Day 141 – Spices Made Easy – Wednesday – June 15, 2016 – If you are new at using spices or stuck in a rut with the same old recipes, I have some easy tips on how to spice up your meals ~ while controlling the sodium (salt).
Today, as I was going through my spice cabinet (for the umpteenth time), I came across a seasoning packet, Recipe Inspirations by McCormick. The pre-measured packet I had on hand features spices to make Chicken Marsala. What I like about this seasoning pack is that it pushes me to use a combination of spices that I have never used before. I like that salt is not part of the packet. The instructions call for adding salt but I have the option to not. I also can use the spice blend for any recipe, not just for Chicken Marsala.
This got me thinking about other similar spice packets for both McCormick and other brands of seasoning packs. I’m not really sure that McCormick makes these anymore since I didn’t find any on their website but I did find some packets for sale on Amazon and eBay.
Free Flavors for the Taking
- Look for McCormick Recipe Inspiration packs on the internet for the spices, herbs and seasonings and the measurements. Typically 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of each spice listed. Hot spices will be less.
- Look for spice mixes and spice blends ~ read the ingredients for flavor inspiration.
- Spices can spice-up your standby recipes to add a new layer of flavor.
- Omit the salt, sugar or any other ingredients not on your preferred list of added ingredients. Skip the preservatives, etc…
Seasoning Packets, Blends and Dip Mixes
The same idea goes for all types of seasoning packets, blended spices and dip mixes. Take a look at the ingredient list to identify the seasonings, herbs and spices. If you have a favorite packet on hand now, take a look at the back.
- What are the “good” ingredients, spices, herbs and seasonings?
- What ingredients would you like to eliminate?
A suggested rule of thumb when adding spices to your recipe is start with 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of each spice for a recipe. For hot spices such as cayenne, curry and black pepper, 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon can go a long way. Taste and adjust.
Example: I have a French Onion Dip seasoning packet and I know it to be much too salty and because of that, I don’t even use it anymore. If I make my own and eliminate the: salt, hydrolyzed soy protein and lactose, I am left with just three seasonings to add to my sour cream: dehydrated onions, garlic and parsley. Will I really miss the other three ingredients that I eliminated? I doubt it but I won’t know unless I try. What I do know is that if I decide to add some salt, I will be in control of how much salt is added.
Will I miss the fancy price of prepared “gourmet” seasoning packets? Probably not.
You might have several seasoning packets and spice blends in your spice cabinet. Take a look at the ingredients on the packaging. How many of those ingredients are really necessary to get the flavor profile? How many ingredients can you eliminate and still enjoy the boost of flavor from the spices?
Now, think about how you can use those spices in your cooking. How about adding them to your crock pot recipes? Your meat dishes ~ your vegetables?
Cooking is Experimenting
My husband, Mark, calls me a witch doctor when I’m cooking in the kitchen because I rarely follow a recipe. He means it in a nice way (I think). What he really is saying is that I’m not afraid to experiment when cooking. A bit of this, a bit of that. Per Mark, “Eating my cooking is an adventure.” Cooking can be fun. I have hundreds of cookbooks and I look for recipes in my cookbooks for inspiration ~ not as an absolute.
The McCormick Chicken Marsala spice blend I used tonight included: 1 tsp. minced garlic, 1 tsp. marjoram leaves, 1 tsp. minced onion, 1/2 tsp. coarse ground black pepper, 1 tsp. basil leaves and 3/4 tsp. parsley flakes. (I noticed on the internet that McCormick has a shortened version of Chicken Marsala spice blend with only three ingredients. I like the blend I have.)
I added the spice blend to my crock pot, Chicken Sausage Cassoulet recipe along with 3/4 cup of water (in place of chicken broth), 1/4 cup of dry white wine and one can of cannellini beans (drained and rinsed). I did not add any salt. The sodium in the kielbasa sausage was enough salt for the entire dish.
My shredded chicken and sliced sausage was pre-cooked so I heated it in the crock pot on low for 4 hours. It turned out absolutely delicious. LOTS of flavor.
Day 141 – Spices Made Easy
Who knows…with a little experimentation, you can become a spice wizard in your own kitchen. Throw caution to the wind and try something new.
In case you missed some of my spice posts ~
Perhaps the reason the McCormick Recipe Inspiration packaging idea was not a success is due to the entire spices and measurements listed on the package (along with recipe instructions). After you buy the first packet, you have the portions and instructions and can then use any brand of spice after that to make the recipe. You can find a nice variety of recipes on their website. Visit www.McCormick.com/recipes
The next time you visit your local grocer, I encourage you to allow some time to browse the huge variety of spice blends. Read the ingredients and experiment with creating your own blends without the added salt. Of course, there are many ready-made, salt-free spice blends available too.
Hope you had spice in your life today…
Facing MY FAT,
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