7 Ways to Use Homemade Greek Spice Blend (Recipe: Stuffed Peppers)

Written by Shaina of Food for My Family.

Spice blends can be great timesavers in the kitchen. Ingredient lists for a single dish can shrink by eight-plus items just be replacing it with “____ spice blend.” Aimee demonstrated how the possibilities on creating your own spice blends are endless. Still, you may be thinking, “How often am I really going to use that spice blend?

If you’re anything like our family, you might not eat the same meal more than a few times a year, so you may be wondering if you’d ever use the store of spice blends in the freezer. The answer is that it is entirely possible, even without eating the same meal on a weekly or even monthly basis. Variety is the spice of life, and it’s not always the spices that need to have variety.

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Spices of Life: A Round-Up of Homemade Spice Blends

A year or so spent working for a fine spice merchant left me with a lifelong appreciation for spices and their place in the kitchen. The series I’ve done here on Simple Bites on subjects such as sourcing quality spices, storing spices, and options for grinding whole spices, are a testament to my love of fresh spices.

I’ve been cooking with homemade spice blends for as long as I can remember, flavoring my rice pilaf with a spoonful of garam masala, deepening the flavor of French Toast with pumpkin pie spice, tossing blends onto meats for grilling, just to name a few ways.

Once you have the ingredients on hand, spice blends are quick to mix up, easy to store, and make unique and thoughtful gifts. They lend themselves to creativity in the kitchen, and as long as you are using fresh, whole spices, are pretty hard to mess up.

The advantages of homemade spice blends are many. Here are three as well as a roundup: [Read more…]

Tips for a Simple Birthday Party for Kids

Seeing I’m at the 9-month pregnancy mark, I had no choice but to keep my Mateo’s birthday party very simple this year. Skipping a party was out of the question, as he was turning 4 and very much aware that his big day was coming up. He’s also our leap year baby, so the fact that this was his first ‘official’ birthday made it all the more special.

Birthday parties can be fun, inexpensive, and not overly complicated – an approach that fit the bill for me on this particular birthday. There were a few steps I took to simplifying the party, which I’ll share below. (A quick poll I took on Facebook showed that many of you were interested to hear how it went, so, voila!)

Just a quick note first, though. I seldom write about my children’s birthday parties because I find them a bit of a ‘hot topic’. Everyone has an opinion on the subject: must-have’s, do’s and don’ts, and the many expectations.

If you ask me, there are no cut and dried rules on how much sugar to serve, if there will be gifts or no gifts, goodie bags, Disney themes or hired clowns. I think just as every child is unique (and every budget, for that matter), no one should tell you how to customize your child’s party. So, no judging. Zilch!

In my home, I try to make the day as memorable as possible for the birthday boy, even if it means bending the whole foods/sustainable living/seasonal eating rules a bit. The parties are homemade, thoughtful, and we have a great time. What more is there?

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Baked Lasagna Casserole

Written by Katie of Good Life Eats

As Aimée mentioned in her post Vegetables In Season: February, I’m pretty much over the whole winter vegetable offerings. I tend to trudge through this time of year through the use of casseroles and soups at our dinner table. This Baked Lasagna Casserole is a current favorite during a time when none of the seasonal offerings really sound good.

I love Italian food. Lasagna has always been a favorite, but sometimes it is fun to take the flavors you love from one recipe and put them together in a different way. Instead of a layered lasagna, here you have a hot, bubbly baked casserole with penne.

Mixed in with the meat sauce are extra vegetables which provide color, nutrients, and texture. Kids will love how the casseroles are served in individual dishes. And because they’re baked in smaller proportions, the recipe cooks faster too. No individual casserole dishes? Just bake it in a large dish. I’ve included instructions for that too.

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Soup from the Pantry (Recipe: Sausage, Bean & Pasta Soup with Spinach)

What could be better than opening the doors of your cupboard and finding everything you need for a hearty soup? Thanks to a well-stocked pantry, I recently did just that with this recipe.

Okay, I also used up some sausage links, and finished the soup with a handful of tired spinach I had on hand. The results? Our new favorite soup.

Inspired by Julie’s latest cookbook, Spilling the Beans (a recent Bite This Book! feature), this hearty winter soup features beans, pasta, protein, and greens. It comes together in under 20 minutes, just the ticket for family week-night meals.

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