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Summer Sale and Cooking Class

Summer is definitely here – sun, heat, and of course, rain. While summer is not our favorite time to cook, VSpicery can make dinner quick and easy. We’ve had a lot of requests for our next cooking class and have devised one to help ease summer cooking blues.

Mark your calendars for June 29th (3:00 – 5:00) and register for our first Summer Cooking Class! This class will show three different, quick and delicious meals using shrimp, ground lamb and salmon, plus a side and delicious salad. Seating is limited. Cost is $30.00 per person, includes tasting and recipes. Register by June 26th by calling VSpicery – 813-870-1133.

Salads are a favorite item to eat all summer long. VSpicery is offering 20% off our Bellindora Fig and Bellindora Pomegranate Vinegar from June 11th – 15th so you can create your own spectacular dressings. These vinegars are also wonderful for marinades, vinegar reductions and sauces. Our Salad Seasons blend is great to use in vinaigrette recipes, using these vinegar flavors and our delicious olive oils.

Be on the lookout for our summer sale announcements all season long. That’s it folks. Enjoy the summer and come see us. We will leave the AC on for you.

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End of Summer Dishes

Heading towards the end of summer. Of course, being in Florida, it feels like summer most of the time.

Did you know that Labor Day became an official holiday to honor the contributions of American workers in 1894. That’s 123 years of cookouts and, wow, how cookouts have changed through the years. Baked beans were around during the cookouts of the 1800’s. Potato salad as we know it today didn’t make an appearance until approximately 1940, when mayonnaise replaced a French style dressing. Deviled eggs have actually been around longer than baked beans.

Most of us just open, add a few enhancements and bake the beans from the can then call it baked beans. Here’s how you can make them from scratch.

Baked Beans
Serves 10-12 as a side dish

Ingredients
1 lb dried navy or Great Northern beans
8 cups water
1/4 lb bacon (or salt pork), diced
1 cup onion, chopped
1/2 cup molasses or maple syrup
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1 tsp dry mustard
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper

Rinse 1 pound (about 2-1/3 cups) dried navy beans or Great Northern beans in a colander under cool running water. Be sure to sort through the beans to remove any debris. Soak the beans overnight. The next morning, drain and rinse the beans.

In a large Dutch oven combine the beans and 8 cups water. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer for 1 to 1-1/2 hours or until the beans are tender, stirring occasionally. Drain beans, reserving the liquid.

Now, it’s time to add the Flavorings! In a 2-1/2-quart casserole combine the beans with bacon, onion, molasses, brown sugar, mustard, salt and pepper.

Cover the casserole, and bake the Beans in a preheated oven at 300°F for 2-1/2 hours or until the beans reach the desired consistency.

Baked Beans Tip: You can get a head start on baked beans by soaking them and cooking them in advance. Cover and store the cooked beans in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Some cooks like their beans saucy, while some prefer them more dry. If you like them saucy, add additional reserved bean liquid during cooking. If, at the end of cooking time, the beans are not as dry as you like, continue to bake them, uncovered, until some of the liquid has evaporated. Keep in mind, though, that beans will continue to soak up the liquid after cooking.

 

Okay, that takes care of the baked beans, now on to the potato salad!

This is VSpicery’s take on potato salad using simple ingredients for great flavor. Wash, peel and chunk 5 lbs. Yukon Gold potatoes. Place in pan large enough to cover potatoes with an inch of water. Add 3 eggs to the potatoes so that they will cook with the potatoes. Bring water to a boil, adding 1 tbsp. salt and cook until fork tender.

While potatoes are boiling dice 2 carrots and a medium red onion. When potatoes are ready, remove eggs and drain water from potatoes. Transfer the potatoes to a bowl, stir in carrots, cover and cool.

Peel and dice 2 eggs, third egg should be sliced to place on top of completed salad. Combine 1-1 ½ cup of mayo with VSpicery’s Salad Seasons to taste, set aside so flavors mingle together to make this tasty dressing.

When potatoes are cooled, fold in onion and dressing until totally covered with dressing. Place sliced eggs on top; sprinkle VSpicery’s Hungarian, Hot Hungarian Paprika or Smoked Spanish Paprika for color and bit more flavor.

 

We also love deviled eggs and lots of our blends make delightful deviled eggs. Some suggestions to add to the mayo are: Shallots N’ Pepper, Salad Seasons, Greek Seasonings or even Red Hot Sting. Something as simple as Black Truffle Salt and Chervil make a lovely deviled egg. Our curries also make delicious additions to deviled eggs. Our favorite to use is Madras Curry Powder, but Ral El Hanout and Sweet Curry powder work really well too. Be unique, not traditional here!

Fruit salad
We have a delightful Strawberry Champagne Finishing Sauce which adds amazing flavor to a cut fruit salad.

If you’re grilling burgers we got your seasonings. Java-Jo Steak Seasoning, Soulful Seasons, Chophouse Kitchen, and Savory Steak Seasoning go great. Combine Chophouse Kitchen and Savory Steak Seasoning for that WOW factor! Of course, if you’re grilling steak, any of these will work perfectly as well!

Don’t forget the mustard if you serving burgers, hot dogs or grilled shrimp. We have a variety to change it up and delight your guests at any cookout.

VSpicery has all kinds of suggestions and we are always happy to share our ideas. Those of you who have stopped by the shop know we love talking recipes and how to’s. If you need a suggestion or have a question feel free to call, email or stop by the shop.

Well that’s it for now. Hope you all have a great Labor Day Weekend. Happy grilling!

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Make My School Lunch Better

With the start of the school year, I remembered that my daughter’s school prepared lunches are, to say the very least, an unidentifiable mess, which she has refused to eat since grade school. This, of course, means that I have to put on my thinking cap.

Through the years her lunches have reached great heights and some lows, but she comments that she only has friends because of what she takes (and shares) at lunch. She has even had friends yell across a cafeteria asking if it was her Mom’s food in her thermos. I think she exaggerates, but it makes me feel good. I am, therefore, posting these suggestions and recipes to hopefully help any moms that have kids like mine.

Special Equipment:

  1. A good lunch box capable of holding a thermos.
  2.  A good thermos, I don’t usually recommend items, but we use a small Thermos we found at The Big Box store in the sporting goods section. It lasted beyond the school year and holds a good amount of food.
  3. Reusable utensils.
  4. Re-freezable cold packs.
  5. Sandwich size plastic container; try to get one that has some depth and a small (salad dressing size) plastic container.

Suggestion – when using a thermos, pre-heat it with very hot tap water. It helps keep the food hot until it is eaten.

Day 1 is usually an important day.

Kids getting back together or starting some place new need a cool lunch. I normally make sure that the night before involves baked chicken, using VSpicery’s Harmony Chicken. By having chicken leftovers handy this can make a multitude of lunch options, such as:

Chicken Pita

Take a pita loaf (halved), and stuff it with chicken, some thin apple slices, couple of drops of a good balsamic vinegar, fresh spinach and brie cheese.

Chicken Salad

This chicken salad can either be put on a bed of lettuce or bread for a sandwich. Use a plastic container and a cold pack.

For a more traditional flavor: Put enough chopped chicken in a bowl for the salad or sandwich, diced onion, diced celery, mayo and a tsp or 2 of VSpicery’s Salad Seasoning (to taste).

We came up with an amazing alternative to the traditional chicken salad, and this is usually the way we like it: Chop enough chicken for the salad or sandwich, diced red onion, ground smoked almonds, mayo, and a healthy sprinkling of VSpicery’s Sweet Signing Seasoning (to taste).

Chicken Wrap

Take a flour or corn tortilla and add some thinly sliced chicken, sliced avocado (don’t forget lemon wash), and chopped lettuce to make a wrap.

Make this the night before: Mix 2 tbsp. black beans (can is fine, drained well), stir in 1 tbsp. sweet corn, a bit of diced onion, 1 tsp. cilantro, 1/4 tsp. Jalapeno powder, and fresh lime juice. Put this in a small plastic container so it can be added to the wrap or eaten like a side salsa.

Be sure to have some fresh spinach leaves so that you can make:

Spinach Salad

Add a chopped egg, some cheese and a few nuts (either walnuts or pecans do nicely) to a bed of fresh spinach. Use the small container to whip up some dressing. Vinaigrette are easy to make and using different flavored vinegars and oils can completely change the flavor, and compliment different ingredients.

Spinach wraps with bacon (or chicken) and a bit of cheese are always nice. Make sure to use your cold pack when sending tasty spinach treats, it will keep the leaves fresh and crisp. Our daughter also likes snack lunches. We will pack hummus, fruit, carrots, pita and such. Don’t forget how well brie works with fruits.

Yes, you are probably thinking that these suggestions are nothing special, but they are reminders to use a little creativity with your leftovers, and your child will have a lunch that is not only nutritious, but makes for a great ice breaker at the lunch table. **Warning: You may have kids from school regularly inviting themselves over for dinner. So, tell them to bring their parents, and make it a party! 🙂

I always make a bit extra during the evening meals to make sure I have a nice inventory to choose from when making lunches the next day. For example, when I have leftover rice, I will add some shredded chicken, and that makes a great hot lunch in the thermos. As fall comes around, don’t forget to send hot yummy soups in the thermos for lunch too!

– Val