Tuesday, March 23, 2010

My Laziest Cooking Session - and a Spice Question

I really tried to fight it.  I really wanted to cook local, but somethings are just TOO expensive.  Fresh spices in St Thomas are either difficult to find, or are extremely expensive.  I have talked before about the Rivermarket in Kansas City.  It is our local farmer's market.  we have a spice guy there that has row upon row of spices.  He sells them for $1 a scoop (1/2 cup in each scoop).  Last week, I spent $8 for less than 1/2 a scoop of garlic flakes that I needed for a recipe.  Well, that wasn't going to happen again.  So, I called a buddy to have him ship me some spices.  they arrived yesterday.  I showed more details, and gave a list of the 50 scoops of spices I now have here in paradise!  Go to my sister site, A KANSAS FOODIE IN THE VIRGIN ISLANDS to see what I think is important to have on hand.

So, I have two questions... What is the single spice that you would not like to cook without?  For me, it would be the pepper spices, Cayenne and Chipotle.

My next question is what do I do with all this bounty?  I don't mean what to cook, I mean how to store them. Here in paradise, ST Thomas is a tropical island indeed.  High humidity, temperatures in the 80's ALL the time.  I am too cheap to turn the air conditioner on all the time.  So, how to store.  I know, cool dark spot.  The spices are all in ziplock bags.  I put these bags in a second larger ziplock bag, and then put these into a crisper drawer in the refrigerator.  the drawer has a humidity control that I set at low.

Any other advice???

OK, on the same day I received my care package, FILLED with dozens of different spices, what could you possibly imagine me cooking???

Well, nothing with the spices.  I have started making a serious effort to menu plan.  I set a menu for a week, and live with those decisions.  I try to do all my shopping at the beginning of the week, and do not make repeat trips to the store.  It is a cost saving effort, as well as a knees saving effort.  The least expensive store to shop at is 6 miles from my condo (cab ride back though).  I walk there once a week.  But, it does not have a huge inventory (think Costco).  So I also have to walk 4 miles to the larger store that has most items.  I go there the next day.  Finally, only 1 and 1/2 miles away is the expensive (VERY expensive) gourmet shop that has the best meats and fish.

Yesterday, armed with my list, I hiked cross island to the big box store.  that's the store where I buy the rotisserie chicken for $6 bucks.

That's what I had planned, and that's what I was going to serve.  Part of menu planning is to stick with your decisions.  Things may come up, guests come, a night out, an unexpected invitation all can derail the plan.  But whenever possible, don't waver from the plan.  Meals will be planned soon that take full advantage of the new spice drawer.  But tonight was not one of them.

Only slightly less easy was my choice of a side dish...

3 baking potatoes, cut to bite size, 1/2 onion, cut same size, add 1 cup of Zesty Italian dressing, bake at 350 degrees for 1 and 1/2 hours...

You can get really fancy and add some cheddar cheese during the last 10 minutes

Some nights here in paradise, it's bonfires on the beach... 

Some nights it's cheap potatoes, rotisserie chicken and "Chuck" and "Big Bang Theory" on TV....


  1. The cooking spices it would have to be onion powder and crushed red pepper. As for the "cheap" potatoes, love them. What a great meal to enjoy some good TV.

  2. The cheddar cheese add to the potatoes, look so good!

  3. Copied down the potatoes idea. That's more my speed.

  4. Salt and pepper would be my choice if the limit is only 2. Your potatoes sounds delicious.

  5. Keeping your spices in the fridge is a good idea. Do you have room in your freezer?

  6. Hi Dave! Sounds like you have the spice storage under control... really... and for me... hummmm... I'm going to to have to be original and say salt and pepper. And I prefer Sea Salt and fresh pepper corns. I know... you were expecting something more exciting from me, but honestly as a cook... you really need salt.

    As to your hilarious comment on my blog yesterday... which I showed everyone cause it was so funny... I am a sea faring ocean loving woman, but I go where the wind blows me. I actually love the desert because of the warm weather all the time... and I love my hubby and that is where the job is... If I ever need beach/ocean time, I just mention it to Hubby and off we go... its a 5 hour Drive to Puerto Penasco Mexico, we get a condo right on the beach. I did a post about it... Or San Diego... Or Jamaica... or now here in South Padre Island... Where my Dad and step Mom now winter over. Plus we have a boat so I am never far from the water...
    And Jackie; that was the epitome of comfort, comfy clothes, lounging on the sofa, eating yummy roasted chicken and oh my gosh potatoes!

  7. I cannot name one spice or seasoning, as they all have their role. Blends like Old Bay, Canadian(Montreal) Steak Seasoning, Lawry's Seasoned Salt are all favorites of mine..
    Your method of keeping them sounds great...

  8. It would have to be black pepper, hands down. Most important spice, ever. As for storage, I can't help you too much. I just use the jars I buy spices in. I bet ziploc bags would work fine though, maybe even double bagged to keep out moisture.

    I never thought to make potatoes with Italian dressing, that's awesome! Italian dressing is my go-to quick marinade for grilled steak tips, it's a good time.

  9. As for my spice, it would be sea salt & white pepper, but more importantly I'm so happy for you that you are taking advantage of menu planning. It really does help and save money too. Like you said though there are just some nights where the plan just doesn't work and you go for the easy and/or comfort food. As for storage, sounds like you're making the best of the situation with the humidity control.

  10. Salt and granulated garlic - couldn't live without them! Good luck with your menu planning - I never could manage to do that!

  11. I can't believe spices are so expensive there! How do people live!

    I think the spices I couldn't live without are cinnamon and cumin. I swear I use them constantly.

    That chicken looks so good! Love the cheesy potatoes.

    In response to your question on my post. I think a mango risotto would totally be doable with some chicken, duck or pork. Perhaps marinated in a nice salty sauce (Asian flavors?)

  12. Fresh cracked pepper and sea salt - in a pinch, that's all you need!

    I like the idea of storing your spices in the crisper of the fridge - you'll most likely get a longer shelf life out of them.

    Thanks again for the birthday wishes the other day!

  13. I'm with ya on the "pepper spices".

    Damn good thing you weren't lookin' for Saffron !

  14. I couldn't cook without fresh ground pepper. It sounds like you've sequestered those spices to the best of your ability. I would have done the same thing. Now go drink some more rum! ;-)

  15. I cannot believe how expensive garlic flakes are there!
    The one spice I just couldn't cook without would be red pepper flakes.
    Have a wonderful day Dave!

  16. Wow. Who knew paradise would be so expensive!

  17. "Part of menu planning is to stick with your decisions. Things may come up, guests come, a night out, an unexpected invitation all can derail the plan. But whenever possible, don't waver from the plan." Exactly. : )

    I'm glad you got some spices! I don't know if I could pick just one. Hmmm. Cayenne is a good pick. I love spicy. But also, rosemary and hmmm...nutmeg, maybe?

    I love that you're walking six miles to the grocery. I hope you have some good shoes. : )

  18. Sometimes you just need a night off, or an easy toss together meal. I watched Big Bang Theory last night too.

  19. Those little bags of silica that come inside every purse, leather shoe, vitamin bottle etc. would work to keep down humidity. You could make a raid on your local department store's handbag section, or you can do a google search for "desiccant" and pick some up online. Then you can keep your spices in their baggies in a sealed jar or tub that has the desiccant in it. Desiccant can be redried in an oven and reused over and over again.

  20. The costs are so high; I don't blame you for having them shipped from KC! Sounds like you are storing them in a good place.
    I have to have salt and pepper and garlic in any form for my basics.
    I love cheap potatoes, and I fix them quite often- they're always good!

  21. I love potatoes and your got the essence of them by adding the best enhancements.

  22. Garlic powder and paprika! I guess that shows European heritage in my tastebud genes?

    And while you may be living in paradise, that's really not an excuse to miss The Big Bang Theory! ; )

    ~ Krista
    Domestic Diva Mysteries