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Summer Salads

Well, we’ve made it to August, congratulations! It has been a rather unique year so far for everyone and we hope that all is as well as it can be for you and yours.

Here in Florida, the heat has been steady and unrelenting but hey, it’s summer in Florida. Cooking sometimes takes a back burner at this time of year as we seek to do as little as possible in the kitchen. Cool dinners are on the menu for many folks.

Thinking along these lines, VSpicery is having a sale on our Bellindora vinegars from Tuesday, August 4th through the 15th. Get 20% off of these lovely vinegars to enliven your salad offerings. Also, we are giving you our four favorite salad and salad dressing recipes. If you choose, any of these recipes can easily accommodate the addition of seafood or chicken. Ingredient amounts for the salads are subject to the size of the salad you are preparing. Click on any or all of the salads below to view the recipes.

Jicama Salad
Italian Inspired Salad
Green Apple and Cheddar Salad
Beet and Arugula Salad

Rub-a-Dub

If it’s too hot or rainy to grill outside, then bring the flavor of the grill indoors. You can get super tasty ribs from your oven using our 15th & 5th Rib Rub. Go low and slow. Pork chops on the menu? Then you gotta use Soulful Seasons. Twenty minutes in a 425 oven and you are a hero. An iron skillet, a good cut of steak and our Moo Char Gusto will give you a true grilled flavor.

For bodacious burgers we have several wonderful options, but have you tried our Roasted Garlic Champagne Mustard? There are condiments and then, there are condiments … This one is a condiment the you won’t want to miss. It is so tasty that you may just want to eat it with a spoon, and have a sandwich on the side.

Are you an avocado lover? Have you tried our Meyer Lemon Oil and Alderwood Smoked Salt on chunked up avocado? If not, you’re missing major deliciousness.

We have so many options to keep your kitchen producing fabulous meals and we haven’t even started talking about all those individual spices that we lovingly carry that are used to create our excellent blends.

We notice so many of you are cooking up a storm these days and from what we are seeing it looks amazing! Please share your photos with us. By tagging us and mentioning one of our blends in your post, you will receive 20% off that item if you repurchase by September 1st. We are super excited to check out your culinary creativity!

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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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Here’s to VSpicery’s 16th Anniversary, the New Year and a dinner full of love.

We hope the holidays were fabulous for you and your family. There was an astounding array of delicious flavors floating through our home, highlighted by my talented daughter’s beautiful creation – a sumptuous Buche de Noel (or Yule Log Cake).

We look forward to 2019 being a year of developing more flavor combinations and searching out new flavors to add to our collection so that you can add them to your pantry. We currently have about 35 of our own spice blends and rubs, 11 curries (Indian, African and Thai), and over 5 seasoned salt blends that we hand mix at our shop every week. In addition, we have over 150 different individual spices, Greek, Spanish and Italian Extra Virgin Olive Oils, delicious high quality vinegars, flavored mustards and locally harvested honey from Eden’s Nectar. We are committed to sourcing the freshest spices we can find, and bringing high quality herbs and spices to you without chemicals, preservatives or additives.

At VSpicery we are kicking up our heels and sending out many thanks. VSpicery will be celebrating the 16th year of providing our customers with great spices, seasonings, blends, and other delightful flavors to incorporate in their everyday cooking.

We started our business at a farmers’ market back in 2001 and after two years decided to take our business to the next step, opening our brick and mortar location. The doors opened on January 23rd and we have been at the same location ever since, right next to Alessi Bakery. Lots of great stories have been created and shared here. We have had celebrity chefs, local chefs, local football players, restaurateurs, gourmet cooks, and most importantly, our folks who just love to cook. They recognize the difference our spices and seasonings make on their plates.

To celebrate our anniversary on January 23rd, we are offering 20% off your total purchase from January 23rd – January 26th (excluding Eden’s Nectar products).

The 10th customer through the door on January 23rd will receive a bottle of something very special. We look forward to many more years of supplying the very best in seasonings for your kitchen.

COOKING CLASS

With February just around the corner, we all know what that means – Valentine’s Day. Oh, the pressure! The flowers, the candy, the reservations, and on and on… Well, we would like to take some of the stress off by offering a COOK FOR YOUR LOVE CLASS.

The Cook For Your Love Class will be a full dinner featuring a light appetizer, salad, two different entrees (beef & salmon) so that you can have a choice of what you would like to prepare, and accompanying sides. With Spicy Kym in the house, perhaps we’ll feature a delightful dessert as well.

Class is on February 9th starting at 4:00pm. Seating is limited to 8 individuals. Cost is $40.00 per person, so bring your appetite because this will be a full dining experience and lesson in food love. This class is by reservation only, please reserve your spot by February 5th by calling (813) 870-1133.

Eat well and enjoy the best 2019 has to bring. If you have resolved to explore some new flavors this year, VSpicery is here to help.

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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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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

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30 Days of Flavor: 03/29/11 – Bellindora Vinegars

Vin_Apple

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 carry a line of flavored Bellindora vinegars from Napa Valley, California, that are packed with flavor and can be used various ways to give new dimension to your dishes. Three of the flavors begin with a balsamic vinegar base (apple, fig and pomegranate) and one that begins with a champagne vinegar (champagne pear), and are then infused with fruit flavor. You can come to our shop in Tampa, or one of the markets that we attend to sample one or all varieties to find your favorite.

Our Apple Balsamic vinegar has a nice and refreshing apple taste that works well as a vinaigrette, glaze, reduction, or as part of a marinade. Use it with our Orange Olive Oil, and some Eden’s Nectar Spring honey for a fabulous fruit salad dressing. We sampled this fruit salad creation at a market, and everyone wanted to buy the prepared salad! Brush on baked chicken or pork during the last 15 minutes of cooking for a nice sweetly tart flavor infusion, or combine with herbs and olive oil for a tasty salad dressing.

Champagne Pear Vinegar has just the right balance of sweetness from the pears with the tart flavor of the vinegar that it may just become your favorite, it is certainly one of ours. This vinegar was made specifically for us when our first pear vinegar producer went out of business and sold the pear and olive farms. We waited 18 months for the vinegar to age in oak barrels before we could finally sample this fine product, and it was definitely worth the wait. Mix with VSpicery’s Salad Seasons, Serophino Olive Oil, and Eden’s Nectar Honey for a nice, flavorful vinaigrette. Tired of the same old chicken dish? Use our Harmony Chicken Rub and olive oil to season chicken, whole or pieces, and bake as you would normally. Then during the last 15 minutes of cooking drizzle some Champagne Pear Vinegar (or spritz with a mister or squirt bottle), and continue baking until the chicken is done. This awesome flavor combination will become a family favorite! Also makes a tasty glaze or reduction sauce.

Wonderful on salads, sandwiches, and roasted or grilled meats, our Fig Balsamic Vinegar really livens up your meals. Use it to make a vinaigrette for your salad, as a glaze for fish, chicken or pork, or make a fabulous reduction sauce to top veggies or meats. If you like turkey sandwiches, you have to try it on your next one. Use your bread of choice, add turkey and provolone or swiss, lettuce, tomato, mayo optional, and drizzle a few drops of the Fig Vinegar. You’ll be amazed how this vinegar compliments the other flavors of the sandwich. We seasonally carry dried Turkish Figs that are really meaty and delicious, usually available around the holiday season, that taste like a fig newton without the cookie. A favorite way for some of our customers to use these two items is for their Thanksgiving turkey, by stuffing the bird with the dried figs and seasoning the outside with salt, pepper and garlic, then during the final fifteen minutes or so of cooking, baste with the fig vinegar. The flavor is amazing!

Our Pomegranate Balsamic Vinegar has a pleasantly tart taste that compliments salads, chicken, fish, and pork. It makes a fantastic vinaigrette, glaze, reduction, or sandwich condiment. Our favorite thing to do with this vinegar is a sautéed chicken salad. Put 1-2 tbls. of butter and equal parts olive oil in a pan, add onions or shallots, and cook until they begin to caramelize. Take 2 to 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, season with salt and pepper, and sauté with the caramelized onions. Once the chicken is done, place it and the onions on a bed of fresh spinach, topped with goat cheese or bleu cheese, pecans, and dried cranberries. Then deglaze the pan with Pomegranate Balsamic Vinegar. Reduce to half, let it begin to thicken, then top the salad with this reduction. Yum! This recipe works with all four of these vinegar flavors, but we especially prefer the Champagne Pear or Pomegranate vinegar, either provide a nice balance to the other flavors in the salad.

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The Glories of Vinegar – The Everyday Gourmet

Vin_TanFIg

If you’ve ever wondered what the fuss over good vinegar is all about, then you’ve missed out! Vinegars impart an extra zing that varies from tart to sweet, and are as varied as the regions they hail from.

Whitney at The Everyday Gourmet is a self professed vinegar freak. She notes:

“I absolutely love highly acidic things — strong vinaigrettes, anything with lemon or lime, and I adore pickles. But vinegar is special…it’s great not only in salad dressings, but also in sauces, used in pickling, is a great flavor enhancer, perfect in marinades and so much more! There are so many kinds of vinegar available now, that I thought I’d share some thoughts on uses for different vinegars.”

What follows is a really straight forward and simple breakdown of the major vinegar flavors, and what they’re good for. Check it out here: The Glories of Vinegar.