A few of my favorite things

Yes, I was singing the song as I wrote out the title, how can you not? Let’s talk about some of the things that I always have on hand and where I get them!

Shall we start with spices? There isn’t a spice shop in my town, there may be one in the city but I don’t think so, so I order my spices online. It started back in 2014 when I got a Groupon for Milford Spice Company and I fell in love with all of her things! I bought exclusively from her until I discovered that there were other companies that would deliver new and different blends and single spices to me! I discovered My Spice Sage and The Spice House. My Spice Sage offers free shipping and a free sample with every order, it doesn’t get much better than that! They package their goods in resealable bags for the most part, 1 cup jars with sifter lids are available also. The Spice House has some of the more esoteric spices and blends, they offer their spices in jars that require a certain dollar amount to ship free and what they call “flat packs” that are just small resealable bags and those always ship free.

I always have salt and pepper. Currently in salt I have Kosher, red, black, pink, sea, applewood smoked, cherrywood smoked, balsamic vinegar, merlot, hickory smoked, burbon barrel smoked and fire. In salt blends I have Sale Italiano which is sea salt, greek oregano, basil, marjoram, thyme, rosemary and sage and one called Dillicious and it is a mix of onion, garlic, salt, parsley, black pepper and dill. I even have finishing salts, porcini and chardonnay smoked fleur de sel. For pepper I have a black pepper grinder for fresh ground, a box of pre ground black pepper, smoked whole black peppercorns that have their own grinder, ground white pepper, a mix of ground black and cayenne pepper, a medley of black, green, pink and white. I had some pink peppercorns but I didn’t care for them, I thought they were kind of greasy, so when I ran out I got the medley. The most favorite of my pepper seasonings was another gift, it is a smoked jalapeno pepper blend. I reached out to the makers of this magic to get a generic ingredients list and she responded with ” the powder is mainly slow smoked jalapeno ground with onion, sea salt, garlic and a few herbs we grow”.  This is something I would sprinkle over popcorn or nachos as well as add in to a dish for that mid range spice note, it is very heat forward with the smoked yum as an end note. The folks that made this are a local to me situation, Bad Baxter Farms, I am going to include the link to their Facebook page so ya’ll can check them out! Everything they make and sell comes directly from their farm, how cool is that but this means you can’t get this magical pepper powder until next pepper season.

I prefer granulated garlic over garlic powder because it blends in without getting clumpy and I feel like it has more flavor. Onion powder is a little closer to the texture of the granulated garlic than to powder. I also discovered shallot powder, it is very powdery and needs to be kept in the fridge so it doesn’t turn into rocks and it has to be added in just right so it doesn’t get clumpy.

I have recently decided that I need to try out some rubs. First I started with an espresso rub, ingredients being ancho chili powder, brown sugar, Spanish paprika-this is a sweeter version- ground espresso beans, sea salt, black pepper, yellow mustard powder, coriander, ground ginger, chilie de arbol powder- this is a Mexican chili that is comparable to cayenne pepper- and mexican oregano. I used it on everything but it was best on beef and venison. Next was blackening seasoning, not technically a rub but I have always been worried about the spice level so I was hesitant to try it. I had been worrying for nothing! The chili powders used in the one I got are nice and mild! I started down this road with chicken, I start most of my experiments with chicken since it is cheap enough that if things go wrong and I have to toss it I don’t cry about it. Anyway, the chicken was fairly tasty so I went right to tuna steaks without even checking with Google to make sure that blackened tuna was a thing! Very brave. Much to my delight the fish was brilliant!! He said it was some of the best fish I had made in a while so I tried a bite and it was good, if you like tuna. Third was actually a gift made by a company called Big Cock Ranch and the rub I got was called Bull Shit. They have a whole line and on their website you can order a “Shit Load” sampler pack, “The whole shit and caboodle” pack as well as the singles, some of their products are available on Amazon as well. I will include this web address since the main site wasn’t first on the Google search, Shop.specialshit.com.  My most recent find is a smoked tea rub. Sounds intriguing and the list of ingredients is granulated molasses, sea salt, smoked Lapsong Souchong tea, demerara sugar, sesame seeds, paprika, garlic, black pepper, fennel, rosemary and marjoram. I don’t drink much tea but the baby does so I had her in mind when I ordered this. I also don’t know diddly about marjoram but the Googles told me that marjoram has a milder flavor than oregano and tastes similar to thyme, but sweeter and with a stronger scent. It is from the same genus as oregano but not the same species, so they are more like cousins than siblings and shouldn’t necessarily be substituted for each other. Clear as mud, right? I don’t know any more now than when I started about marjoram but this rub is flippin delightful! And if you are wondering about the demerara sugar it is a type of pure cane sugar with a large grain and a pale amber color and has a pleasant toffee flavor and can be used in place of brown sugar but brown sugar can be too sweet to be used in its place. I have used this rub only on steak and chicken so far, it is so brilliant on the beef that I think it would do a great deal of justice to some venison which I happen to have some of! Yeah!! More adventures!!

Now on to other bits and bobs I keep in the cupboard. For the Asian dishes I keep star anise, Chinese 5 spice that is a blend of star anise, cloves, Sichuan pepper and fennel seeds, coriander seeds and powder, mustard seeds and powder, turmeric, liquid aminos, soy sauce powder and soy sauce liquid, mirin, Chinese black vinegar, hoisin sauce, mushroom flavored dark sauce which is a soy sauce type of thing, fish sauce, chili oil, sesame oil and rice wine vinegar. I also have this blend called Korean BBQ and I use it not just in the Asian dishes, it has cane sugar, garlic, soy sauce powder, black sesame seeds, sea salt, ginger, scallion, black pepper and chile pepper.

Writing has definitely shown me where I am lacking, It seems that I cook either Asian or American dishes for the most part and I shrink Asia to much less than it is! I make Korean, Japanese and a bastardized version of Chinese and my own version of Vietnamese. I do make one curry dish but it something we had in Okinawa and I think the owners were Filipino so I am not sure that counts as a traditional curry dish? I have to admit to being uneducated about curry outside of knowing that it isn’t a dish but a blend of spices. I will research and get back to ya’ll with a post about it!

Back to the bits! These are mostly blends and I don’t necessarily use them only as suggested. First is called Wonderful World Seasoning and it is a mix of salt, cinnamon, bay leaf, allspice, black pepper, white pepper, celery seed, nutmeg and onion. I have tried this on chicken, pork and beef but my favorite place to use is in the Asian dishes when I don’t have Chinese 5 spice. Next is Seafood Seasoning and it is salt, celery seed, white pepper, bay leaf, coves, allspice, ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, paprika, mustard and Oleoresin paprika which is simply used for coloring the mix. My current obsession is called Garden Glory and it is garlic, salt, paprika, onion, black pepper, thyme, red bell pepper, molasses, oregano and serrano chilies. This mix is suggested for veggies but I have used it on chicken and white fish with great results and I am betting that it would make an outstanding shrimp flavoring! 

As far as baking spices go I keep them but I rarely bake so they mostly get pitched and replaced every 2 or 3 years. Cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, allspice, cream of tartar and baking powder are on the rotating list. I try to always have vanilla, almond and orange extract on hand just in case someone wants a smoothie or I make fresh whipped cream.

I am a huge fan of grilling so I have a little section for making my own blends and it includes seasoned salt, smoked and sweet paprika, celery seed and salt, three different flavors of liquid smoke, worcestershire sauce and powder, tomato powder, carrot powder, Dijon mustard powder, ancho chili powder, chipotle powder and meat tenderizer.

I almost forgot to mention the Tex-Mex! We do love tacos and fajitas and burritos so I have cumin, oregano, chili powder, turmeric, more paprika, cilantro leaf, a blend called chili con carne seasoning with tomato powder, chili pepper, salt, allspice, coriander, cumin, oregano, cloves, garlic, cilantro, red and green bell pepper and onion. Then there are these little packets of magic made by Goya called Sazon that I find at my Asian market but are labeled in Spanish. One is a mix of cilantro and tomato (con cilantro y tomate), one is coriander and annatto (con culantro y achiote) which according to Google is an earthy, peppery flavor with a hint of bitterness and the other is con azafran which is a Mexican saffron. My Spanish is very poor so I had the hubs translate the packages for me and these little envelopes of magic are recommended for everything from soups and stews to salsa and rice dishes. They also say to add a package to anything that you already have going for a boost of flavor, like what MSG does.

I don’t think that I mentioned thyme, dill, lemon pepper, salt free Mrs. Dash or MSG but those guys are in the cupboard as well and they get used in almost everything.

I think I have covered just about everything! I will put the where to shop links at the bottom so they are easier to find and use!

http://www.milfordspice.com
http://www.thespicehouse.com
http://www.myspicesage.com
https://www.facebook.com/badbaxterfarm/

Thanks ya’ll!! Happy cooking!

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