Foodie Friday: 8 More Ways to Use Herbs

Last week’s Foodie Friday post offered ten ways to use herbs. We saw tips on how to enhance the flavors of different meats and for creating your own seasoning blends. This time, let’s look at those same ideas for pasta and vegetables.

When working with pasta, you can add new twists to familiar tastes. For instance:

  • Using ground nutmeg smooths out the flavor of Alfredo sauce. Ground mustard, rosemary, parsley and black pepper go well with savory mushroom sauces. Sprinkle tarragon over a primavera recipe.
  • Thyme, rosemary, oregano leaves, garlic powder, and black pepper are good with any pasta salad recipe. Here’s a fruity take on pasta salad. Italian seasoning, basil, crushed red pepper, garlic and onion powders, and oregano give hearty flavor to pasta soups, stews, and casseroles.
  • The several varieties of sauces we use for pasta work well depending on the type of noodle used. Shape and size determine the best choices. Capellini, angel hair, fettuccine, linguini and spaghetti work the best with smooth, thin sauces or sauces with chopped ingredients. Shaped pasta like mostaccioli, penne, rotelle, rotini and ziti are best used with chunky and heavier sauces. Large shells and manicotti lend themselves well to being stuffed with a hearty red sauce or cheese sauce.
  • If you’ve never tried making your own pesto sauce, try this easy recipe which goes well with those finer pastas like angel hair, fettuccine, linguini and spaghetti.

Whether your vegetable dish is a salad or you’re dressing up baked or steamed veggies, herbs will prove a welcome addition.

  • Potato salads, green salads, vegetable salads perk up with dill weed, celery salt, paprika, and white or black pepper. For a new sensation, use lemon pepper seasoning on green leafy vegetables like salad greens, spinach, kale, mustard, collard or mustard greens. Season corn, carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and winter squash with ginger, cardamom, dill weed, chives, onion powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, mace, marjoram, or thyme.

When it comes to fish, they fall into categories of mild, moderate and full flavors as other meats do.

  • For delicately flavored fish like flounder, sole, orange roughy, or trout, enhance them with thyme, tarragon, dill weed, garlic powder, oregano or white or black pepper. The moderate flavors of salmon, snapper, catfish and rock fish peak up with dill weed, Italian seasoning, tarragon, lemon and pepper seasoning, oregano, garlic powder, or pepper. Tuna and swordfish are full-flavored fish. They wake up to the addition of basil, rosemary, oregano, marjoram, thyme, garlic powder, and red or black pepper. Tilapia With Corn Salsa satisfies a craving for Mexican food.
  • When cooking shrimp or scallops or for creating any seafood recipe, try tarragon, garlic powder, thyme, oregano, lemon pepper, red or black pepper or parsley. Whether steaming crabs or broiling lobster, the unique flavors of dry mustard, red pepper, lemon pepper and chives work well.
  • Substitutions are helpful to know because, when you’re out of something fresh, something from your cupboard comes in handy. For 1 medium-sized onion, use 1 tablespoon onion powder. One eighth teaspoon garlic powder. One half teaspoon garlic salt is a substitute for 1 medium clove of garlic. Substitute one fourth teaspoon ginger for 1 teaspoon fresh ginger. In general, for 1 tablespoon fresh herbs, use 1 teaspoon dried herbs.

It may sound strange, but this Spinach Chicken Manicotti uses nutmeg and basil along with the main ingredients.

 And a fast, easy tuna dish, Tuna Crescent Rings.

Remember to have fun while you navigate the kitchen and try new herb combinations. You might even decide you’d like to start your own herb garden. Then you’ll really be a Foodie!

 

 

photo credits Taste of Home

 

 

 

Foodie Friday: 10 Ways to Use Herbs

Something great happened the day I decided to be brave and begin experimenting with herbs and spices. I still use recipes, especially for baking. But cooking “by guess and by golly” is generally pretty much how I do it. Now I enjoy cooking much more. I also enjoy the results more.

For instance, I never make my famous spaghetti sauce the same way twice. I may be using the same herbs, but never in the same amounts, and it always turns out tasty. More than one person has said I should market it.

However, knowing a little about which spices and herbs work well with different foods can help. It can also be a boon to have some spice blends on hand to use so you don’t have to buy those small bottles and packets with additives and cranked up cost.

Add These to This to Get That

  • To enhance the flavor of beef, use bay leaves, chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, lemon pepper seasoning, rosemary, marjoram, oregano, or thyme.
  • When cooking with pork, which has a mild flavor, give it some oomph with basil, caraway seed, ground ginger, Italian seasoning, oregano, savory, rosemary, or garlic powder.
  • Where I live, we eat wild game. Enhance those flavors with marjoram, thyme, bay leaf, garlic powder, or onion powder.
  • Turkey is traditionally flavored with poultry seasoning or sage, but you can also try oregano, black pepper, herbs de Provence, onion powder, rosemary, savory, or basil.
  • Chicken and Cornish hens come alive with such herbs as dill weed, basil, ginger, oregano, thyme, chives, bay leaf, garlic and onion powders, paprika, rosemary, sage, or tarragon.

Make Your Own Seasoning Blends

If you need a little jump start to try some new herbs, here are a few blends you can mix up to experiment with.

  • Salad herb blend: 2 tsp. basil leaves; 1 tsp. dill weed; 1 tbsp. marjoram leaves; 1 tbsp. parsley flakes; 1 tbsp. tarragon leaves. If you like to add protein to your salad, match these ingredients to the list of which goes best with each herb.
  • Meat and vegetable blend: 1 tbsp. basil; 1 tsp. celery seed; 1 tbsp. marjoram; 1 tsp. onion powder; 1 tsp. thyme.
  • Taco seasoning: 1 ½ tbsp. oregano; 1 ½ tbsp. garlic powder; 1 tbsp. paprika; 2 tbsp. cumin; 1 tbsp. chili powder; ½ tsp. allspice.

Don’t be afraid to experiment and tweak the blends to your own taste. There’s no right or wrong combination. An advantage to using herbs and blends is that you can spice up your food without using salt.

What’s That Flavor?

Herbs naturally have different flavors. In addition, they fall into categories of mild, medium and robust. Chives and parsley are examples of mild-flavored herbs. Some medium-flavored herbs are basil, dill weed, marjoram, and mint. Stronger-tasting herbs are those like bay leaves, oregano, rosemary, sage, savory, tarragon, and thyme.

 Tips for Keeping Herbs and Spices Fresh

  •  Avoid storing spices near the stove, dishwasher, sink or a window. Dried spices don’t spoil, but they can lose strength. Moisture and heat contribute to this. Be sure to never sprinkle or pour spices directly into a steaming pot since the steam introduced into the bottle hastens loss of flavor and aroma. It also results in caking. For the same reason, if you’re measuring from the bottle with a measuring spoon, be sure the spoon is dry.
  • Some folks like to use fresh herbs for everything and that’s a great idea. You can always substitute dried herbs for fresh if you know how, and vice-versa. Check it out here.

Next week, you’ll get ideas for enhancing other foods like pasta, vegetables and seafood. We’ll also have suggestions for substitutions, cooking tips, and a recipe or two.

Bon appetite!

Foodies Can Make Their Own Stuff

It’s a great idea to keep your own stash of cooking mixes handy. I prefer to make my own with the ingredients I have right in my pantry. I save money that way and I know what’s in my mixes. Most of the time, with a minimum of preservatives. Here’s some DIY mixes I have on hand all the time, with the exception of those that require cooking or preparation immediately for the dish I’m making.

Taco Seasoning (mild)

  • ½ c. + 1 T. chili powder
  • 3 T. cumin
  • 1 T. salt
  • 1 T. ground pepper
  • 1 T. paprika
  • 2 T. garlic powder
  • 2 tsp. onion powder
  • 2 tsp. oregano

For a spicier mix, add up to 2 tsp. red pepper flakes or up to 2 tsp. more of the chili powder. Use 2 ½ Tbsp. seasoning for each pound of meat. Stores well in a plastic zipper bag or small jar.

Hot Cocoa Mix

Hot Cocoa Mix

  • 2 c. non-fat dry milk
  • ½ c. baking cocoa
  • 1 c. sugar (or substitute)
  • ¼ tsp. salt

Mix all ingredients and store in an airtight container. Use as much as you need for your individual taste per cup.

 

 

Seasoned Baking Mix (for meat)

  • 1 c. bread crumbs
  • ½ c. flour
  • 2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 2 tsp. poultry seasoning
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Combine the ingredients and store the mixture in a resealable container or zipper bag. This will keep in the pantry up to four months, depending on the humidity. It’s okay to freeze or refrigerate this mix. Easily doubled or tripled. Use recipe one cup at a time as you would the commercial mix. I like to dip my chicken in a mixture of ½ c. milk (or buttermilk, which you can also make yourself) and one beaten egg. I also make my own bread crumbs using stale bread or the crusts of bread by pulverizing them in a blender. The crumbs can be stored in the fridge too for use in other recipes.

  Hot Fudge Topping

Left: Pumpkin Pie Spice
Right: Taco Seasoning

  •   1 c. sugar
  •   2 Tbsp. flour
  •   3 Tbsp. cocoa
  •   1 c. milk
  •   1 tsp. vanilla
  •   Salt to taste

Combine first four ingredients in a small saucepan. Add cold milk gradually, stirring constantly and cook until thickened. Just before it thickens, add the vanilla.

Enchilada Sauce

  • 3 c. chicken broth                                      1 tsp. cumin
  • 3/4 tsp. salt                                                 3 Tbsp. chili powder
  • 2 heaping tsp. garlic powder                   1/8 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/3 tsp sugar or substitute                      1 Tbsp. cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp. oregano                                            8 oz. can tomato paste
  • 5 Tbsp. cold water                                     5 Tbsp. flour

In a 2 quart saucepan, blend broth, cumin, salt, chili powder, garlic powder, cinnamon, cocoa, oregano, and sugar. Whisk to blend well. As mixture is heating, slowly blend in the tomato paste. Heat to boiling, then quickly reduce heat to a low boil. Cook for 3 minutes more. Whisk frequently to thoroughly dissolve spices.

While sauce simmers, make a thickener adding flour to the water 1 tablespoon at a time. (Whisk or shake vigorously in a shaker to avoid lumps.) Use more flour as needed. While sauce is at a low boil, add thickener, stirring constantly. If sauce forms a skin while cooling, peel it off and toss it. This particular homemade specialty will impress you and your family or guests. It’s much tastier and, like I said, you know what’s in it.

Eazy Peazy Pizza Crust

1 ½ c. Baking mix              1/3 c. boiling water

Make a soft dough from the mix and water, using a little flour to keep dough from being too sticky. Boiling the water is what will make the crust more chewy and flavorful. Makes enough for one pizza or 4 six-inch pizzas, depending on how thick you like your crust. If you know how to make your own baking mix, all the better.

Just for Fun: The Classic English Breakfast

Eggs, Sausage, Bacon, Toast, Mushrooms, Beans, Sliced tomatoes, and of course, Tea.

Now, For 2019 Foodie Fun

Yep, we still insist, some of us, in making new year resolutions.

Did you make resolutions to create a “better” you for the new calendar year? It’s almost a joke anymore to resolve to lose weight or eat less or reduce time spent on social media. But, go ahead; I believe in you.

Me? I try to keep my resolutions realistic. Like “I resolve to drink unbelievable amounts of coffee every day and to eat chocolate at least three times a week.” I’m realistic and cowardly about admitting I break promises to myself.

Me? I make a list of things I’d like to accomplish during the year, being quite specific and applying those goals to each area of my life. But I almost never make a goal about food. Except for that one about how much I spend on groceries. *sigh*

Me? I like to eat. I enjoy cooking and baking. I can be found puttering in the kitchen when I’m anxious. I can be found puttering in the kitchen at all hours of the night. Chances are, if you called and I didn’t answer the phone, I was busy in the kitchen.

Eating, cooking, and baking were probably family events for you during the past holiday season. I can’t think of any November/December holidays that don’t involve food. After all, cooking and eating bring us together for a great time of fellowship.

I hope your holidays, whichever ones you celebrate(d), were some of the best you’ve ever had. And I hope you bring joy to your little world through a good meal, a tasty snack, a chewy cookie, or a quenching drink.

Now it’s about time I went to the kitchen to bake those pumpkin bars I promised my friend.

Eat hardy!

Cookies, Here We Come

Well, it’s that time of year when some of us are getting ready for the Christmas cookie exchanges. Now, this post may seem backward, but I’ll be talking about weeks-ahead preparation for baking your dozens of cookies. Next time, I’ll include some recipes for favorite Christmas (and any time of year) cookies.

Today Foodie has some tips on freezing cookie dough for baking in the future and freezing baked cookies so they’re handy any time. You may want to do a little research on which cookies/doughs aren’t good bets for freezing, but here’s some tips for those that freeze well.

What to have on hand

  • Plenty of gallon-sized zipper type freezer bags
  • Wax paper or parchment paper
  • Cookie sheets
  • Containers with covers (for bar-type cookies)

Place baked cookies on a silicone baking sheet or parchment-lined cookie sheet. (They can be placed close together since they’re already baked.) Freeze them for an hour (or until solid), then transfer to a freezer zip-top bag. Squeeze out as much air as possible before you put them in the freezer to prevent freezer burn.

For slice-and-bake cookies, shape the dough into one or two logs, use a layer of plastic wrap first to prevent freezer burn and odor absorption from your freezer. Then put into a zipper seal bag and freeze.

How Long To Freeze Them

With proper storage, most cookies can be kept in the freezer for up to three months. The best way to store cookies depends on the type of cookie you’re baking. For example, chewy bars should be stored in a single layer in a covered airtight container.

Thawing Tips

If you thaw baked cookies in the containers you stored them in while in the freezer, the condensation that forms while they thaw could linger on the cookies. Then they become soggy. Remove them from the freezer bag or airtight container when you defrost them so that condensation won’t form. It’s best to put baked cookies on a paper towel-lined plate to thaw them. Always thaw them at room temperature.

Baking Frozen Cookies

Balls of drop cookie dough can be baked directly from the freezer, while slice-and-bake and cut-out cookie dough needs to thaw out shortly on the counter so that they can be sliced or rolled out. Regardless, the doughs will be colder than they would be if they were baked fresh, so you should plan on adding a minute or two to the suggested baking time to make sure they get cooked through.

Have fun baking all those batches of cookies, sharing them with friends, and, most of all, eating them.

Foodie is Stewing

I promised this recipe to friend who was curious. I made it earlier this week because I was in the mood for something substantial, but heart healthy. This turns out to be more of a stew than a soup because lentils soak up so much liquid and because the large veggies aren’t reminiscent of a thinner dish. I usually use brown lentils, but if you aren’t sure what kind you should use in a particular recipe, this might help.

I’m a cook who uses what’s on hand if it works.  I also make substitutions all the time to go along with my own taste and health needs. This stew can easily translate if you want it to. This is the basic recipe; you’ll find some alternative additions/substitutions at the end of the post.

Use your imagination. It’s your kitchen!

Tugboat Lentil Stew

  • 1 lb. dried lentils
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 1 c. chopped onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 c. sliced carrots
  • 1 c. sliced celery
  • 1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
  • 1 c. water
  • 1 14 oz. can vegetable broth
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 lb. sliced chicken sausage (or 1/2 c. shredded chicken)
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 1 t. sea salt
  • 1/2 t. hot sauce (if desired)
  • Lemon slices for garnish
  • Red wine vinegar

Rinse and pick over lentils for stones. In a Dutch oven, heat oil till hot. Toss in onion, garlic, carrots and celery. Sauté for 10 minutes or till onion is translucent and vegetables are tender crisp. Add tomato sauce, water, vegetable broth, bay leaves and lentils. Bring mixture to a boil. Cover; reduce heat and let simmer for about 25 minutes or till vegetables are slightly soft. Add chicken sausage and pepper. Cover and let cook another 10 minutes or until chicken is heated through. Add salt. Ladle into bowls and garnish with lemon slices and a dash of red wine vinegar. Serves 8-10.

Meat: I have never used chicken sausage because I can’t find it. I have used ground turkey because I like cooking with it and it’s less fatty. When I use ground turkey in this recipe, I cook it until done in a frying pan with the olive oil first and add some ground fennel. Fennel will give a sausage-like flavor. Experiment with it for your own taste.

Veggies: I’m not a fan of celery so I’ve never used it in Tugboat Lentil Stew. Sometimes, if I have them, I’ll throw in 2 cups of frozen mixed vegetable instead. Or one cup each of frozen carrots and green beans (or peas). I always use onion because what’s a stew without it?

Liquid: I like the flavor we get using tomatoes. But if I don’t have tomato sauce, I almost always have a can of petite diced tomatoes around. A large can is okay because I’ve found that those lentils really soak up the liquid. In fact, I use more broth too. I add it as needed as the stew cooks. Unsalted chicken broth is my favorite because there’s so much sodium in the other types.

Spices/Herbs and Garnish: Bay leaves are a must. It’s a stew, after all. If you don’t like garlic, leave it out. No sea salt? Use whatever kind you have. Remember that with sea salt, you don’t need as much for flavor. I don’t garnish mine. I usually want my stew right away and I’m not so fancy I need that. Although the vinegar sounds good for a little kick. Speaking of “kick,” I’m all for just a pinch of red pepper too. You can add that to the pan when you pour in the liquids.

Enjoy your stew. Would love to hear your comments and if you’re one of those “by guess and by golly” cooks like me.