Food, Faith, and Other Fabulous Finds

Recipes, devotional thoughts, and other cool things I come across.

The Spices of Life April 1, 2014

In case you haven’t noticed by now, I have a serious obsession with spices.  I have 2 spice racks full (read 60+ spices) of all sorts, and I have many more on my list to try.  This week I thought I’d highlight a few of my favorite spices and some delicious recipes that use them.

The first spice I want to share with you is curry powder.  Curry powder is actually a mix of spices, so not all of curry powders will taste the same.  Most of them contain a high amount of turmeric which gives them their customary yellow color.  In previous posts, I’ve shared several curry recipes, but this time the curry is being used to flavor a dressing for a delicious salad.  I really enjoyed the diverse textures and flavors in this salad, and it’s very good for you.  As another bonus, it’s easy to make and feeds a crowd.

Quinoa and Apple Salad with Curry Dressing (from Martha Stewart)

1/4 c. whole almonds

1 c. quinoa

1 tsp. honey

1 tbsp. finely chopped shallot

1 tsp. curry powder

1/4 tsp. salt

2 tbsp. lemon juice

2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

2 tbsp. dried currants (I used some chopped dried cherries.)

1 sliced 1/8 inch thick McIntosh apple

1/4 c. chopped mint

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Spread the almonds on a rimmed baking sheet; cook til lightly toasted and fragrant, about 7 minutes.  (This makes such a huge difference in flavor!)  Let the almonds cool, then coarsely chop them.

2.  Rinse and drain the quinoa.  In a medium saucepan, bring 2 c. water to a boil.  Add the quinoa to the water and return to a boil.  Stir, cover, and reduce the heat to a simmer; cook til tender, but chewy, about 15 minutes.  Fluff and let cool.

3. In a large bowl, whisk together the honey, shallot, curry powder, salt, and lemon juice.  Season the dressing with pepper.  Whisking constantly, pour the oil in with a slow, steady stream.  Whisk til the dressing is emulsified.  Add in the quinoa, currants, apple, mint, and nuts; toss well.

Quinoa and Apple Salad with Curry DressingQuinoa and Apple Salad with Curry Dressing 2

While curry powder is a spice that I discovered on my own, this next one was introduced to me by my mom.  The spice I’m talking about is Chinese 5-spice.  As its name implies, this is another mixture of spices (usually at least 5, though sometimes more).  Though the included spices vary, there is often a sweeter spice like star anise included, so Chinese 5-spice works equally well in savory or sweet recipes.  Today I’m sharing something savory.  This chicken recipe was a HUGE hit when I made it.  The chicken turned out moist and flavorful, and I served this with some veggies and rice for a quick and tasty dinner.

Five-Spice Coconut Chicken (from the August 2007 issue of Everyday with Rachael Ray)

1/3 c. + 1 tbsp. unsweetened coconut milk

2 tbsp. + 1 tsp. honey

1 tbsp. + 1 tsp. lime juice

2 tbsp. soy sauce

1 clove finely chopped garlic

2 1/2 tsp. Chinese 5-spice powder

1 tsp. salt

2 lb. pounded flat chicken thighs (I chopped boneless, skinless chicken breasts into chunks for a quicker cook.)

1/2 lb. sugar snap peas  (I went with roasted broccoli and zucchini instead.)

1. In a small bowl, whisk together 1 tbsp. coconut milk, 1 tsp. honey, and 1 tsp. lime juice.  Set aside.

2. In a large bowl, combine the 1/3 c. coconut milk, 2 tbsp. honey, 1 tbsp. lime juice, soy sauce, garlic, Chinese 5-spice, and salt.  Add the chicken, making sure it gets well coated.  Let marinate for 15 minutes.

3. Bring a medium pot of salted water to boil.  Add the peas and cook 1 minutes, then drain.  Transfer the peas to a medium bowl and toss with the reserved dressing.

4. Preheat the grill to medium.  Grill the chicken 4 minutes per side, or til cooked through.  Serve with the peas and rice.  (I don’t have a grill, and I wanted to cook this quickly, so I sauteed the chicken in a pan.)

Five-Spice Coconut ChickenFive-Spice Coconut Chicken 3

The last spice I want to share is one I’ve mentioned several times before.  I really, REALLY love ginger.  I love it dried, fresh, and candied; I use it in teas, cookies, cakes, and savory dishes.  This recipe uses a pairing that I really like: ginger and orange.  Somehow, that combination is magical.  For my best friend’s recent birthday, I made her this ginger carrot cake.  It was a delicious cake, that only needs a couple of tweaks.  Somehow I didn’t have the amount of fresh ginger to use written down (I don’t know if they added the measurement for fresh later, or if I just missed it when I wrote it down.), so I thought it needed more of a ginger flavor.  I’m sure that if you use fresh ginger, that won’t be a problem.  Also, I couldn’t really taste the orange, so next time I’d add in the zest of 1 orange when the spices are added.  Other than that, it was delicious and beautiful.  Sorry, that I don’t have a picture of the inside of the cooked cake, but it was for someone else.  😉

Ginger Carrot Cake (from Better Homes & Gardens)

For the cake:

4 lightly beaten eggs

2 c. all-purpose flour

1 3/4 c. sugar

2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. salt

4 c. finely shredded carrots  (This was about a pound of carrots.  If you have a food processor with a shredding blade, you will save yourself a lot of work by letting it tackle the carrots for you.)

2/3 c. veggie oil

1/4 c. orange juice

3/4 tsp. ground ginger or 2 tsp. grated ginger

1 c. toasted, finely chopped walnuts

For the icing:

1 8 oz. pkg. softened cream cheese

2 tbsp. whipping cream

1/4 tsp. salt

5-5 1/2 c. confectioner’s sugar

1. Let the eggs stand at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease 2 9 inch round cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment.

2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  In another bowl, combine the eggs, carrots, oil, orange juice (and zest!), and ginger.  Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, then stir in the nuts.  Spread the batter in the pans.  Bake 30-35 minutes or til a toothpick inserted near the center removes cleanly.  Cool in the pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes.  Remove the cakes from the pans, and cool the cakes completely on the wire racks.

3. In a large bowl, beat on low the cream cheese, cream, and salt til fluffy.  Gradually beat in the confectioner’s sugar til the desired consistency is reached.  Layer and frost the cake once it’s completely cooled.

Ginger Carrot Cake  Look at all those carrots and walnuts!!

Ginger Carrot Cake 3Ginger Carrot Cake 5

Now that y’all know some of my favorite spices, I’d love to hear what your favorites are.  Stop by and let me know!

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