By DANA BORICK
Greg Patterson is owner and CSO - that's Chief Spices Officer - of SpicesInc.com, a small, family-run spice business in Bloomsburg.
The online retail business has a growing local Williamsport clientele, which includes supplying the Bullfrog Brewery and Sunflower Cafe & Bakery, both along West Fourth Street.
Patterson said the company's ultimate goal is to relocate to the Williamsport area because he said there's a huge food community here.
The small business began in 2008. Patterson and his wife had spent more than a decade in the catalog and food industries and were tired of moving.
"We couldn't find good spices locally, and since we're in Bloomsburg, we can ship super fast," Patterson said. He said the company focuses on the individual within the online community and not necessarily retail stores because there are other companies that do that.
"What separates us is that we give customers a ton of information about the spice, the history, what it pairs well with, along with recipes that we've created in our home," Patterson said. "Our photography is unlike anyone else's - if you look at the black peppercorns, you can actually see the wrinkles."
Patterson said many people have spices dying in their spice cabinet because they had a recipe that called for one specific ingredient - like smoked paprika - and then they didn't know other dishes that used it.
"Just about every spice on our site has three or four other ways to use it," Patterson said.
Patterson said he and his family have learned a lot about spices along the way, joking that they've well exceeded the 10,000 hours it takes to become an "expert" in something.
He said the company focuses on customer service and offers bonuses such as handwritten notes, free samples and coupons before the customer even gets to the product in the box.
With more than 350 spices, chiles and seasoning blends, Patterson is confident that the company has what budding cooks and seasoned chefs are looking for.
"Americans, in general, are afraid of spices. But they willing to try different things, such as seasoning blends," he said. "Spice blends are great as an introduction to spices."
Patterson said once people get comfortable with spices, they usually move on to getting the seeds to grind them into powder.
"The flavors are stronger," he said about fresh-ground spices. "If you're feeling really good about spices, then you'll dry roast your spices before you grind them, which intensifies the flavors more."
He said that a lot of people like to eat chicken but they get bored with it, so his company sells 15 to 20 different chicken spice blends.
"You can go an entire month without having the same chicken dish," he said. "Your tastebuds will come to life."
He said his company grinds spices in small batches each week to ensure that customers get high-quality, fresh spices.
"We have 42 spice sets as gifts, so we take the guesswork out of it," he said. "Kids know dad likes to cook on the grill, so we have a variety of grilling gift sets ... getting a food gift speaks well to the food lover in your family."
Patterson added that the food gift industry has been growing by leaps and bounds and with that, comes spices.
"You can use spices as a low-fat alternative to getting flavor without salt and sugar," he said.
His current favorite spice is Yucatan Recado Rojo Rub, which he uses on grilled chicken.
"It's not super spicy, but it's loaded with flavor," he said.
Another favorite spice is smoked paprika sweet: "My favorite dish is a vegetarian dish, vegetable jalfrezi."
The company also donates 1 percent of all sales to Feeding America.org. Patterson said that about a year and a half after the company began, they wanted to give back, in some way, to a food-related organization.
"The economy was tanking and we wanted to partner with someone national, because people face hunger issues all across the world," he said. "As the largest food bank in the country, Feeding America.org supplies local food banks, so we can help people from coast to coast."
Patterson said that each $1 raised by the company can provide eight meals. Through the end of September, SpicesInc.com had provided more than 21,000 meals.
"We're not looking to be the biggest, we just want to be part of a good, strong community," he said. "My whole family lives and breathes spices."
(Provided courtesy of SpicesInc.com)
Roughly translated, Jalfrezi means "stir fry."
Originally a way of preparing leftovers, this spicy vegetarian curry recipe packs a medium heat with chiles and has a rich, robust Indian spiced flavor.
Garbanzo beans, sweet potatoes and spinach leaves are added to round out the flavors in this dish.
Jafrezi also can be made with meat but this version is a great change of pace meal for those "meatless" night menus.
The great thing about this curry is the slightly sweet from the sweet potatoes.
You also can experiment with other combinations of vegetables just remember that larger, chunkier vegetables require longer cooking times, so you'll want to add these at the start, while smaller, delicate vegetables like spinach and peas only need minutes to cook.
This jalfrezi recipe is low in saturated fat, very low in cholesterol while being a good source of fiber, vitamin B and a very good source of vitamins A, C and K.
1 pound sweet potatoes or yams, peeled and cut into chunks
1/4 cup dried shallots
3 tablespoons roasted garlic flakes
2 teaspoons ginger powder
4fried japones chiles
1/4 cup dehydrated red bell pepper flakes
2 tablespoons dried cilantro
1teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon coriander seed powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1teaspoon smoked paprika (hot)
2 small plum
1 15-ounce can
garbanzo beans (also called chickpeas), low-sodium and with liquid
8 ounces curly spinach leaves, chopped (baby spinach wilts, the curly spinach holds up to this sauce)
Juice from one lime
Place potatoes in a large saucepan or dutch oven and cover with water.
Bring to a boil and simmer until the potatoes are fork tender, drain and set aside.
In the dutch oven heat oil to medium-high heat. Add shallots, garlic flakes, ginger, chiles and red bell pepper.
Cook, stirring frequently, until most of the moisture is gone and the mixtures begins to turn dark, about 10 minutes.
Add turmeric, coriander, cumin, paprika and cook, stirring constantly, about another minute.
Add tomatoes, garbanzo beans, spinach, potatoes, cilantro and 1/2 cup water.
When spinach begins to wilt add the lime juice, reduce heat and simmer about 5 minutes.
Serve with rice or naan Indian bread.
Nutritional information (per serving): Calories 386, protein 11g, carbohydrates 61g, cholesterol 0mg, fat 13g, saturated fat 1g, fiber 0g, sodium 407mg and sugar 12g.