Archive for the ‘Spice Blends’ Category

Ancho Chili Powder – Seed to Jar

Tuesday, September 27th, 2016



Technically, this is easy peasy. Throw dried ancho in a grinder and pulverize. Viola! Chili powder! I hope I never have to resort to store-bought powder again.  I wish you could smell it! It has a wonderfully fruity pepper aroma, like nothing I’ve ever found in a store.  I opened the grinder, took a big sniff, and immediately did this weird sneezy cough thing.  There is so much more going on in this simple powder than I could have imagined.

As far as easy peasy goes, I’ve decided to give myself a little more credit. This was a project that took some time, patience, and a little elbow grease.  I chose an heirloom poblano seed last winter, and planted the seeds back in early March.






At the end of April, I turned over a cover crop of rye and vetch in my raised beds.  I hand dig all 4 of my raised beds, and by the time the cover crop had decomposed into the soil enough that I could plant, I had dug each bed a total of 3 times.  It’s a great way to start getting back into shape in the spring, and I’m usually a little sore at first. By mid May, I had transplanted the poblano pepper seedlings in the ground.




By the beginning of August, I was picking and roasting green chilis for the freezer




Here I am in September, and the peppers have finally ripened to a beautiful chocolate.




This past weekend, I halved and seeded them, and put them in my dehydrator. After a couple of days, they were shriveled, semi-crisp, and almost black.




I’ll admit, I had my doubts when I put them in the grinder.  Who would have believed the powder would come out looking like this? One smell. One taste.  THIS is why I bother to do so much of what I do. This is what knowing where my food comes from is all about.  Now, whenever I cook something using this powder, I’ll be reminded of 7 months, from seed to jar, of what’s involved in producing a simple staple spice I keep in my cupboard.




Now that I’ve finished this post, I’m off to use my spectacular ancho powder to make up a batch of my Tex-Mex blend.



Country Style Pork Sausage Seasoning

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

I’m planning to make a sausage stuffed winter squash for dinner this evening, but I’m out of my country sausage seasoning.  I purchase organic pork that’s been raised roaming a wood lot.  I have the butcher package up one pound portions of ground pork for my freezer, and then season it myself to assure my family won’t be eating crap like MSG.  Seriously, have you ever taken the time to real the labels on prepackaged sausage in the grocery?  You’ll be hard pressed to find MSG free sausage …. and beware those labeled “no MSG” … the FDA allows manufacturers to use “natural flavorings” on the labels, and MSG is hidden in those “natural flavors”.  Additives aside, after our first taste of pastured organic pork, my family agreed that we would never again be willing to go back to factory farmed pork.

As usual, I do everything the hard way, using herbs I’ve grown and grinding my own spices.  You’re welcome to use pre-ground spices, but if you’ve never tried freshly ground you really should some time.   I decided not to gross you out by showing you my skinned knuckle from grating the nutmeg. No matter how careful I am, I always manage to bloody myself when I grate nutmeg or Parmesan cheese.

Country Style Pork Sausage Seasoning
4 Tablespoons kosher salt
4 Tablespoons ground pepper
3-4 Tablespoons rubbed sage (I use 3 Tablespoons)
1 Tablespoon grated nutmeg
1/2 to 1 teaspoon ground cayenne or other hot pepper (I use 1/2 teaspoon because my hubby has no heat chops)

Blend together and store in a jar. Use approximately 2 teaspoons of seasoning for each pound of ground pork.

Sweet Potato & Root Vegetable Seasoning

Saturday, October 22nd, 2011

I’ve got anther seasoning blend for you already.  It’s just that time of year.  Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been grabbing as much as possible from the herb garden before the first hard frost arrived.  A freeze was predicted last night, so about an hour before sunset I went out to the garden and picked the last of the green tomatoes. I also covered the peas, greens, and a few herbs with some sheets.  Sure enough, there was heavy frost on the ground this morning and the bird bath was covered with ice.

With a glut of freshly dried herbs and seeds, I decided to replenish one of my favorite spice blends for seasoning sweet potatoes and other winter root vegetables today.  I’m honestly not sure where I came up with this particular blend, but I’m glad I did. You can use pre-ground coriander and fennel, but I highly recommend using the whole spices and toasting and grinding them yourself.  Your taste buds will thank you.  I heat a cast iron skillet over medium high heat and dry roast the coriander and fennel until the seeds begin to pop and smoke.  I always keep the pan moving, and remove the seeds to a big plate at the first sign of smoking.

Sweet Potato & Root Vegetable Seasoning
2 parts ground coriander seed
2 parts salt
1 part ground fennel seed
1 part crushed dried basil
1/2 part ground cayenne pepper

Blend together and store in a jar. Toss your favorite root vegetables with a little olive oil and this seasoning blend, and then roast in a hot oven.

All Purpose Tex-Mex Spice Blend

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

Today is my day off and I’m using the time for some kitchen prep work which will make the next week run smoothly. I was planning to send my son to school with a homemade taco salad in his lunchbox tomorrow.  I was out of the seasoning mix I use for any of my Tex-Mex dishes (chili, fajitas, tacos, etc).  I’ll have to remember to write a little about our adventures in packed lunches at some later time. For those of you struggling to keep  your children’s lunch menu interesting, I should share some of our packed lunch menus.

Unlike many of the taco seasoning recipes floating around on the web, you will notice that my recipe lacks onion and garlic powder.  I like to use fresh garlic and onion when I cook up my chili or taco meat, so it’s not necessary in my spice blend.  Once I’ve cooked up my ground beef and added my spice mix, I add two or three tablespoons of flour to the meat and cook it for another minute.  I then add a little water and simmer to create slightly saucy meat mixture.  I finish the whole thing off with a few squeezes of fresh lime juice to brighten up the flavor and give it a little extra zing.

I try to use as many whole spices, and herbs that I grow myself in my kitchen. The flavor of freshly toasted and crushed herbs and spices is far superior to the stale pre-ground seasonings found in the grocery store aisles.  In this particular spice blend I use oregano from my herb garden, and whole cumin seed that I toast in a cast iron skillet (until the seeds start to pop and  smoke slightly) and grind with a mortar and pestle.  If you haven’t figured it out by now, I like to do everything the hard way. The chili powder used is a matter of personal taste.  I use a mild chili powder because my husband can’t handle spicy food.  If I had my way I’d be using a wonderful rich, smoky chipotle powder that lurks in the back of my spice cupboard.

All Purpose Tex-Mex Spice Blend
8 Tablespoons chili powder
4 Tablespoons toasted cumin seed powder
1 Tablespoon good quality Hungarian paprika
1 Tablespoon crushed oregano leaves
1 Tablespoon kosher salt

Blend all spices together and store in a jar.  I recently began using Weck canning jars, which are so popular in Germany and Europe.  These 1/5 l deco jars stack perfectly in my spice cupboard.