Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Spice Up Your Cooking the Quick Cook Way

Next week, JoAnn Smith Ainsworth, an Oak Tree Press author, guest posts for us. Stop in to see what she has to say about the difficulty of writing mysteries.

This is part of my continuing series on the Quick Cook Tips that I write about once a month in The Pinewood News, (page 7) a small town paper in Munds Park, Arizona. The series, on some of those tips, let’s you see how it might play out in your kitchen.

We eat pretty well. I am always trying out new ways, spices, and food combos. DH would eat--literally--the SAME thing every day. Thank goodness I came into his life decades ago or he’d be a frozen potpie by now.

So, sure, I can oven-roast or grill a chicken thigh. But, when I put one of my rubs on the thighs, they are elevated to company-quality. And I don’t even have to have company. I can treat my husband a meal that tastes like I spent forever cooking. But I didn’t. I am a quick cook.

One thing about spices is, unlike honey, they don’t last thousands of years. Do they go “bad”? No, but they do lose potency. Your cupboard is probably like most of American kitchens: lots of little spice bottles and cans that you used for one recipe. Or specialty spices like “pumpkin pie” or “taco seasoning”. But here’s a Quick Cook Tip: Don’t do that anymore.

You can save money--by combining the spices and not throwing them away. Don’t spend that money on spice combos you can easily create.

Right now. Take all your spices out and line them up alphabetically. Identify which spices you have that you can use in these recipes. If you don’t have some, fine. Omit them. It will still be tasty.

Then mix up the combos, store in labeled airtight containers, and use them up finally! You’ll have a lot more cupboard room. Next time I’ll give some recipes for using your new mixtures. Below are ideas for Pumpkin Pie Spice (PPS).

QC Tip #2
Always keep some basic seasoning mixes in the cupboard for quick cooking.

Poultry Seasoning (makes about ¾ cup)
You’ll never use that sage or marjoram again, so give them new life here:
2 tablespoons parsley
1 tablespoon sage
1 tablespoon rosemary, crushed
1 tablespoon marjoram
1 tablespoon thyme
1 teaspoon celery seed
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
¼ teaspoon onion powder

Taco Seasoning (makes over ½ cup); avoid the sugar & thickener of commercial taco seasoning.
2 tablespoons chili powder
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes, crushed
½ teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon paprika
3 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons pepper

Chinese Five-Spice Blend (makes about ¼ cup)
2 whole star anise
2 teaspoons peppercorns
1 teaspoon fennel
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 cinnamon stick, broken in fourths

Toast the anise, peppercorns, and fennel in small skillet over medium heat until fragrant. Toss in seeds and cinnamon stick. Cool. Grind to a fine powder.

Pumpkin Pie Spice--PPS (makes about ½ cup)
2 Tbsp ground cinnamon
1 Tbsp ground ginger
2 tsp ground nutmeg
½ tsp allspice
½ tsp ground cloves

Use your PPS in:
Rub 2 tablespoons mixed with olive oil to make a paste onto 4 chicken or pork pieces and grill as usual.

Add to your favorite pumpkin soup or pumpkin pie recipe.

Cut up two Honeycrisp or other tart apple. Toss apple slices with 1 tablespoon PPS and fry in 1 tablespoon of butter as a side to pork or chicken.

Mix 1 tablespoon PPS with 2 cups confectioner’s sugar, 1 package cream cheese, ¼ cup honey or vanilla Greek yogurt, 1¼ cup pumpkin puree. Serve with pear and/or apple slices and crackers or graham crackers.

2 tablespoons PPS + 1 yellow cake mix + 1 can pumpkin puree; bake at 350°; glaze with confectioner’s sugar, milk, and 2 teaspoons PPS

I will share more spice combos you can make and ways to use them in a later post. Be sure to check back!


  1. neat Idea I am going to try it today

  2. Really easy, Cathy, and cheaper in the end! Next week I have a guest, but the week after that I have some more spice blend recipes and then a bunch of ways to use them. Thanks for coming by.