Spices, seasonings, and more

The anticipation of growing my summer herb garden is starting to build for me this month.  I attended a gardening seminar a couple of weeks ago, and ever since the excitement of what I will be growing this year in my edible garden has stayed with me.  I always have my regular list of perennial herbs that I nurture every year, but add in a few other edibles, including vegetables, garlic, green onions, and a few tomato plants.

However, during the winter months, I have to rely on my kitchen cabinet of spices, seasonings and more.  I have finally admitted to myself that I must have an addiction, as I really love to try a variety of seasonings when I prepare our meals. I love my collection and have several favorites that I have acquired over the years.

My kitchen has three cabinets devoted to spices, seasonings, and flavorings.  My rolling rack contains a variety of salts, spices that are not used most days, and some baking decors.

My upper cabinet near my stove contains the spices I use most often for seasoning our meals.  Here I have a collection of salts, peppers, herbs, herbal blends, a variety of special blends, and some of my favorite mixes from Pensey spices.

I have found that using turntables in this cabinet has helped with the organization a great deal, as well as some boxes of spices organized by use which easily pull out to be accessed quickly.  I don’t buy my spices in large quantities, as I prefer to have fresh available all the time and would not use enough to justify large bottles of any particular seasoning.

I have a third cabinet for liquid flavorings and baking spices, along with more baking decorations.  Having an organized kitchen has helped me to be more efficient while preparing meals.  It has also helped me when planning to purchase ingredients for a new recipe, as I am able to easily check my current supply as I know where every one is located.

Springtime is a great time to get organized in the kitchen!

 

Cookbook review: The Forest Feast

One of my favorite gifts this past Christmas, The Forest Feast cookbook, is a vegetarian book filled with photographs and illustrations by the artist/author.  This is a very creative book and not a standard cookbook.  I love the character of the drawings and the colorful large photographs that cover the pages of this book. In 240 pages, the author covers appetizers, cocktails, salads, vegetable dishes, and sweets.

I look forward to making purple mashed potatoes, polenta portobellos, strawberry cucumber ribbon salad, butternut caprese, polka-dot focaccia, and even asparagus straws.  Each unique recipe is beautifully and simply presented.  There are only a few ingredients to each of these recipes, with mostly every recipe to be completed in just three steps.

This New York Times bestseller by Erin Gleeson is one to check out and enjoy.  I can’t wait.

Cookbook review: Big American Cookbook

For the past few weeks since Christmas, I have been reading and studying several new cookbooks that I received as gifts last year.  I was thrilled to receive Mario Batali’s latest book.  This tome contains 250 recipes from around the United States. In nearly 500 pages, this book catalogs basic recipes from throughout the country, including the Gulf Coast, the Pacific Coast and the Deep South.

Photographs in this book are full color for every recipe and full size covering the pages with brilliant photographic representation.  The food stories and presentation is nothing less than spectacular.  Each regional section of the book includes a nice summary of the history of the locals foods with highlights of the roadside treasures.

Not one of these recipes looks complicated.  Not one of these recipes looks pretentious. These are down to earth classics from regional home cooks that participated in state fairs and local neighborhood clubs.

Some of the most interesting recipes to me include: broiled rock shrimp cocktail, black and white cookies, pralines, and Trenton tomato pie. There are more than a dozen other recipes that I can’t wait to experience. The Bananas Foster recipe reminds me of the year we lived in New Orleans, Louisiana. And, we have so many wonderful food memories from living there.

If you enjoy down home cooking and like to sample foods from around the country, this is the perfect book for you.  Not too many ideas taken from any one region, and such a variety to put together a delicious meal for guests and family members. It would be fun to plan a “trip around the country pot luck meal” for a book club or other couples group using this book.  So many ideas!

Love my Le Creuset

Probably the best part of visiting a big city is the realization that entire stores are devoted to products that I love for cooking and food preparation.  The selection in these stores always impresses me, along with the ability to see everything in such a neat and spectacular display. On our recent trip to Chicago, I was once again amazed by the beautiful presentation of Le Creuset in a shop right next to Eataly.

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Within walking distance from our hotel, I loved my visit to this store and totally took my time looking at all of the products on display.  I have collected Le Creuset for more than 20 years and have a number of cast iron pots, ceramic bakeware, tools, trivets, enamel tea kettles, and other kitchen accessories that I use weekly in my home.  The long-lasting qualities of this brand and the enduring appeal to home cooks has kept me attracted for years.

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This shop was stunning with new products and the ability to really see and appreciate the qualities, colors and offerings from the company.  It was a real treat to spend some time in this store.  If in Chicago, don’t miss it.

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in love with my staub

So, I am not certain how this love affair happened.  But, over time I have collected an amazing grouping of wonderful pots that I use for cooking, roasting, and overall food preparation.

I guess it happened over a period of 25 years, and there is no way that I could replicate the array of lovely pieces I use and enjoy in my kitchen.  I say this because, I am in love with my kitchen tools.  All of them, everything that I have collected.  And, not just the pots, but the casseroles, baking dishes, serving dishes, bowls, platters, and all of my utensils.

So, why another pot?  Well, I did not have a Staub pot.  My Emile Henry and my Le Creuset pots were amazing, but this Staub pot combines technology with the classic enameled cast iron “one pot” cooking performance.  The pot gives every dish a non-stick environment within which to cook, but it provides a self-basting surround that enhances flavor and food satisfaction. I have read about these pots for years.

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Chefs from around the world use Staub.  And, this year, a collection of white pots were introduced.  That is when I fell in love.  A white pot for my white kitchen.  Yes please–with white enamel that glistens and has the look of a new shiny sports car.

And so the story goes, another new pot will be baptized soon and brought into the fold of the others.  To be used and admired, to be appreciated and praised, and to pass on to those who come after me.  Staub pots are made in France and for the generations. Love. Love. Love.

To be continued….

 

 

the library

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i love the library.  our local community library is just filled with wonderful books in the cooking and gardening sections.  even though i have a nice home library, i love to visit our town’s stacks.  this week i found all of these amazing books to read and study.  i am almost giddy with excitement as i look through them.

our public library is so dynamic, with ongoing changes in new books and materials.  they offer a sale twice a year to encourage movement of older less circulated materials off of their shelves, making room for new editions and authors.

i have never been disappointed on a library visit.  there is always something new to learn or experience. if you are not a regular library goer, give it a chance.  gone are those days of dreary dim shelves, and dusty books.  let’s keep our libraries alive.

food in New Orleans

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from the French Quarter shops to the French Market down in the Quarter, both offer a huge selection of packaged mixes, sauces, flavorings, spices, bread mixes, and just about anything else you can imagine.  everyone knows you go to New Orleans to eat.  and, even though we lived there for just under a year in the eighties, i would have to say the food and the restaurants are better than ever. most of the favorites are still going strong, and there are many new restaurants that invite with menus posted online.  so, if there is not enough time to sample the local food, there are plenty of choices to take along home in your suitcase.

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