HOMEMADE TACO SEASONING

Taste and Create was started as a food event by Nicole from For the Love of Food.  The whole purpose of Taste and Create was, and has been, and continues to be to create a community of bloggers who test each others’ recipes and share links. The participants of the event are paired together and try a new recipe from one another’s blog.
This month I was paired with Jennifer from FOR SUCH A TIME AS THIS. I love being paired with someone I’ve never been paired with before I inevitably learn sooooooo much, and find great new recipes.  I chose her TACO SEASONING recipe. I chose it because I too am always looking for the perfect homemade seasonings. 
She’s right it works great for chicken, beef, pork–whatever you are trying to spice up for Mexican night!   
I’m ditching my old go to recipe and using this from now on!

Jennifer’s Recipe
Homemade Taco Seasoning Mix
1 tablespoon of chili powder
2 teaspoons of onion powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon of garlic powder
1 teaspoon of paprika
1 teaspoon of oregano
1 teaspoon of sugar
1 teaspoon of salt
1 tsp cornstarch
3/4 cup water

  • Mix all the dry ingredients together and use with your taco meat. 
  • Pour the water in the pan and cook just like you would for tacos. 
  • The amount above is the same amount that is in one packet of taco seasoning mix at the store.
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ACHIOTE PASTE – YUCATAN STYLE SAUCE

Yesterday while I was volunteering at my local Christian ministry my friend tossed me a brand new box of this Achiote Paste and said “here, you’re the cook – figure out what to do with this”.  I was intrigued and set out to do just that.  Now that I know what it is, I’ll search out some recipes to go with it.

Annatto Seeds
Commonly known as annatto seed in the States, the correct term for the seeds of an annatto tree is achiote seeds. Native to South America, they have been used to color food and cosmetics. These seeds have a peppermint scent and a slightly peppery taste with just a hint of bitterness. This seed grows on the annato tree. It is used primarily in Mexican and Caribbean cooking to impart a rich yellow/orange color. Annato seed makes a good substitute for saffron’s golden coloring, at a fraction of the cost. It does NOT, however, duplicate saffron’s unique flavor!
The seeds can be ground and added to soups and stews or made into a paste to be spread on fish or pork before grilling. It’s a tough process to work with annatto, as the dried seeds are very hard and quite difficult to grind.
Another popular use for annato seeds is to make achiote oil. Cook the seeds in hot oil until their skin dissolves. When the oil turns bright yellow, discard the seeds and use the oil for cooking.
To make paste:
Cover seeds with water and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderate heat for 3 minuts. Remove from heat and let stand for a couple of hours. Drain and pat dry using a paper towel so as to not stain a clothe one. Transfer to a mortar and pestle or spice grinder and grind to a paste.
The seeds can also be ground with garlic and any variety of chili peppers for adobo paste.
Annatto seeds have been used as a dye for fabrics and body paint since pre-Columbian times.
 Annatto Paste Recipe

In a small to medium saucepan, heat the olice oil over medium heat. Add the annatto seeds and cook, stirring constantly, until the oil becomes a rich, orange-red color, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool

Strain the annatto oil into the bowl of a food processor or blender, and add the lime juice, oregano, garlic, salt and cumin. Process the mixture on high to form a smooth paste. Pour into a glass jar and keep covered in the refrigerator until ready to use.

I found this great recipe from In the Kitchen with Mary Sue and Susan:

Achiote Sauce

This sauce is a key ingredient in our Guatemalan Tamales, but it is also a flavorful liquid to use when poaching scallops, fish, or eggs.

Makes 2 1/2 cups

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 onion, roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 1/2 tablespoons achiote paste*, crumbled
2 cups chicken stock
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons white vinegar

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook the onions until soft and translucent, 12 to 15 minutes.
Stir in the garlic and tomato and achiote pastes and cook an additional 3 to 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the chicken stock, salt and black pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook, stirring and skimming frequently, 12 to 15 minutes.
Add the vinegar and cook for a final 2 to 3 minutes. Puree in a blender or food processor. Store in the refrigerator 2 to 3 days.
* Achiote paste is a bright orange seasoning paste from the Yucatan made of ground annatto seeds, oregano, cumin, cinnamon, pepper and cloves. It is often thinned with vinegar or citrus juices for marinades and sauces and should always be cooked first to remove any chalkiness. This is what produces the bright orange color often found in Mexican food, so be sure to wash off any utensils that touch it or they just might remain orange. The paste is sold in bricks and can be kept well wrapped in the refrigerator for a long time.
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FINISHING SALTS ~ 1ST CHOICE NOT LAST

Need a gift for the cook in your life?  Consider giving a nice collection of Salt.
There are numerous different varieties of salt and each contributes a different flavor to a dish.  The variances are subtle but they are there and to an educated palate the differences can be quite strikinG.
On the list of salt that you can choose to use in your recipes iodized table salt should be the last edible choice, not the first.  The additives and iodine change the flavor and make it harsh and bitter.  What should you use?
Some Currently Common Salt Varieties and Their Uses

Kosher Salt

Kosher salt is the perfect, all purpose salt. It is flavorful without being harsh and the larger crystals allow the flavor to be more distinct from the food. Kosher salt comes in two types of crystals, fine and coarse. The large surface area of the salt crystals allows kosher salt to season meat to perfection without over salting. Kosher salt can be used at the table as well as in cooking and baking. Some of the more common uses for kosher salt are:
  • Breads
  • Pretzels
  • Seasoning meat and poultry
  • Table salt

Sea Salt

Sea salt is another type of salt that has iodine. The difference between sea salt and regular table salt is that the iodine in the sea salt occurs naturally. There are hundreds of different brands of sea salt and all are made in much the same way and derived from an ocean or sea. Sea salt is harvested by channeling sea water into large bins made of pure clay. The water is allowed to evaporate leaving just the salt crystals. Since sea salt is not as refined as some of the other types it commonly contains minerals like:
  • Iron
  • Zinc
  • Calcium
  • Iodine
  • Potassium
There are other trace minerals in sea salt as well. Sea salt has a delicate flavor and makes a good all purpose table salt. It normally comes in three grinds, from fine to course.

Italian Sea Salt

Italian sea salt is produced off the coast of Sicily. It is Interesting to note that the Italian sea salt has less sodium chloride than table salt.
The salt is gathered in the same way as regular sea salt. Its delicate flavor lends itself best to use as a finishing salt, to be added once a dish is complete. It is wonderful in salads, on sliced sun ripe tomatoes
with a little olive oil, or sprinkled on to meat just before serving.

Celtic Sea Salt

Celtic salt is harvested from the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Brittany, France. The salt is harvested as it has been for centuries, with wooden rakes. Traditionally no metal is supposed to come in contact with the salt to maintain the purest and most delicate flavor.

Grey Sea Salt

Grey sea salt is a salt that is collected in the same way as Celtic sea salt and from the same area. It is a purplish gray color. This color comes from the inclusion of clay that is found in the salt flats where the salt is collected.
Grey salt is one of the best quality finishing salts available. It is wonderful on salads, sprinkled on flavored butters, or used on vegetables.

Fleur de Sel

Literally “flower of the sea” Fleur de Sel salt is made up of salt crystals that form naturally on the surface of the salt evaporation ponds. These crystals must be harvested under specific conditions. Most Fleur de Sel comes from Guerande , France. The flavor is unusual and delicate. It is a finishing salt used in salads, vegetables and grilled meats as well as to top some desserts such as caramels.

Black Salt

Black salt has a sulfuric flavor and is used primarily in Indian cooking. The flavor is reminiscent of eggs and is sometimes used by vegans to add an eggy taste to salads and tofu dishes. In traditional Indian dishes it is used in fruit salads, chutneys, and raitas.
Black salt is not a sea derived salt but is mined from the earth. It should not be used as an all purpose salt because of the flavor.

Hawaiian Red Sea Salt

Hawaiian Red salt is colored with natural iron oxide which imparts a subtle flavor to this salt. It is a finishing salt that is perfect for grilled meats. The iron oxide caused the salt to be any color from red to pink, depending on the amount of the mineral in the salt.

Smoked Sea Salt

Smoked sea salt is exactly that. It is sea salt that has been smoked in various ways to add an additional layer of flavor.

Himalayan Pink Salt

Although Himalayan Pink salt is harvested from the foothills of the Himalaya Mountains it is technically a sea salt. It is a marine fossil salt formed eons ago. It carries numerous trace minerals and is a delicious and beautiful finishing salt.

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Grilling Tip: Coarse Language

When it comes to grilling and fire roasting, sometimes being “less refined” is better. I like to use much more coarse ingredients in my rubs. I just think that the more intense heat of live fire cooking brings out the rich flavors of chunky ingredients that ground spices just can’t deliver.
Take for example this recipe for Cajun Pork Roast from the National Pork Board.

2-pound pork loin roast
3 tablespoons paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons thyme
2 teaspoons oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Combine all seasonings and rub well over all surfaces of roast. Place roast in shallow pan and roast in 350 degree F. oven for about 45 minutes, until internal temperature on a thermometer reads 150 degrees F. Remove roast from oven; let rest until temperature reaches 160 degrees F, about 10 minutes before slicing.

The first time I ever made this, I just used powdered spices and it was very good. But since then, I began to adjust it using coarser ingredients. The slight adjustments make a much heartier and more flavorful dish.
3 tablespoons paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (use 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes instead)
1 tablespoon garlic powder (use 1/2 Tbsp of garlic powder and 1/2 Tbsp of dried minced garlic)
2 teaspoons thyme (use fresh that was dried for a few days and then crumbled)
2 teaspoons oregano (use fresh that was dried for a few days and then crumbled)
1/2 teaspoon salt (use the most coarse grain you can find)
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg (fresh ground)
These little adjustments give you a rub that instead of being a dusty powder, looks like this…

It adds more texture…

And amplifies the flavors of the final dish.

So the next time you are grilling out, give this tip a try. Look at your dry rub ingredients and consider how you can make them “chunkier”. I think you’ll be glad you did.
[Please excuse this rehash of a dish I’ve made several times before. My outdoor kitchen is being demolished and rebuilt this week.]
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Dukkah – Egyptian Spice Mixture


Welcome once again to my version of Cultural Connections. Today I have for you an Egyptian spice blend, Dukkah, pronounced DOO-ka, or Doo-hah, with kind of a hard H stuck in your throat sound. No matter how you say it…it’s good!
I first mentioned the fabulous spice and nut mixture on my Aqua Sunday blog. My recipe for dukkah was then published early on, on my food blog The Tiny Skillet way back before anyone really read it. Dukkah is such a wonderful blend of warm spices and toasted nuts, and is so versatile, I wanted to share it with you. This originated in Egypt and is very popular in Australia served as an appetizer. You take Turkish bread, pita, or ciabatta bread, or any good crusty bread and dip it in a good olive oil then in the nut & spice mixture. It makes a lot so I freeze the extra an use it to coat chicken or fish then bake, or grill it. It’s so easy to pull out of the freezer to use. You can use it on meats, rice, veggies or sprinkle it on salads, pizza or pasta. It is like Chai spice, everyone seems to have their own blend. Some even use dry roasted chickpeas instead of the Hazelnuts. Here is what I came up with:

Dukkah Recipe

1/2 cup hazelnuts
1/2 cup pistachio nuts
1/4 cup almonds (optional)
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds (optional)
3 tablespoons coriander seeds
3 tablespoons sesame seeds
2 tablespoons cumin seeds
1 teaspoon white peppercorns
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried mint leaves
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
You can add red pepper flakes if you want a little kick (my husband doesn’t)

Heat a heavy skillet over med heat, add the nuts, and dry-toast until slightly browned and fragrant, being careful that they don’t burn. Remove from the heat and cool completely. Repeat the procedure with each of the seeds and the peppercorns. Allow each of them to cool completely.
Place the nuts and seeds, along with the herbs and salt, into a mortar and pound until the mixture is crushed. Or pulse in a food processor to a coarse consistency; do not allow the mixture to become a paste. I found I liked mine a little bit finer texture so you can play with it a and see what you prefer.
Store in an airtight container in a cool place for up to 1 month. Or freeze. I love having this on hand in the freezer, then you can pull it out anytime you need a quick coating for chicken or pork, or just sprinkle over a salad!
Hope you enjoy it!
Lyndsey~
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Spice & Herb Trivia ~ Thursday 13

#Spice ~ Any of various pungent, aromatic plant substances, such as cinnamon or nutmeg, used to flavor foods or beverages. Something that adds zest or flavor. A pungent aroma; a perfume.
#Herb ~ A plant whose stem does not produce woody, persistent tissue and generally dies back at the end of each growing season. Any of various often aromatic plants used especially in medicine or as seasoning.
#Saffron is the world’s most expensive spice. More than 80,000 stigmas have to be harvested by hand to yield just 500 grams.
#Cinnamon originates from Sri Lanka.
# Sesame originates from Africa.
# Basil is a herb, not a spice.
# Dandelion is a natural diuretic.
# Dill water is good for Colic.
# Dill is a spice and a herb.
# While mustard is quite pungent in flavor, it has virtually no aroma.
# Curry is not “A” spice, but a collection of spices.
# Sage Tea is an effective antidote for a sore throat.
# Thyme, Sage, Basil and Pepper were once used as food preservatives before refrigeration because of their anti-bacterial properties.

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Thursday 13 ~ ALL ABOUT PEPPER


Thank you Janet and Megan for resurrecting it!
  1. Originally from the tropics, pepper is a berry from the vine Piper Nigrum.
  2. There are many types of peppers grown all over the world.
  3. Most of the flavor is lost during cooking.
  4. Pepper should be added after cooking.
  5. Pepper stimulates gastric juices and stimulates digestive processes.
  6. Brings out and strengthens the inherent flavor of food.
  7. Black and white pepper come from the same vine.
  8. When first harvested the berries are red, odorless and tasteless.
  9. When dried in the sun they become black and spicy.
  10. White pepper is made from berries allowed to ripen longer and the berries are soaked (fermented) to remove the outer coating.
  11. White pepper is less spicy than black pepper.
  12. It is best to buy whole peppercorns and grind them as needed.
  13. Commercial ground pepper is made from a mixture of various peppers.
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Thursday 13 ~ ALL ABOUT SALT


Thank you Janet and Megan for resurrecting it!
13 things to know about SALT!

  1. Sat is NOT a spice.
  2. Salt is NOT an herb.
  3. Salt is NOT a seasoning.
  4. Salt is a mineral.
  5. Salt is essential to life.
  6. Salt is contained naturally in most foods.
  7. Salt unites the flavors of herbs and seasonings together until they come alive.
  8. Salt does not actually flavor our food.
  9. Salt enhances our food.
  10. Salt increases the flow of saliva.
  11. Salt opens the taste buds.
  12. Salt releases the juices in foods.
  13. Salt stimulates the appetite.

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Spice up your life and a place to put them!

This is an old dentist equipment cabinet. It has been in my family for many years now. First my mom had it as well as another one. When she moved to a smaller place she gave my brother and I each one. I used mine for awhile in a bathroom and then eventually as a candle cabinet to store all my goodies. My brother then went through a simplification stage and downsized just about everything so I inherited the second one also. I decided to turn mine into a spice cabinet for the kitchen. It is where I store just about everything from croutons and bread crumbs to flavorings and bouillon. The bottom cabinet works well to store ziploc bags, extra foil and plastic wrap. I even have the original glass shelves, lock, keys and wheels.

I do of course have the day to day spices closer to the stove and cooking are. I can’t function without everything organized and handy too!

final blog signature.

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