes or until cauliflower is tender (you can easily put a fork through the spears).
 
Step 2: Drain the cauliflower
 
Step 3: Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend. 
 
Ingredients – Non-Paleo Version
4 cups chopped cauliflower
4 cups peeled and cubed potatoes (keep the skins on for added fiber and nutrition)
4 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup 2% milk
4 tablespoons sour cream
1 tablespoon chopped chives, reserving half for garnish
 
Step 1: Wash and chop cauliflower and potatoes.  Add the cauliflower to a microwave safe bowl, add 1-2 tablespoons water and cover with plastic wrap. Cook on high for 5-8 minutes or until they are tender and you can easily stick a fork through them.  Then, do the same with the potatoes. (Don’t combine them as the potatoes have more starch and will take longer to cook.) NOTE: You can also steam these on the stove.  Just put a cup of water at the bottom of a very large pot, place a heat-proof colander over and place the vegetables in the colander. Cover bring the water to a boil. Stir the vegetables on occasion to ensure they’re cooked evenly. 
 
Step 2: Combine butter and milk in a microwavable bowl and heat on high for 30 seconds or until butter is melted.
 
Step 3: Drain the vegetables and place in a large bowl. Mash by hand or use a hand mixer while slowly adding the melted milk and butter mixture and sour cream, little amounts at a time until the consistency you desire is reached. 
 
Step 4: Season with chives, salt and pepper and serve.
 

 Do you have a healthy spin on mashed potatoes? If so, we’d love to hear it. Or, if you have a “secret ingredient” for yours, please share.

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

Rosemary Parmesan Popcorn

By: Angela Keyser, HQO Marketing Manager

2013_Rosemary Parmesan Popcorn Cover PicPopcorn is one of the hottest snacks these days. It’s full of fiber, gluten-free, is quick to make and a convenient on-the-go snack.  If you’re looking for a delicious twist on your favorite popcorn recipe, try adding one of your favorite herbs or spices.  It’s really easy and adds a huge amount of flavor. Here’s one of my favorite new recipes, Rosemary Parmesan Popcorn. I dare say, it’s some of the best popcorn I’ve ever tried!

Rosemary Parmesan Popcorn

1/2 cup popping corn
1-2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan
1 sprig of rosemary, finely chopped
Finely chopped garlic glove
Salt & Pepper to taste
2013_9_17_Rosemary Popcorn_Ingredients
 
Step 1: Place butter & rosemary in microwave safe bowl. Melt in microwave (approx 30 seconds).
2013_9_17_Rosemary Popcorn_Step1
 
Step 2: Add popcorn kernels and stir to evenly coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap & punch a few SMALL holes in the top to allow steam to escape. (Caution: I made the holes too big and the popcorn started to escape as it popped!)Note: I had a last-minute idea to add a clove of finely chopped garlic to the bowl. I highly recommend doing it if you have some on hand.

 
2013_9_17_Rosemary Popcorn_Step2
 
Step 3: Microwave on high for anywhere from 3 minutes and 30 seconds to 5 minutes – depending on your microwave. Watch carefully and stop the microwave once the corn is all popped (more than 2-3 seconds between pops).
 
2013_9_17_Rosemary Popcorn_Step 3
 
Step 4: Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. (The stuff in the can apparently works the best for this application but I only had the real thing. It was just as good!) Oh, and I added a dash of salt & freshly cracked pepper after tasting and it was just what the popcorn needed for absolute perfection! I love this recipe!!!!
 
2013_9_17_Rosemary Popcorn_Step4
 
Step 5: Enjoy!
 
2013_9_17_RosemaryPopcorn_Final

Have You Tried It: Buckwheat

Buckwheat Field

Buckwheat Field

Buckwheat is actually not a wheat or grass but a member of the sorrel family. It originated in Southeast Asia and is primarily grown as a cover crop. (A cover crop is commonly used during “off-season” growing to protect and enhance the soil.) It’s a short-season crop that loves acidic soil and lots of drainage making it perfect for mountainous regions and sandy soils.

Buckwheat is used for its seeds, which look like little pyramids, and is gluten-free so it’s a great food to try if you or someone in your family has wheat allergies.

Buckwheat Groats (Seeds)

Buckwheat Groats (Seeds)

One cup of cooked buckwheat has about 155 calories and about 18% of your daily recommended value of fiber.  It also has 6 grams of protein and is a good source of iron and magnesium.

Probably the most familiar product using buckwheat are buckwheat pancakes, as buckwheat is often milled into flour and used in bakery items.  But, soba noodles, a popular Asian noodle, are made from buckwheat as well.  We’re also seeing buckwheat used in cereals, crackers and granola bars.

Products we found in our local grocery stores using buckwheat.

Products we found in our local grocery stores using buckwheat.

There are lots of ways you can cook with buckwheat.  For example, buckwheat flour can be substituted for about 50% of your all-purpose flour in cookie or muffin recipes. Click here to learn more about baking with buckwheat flour.

Buckweat groats (the seeds) can be heated with some hot water or milk and combined with your favorite fruit or sweetener for a hot cereal in on a cold morning. It’s also great in soups and stews or in salads.

If you’re interested in purchasing bulk quantities (50-pounds or more) of certified organic buckwheat, please contact us via www.HQOrganics.com. To learn more about buckwheat, read these informative articles:

Buckwheat 101 by the Washington Post

Buckwheat flour in backing and cooking by the L.A. Times

Buck-wild for buckwheat by the Wall Street Journal

Dr. Perricone’s No. 5 Superfood: Buckwheat via Oprah.com

Pristine Peru: Growing demand for organics creates new opportunities for farmers

South America

South America

Peru, a small country on the northwest coast of South America, is known by many as the home to one of the Seven Wonders of the World, Maccu Picchu, or the birthplace of America’s beloved vegetable, the potato.  If you’re a foodie, you’re probably aware of the soaring popularity Peruvian cuisine is having on restaurant menus around the U.S.  However, what we find most exciting about Peru is the pristine countryside where farmers have been growing organically for generations.

Click on the image to read more about Peru's organic agriculture in this white paper.

Click on the image to read more about Peru’s organic agriculture in this white paper.

While Peru has no shortage of organic farmers, many of them struggle with the infrastructure needed to sell their crop for its true value.  This is where High Quality Organics comes in.  We’ve been able to help our Peruvian farmers not only gain market access to the U.S. but we’ve assisted with critical success factors like access to organic certification or certified organic seed. Our partnerships with our Peruvian farmers have truly gone beyond simple transactions and become transformational, allowing them to grow their business and better support their communities while increasing our supply capabilities.  It’s an exciting time for Peru’s organic agriculture sector and we couldn’t be prouder to be a part of it. Below are a few highlights from a recent trip our Vice President of Supply Chain, Toby Eck, took in June.

A blossoming organic chia seed field in Peru. Chia seed is an ancient seed growing in popularity for its heart-healthy omega-3 is used in baking, granola bars, smoothies and more.

A blossoming organic chia seed field in Peru. Chia seed is an ancient seed growing in popularity for its heart-healthy omega-3 is used in baking, granola bars, smoothies and more.

Here an organic farmer we've been working with is digging up a ginger sample in a sandy field. He is successfully growing many different crops using above-ground nutrition-irrigation system.  This has transformed a completely agriculturally-useless region into vast fields of sustainably produced organic products.

Here an organic farmer we’ve been working with is digging up a ginger sample in a sandy field. He is successfully growing many different crops using above-ground nutrition-irrigation system. This has transformed a completely agriculturally-useless region into vast fields of sustainably produced organic products.

This picture shows just-picked paprika air-drying alongside a field. Not needing to transport or machine dry the paprika provides significant savings for the farmer.

This picture shows just-picked paprika air-drying alongside a field. Not needing to transport or machine-dry the paprika provides significant savings for the farmer.

This is one of HQO's partners of three years, Santiago.  He's a first generation farmer that developed a passion for organic agriculture while in college.  He has not only brought an abundance of agriculture to an otherwise barren area, but he is providing employment to several people in a very poor region of Peru. He grows jalapeño, paprika and more for HQO.

This is one of HQO’s partners of three years, Santiago. He’s a first generation farmer that developed a passion for organic agriculture while in college. He has not only brought an abundance of agriculture to an otherwise barren area, but he is providing employment to several people in a very poor region of Peru. He grows jalapeño, paprika and more for HQO.

Here's a great example of the innovative spirit of so many of our partners.  This is a sand field that can produce high-quality organic agriculture by the above-ground irrigation and nutrient distribution system.  This type of production agriculture is critical for food insecure places like the barren lands in remote Peru or Egypt.

Here’s a great example of the innovative spirit of our HQO partners. This is a sand field that can produce high-quality organic agriculture thanks to the above-ground irrigation and nutrient distribution system. This type of production agriculture is critical for food insecure places like the barren lands in remote Peru or Egypt.

To learn more about High Quality Organics and the organic ingredients we supply  from Peru and the other 30+ countries we work with, please contact us on our website, www.HQOrganics.com.

Have You Tried: Wheat Grass – A Clean, Lean, Green Nutrition Machine

By Stephanie Rayburn, Sales Trainee for High Quality Organics

Photo courtesy of FitSugar.com

Photo courtesy of FitSugar.com

Walk into a juice bar or café these days, and you may be surprised to hear the person in front of you order a round of shots for the group.  Shortly, you see the fresh squeezed juice shots are delivered to their table-  small cups of almost neon-green liquid, usually with a small wedge of orange for chasing.  You may observe a variety of expressions on the faces of the juice-drinkers, as they either sip or bolt down the juice, possibly grabbing for their orange wedge chaser or cooly passing it up.  From the pleased look on the experienced wheat-grass drinker’s face to the skeptical and possibly grossed-out look of the rookie juicer, your interest may be piqued enough for you to step up to the counter and have your own first wheat grass experience!

wheatgrass-powder-212x213While some like the potent, fresh-squeezed taste of the young wheat plant Triticum aestivum, many prefer to glean the health benefits of the plant by adding the dehydrated powder to smoothies, soups and other treats.  Wheat grass powder is a common ingredient in protein drink mixes, health bars, snacks and whole-food vitamins.

Although the supplement was introduced in the 1940’s, it is quickly gaining in popularity as a powerful super food.  And it’s no wonder- the grass shoots contain an extremely high concentration of nutrients such as vitamins A, C and E, calcium, iron, magnesium, amino acids and chlorophyll.

Organic Wheat Grass Powder Supplement Facts

Charles Francis Schnabel, an agricultural chemist in the 1930’s, conducted a series of experiments with young wheat Ggrass and was the first to market the powdered dried in cans labeled “Schnabel’s Powdered Grass.” Among the many health benefits of wheatgrass touted by Schnabel and others are: the immunity boosting, detoxification, and aid in digestion by killing harmful bacteria. Others have used the green to fight cancer, anemia, diabetes, constipation, infections, skin conditions, ulcerative colitis, joint pain and many other health problems.

While the grass can be grown slowly over winter in temperate climates, it is often grow in a greenhouse in just eight to 12 days.  The grass is harvested when it is around seven inches high, immediately juiced and consumed or dehydrated into a powder.

High Quality Organics sources certified organic wheat grass powder from China. When we’re not selling it, we’re busy experimenting with it.  Here are some of our favorite uses: smoothies, salad dressing, guacamole. Other ideas include adding it to hummus, pesto, vegetable dip, baked goods (you’ll have to add extra sweetener to compensate for the wheat grass flavor), soups and sauces.

StephLakeTahoe

Steph is passionate about organics and the sustainable agriculture practices the industry encourages. With experience from the Peace Corp and National Forest Service, she brings a diversified and resourceful skills set to HQO’s growing customer service and sales team. On the weekends you can find her hiking in the pines of Lake Tahoe and enjoying the music and craft beers of Reno.