Thursday, February 18, 2016

Spice it Up!


I have been planning to do this post for a while now.  If you are not using fresh herbs in your cooking, growing or making your own dried herbs you are really missing out.

Growing Herbs

I don't know about every herb, but I've discovered they are really easy to grow.  I grow basil, oregano and parsley in my garden.  There's nothing like going out to pick herbs from your garden and using them in your recipes not five minutes later.  From what I understand, basil is an annual but for some reason, last year, my basil popped up all over my garden from the year before.  Oregano is a perennial and if you give it room and lots of sun it will get bigger every year.

Drying Herbs


The easiest way to dry herbs is to string them up.   The fastest way is to use a dehydrator.  I was lucky enough to get this one as a gift from my in-laws.  It was around $20 and is pretty good for the cost.  It is cheaper to buy fresh herbs and dry them than to buy them dried...especially organic.  How many times have you purchased fresh parsley or cilantro for a recipe, only used a little bit and had to throw the rest away because it went bad.  I bought a bunch of fresh organic parsley for 79cents, used 1/4 cup for a recipe and dried the rest in my dehydrator and ended up with nearly a container's worth.  Another plus of making your own is that it is better quality and is more flavorful.  I don't know what they do to dried herbs when they process them but you can see just by this photo that the quality is better.


Processing Dried Herbs

Once your herbs are dried it's easiest to use a coffee grinder to grind them.  I keep a cheap coffee grinder around just for cooking and not for coffee beans.  You can also use it to make powdered sugar from regular sugar and to chop nuts and small batches of dried food.  You can also use a mortar and pestle which are super cute and are fun to keep out for decoration in your kitchen.

Making Herb Mixes 

The following recipes are meant to keep around and use multiple times.  Having them mixed up and ready to go is a real time saver when you are cooking.   They are much cheaper to make yourself than spending money on premade mixes, especially if you've made some of the dried spices yourself.





Pumpkin Pie Spice Mix




2 T. cinnamon
2 t. nutmeg
2 t. ginger
1 1/2 t. allspice

Use in recipes that call for pumpkin spice mix, sprinkle in your favorite coffee or cookies


Italian Sausage Spice Mix




2 t. salt
1 T freshly cracked black pepper
1 1/4 T. dried parsley
1 T. garlic powder
1 T. onion powder
1 T. dried basil
2 t. paprika
2 t. crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
3/4 t. ground fennel seed
1/2 t. brown sugar
1/2 t. dried oregano
1/2 t. dried thyme

Use this to flavor Meat (I use it on Boca ground crumbles)




Ranch Dressing/Dip Mix





2 T.  dried parsley
1 1/2 t. dried dill
2 t. garlic powder
2 t. onion powder
2 t. dried onion
1 t. black pepper
1 t. chives
1 t. salt

To make Ranch Dressing or Dip add 1/2 T. of this mix to 3/4 c. mayo (I use Vegenase or Just Mayo and 1 T. lemon juice or red wine vinegar.  Thin out with milk (I like almond) to the consistency you'd like depending on whether you're making salad dressing or dip.



Taco Seasoning





2 T. chili powder
3 t. ground cumin (cumin seed is also good but not as flavorful)
2 t. black pepper
2 t. salt
2 t. paprika
1/ 2 t. garlic powder
1/2 t. onion powder
1/2 t. red pepper flakes
1/2 t. dried oregano
1/2 t. dried cilantro

Use to taste to flavor meat (I use this on Boca ground crumbles)





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