Category Archives: Spice School

Organic Vegan Chipotle Chili Recipe

February 26th is National Chili Day, and to help you keep warm this winter, we’ve made a chili recipe that vegetarians and vegans can enjoy!  This Organic Vegan Chipotle Chili recipe will amaze your tastebuds!

We will begin with all organic ingredients:











– 1 yellow onion (diced)
– 1 cup shredded carrots
-2 jalapeños (de-seeded & diced)
– 3 garlic cloves (minced)
– 2 cups fresh tomatoes (diced)
– 1.5 cups tomato sauce
– 1/2 wheat bulgur
– 1 can kidney beans
– 1 can black beans











– 1 chipotle pepper (de-seeded & diced)
– 1 tbsp chipotle powder
– 1 tbsp cumin
-1 tsp kosher salt

Step 1: Place your dutch oven over medium heat and add 3 tbsp of canola oil and sauté your carrots, onions and peppers.











Step 2: After the onions have soften, you can add the garlic, cumin and chipotle powder.












Step 3: Add in your beans, tomatoes and tomato sauce, mix and cover. Reduce heat to low and allow to simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.






Once the beans are tender, turn off the heat. Serve warm with vegan sour cream and a sprinkling of cilantro! Enjoy!


Chipotle 101


DIY Pumpkin Pie Spice Blend

Did you know that Pumpkin Pie Spice is actually a blend of spices? In this video we show you how to make your own DIY Pumpkin Pie Spice blend!


All About Organic Cinnamon

As sun begins to set a little earlier each day and the air turns slightly chilly – that perfect sweater weather! –  we are reminded that autumn is here! At HQO, it’s the flavors of fall we love most: pumpkin spice, apple pie, chai, and of course, cinnamon!

Cinnamon History
Organic cinnamon sticks (technically referred to as quills) are made from hand scraping the inner bark of an evergreen tree.

Organic cinnamon sticks (technically referred to as quills) are made from hand scraping the inner bark of an evergreen tree.

Cinnamon, said to be one of the oldest spices, dates back 2,500 years and was regarded so highly among ancient nations that it was seen as a gift fit for the gods. One of cinnamon’s earliest uses was as a perfuming agent in the embalming process for Egyptians. In the middle ages in Europe, the transportation process made it so hard to get that using it was a status symbol. This status symbol and its ability to preserve meats during the winter made it in extremely high demand for centuries. Even Christopher Columbus wrote to Queen Isabella claiming that he found cinnamon in the new world, which he later learned was not real cinnamon but another sweet spice.

Ceylon vs. Cassia

2014_10_24_Cassia vs Ceylon Cinnamon PicCinnamon, it is undoubtedly a global commodity. Yet some of the highest quality of cinnamon, Ceylon, comes from its native land, Sri Lanka. Ceylon is what you may hear referred to as “true cinnamon” or “real cinnamon”.  Cassia, the cheaper of the two, has a stronger smell and flavor than Ceylon, which is mild and sweet. In fact, most American’s prefer Cassia over Ceylon cinnamon because of the stronger aroma and flavor. Learn more about the differences of Ceylon and Cassia in this cinnamon video.

Sustainable Harvesting
Organic Cinnamon
An evergreen tree native to Sri Lanka, cinnamon is also grown in Vietnam, China, Madagascar and India.
Eco-Friendly Drying
After harvesting, cinnamon bark is placed in an open area to dry with the help of Mother Nature, the sun!
Happy Hands
Organic cinnamon bark is being cut, attached to 2x6 planks and prepared for the second step of the drying process.
Slow and Steady
The cinnamon bark is carefully stretched and attached to boards for additional drying before it's hand scraped.
Hard at Work
Local farm families work together to hand scrape the cinnamon.
Ready to Roll
The cinnamon has been cleaned and prepared and is now ready for shipment
Cinnamon Transit
One of the most efficient ways to take cinnamon to port, via motorcycle!


High Quality Organics sells only non-gmo, organic cinnamon. The harvesting process of organic cinnamon is still performed by traditional workers by cutting down trees and skillfully peeling paper-thin slices of the tree bark. The thin slices are then rolled tightly into quills, which you may more commonly see referred to as “cinnamon sticks” in your household cookbook. After rolling, the quills are then hung and dried in a shaded place, usually from a ceiling creating a faux cinnamon roof lining. Ground cinnamon, although the rarer and highest quality, is usually made from featherings, which are made from the same inner bark as quills but were not sufficiently sized to create the more aesthetically appealing quill.

Non organic cinnamon is typically irradiated, the process of killing bacteria via use of gamma rays. This method is still new to the food industry and therefore still undergoing many tests about the effect it has on food. It is commonly believed to have a negative effect on the Vitamin C, and antioxidant levels in cinnamon.

Health Benefits

Cinnamon is packed with health benefits. According to the Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology, cinnamon could play a role in treating Type 2 diabetes because of its properties that control blood sugar. Research suggests that it also may slow tumor growth  and help control cholesterol.

Creative Culinary Applications
The Ginger Cinnamon Season'ole Fashioned is a great addition to your seasonal cocktail hour.

The Ginger Cinnamon Season’ole Fashioned is a great addition to your seasonal cocktail hour.

The ways you can use cinnamon are infinite, but here are some of my favorites; 

Infuse your coffee, rice, and even vodka with cinnamon for a delicious fall version of some pretty common pantry staples.

Fall flavors abound in these Gingerbread Biscotti with Vanilla Cinnamon Frosting bites.

For a great old fashioned with some pizzaz, check out our Ginger Cinnamon Season’ole Fashion. 

Beauty Isle Ideas

Besides its delicious plethora of uses in culinary applications and a growing number of scientists studying its health benefits, cinnamon also has many uses in the beauty department. For fuller lips, sprinkle a little cinnamon over a layer of Vaseline on your lips. If you’re having trouble keeping your skin clear, mix a tablespoon of cinnamon with equal parts of honey and nutmeg for a skin clearing facial mask.


Indian Salt Lassi







A Salt Lassi is a popular summer drink from India. Made with buttermilk, this refreshing cooler is enjoyed during the hot summer months and can help aid in digestion.

To begin you’ll need:
1 tsp cumin powder
2 peppercorns
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tsp kosher salt








1.5 cups of buttermilk
1 cup of water








Step 1: Begin by breaking open the whole coriander seeds and fennel seeds with a mortar and pestle.








Step 2: Add the open seeds and the ground cumin to a small pan and lightly toast the spices over low heat. This will help them become more aromatic and flavorful.








Step 3: Combine the toasted spices, buttermilk and water to a pitcher and mix well with a hand blender.









Step 4: Garnish with some fresh cilantro and enjoy!


HQO’s No-Salt Seasoning Rosemary Roasted Potatoes

Here is another recipe you can prepare entirely on the grill!  This uses HQO’s patented, No-Salt Seasoning blend on a medley of baby potatoes, served with marinated lamb kabobs.

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To begin, you’ll need:
-A small, white onion
-2 cups of fresh, organic cilantro
-1 cup of fresh, organic mint leaves
-2 springs of fresh, organic rosemary
-2 cloves of garlic
-2 tbsp of kosher salt
-1 tbsp of HQO’s No Salt Seasoning blend
-2 tbsp of organic red pepper flakes
-1/2 cup of organic olive oil
-1/2 cup of red wine vinegar
-1 lb. of cubed lamb kabobs
-1/2 lb. of baby potatoes
-1 small cast iron skillet








Step 1: Make the marinade 1 day before. Put the cilantro, mint, garlic, onion, olive oil, vinegar, salt and red pepper flakes into a food processor, and puree until you have a smooth consistency.

Step 2: Place the lamb into the marinade for 24 hours and remove the next day. Place skewers through the lamb, and allow the excess marinade to run off.








Step 3: Par-boil your potatoes so they are soft, but not completely cooked. Drain and slice into quarters.








Step 4:  Chop your rosemary leaves, and lightly drizzle some olive oil onto your potatoes. Sprinkle the diced rosemary and 1 tbsp of HQO’s No-Salt Seasoning blend onto the potatoes.









Step 5: Place your cast iron skillet onto your grill and preheat your grill to 400F. Once your grill is hot, place your lamb kabobs on the grill and close the lid. Rotate the kabobs every 3 minutes and cook until an internal temperature of 160F is reached.








Step 6: While the lamb is cooking, add your potatoes to the hot skillet and stir frequently to evenly brown.








Step 7: Remove the potatoes and serve with the lamb kabobs. Enjoy!



Tri-Tip Crostini with Chimichurri Drizzle

Screen Shot 2014-05-08 at 4.16.28 PM

Now that the threat of winter is behind us, many of you may be dusting off your grills for some outdoor entertaining! This simple recipe is sure to have your guests wanting more!

You’ll need:

-1  1 lb tri-tip steak
-4 tbsp of HQO’s Nebraska Prime Steak seasoning mix
-1 fresh baguette
-1 cup of fresh parsley leaves
-3 cloves of garlic
-2 tbsp of fresh oregano leaves
-2 tbsp red or white wine vinegar
-1/2 cup olive oil
-1 tsp sea salt
-1/4 tsp black pepper
-1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

Begin with a tri-tip steak or roast. You’ll want to cover the roast  with HQO’s Nebraska Prime Steak seasoning mix.


Next preheat your grill to 400F and place the trip tip steak on the grill.  Close the grill and allow the steak to cook for 4 minutes, then flip to the other side.  Grill over medium heat until an internal temperate of 160F is reached for medium doneness.  Remove the steak from the grill and allow to rest on a cutting board.


While the steak is resting, prepare the chimichurri drizzle.  In a food processor, add:
-1 cup of fresh parsley leaves
-3 cloves of garlic
-2 tbsp of fresh oregano leaves
-2 tbsp red or white wine vinegar
-1/2 cup olive oil
-1 tsp sea salt
-1/4 tsp black pepper
-1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

Puree until you have a smooth consistency


Lastly, lightly toast bite-sized slices of a baguette and thinly slice a fresh tomato.  You can now begin to assemble your crostini. Onto the slice of baguette, add a think slice of tri-tip, then a slice of tomato and top with a crisp piece of lettuce. Drizzle your chimichurri sauce on top and serve!  These tiny bites are sure to pack a huge flavor punch!


All About Sage

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)
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

Vanilla (Spice, Not Ice Silly!)

By Stephanie Rayburn, Sales Trainee for High Quality Organics

Plain ‘ol Vanilla?  Actually, Vanilla is quite an exciting flavor:
 exotic, well-traveled, a little mysterious- and has a great story to 

Photo Courtesy of Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden

Photo Courtesy of Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden

You may know that the lovely vanilla bean, pieces of which you see
 speckled throughout your scoop of ice cream, actually comes from an
orchid.  The potent oils of the dried black pod and bean are known to 
calm, soothe and make delicious and versatile deserts.

It is thought 
that the Totonaco Indians of Mexico were the first to cultivate the
 pale white orchid flower.  As the Aztecs and then the Spaniards came 
to rule the region, the secrets of the vanilla bean were carried 
outside the tropics and into the greenhouses of European royalty.

Melipona Bee Courtesy of Pollinators.comAlthough the vanilla bean quickly became a trendy drink for the rich
 (a pre-cursor to the vanilla latte, perhaps?), it remained rare and 
difficult to procure. The key to the successful propagation of the
orchid is the special symbiotic relationship with the Melipona bee. In keeping with the sweet and pure reputation of Vanilla, the 
stingless, dainty bee mysteriously buzzes in to pollinate the orchid 
on the one morning a year that the flower blooms. The bloom, if not 
pollinated, wilts and drops after just a single day and the
 opportunity for vanilla bean production is lost for a full year.

It was not until the mid-1800’s, when a 12-year-old boy from the 
French colonial island of Reunion discovered the method of hand
 pollinating the Vanilla orchid, that the bean became widely

Vanilla Bean & Powder from iFood.tvA global fervor for the flavor has led to the cultivation
 of over 60 varieties of Vanilla orchids; from the rich, spicy Tahitian variety to the 
highest quality Madagascan vanilla used in Bourbon.

The uses of this fragrance and flavor go beyond just pleasing the 
pallet and the nose; vanilla has long been utilized as a soothing and sensual tonic with many health benefits.  Keep calm my friends, and reach for the Vanilla!

StephLakeTahoeStephanie (often referred to as Steph) is from many beautiful places, including East Texas (she still lets the occasional “ya’ll” slip), Oregon, Arizona and West Africa, where she served in the Peace Corp.  She is most in her element when traveling and exploring, and is loving her current adventures in ‘The Biggest Little City’ she’s ever lived. 

Steph is passionate about organics and the sustainable agriculture practices that the industry encourages, but her favorite part of being on the High Quality Organics team is the wide range of fun characters she gets to work with! Steph has a twin sister (fraternal) and an older brother who live in the area; her mom is a self-taught herbalist, and HQO’s biggest Facebook fan.  On weekends you can find her hiking in the pines of Lake Tahoe and enjoying the music and craft beers of Reno.