Wednesday, September 23, 2009

My Review of World Market Spices Bags and Jars

Originally submitted at Cost Plus World Market

Sourced from around the globe, our spices offer exquisite, high quality flavor without the usual high price tag.

Bargin Prices - Great Spices!

By Visiting other countires via cuisine from Spring, TX on 9/23/2009


5out of 5

Pros: Exotic, Flavorful

Best Uses: Baking, Cooking, Seasoning

Describe Yourself: Foodie, Health Conscious

I love to prepare dishes from all over the world. Often my recipes call for Cardamom, Turmeric and other spices with low demand here in the US. I had been paying up to $15/oz at local grocery stores for some of them until I found the spice selection at World Market. None of their spices cost more than $2.99(at my local CPWM)! I was even able to purchase whole vanilla beans (with which to make my own vanilla extract) at the low price of 2/$2.99. When I priced them at local groceries, they were up to $13/each. Our local CPWM selection is great and I love the glass jars that a lot of their spices come in.
All of the spices I have purchased have smelled wonderful and have flavored my food at least equally well - if not better than the higher priced items avaliable else where.
(NOTE: I'm not supposed to mention pricing but it's one of the BEST things about purchasing spices from CPWM.)


Saturday, September 12, 2009

Devils Food Cake

When we go out to eat (which I'm sure one can imagine is not very frequent due to several things, David's allergy being but one of them) we like to share an appetizer, entree and dessert. This way we get to taste everything but not eat too much and have a reasonable tab at the end of it all. Since David has been diagnosed, however, desserts are pretty much off the list of options for him. Nearly all desserts have some form of corn or soy. Vegetable oil (soy), chocolate chips (soy), powdered sugar (corn starch), baking powder (corn starch) and on and on the list goes. David LOVES chocolate desserts. Pies, cookies, cakes ...

Yesterday was a difficult day. When I got home I decided baking was in order. Something about baking is calming, soothing, familiar. Similar to cleaning I suppose (something I also enjoy doing particularity when stressed out or nervous). NONETHELESS there is a point!

I chose to make a Devil's Food Cake for David. The recipe is as follows, taken from my Pillsbury Best Desserts cook book, and surprisingly, UNSUBSTITUTED!! All of the ingredients are available in safe brands so it was simply a matter of mixing it up.

*2 cups all purpose flour
*11/4 teaspoons baking soda
*1/2 teaspoon salt
*11/2 cups sugar
*1/2 cup butter, softened
*1 teaspoon vanilla
*2 eggs
*4 oz unsweetened chocolate, melted
*1 cup milk

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour (OK so I did substitute this. Since it's chocolate cake I dusted my pans with cocoa powder rather than flour) two 8 or 9 inch round bake pans.

In medium bowl combine flour, baking soda and salt. Mix well.

In large bowl, combine sugar and butter. Beat until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and eggs. Blend well. Stir in melted chocolate. Alternately add dry ingredient mix and the cup of milk. Beat well after each addition. Pour batter into grease pans.

Bake at 350 for 27-35 mins or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool 10 mins in pans. Remove from pans and cool completely, about an hour.

(I used 9 inch pans and they needed the lower end of that cooking time est.)

For the frosting I used some of the organic powdered sugar I had purchased that was made with tapioca starch rather than corn starch. I just sliced a bit of butter into the powdered sugar and mashed it with a fork. Then added some milk and vanilla. I mixed it a little with the fork to prevent it from flying all over when I used my little hand held mixer on it. Then I whipped it until it was all mixed thoroughly adding a little milk or powdered sugar as needed to reach my desired consistency. There's a recipe out there, I am sure, with the specific measurements to make a butter-cream frosting but I don't use one. I like to make it to taste. =) And it tasted good.

Powdered sugar
Milk or cream (I used some 1/2 & 1/2 because we have one percent milk which isn't really rich enough)

I'd say about a cup of the sugar (you HAVE to use powdered or finely ground granulated or your frosting will be gritty) to 3 TBS or so of butter, 1 tsp of vanilla and a TBS or 2 of milk depending on desired consistency. But I really don't know the measurements. I just dump it in and mix things until I like it. For chocolate frosting just leave out the vanilla and add some cocoa powder. The vanilla can be substituted with any kind of flavored extract to give the frosting a little kick. I personally like plain white frosting for the most part on my chocolate cakes but I have used almond extract, mint extract, lemon extract and Bailey's Irish Cream liqueur in my frosting on occasion. Each adds a unique flavor to the item frosted.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Home Made Vanilla Extract

David thought I should post about our making vanilla extract. I purchased, from Cost Plus World Market a few weeks ago 2 vanilla beans. I have been waiting for the purchase of potato vodka to start making my own vanilla. Although my mom had a vanilla, that I think would have been OK for David, I have seen only one alcohol free vanilla extract, which I purchased for an exorbitant amount of money. I brought it home in anticipation of making my own once I was able to get the two needed ingredients:

750ml bottle of potato vodka
2 vanilla beans

David came home two days ago with a bottle of potato vodka. We dropped the beans in and have been checking it daily to see progress. We both expected to see the clear vodka start changing colors immediately but that's just not the case. In two days the vodka has started to take on a faint brownish tint of sorts. Hence the reason that the beans must soak 30 days. Our camera is currently being recharged as the battery was so low it refused to allow me one picture but I will post a few pictures when the camera is charged.

I made another quick trip to the World Market today. I needed caraway seeds for rye bread. At about $7 for a tiny jar at the grocery store, I was hoping to find a bargain at WM. And I did! $.99 for a baggie full. I was so delighted. I was also able to find a bag of ground cumin, which we use for Hummus, curries and other things. I LOVE their spice section. Everything is so reasonably priced and thus far has been of good quality.

Sunday, September 6, 2009


David and I went to CT in early August to visit my family. Mom read the blog called me and did loads of research and was able to provide David with some FABULOUS food - allergen free. It was great. Even all the little details about "dextrose" and unspecified vinegars, spice mixes and so on. She was able to make substitutions like ground oats rather than bread crumbs and other such things. It was so nice to relax and let mom do the cooking and not worry about David being sick for hours after eating. We had offered to bring food for David because we know what an inconvenience (and expense) it can be to purchase and prepare food for him but mom did beautifully (thanks, Mom!). She had homemade bread waiting for David and cookies and meatballs and on and on and on. We ate our way through our visit. We had dinner with other family members that also went out of their way to ensure that David was able to eat without concerns about label reading and it was humbling and gracious and so very much appreciated! This is the first extended trip we have taken since finding out about David's food allergies and it was so nice to travel and eat without worrying.

We packed snacks and such for the road (it's a loooong day of traveling to fly from Houston to Bradley) but once we arrived David was totally covered.

Our home, grocery shopping and food preparing has become a bit less challenging which is so nice. David is shouldering about 1/2 the cooking since my having gone back to school limits the amount of time I have to prepare meals. He's planning on making some cashew butter in lieu of the almond butter he's been eating since we discovered his food allergy. While we can purchase almond butter that would be safe for him to eat, it's about $10 for 6 oz and we simply can not justify that expense when we have a food processor and it takes on a few minutes to prepare our own nut butters.

While visiting mom my sister and David had "Pie School" as they termed it. Now that David can make a pie I'm looking forward to him baking one here. ;) My sister made an apple pie, my mom made a peach pie and David made a chocolate-pecan pie concoction that didn't last long. (I'm getting quite skilled at mixing up a batch of semi-sweet chocolate for all sorts of goodies from 100% cocoa).

In sauce pan melt 100% cocoa. Add a touch of 1/2 & 1/2 or cream, vanilla and sugar. Whisk all ingredients until thoroughly mixed. I don't really have measurements but I do it to taste.

The pie crusts were made from butter, rather than Crisco or lard. It makes for slightly different measurements but it has to be done by feel.

David has gotten quite good at substituting for baking powder and recently whipped up a great batch of blueberry waffles.

When David sticks to his food changes, he does really well. He can always tell when he's run into something because he typically feels sick for several hours. His energy is back and he's started running in the early morning with Sunshine, our lab mix. All in all, I am happy to report, things are well on the food allergy horizon. = )