The Country Spice Rack

So, way back in February, I did a post called the Country Pantry, which gave you an idea of the foods I regularly keep in my pantry.  Now, I’m on to the spice rack.  Let’s talk spices just a minute.  Spices rapidly lose their intensity and flavor in light, which is why most people keep them in the cabinet.  They also don’t need to be exposed to too much heat, so don’t park them right next to your stove, either.  Ideally, your spices should be no more than 6 months to a couple of years old.  (why can I hear some of you laughing?) After that, their flavor starts to go downhill.  Now, of course, we have no way of knowing how old they were to begin with, in the store, right?  Just to add to the confusion.

About 4 years ago, I began buying my spices in bulk at a local natural foods store.  I cannot tell you how big of a difference that makes!  I have actually read where some published ‘foodies’ have said that they buy those 50 cent (to a dollar) spices you find on the bottom shelf at WalMart, because it doesn’t make a difference.  Now, it may not make a difference if you are buying Great Value spices, but there is a HUGE difference in these fresh, bulk spices and GV brand stuff.  The chili powder is soooo strong, it makes you long for enchiladas and chili.  The cumin makes you drool.  So, I’m just telling you there’s a difference.  Also, did I mention that it is so much cheaper to buy in bulk?  You aren’t paying for packaging, so you are just paying pennies for this stuff.

Also, people, STOP buying pre-ground pepper.  I would like to slap the fool who came up with that!  There is NOTHING, NOTHING, NOTHING like fresh ground pepper.  All other pepper should be deemed illegal.  If you want to be cheap (like me), go to the McCormick section, buy a little $2 pepper grinder (complete with peppercorns), and when it’s empty, have your husband wrestle off the top so you can refill it with fresh peppercorns.  It can be done.  I have refilled mine twice now.  I admit I can’t rip the top off myself though.  If you love pepper, go with peppercorns.  I promise you, you will not regret it.

Also, pass on the garlic salt/onion salt/etc.  It’s so easy to make this at home, and they charge you an arm and leg for these specialty items.  (ok, maybe $3 isn’t an arm and leg, but if you already have the ingredients, might as well make your own, right?)

I save my old spice jars (especially glass ones…I’m trying to get away from plastics), and just refill those with the bulk spices.  I know approximately how much I use in a couple of month’s time and buy accordingly.  We fly through cumin, garlic powder, and chili powder around here so I go through a good amount of that.  I store everything on a double stacked ‘lazy susan’ in my cabinet.

As a final note, here’s another reason to avoid certain spices.  Salmonella sickened over 250 people after they ingested a certain brand of salami which happened to be seasoned with pepper that contained salmonella.  So, I am wary of cheap-o spices.  I’m not sure if those spices were even available to the public, but still.  I pay attention to where the spices are manufactured.

My Little Country’s Spice Rack:

Salt (sea, iodized, and pickling)

peppercorns and grinder

chili powder


garlic powder

onion powder

celery salt (I loooove celery salt, wonderful in chicken salads)

celery seed (great in cole slaw)

dried oregano

ground oregano

parsley flakes

dried dill

cayenne pepper

paprika (another spice that is waaaaay better fresh)

ground mustard

mustard seed (used in pickling)

ground turmeric (mostly used in pickling)

ground ginger (for stir fry sauce…I could get away with about a teaspoon a year)

dried basil

lemon pepper

Knorr chicken bouillon/beef bouillon (I use the kind found in the Mexican food section.  It is in powder form..who wants to screw with those blasted cubes???)

poultry seasoning

pickling spice

crushed red pepper

whole cloves

ground cloves

whole allspice

ground nutmeg


Zatarain’s/Tony Chachere’s cajun spice

That’s just about it for spices.  I also have a product called Jane’s Krazy Mixed Up salt, and it is delicious!  I am sure if I tinkered enough, I could make it, but….nah.  It’s good on everything and the salt is flaked, which I really like.

Now, here’s a word on poultry seasoning and pickling spice.  Don’t go into the store come Thanksgiving or Christmas and expect to find any poultry seasoning.  Likewise, don’t go into the store in summer and expect to find pickling spice.  Good luck.  So, I am warning you NOW, when October comes, run out and snatch up some poultry seasoning (which around here, we use to season our dressin’ with…we don’t have stuffing, we have dressin’).  It is also good to use if you ever make sausage, because it has quite a lot of sage in it.

The pickling spice will go on sale probably around September or October, so gear up for next year’s pickling season soon!  Don’t be one of those women, such as my old self, who would go looking in vain for some dadgum, stupid poultry seasoning and NO STORE HAS ANY.  Well, that was actually before I discovered the health food store, but still.

Now, let’s talk spice mixes.  I have been making my own taco seasoning for the past couple of years and it’s delicious and so easy to make.  I saved a tiny jelly jar to keep it in. Here’s the recipe.  I double it, but really need to quadruple it, honestly.  You can do that very easily with allrecipe’s serving size calculator.  I also had, for quite a while Paula Deen’s House Seasoning.  If you can’t find Jane’s Krazy Salt, here’s a super easy recipe for a great, all-around seasoning for everything:

  • 1 cup salt
  • 1/4 cup black pepper
  • 1/4 cup garlic powder

Mix together, put in a little glass container, and there ya go.

Now, let me also mention using fresh herbs, too.  In my garden, I try to keep rosemary, parsley, cilantro, dill, oregano, majoram, thyme, and tarragon going.  Then I just walk out the back door and snip what I need.  You just can’t beat the flavor of fresh herbs.

Lastly, here is a good guide to storing spices in your home.  Bon appetit!

Super Fantastic Cat Alarm 2

If you haven’t read my post: Super Fantastic Cat Alarm, well, go there first.

If you have, here is a picture of my little alarm cat, Garfield.  Also known as Garf, Garfunkel, The Orange Marauder, and now, El Garfo (my kids made that up).  This is a cat who has adopted my husband as his own kind and incessantly circles his ankles, crying for food.  Doesn’t matter if there’s food in the dish or not, he wants FRESH food, for crying out loud.  He also torments my husband in the bathroom, where my poor hubby is just trying to enjoy his ‘morning constitutional’ and Garfield is consistently scratching the door until he is let in.  He also follows him into the bathroom for shower time, where he will patiently wait until Jason is out of the shower, whereupon he cries until Jason gives in and gives him more food.  He also doesn’t like Jason typing on his laptop, and will jump into his lap and try to sabotage anything Jason is doing.

But, with a face like that, how could you get mad?  Well, you really can’t.  No matter how much you want to get mad, you just can’t get upset looking at a squooshy little face and tiny ears.  Please excuse his ‘cat boogers’ in his nose…I guess it’s time for ‘mommy’ to wash the cat’s face.

Mama Hen

So here is the result of letting my crazy Cochin hen set her own eggs.  As you can see, the results went really well!  3 out of 4 eggs hatched.  The ‘dad’ is a Silkie and the ‘bio mom’ is ???, though I think that for the 2 little white hens it is a bantam Cochin mother.  These pics are from June, but now, the little guys are all feathered out and interestingly enough, they all have ‘ear muffs’, and a mohawk.  I’ll have to grab some new pics soon.  Another interesting thing is that while my brooder raised chicks all contracted coccidia, these guys did not.  So there ya’ go…probably better to let Mother Nature ‘do her thing’ rather than depend on an incubator.

Another funny thing is that this hen, I thought for sure, would be dead about a year ago.  We rescued her from a really bad situation.  Her butt was LITERALLY ripped off…she is missing a lot of her tail.  I am sure a dog got a good hold of her at some point.  Anyway, when I first got her, she was so thin and ugly, I gave the poor thing a bath.  She was absolutely filthy, and had huge gaps in her skin.  I have no idea how long she had suffered along with that, but after her bath, she did nothing but get better.  So, as you can see, she made it another year and did a great job raising these babies for me.

If you have never been around a mother hen and chicks, it is so neat to watch them interact.  You can really see in the first few photos she is teaching them to peck the ground.  The chicks are only a few days old in these pics.  She makes a very soft clucking sound over and over and the chicks immediately stop what they’re doing and do whatever mom is doing.  I wonder…would my kids respond to clucking???

The Wayward Sisters

It’s been a hot summer.  I have fallen into my summer routine of doing outdoor chores either before 11am, or after the sun has fallen past the treeline.  You won’t catch me out much during mid-day, unless it is in 100% shade.  The heat has a way of turning us crazy.  Not just humans, but apparently it works on chickens, too.

Last week, Jason completed fencing in our chicken coop and orchard.  I admittedly did not help much…I am just not a ‘work in the heat’ person.  I tend to forget what I’m doing, wander off, and end up in the house somehow.  This is why I can somewhat sympathize with the Wayward sisters.  If you are not familiar with Wayward Jones, my ever-lost chicken, you’ll have to read my post called “Where’s Wayward” first.  Now you can continue.

I don’t remember if I mentioned it before, but Wayward has a sister who looks almost identical, except she has more white feathering on her head, causing her to look EVEN MORE like a strange black and white version of Big Bird, or perhaps even a chicken lollipop.  Anyway, the fact is, is that they are the most mindless little birds…I’m not sure now if it’s intentional or unintentional or what.  About a week or so ago, before the fence was up, we were still having to catch some of the chickens nightly and put them up for the night.  I have 2 sets of chickens that I must pay special attention to:  The Dovies, which are a pair of tiny, dove-sized Old English Bantam hens who enjoy scaling trees at dusk and laughing at us attempting to retrieve them…and then, of course, the Wayward Sisters, who could get lost in a paper sack.

So, one day at dusk, I couldn’t find the Sisters.  Oh, of course, they had been around earlier, but now were nowhere to be seen.  A little bit of panic always sets in when I can’t find the Sisters, because there is no telling where they could be.  Finally, I decided to take the golf cart and go check by the road.  I pulled the cart out of our gate.  There, at the VERY tip-top of the hill no more than about 18 inches off the (very dangerous) road, I saw a familiar lollipop-looking head.

“WAYWARD!”, I screamed.  The lollipop stood straight up and stiffened.  “WAYYYYYYWARD!”

I flew through the ditch as fast as the cart would go.  The lollipop-headed chicken ran towards me.  ‘Chariots of Fire’ was playing (I think).  Golf cart thundering down the side of the road, chicken running with wings outstretched….you get the picture.

Anyway, as it turned out, it was THE Wayward Jones, but I still couldn’t find her sister.  Fortunately, her sister also responds to the name ‘Wayward’, so I was still screaming that, driving up and down the road, holding a black and white chicken.  It was probably pretty funny for the passersby.

I finally gave up and decided that I was just going to have to leave it up to chance.  Either she would be around in the morning, or she wouldn’t.  Well, I woke up the next morning and she wasn’t.  We had to leave later in the day to run errands, and as we pulled out of the gate, Jason said, “Well, I’ll be damned.”.  There was Wayward Sister #2, sitting about a foot off of the road. I could have sworn I saw a tiny knapsack and a sign saying, “Mexico or Bust”, but maybe it was just the heat playing tricks on my brain.  Once again, ‘Chariots of Fire’.  She excitedly ran in circles (God bless those chickens, they just can’t get it right), and hopped in my arms.

So NOW I have learned that the Sisters are not to be let out of the chicken yard.  Unless I want them to end up being little black and white spots on the road, which I do NOT.  After all, we have made it all this way, all these months together of finding them in the pasture, trees, kitchen windows, toy dump trucks, and by the road.  I’m not giving up now.