Thursday, January 10, 2013

Spices: Homemade Blends and a Well-Stocked Pantry

Thanks for reading this post, I'm so excited to visit with you!  
After you've gleaned all the good information you need, visit our new blog platform at to read even more fascinating tidbits from the kitchen and the fields. 

Dear spicy ones,

Some people collect Cabbage Patch Dolls.  Others collect antique teapots.  I suppose you could say I collect spices!  Spices are a nice collection to have because it is a constantly evolving, changing, updating collection that technically expires after only a few months, and needs to be refreshed.  Thus, I get the rush of satisfying serotonin from buying New Stuff every few months, and the drawers remain about the same size and I don't need to feel like I'm wasting space or money.

Plus, we like a lot of flavor in our food.

I love MarketSpice, which has a little outlet in Pike Place Market in downtown Seattle, Washington.  They also have a warehouse in Redmond, Washington, where you can call in your order and pick it up pre-packaged; but I love the heady rush of seeing row after row of fresh spices on the wall, teas and coffee blends, and the tiny store full of tea pots and tea strainers and French presses, spice grinders and mortars.

When I moved to Virginia, I made a visit to MarketSpice to stock up all my jars before heading to questionable territory that may or may not have spices suitable to my standards.  Southern Belle came with me and took the snapshot you see above!

People come in to the store with long lists they need to replenish, so when I came and said I had a long list and started rattling them off, the clerk suggested I just hand him the notebook.  I did, and he stopped what he was doing to stare.  "Well," he said.  "We've had some pretty long lists, but I'm gonna have to say this is the longest one I've ever seen."

"I'm just restocking the ones that are low," I said.  "You guys have the best."

By the time he finished, two other employees had joined him, starting from the bottom of the list and working their way up, while he worked his way down from the top.  They brilliantly deciphered my hieroglyphic notations and determined how many ounces of each I wanted - it was like they could read my mind!

While I love the spices at Penzeys, too (I'm told MarketSpice sources some of their spices from them, as well), the beauty of MarketSpice is you can buy whatever quantity you want; Penzeys come pre-bottled (which makes them fabulous gifts!), so they can be a little bit pricier; but the quality is just as high.  I source my vanilla beans from Beanilla, a great online resource with the most competitive bulk prices on the market today, and use them to make our homemade extracts and other deliciousnesses like ice cream or tapioca pudding.

Miz Carmen gave my sister Melissa the idea for these little spice jars, which
I received from Melissa as a wedding gift!  This is just one drawer out of several ... 
When I was home for Christmas this past December, almost a year after my earlier visit, I stopped in at MarketSpice to restock on a couple items, and find a few new spices to try.  It's a busy store, and there were even a few new employees - but the old employees remembered me - "Didn't you come in with that huge list?" and the new employees had heard of me - "Didn't you come in with that huge list?"!  I had to laugh - but this is just another reason why I love this store.  Quality customer care, every single time!

Following is a list of the spices and blends we currently have on file right now.  The list is always evolving - some things run out, others are replaced, gifts are received, some are good, some are bad, new blends are mixed - and so it will probably be different if you come in a week from now!  These are sorted by letter and variety, but they aren't exactly alphabetical.

MS = Market Spice, P = Penzeys, HM = Homemade blend or home-grown and dried

Numbers 33rd & Galena (P blend)

Aa Allspice (ground), Allspice (whole), Anise Seed, Anise (ground), Arizona Dreaming (P blend)

Bb Baking Powder (home mix), Baking Soda, Sweet Basil (HM, dried, frozen), Sweet Basil (Frozen Oil Paste, HM), Cinnamon Basil (HM, dried, frozen), Lemon Basil (HM, dried, frozen), Purple Basil (HM, frozen), Bay Leaf (dried, HM), Bread Topping (HM), BBQ3000 (P blend), Beaumonde, Berebere (mixed by my cousin)

Cc Chinese 5-Spice, Caraway seeds, Cardamom (ground), Cardamom pods, Cayenne, Celery Seed, Chili Powder (MS blend), Cinnamon (ground, Oregon Spice), Ceylon Cinnamon, China Cinnamon, Vietnamese Cinnamon, Cinnamon Stick, Cloves (whole), Cloves (ground), Coriander, Cornstarch, Cream of Tartar, Cumin (ground), Cumin (whole), Curry (regular), Curry (additional blend), Curry (Madras), Vindaloo Curry, Crab & Shrimp Boil (MS blend), Cajun (P blend), Chicken and Rib Rub (P blend), Cilantro (dried), Cilantro (HM, frozen), Cider Mulling Mix (HM - recipe below), Hot Chili Powder, Whole Cayenne, Seattle Chai Mix (MS), Chai Spice Blend (MS, no tea)

Dd Dill Seed, Dill Weed

Ff Fennel, Fenugreek (ground), Fenugreek (whole), Fish Stock (Hon Dashi, grains), Fennel, Flax (ground), Flax Seeds

Gg Garam Masala, Garlic Powder, Garlic Salt, Ginger, Gumbo File (Sassafras root, powdered), Roasted Garlic Seasoning,  Game Hen Blend (MS blend. I used this all up after compiling my list so it's actually all gone!), Galena Street (P blend), Ground Virginia Peppers (HM)

Ii Italian Seasoning (MS blend)

Jj Jamaican Jerk (MS blend), Jalapeno Powder, Juniper Berries, Crushed Jalapeno

Mm Marjoram, Mustard Seed (yellow), Mustard Seed (brown), Mustard (ground), Hot Mustard (ground), Mint (whole leaf, HM), Mint (coarse grind, HM), Sambhar Masala, Pav Bhaji Masala, Karahi Chicken Masala, Chunky Chat Masala, Mchuzi Mix (Kenyan blend), Matcha Powder, Sweet Mesquite Seasoning, Smoky Meat Rub

Nn Nutmeg (ground), Nutmeg (whole), Nigella Seed

Oo Onion Powder (HM), Oregano, Orange Peel (dried, HM), Chopped Onion (HM)

Pp Paprika (hot), Paprika (sweet), Paprika (smoked), Paprika (Spanish Smoked), Parsley (dried), Parsley (frozen), Pepper (Tellicherry, whole), Pepper (ground) Pepper (crushed, red), Poppy Seed, Pickling Spice (store blend), Pumpkin Pie Spice (HM)

Rr Rosemary (Whole, HM), Rosemary (Coarse grind, HM), Rosemary (fine powder, HM)

Ss Saffron, Sage (HM), Sage (ground, HM), Seasoned Salt, Penzeys 4/S Seasoned Salt, Pretzel Salt, Kosher Salt, Celtic Sea Salt, Pickling Salt, Bacon Salt, Truffle Salt, Mural of Fire (P Seasoned salt), Sesame (Black), Sesame (Yellow), Sugar (Green Chile), Sugar (Cinnamon, HM - recipe below), Sumac, Sour Cream Dip Mix (HM, recipe below)

Tt Tarragon, Thyme (whole, HM), Thyme (ground, HM), Thyme (flaked), Turmeric, Taco Seasoning (HM)

Vv Vanilla Bean

A Few of My Favorite Spice Blends
I like blending my own spices - although there are a few favorite blends I love to buy premade! - and if you have a great spice blend you are willing to share, I'd be keen to hear it!

Cinnamon Sugar
This is the perfect ratio of sugar to cinnamon! 

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup sugar

Blend thoroughly.  Sprinkle on toast, cinnamon rolls, steamed milk, chopped apples, applesauce ...

Cider Mulling Mix
A little cheesecloth or a mesh tea ball filled with spices, a pot on the stove and a jar of home-pressed cider ... I like to use just a small amount, maybe two teaspoons approximately, per quart. 

Approximately 1 tablespoon whole allspice
Approximately 2 teaspoons whole cloves
1 stick cinnamon, approximately two inches, broken in half or shattered coarsely
Approximately 1 tablespoon dried orange peel pieces
A few shaves of a whole nutmeg

Toss together; increase amount in ratio listed as desired.  Store in an airtight jar.

Pumpkin Pie Spice (see the original post here!)
If you make the Libby recipe, just use two teaspoons per pie of this in replacement of what the can of puree calls for.  I use this to make my homemade pumpkin spice granola! 

1 tablespoon cinnamon
1-1/2 tsp ginger
3/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp allspice (optional)

Whisk ingredients together well; store in an airtight container.

Big Batch of Pumpkin Pie Spice (x 8)
Just a little pluttification ... and we have MORE! 

1/2 cup cinnamon (8 tablespoons)
1/4 cup ginger (12 teaspoons/4 tablespoons)
3 tablespoons cloves (6 teaspoons)
2 teaspoons allspice (optional)

Taco Seasoning (see the original post here!)
I got this recipe from Miz Carmen, who got it from Allrecipes, to which it was submitted by Bill Echols (thanks, Bill!)

Find a recipe for tortillas (whole wheat or white) here

1 tablespoon chili powder
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon onion powder
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon paprika
1 – ½ teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon black pepper

Big Batch of Taco Seasoning
Have a huge family?  Making taco beef for a party?  Freezing batches of seasoned meat?  

To sedecuple the recipe (multiply it by 16), and make 16 ounces of taco seasoning (2 cups): 
1 cup chili powder
4 teaspoons garlic powder
4 teaspoons onion powder
4 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
4 teaspoons dried oregano
2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons paprika
½ cup ground cumin
5 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon sea salt
5 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon ground black pepper  

Adjust the ratios as you like to make it more to your tastes; do you have any good ideas of other spices to add to this mix?

Sour Cream Dip
Blend this with sour cream - how much you use is up to you, as strength of flavoring is purely a personal choice - and serve with chips, vegetables, meat, fried hobo pockets, or whatever else you love to dip!  I used to enjoy the Lipton Onion Soup mixed with sour cream, but when I tried it again a year or two ago I realized all I could taste was MSG and artificial flavorings - my taste buds have refined since my teen years!  I had to come up with this mix so I could enjoy that oniony, salty dip again! 

1 tablespoon Beaumonde
2 teaspoons chopped or flaked onion
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon dill weed (or two teaspoons, if you like it less dominant)
2 teaspoons dried parsley

Blend well; whisk into sour cream.

Aluminum-Free Baking Powder (read the entire article here!)
If you bought this at the grocery store, it would cost twice as much as regular baking powder.  Crazy, huh?  

Sodium bicarbonate: 1/4 cup baking soda
Acid Salt: 1/2 cup cream of tartar
Starch: 1/2 cup arrowroot powder or 1/4 cup cream of tartar (optional, and highly recommended especially if you are going to put this in your cupboard for storage)

More!  We must have more!! 

All you spice fans and foodies out there - I am currently in the testing phase for a great chai spice blend, pickling spice, and an italian seasoning blend.  If you have a favorite recipe you are willing to share, please let me know and I will be anxious to try it!

Do you know of other great blends, or fabulous resources for spices?  Is there a great spice shop in your town?  I am always hunting for new and adventurous blends and applications for spices, like pepper in cookies and cinnamon on chicken - what is the most bizarre way you've ever used a familiar spice?  If I come across any new great resources or come up with a new great blend, I'll update this post!

Yours in season and out,

Mrs H

tweet us @_mrs_h for chewy nuggets
Pin us at Pinterest for pretty photos and intriguing articles
Follow us on Facebook for recipes, giveaways, and brilliant flashes of perspiration!



Related Posts with Thumbnails