Showing posts with label cooking. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cooking. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

10 Spices That Are So Easy to Grow & Great in Recipes

Whether you are a seasoned gardener or a beginner, there are so many spices that are so easy to grow!  Let's review some of these spices and maybe they might help trigger some creative cooking too!

spices, easy to grow, spice bible, tasty cooking, review, flavor bible

Gardening is about enjoying what you and the earth can produce.  Nothing tastes as good as fresh from the garden.  That's why many people decide to go out to the country on the weekends to stock up on fresh from the farm goodness.

Having a spice garden is relatively easy and when it really starts to grow, it can become bountiful.  What a tasty treat for all your home cooked meals.  Let's get on to the list of easy to grow and great to enjoy spices that are just a few steps away from the kitchen.


10 of the Most Used and useful spices:


1.  Parsley:  either curly or flat leafed.  Wonderful for dressing up salads, potatoes, stews, and more.

2.  Chives:  Great with stuffed baked potatoes, salads, soups and more.

3.  Peppers:  These can be hot (hotter than Hades) or sweet as in bell peppers.  Some can be used for a meal as a vegetable and others for spicing things up.  Be careful, some of the peppers that are being grown today are so hot, you need to handle them with rubber gloves.

4.  Basil:  There are several varieties of Basil, from large Green Leafed Basil, to Purple Basil and even small leafed basil.  One thing is certain, tomatoes with fresh basil is a little bit of heaven right here on earth.

5.  Dill:  Great for making home made pickles, but also added to salads it adds just a little bit of a different taste sensation.

6:  Cilantro:  This is one spice that you either love or dislike(dare I say "hate").  It depends totally on your own taste buds.  Some people when eating anything with cilantro will taste a "soapy" flavor.  They are sure not to like this spice.  But others find cilantro to be refreshing with a crisp clear taste!  Great in salads and stews, soups and even sandwiches.

7:  Mint:  There are all kinds of mints available and all of them are really easy to grow.  Some might even be considered invasive.  Mints can be used in cooking as well as making teas (hot or cold) to enjoy on a hot summer's day.

8:  Sage:  Pretty in green or purple sage has a very strong flavor that will pack a punch of flavor in your cooking.

9:  Oregano:  Easy to grow and will often overwinter.  A great spice for all Italian dishes from spaghettis to pizza.  Added to soups and stews it adds a lot of flavor with a tangy zesty taste.

10: Rosemary:  this spice is easy to grow and can be used not only for cooking but as a decorative plant.  It prunes really easy and can be used as small topiaries.  This spice is great for lamb and grilled or roasted vegetables.  Taken indoors for the winter months, it will continue to grow without any problems.

This is my list of 10 favorites, but there are so many more and each one will add a dimension to your cooking that you may not have realized yet.  Below you will find a "cookbook" to help you make the most of the spices you grow yourself and the ones that you need to purchase because they just need a climate that we don't have.  Either way, home grown spices will definitely make you think twice about the way you cook and the way you enjoy your meals with your family.


Guide to Using Spices


If you are looking for help in pairing spices to make your recipes pop and sizzle, then I would highly recommend this Cookbook!  I use the term "Cookbook" with a certain amount of caution, it is not so much a "cookbook" as a real guide to using spices in combinations that will make your food preparation and your family's taste buds sing.


With a rating of 4.5 stars from Amazon, and over 1,000 verified purchases (mine included), I know that you will enjoy this addition to your cookbook collection!  As with many books today, there is a "Kindle" edition.  Alas, the Kindle version does not get very good ratings at all. (This decline in ratings I'm sure dropped this from a 5 star to 4.5 star rating) With the Kindle book, there is not the same ability to skip to other pages easily and quickly.   Some books just need to be in a paper version!

This truly is a REFERENCE BOOK  that every kitchen should have.  You will use it more often than you ever thought possible.


Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Hobby Time from the Review This! Contributors




hob·by - an activity done regularly in one's leisure time for pleasure. 

January is known as National Hobby Month.   The contributing writers here on Review This! each have their favorite ways to enjoy a relaxing pursuit and have written many reviews of various how-to books, crafting supplies and DIY tutorials, gardening tips, recipes & kitchen aids for the cook, photography lessons, reading or listening to music, sports, and a host of other hobbies. 

These are but a few of the hobbies enjoyed by the Review This crew. The list of hobbies is almost endless.  If you are interested in looking for what we writers here have reviewed, type in the name of your 'hobby' either in the box in the top left-hand corner of any Review This page, or in the search box down the right-hand side. By looking at the author's name, you won't have any problem figuring out which HOBBY is each writers' favorite! For instance, mine  (Wednesday Elf) is crochet and my hobby is shared by several other contributors here, so we learn and share with each other. A more comprehensive list is shown below.


National Hobby Month




Begun by the Hobby Guild of America in 1955,  National Hobby Month was celebrated in April until 1976, then in October until 1986.  Since then, it has been celebrated during the month of January. 

January was most likely chosen for National Hobby Month as it is the beginning of a new year and a good time to start a new hobby.  Many people have never had hobbies during their working years or while raising a family and begin one in their retirement or after the children are grown.  Others try many hobbies throughout their life before finding one or two that gives them the most enjoyment. 


Hobby Examples on Review This!



Hobbies can be passive (such as crafting, reading, writing, listening to music or watching a movie) or an activity such as gardening, cooking or participating in sports. Many people have more than one hobby and often combine them, such as listening to music while crafting. 

In addition to writing reviews here on Review This!, most of the contributing writers here write for their own blogs and websites.  Writers consider writing to be more work than hobby, so time away from writing is important. That's where the activities done in our leisure time become such a pleasure. It is also interesting to note that the passion we feel for our hobbies is shown in many of the subjects we write about.


  • Barbara Tremblay Cipak (Brite-Ideas) is crazy about country music and frequently writes about the artists and their music she is so passionate about.  She is also loves to experiment with color in home décor. 
  • Dawn Rae does crochet and participates in a group of fellow jeep owners.  She also enjoys gardening and lately 'learning about homesteading'.
  • Cynthia Sylvestermouse is a freelance writer and photographer who loves all different kinds of crafts, including crafting in the kitchen, creating fancy cakes and cupcakes. 
  • Barbara (BarbRad) is an expert on books and loves to read.  She is also a nature photographer who most enjoys photographing her central California area. 
  • Mary Beth Granger (MBGphoto) is a fabulous photographer who continually takes photography classes to learn more.  Photography has become her passion in her retirement, along with traveling.  Lighthouses and beaches are her favorite subjects. 
  • Wednesday Elf loves crochet and needlework, watching baseball and reading. 
  • Beverly Owens is busy researching her Native American Indian heritage and loves to write about spirit animals and the wisdom of her ancestors. She also enjoys crocheting. 
  • Olivia Morris loves gardening and following the fashion world.
  • Brenda Little (Treasures By Brenda) collects coffee mugs and researches the history of vintage cups and other vintage items which she shares in her eBay store.  She also loves reading, great movies, cooking, and pop culture. 
  • Diana Wenzel (Renaissance Woman2010) enjoys an off-the-grid lifestyle where she pursues her interests in animal rescue, wonderful nature photography, and DIY projects. She also loves to read. 
  • Louanne Cox (Lou16) loves reading, 80s music, zombies and dolls, among a host of other interests. 
  • Heather Burns (Heather426) is an artist, illustrator and graphic designer. Her hobby is her artistic accomplishments, including the colored pencils she has created for coloring pages and coloring books. 
  • Coletta Teske is a published book author and loves to sew. 

These are just the highlights of hobbies and interests I have observed from the articles they publish and the interaction we have as a team here on the staff of Review This!.  I am sure there are other interests each of them have.  


Quick View Home Page



By clicking on the Quick View Home Page button at the top of any Review This! page, you will have weekly examples of many of the articles your hobbyists here enjoy (plus many non-hobby reviews).  

Stop by the comments section and tell us your favorite hobby or activity. The Review This! staff would love to hear about what gives you pleasure in your leisure time.

(c) Written by Wednesday Elf on 1/20/2018







Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Easily Increase Your Vegetable Intake with a Spiralizer

how to make zucchini noodles with a vegetable spiralizer
Image by Lou of Lou's Designs
If you're looking to increase your vegetable intake or reduce some of the heavy carbs like pasta from your diet then a spiralizer could be the answer.  Let me review why I think you'll adore having a vegetable spiralizer - I personally love mine, I don't know why I didn't get one sooner.

At the time of writing this I'm doing the Arbonne 30 Day Plan to Healthy Living and Beyond and basically that means that (for this month at least) I can't eat pasta, I can eat zucchini however ... enter zoodles! 

I have been meaning to try and made zoodles aka zucchini noodles for ages which is the whole reason I purchased my vegetable spiralizer.

Making the zucchini noodles was so easy and I'm now seeing lots of other recipes using other vegetables in place of pasta.  What a cool way of getting your child to eat more vegetables than to make their spaghetti bolognaise with zoodles?

So my vegetable spiralizer came with three different blades like the Paderno World Cuisine one below, but you can also get them with 7 blades, Amazon's best selling vegetable spiralizer comes with 7 blades and is the second one featured.




The actual one that I have doesn't seem to be available online which is why I've given you two alternatives.  Now I've only used the blade to made noodles so I'd just get the 3 blade one personally, but...

They were super easy to make you simply placed the zucchini (or vegetable of choice) on the spiky guard, making sure that the other end is in the middle of the round thing that is going to basically core your zucchini so that it looks like a very weird toadstool after the noodles are all made.

The next step is to simply turn the handle, however if that is all you do you won't get very long noodles, you'll just get little curls (they don't say that in the instructions).  What you need to do is as you're turning the handle you need to also be applying a gentle pressure inwards (towards the vegetable) then it will work beautifully.

It is super quick and I simply popped the zoodles into boiling water for a few minutes - basically treating them like fresh pasta noodles.  I've since been told of other ways of cooking them that involve almost sauteing them in coconut oil, but I haven't tried that (and probably won't).

how to make zucchini noodles so that your kids want to eat their vegetables
Image by Louanne Cox, Arbonne Independent Consultant

I would recommend starting with zucchini as it's quite a bland vegetable which makes it ideal to replace spaghetti.  I would also recommend a pinch of salt in the water when cooking it, I didn't do this the first time and it was much better when I did do it.

You can use sweet potato, carrot, parsnips and who knows what other vegetable, just use your imagination.

I will be trying out sweet potato next as I think that will go really well with a number of dishes I enjoy.

Have you ever tired zoodles or thought about making them?  If so then why wait, just do it as Nike would say!

Let me know in the comments if you've tried any other vegetables as I'd love to hear how they went.


Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Ghee Butter Reviewed

The Recipe Called For Ghee

Image of butter courtesy of pixabay.com
After Santa brought me my InstantPot pressure cooker, I noticed some of the recipes called for ghee butter. I will admit right here in front of all of you that I had no idea what that meant. So, of course I looked it up.

Turns out it is used often in Indian cuisine but has found a place with cooks around the world. The short answer would be that it is basically clarified butter to use in cooking. 

That was the simple explanation and really doesn't do ghee justice. To make this improvement (my opinion) on regular butter the butter is melted and simmered until all of the water evaporates and the milk solids fall to the bottom. In essence a butter oil is created in the process. 

Not only does this taste like butter (it is actually) but it supposed to be better for us. The bad fats have been removed and most folks who have a problem with lactose intolerance find that ghee doesn't bother them. What I like about it is that it doesn't burn like regular butter does when you are trying to saute items. The burn temperature is much higher with ghee. No smoking problem or burnt taste if you aren't careful. That is one reason it is recommended when making InstantPot recipes.

 It has a long shelf-life, too. Out of the refrigerator it should be good for two to three months and if kept in the fridge it should be good for about one year. As much as I have started cooking with it, I won't have to worry about it going bad. I'll use it up before it has a chance to expire!

Personally, I think the foods that I have used it in taste better. That might be my imagination but it is my opinion none the less. There has been no noticeable loss of taste to me or my husband and we love our butter!

I'm glad that I took the time to research what the recipes were calling for and then ordered it to try. It is now something that I will keep in my pantry from now on. How about you? Have you tried ghee? 



Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Mandoline Slicer Reviewed

Cutting Vegetables Made Easy

slicing with knife
Slicing onions image courtesy of Pixabay.com
Do you watch cooking shows? Have you ever wished that you could slice vegetables and other items quickly with a knife like they do? Shoot, I will admit that I can't even cut things evenly with a knife going slow let alone trying to speed it up. So, I have added a tool to my kitchen that will slice quickly without holding a knife in my hand to do it. I finally bought myself a mandoline slicer. 

Now, I won't have to worry about cutting myself with a knife and I can have thin slices or waffled (something I can't do with a knife!) veggies anytime I want them. I should also tell you that I have a history (not a pretty one!) with knives that would best be saved for another day. Let's just say, I have a healthy respect for a knife and fingers!

What I love about the Mueller Slicer is its versatility. I have five blades to choose from and the adjustable stand is awesome! There are two different styles of shredding blades which is something that a lot of the other mandolines don't offer. One gives a thicker cut that is good when I want things to be cubed. I can take the vegetable of choice and run it across the shredder and then cut those into cubes. The finer shredder blade works well for when I want carrots in a julienne style or shredded potatoes for hash browns. There is even a blade that cuts vegetables in a waffled or crinkled pattern.

I love being able to have thin slices of potatoes to make chips with or slices of onions for sandwiches! I can even slice up a tomato without getting a mushed up mess. When using the mandoline slicer by Mueller, I can adjust the thickness of the slices which is really handy. Sometimes you want a very thin slice for chips and other times a thicker slice is called for. I have that option with this slicer.

My only regret is not having treated myself to one of these handy tools sooner! Personally, I think every kitchen should have one. If you have someone on your gift list this holiday season who loves to cook or perhaps is just learning to cook, giving them a mandoline slicer would be a most welcome gift.  



Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Easy Two-Ingredient Roasted Potatoes

Do you ever feel too tired, busy, or lazy to cook yet want something filling to eat?  That's my situation constantly. On Sunday I was feeling hungry yet didn't feel like cooking, didn't feel like paying the cost of delivery, and sure didn't feel like getting dressed and going out to eat. I fell back on a go-to "recipe" - roasted potatoes. This is so ridiculously easy, inexpensive, and tasty that I have difficulty referring to it as a recipe. If you have potatoes, a bottle of vinaigrette, an oven, and a baking dish you can make these delicious roasted potatoes.  


Balsamic Vinaigrette Roasted Potatoes Recipe


Years ago I often made oven-roasted potatoes after tossing them in some balsamic vinaigrette. On the Kraft recipe site they state: 
"Red potatoes are seasoned with nothing but balsamic vinaigrette and pepper and end up tasting like something a five-star chef made."
Now, my palate is not sophisticated so I am unable to verify that statement with absolute certainty. But I can report that the balsamic vinaigrette roasted potatoes are delicious. Here is their recipe

I don't follow recipes very well and I tend to just throw things together. My roasted vinaigrette potatoes version is as follows:


  • Wash potatoes and cut into chunks (peel if preferred, but I don't)
  • Place into a greased baking dish
  • Add  2-3 squirts of vinaigrette and toss (coating all pieces of potato)
  • Add any extra desired ingredients (see partial list below)
  • Place into a pre-heated 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes (stirring occasionally)
  • Increase oven to 450 and bake until potatoes reached desired softness (use a fork to check)

The step of starting at a lower temperature then increasing the temp is just something I do so that I remember to go stir and coat the potatoes a few times before they finish. That is a completely unnecessary step for an attentive cook.


Additional Ingredients to Consider When Roasting Potatoes


You can add additional items that you are craving or that you think would be tasty. Some ideas include: 

a vinaigrette other than Balsamic
a dressing other than vinaigrette (such as mustard)
my roasted potatoes  
pepper
salt 
fresh rosemary
lemon juice
onions
browned bacon
browned sausage
ham chunks


I had potatoes, ham, onions, and Kraft Red Wine Vinaigrette on hand so that was my recipe for the brunch that was so ridiculously easy and delicious I decided to take the time to share the idea with you. 

Below I will show some of the vinaigrettes I have used regularly with much success. Just a note, the raspberry vinaigrette is one of the choices I make for my Couscous Summer Salad. But I also wouldn't hesitate to use it on roasted potatoes.




Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Pati's Mexican Table Review

I love food but I'm not a foodie. I enjoy cooking and baking but I'm not very good at it. I need recipes that are easy to follow with explanations of any "exotic" ingredients. You may wonder why I am writing a cooking show and cookbook review if I struggle in the kitchen. Well, that is exactly why I want to share what I know about Pati's Mexican Table. Pati Jinich takes some of the mystery out of Mexican cooking and presents it in a way that is easy and delicious.

Pati's Mexican Table Review


Pati's Mexican Table is a cooking show on public television channels. This weekend I was very fortunate to find a cooking show marathon that featured Pati's cooking shows back-to-back. I was in tamale heaven! And I had forgotten about creative gelatin desserts. With Cinco de Mayo approaching, she made me crave authentic Mexican food. 

Many of the recipes featured on the show are listed on her website. While the internet makes finding recipes a snap, there is something I really like about having either a cookbook or a printed recipe. I don't seem to lose track of where I am or what I'm doing if the printed recipe is with me in the kitchen while I cook.

That's why I am thrilled to see that she has two cookbooks offered for sale. 

Pati's Mexican Table is a cookbook filled with authentic Mexican recipes. Customer reviews are highly complimentary of this cookbook. The notable "pros" about this cookbook are the very helpful "cook's tricks" and the sidebars that explain ingredients or cooking techniques. These extra instructions are helpful in successfully making the recipe. One of the few "cons" listed by a few reviewers is that this cookbook does not list all/exactly the recipes shown on the television show.

Pati's Mexican Table cookbook

Mexican Today


Pati's second cookbook, Mexican Today: New and Rediscovered Recipes for Contemporary Kitchens offers authentic Mexican favorite recipes with a contemporary twists. Again, the cookbook features helpful advice and sidebars that are especially helpful for those of use who aren't formally trained in the kitchen.

Authentic Mexican food is plentiful when I travel to the area I was raised. When I am away from that area, I find myself missing authentic Mexican food. With Pati's television show and cookbooks for inspiration, even I should be able to make some delicious meals for Cinco de Mayo and all through the year. 

Mexican Today cookbook by Pati Jinich

Related Link:


There is a good chance you are already familiar with Pati Jinich and her cooking show. But just in case you aren't, here is a quick introduction to her easy recipes and down-home style:





Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Easy in the Kitchen: Slow Cooker to Make Homemade Beans

Programmable Slow Cooker
Yes, I admit it. I have 2 slow cookers and I use them both regularly. Easy in the kitchen is my preference and I'm going to review with you how I make things easier with my slow cookers. They aren't just for making dinners anymore. There's plenty to enjoy about slow cookers.

My two are different sizes. I have a smaller one that is a 4-quart cooker, and I have a larger programmable 6-quart size (www.kitchen-basics-small-appliances.com/programmable-slow-cookers-easy-cooking). I have made plenty of chilis, stews and soups in my slow cookers and I will continue to do so. The joy of tossing in all the ingredients, turn the thing on and come back to dinner ready to serve can't be beat. Plus, why not make enough for 2 or more dinners? That's easy in the kitchen in my book.

Homemade Beans


One of my favorite uses for my slow cookers is making my own homemade "cans" of beans. I was one of those people who would buy cans and try to force myself to use them. Sure beans are good for you, but I could never stomach the boring taste and slimy liquid canned beans were packed in. Discovering how to make my own beans made a world of difference.

  • Black beans
  • Chickpeas
  • Black-eyed peas
  • Pinto beans
  • Navy beans or any white bean
I start with dried beans - so much cheaper! About 1/2 cup of dried beans will equal a standard can size of cooked beans (about 1 1/2 cups). My smaller slow cooker easily handles a cup and half of dried beans, so I make 3 "cans" of beans at a time. 

Dried beans need to be soaked first, so I do this in my slow cooker. Usually overnight. Then drain and rinse the beans, put them back in the slower cooker, add enough water to cover the beans with about 2 inches of water on top, and cook. I set my slow cooker on high for 4 hours and the beans are cooked to perfection. If you have a programmable slow cooker, you can set it to cook the beans when it's most convenient for you. 

Packaging Homemade Beans


Freezing your cans of homemade beans is the easiest option.  I use half-pint mason jars which hold about 1 1/2 cups of cooked beans - the equivalent of a standard can. Remember to label them with the date as well. Frozen beans should last about 6 months. Of course, I can't ever test that out, I use my frozen beans too fast! 

Here's an easy in the kitchen trick for you. With any frozen foods, top the food with a piece of parchment paper. That will prevent ice crystals from forming and will keep freezer burn out of your food. 

Choosing a Slow Cooker


If you're in the market for a slow cooker, whether your first, second or ninth, there are things to consider before you buy. The options are numerous. You'll want to think about what size you need, what features will be helpful and what your budget allows. When you have the right appliance for the right cooking needs, you will have an easier time in the kitchen. 

So stop depending on store-bought cans of beans. Make your own. Flavor them to your own tastes and enjoy healthy and delicious homemade beans in your slow cooker. 





Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Spoonula Review

Le Creuset Spatula Spoon
Sometimes it is the smallest and most overlooked thing that makes our lives easier. In this case, I have discovered that my spoonula is one of the things that makes life in the kitchen much better. Cooking is not typically something that is enjoyable for me. My cooking is about survival more than fun. But my silicone, wooden-handled hybrid of a spatula and a spoon is the first tool I grab now when at the stove. This is my spoonula review.


My Wonderful Williams-Sonoma Spoonula


A friend of mine re-gifted some small spatulas and strange-looking utensils to me. The larger utensils of the bunch were strange-looking; a wedge of concave silicone on a wooden handle.  It was fairly large and chunky.  I tossed it into a drawer thinking that I'd throw it away after my friend left.

One day, after having neglected kitchen chores in such a long time that my spatulas and spoons were dirty, I grabbed this strange utensil. I don't recall what I was cooking - probably scrambled eggs.  I do recall how I immediately loved this spoon-spatula.  Despite it's relatively hefty weight, it was comfortable and easy to handle.  It scraped and flipped my food like a dream.  

Since then, I've looked it up on the internet and identified it as a Williams-Sonoma Spoonula with a wooden handle. I want to purchase another one or two because I like it so much.  I've owned this one for approximately a year now.  I have not melted the silicone end - as I often do my spatulas.


My Williams-Sonoma Spoonula


I recommend a silicone spoonula for the following reasons:

  • in the fry pan - scrambled eggs and sauteed veggies
  • stirring sauces - gravy and alfredo sauce
  • mixing batters - perfect for scraping every drop of pancake or cake batter from the bowl
  • scraping that last bit of the peanut butter from the inside of the large jar
  • It does not scratch my non-stick pans
  • It has not melted
  • Is extremely durable - I JUST noted that it is to be hand-washed.  I've run mine through the dishwasher after every frequent use.  Which explains the slight wear of the wooden handle. Oops.

If you are talented in the kitchen, I am quite sure you can find more uses for this durable and handy kitchen tool.  
KitchenAid Silicone Spoon Spatula


Whether you prefer the Williams-Sonoma brand, or other brands such as Rachel Ray's, I think you will find a sturdy silicone spoonula as helpful in the kitchen as I do.


Rachel Ray's 3-piece Spoonula Set


A Few Considerations from the Experts When Purchasing Silicone Spatulas


I completely lucked into ownership of a silicone spoonula suited to my needs.  I have experienced kitchen utensils that melt and utensils that are so flimsy they are worthless.  I had not considered further potential kitchen utensil problems and annoyances. Here is a wonderful silicone spatula review from American's Test Kitchen to guide your purchase or your silicone spatula or spoonula.










Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Grilling Vegan Style, Cookbook Review

With outdoor grilling season soon to be upon those of us in the colder climates, it's time to tell you about a new cookbook I found. Grilling Vegan Style, by John Schlimm, is way more than just another vegan cookbook. It turned out to be an eye-opener for me.

It's true I have had to turn to vegan eating for my own health, but I also discovered how exciting and delicious the foods can be. One thing I wanted to do was to grill vegetables. Haha - you think a vegan lifestyle is stuck with grilling veggies only? Then you are in for a treat with Grilling Vegan Style.

For the Novice Griller and Expert Alike


Now, I will have to admit that I was a complete novice when it comes to using an outdoor grill. I had just gotten my first grill. But how much charcoal do I put into it? How will I know when the coals are ready? My list of questions was long. And author John Schlimm came to my rescue. He starts off with a simple explanation of how to handle a charcoal grill. After reading his explanation, I made my first grilled dinner easily.

So maybe you have lots more experience than I do. Maybe you have a gas or electric grill. Don't worry. Schlimm has you covered there, too. He details what temperatures look like on your settings, how to prepare your grill for cooking, even how to work with direct and indirect heat.

Covering Recipes for All


Granted, my initial grilling attempts were simple things like veggie kabobs and veggie burgers, but I knew I would expand into all numbers of delicious dishes after looking through Grilling Vegan Style. Schlimm shows you how to grill any number of foods including fruit. Grilled pear halves is now a great favorite at my house.

Those of us who enjoy tailgating have a friend in Schlimm. He has a whole chapter full of great recipes just for tailgate parties. Take a look as his Halftime Pizza recipe for example.

More than just tailgating, he covers picnic options, summer salads topped with grilled goodies, even PB & J sandwiches for the kids in all of us. Personally, I can't wait for watermelon season. Yep, you heard that right. Grilling Vegan Style includes a recipe for a grilled watermelon salad.

Helpful Tips Make a World of Difference
Grilling Vegan Style


John Schlimm is not just your average cookbook author. He adds many helpful tips to make grilling easier, better and more flavorful. My favorite trick, learned from Schlimm, is to soak potato fries in hot water before grilling them. That gives the fries that crispy outside.

He includes a whole chapter on marinade recipes. Not only are they delicious, but he offers timelines to help you. How long to marinate different veggies, fruits and other yummy treats, like tempeh and tofu.

As my world starts to gain warmer days, I'm grilling more and more outside. And my go to cookbook, not only for new recipes, but new ideas as well has become Grilling Vegan Style. Frankly, I'm not sure I would have been so successful from the beginning without it. May you have as much fun grilling as I do.







Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Elevate Your Tired Recipes To New Heights With Spicing Pecans!

Amelia's Spicing Pecans, recipes
My own jars of Amelia's Spicing Pecans
Are you just plain tired of using the same old "tried and true" recipes? I recently found a product that will set your tastebuds on fire with happiness. (Well, not on fire unless you use the "hot and spicy" blend.) So, what is this magical creation that will spice up your kitchen creations? Amelia's Spicing PecansYes, pecans! To quote the now defunct website, "Amelia's Spicing Pecans are made from select roasted chopped pecans, specially seasoned, then used as spicing ingredients to add rich flavors to your favorite dishes." You can now find information about these wonderful pecans on Facebook by clicking Amelias-Spicing-Pecans.

I took Amelia's "Be Creative" challenge and did indeed find that Amelia's kicked up my old boring recipes to a higher notch. 
Why should one use these delectable spiced pecans in recipes instead of just plain pecans? Because Amelia's is made with only the finest all natural ingredients, specifically chosen by Amelia's creator. He oversees the roasting and the flavoring of this Alabama-made product. There were four entirely different flavors to choose from: Herb, Hot & Spicy, Cinnamon and Coffee. 


Remember, these Spicing Pecans are not just nuts that a cook might use to add texture to a recipe, they are finely chopped, seasoned and roasted Southern pecans that add character and depth to the food you eat. 


The first recipe I decided to "renew" was one that really needed spicing up. My original "Pecan Rice" recipe came from a vintage church cookbook. I had planned on making this traditional rice side dish for a family holiday dinner and I wanted it to be very special. I chose to use the herb flavored pecans because that just seemed to "fit" with the menu. 

First, I cooked 2 "boil-in-bag" rice pouches in chicken broth.  I sautéed some celery (onion could be used, too) in olive oil and added that to the drained cooked rice. After stirring in one cup of the 
Amelia's Herb Flavored Spicing Pecans, I had my finished side-dish. No, wait, I chopped up some fresh parsley to sprinkle on the top of the bowl. It looked pretty--should have sprinkled more spicing pecans on the top, too! It was that easy to come up with an improved recipe! (Note: I did not add enough spicing pecans--it was my first try at "being creative" and I chose to be conservative with my measuring cup! Mr. Reardon, the creator of this fab product, almost always recommends using at least 1 1/2 cups --or more-- in recipes.)

rice side dish, spicing pecans
"Pecan Rice" recipe kicked up with Herb Amelia's Spicing Pecans
So excited by the raves from my family about the pecan rice, I began to think of even more ways to use Amelia's Spicing Pecans. The obvious choice is to use the herb flavored nuts in a salad. Yes, I will tell you that the pecans worked very well in mine. It is so much fun to spice up one's culinary life. It occurred to me that the "Hot and Spicy" Amelia's would be good on a salad, too. I went to my local Whole Foods, bought that flavor to add to my growing collection of Amelia's. I was not disappointed in the results of the addition of the subtle hotness of those exquisitely seasoned, roasted pecans to a salad. I even spiced up a simple appetizer of pimento cheese on a cracker by sprinkling the Hot & Spicy Spicing Pecans on top. The Coffee flavor was amazing with the pimento cheese, too, believe it or not.

Then, I had another light bulb moment! These hot and spicy pecans would be great on a pork tenderloin roast. Adapting a recipe for Pecan-Crusted Pork Tenderloin, I used the Amelia's hot and spicy blend with perfect results. My only regret is that I did not crush the pecans into even smaller pieces. They might have not fallen off the tenderloin as easily as they did. Live, cook and learn, I say!

spicing pecans, pork tenderloin
Hot and Spicy Pecan Crusted Pork Tenderloin
Now I am really cooking and being creative! What can I use these spicing pecans on next? Why not take Cooking Light Magazine's Texas Sheet Cake to a higher level? Yes, that is what I will do. Anyway, I need a spectacular dessert to take to a party and this is the perfect chance to show off my baking creativity.

First I made the cake just like the recipe on the Recipe.com website and poured the cake batter into my new KitchenAid 10"x15"x1" Jelly Roll Pan . Yes, a jelly roll pan is a must for a Texas sheet cake!

Next I sprinkled 2 cups of Amelia's coffee blend pecans on the batter and gently pressed them down with a fork. This will keep the pecans pieces from burning--they are already roasted, you see.

spicing pecans, texas sheet cake recipe
Amelia's Coffee Spicing Pecans on top of the uncooked cake batter.

After the cake baked for 22 minutes, a toothpick inserted in the center came out clean signaling that the cake was done. Now for the best part: pouring the boiled icing over the warm cake and gently covering the top with more of the coffee flavored roasted pecans. 

texas sheet cake, spicing pecans
Iced Texas Sheet Cake topped with Amelia's Coffee Spicing Pecans
The aroma of the coffee and chocolate was irresistible. The end result was a delightfully good and moist Texas Sheet Cake. I took it to the party and not a crumb of it remained at the end of the night.

How else can one use Spicing Pecans? Use your imagination and feel free to try anything! I created a Sautéed Zucchini and Squash Pasta dish for dinner one evening with amazing results. A friend suggested that I could have added a cheese like a parmesan to this dish, too. The pecan pieces you see in the photo below are the Herb Spicing Pecans. The addition dressed this dish up and add a satisfying crunch. It was incredible how the sweet flavor of the roasted pecan pieces turned this dish into a culinary event inside my mouth!

pasta recipe, spicing pecans
Sautéed vegetables and Herb Flavored Amelia's over pasta.

You can also put these nuts on leftovers!

 
Zoe's Chicken Salad and roasted veggies dressed up with pecans by Amelia!
I am sure you are wondering where you can get your own jar of these inspiring spicing pecans. Just click Amelia's-Spicing-Pecans- and call the phone # listed. When Birmingham Alabama's Pepper Place Saturday Market begins in the springtime, you might find that Amelia's in a booth with samples to try. 

If you are just plain impatient (or are not in Alabama or near a southeastern Whole Foods), you can contact the creator of this unique and versatile product that you MUST have in your kitchen, by emailing spicingpecans@gmail.com. Tell Mike that Mickie sent you.

Disclaimer: I do not receive any compensation for sales of Amelia's Spicing Pecans. I purchased the Herb and Hot and Spicy Spicing Pecans you see int he photos on this page at Whole Foods and Organic Harvest Market in Birmingham, Alabama. The creator of Amelia's did graciously give me the Coffee Flavored Spicing Pecans to try in the Texas Sheet Cake recipe.











Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Handmade Harvest-Time

It's Harvest Time, the time of year crops are traditionally harvested. This coincides with Autumn, the season of colorful leaves, cooler nights, pumpkins and apples, and the holidays of Halloween and Thanksgiving.



The term 'Harvest' came from England and was the name for the season between summer and winter until Autumn began to be used in the 16th century. In Britain the season is usually considered to be from August through October and in the United States from September through November. The term 'Autumn' is also interchangeable from 'Fall', used mainly in America. Unlike the other three seasons, there does not seem to be a common word for this season in all the Indo-European languages. Autumn and Harvest-Time are my favorite terms to use.

Autumn Themed  Crafts


Acorns




Acorn Hats on Etsy
Autumn is a favorite time of year for crafters and the Indie-artists in the fields of art and photography because the lovely harvest-related colors of orange, brown, red and yellow lend themselves to beautiful creations. 

Since acorns are plentiful in the Fall, this crochet acorn hat is perfect for the season.  Handmade in brown or white in teen and adult sizes, the hats are finished with a puff stitch bottom band.  Hat also comes with a stem at the top with a green leaf and two stuffed acorns hanging down.

Place your order for an acorn hat with Svea of Claymont, Delaware.  You can find her in her Etsy Shop "Made by Svea". These hats make a great gift for all the 'nuts' on your list and is perfect for those Fall photos. 


Pumpkins


Pumpkin Potholder and Matching Dishcloth
Pumpkins are also perfect for a harvest time decor as seen with this set of pumpkin potholder 
and dishcloth combo.

In addition to sprucing up your Fall home decor, this pumpkin set makes a unique hostess gift when invited out to dinner, especially during the Harvest-Time season.  Or nice for a wedding gift for a Fall wedding. 





More Ideas for Handmade Harvest Time



  • Sylvestermouse shows us a collection of beautiful beaded cross-stitch kits with lovely Thanksgiving designs to stitch up for the most popular 'harvest holiday' – Thanksgiving Day!



  • Wednesday-Elf found some really fun and practical handmade harvest-related designs on Etsy by clever crafters who love to create in Autumn themes.


When you think of 'handmade harvest-time', you may consider crafts as the only field that's considered handmade. Not so, in my opinion.



Pumpkin Muffins by Mary Beth Granger

  • I consider cooking a handmade 'delicious delight', as you can see in this yummy pumpkin muffin recipe by mbgphoto.

  • And 'gardening' gives us all that wonderful homegrown food. You don't need to have a farm or even a large garden plot in your yard. As Dawn Rae shows us, you can also grow and harvest your favorite foods like squash and tomatoes in a simple container garden on your apartment balcony.



Enjoy the colors of the Autumn Leaves as you 'trick or treat' for Halloween and plan your Thanksgiving feast in a multitude of handmade ways from crafting to cooking to planning your next garden for Spring.



Have an Awesome Autumn and Harvest-time.



(c) 12/02/2014 Wednesday Elf




Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Cooking for Dogs


Everyone knows how much we love our dogs.  In a way, we treat them like children.  If one seems out of sorts, we sit with them, pet them and try to figure out what might be wrong.  I have even been known to run to the vet's office without make-up and still in my pajamas. 

Any time we go out to eat, we absolutely must bring home a treat for our furbabies!  After all, they have had to stay home and guard the house.  They deserve a special something for their devotion and hard work, which brings me to our featured article for the day.


Cupcakes for Dogs

Susan Zatautas shared a recipe for  Cupcakes For a Dogs Birthday and I can hardly wait to pop some in the oven.  Why wait for a birthday?!!  My babies deserve a treat today!  I just know Merlin will devour the cupcakes in a flash and our prime & proper Daisy will take her time and savor the flavor.


Now, I just need to figure out how to keep their "dad" from eating their cupcakes too.  Of course, I didn't see anything in the recipe that would prohibit him from testing these delicious treats too, even if they are labeled Cupcakes for Your Dog.

Bone Appétit Puppies!  

Bone Appetit is a website dedicated to pet treats, not just doggie cupcakes.  It is not affiliated with Susan Zatautas and her fabulous cupcake recipe, but is an excellent resource of pet treat information.







Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Cooking for the 4th of July

Family and friends gather in our home every year to watch the 4th of July fireworks and celebrate Independence Day.  Long before dark and fireworks, the table is always laden with a variety of food in order to accommodate the various preferences, health issues and diets.


Appetizers  to Start

 

Fruit is the one food choice we all have in common and is part of every holiday menu.  However, for our 4th of July celebration, we also get to include Watermelon and Cantaloupe.  We have several family members who enjoy creating shaped bowls from the watermelon rind and filling it with a variety of fresh fruit balls and berries.  Ct_mom shows us all how to do that in her article Fun Carved Watermelon Ideas.  She even included how to make a watermelon keg in her article, which is something I have never done before and would love to try myself this year.



Main Course for Our 4th of July Meal

 

http://food.squidoo.com/homemade-barbeque-recipe-for-the-best-barbeque-sandwiches
For many years now, I have made my own special barbeque recipe for sandwiches simply because it is my husband's favorite sandwich meal.  

For our vegan daughter, we will prepare Grilled Black Bean Burgers.   I was rather excited to discover that Black Bean Burger recipe by Tvyps since I am always searching for a meat alternative to serve for our daughter.



Drinks & 4th of July Dessert 



http://sylvestermouse.hubpages.com/hub/4th-of-July-My mother always brings the 4th of July Flag Cake.  She started making that cake for the 4th of July when I as a little girl.  Here we are decades later and it is still a family favorite.  

I also make homemade, fresh squeezed lemonade for our gathering.  My lemonade recipe is really very easy to prepare and is the most requested summertime drink in our home, but it is always fun to add a little fun to the mix with Mocktails by hlkljgk.




Write & Share Your 4th of July Recipes


The Fourth of July celebration is truly a blast in our home!   I am always looking for new ideas and recipes to serve and share.  

If you have a recipe for the 4th of July celebration that you would like to share, simply leave your link in the guestbook below.   



If you are planning a party for the 4th of July, you will definitely want to visit "Patriotic Party Time" for a wealth of suggestions and tips.




Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article.