It’s the final countdown

It’s not just the end of the month, it’s the end of 2013!  So to finish off this month’s project I rounded up the remaining spices: curry powder, rosemary, sage, basil, lemon & pepper, garlic powder and onion powder.  There is also Japanese 7 spice, turmeric and dashi (not pictured).final spices

I couldn’t find any recipes that used all these spices at once (that would be one crazy recipe!),  I did however find ways to use them all 🙂

Garlic powder and Onion powder

These two have always thrown me for a loop.  I mean why would I use powdered garlic or onions when the real thing is so easy and delicious.  Turns out the powdered forms are great in seasoning mixes, sauces and rubs.  They also add a little sweetness to mix.  I don’t think they would ever replace the real thing, but they do add their own special flavour.

TACO SEASONING – It’s a great way to flavor any ground meat or ground round.

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Ingredients:

1 tablespoon chili powder

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon onion powder

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

Directions:

Mix all the spices together and store in an airtight container.

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Turmeric

When I got to turmeric I already knew what to make, the recipe I bought turmeric for in the first place… Turmeric Tofu Scramble.  This recipe is based on a breakfast at the Chicago Diner I had many moons ago.  I love the color and flavour of this spice.  Turmeric also has so many touted health benefits I’m surprised it isn’t added to every meal.  There are claims it helps with Alzheimer’s disease, Cancer and Arthritis.scramble

Ingredients:

2 14-ounce blocks extra-firm tofu

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2-3 cloves garlic, minced

1 small onion, chopped

1 small green bell pepper, chopped

1 small red bell pepper, chopped

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1 1/2 teaspoons ground turmeric

1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed, drained

1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro

Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper

Directions:

Squeeze the extra liquid from the block of tofu.  Break the tofu into a large bowl and use a fork to mash it to pieces.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add onion, garlic and peppers.  Stir frequently until the peppers are soft and the onion is translucent.  Add the cumin.

Add the tofu and the turmeric, salt and pepper.  Keep stirring and add in the beans.  Cook until fully heated then stir in cilantro.

You can easily add other options to the scramble like salsa, avocado, grated cheese, hot sauce or anything you can think of.  Serve alone or on warmed tortillas.

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Japanese 7 Spice and Lemon & Pepper

These spices are Dan’s standard spices.  We have a standard meal that we love to make all the time.  It’s simple it makes a lot and we can make it all over the world.  It actually so simple I feel silly writing out a recipe… but here goes 🙂

Baked chicken with lots o’ spice!

Ingredients:

1 package chicken thighs

Japanese 7 spice or lemon & pepper spice

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375.

Grease a baking dish with a bit of oil and place the chicken thighs in it.  Cover the thighs with a generous amount of either spice.  Bake for 45 minutes.

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Rosemary

After surveying lots of recipes, I’ve learned one thing… rosemary is for potatoes.  I looked to one of my favourite food blogs, “Oh She Glows”, for help with a good rosemary potato recipe and it did not disappoint.

 roasted-brussels-sprouts-and-fingerling-potatoes-with-rosemary-6793-3

Ingredients:

1 lb fingerling potatoes

1/2 lb brussels sprouts

3 garlic cloves, minced

2 tbsp fresh minced rosemary or 1 teaspoon dried rosemary

extra virgin olive oil

3/4 tsp fine grain sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

 

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Rinse and scrub potatoes. Pat dry. Slice in half lengthwise and place into large mixing bowl.

3. Cut off stem of brussels sprouts and remove loose outer leaves. Rinse and pat dry. Place in bowl.

4. Add the minced garlic, minced rosemary, oil, salt, pepper, and optional red pepper flakes into the bowl along with the potatoes and sprouts. Toss with your hands to combine and place on baking sheet.

5. Roast for 35-38 minutes at 400F, stirring once half way through baking. Potatoes will be golden and brussels will be lightly charred when ready. Season with Herbamare (or salt) and pepper to taste and serve immediately.

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Sage

I don’t think I have ever used sage before, and I had a hard time finding recipes that I was interested in making.  Even though this recipe was tasty, I think this spice just isn’t my favourite.

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 (15 ounce) can white beans, drained

and rinsed

1/2 teaspoon ground sage

1/4 teaspoon ground thyme

1/8 teaspoon cracked black pepper

1/8 teaspoon salt

Directions:

1. Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in beans, and toss to coat. Season with sage, thyme, pepper, and salt. Cook 5 minutes, or until beans are slightly crisp.

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Dried Basil

Fresh basil is one of my favourite herbs in the world.  When I grew it in the summer, I just wanted to add it to everything.  I like dried basil, but it definitely isn’t a substitute for fresh basil in most situations.  However it is delicious in spaghetti sauce 🙂spaghetti+with+meat+sauce11

Ingredients:

  • 1  lbs ground beef
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon salt ( or to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • ground pepper
  • 1 (6 ounce) cans tomato paste
  • 2 (16 ounce) cans tomato sauce
  • 1 (28 ounce) cans diced tomatoes
  • parmesan cheese, freshly grated (optional)

Directions:

  1. Brown the ground beef and set aside, reserve some of the grease for the net step.
  2. In the pan you used to brown the beef, saute the onion, garlic and green pepper with bay leaves, oregano, basil,  salt and pepper.
  3. Add tomato paste, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes and sugar.
  4. Stir well and bring to a simmer over medium heat.
  5. Cover and simmer for 1 1/2 hours.
  6. Use sauce to top your cooked spaghetti, top with fresh parmesan if you like.

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Dashi

This one was easy, more miso soup!

Dashi is a powdered fish or seaweed stock that adds a depth of flavour to miso soup.

miso-soup

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Curry Powder

Before I went to India I used this powder to make a veggie curry.  At the time it seemed pretty easy and tasty… that was before I had curry in India.  Honestly even a trip to an Indian restaurant would have probably taught me that my curry was out of date.  I guess I have this curry powder to thank for the main lesson I learned this month…

Spices expire!   I’ve never really thought about spices having a shelf life.  Which sounds silly, but it also probably part of the reason fresh herbs always taste so much better than my dried spices.  I think a lot of my spices are dried out.  So here are a few spice rules to follow:

 

1.)  Stale spices won’t have the flavour they should… no matter how much you add.  Spices are pods of complex oils that start to lose their potency as soon as they are ground.  Toss spices you haven’t used in years.

2.) Quaility matters.  Buy spices you really love from spice stores, bulk foods stores or online spice stores.  Grocery stores don’t tend to have a fast enough turn over of spices to ensure freshness.

2.) Organize your spices, if you can’t see you spices easily they are probably not going to get used.  Also to make them last a little longer keep your spices away from heat and light.

3.) Whole spices stay fresh longer,and the taste of freshly grinding your spices will blow your mind.  You can use a cheap coffee grinder to grind the spices easily.  I haven’t gotten to this level of spice savvy, but I’m on my way!

5599254-whole-variety-of-colorful-spices-assortment-of-cuisine-ingredients-in-ceramic-containers

 

Happy New Year Everyone!  To a life full of spice 🙂

 

 

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Bread winner

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Baking bread doesn’t require any spices, but I mentioned homemade bread in my last post and I just wanted to elaborate!  I have failed way too many times while trying to make bread.  Usually it results in a dense and under-cooked loaf… that we end up eating anyway.  But recently I tried a new technique that made baking bread as easy as running to the store to buy more.

Here is the post that I followed from Jezebel’s site.  It’s super descriptive and full of helpful pictures.  It basically is the same method outlined in the book, “Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day”.

088

You simply add the ingredients together (flour, water, yeast and salt), then let it hang out in the fridge until you want to bake some bread.  When that time comes you are at T-30 from fresh tasty bread.  The flavour gets more tangy and delicious the longer it’s in the fridge.  The hardest part about the whole process was finding a container large enough to store the dough in the fridge.

Here was my first loaf, with my favourite helper!  Now I just need to find mitts in his size 🙂

breadfox

bread

I bet in the future this will be an great way to use a couple extra spices!

One soup to rule them all

I know I have posted a lot of soups, but I did mention my fondness for soup 🙂  This lentil based soup is one of my favourites because it is so easy to throw together, it’s healthy and also satisfies my need for a savory broth soup.  I make this soup several times a month and never get bored with it!

This soup also makes me think of Christmas, so it seems like good timing.  Solely for the vibrant red and green colors in the soup though, don’t worry it doesn’t have a pine flavour 🙂

Veggie Lentil soup

lentil1

Ingredients

Brown lentils (one large can cooked or 1 – 1.5 cups dry lentils)

1 yellow onion, diced

1 carrot, diced

1 red bell pepper, cored and diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

diced tomatoes ( 1 can or 3 raw)

6 cups veggie or chicken broth

3 cups baby spinach leaves

2 tsp ground cumin*

1 tsp paprika

salt and pepper to taste

olive oil

* I really like spiced foods and the flavour of cumin.  If you aren’t sure of your love for cumin yet, start with 1 tsp of cumin and add more as you taste the broth.

Directions:

1.) Saute the onions and garlic in about 2 Tbsp of olive oil over medium heat until the onions get soft and translucent (usually 5 mins)

2.) Add carrots, bell pepper and tomatoes, then cook for about 3 minutes, then add the spices (cumin, paprika, salt and pepper) and stir to coat them.  Cook 2-3 minutes more.

3.) Add the broth and the lentils and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and let the soup simmer.  If you used canned lentils you only need to let it simmer for 5-8 minutes or until you are ready to serve the soup.  If you used dry lentils it will be 20-30 minutes.  Check for the lentils to be tender before moving on.

4.) When the lentils are cooked through and you are ready to serve the soup, add in the spinach.  Stir until it is wilted, which should be about 2 mins.  Taste the broth and add more salt/ pepper… or cumin if necessary.

5.) Serve and enjoy the delicious soup!  It is also tasty topped with parmesan and served with fresh homemade bread 🙂

 

So I can now knock off my list: cumin and paprika

spices cumin

I am not sure if my paprika is too old or what, but I am not sure what flavor it is really adding.  The cumin however, that you can taste!

Cumin is one of my favourite spices, but it isn’t for everyone and can be quite pungent to some.  Cumin is actual related to carrots and parsley. It is a major ingredient in chili powders, curry powders and taco seasonings and commonly found in Middle Eastern, Asian, Mediterranean, Northern African, Indian, and Mexican cuisine.  Here are some health benefits of cumin:

Aids in digestion

Aids liver function

contains the essential mineral magnesium

An excellent source of iron

Helps with insomnia

Can help control Diabetes

cumin-and-coriander

For other recipes using cumin check out these recipes from Real Simple.

Hopefully you can find a way to add a little cumin into your life and onto your plate!

Slow cooker chicken soup

6a00d8358081ff69e2019b0056c793970b-800wi(picture from www.abeautifulmess.com a really cool blog that’s filled with tasty recipe ideas and so much more!)

I love soup.

I’m pretty sure I could eat soups for every meal and not get tired of it, especially during winter.  There is something about a hearty soup in the winter that warms you up better than anything else, while simultaneously filling the house with a delicious aroma.  In fact I think the only thing better than homemade soup is homemade soup that cooks itself.  That notion was my inspiration for a slow cooker chicken soup.  If you’ve never used a slow cooker before, you’re missing out!  These babies are like having a 1950’s housewife doing all your cooking while you are busy with far more important tasks like playing video games, watching movies, or maybe even working.

Another thing about slower cooker meals… it seems like you can just throw anything into this machine and it turns out brilliantly!  Now that’s probably not exactly true, but this is the first time I threw caution to the wind and made up my own recipe!  That usually freaks me out way to much, but I have so much trust in my slow cooker and in soup in general I decided to give it a try.

So here’s MY recipe for slow cooker chicken soup!!  Warning: I like hearty soups with lots of veggies and lots of flavour!

INGREDIENTS

8 cups water or chicken stock or broth

2 carrots, sliced

2 ribs of celery, sliced

1 yellow onion, chopped

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 cup wild or brown rice

2 bay leaves

1 teaspoon dried thyme

salt and pepper to taste (I used about a teaspoon of each)

2 lb. of chicken*

chopped fresh parsley (optional, I had some on hand so I used it)

*I used chicken thighs, but you can use breasts or even a whole roasting chicken if you don’t mind deboning it at the end.

DIRECTIONS:

1.) In a large slow cooker (mine is 6 quarts) combine the carrots, celery, onions, garlic, spices and rice.

2.) Pour the broth over the mixture.

3.) Lay the chicken on top

4.) Put the cover on the slow cooker and cook on low for 7 hours or on high for 5.  I put it on high and it was easily done in 5 hours… but be sure to check your chicken if you are in a rush!  If you are using a whole roasting chicken you will need to take it out and debone it and place the meat back into the soup.  The meat will literally fall off the bone so it isn’t that hard, and using a whole chicken does add to the flavour!

5.) SERVE AND ENJOY YOUR SOUP!  Add more salt, pepper or thyme if needed and finish each serving with a sprinkle of fresh chopped parsley (optional).

I didn’t even have time to take a picture of the finished soup because we ate it so fast!  This is a picture of the soup before cooking, it still look delicious to me:)

chx soup

This recipe didn’t use a lot of spices, but it sure hit the spot.  I had a little helper this time too:

foxy

So now I can knock bay leaves and thyme off my list, only 12 spices to go!

What do you do with Cardamom?

Cardamom Ground cardamomo molido

I have not one, but two containers of this little used spice.  The only thing that ever comes to mind when I think of cardamom is Swedish cardamom bread.  I used to smell that delicious bread baking from a mile away in Andersonville, the Swedish neighborhood of Chicago.  However I didn’t really want to make that, and I did have three overripe bananas on hand, so the brainstorming began!  My first thought was to just add cardamom to my regular banana bread recipe, but as I got to looking into cardamom I learned that it is one of the key ingredients in Chai tea.  So from a bunch of different chai recipes I extrapolated this grouping of spices to add to my banana bread:

cardamom

cinnamon

ginger

allspice

vanilla

What you don’t have allspice?!?!?  It’s ok, I didn’t either.  Luckily you can make your own, just mix equal parts of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves 🙂

allspice

So I took my favorite banana bread recipe that I my Dad used to make and added those spices and voilà, Chai Banana Bread was born!  I have to say it was quite tasty, in fact in might become the new default banana bread in our house.

Chai Banana Bread

banana bread

ingredients (it looks long, but it’s mainly just spices):

2 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cardamom

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon allspice

1 teaspoon vanilla

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup butter

1 egg (optional*)

2-3 mashed overripe bananas

3 tablespoons milk

In a large mixing bowl combine dry ingredients.  In another bowl combine the butter and sugar.  Add the egg (if using*) and the mashed bananas and continue to mix together until they are a smooth consistency.  Fold the wet ingredients into the dry mix in three parts, adding a tablespoon of the milk each time.  Every time I get impatient and dump it all in at once, it’s much harder to mix and I usually make a floury mess.  Save yourself the time and just add the wet mix in three parts!

Bake in a greased loaf pan at 350 for about an hour.  I usually take it out after 45-50 minutes because I like it slightly undercooked!

SO that’s vanilla, ginger, cinnamon (again!), cardamom, cloves and nutmeg all off the list!!  I think I’ll have to cook up something savory next!

all the spices

* I say it’s optional because I never use it and it always turns out great in my opinion.  But it was in my Dad’s original recipe so I figured I better include it 🙂  Here’s the original recipe from a cookbook my Dad made me when I first moved out so I could always have, “a taste of the little grey house”.

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All the spices

I just realized I never made a very good initial post about which spices I am trying to use, so here they are:

spices-market

Ha!  I wish my spices looked like that.  Here’s what my spice shelf actually looks like:

spice rack

In fact it was so hard to locate which spices I had without taking them all out, I made a list of the spices we had and posted it on the cabinet door.  spice list

I was about to update it when the inspiration for this month’s project took hold.  SO here is the updated list of spices I am hoping to use in the coming weeks:

basil leaves

bay leaves

cardamom

cayenne pepper ✓

cinnamon ✓

cloves

cumin

curry powder

dashi

dill weed

garlic powder

ginger

japanese 7 spice

lemon pepper

nutmeg

onion powder

paprika

pepper  ✓

pumpkin pie spice  ✓

rosemary leaves

sage

salt  ✓

thyme

turmeric

vanilla extract  ✓

6 down, 19 to go!

Cayenne – the super spice

I was still feeling blue I missed out on Thanksgiving so I made this soup as a compromise between the dinner my eyes want and the dinner my body can handle.  squash soup

Even though it only just barely uses any new spices… it was definitely worth it!  I had already decided I wanted to make some sort of sweet potato or squash soup and was searching through recipes until I finally decided on this one from Kris Carr’s cook book, “Crazy Sexy Kitchen”.

kriscarrbookpumpkin soup

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Pumpkin Bisque

2 cups pumpkin, butternut squash or sweet potato
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 cup white onions, diced
3 1/2 cups vegetable stock
5 cloves roasted garlic
1/4 cup sherry wine
1 1/2 tablespoons maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Cracked black pepper, to taste
Toasted pumpkin seeds for garnish (optional)
Pumpkin seed oil for garnish (optional)

1. Steam or boil the pumpkin or squash until tender.

2. Sauté onions over medium heat in olive oil until translucent.

3. Using a high-speed blender, combine pumpkin, onions, stock, garlic, wine, maple syrup and spices and blend until smooth.

4. Warm soup in saucepan. Serve hot, garnished with pumpkin seeds and a drizzle of pumpkin seed oil, if desired.

Yield: 4 servings.

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I did do a few things differently out of laziness/ comfort more than anything else.  I used a combonation of squash and sweet potato because that’s what I had, I omitted the pumpkin seeds and pumpkin oil, I cooked the onions in some of the sherry and I roasted the squash instead of boiling it.  It was delicious, but I bet it would have been great her way too.  I really like most of her recipes, however I found the ones from her first book, “Crazy Sexy Diet” much easier to make.

Also roasted garlic is amazing!

So now I can cross cayenne pepper and black pepper off my list!  Speaking of which cayenne pepper seems to be something I should be adding to more things, this spice is full of health benefits!

cayenne-pepper-592x444

benefits-cayenne

 

Here are some more ways to enjoy this great spice:

  • Cayenne is sure to heat up any sauté, sauce or soup.
  • Add a pinch of extra spice to any of your meals.
  • Give your hot cocoa a traditional Mexican flair by adding a tiny bit of cayenne pepper.
  • Canned beans take on a whole new dimension when cayenne is added to them.
  • Cayenne and lemon juice make great complements to cooked bitter greens such as collards, kale and mustard greens.

 

SO go forth and add a pinch of cayenne – just remember a little goes a long way!