West Indies-Inspired Marinade

We love this West Indies-inspired spice mix for it’s ability to transform hum drum everyday broiled chicken into something juicy and intensely spiced (but not spicy!). The warm, zesty aroma always picks me up after a busy day on the run and it gets my mind thinking about lazy barbeques, the beach and summer vacations. Anything that can accomplish that  gets a big gold star in my book and the fact that both my little guys happily scarf up these flavors is like the icing on the cake.

Anything you might be inspired to grill up with this mix will make a great filling for a taco or a sandwich, and is guaranteed to kick up a boring plate of rice and beans (or Orlando Cepeda’s famous Caribbean Cha Cha Bowls). I  can also recommend this spice mix as a fun mini cooking project to do with little hands. Kids will enjoy seeing the whole spices (and smelling everything of course) as well as getting into the act with measuring, grinding and marinating.

West Indies-Inspired Marinade

To save time, you could use all pre-ground spices or make up a big jar of the mix, but the flavors will be extra special if you start from whole and grind them when you need them.

In a coffee or spice grinder, grind to a fine powder:

  • 1.5 tsp whole allspice
  • 1 tsp whole coriander
  • 1 tsp whole cumin
  • 1/2 tsp peppercorns
  • fresh thyme (leaves from about 2 sprigs), or 1 tsp ground
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 Tbl ground paprika (sweet, smoked or a combination)
  • 1.5 tsp ground ginger
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • Optional: If you’re a chile-head like Simran, add cayenne, crushed red pepper flakes or chili powder to taste.

To the ground spices add:

  • Juice of 1 lemon or lime
  • 3 TBL of olive oil
  • 1 TBL of brown sugar or honey

This little guy hasn't mastered utensils yet, but he gives a wee thumbs up for this marinade.

You might also like: Vij’s Ground Fennel Seed Curry, Spiced-Up Orange Baby Foods, Spice Up Your Meals for Good Health, Indonesian Chilli Sambal, Teriyaki on Everything, Caribbean Cha Cha Bowls

Tricked Out Pantry: Ginger At the Ready

The shortcut to serious yum in a hurry is a totally tricked out pantry. A handpicked collection of sauces, spices and condiments can get really tasty food on the table when you’re crunched for time or when you’re lacking inspiration. As this realization has hit me over the last couple of years, I’ve started devoting a lot more of my time in the kitchen to pantry projects and I eagerly seek out food adventures where we can pick up little goodies – everything from salt packed capers to dried chiles, kaffir lime leaves and exotic spice mixes. I’ve been known to pull over and drag a husband and two kids, even friends, out of the car for unscheduled pantry stops at the sight of a Latin market or Italian deli. And my dear family is ever so patient with me when they see me excitedly (too excitedly) waving a bunch of garlic blossoms…. saying “look, look!”. I can’t say that I know what to do with all of my fantastic finds yet, but they are waiting patiently for our discovery.

One item that does get a lot of play around Casa Stacie is ginger. From stir fries, asian marinades, curries, cookies, muffins and smoothies, ginger is such a versatile seasoning. It’s great for digestion and miraculous for unsettled tummies too (tell all your pregnant friends and anyone you know who suffers from motion sickness). So, I happily stole this trick from Simran and her mom. It’s a genius way to have beautiful, grated fresh ginger at the ready whenever you need it. It’s funny how some techniques are second nature to some and a revelation for others. Simran casually pulled out a big bag of grated ginger while we were cooking some spinach together one day. She broke off a piece, tossed it in the pan and rolled right along like it was no big deal. I thought “rewind… now that was a great trick”. She told me later that it’s one of the little things her mom always does, one of those crafty mom tips. I ran right out and made some of my own and have every intention of passing this tip down to my boys in our cooking days to come. So from mom to daughter, friend to friend, mom to sons, a little piece of kitchen wisdom is shared. And who knows? Maybe my kids will even manage to impress a few of their foodie friends with this one someday.

It’s a snap to do:

  • Buy a large quantity of ginger. At least 3-4 large pieces.
  • Remove as much peel from your ginger as you have patience for with the edge of a spoon.
  • Pop it all through your food processor and pulse it to get a fine mince. If you don’t have a food processor, find a friend who does. Do the project together and share the bounty!
  • Package your ginger in an air tight bag and store it flat in your freezer. [If you can remember, you might want to use the back of a knife to score off small portions while the ginger is semi frozen, so it will be easier to break later.]
  • Break off a hunk of grated ginger whenever the need arises. No need to even thaw it if it’s going in a saute pan. Yum!
We love ginger here on A  Little Yumminess. Case in point: here are some recipes from our archive that include fresh ginger. Now it’s even easier to give them a try.

Slow Cooker Apple-Pear Butter

This apple-pear butter is tangy, spicy and sweet. It’s great on toast, in oatmeal, on pancakes or French toast. A nice change of pace from the usual breakfast spreads and so easy to make! Applesauce is a great substitute for vegetable oil in muffin recipes or pancake mixes (substitute one for one), which is another great reason to have this on hand.
We’ve made a similar apple butter on the stovetop in the past, but this slow cooker version, adapted from a recipe from Thomas Keller’s “Ad Hoc at Home”, is a nice twist. You can chuck everything into the slow cooker and let it go overnight, with just minimal hands-on time. No peeling or coring required. We tweaked things — adding pears to the mix as well as fresh ginger and adjusting the sugar and spices a bit to suit my son’s tastes. If your little ones are just so-so on spices, just add a little cinnamon or no spices at all. Here’s our version (this made about 2 pints):
  • 3 Pounds Mixed Apples and Pears (a mix of sweeter and more tart varieties is nice)
  • Fresh Ginger (a couple of inch-long pieces)
  • 1/2 Cup Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1.5 cups Brown Sugar (or to taste) — I’m sure you could substitute apple cider, agave syrup, maple syrup or other sweeteners you like.
  • 3/4 Tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 Tsp Ground Cloves
  • 1/2 Tsp Allspice
  • Zest & Juice from 1 Lemon
  1. Cut the fruit into big chunks (including  skins, cores and seeds).
  2. Toss the fruit into a slow cooker with the water, ginger and apple cider vinegar.
  3. Cover and cook on high for 3 hours stirring occasionally.
  4. Pass the fruit through a food mill to remove the skins, seeds and stems and return to the slow cooker.
  5. Add sugar, spices, lemon juice and zest. Taste and adjust the seasonings to your taste.
  6. Cook on low for 8 hours (or overnight). Taste and adjust again if you need to. If it’s not thick enough for your liking at this point, continue cooking uncovered.
  7. Whatever you aren’t going to use in the next couple of weeks, you can freeze or can.

We happened upon “Ad Hoc at Home” at the library. Thomas Keller’s idea of simple, home cooking might be more involved than the way most us cook in real life, but there are a lot of great techniques well explained throughout that you really can incorporate into everyday cooking like how to cut up a chicken (8 and 10 piece versions), stocking your pantry and a whole section on “Becoming a Better Cook”. Check it out, you’re sure to find some inspiration in this one.