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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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Salt Talk

VSpicery LOVES flavor. Whether chili powders or different cinnamon varieties (yes, there is a difference) VSpicery loves fresh, big and bold flavors. The same can be said about salts. We have a variety of 17 sea salts, 5 of which are VSpicery’s very own sea salt blends.

There is a difference in the flake and taste of each salt that we carry. For instance, we have two salts infused with activated charcoal to provide digestive and other health benefits, but they are vastly different.

Cyprus Black Lava is very salty at the front of your palate then finishes very smooth at the back of your palate. As you can see in the picture to the left, this salt forms in really cool looking pyramid crystals.

Hiwa Kai is a delightful tasting salt that is tossed in activated charcoal from coconut shells and versatile enough to use in pretty much anything. Although we don’t recommend putting it on rimmed drinks, as the charcoal can dust off and cast a shadow on the drink. As far as salts go, both Cyprus Black Lava and Hiwa Kai are good for you and have striking visual appeal for dramatic presentation.

Another Hawaiian sea salt is Alaea. Although they both are Hawaiian sea salts, Alaea is different from Hiwa Kai in that it is enriched with purified red alaea clay from the Hawaiian island of Kauai. This clay gives a slight mineral taste and is delicious when used with pork or other meats.

Pure Ocean Sea Salt is exactly what it purports to be. It has a clean, refreshing taste and is lovely to use as an every day salt. Delicious on everything, especially veggies, seafood, beef and poultry.

Our Black Truffle Salt is so flavorful! Italian sea salt is infused with real Italian black truffles to create a true truffle flavor. Perfect for popcorn, fries, potatoes, eggs, veggies, chicken, beef and more! Other salts in our array are Fleur de Sel, French Grey, Murray River, Himalayan Pink, and two smoked salts: Alderwood and Applewood.

One of the fun dinner games we play with our dining guests is to set various bowls of salt down the center of the table for them to try. Frequent diners can be seen separating the food on their plates and trying a bit of each salt to experience the subtle flavor differences each of the varieties imparts on the food. This is fun, interesting and educational. Note: I make sure to under salt the food when this game is played.

Intrigued by our wide variety of salts? Then do yourself a flavor and come on in to sample something new. Our extensive line of salts are also available right here on our salt page.

That’s it for this month. We hope our northern friends have finally thawed out and that Spring has sprung in their towns, while our locals are gearing up for Summer.

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30 Days of Flavor: 03/24/11 – The salt you SHOULD eat

We will be discussing flavors this month in our “30 Days of Flavor” blog series. Every day this month, VSpicery will select a spice, seasoning, salt, etc., as the flavor of the day, giving you it’s history, flavor profile, and uses. We hope you enjoy these flavors and their unique stories.

We are often asked about the difference between regular table salt (iodized salt) and the natural sea, glacial, and river salts that we carry. Iodized table salt is chemically washed and what is left is sodium chloride, which your body recognizes as foreign since this is an unnatural chemical form of salt. This leads to your body working very hard to try and metabolize it, triggering excess fluid in body tissue that can contribute to kidney or gallbladder stones, cellulite, arthritis and gout, as well as heart and blood pressure issues. Unfortunately, eight to ninety percent of the money that Americans spend on food is to buy processed foods that strictly used sodium chloride in preparation, then we add more salt at the table. No wonder there is such a health crisis happening here. However, with the slow food movement, everyone is starting to realize that we can eat healthy meals and control what goes into our bodies by seasoning our own food, instead of leaving it up to corporations that only focus on the bottom line in the cost of their food production. Today, we will be discussing the differences in the pink colored salts that we carry, which are all beautiful, loaded with minerals, and are all naturally occurring, hand-harvested salts.

Bolivian Rose Salt is hand harvested from the Andes Mountains in Bolivia. Ancient sea salt deposits were covered with volcanic lava creating a salt high in mineral content while protecting it from pollution. Savor a unique and pleasant flavor while roasting or grilling meats. Great for Prime Rib and Pork Loin. Also nice in baked goods, on chocolate, or fruit. We have it available in a refillable grinder or by ounce in a resealable container. Great to use as an alternative to table salt.

Himalayan Pink Salt has the highest mineral content of any natural salt. It has many nutritional health benefits and is also recognized to naturally detoxify your system. This salt began it’s process 250 million years ago, and has remained protected from pollution and impurities. Using Himalayan Pink Salt is a pure, healthy replacement for the usual chemically processed, artificial table salt. Ideal for use when roasting or grilling meat, chicken, fish, and is a wonderful compliment to desserts, especially chocolate. If you have a piece of dark chocolate that is a bit bitter, just sprinkle some of this salt on it and the salt will take the bitterness completely out of the flavor. We have it available in a refillable grinder or by ounce in a resealable container.

Murray River Flake Salt is one of our favorites. The greatest of Australia’s rivers is the Murray River, and it’s source of water is the snowy Australian Alps. The combination of the Murray-Darlin Basin’s low rainfall and high evaporation concentrates salt in the groundwater through a natural process. By utilizing these waters that have been laying dormant for many years, the environment is improved and this beautiful flake salt is produced. Murray River Flake Salt readily dissolves into your food with a mild salt flavor and mineral undertones. Perfect for finishing, roasting or baking. We have this salt available by the ounce.