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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 Eats for Hot Summer Days

I am August, hear me roar.

It is said that March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. In Florida, August comes in like a lion wearing sunscreen and rain boots, and leaves like the exact same lion, except well stocked with hurricane and school supplies.

Speaking of supplies, if you are headed out to a beach condo or up to a mountain cabin, ask yourself this: when was the last time the spices in the kitchen were replaced? Can you name the president at the time? Our VSpicery flavor packs will bring the flavors at your favorite getaway up to date. Visiting with friends or family? Our flavor packs are a wonderful way of introducing them to the VSpicery experience.

It’s too darn hot!

It might be too hot to cook, but you still have to eat. Grilled seafood will make the cooking quick and easy. For grilled shrimp, we suggest one of our bodacious blends: Shallots N’ Pepper, Barista’s BBQ, Greek Seasoning, or Sriracha Sizzle. Simply skewer the shrimp, drizzle on a bit of olive oil, sprinkle with seasoning, and allow to marinate for 15 to 20 minutes in the refrigerator or cooler. Then pair with your favorite grilling veggies and fire it up. Not a shellfish eater? The same sublime simplicity applies to your favorite fresh fish filet. And when it comes to fish, be sure to check out our newest blend, Fin & Feather Schmacker.

Salad Days – Our Upcoming Event

So you think you know salads? Sign up for our next event and let us expand your herbivore horizons. On Saturday, August 18th at 3pm, we will be hosting a class on all things salad – everything from exploring various types of leafy greens, vinegars and oils to our favorite pasta and potato creations. And of course, we will dress for the occasion – learn how to ditch the store bought dressings and create your own. Class is limited to 12. $25 per person includes tastings. Reservations are a must – call 813-870-1133 to reserve your seat by August 14th.

Early Event Announcement

On September 8th we will be hosting a knife sharpening event with our guy Mark. We will also be doing something in the kitchen and will let you know in the next newsletter. So, get your blades ready and mark your calendars.

Sale in the Wind – Balsamic Vinegars and Extra Virgin Olive Oils

In celebration of salads, we are offering $2.00 off our Bellindora Balsamics – we have a pomegranate, a fig and an apple. If you would like all three, an additional discount applies. Also, be sure to take advantage of 10% off our extra virgin olive oils while supplies last. In store only special, sale runs from Aug. 18th – Aug. 24th.

Side Dish Success

VSpicery loves sharing recipes. We find that the side dish below is a perfect combination when you use VSpicery’s Greek Seasoning on grilled chicken. It’s a brilliant combination of flavors that will leave you with a satisfied palate and happy tummy.

Couscous, Asparagus, Cucumber, & Olive Salad

Serves 8

1 clove Garlic
3 tbs. Fresh Lemon Juice
½ cup EVO
1 tsp. Roasted Garlic Champagne Mustard
2 ½ cups low salt Chicken Broth
2 cups toasted Israeli Couscous (about 6 oz)
2 cups ½-inch pieces thin Asparagus spears, blanch for minutes
2 large green onions chopped
2 cups ½ -inch hot house cucumber
½ cup pitted Kalamata Olives, halved
¼ cup fresh mint leaves + sprigs to garnish (optional)
1 ½ cup coarsely crumbled feta cheese

Press garlic clove into small bowl. Add lemon juice and mustard; whisk in oil. Season dressing with salt & pepper. Bring broth to boil in heavy medium saucepan. Mix in couscous. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until couscous is tender and all broth is absorbed (about 10 minutes).

Transfer to large bowl; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cool to room temperature, tossing occasionally (about 45 minutes). Mix asparagus, cucumber, olives, green onions and ¼ cup mint leaves into couscous. Add dressing, toss. Gently mix in cheese. Can be made two hours ahead, let stand at room temperature.

Hope to see you at our next events on August 18th to learn all about salads. Until then have a creative time with your food.

Food Should Be Delicious!

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30 Days of Flavor: 03/30/11 – Herbal Infused Oils

Oil_Basil

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 have some fabulous herbal infused olive oils from France that are out of this world with flavor. A favorite of our regular customers, L’Olivier infused oils are requested year-round, so we really try to keep them on the shelves. We carry three awesome flavors for you to choose from with Basil, Garlic & Thyme, and Herbs de Provence infusions.

The Basil Infused Olive Oil is bright and vibrant flavor compliments any dish that needs a little basil boost. Try this over a Caprese salad with fresh tomatoes, fresh basil, and mozzarella cheese, then just drizzle some of this basil oil and a touch of aged balsamic vinegar for an intense flavor sensation. Put some Basil Oil over pasta just before serving, you can just add Parmesan cheese for a simple dish, or chicken and veggies for more substance. This oil should be used as a finishing oil for flavor, although if mixed into a marinade for meat or poultry, it will really help the flavors penetrate before cooking.

Garlic & Thyme infused olive oil is a must for garlic lovers. Drizzle a bit over smashed potatoes with a touch of our black truffle salt for a truly delicious gourmet treat. Use it as a flavor booster for your next steak, just put some on as you pull it off the grill as it is resting, then top with sautéed mushrooms. The savory flavor of garlic followed by the earthy overtones of thyme is a perfectly balanced combination for chicken, veggies, beef, fish, and shellfish. It can also be used over lamb as a great finishing flavor.

Herbs de Provence is one of the finest aromatic blends of herbs created in the Provence region of France around the 1970’s, and this blend is infused with olive oil to deliver a sophisticated and fantastic herbal infused oil. Fantastic over chicken, potatoes, vegetables, grilled meats and fish. Delight your taste buds with a touch of this fresh tasting oil. Also excellent over pasta or rice for a nice herbal kick.

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30 Days of Flavor: 03/25/11 – Puglia Olive Oils

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.

Olive oil is something that most of us use almost everyday, when you only use the olive oil available at the local grocery store the amazing flavor of the olive is basically nonexistent. Although, if you cook with it frequently, this option is fine for everyday use. If you want to taste real olive oil that varies in flavor from one to the next due to different olive species and curing techniques than you’ve come to the right place. Today, we will be checking out VSpicery’s line of fine Olive Oils from the Puglia region of Italy, getting into the details of each unique flavor.

We will start with Florido, which is a finely filtered, extra virgin olive oil, blended from hand picked Leccine and Nociara olives. Florido has low acidity and a medium fruitiness that is robust in flavor with a nice, rich aftertaste. This oil is ideal for all cooking applications, for vinaigrettes, marinades and as a splash over steamed veggies. Florido is also great to use in sauces, roasted or grilled vegetables, and for side dishes.

Oil_MostoMosto is our raw or unfiltered, extra virgin olive oil pressed from hand picked coratina olives, harvested fresh and whole at the time of maturation. These olives are immediately transferred to the mill-stone, which are slowly ground and cold pressed. After it completes the process of settling, maturing and refinement, Mosto is ready to be bottled and shipped to us. This oil is extremely high in antioxidants and has a low percentage of oleic acid that is balanced with linolenic acids. The flavor is herbaceous, slightly peppery and pleasantly bitter with some olive particulate still in the oil. Fantastic uncooked as a finishing oil, bread dipping oil, over salads, or in vinaigrettes, and also nice with grilled or roasted vegetables.

Amabile is a balanced and delicate olive oil pressed from coratina olives, with hints of sweet almond and a slight mineral flavor. It is finely filtered, extra virgin olive oil that is cured in stone cisterns and matured in a natural constant temperature void of heat, air and light. Great for all cooking uses, but especially for fish, seafood, and chicken. Wonderful on salads with vinegar or in a vinaigrette. Ideal for delicate flavored sauces and side dishes as well.

Oil_VivaceVivace is also a finely filtered, extra virgin olive oil made from tumbling the coratina olives in a cotton and wool lined vat, and is then poured into a large stainless steel container where it is left to cure. This is a very clean tasting oil, which comes from the curing process, and is elegantly intense in flavor. Green in color, this young oil presents itself as gentle and fresh to your palate with a slight grassy and strong fruity flavor. Excellent for salads, veggies and bruschetta.

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30 Days of Flavor: 03/07/11 – Citrus Infused Olive Oil

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.

Those of you paying attention will recognize we missed a day yesterday; we were down for scheduled maintenance. That’s why we have 30 days of flavor in a 31 day month!

Most of us use olive oil almost everyday, whether on salads, in marinades, or for cooking. We have a very long history with olives and olive oil, with wild olive harvesting going back to around 8,000 BC. The wild olive tree originated in Turkey, but the Mediterranean Basin has been the long standing producer of olives and olive oil for centuries. Archeologists think that the first cultivation happened on the island of Crete, but olive oil was first pressed in Israel by 4500 BC. Olive oil now comes in many grades and the flavor changes with the olive variety and processing method. At VSpicery, we carry many olive oils, some infused and some not.

Today, we are focusing on our Lemon Infused Olive Oil and Orange Infused Olive Oil. Both of these oils come from the same manufacturer, and are processed in the same way. Many manufacturers use extracts to flavor olive oil, not ours. The Lemon and Orange infused olive oils are pressed with the actual fruit, and the difference is amazing. When extracts are used, you cannot cook with them since the alcohol in the extract evaporates along with the flavor. Because our Lemon and Orange infused oils are processed with the fruit, they can be used in any culinary application and the lemon or orange flavor will be prevalent in any dish.

We love using the Lemon Infused Olive Oil with chicken, fish, seafood, and pork. Just use it like you would any regular olive oil. The Lemon oil is also delicious drizzled over steamed vegetables or as a base for a citrus vinaigrette. The Orange Infused Olive Oil is fabulous with chicken, pork, and fish. We also found that combining our Orange oil with VSpicery’s Apple Balsamic vinegar and a little honey makes a tasty dressing for fruit and leaf salads. Both oils can also be used in baked goods that call for oil, when you want a citrus flavor present. Give one or both a taste, and you’ll wonder why you don’t have them in your pantry already.