Top 10 Herbs and Spices needed for a Well-Stocked Kitchen!

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I get a lot of people who ask about my spice rack- what do I keep in my kitchen, since we cook at home so much. I made a list of what I use, then I polled my Facebook friends. Below is a reflection of what we use most at home, plus what most of my foodie friends use too all combined into a handy dandy top ten list!

I prefer spices and herbs from Penzey’s– They have the best quality and a wide variety. They tend to be a little more expensive, but they are very high-quality herbs and spices, and you will use much less than their cheaper counterparts. If you have a Penzey’s store near you, it’s worth checking out. Join their mailing list- they frequently have coupons for freebies and really good deals (and free shipping sometimes too if you don’t live close to a store). Penzey’s also sells their spices on Amazon!

  1. Mural of Flavor
  2. Cinnamon
  3. Cumin
  4. Chili Powder
  5. Italian Seasoning
  6. Oregano
  7. Ginger
  8. Bay Leaves
  9. Paprika
  10. Turkish Seasoning

These are of course in addition to Table Salt, Kosher Salt, a pepper mill for freshly cracked pepper, roasted garlic, granulated garlic, toasted onions, onion powder, and air-dried shallots. For me, these are pantry staples and every kitchen should have them, as they are used in so many recipes, in addition to the 10 above.

 

Talk Back: What are some of your favorite seasonings?

Quick, Tasty Recipe: Berries Romanoff

Berries 2.jpgI was thinking of a way to use the berries we have on hand, and this recipe came to mind!

My friend Ana brought Berries Romanoff over for dessert the last time we had a potluck, and it’s now become a staple in our house. This is a variation on the original recipe, which calls for orange zest and Grand Marnier liqueur. This version is much more kid-friendly.

This is a quick, easy dessert that even kids love.

Ingredients:

  • 6 Cups berries- Raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, boysenberries, mulberries, and pitted halved cherries are all good choices.
  • 1 cup  thawed Cool Whip (or make whipped cream from scratch if you feel motivated)
  • 1/2 cup  Sour Cream
  • 1 T. orange juice
  • 1 tsp. brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 tsp. orange zest

Directions:

  1. Divide the berries into 6 dessert bowls, set aside.
  2. In a mixing bowl, combine the remaining ingredients.
  3. Spoon mixture over the top of the berries and serve.

The mixture keeps in the fridge for 3-4 days, but once you taste it, you won’t be able to stop eating it.  It’s really good.

 

Three Easy Recipes for Curbing Food Waste!

About 40% of the food in the US is wasted– That is from the fields to your fridge. Pretty sad, right?  40% seems like a lot, and it is- if you break that down, on average, the typical American family throws away over 25 lbs of food per family member each year!  Throwing food away is throwing money away.

Here are some simple, frugal recipes that can help you curb the food waste in your home.

To curtail my family’s food waste, I cook mostly from scratch.  When it looks like fruit or veggies are about to go bad, I turn them into something.  Recently, I made spicy Pomodoro sauce when the tomatoes at my parents’ house were starting to look squiffy (we were house-sitting for them).

 

Mom had left 6 tomatoes in the fruit basket and they were starting to get soft.  I took them home and pulled the tomatoes and half of a sweet onion I had put in the freezer just a few days ago. The sauce was easy to make!

 

Spicy Pomodoro Sauce

Makes about 4 cups of sauce

  • 11 fresh, whole ripe tomatoes (they can be frozen)
  • 1/2 chopped large sweet onion (about 1 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon butter (or olive oil if you are vegan)
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1T. Basil (dried)
  • 1 T. Oregano (dried)
  • 1/4 Teaspoon (a pinch) of crushed red pepper flakes.

 

  1. Saute onions in butter until clear, about 10-15 minutes.
  2. Add garlic and cook on low, stirring frequently, until fragrant.
  3. Add whole tomatoes (it’s ok if they are frozen), cover pot and simmer on medium for about 30 minutes, until the tomatoes start to fall apart.  Stir every 10 minutes or so.
  4. Add herbs.
  5. Simmer for 1-2 more hours.  Sauce will be chunky. Break up tomatoes as much as you’d like with a potato masher or a stick blender. Add Red pepper flakes about 30 minutes prior to serving.

Serve sauce on pasta of your choice or on a bed of lightly sauteed spinach.  If you don’t like your sauce spicy, omit the red pepper flakes.

 

86ed9fe0ab9a414c3c58b748e8ea6560.jpgAnother recent “from scratch” dish I made was strawberry syrup.  We’ve been getting a lot of strawberries lately, but last week, we didn’t get around to eating them all before they became a little squishy.

I hulled and chopped them up and tossed them into the freezer, in a bag with other chopped up hulled strawberries that were dead ripe.  The bag was getting full, so Saturday evening, I decided to make strawberry syrup for our Sunday morning pancakes.

I used my mom’s recipe for homemade pectin free jam and just didn’t cook it as long. You can substitute in any other fruit you prefer, except pineapple, kiwi, mangoes, bananas, or coconut (those fruits lack natural pectin and the mixture won’t thicken).  This is best with berries.

Strawberry pancake syrup

Makes about 2 cups

  • 3 cups chopped ripe fruit (can be frozen)
  • 1 1/2 cups of white sugar (do not use Splenda or honey)
  • 1/4 cup of water
  1. Add all of the ingredients together in a pot, cook on medium, and stir every 5-10 minutes to keep the sugar from burning.
  2. Once it has boiled and the fruit has thawed (if working with frozen fruit), mash up the fruit with a potato masher.
  3. Turn the heat to low and simmer gently for about 30 minutes, or until the mixture looks glassy.
  4. Remove from heat, pour into a container with a lid. Once cooled,  you can store it in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

The mixture will be slightly chunky, and not as firm as jam, but a little more substantial than pancake syrup. This is also good on ice cream or pour a few tablespoons into plain Greek yogurt.

There are a lot of great dishes you can make from scratch anytime- you don’t need to wait for the veggies or fruit to start to turn!

We make applesauce from scratch at least 3 times a month.

Applesauce in the Crockpot

It’s Simple! Peel and chop apples (whatever quantity and variety you have on hand), toss them into the crockpot with 1/4 to 1/2 cup of water and let it cook for 4-6 hours. Hot applesauce is the BEST!

I’d love to hear about how your family combats food waste. If you are looking for additional ideas, check out my post about food waste in 30 minutes here.

 

Oat Flour Banana Bread Recipe

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The big kid LOVES banana bread, so I am always looking out for new recipes, especially those that are higher in protein or lower in added sugar.

Recently we found ourselves with an overabundance of oatmeal, so I looked online for recipes to use it up and I discovered Oat Flour. You basically grind up oatmeal in your blender or food processor. Because it doesn’t contain any natural gluten, you have to use another flour with it otherwise your bread just… falls apart. It also doesn’t rise, so you will need to add leavening (baking soda in this recipe).

I also had received 30 bananas the next day, so I knew the time had come… TO MAKE BANANA BREAD!!

After looking through several recipes, I cobbled together a recipe that incorporated what I had on hand, and had all of the appropriate chemicals via ingredients to form quick bread. If you are interested in learning about baking and cooking ratios to form new recipes, check out Ratio by Michael Ruhlman– It’s great!

Banana Bread

Ingredients:

  • 1 c. Oat Flour
  • 1 3/4 c. AP Flour
  • 2 t. baking soda
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1/2 c. melted butter or melted coconut oil
  • 1/2 c. brown sugar, not packed
  • 2 ripe banans, mashed up
  • 2 eggs
  • 5 ounces plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 T. Vanilla
  • 1/2c chopped nuts (I like pecans, but walnuts work too) OPTIONAL

Directions:

  1. Grease a loaf pan and set aside Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a small bowl mix flours, soda, and salt. Set aside.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, combine butter and sugar until well mixed.
  4. Add bananas and continue to mix until incorporated.
  5. Add eggs one at a time. Once they are blended, add yogurt and vanilla.
  6. Combine dry ingredients into wet, and add nuts (if desired). This batter is very wet!!
  7. Pour into greased pan and bake for 45-55 minutes.
  8. Once the bread is cooled, remove from loaf pan and serve with butter or cream cheese.

Options:

  • To make the recipe Gluten-free, use gluten-free oats, and a 1 for 1 Gluten-free flour.
  • To make the recipe vegan, use coconut oil in place of butter, substitute a flax egg, and use dairy-free Greek-style yogurt.

Hot Weather Recipe Round Up!

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I mentioned in the Weekly Meal Plan post yesterday that it’s going to be a hot one this week. Ugh.

That means lots of time swimming and lots of time at the YMCA enjoying their AC and doing fun activities- Big Kid just did the fitness orientation and he is excited to start exercising. Mostly he wants to take boxing classes with me on Saturdays.

All that activity requires good, healthy fuel, and I do not want to fire up the stove or oven when it’s over 90 outside.

Here are a few of my favorite recipes to serve when it’s hot outside!

As you can tell there are a lot of dessert recipes. Because, really, who doesn’t like dessert?

 

Talk Back: What do you cook when it’s hot?

 

 

 

 

Tomorrow is National Cheesecake Day!

01407.jpgI just told the Boy Child and he was so excited about this “holiday”, he almost burst.

July 30th is National Cheesecake day and there are all kinds of awesome deals to help you enjoy:

Cheesecake Factory is celebrating by offering dine-in guests any slice of its more than 30 legendary flavors of cheesecake for half price at all of its restaurants nationwide.
unnamed.jpgIf you are in San Diego, stop by DZ Akin’s for $5.00 Cheesecake slices (and their slices are HUGE).

I personally am most excited about this deal. Their cheesecake is so good, and I will also grab some Matzo Ball Soup to go as well!

If you want to make your own at home but it’s too hot to turn on the oven, I love this Philadephia cheesecake filling in a graham cracker crust. You can top with your favorite fruits, or sprinkle chocolate shavings on top.

It also comes in Chocolate or Key Lime. Check your local grocery store.

If you are watching what you eat and still want to celebrate, I love the Cheesecake Jello Pudding mix. Make it as the directions indicate, or add 1-2 tablespoons of the powder to your favorite protein shake powder and blend with water, ice cubes, and fruit.

And I saw this while browsing Amazon, but I’ve never tried it. It’s Sans Sucre Cheesecake Mousse Mix. It looks interesting.

Talk Back: Are you planning on celebrating with a slice of cheesecake tomorrow?

 

Weekly Meal Plan

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AHHHHH!!! The last day of school is Wednesday.  Summer school doesn’t start for the big kid for 2 weeks. I’m going to have to ramp up my frugality to 11! Here is my article about keeping kids fed over the summer, and my article on free lunches this summer for kiddos. 

For those of you that are new to meal planning, I’ve got an easy 101 style post here with super easy tips and steps. After you get that down, here is info about batch or freezer cooking.

I’ve gotten a pretty good inventory of the pantry, freezer, and fridge done, so I’m able to plan meals and use up what we’ve got with little waste. If you are looking for kitchen inventory printable, I like the kitchen inventories here. They are great printables.

You may notice a lot of plant-based meals- We are not vegetarian, but I am trying to get more veggies into our diet. I do a lot of cooking from scratch- I find it easier to get veggies and fruit into recipes that I can have 100% control over.

I only post our dinner plans for the week, because our other meals are usually the same each day:

Breakfast: Coffee with heavy cream for me, and pancakes or something along those lines for the kids (they love the Kodiak Cakes Mix).  I also keep sandwich Ziploc bags of other frozen fruit on hand to make the kids smoothies when they request them (a few times per week). Berries, peaches, and mangos are pretty popular.

Lunches are leftovers, salads, or soups for me and the Little Bit, and The Big Kid has a specially packed lunch of whatever he’s into at the time (which changes frequently).

For dinner, when we’ve got busy days (like Mondays), I’ll try and put something in the crockpot in the morning, or pull something I’ve already prepped out that can be quickly cooked.

  • Monday: Chicken meatballs & Cheesy cauli-rice.
  • Tuesday: Breakfast for dinner (Waffles, bacon, and melon)
  • Wednesday: Frittata and fruit salad
  • Thursday: Nugget Night! This was such a hit last week, we’re doing it again! The big kid is a vegetarian, so I make him Chick’n nuggets, and the rest of us have chicken nuggets or another variety of meatless nuggets. The Buffalo Chick’n nuggets are popular among the grown-ups. I serve carrot sticks, and apple slices on the side.
  • Friday: Date Night (dinner out)
  • Saturday: Birthday party leftovers! Bitty’s 4th birthday party is Saturday and we’ll have pizza, cake, and fruit leftover.
  • Sunday: Leftover Night