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Let’s Talk Veggies

Vegetables play a huge part of our diet, whether you use them as side dishes with your proteins, as a whole meal or as the main component of your diet. These days, more and more folks are changing to a vegetarian lifestyle, in its many forms. We have many ways to help you keep these veggies interesting, elevating even the most boring vegetables to rockstars on your plate.

Roasted Cauliflower with Sunny Soiree Seasoning.

One of our newer rubs, Sunny Soiree, is absolutely fantastic on roasted vegetables. Especially broccoli and cauliflower. Herbal and citrus notes combine with a slight tarragon flavor that perfectly complements vegetables. One of our favorite ways to use Sunny Soiree is on roasted cauliflower. It is super quick, easy and delicious. Lightly steam cauliflower until fork tender, then place cauliflower on a lined baking sheet. Drizzle with a little olive oil, sprinkle some Sunny Soiree and toss until evenly coated. Arrange cauliflower in a single layer on the lined baking sheet and generously sprinkle grated parmesan or romano cheese. Bake at 350°F until cheese is golden brown.


Eggplant Burger
This is a quick delicious meal to make any night of the week.

INGREDIENTS
1 Large Eggplant, cut in 1/2″ rounds
1 egg, with tsp water
1 cup plain breadcrumbs
1 Tbs Herbal Crust (blended with breadcrumbs)

DIRECTIONS
Cut eggplant into 1/2″ rounds. Dip eggplant into egg wash, then into breadcrumbs and drizzle olive oil over the eggplant rounds. Line rounds on a greased baking sheet and bake for 30 mins at 350°F, until golden brown and fork tender. Serve with pita bread and top with cheese and any condiments you like.


Roasted Broccoli with VSpicery’s Citrus Seasoned Salt.

Roasted Broccoli
This dish is truly irresistible, and so easy to make!

INGREDIENTS
1 pound broccoli florets, cut into bite-sized pieces (about 1 ½ bunches of broccoli)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
VSpicery’s Citrus Salt
Pepper (optional)

DIRECTIONS
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a large, rimmed baking sheet for easy clean-up. On the prepared baking sheet, toss broccoli with the oil until all of the florets are lightly coated. Arrange them in one even layer across the pan, then sprinkle with Citrus salt and pepper.

Bake for 18 to 25 minutes, tossing halfway, or until the florets are turning deeply golden on the edges. Season to taste with additional Citrus salt and pepper, if necessary, and serve warm.

If you like broccoli as much as we do, here are a few ways to change the flavor a little to keep it interesting for your taste buds. Prepare broccoli as instructed above. After the broccoli is done roasting add any of these options just before serving. Finish with a light drizzle of thick balsamic vinegar (like our Aged Balsamic Vinegar), a squeeze of fresh lemon juice (for extra lemony pop, add lemon zest too). Grated Parmesan is also a delicious way to finish the dish. A light sprinkle of crushed red pepper flakes or Marash pepper flakes will give just the right amount of heat.


Baked Sweet Potato Wedges with Sweet Singing Seasoning.

Baked Sweet Potato Wedges
Roasted to perfection, these Baked Sweet Potato Wedges are a delicious snack, appetizer, or meal. They are super easy to make!

INGREDIENTS
5-6 small or 2-3 large sweet potatoes
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 tsp Himalayan Pink Salt, or more if desired
1 Tbs VSpicery’s Sweet Singing Seasoning

DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 425°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or grease baking sheet lightly with oil.

Wash and pat the sweet potatoes dry. Remove any spots or blemishes. Cut potatoes lengthwise into quarters, and cut into 1 inch thick wedges. Place on baking sheet, drizzle with oil and give a good toss. Arrange potatoes in a single layer, sprinkle with salt and Sweet Singing Seasoning. Place baking sheet on the middle oven rack, and bake for 25-30 minutes, turning once or twice.

Remove from the oven, let cool for a few minutes and serve. If you would like a dipping sauce, Garlic Aioli (vegan recipe below) or a Sriracha Cream Sauce are both really tasty with these wedges!

For more caramelization, once sweet potatoes are done, place under the broiler for a few minutes. Just be sure to watch them so they don’t burn. Store leftovers, in an airtight container, in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.


Garlic Aioli (Vegan)
This creamy, garlicky aioli is great as a dip for fresh or roasted vegetables, or use as a spread for burgers and sandwiches. It is gluten-free, vegan, super easy and quick, and has no oil.

INGREDIENTS
1 cup raw cashews
3/4 cup water
3 garlic cloves
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Himalayan Pink Salt, to taste

DIRECTIONS
Place cashews, water, garlic, dijon, and juice of lemon in a blender and blend until creamy, about 45 seconds. Taste for flavor, adding a little more of any desired ingredients. Serve at room temperature. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week. Makes about 1 1/2 cups.


Buffalo Cauliflower Bites with Spicy Shark Wing Sauce.

Buffalo Cauliflower
Our new line of Spicy Shark hot sauces includes a vegan wing sauce that is dairy free, gluten-free, and really good! Here’s a delicious way to enjoy the flavor with a fraction of the calories of regular chicken wings.

INGREDIENTS
1/2 large head cauliflower, cut into florets
oil spray or oil
1/4 cup flour, or almond meal
1/4 tsp garlic powder
3 tbsp milk of choice
1/2 cup breadcrumbs (optional for crunchier texture)
1/2 cup Spicy Shark Wing Sauce
1 to 4 tsp oil

DIRECTIONS
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a large baking dish with parchment. Spray florets with oil spray or toss with a little oil. In a large bowl, toss cauliflower with the flour and garlic powder until evenly coated. Then add milk of choice and then the breadcrumbs (if using) to the cauliflower, and toss to coat. Arrange in one layer in the baking pan. Bake on the center rack 25 minutes.

Combine the oil with Spicy Shark Wing Sauce (the added fat helps the sauce adhere to the cauliflower). Toss cauliflower in sauce, then bake another 15 minutes. For added crunch and color, broil for up to 5 minutes. Be sure to watch while broiling to make sure it does not burn. Serve with ranch or blue cheese dressing, if desired, and serve.


Black Bean Burgers

Black Bean Burgers
Between homemade, restaurant, and store-bought, these are the best black bean burgers we’ve ever had. Our taste testers agree that this is the tastiest version they have tried too. The trick is to partially dry out the black beans so the burgers do not taste mushy. Grill or bake the black bean burgers and enjoy on a bun, plain, or on a salad. They’re big, thick, and hearty and even meat eaters LOVE these.


INGREDIENTS
1 (14 ounce) cans black beans, drained, rinsed, and patted dry
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup finely chopped bell pepper (1/2 of a pepper)
1/4 cup finely chopped yellow onion (1/2 of a small onion)
2 garlic cloves, minced (about 1/2 Tablespoon)
1 Tbs Sriracha (optional)
1 1/2 Tbs VSpicery’s Ra Ra Rio
1/2 cup panko
1 large egg
Salt and Pepper

DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 325°F. Spread beans evenly onto a lined baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes until slightly dried out. Meanwhile, sauté olive oil, chopped pepper, onion, and garlic over medium heat until peppers and onions are soft, about 5-6 minutes. Gently blot some of the moisture out. Place in a large bowl or in a food processor with the remaining ingredients. Stir or pulse everything together, then add the black beans. Mash with a fork or pulse the mixture, leaving some larger chunks of beans.

Form into patties– about 1/3 cup of mixture in each. Saute patties in 1 tbs butter and 1 tbs olive oil until heated thoroughly and slightly browned.

Bake: Place patties on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and bake at 375°F for 10 minutes on each side, 20 minutes total.

Grill: Place patties on greased aluminum foil and grill 8 minutes on each side. Heat temperature is personal preference as all grills differ. Generally, black bean burgers should grill on medium-high heat about 350°F-400°F. Serve with your favorite toppings.

Make ahead tip: Cooked or uncooked black bean burgers freeze wonderfully! Stack between parchment paper in a freezer container or zipped-top bag. Thaw in the refrigerator and reheat to your liking or, if uncooked, cook according to instructions. If desired, you can skip thawing and reheat/cook from frozen for an extra couple minutes. To make a Vegan version of this recipe, just replace the eggs with 1/3 cup mashed sweet potato.


Red Lentils

Berbere is an Ethiopian curry blend that is full of flavor with a bit of a heat kick. Authentic Berbere can be hard to find, but we have it in stock and hand mix this curry blend at the shop every few weeks.

Ethiopian Lentil Stew (Misir wot)
This richly spiced Ethiopian lentil stew recipe, known locally as misir wot, is packed with flavour from berbere and niter kibbeh. Niter kibbeh is a type of spiced butter found in Ethiopian cuisine. This is a really delicious and simple midweek meal for spice lovers.

NITER KIBBEH (SPICED BUTTER) INGREDIENTS
8 oz of unsalted butter
1 shallot, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, sliced
1 knob of ginger, sliced
1 cinnamon stick
4 green cardamom pods, crushed
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp fenugreek seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 bay leaf

MISSIR WOT (Lentil Stew) INGREDIENTS
1 large onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, sliced
1 tbsp of tomato purée
5 plum tomatoes, chopped
1 tbsp of Berbere
8 oz of red lentils
16 oz of vegetable stock

DIRECTIONS
Begin by making the niter kibbeh. Place the butter in a saucepan along with the rest of the ingredients and simmer over a very low heat for about 20 minutes. The butter solids should be starting to caramelize into a brown butter but be careful not to cook too long, or it will burn. Line a sieve with a piece of muslin or coffee filter and strain the butter into a bowl.

To make the stew, add 4 tbsp of the niter kibbeh to a medium pan and add the onions and garlic. Cook over a medium-low heat until softened. Add the berbere and tomato purée and cook out for a further minute. Add the chopped tomatoes and cook down for 8 minutes until the tomatoes start to break down a little. Keep stirring to avoid them sticking to the bottom of the pan. Rinse the lentils, then add them to the stew along with the vegetable stock. Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve the misir wot with extra niter kibbeh drizzled over the top and enjoy!


We could go for days about delicious veggies dishes, but we will save the rest for future blog posts. We hope that these recipes get your taste buds tingling with some ways you can make any vegetable taste incredible, especially when you use fresh seasonings like ours. Keep your food exciting and irresistible with VSpicery Flavor Shop.

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High Stepping into March!

It’s time to Celebrate Mardi Gras and St. Patrick’s Day! Fat Tuesday, the climax of Mardi Gras, falls on March 5th this year. Traditionally a time for zaniness, a reason to party, and often an excuse to imbibe to excess. We suggest you plan ahead with a spectacularly simple Shrimp Creole dinner. Here’s how:

Our Easy Shrimp Creole for 2
INGREDIENTS
1 lb. Shrimp (peeled and deveined)
1 can 14 oz. Diced Tomatoes
2 tbsp. VSpicery’s Creole Seasoning
2 tsp. VSpicery’s Gumbo Filé

DIRECTIONS
Put diced tomatoes into 10” skillet.  Cook on medium heat until liquid starts to reduce. Stir in Creole Seasoning and Gumbo Filé. Cook so flavors concentrate, and create a sauce (about 5 minutes). When the sauce has thickened, add shrimp. Cook until shrimp have turned a pretty pink. Serve over rice or accompanied by crusty French bread with a nice salad. Laissez les bon temps roule! Yes, flavor can be that easy with VSpicery’s blends.

Next we are rolling along into St. Patrick’s Day.

Many Americans only know Irish dishes such as potatoes, corned beef and cabbage. If you want to cure your own beef, as several of our customers do, we have the spices that you need. Just let us know and we’ll put them together for you. Beyond the delicious home cured corned beef, when it comes to Irish food, there is much more to consider. Spices such as bay leaves, spearmint, thyme, parsley, rosemary, black pepper and caraway seeds are primary seasonings found in Irish cuisine.

Speaking of caraway seeds, many of us don’t know much about caraway, but it has been an international player on the spice scene since ancient Rome. Caraway seeds can be used in a variety of ways. They have a pungent aroma that, like the flavor, is warm and bittersweet, sharply spicy, with a note of dried orange peel and a slight lingering hint of anise. Commonly used in Asian and northern and central Europe, the Romans used caraway in vegetables and fish. Caraway seeds are often found in eastern European Jewish staples such as rye breads, sausages, cabbage, soups, and stews. Caraway seeds go well with apples, duck, goose, noodles, onions, pork, potatoes, and other root vegetables, and interestingly, tomatoes.

Back to the Irish food – if you are in the mood for something a bit off the well worn path, give this recipe a try:

Beef in Ale with Cheese Cobbler
INGREDIENTS

Casserole
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons VSpicery’s Herbal Crust Seasoning
1 1/2 pounds beef brisket, cut into 1/2-inch wide strips
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
3 stalks celery, diced
2 cups premium ale
1 cup homemade beef stock or low-sodium beef broth
1 tablespoon tomato purée
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

Cobbler
2 cups self-rising flour
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded Cheddar cheese
1/2 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1/2 to 2/3 cups water
1 tablespoon milk for brushing tops

DIRECTIONS
This beef casserole dish is best when made with premium Irish ale. Topped with a cheesy Cheddar cobbler, the dish can be prepared in advance, with the cobbler added just before serving time. To make the casserole: In a large bowl or resealable plastic bag, combine the flour and VSpicery’s Herbal Crust Seasoning. Dredge the beef in the flour mixture and set aside. Lightly grease a 3-quart casserole dish.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook for 2 to 3 minutes or until soft, but not browned. Add the beef and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, or until browned on all sides. Add the carrots and celery and stir to coat. Stir in the ale, broth, tomato purée, and Worcestershire sauce. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes, or until the meat and vegetables are tender and the sauce starts to thicken. Transfer the mixture to the prepared dish.

To make the cobbler: Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Sift the flour and mustard into a food processor. Season with salt and pepper. Add the butter, and pulse 4 to 5 times, or until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the cheese, Tabasco, and 1/2 cup water. Process for 8 to 10 seconds, or until a soft dough forms. Add more water, if necessary.

Transfer the dough to a floured surface. Roll it out to 1/2-inch thickness. With a 3-inch round cookie cutter, cut out rounds. Arrange the rounds on top of the meat mixture, overlapping in a decorative pattern. Brush the tops of the cobbler with the milk. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the top is golden and the mixture is heated through. Remove from the oven and serve immediately. Serves 4 to 6 as a main course.
Sláinte!

We hope that you enjoyed this post and try the recipes. If you do, send us an email about your experience to val@vspicery.com. We like pictures too! Love hearing from our customers. Next time we’ll spotlight some of the products that we carry that in our opinion are top-kotch! 
Stay tune for our next cooking class.  We’re working on a nice one.

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Class is in Session

Cooking class can be so much fun! Pretty sure we have just as much fun, if not more, than our students. Classes at VSpicery are all about demonstrating how to create maximum flavor with minimum effort. We love to answer questions about cooking techniques, and regularly help our students and customers perfect everyday dishes that wow the diners around their family tables.

In our November cooking class, we had some tasty alternatives on the menu for holiday dishes, and the results were delicious. We began with a simple and flavorful salad that pairs beautifully with fall and winter menus. To make the salad we added granny smith apple chunks, sliced red onion, shredded sharp cheddar cheese, and toasted coarsely chopped pecans to a bed of fresh romaine and arugula lettuce. The sharpness of the cheddar cheese nicely balances the tart apple flavor and nutty toasted pecans, making this salad a serious taste bud teaser.

Next, we made our maple orange dressing using our Maple Flakes, maple syrup, honey, Himalayan Pink Salt, Green Peppercorns, Apple Balsamic Vinegar and Seraphino Greek Organic Olive Oil. We developed this dressing for our previous salad class, and it has quickly become one of our favorites! Our dried maple flakes are key to giving this dressing a delightful maple kick. The orange juice brightens the dressing and balances the acidity of the vinegar really well. Once the ingredients are mixed together well, and emulsified with olive oil, it’s ready for serving.

Our class moved right along to the main course with Herbal Crust Turkey Thighs. VSpicery’s Herbal Crust Seasoning was developed specifically for roasted meats, including game meats like venison. This blend is perfect for your holiday bird, and the pan drippings make the best gravy we have ever made. We normally roast a whole turkey for our Thanksgiving meal, but using turkey thighs is just as tasty. Turkey thighs take less time to cook, are really flavorful and no carving is needed. All you need to do is lightly coat with olive oil (or any oil of your choice), add Herbal Crust Seasoning, and bake. We tend to prefer using bone-in, skin-on thighs, since roasting with the bone in gives much better flavor and the skin keeps the meat moist throughout the roasting process. After the turkey thighs were cooked, we took the bone out, and sliced each thigh into 3 nice sized chunks. You can serve it with or without the skin.

We rounded out the meal with some yummy side dishes that are super easy to make, healthy to eat, and diet friendly. If you haven’t tried Delicata Squash yet, you really should! Delicata Squash is low in calories, and has a thicker consistency than other squash varieties. This is the perfect alternative to high carb sides like mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes. All you need to do is roast the squash in the oven with a little olive oil, salt and pepper, and roast cut side down. Once cooked, scoop out the meat of the squash into a bowl and mash it up with our new blend, Sunny Soiree, some butter and a tiny splash of heavy cream, then season to taste with salt and pepper. You can also add a little goat cheese, if you want a creamy tang of flavor, but it’s entirely optional. This simple dish will quickly become a go to side for any meal.

For the final two sides, we made steamed green beans and roasted carrots. This may sound uninspired, but as usual, VSpicery takes the bland and unexciting to flavor heights that will make you crave these healthy veggies regularly.

After steaming the green beans, we made a simple warm vinaigrette for them. We used our Champagne Pear Vinegar, Yellow Mustard Powder, Shallots, Honey and Himalayan Pink salt. We poured the vinegar into a sauté pan on medium heat, and added the rest of the ingredients as it warmed up. When vinegar mix is just coming to a boil, remove the pan from heat, then pour the mixture over green beans just prior to serving.

The last side dish we made was Spiced Roasted Carrots. We started by quartering the whole carrot sticks, then tossed them with olive oil, salt and pepper, and thyme. While the carrots were roasting, we softened some butter and stirred in cumin, coriander, turmeric, and aleppo pepper. Then, we tossed the roasted carrots in the spiced butter and transferred them to a serving platter. You can use cumin and coriander ground powder, but you get a deeper nuttier flavor if you lightly toast the whole seeds, then grind them down before adding to the butter mix. This carrot side dish also pairs really well with roasted meats, baked salmon and pork.

Last, but definitely not least, is the gravy! As mentioned above, the pan drippings from roasting the turkey with Herbal Crust Seasoning is what makes this so incredibly good. Just make gravy as you usually would by adding the pan drippings to a sauté pan over medium heat. Stir constantly, while thickening it with flour to your desired consistency. For this class, we used a gluten free flour to accommodate our student’s dietary restrictions, and it turned out great! We discovered how tasty this gravy is a few years ago while cooking a Thanksgiving feast for a catering client, and now we look forward to it every year. If you want to read more about it, check out our original Tasty Gravy blog post.

That’s it for this class menu! This meal can be ready in a fraction of the time that it normally takes to fill up your holiday table, and will work for just about any diet. Treat your family to a healthy, quick and incredibly delicious holiday meal this year. VSpicery is here to help you with all of your flavor needs. Keep an eye out for our next class offering! We try to schedule at least one public class a month. You can also book your own private demonstration. We just need 6 or more to put your group on our kitchen calendar. We can create a menu for your private class, or you can choose. Call us at the shop 813-870-1133 for more info.

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Cool Weather, Hot Plates

It’s that time of the year when the weather starts cooling down, and kitchens start heating up with soups, stews and all kinds of delicious takes on chili. We’re also just ahead of Holiday baking. Here are a few tips from our kitchen to help you welcome in the season.

Chili can be complicated or quick and easy. Our Cha Cha Chili blend makes a pot of delightful chili in about an hour or less. VSpicery believes that when cooking with tomatoes, keeping it at a simmer a little longer always makes a big difference.

Suggestion: Cha Cha can also be used to make a delicious tasting dinner using simple ingredients. Make a pot of yellow rice, then season chicken tenders with Cha Cha Chili blend. Sauté chicken in olive oil until cooked through, serve over yellow rice with a bit of shredded cheese and a dollop of sour cream. A side salad works nicely to round out dinner.

If you want to make a different type of chili, we recommend using ground turkey, black beans, a can of tomatoes and our Cocoa Loco Taco Mix. It not only makes great tacos, but this chili is deliciously different.

Now if you want to make an all day pot of chili, we have a large variety of chili powders, from mild to wild. We simply love the combination of Ancho, Pasilla and Chipotle chili powders to season the pot, and Mexican Oregano is a must. This oregano makes a huge difference when seeking that special background flavor. Most “oregano” in the grocery stores is sweet oregano. Mexican oregano is earthly with hints of citrus and licorice (in a good way), and has a spicier flavor. VSpicery also has super fresh cumin, which makes your dishes even more delicious.

 

We love making a nice pot of stew to warm us up on cool nights! Our blend, Herbal Crust Seasoning, was originally developed for venison, this blend has taken us on all sorts of culinary journeys. We use it to season flour to dredge the beef and add a bit to the vegetables for beef stew. The end result is one of our favorite fall flavors. VSpicery also uses Herbal Crust Seasoning in turkey burgers, eggplant burgers, on our Thanksgiving turkey, and in a vegetable stew. We have discovered that our Thanksgiving Day gravy is ridiculously delicious just from using the pan drippings after baking a turkey with Herbal Crust Seasoning.

Baking season is just around the corner and VSpicery has all your fresh baking spices – whether you are looking for Korintje cinnamon, whole vanilla beans, Grains of Paradise, cardamom … we help your kitchen creativity soar!

For the Holiday season, VSpicery freshly blends brines, mulling spices, poultry seasoning, pumpkin spice, and apple pie spice. We want you to have the freshest possible flavors for your eating pleasures.

One last thing, we were astounded at the price in the grocery stores for cloves. VSpicery has fresh cloves priced just like all our other spices – only $4.00, and far fresher than you will find anywhere else in the bay area.

Remember, good ingredients equal great results.

 

 

MARKET UPDATE:
On a sad note, VSpicery has decided to sit out the market season this year so we will not be at the Saturday Morning Market, this was a decision made due to changes in our personal lives. We will miss the market and hope you all attend and enjoy.