From Whoops to Wow!

Curry Chicken Nachos

I love stories about happy accidents. The chemist who was trying to create a super strong adhesive, but failed miserably when he created an adhesive that would give away. But he wasn’t sad for long; that invention was the adhesive that made Post-It Notes possible (at least that’s the story as I heard it).

The discovery of penicillin is credited to the happy accident of Sir Alexander Fleming returning from vacation and finding a moldy growth on a laboratory culture plate. That blessed boo boo led to one of the greatest life saving medications in our modern arsenal.

I know that how someone responds to failure is a key indicator of whether or not I want them in my life. Failure is just a sign that your tried. It is not a statement of your value. Show me someone who has not failed and I will show you someone who has not accomplished much. We should normalize failures. They are badges of effort. All great accomplishments could have been a failure. Maybe this is a good time for a Schrodinger’s cat analogy: that every attempt is both a success and a failure until the attempt is made.

My favourite kitchen accident was not a happy one, but I did laugh my butt off. And that was delightful. It was one of the turkey holidays and I was to bring my supplies to another family member’s house, as I was the gravy queen. (Is Dancing Queen playing in your head? Young and free, only 17. You know it is.) There were confused faces when I was called into the kitchen. “There’s something wrong with the gravy.” I picked up a spoon and yup, it was … sweet. Huh, I looked around the kitchen and bent over laughing so hard I started to cry. I had packed a zippered bag of icing sugar instead of corn starch to use as a thickener. The gravy was inedible and it was perfect. Best kitchen fail ever.

So far, I have had two happy accidents and I am excited to share them with you. I was still sleepy and in my head one morning. I wasn’t paying attention to what I was doing as I boiled the kettle to make a drink. I was thinking about a chai tea or maybe I was sleepy enough that a hot chocolate would give me the kick that I needed to get the day going. After a few minutes is a fog, I gasped in horror as I realized that while on autopilot, I had made a chai tea in my French press and had just poured the hot chai into my hot chocolate and milk roux in my mug. Arggghhh. What have I done! I stared at the abomination in the mug and thought, what is that going to taste like? As I blinked away the morning sleepy (believe me, I was wide awake now) I realized that a warm spice infused hot chocolate was going to be … awesome. And it was. Do that.

Chai Hot Chocolate

The other happy accident happened in August of 2020. We had just discovered the joy of homemade nachos with chicken rather than the traditional ground beef and were having it as our easy-peasy Saturday night dinner. I had, as usual, taken a rotisserie chicken, organic tortilla chips, cherry tomatoes, onions and hot peppers to our summer get away place. The small diced chicken was put into a frying pan with some water and I looked in the cupboard for the L.o.v.e. Organic Taco Spice (lovingly referred to as L.o.v.e. Potion #1). There was only a dusting left in the bag. Blink. Blink. I thought about the punishment that unseasoned chicken on nachos would be and searched in the spice storage box for something: rosemary…no, cilantro…no, turmeric…no, thyme…no. Then I saw our Curry Powder (yes, L.o.v.e. Potion #4). Hmmm. Definitely flavour. Well, WTF. At least it would be seasoned. The short story is it was CRAZY good. How crazy? Chris asked me the next night what I wanted for dinner and I said, ” What we had last night.” We had Curry Chicken Nachos at least twice a week over the next month. I felt oddly proud of myself as I realized that the dish was a quintessential “fusion” of two styles of cooking…Tex-Mex meets East Indian. I shared this experience and how to make our Curry Chicken Nachos with a number of customers (okay, with anyone who would listen). Here’s what one L.ov.e. Organic faithful customer sent me via Facebook after he tried them for himself.

“I cooked up Curry Chicken Nachos last night. I don’t know if I can eat regular nachos again.”

R.H.

As a tinkerer, I expect and hope for many more happy accidents. Even if they aren’t happy, they mean I tried something new.

Here’s to your next happy accident.

A Tale of Two Mints

When Chris came back from Madison, Wisconsin from an event he was managing with a copy of a recipe for a very spicy chicken soup from a restaurant specializing in dishes from Afghanistan, he was pretty insistent. “This soup is awesome. You have to make it.” So, I went shopping for the ingredients which included chicken, split yellow and green peas and …dried mint. I had never bought mint before. The spice display had a bottle (an expensive bottle) and I read the label. Mint. Not spearmint or peppermint. Just mint. I looked for spearmint and peppermint. Nada. So, was this “mint” spearmint, peppermint or a mixture? Anxiety, masked as confusion kicked in. Okay, think. The bottle says mint, and the recipe called for mint, so I have the right stuff. Chill…just buy it and determine what it is when you get home.

I knew my chewing gum and toothpaste well enough to know that spearmint and peppermint were different. Candy canes were peppermint flavoured and that would NOT be okay. I later learned that “not okay” quality was the heavy menthol in peppermint. I knew “mint” was used in making mint jelly which could be served with lamb (aha…a meat), mint juleps and the unusual yogourt mixture that accompanied this spicy soup. My money was on spearmint.

Yes, it was spearmint and the soup was actually more of a stew and it was spicy hot and the dollop of garlic and mint (yes, garlic and mint) infused yogourt in the middle of the bowl was amazing. You could swirl your spoon to get some spicy hot soup and some of the cooling yogourt. It was an amazing flavour contrast.

If you are marrying the mint with meat, spearmint is your choice.

Fast forward to our first week or two selling herbs and spices as Love Organic Vital Energy Inc. in 2017. A well-dressed woman about 10-15 years my senior popped in front of me and told me she had a condition that could be improved with mint and asked if we carried it. I answered we carried both spearmint and peppermint. Which one is recommended? She looked taken aback and said she didn’t know. I asked about the condition, which I had not heard of before and wrote it down.

The next weekend, the woman popped up again and I smiled and said, ” Peppermint”. She looked confused. I clarified, “I researched the condition you have and the type of mint you want is peppermint. It’s the menthol in it that helps.” She looked at me oddly. I know this odd look. I have experienced it a lot in my lifetime. It’s the “I can’t believe you invested the time to figure that out look.”

Anyway, the woman quickly realized we cared enough (and were curious enough) to invest some time in research and that our business is not about selling herbs and spices. It’s about helping our customers source and use organics.

So, what about a mint tea? You can use either mint and you can blend them. Remember, any herb can be infused in boiling water for 3-5 minutes to create a tea, or perhaps, more accurately, an herbal infusion. Hmmm….infusions versus decoctions: that’s another tale.

Listening to Clients: The Ground Rosemary Story

” I love Halifax, but it lacked a good spice store. Now that I know you are here, Halifax is perfect.”

So, we listen. We listen really well. Our clients at the markets we have attended have blessed us with as much information as we have provided them. As Chris says, “We started with 19 items, and are now at over 90, due mainly to the recommendations of our customers.”

One of my favourite client relationships is with a fellow I will call Will. Will dropped by one day and started his story: friends of his had given him some of our products as a gift. He told me he travels for business sometimes and whenever he is in a new city, he searches out the spice stores. Will, loves to cook. He tells me, that he loves Halifax, but it has always lacked a decent source of top-shelf spices. He looks around the modest surroundings of the Alderney Market and says, “I guess I am going to have to come here, now.”

Will continues after he surveys our product display, “I have 16 spices in my cupboard and you carry 14 of them.” I asked, “Tell me one of the two that we don’t have.” And then I listened.

With no thought required, Will said, “Ground Rosemary”. I sighed and said, yes we can source Organic Ground Rosemary, but I couldn’t figure out what I would use it for. Will becomes a bit excited and tells me that he makes his own pizza from scratch on Friday nights and he uses ground rosemary in the crust.

Our eyes locked and my jaw slackened. “I will bring it in.” All I could think about was pizza crust that tasted like focaccia. I didn’t know Will’s name. He, like many memorable clients, was first referred to by Chris and I by their signature product. Yes, I referred to Will as “Ground Rosemary” with Chris for over a year, until I took the opportunity to ask him his name.

Since that time, Will’s creativity inspired me to look at places I loved rosemary, but where a full leaf would not work. I have used ground rosemary in…wait…mashed potatoes. I love roasted potatoes with rosemary leaves and garlic, but my daughter likes mashed. And with oven roasted garlic and some ground rosemary, you can have the same flavour profile in a mashed potato. You are welcome. Our ground rosemary is, of course, organically grown (for those of you who aren’t into ingesting chemical fertilizers and pesticides) and comes in a small package that fits in our small storage box, for efficient purchasing and storage.

I love it when Will drops by. He’s an authentic person, and the world needs more of that. Around August last year, we bumped into each other at a grocery store, smiled and talked about some serious stuff on both our sides. It was one of those talks where other customers give you the look that “this isn’t Tim Horton’s” as they pass and you feel like you have lost 5 pounds; maybe water weight, maybe emotional weight, but you are lighter. We wished each other and our families well. At Christmas, Will dropped by to follow up on our discussion and tell me that things were well. I was touched he remembered our talk. He presented me with a jar of jelly that he and his family make every year. I can’t say I was successful in not crying.

In February, Will dropped in and we had a short chat. I remembered to ask about spice 16. I recounted our first discussion…almost word for word…that may have weirded him out…remembering a discussion from about two years ago. I ended it with, “So, Will, what is the last spice. The only one we don’t carry?” He quickly responded, “Whole Fennel Seed”. I smiled, “We just brought it in.” He smiled and I sold him a bag. Turns out, he uses that in the pizza crust, too.

The next time you are around the Alderney Market in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia on a Saturday, drop by and ask, “Where can I find L.O.V.E.?” and tell us about your favourite herb or spice. We are listening.

THE Best Taco Spice

L.O.V.E. Organic’s All Organic Taco Spice

We were at the Christmas by the Sea outdoor Christmas Market in Lunenburg on King Street near Lincoln on a fairy tale like beautiful day in November. I kept saying, “When is Julia Roberts going to walk on set?” It was a spectacular day. The Lunenburg community was friendly and curious and we had a wonderful time introducing people to our organic line up of herbs, spices and our growing collection of L.O.V.E. Potions.

In the afternoon, as I was talking with a fairly large group of women, a man pushed up to the table and announced, “Your taco spice is the best I have had.” I stopped talking. Everyone stopped talking. I knew my Mom would tell me to be humble and downplay the accomplishment that was the blend’s development. Inside, I knew that this gentleman, who sounded like a shill, was a L.O.V.E. Organic enthusiastic, and his declaration was an opportunity to engage with him and the others within earshot. As the faces looked at me for a response, I waited, not Justin Trudeau 22 seconds waited, but a few moments for dramatic effect.

I summoned up my best casual “what, this old thing?” casual confidence and looked him in the eye and said,” Yeah, I know. It’s a kick ass product.” My Mom’s jaw would have dropped. A few of the women blinked…perhaps it was the language and not the bravado? Either way, they seemed to not mind, but definitely took note of the unapologetic acceptance and endorsement of his compliment. But seriously folks, if you are going to make something awesome, you have gotta own it. Creating and operating this business along with my fellow spice adventurer and husband, Chris, has provided me with the greatest opportunity to learn to accept compliments.

I had a discussion with the man that the others listened to carefully. He was from Halifax and was down for the day with his wife. He had tried our taco spice, likely from Pete’s Fine Foods, as I did not know him. It’s in his honour, that I title this article.

So, how did this cute kraft envelope come to contain THE BEST TACO SPICE? It started with a child who is highly allergic. As the parents of a child who can die from food, you become obsessed with reading labels. The grocery store varieties of taco spice use wheat flour as a binder, to help the spices cling to the meat. Our child won’t die from wheat, but it is one of many food sensitivities she has. Years ago, I began blending a rudimentary taco spice to avoid the wheat in the grocery store varieties. Once we found the all organic herbs and spices that we now use in L.O.V.E, I started to seriously tinker with our family taco spice recipe over several years. Here’s what’s awesome about our perfected blend:

ANCHO PEPPER Rather than paprika, we use this mild yet boldly flavoured pepper powder with about 2000 heat units as the base. Cayenne is about 35,000 heat units, so you can see it has some heat, but is in no way overpowering. As it has more flavour, you use less. Our 30g package will season 3 to 7 pounds of ground beef, depending on how much you want your food to talk to you. I like my food to kiss me with some enthusiasm, so I get about 3 pounds seasoned from 30g. By the way, that 25-35g package in the grocery store: it’s not organic and it seasons one pound of ground beef. Cue the trumpets: Our all organic taco spice is a BARGAIN.

REAL SALT (TM) Real Salt is a brand of natural salt that is rich in trace minerals. It’s expensive, but we believe it is an ingredient in line with the quality of our products.

ORGANIC TAPIOCA STARCH A binder helps the spices cling to the food. The grocery store varieties have lots of binder, in the form of inexpensive wheat flour, which is one of Canada’s ten official allergens. Our organic tapioca starch is gluten-free and comes from a low allergen mill in Quebec.

MEXICAN OREGANO I haven’t seen another taco spice with an herb, let alone this amazing cousin to Lemon Verbena. What? Lemon Verbena? Yes, Mexican Oregano is not an oregano, a mint family member. It is a relative to the strongest of the lemon herbs, Lemon Verbena. Don’t believe me, check out the leaves. The family resemblance is undeniable. The difference between the two is Mexican Oregano has a LIME tone, not lemon. That’s why it pairs perfectly with various peppers. L.O.V.E. is the only source for Mexican Oregano in Nova Scotia. At least, that is what we are told. Psst…and ours is organic.

So, who cares about Mexican Oregano, Ancho Pepper, Real Salt and tapioca starch? Only lovers of multi-layered flavour awesomeness that clings to your food and is a good value.

Who cares about organics? People who don’t want to ingest chemical pesticides and fertilizers.

So who L.O.V.E.s our all organic taco spice? The man in Lunenburg, the people for whom we make 100g bags, because “I use it on everything.” and people who want foods made without gluten. (Our facility is not gluten free, but our ingredients and equipment are.)

So, do yourself a flavour and try L.O.V.E. Organic’s L.O.V.E. Potion #1, Taco Spice. Try it on beef, chicken and fish tacos, fajitas, nachos, sprinkled on roasted vegetables and drum roll: Shepherd’s pie. Why do we eat blandly seasoned Shepherd’s pie? My newest obsession is home made hummus and I use our taco spice as one of many various seasonings for this healthy dip. Our homemade version is 100% Organic.

You can find our Taco Spice by contacting us directly, through Alderney Landing’s Farmers’ Market, Pete’s Fine Foods in Halifax and Bedford, the Grainery on Agricola Street in Halifax and True North Seafood (AC Covert) on Higney Avenue in Dartmouth. Yes, we can supply businesses such as caterers and restaurants, too.

Want THE best taco spice?

Just ask,”Where can I find L.O.V.E.?”

Our “Super Cute” Little Bags

It’s what’s inside that counts.

Does the package matter?

In a word; yes. We chose those envelopes (despite their cost) because they reflected the high quality of the organic product they would contain. There are other spice businesses that use little cellophane bags that are filled by a hopper measuring and filling the “tube” of plastic and making packages by crimping, sealing and cutting the then segmented tube of herbs into bags. The process makes me think of making taffy. By the way, every concept reminds me of food in some way. I like to think that is charming. People just tell me its effective. We all understand food. The little plastic tubes, flattened by the crimping process are cheap to package and designed for a mechanized process. We made a conscious decision to be low-tech in our processes, to do our work by hand, with care, so we could closely guard the quality of what we were packaging. We don’t dump a bag of herb into a hopper and walk away. We hand scoop and weigh our product on a certified commercial scale, usually while talking or watching Netflix.

So, why didn’t we just do what others do, put a nice label on a cellophane baggie of product and save about 15 to 20 cents per bag? Image was our original reason: quality outside means you can expect quality inside. The bags, we discovered, did a lot more than look good. Those “super cute” little bags protect the contents better than anything else we have tried. The bags are made of homey kraft paper that reminds me of the rolls of paper at my grandparents’ country store that were used to wrap packages.

My Grandparents’ Store … It was “Super Cute”, Too.

Our “super cute” (a customer called them that and I refuse to call them anything else) bags are lined with food grade plastic that ensures you don’t have to worry about chemicals leaching into your food. Yes, I would like to avoid plastic, but the natural, flavourful oils from the products need more than kraft paper to protect them. I have put English lavender in our bag and you can’t smell it. Put that same lavender in a zippered baggie and you will wonder where the air freshener is plugged in. True story. If you can smell the product, the freshness is NOT sealed in.

Why not bottles?

The presence of air is one of the conditions that causes botanicals to degrade. The problem with bottles is, as your herbs and spices are used up, you add damaging air to the container. Glass doesn’t flatten to allow you to squeeze out the excess air. We strongly recommend you purchase and store your herbs and spices in resealable plastic lined bags, like ours, and push out the excess air after each use.

Our new customers would often say, “I love your spices. I don’t know how old mine are, so I am going to throw them all out and start fresh with yours.” When one such conversation started, Chris jumped in with, “That’s what is great about our packages. They are small, so you buy JUST ENOUGH. You will buy more frequently, ensuring fresher product, and you don’t have to spend a fortune to set up a full spice cupboard.” When the new customer mentioned she had no idea how old her spices were, he added, “Our packages are made with paper, so you can write the date of purchase on the back of the envelope.”

Perfect.

That’s why we are in L.O.V.E. with our “super cute” little bags and we think you’ll love them, too.

This is the Pie that Georgie and Craig Built

I blame my love of Strawberry Rhubarb Pie on local chef Craig Flinn, but not in the way you would expect. My experience with rhubarb had been limited. My Dad would occasionally ask my Mom, Betty, to get some and make stewed rhubarb. Well, that concoction didn’t make any stirrings for more within me and rhubarb remained “meh” for me until 2005. By the way, that’s a long time.

So, what happened in 2005? Chris and I bought our current home, which is where Craig was living with his parents while he put his heart and soul into building Chives, his award winning Halifax restaurant. Craig had created an herb garden on the side of the house where he sourced some of his ingredients, (yes, there were chives) and in the following spring we discovered we had a few rhubarb plants. What to do? I remembered the stewed rhubarb and shook off that idea.

Think. Think. A far away memory of my Grandmother (no, not the one who was the baking queen of Country Harbour, the other one) who I never recall baking except for this one time when we were visiting her in her new “senior’s apartment”. She was tickled pink as she showed us the latest quilt she was working on and cut us a slice of strawberry rhubarb pie she had made for us to enjoy during our visit. That was a “where have you been all my life moment”.

I went hunting for a recipe and found one that looked promising. I changed it up in several ways over the years. If it isn’t obvious, I like to tinker. One time, after I had first purchased the Organic Spearmint which we now offer through L.O.V.E., I was thinking about what I might be able to add to the pie. I had been using spearmint in my strawberry smoothies and the light bulb went off. It took awhile to get the amount of spearmint right (caution…mine is pretty minty).

So, is it good? Well, let’s say the ONE thing my adult children agree on is that my Strawberry Rhubarb Pie is their favourite pie. Don’t take my word though, try it yourself.

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Golden Milk

Golden milk is a warm mixture of turmeric and other health supporting, warming spices along with coconut or nut milk. Turmeric contains curcumin which is known for its anti-inflammatory effects and antioxidant properties.

Turmeric contains:

Phytochemicals: beta-carotene and curcumin among others

Nutrients: Calcium, iron, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, vitamins B1, B2, B3 and C.

Here is our recipe for a nurturing golden milk. We recommend it as a healthy switch up of warm milk for bedtime.

L.o.v.e. Organic’s Golden Milk Recipe

What’s to L.O.V.E. today?

Today we are thankful for the enthusiastic supporters of our organic herbs and spices. Our first two weeks selling at the Alderney Market have been rewarding.  We have met wonderful people in the form of other vendors and curious and supportive market customers.

The top sellers are turmeric, bird’s eye chili powder and oregano. This is a far cry from the basil, rosemary and thyme we envisioned as the most popular products.

We also envisioned having to explain what ceremonial sage is used for. It has been rewarding to see how many people are familiar with it and delighted to find L.O.V.E. carrying it.

Next Blog post….a recipe for Golden Milk using turmeric.