Sunday, July 26, 2009

Spices From Penzey's

I've barely come up for air this week and, alas, have no new recipe to post today. So, I thought I'd share my experience with Penzey's Spice company. How many times have you bought a bottle of herbs or spices at the supermarket? Have you ever wondered how long the bottle has sat on the store shelf? Or how about at the warehouse? Are you really getting what you paid for?

A while ago, Marble Man and I were invited to dinner at a friend's house, where she served a sumptuous meal. She finished up with an apple galette which was incredibly delicious. I was trying to figure out which spices she added to the apples, and got as far as cinnamon. When I asked her what else she added, she insisted it was only cinnamon, and then produced the bottle for me to sniff. Oh, the smell! Rich cinnamon with flowery overtones, and a hint of allspice. This was NOT your generic, McCormick's supermarket cinnamon. She told me that at Penzey's, they bottle the spices up fresh and ship them out, so you get a high-quality product.

She gave me an extra catalog, which I pored over at home. The catalog was very well organized and peppered throughout were recipes and ideas for how to use the products they offer. I proceeded to order spices the way I order beads: some of this, some of that, 4 of these, 2 of those... and before I knew it, I'd spent over $60! When the box arrived, the contents were very carefully wrapped. And when I opened the bottles, they were filled TO THE TOP.

I picked out 4 types of cinnamon, and yes they ARE all very different, as well as herbs and spice blends. The parsley smelled like it had just been picked and dried the week before. And the blends were perfect for use in meats and stews. I threw out a bunch of store-bought bottles from my cabinet that were absolutely dead.

I hope you'll give Penzey's a shot - even with the shipping cost, the prices were competitive with supermarket brands. I will never buy seasonings from the store again, unless I find myself in a desperate situation.

copyright 2009 What's Cooking?

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Spicy Blue Cheeseburgers

Marble Man and I have been trying to pinch pennies and lose weight by concentrating on fish and beans as our main source of protein. Every once in a while, though, my Inner Meatasaurus rears its giant head, gnashes its teeth, and cries out for beef. Last weekend we made hamburgers stuffed with blue cheese, and they satisfied my carnivorous craving to a " T ".

Spicy Blue Cheeseburgers

serves 4

1 lb lean ground beef
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
2-3 cloves garlic minced (or more if you like)
1 tsp paprika
1 T lemon juice
1 T Worcestershire sauce
1/2 C rolled oats
1 egg, slightly beaten
1/2 C finely chopped onion
1/2 C crumbled blue cheese

In large bowl combine all the above ingredients EXCEPT the blue cheese. Form mixture into 8 equal balls. Flatten them into patties and make a well in the center of four of them. Divide the blue cheese crumbles equally and place in the wells of each patty. Top with the remaining patties and seal the edges well.

Grill or pan-fry, about 4 minutes on each side, until the meat is cooked through and the cheese is nice and melty.

copyright 2009 What's Cooking?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Spicy Gingerbread

"If loving you is wrong, I don't want to be right..."

My long-running love affair with dessert continues, and brings to mind that song by Luther Ingram from 1972. While Marble Man and I have been back on our diets, we've tried to keep sweets out of the house, and I just couldn't do it. The past two days I've been Jonesing for a little Somethin'-Somethin' to feed my craving. A fresh batch of gingerbread yesterday did the trick: moist, spicy, and slightly sweet. The recipe I use is from The Enchanted Broccoli Forest cookbook, by Molly Katzen. It calls for lots of freshly grated ginger, and this is key - don't substitute ground ginger as it won't have the same kick.

Spicy Gingerbread
Serves 12
preheat oven 350 degrees

5 T unsalted butter
3 T freshly grated ginger
1/2 C light honey
1/2 C light molasses
1/2 C plain yogurt
1 large egg
1 C whole wheat flour
1 C unbleached white flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp dry mustard
1/2 tsp ground cloves or allspice
1/4 tsp nutmeg

Saute the butter and ginger together light, about 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat.

Beat the honey and molasses together vigorously for 5 minutes. Then beat in the ginger plus all of its butter.

Beat the yogurt and the egg together well. Combine with the above mixture and set aside.

Sift together the remaining ingredients thoroughly into a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the center of the dry mixture. Add the wet mixture. Combine thoroughly, but minimally. Spread the batter into an 8" square pan sprayed with non-stick spray. Bake 30-35 minutes. It's done when the top is springy to the touch, or when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

"MMMmmmm... yummy!"
copyright 2009 What's Cooking?

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Barley Salad Vinaigrette

This being July 4th weekend, there are a lot of pot luck parties going on. I've found it very difficult to eat a balanced meal at this kind of party, with available dishes loaded with heavy fats and proteins, or an abundance of desserts. This barley salad tastes great and is loaded with fiber.

Barley Salad Vinaigrette
Serves 4

2 C cooked pearled barley, cooled
1/2 C seeded and diced cucumber
1/4 C each diced red pepper and scallion
2 T chopped radish
1 T each chopped parsley and dill
2 T red vinegar
4 tsp olive oil
1 T water
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground black pepper
4 C shredded lettuce

In medium bowl, combine barley, cucumber, bell pepper, scallion, radish, parsley and dill. Set aside.

In small bowl, combine remaining ingredients except the lettuce. Stir well. Pour over barley mixture. Toss to coat. Serve over lettuce.

This is sure to be a big hit at your next potluck: not only tasty, but good for you and pretty to look at on the plate. Enjoy!

copyright 2009 What's Cooking?