A review of SKINNY SPICES: 50 Nifty Homemade Spice Blends That Can Turn Blah Healthy Eating Into Flavor-Rich Delicious Dining by ERICA LEVY KLEIN Published by: Alina Adams Media Copyright © 2013 by Erica Levy Klein
I think everyone who loves good food will read Erica Levy Klein’s e-book and find at least a half dozen recipes that they want to try immediately – if only because the names are so enticing. You barely have to use your imagination to be tempted by the drama of “Crabmeat Named Desire,” or the quaint appeal of “French Market Tomato Soup.” I love Brussels sprouts and vegetables of every ilk and even I will make the “Vegetable Haters Brussels Sprouts” recipe one of these days. The book is titled – and take a deep breath before reading this out loud -- Skinny Spices: 50 Nifty Homemade Spice Blends That Can Turn Blah Healthy Eating Into Delicious Dining.
Skinny Spices is a user-friendly, searchable e-book that features the aforesaid recipe blends, many of which I plan to reproduce and use on a regular basis. First published in 1993, the book explains the writer’s ultimate motivation for using herbs and spices in cooking: to lose weight. Or rather to make healthy, low-fat meals so palatable that you don’t miss the butter, salt, and sugar that makes so many things taste so good. When people are desperate to lose weight, we will go to great lengths to research, experiment, study, plan and become expert in our knowledge of, and experience with, food.
This is how so many of us constant dieters enter the world of herbs and spices, whole grains and whole foods eating and cooking. And the really big surprise about all of this healthy eating and cooking is that it is incredibly easy and quite inexpensive, especially when you take advantage of the ideas in a cookbook like Skinny Spices.
Almost everybody has a few seasoning blends in the spice cupboard, and they are more popular than ever in the grocery store. Seasoned salt, Old Bay seafood seasonings, poultry herbs for that Thanksgiving dressing, a grilling blend or two – all are just great. BUT If you’re concerned about freshness, the sodium content or additives in prepared blends, you might want to mix a few of your own, and Klein’s Nifty Fifty have plenty to choose from. It’s easy to do, as the whole book is interactive, completely searchable and the recipes are keyed to specific blends. If you don’t know where to begin, just peruse the recipes first. Select a few that really appeal to you, and then shop for your herbs and spices. The bulk section of your local health food store is a great place to buy small amounts and they are generally much cheaper to purchase this way.
The cooks at Cottage Spicery (meaning me) couldn’t wait to try one of the recipes, and miraculously had nearly all the ingredients for the “Spicy Szechuan All-Vegetable Stir-Fry,” so that was dinner, and a delicious success. I’ll reproduce it here. First, the herb and spice component, Hunan Blend:
2 Tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
1 Tablespoon ground black pepper
1 Tablespoon garlic
1 Tablespoon ground ginger
1 Tablespoon dried cilantro *
½ Tablespoon mustard seed
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
*I didn’t have any dried cilantro; substituted ground coriander seed (the seed of cilantro)
Spicy Szechuan All-Vegetable Stir-Fry
Yield: 4 servings
1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon peanut oil *
3 cups diagonally sliced asparagus (trim woody ends from 1 lb. asparagus)
1 cup diagonally sliced carrots
1 cup diagonally sliced celery
1 cup thinly sliced onions
1 medium red bell pepper, cut into strips
1 garlic clove, finely minced
¾ cup hot water
2 teaspoons dry sherry *
2 teaspoons oyster sauce*
1 teaspoon Hunan Blend (above)
1 packet low-sodium beef bouillon*
1 teaspoon cornstarch
*I had no sherry, oyster sauce, or bouillon powder -- used a nip of white wine, a teaspoon only of fish sauce, and a teaspoon of beef Better Than Bouillon, a jar found in the soup aisle of most grocery stores – no msg but lots of sodium, sorry. When I use it, I always cut or eliminate any salt called for in the recipe. I also used my own concoction of spicy lemon-&-chile-infused peanut oil to do the stir frying.
Heat large wok or skillet; add oil and tilt wok or skillet to coat it evenly. Add vegetables, one at a time in order listed, stir-frying each for 1 minute. Add garlic and stir-fry for about 1 minute longer. In measuring cup or bowl, combine remaining ingredients, stirring to dissolve cornstarch; pour over vegetables, and cook until thick. Cover wok or skillet, reduce heat, and let cook until vegetables are tender-crisp or done to taste.
Okay, now here’s something else great about this book: each recipe includes the Nutritional Data PER SERVING!
And here is what it is for Spicy Szechuan All-Vegetable Stir-Fry when you don’t substitute any ingredients, like I did –though I don’t think there was much effect.
Calories: 128 Fat (gm): 4.9 Saturated Fat: (gm): 0.8 Cholesterol (mg): 0 Sodium (mg): 200 % Calories from fat: 31 EXCHANGES Milk: 0.0 Veg: 0.0 Fruit: 0.0 Bread: 0.0 Meat: 0.0 Fat: 0.0
So there you have it! A wealth of great healthy cooking ideas for a little bit of scratch. You can purchase the book in a variety of formats, including print – I found it on Amazon. For the ebook, I have neither a Kindle nor a Nook. But I downloaded the free Kindle app for my PC, and really enjoy the searchable recipes and subjects. In addition, you can experience Skinny Spices on your PC/Mac desktop, laptop, phone, iPad, etc...
Yesterday was our first attempt at Oktoberfest over here by the lake--KCJ's Restaurant hosted a fun day of music and food and craft booths and offered some of the best brats we've ever tasted. The weather was uncooperative -- cold and cloudy -- which made it challenging to stay outside to man the booths and hear the music on the deck, but the mood was convivial and cheery and we all want to make it an annual fall event.
I'd like to thank everyone who stopped by our booth and to invite you to check in with this website for information on our Ridgecrest Holiday Gift Fair to be held this December 1-2, 2012.
Thanks so much to all of you who decided to try our products -- we hope you'll enjoy using them! Healthy eating!
. . . but it's really fun going there! This weekend Whole Grain Goodness and Cottage Spicery will have a booth at the Thayer Missouri GoGreen Festival.
Hope to see you there!
More info at http://gogreenozarks.wordpress.com/
Stop by our spot for a great breakfast of Biscuits and Sausage Gravy or lunch on Tomato Lentil Vegetarian Soup and Smoky Chili Cornbread.
Lots of fun, entertainment and education -- have a great weekend!
This coming Sunday, April 1, 2012, Cottage Spicery packs up all its many delicious goodies and carts them off to the Bakersville Pioneer Village for the April festival. Under the blue canopy, Tamara Carl (www.wholegrain.orbs.com), with her fresh-milled whole grain flours, cookie and pancake mixes, and I will ply our wares to the cheery and dour alike.
If you've not been to Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds before, it's few miles outside of Mansfield, MO (think Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum) and has a restaurant, a couple of music barns, herbal apothecary, blacksmith shop and lots of other attractions. As vendors, we must dress for the pioneer period.
Tamara and I did a trial run of this monthly festival early in March, and while it was a lot of fun we nearly got blown off the hill by a nonstop gale. One of perhaps 20 vendors, we were perched at the top of the chalkdust driveway, and the grit was blasted into every pore, wrinkle and crevice of our products packaging and our selves. Overall, though, it was a lot of fun and quite profitable, had a good crowd of interested, health-minded people.
Sunday should be a really big deal as this is the kick-off to the planting season. This time we will contend with the heat -- it's supposed to get up to the mid-80's! I wish pioneers had worn shorts and tank tops.
I sold out of Chimichurri last time, so I made 12 bottles of Chimichurri Argentino (I had olive oil from one end of the kitchen to the other) and added some new whole spice blends in grinder bottles, plus all the other blends, recipes and samples. And I don't want to bring any of it back home.
Hope to see you there -- and at least get some pictures! Have a great weekend!
This is your Spicy Cook, Cindy Martin
After long and careful consideration, I’ve made up our minds:
we’re opting out of website ads.
Lately I’ve been hearing about all kinds of regular people like
me who are making gobs of cash by allowing ads on their websites and blogs–they
do nothing except allow a few dozen clunky interruptions per page, and the dough
just trickles in – even without much effort, they make a few hundred a month. I
could use that, too.
Though it seems like just about everyone but me knows this, one
of the best ways to make money on your website is to allow space for advertising
– in my case, through Google. You know what I’m talking about: those small, two-
or three-line teasers smack in the middle of the content (the info you wanted
to get) followed by a web address that are supposed to tempt you into clicking
(leading you to the info you didn’t
In this arrangement, when you click an ad, the author of the
website or blog makes a little tick of cash. I don’t for sure know how much; I
don’t know what it takes to get so big time that you have fancy ads and make
oodles of cash, and at this point I don’t know if I will be sorry that I’m
not adding ads.
But so far, I’m not. I’ve been looking around the web at so many
sites -- some like mine and many others that are lots more professional, and
they are so cluttered and busy that who the heck knows what their site is for,
anyway? I know I am old-fashioned and high-tech is like high math to me. But by
the time I have sifted through the
ads, pop-ups, videos and other crap I have usually completely forgotten why I
“went there” in the first place. And often I’m angry because the clutter: 1)
Distracted me from my purpose, when I have very little time to spend
goofing around on the internet in the first place and, 2) Manipulated me (or
tried to manipulate me) to buy something I had no interest
in or intention to buy. It’s freakin’exhausting, if you think about it.
I don’t want CottageSpicery.com to do that. For
anyone who takes the time and trouble to look at it; I want our
site to be like the products it represents: wholesome, honest, organic, genuine.
Tasty. I want all of my honored visitors (and believe me, if you are reading
this, you are among a very select and exclusive--and small--group) to get
something out of the information we present, even if it’s only that you never
want to hear about it again. I want our products and our website to be a
pleasant experience. And – am I
wrong? – everything is more pleasant without
Except perhaps the Superbowl.
So here goes: www.cottagespicery.com
everything it represents is ad-free, fat-free, caffeine-free, additive-free,
MSG-free, here for the pure fun of it while hoping it pays a few bills. We are
the sincerest pumpkin patch in the Ozarks. The only stuff we sell is stuff we
know and believe in. Hope I
haven’t scared you off.
What do you think about all this? Am I too naïve? Should I suck
up and shut up? I’d love to know what you think – what anybody thinks about
this. Please click HERE
to connect to out contact
Thanks for listening!
Valentine’s Day is upon us, and with all the frothy, sappy, sugary sentimental stuff, I need to inject just a little more with tributes to two beautiful ladies I’ve been privileged to know.
Betty Jane’s 85th birthday would have been February 14, 2012. She nearly made it. She was the first neighbor we met when we moved here eleven years ago, and possibly the kindest. The other great lady, Aunt Lois, was the widow of my late father’s oldest brother.
From our first meeting, Betty indulged our tweener son with homemade cookies and lots of lucrative yard work jobs, and was an agreeable audience for him and his friends as they shredded her concrete driveway with skateboards and rollerblades.
She commiserated when I ragged about marriage, housekeeping, family issues and the like, making me feel like she had gone through the exact same trials and tribulations. She comforted me with the idea that I might expect the same overall good outcomes as she had. She was happy, loved her kids, grands and great-grandson.
She laughed and joked and gave great hugs and loved to watch ball games and she fake-cussed at bad calls and dopey plays. She endlessly praised our mutual friendship, saying, “We’ve never had such nice neighbors and good friends,” and just hearing that made me want to be an even nicer neighbor and better friend.
I began losing Betty when I was undergoing cancer treatments and didn’t have the energy to get over to visit. At the same time, she began suffering more Parkinson’s symptoms and was less able to get around, so we didn’t see each other much. Suddenly she declined and went into the nursing home, and I finally went to see her – once.
A few Saturdays ago my husband and I were planning to visit her in hospice but got busy with other errands and promised to go the next day. Betty Jane died that night.
About a week after Betty’s funeral, my sister called to say our Aunt Lois had died, somewhat suddenly. Though she was 94, she was always on the go and busy with bridge and sorority activities – right up to the very end! She played cards and went out to dinner the night before she died.
In all the many years of her life and mine, our paths crossed infrequently, and I didn’t know her very well. I know her son and his family only a little better. My fault entirely. But from what I do know of her, I think Lois liked a good laugh and admired music and scholarship and gave great hugs, and adored her family and grandsons and great-grandson and was adored by them.
She had a beautiful smile and a friendly, comfortable way about her, I do know that. And I can imagine that may have made people around her say something like, “Thank goodness for such a nice neighbor, such a good friend.” Imagining this makes me want to be a nicer niece, a better friend.
From an admirer to two inspirations:
Miss Betty Jane and Aunt Lois – A Happy Valentine’s Day.
I’ll always treasure your example to live life fully and share hugs generously.
Bye for now, and thank you.
My kitchen is the size of a postage stamp. The floorspace square footage rivals a pocket handkerchief's. It’s only slightly bigger than a breadbox. My kitchen would fit on the head of a pin. The photo above is ten times the actual size of my kitchen.
I just realized that for most people born after 1970 or so, few of those similes make sense. I’m not sure either of my grown sons have mailed more than a handful of stamped letters, and if the Post Office continues to have hard times, postage stamps may become obsolete anyway.
No one under 60 uses a pocket hanky anymore – oops, just remembered somebody – well, hardly anybody. My kids wouldn’t. Would yours? And even as ancient as I am, I can barely picture a breadbox. The one we have I found at a garage sale and we keep the dog treats in it.
Possibly everyone knows what a pin is but it’s possible that not everyone has handled one, much less known what its head is for.
But the size of my kitchen is just as outdated as hankies and breadboxes. We call it a one-fanny kitchen because if there is more than one person in there all you do is crash butts trying to maneuver around. It can be quite comical at times, unless you are under the gun to get a meal on the table.
In modern construction the kitchen is open, airy, bright, spacious, with plenty of spots for people to hang out with the cook and watch the game or a movie. Counter space! I have about 18 square feet. There is about as much space on a decent sized picnic table. It fills up fast, as you can see.
This is not a modern house – in fact, pieces of it were built around 1960 and added on to in the subsequent decades. The pieces are hooked together in a most ingenious and unconventional way; that’s the nicest way to put it. In view of the construction history of this house, I guess I should be grateful it has a kitchen at all.
We figure our place – the residence, housing the office and living quarters, plus the older five of our eight cottages – was built for seasonal occupancy only. Families would come to “the fishcamp” in the summers, and without air conditioning, who wants to cook anyway? So make the kitchens tiny and leave a little more room for living or sleeping space.
I shouldn’t complain. We may have a small kitchen, but we have made some big meals in it – have fed as many as 35 people at once in our also-small living/dining room. And if it was any bigger, I’d probably just have more junk hogging the counter space. And if it held any more fannies, I’d probably lose patience and kick everyone out anyway.
Yeah, I’m really okay with it. Tiny kitchens are great! Bet you wish you had one!
Alas, the Spicy Cook has been remiss in her blog postings. Seemed like so much was happening but honestly it was just busy work.
So far this new year I have created a new day timer for my binder completely from household materials (read: CHEAP). I was scandalized that the trademark holder wants $10 each for the calendar, appointment book, address book, and business card index elements. I admit my version looks pretty tacky, rather like a kindergartener's idea of a daily appointment book, and certainly qualifies as an entry in someone's cruel You Know You're a Redneck If You. . . make your own daytimer.
On the flip side, the Spicy Husband has been constructing a storage closet in our otherwise useless "back room" (there is simply no other way of referring to it) which is a marvel of engineering, design and his damn good building skills.
Some time ago I had asked, "Honey, when you get time, will you put up some shelves in the back room for me? I don't have any room for all the gadgets, gewgaws, containers of containers, small appliances and operating manuals, backup small appliances and their operating manuals, and cleaning products that I use daily to make your life a heaven on earth."
I was thinking, hope he just slaps up a few good-sized shelves that I can camouflage with the folding screen (read: CHEAP). Instead, he has built a closet that is a work of art -- framed to perfection, drywalled and mudded, ready for paint and finishing touches. I bug him daily by reminding him that I don't need anything special and that he's spending way too much time and effort on this. His response is always patient and annoyed: "When I do something, I do it right. I don't do things halfway."
Only he didn't say, half-way. But you know what I mean. I respect this ethic of my husband, and want to emulate it.
So this is one of the expectations for 2012 for the Spicy Cook:
1. Do things right, the first time, and not half way.
Foodwise, it has been a great year thus far. We finally made our old favorites, Orange Coconut Macaroons, and just recently perfected the Overnight bread recipes for rye and Mediterranean and onion, featuring portions of whole grain flour. Crabby Egg Casserole and bleu cheese dip and veggies are great make-aheads for brunch or a late supper after a long day of hiking or God willing, skiing. I'm adding these to the User Friendly recipe page -- let me know if you like them!