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Discover the Power of Spices
Reduce Refined Sugar in our Recipes
In our quest to develop a healthy lifestyle and make some substitutions for using refined sugar, we discovered a few natural ingredients that produced some delicious desserts. Using various fruits, pulp, dried fruits, juices, coconut, and nuts created some fresh-tasting dishes. Also one other conclusion became evident while we were baking. If you used fresh vibrant spices, you were rewarded with excellent products.
So we decided it was important to locate a spice expert that could provide some helpful hints about using, storing, and even blending spices. We found a business located in Chicago called The Spice House that sold and processed excellent quality products for restaurants, chefs, and consumers.
Tom and Patty Erd started a second spice store in 1996 in Evanston, Illinois and credit their company’s quality dedication to Bill and Ruth Penzey, Patty’s parents, who operated a spice store in Milwaukee since 1957.
Tom and Patty want their customers to know how much of a difference good fresh spices can make in their cooking. They now have five stores operating in the Midwest and are real spice experts, having won many awards and honors
FINDING THAT HIGH QUALITY SPICE STORE
The Spice House – Chicago, Illinois
When entering The Spice House in Chicago, we saw a mountain of bottled spices, herbs, and seasonings that filled the shelves in the store. We immediately felt a feeling of down home comfort that seemed to permeate the environment. Customers were smiling as they smelled and tasted various spices. The staff each wore a name tag that included their favorite spice, which encouraged questions and provided product information. As we explored the different kinds of vanilla, Patty Erd joined us, and we soon found ourselves laughing and sharing our mutual love of vanilla beans.
CINNAMON IS NOT JUST CINNAMON
I told her that I loved cinnamon, and she proceeded to show us the actual long pieces of cinnamon bark and let us taste the different kinds of cinnamon. Tom Erd joined us and I remarked that I thought cinnamon is just cinnamon. He explained the oil differences can vary from 1-1/2 % to 7-1/2% and even demonstrated how we could tell by just shaking the jar. I was amazed because I know that my grocery store cinnamon doesn’t list the type, place it was grown, or date it was ground. Did it come from Indonesia, China, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, or Madagascar? This is information that all of us want to know, and I wondered why I had to wait so long to find out that “cinnamon is not just cinnamon.”
Oh yes, pictures on the store’s wall show a multitude of celebrities and stories abound about Award dinners, Food Network visits, well-known customers, and wonderful memories.
The Spice House is more than a big commercial company; it’s about people who really care about their product and want to share some of the best spices and herbs in the world.
They Process Their Spices Right in Their Store
I know you are asking, “What makes this store so special?” I discovered that they actually process their spices right at the store and watched Tom mixing one of his ethnic blends. Can you even imagine what fresh ground cinnamon would taste like? Amazing!
Because they sell their spices to regular cooks, nationwide major chefs, BBQ joints, sausage makers, and lots of restaurants, their spices are always fresh with new products joining their collection frequently.
ASK THEM TO SEND YOU A CATALOG
I found out that their recipe database has over 1000 recipes, submitted by customers, staff, professional chefs, and cookbook authors. They also have a catalog available listing spices and herbs alphabetically that they will send to you. One look at that book convinced me that ordering on line was a good choice. Imagine key lime extract, tomato powder, cheese powders, roasted cacao nibs, lemongrass, and granulated maple sugar! I just couldn’t make up my mind what to bring home with me until I saw their fantastic selection of spice blends including Chicago Deep Dish Pizza Pizzazz, Back-of-the-Yards Garlic Pepper (Butcher Rub), and Ratatouille Seasoning, that immediately entered by shopping bag.
Have Some Fun
Blend Your Own Spices
Always start with fresh high quality whole spices or herbs
Purchase several spice blends to understand the ingredient ratios
Refer to a good spice book to understand the positive attributes of each ingredient.
Understand the basic elements of your desired blend
• List your basic spice or herb ingredient
• Find out what each spice or herb contributes
• Grind or form the base for your blend
• Adjust the seasoning as desired
• Experiment with the addition of extra spices, but only add a pinch to a teaspoon of your base to see if you like it.
• Create your final signature blend
• Use it in your favorite recipe
Let’s look at this sample recipe. Do you enjoy chai tea but always purchase a mix. Chai tea is a blend of black tea and warm spices, that might include cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, ginger, pepper, nutmeg, coriander and cumin. In the United States, milk is also added and can be served warm or cold.
Recipes Using Spice Blends and High Quality Extracts
Easy ‘n Elegant Ratatouille
Using Prepared Ratatouille Spice from The Spice House
Ratatouille is a classic French dish that won new popularity in Disney’s film Ratatouille, which featured Tomas Keller of the French Laundry Restaurant for creative styling. This recipe uses a few short cuts to make its preparation easier. Ratatouille Seasoning from The Spice House combines delicious herbs together in one step and already diced fire roasted tomatoes as well as ready chopped roasted red peppers makes preparation so simple. Delicious, Easy, and Elegant – It just can’t get any better!
Lemon Glazed Almond Scones
If you like almonds, this scone is for you. It’s packed with rich almond flavor both inside and out, and a perfect companion for that cup of coffee or tea. It’s so easy to make and a touch of light lemon glaze adds a touch of sweetness along with the crunch of sliced almonds.
Warm Rainbow Chard with Cranberries and Pumpkin Seeds
Rainbow chard is one of the most beautiful greens to use with its vibrant colors twirling amidst those emerald green leaves. You almost forget that this vegetable is a top healthy contender too. This recipe is an ethnic and family favorite, and the simple style is similar to classic Italian preparations. We added a touch of basil but dried marjoram can be used. A light sprinkling of shredded Parmesan cheese as a finishing touch takes you right to Italy.
Reducing Sugar by Using Natural Products
Sugar imparts sweetness but also contributes to the texture, tenderness, moisture, and body of dough products and batters. It also provides for caramelizing, turning crusts golden brown, and adds that stickiness we enjoy in desserts. Frostings, fillings, and even sauces form into thick layers of goodness with the help of sugar.
While this seemed like a difficult project, we found that sugar could be reduced by 1/4 to 1/3 in some cookies, muffins, and quick breads. However, in some of our recipes, you will find that we used fruit purees, fresh fruits, canned fruits in fruit juice, and fruit or veggie pulp. We also included more dried fruits and fruit juices. Coconut products like coconut crystals could replace refined white sugar but acted like a brown sugar in the recipe. The only problem with this product was that it was more expensive to purchase than sugar.
Ginger Pear Brown Butter Walnut Bread
The natural fruit provides plenty of flavor when it’s mixed with vibrant sweet spices and crunchy brown butter toasted walnuts. No one will ever guess that the fruit helps to reduce the sugar and fat in this recipe. The glaze is optional, but it does add that lemon sparkle to the recipe.
Fig Glazed Sweet Apple Torte
Forget about adding butter and oil! All that is needed for this dessert is lots of fresh apples, which make this simple-to-make torte cake a real winner. It’s lightly sweetened with cinnamon and low glycemic coconut crystals, that provide extra minerals and vitamins. The moist torte cake can be is topped with any desired fruit spread glaze and is soul satisfying served with a dollop of light flavored frozen yogurt.
‘Refreshing ” Go Green” Juice Coolers
High Fiber ” Go Green” Muffins
Just love the idea of using that rich fruit and veggie fiber that’s left over when you prepare a juice drink. The savory muffins are perfect as a breakfast treat or quick snack. They are light textured with only a touch of sweet spices, coconut, crunchy green pistachios and are so rich in fiber. Serve them with that refreshing green veggie drink. “Go Green” is a great way to start a day.
Cauliflower Cheesecake Mini Muffin Appetizers
Surprise your guests and serve a great vegetarian appetizer, Cauliflower Cheesecake Mini Muffins. Under the crunchy browned top is a creamy soft vegetable filling, bursting with flavor on an onion-garlic crouton crust. Do you want a spicy hot start? Substitute the Italian cheese with Hot Pepper cheese or sprinkle with ground red pepper.
Go Natural Make it From Scratch
Creamy Fresh Cheese in 30 Minutes
Imagine fresh cheese you can make and it’s ready for your table in just a matter of minutes. Paneer, an Indian cheese, is fresh cheese that’s mild, milky, and pairs well with spicy food. It doesn’t melt like mozzarella but you can crumble it, spread it, or even fry it. Imagine that! This is a great substitute for queso fresco, ricotta salata, or famer’s cheese. Make sure that you use whole milk and it’s not UHT pasteurized. I fell in love with this as it was so easy and didn’t need lots of ingredients.
The added benefit is that you can add your favorite spices to create your own flavor.
Light Creamy Homemade Hummus
Do you want a hummus that is light, smooth, and fluffy? Start with those raw chickpeas and then create your own favorite topping. I loved the apricot-date variation with crisp crackers but serving it with fresh vegetable dip sticks like carrots, cucumbers, peppers, celery, or snap beans is also delicious. The base recipe lets you create your own favorite toppings. Enjoy!
Roasted Veggie Express
Ready in 30 Minutes
Would you just love to have some roasted vegetables but need to make them fast? Try this recipe! It uses quick cooking veggies with smaller cut chunks and don’t forget to add a touch of crunchy toasted walnuts. Just put those golden veggies in the oven and they’re ready in about 30 minutes. A perfect and healthy touch for your quick supper!