Thursday, November 6, 2014

Make It From Scratch: Spice Blends

As a busy stay at home mom whose family members have food sensitivities (never mind a picky eater), I am cooking every meal, from scratch.  This can take up a lot of time, time that could be used doing other things like checking out Pinterest or Facebook, or even maybe a load of laundry.  The Hubby does like clean socks, for some reason....

A great time saver for me has been premixed spice blends that I can just add to that skillet of ground pork for breakfast sausage, or mix into a bowl of ground beef for meatballs.  Add in some quick cooking side dishes and cut up some fruit and the meal is on the table in 30 minutes.  Or brown up some taco meat, sprinkle in some taco seasoning, set out store bought salsa, some sliced avocado, leaf lettuce and you have lettuce wraps in only the time it takes to brown the meat.  Fast food, people!  The good kind!

Making your own spice blends is great not only for easy fast meals, but for controlling what kind of herbs and spices and salt go into your food.  Maybe you like taco meat, but want it spicy.  You can just add more chili powder to your taco meat spice blend.  You can mix up some ranch seasoning, and it will be dairy free for those of you who can't have dairy.  Maybe you are avoiding night shades; mixing up your own spice blends mean they will not have offending ingredients, you control what goes into them.

So the following recipes I would consider just a guideline for creating your own versions of the spice blends, tailor them to your preferences.

A note on salt:  I use Redmond Real Salt, because it is delicious and I can easily buy it in bulk at my local hippie market.  If you are using a kosher salt, you will need to adjust accordingly.  If you use Morton's Kosher Salt, you might need to add a teeny bit more.  If you are using Diamond Kosher salt, you may need to double the amount of salt you put in.  If in doubt, err on the lesser side.  You can always add more salt to your food later, but you can't take it out!

Redmond Real Salt...see the pinkish color from all the delicious minerals?

The spice drawer

Spices for taco seasoning

Let's make taco seasoning first.  You will need salt, chili powder, paprika or smoked paprika (my preference), ground cumin, granulated onion, granulated garlic, ground coriander, and dried oregano.  Basically all you need is a bowl and a tablespoon measuring spoon.  Add one tablespoon of each spice and salt to a bowl, like this:


And stir it up.  That's it!  Use about 2 tablespoons of this mixture in every pound of ground meat, or rub it into a pork shoulder to braise for carnitas.  So easy!

Taco seasoning

 Okay, next let's make Italian sausage seasoning.  Add one tablespoon of each of the following to a small bowl: salt, pepper, dried parsley, dried sage, ground fennel, granulated onion, granulated garlic.  Again, use about 2 tablespoons of this mixture for every pound of ground meat.  We like this one with pork or beef.

Spices for Italian sausage seasoning

Since we have all our spices and herbs out, let's make some ranch dressing mix.  Stir together one tablespoon of each of the following: granulated garlic, granulated onion, salt, pepper, dried dill, and dried parsley.  Add one or two tablespoons of this to some sour cream or yogurt for some ranch dip, or sprinkle some on some cut up red potatoes to roast in the oven, and you have ranch potatoes!

Ranch mix!

 Okay, one more.  Let's make a breakfast sausage blend.  Stir together one tablespoon each of salt, dried rosemary, dried thyme, and dried sage.  Add one tablespoon of this to 2 pounds of ground pork, along with 2 tablespoons of maple syrup.  Mix it up and form into patties, and cook them up in a saute pan for breakfast!  I have also just browned the sausage mix in the pan without making patties to save even more time; the kids still eat it.  It is their favorite breakfast meat, after bacon of course.

Breakfast sausage blend

So, there you have it.  A real time saver in the kitchen.   Just spend 10 minutes every few weeks to mix up some spice blends to use in your cooking, you will be very glad you did.  And you can easily make these blends your own.  And you can experiment with making your own blends, too.  Wouldn't that be fun for easy and inexpensive holiday gifts?  Your own signature spice blend!  Hmmm, actually that is a really good idea!  Noted!

Do you have any time saving tips in the kitchen like this?  I would love to hear from you!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

A long hiatus...and classroom food policy

Well people, I guess an apology is in order...sort of.  I haven't been blogging for MONTHS now, and I must say I do miss it a little bit. 

I am absolutely that person with a lot of unfinished projects, the ones that take longer than a day or two to complete....I am all about the quick projects, the immediate results sort of things.  Blogging is not one of it had to take the back burner for awhile.  Not just from my losing interest, (though that certainly played a small part) but because I don't do so well with being accountable for things that don't really matter that much.  Also, I had ankle surgery at the beginning of summer, and am even now still recovering.  And my oldest child started kindergarten this year.  Let's see, what other excuses can I give you...?  I'm sure I can think of a few more....

Well, I am writing to let you know that I haven't given up completely, and I am beginning work on some more content, recipe testing and taking photos, etc.  It will take a little time, but you can start checking back soon for more posts.  I'm not making any promises, but know that I am dipping my toes back into the blogging world, and we will see what happens.

So as long as I have your attention, I thought I would share how pleased I am with my daughter's class policy on food/snacks in the classroom.  Due to her allergies/sensitivities, she has a special daily snack that I provide for her, some GF, EF, DF (gluten free, egg free, dairy free) pretzels.  The teacher labels the bag with her name, and knows that those are for her.  He didn't even bat an eye at that one, and he was the first to say he would label the bag.  Living in a big city, especially Seattle, I'm sure this was not the first or even the second child who had dietary restrictions in one of his classes.  The classroom also has a birthday treat/party policy.  They prefer healthy treats for classroom birthday celebrations, like fruit.  Wow, gotta love that!  I totally think that kids get enough (too much?) sugar, they don't need 25 extra cupcakes a year from classroom birthday parties.  Now if only my kid would eat some kind of fruit besides strawberries...

That's all for now, thanks for hanging in there!