Category Archives: Spices

Curried Pumpkin Apple Soup

2014-10-28_CurriedSquashAppleSoup-5

This isn’t a dish I would have made a few years ago.

That’s one of the things I love about cooking. There’s always something new to taste and try.

I sometimes joke about how particular ingredients are “trendy” in the food world. Garlic scapes were all the rage a few years ago. This past spring, I heard more about pea shoots than I have in my entire life. And, then there’s the hype over the cupcake, wait, no the doughnut… Have you tried making macarons?

The thing is, all joking aside, I love food trends. I love to try new things and expand my culinary horizons. I may not like everything, but I will try anything at least once. Continue Reading

Grilled Chicken and Vegetable Fajitas

I don’t know if it has been the heat or just lack of enthusiasm on my part, but I have been having trouble figuring out what to cook lately.  I think part of it is the fact that everything I want to eat doesn’t register real well with trying to eat healthy, and the healthy things haven’t appealed.  I want someone to develop a mac & cheese and pizza diet!

Fortunately, as I was staring blankly into my pantry, I was reminded of the seasoning packets that I was sent by Amazing Taste.  When I received the packets in the mail, I was exited to try them out (and equally excited not to have to pay for them – I know it’s sad that I was thrilled about not paying for seasoning packets), but after I made the Amazing Pork Chops, I somehow forgot about them. Part of it is probably that I am not in the habit of using pre-packaged seasonings, so I had to think about using them (as was the case with the pork chops). I have also been making many more vegetarian meals lately.

Last night, however, a packet of Fajita Seasoning jumped out at me.  I had a pound of chicken tenders and lots of veggies on hand, so I decided to use the seasoning packet to make some grilled fajitas. I would love to say that I followed the recipe on the back of the packet, but we all know that I didn’t. In spite of my inability to follow directions, the fajitas turned out well, and I was quite pleased with the flavor. The seasoning added a nice touch to the fajitas, but wasn’t too salty (which is usually one of my biggest complaints about seasoning packets). While I normally would have come up with a seasoning on my own, last night I was happy to have a little help from Amazing Taste!

Grilled Chicken and Vegetable Fajitas

  • 1 packet Amazing Taste Fajita Seasoning
  • 1 pound chicken breast tenders
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 small bell peppers, cut into 2 inch slices (I had one green and one purple from the garden)
  • 1 small yellow squash, cut in half lengthwise an then sliced
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 4 ounces baby portabella mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 lime
  • Flour tortillas
  • Fresh salsa (optional)
  • Sour cream (optional)
  • Fresh cilantro (optional)
  • Lime slices/wedges (optional)

Preheat the grill to medium heat.

Combine one tablespoon of the seasoning and one tablespoon of olive oil in a bowl. Add the chicken breast tenders and toss to coat with the seasoning and oil. Cover and refrigerate while preparing the vegetables.

Slice all of the vegetables and place in a large bowl. Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil, the rest of the seasoning packet, and the juice from the lime half.  Toss to evenly coat all of the vegetables.

Transfer the vegetables to a grill basket and cook on the grill, stirring occasionally, for about 10-15 minutes. Meanwhile, cook the chicken on the grill, cooking for about 8-10 minutes, turning once.

Transfer the vegetables to a platter, and top with the grilled chicken tenders.  Garnish with fresh cilantro and lime slices, if desired. Serve immediately with flour tortillas, salsa, sour cream, and all of your favorite taco/fajita toppings!

Cajun Bean Soup and Lessons Never Learned

I remember it like it was yesterday… Mrs. Weist, my first grade teacher, handed out a coloring assignment with a long list of directions at the top. I immediately got to work, coloring furiously as I worked my way down the list of directions. About halfway down the list, though, I ran into trouble. One of the directions was to skip the first few steps, which I had already completed. Another step further down said to use a blue crayon for a step instead of a red crayon.

I was furious. What stupid directions! Why would you bother to write down steps that you would later skip over entirely? Poor directions aside, in an attempt to complete the assignment correctly, I started to color over my work with the white crayon, trying to erase what I had done. If you have ever tried to color over something with a white crayon, you can imagine how successful that was. My paper was a giant mess of smeared red crayon – no blue to be seen. Major FAIL!

Finally, I handed in my paper, and my teacher shook her head in disapproval. She gave me a bit of a lecture (she did that sometimes) on the importance of reading the directions in their entirety before beginning to work. Thinking back, I’m not even sure how much I could read in first grade, but that is not really relevant.

Needless to say, the moment scarred me, much like Mrs. Weist’s other lectures and lessons (she was actually a nice teacher when she wasn’t lecturing me). I also distinctly remember having to stay in from recess because I couldn’t correctly write the letter ‘a’. That is not relevant, either.

You may be wondering what this has to do with cooking, and rightfully so. It does, however, have everything to do with why I can’t follow a recipe. Although I was scarred by the experience, I did not learn my lesson. I still tend to move full speed ahead without fully reading a recipe. So, I end up improvising quite often.

Enter this recipe for cajun bean soup! It started with a blog post for Spicy Red Bean Soup from Evil Shenanigans… I intended to make the recipe, as written, except for the pureeing part. However, I started chopping veggies before I started to read the recipe. I thought, “I know what veggies go in a cajun recipe” so I started chopping away. 3 cups of veggies later, I started to read the recipe. I had just about doubled the amounts in the recipe. I also discovered that I didn’t have any bay leaves. So, I figured, I would just wing it. I like my soup with extra veggies, anyway. I also found a jar of my Cajun Spice Mix left in the pantry, so I decided to use that instead of the garlic and spices in the original recipe.

I’m sure the soup would have been delicious (perhaps better than mine) had I actually read and followed the original recipe. I must say, though, that my improvised version turned out to be pretty tasty! Perhaps that’s why I never learn my lesson…

My Recipe for Cajun Bean Soup

(Adapted from Spicy Bean Soup by Kelly @ Evil Shenanigans… who adapted from Emeril Legasse via Food Network)

  • 8 ounces andouille sausage, diced
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup celery, diced
  • 1 cup red and green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 cup yellow onion, diced
  • 1 tablespoon Cajun Spice Mix
  • 3 – 15 ounce cans light red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 3 cups chicken stock

Heat a dutch oven or a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the diced sausage and cook for 4-5 minutes, until the fat has rendered and the sausage is browned. Remove the sausage from the pot with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Heat the olive oil in the bottom of the pot with the drippings from the sausage. Add the celery, bell peppers, onion, and spice mix.  Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are tender.

Add the chicken stock to the pot, scraping any browned bits from the bottom.  Add the beans and bring the soup to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for about 30 minutes.

Turn off the heat and allow the soup to cool slightly. Use a hand-held immersion blender to blend the soup to your desired thickness. I prefer soups to be thick and chunky, so I only partially pureed the soup. If you like a smoother texture, by all means, have at it! Stir the sausage back into the soup (or use as a garnish if you pureed the soup).  Enjoy!

Cajun Spice Mix

In honor of Mardi Gras, I thought I would make a few cajun-inspired dishes this week. You can purchase a cajun spice mix at the store, but I enjoy making my own spice mixes.  They make great gifts – simply attach your favorite recipe using the spice mix.

This cajun spice mix can be stored in airtight jars for up to six months. The recipe makes about 1 3/4 cups.  Stay posted for recipes using this spice mix!

To make the mix, simply mix the following spices in a small bowl:

  • 1/2 cup Kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup paprika (sweet paprika, not smoked)
  • 3 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 3 tablespoons onion powder
  • 3 tablespoons cayenne pepper
  • 3 tablespoons ground black pepper