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!

 

Simmering Spices

One of the fastest ways to make your home feel inviting to guests is to put a pot of simmering spices on the stove top.  I often like to slice fresh fruit and add different spices depending on the time of year.

For Fall and Winter months, I especially like the scents of cinnamon, cloves, and star anise.  There are just an wealth of combinations that can be used in a simple pot on the stove.  I usually start with water, apple cider or apple juice, and then just make the mixture depending on my mood.

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Assemble the ingredients on a plate and make sure the scents coordinate.  Some people prefer stronger scents while others like a more subtle fragrance.  Remember you can control the amount of both by turning up the flame on the stove or decreasing the heat.

None of these spice mixtures will be as strong as any store-bought heavily processed mixture.  I think that is why I especially like making my own.

Here are some suggestions where you can become the creator of your own home fragrance.  Simply make a selection of some of the following:

pine cones, pine needle branches, herbal tea bags, bay leaves, rosemary, pumpkin pie spice, cranberries, crystallized ginger, fresh ginger root, whole nutmegs, vanilla beans, slices of apples, oranges, pears, limes, pomegranate seeds, almond-orange-or lemon extracts. Also, the peels of any of the fruit can be used instead of slices of the fruit for this mixture.

I have a simmering pot today which really adds to the cozy feel in my home on a cold winter afternoon.

 

shopping for spices

On a recent trip to Grand Rapids Michigan, we stopped at one of my favorite places to purchase spices.  I first found this store in Philadelphia over one year ago, and then saw another sister store in West Hartford, Connecticut last year.

At that point, I realized that Penzeys Spices was a family of stores located throughout the country. Located in 28 states, Penzeys is known for an incredible selection of herbs, spices and seasonings, including everything from soup bases to pepper blends.

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The Grand Rapids shop is 2 1/2 hours away, so when I travel, I often look to see if one of their stores is nearby during my trip.  In Michigan, we also have a shop in Beverly Hills, which I have not yet visited.

In the past year, I have especially enjoyed their bonne herbs and fine herbs blends. Penzeys offers a nice selection of spices for baking, with cute store displays and recipes within their catalogs.

I have also enjoyed a variety of their other spices, and have ordered through their catalogs by mail.  They often offer free samples and free shipping with mail orders.

Here is their website link:  https://www.penzeys.com/

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shopping in Holland MI

handmade wooden shoes

 

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As a gardening and cooking enthusiast, I search to find the best stores for cooks and gardeners.  I love to find unusual gourmet foods from other countries, as well as gardening tools and historic seeds.  On my recent trip to western Michigan, I found some great boutique shops in downtown Holland Michigan.  Michigan is filled with small towns and darling shops.  I love to browse these stores to see products I am not able to buy in my local markets. This was my first trip to western Michigan since we moved back to the State.

Since Holland is well-known for Dutch history and authentic customs, such as wooden shoe dancing, the shopping is very unique.  Some shops have authentic food products from the Netherlands, along with wooden shoes and other Dutch items. The downtown area is beautiful. The stores have been renovated, and the merchandise is amazing.  Some of the shops seem geared to summer Lake visitors with nautical merchandise.   A very large cooking and home store is located downtown, Teermans, which I could have shopped for several hours. A hometown candy store  was totally fantastic.  Other shops included The Seasoned Home filled with spices, loose leaf teas, gourmet foods, kitchen accessories and home decor.

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In another part of the city, was the wooden shoe factory with the only blue and white delftware made in the United States.  Here visitors watch how wooden shoes are made on machines imported from the Netherlands.  And, artists paint the delftware while visitors watch.  The store is filled with merchandise not found other places in the United States.  Many of the patterns are garden themed.

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This was so much fun.  And, of course Lake Michigan is less than thirty minutes away.

 

 

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homemade herb salt

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 every trip to the grocery store encourages me to try to make my own seasoning mixtures.  with the rising costs of simple blends, it has become more cost efficient to make my own homemade herb salts.  i have a simple recipe that i made with my new epare multi spice mill.  i was provided a sample of the mill to test and review for the blog.  the epare grinder works similar to a meat grinder, using a long ceramic spiral which pushes the spices and seasonings against a steel blade, and through the holes at the bottom of the grinder.  the mill grinds to perfection every time.

the stainless design is quite attractive and could be even used tableside for finishing chicken, roasted potatoes or even pizza. the options are endless, as whatever spice blend is favored, just add and grind away.

the design of this grinder is very well thought out, as the grinding takes place in the upside down position, allowing for the glass jar to remain upright when not in use.  this prevents spice dust from dropping onto the table or countertop.  to make the herb salt:  select coarse Kosher salt, rosemary and thyme.  i simply added small amounts of each seasoning to the mill. the grinder does the work of incorporating for the cooking process.  the larger granules of the salt help to break down the herbs when ground in the mill.

another seasoning salt that i have recently tried would be to use ground coffee beans, with the addition of paprika and sea salt.  this blend is tasty on burgers or steak.

Image i keep the grinder ready to go with the seasoning stored in the glass jar.  since the mill is only five inches tall, it fits conveniently in my spice cabinet just waiting for the next opportunity to be used.

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for more information on the epare multi spice mill, please follow this link:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00FGD84LI/ref=pd_lpo_sbs_dp_ss_2?pf_rd_p=1535523722&pf_rd_s=lpo-top-stripe-1&pf_rd_t=201&pf_rd_i=B00FGE2T72&pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_r=0QJFSJMC3D97GQBVN6JJ

herbs and my new muddler

Disclosure: I got this product as part of an advertorial.

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for years i have been using a mortar and pestle for crushing fresh herbs to use in many recipes. the word pestare comes from the Italian language and means to pound or to crush.  maybe you are familiar with pesto, which is a sauce made from crushed garlic and basil.  herbs have been used for hundreds of years during the cooking process, and the aroma that is brought out from the crushing technique makes every dish even better.

fresh herbs are spectacular in homemade breads, dips, pancakes, spaghetti sauces and many main dishes. the crushing technique works well, but the smooth surface of the traditional tool used to break down the herbs takes some effort.  i recently had a chance to try this newly designed muddler. it has a nylon tip that seems to require much less effort to break down the ingredients.

the tip is also designed with a bumpy surface, almost like teeth, to help release the oils of the herbs being crushed.

with the super bowl coming up this weekend, many people bring out their muddlers to help prepare their favorite cocktails. the ergonomic handle of this muddler is very efficient to use in tall glasses.  everyone knows that the first step to a fabulous mojito is breaking down the fresh mint leaves in the bottom of the glasses.  the nylon design of the tip protects glassware from being scratched during this process.

and, with mardi gras right around the corner, this newly designed muddler should be on everyone’s bar cart.
I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

beau monde dip

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do you remember the spice islands seasoning called beau monde?  this is a true classic recipe that has been around for more than 40 years.  i believe this is one of the very first appetizer recipes i made in the seventies.  and, this dip is not only classic but delicious.

beau monde seasoning is a gourmet blend made by spice islands and includes onion and celery seed. the blend of ingredients make this dip very tasty. beau monde seasoning can be used to flavor everything from meat to vegetables.  spice islands has a terrific website with hundreds of ideas and recipes.  to search for more, follow this link:

http://www.spiceislands.com/Recipes/

to make the dip:  mix 2/3 cup light mayonnaise, with 2/3 cup light sour cream, add about 1 tablespoon chopped green onion, 1 tablespoon dried parsley, 1/2 teaspoon beau monde seasoning, and 1/2 teaspoon dill weed in a small bowl.  

combine well and chill before serving with chips, crackers or vegetables.  this can be your next “go-to” dip for parties.

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