Homemade Halo

If you’ve read more than a few of the recipes from this blog or any of my various ramblings about ingredients and u-picking, you probably have deduced that I’m a big fan of all things homemade. This pursuit has led me to develop a few stand-by recipes over the years that I now rely on as pantry staples and many of my recipes use these seasoning blends, sauces, etc. I consider them a “homemade halo” because they’re an alternative to processed foods, pre-packaged mixes, etc. that add unnecessary strain to your grocery budget.

If you’re keen on stocking an adventurous spice cabinet while reducing your food bill, maybe some of these recipes will be at home in your kitchen. Most of the spice mix recipes yield approximately what you’d need for a single recipe, but all of them can be scaled (i.e. multiplied) to fill a spice jar as needed. Most dried herbs and spices keep for more than year if kept in a cool, dry place.

Almost Homemade Vanilla Yogurt
Yields 4 cups

    32 ounces low-fat plain yogurt
    2 tablespoons – 1/4 cup maple syrup or fruit sweetener (to taste)
    1 tablespoon vanilla extract

    Open the carton of yogurt. Using a spoon with a long handle, stir the yogurt until it is smooth. Add the desired amount of sweetener and vanilla extract. Stir until completely combined. Adjust sweetener as necessary. Cover and store in refrigerator. Use by date on the container.

Homemade Pie Crust
Yields one 9-inch pie crust

    2/3 cup all-purpose flour
    1/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour
    1/8 teaspoon salt
    1/2 cup unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
    2 tablespoons very cold water

    Combine the flours and salt in the bowl of a food processor, pulse a few times or until mixed thoroughly. Add the chilled butter to the processor; pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal (mixture may not be totally uniform; there may be a few larger pieces of butter in the mix, but that’s fine). With the food processor running, add the cold water and mix just until the dough begins to come together (do not over mix).

    Pour the mixture into the center of a large sheet of plastic wrap. Work the dough into disk (using the plastic wrap as “gloves”, if necessary). Cover with the plastic wrap; refrigerate for at least 20 minutes.

    Roll the rested dough into a pie crust (dough scraps can be used as a decorative topping, if desired). For best results allow the shaped dough to rest in the refrigerator for 20 minutes and then an additional 10 minutes in the freezer before filling or baking. (The ample resting time relaxes the gluten and makes for a flaky, crispy crust that won’t shrink or toughen as it cooks.)

Irish Seasoning Blend
Yields approximately 4 teaspoons

    1 teaspoon dried thyme
    1 teaspoon dried tarragon
    1 teaspoon dried parsley
    1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
    1/8 teaspoon ground mace

    Combine all ingredients and store in a small sealable jar. This is an excellent spice blend for pork, chicken, or eggs. Keeps indefinitely.

Southwestern Seasoning Blend
Yields approximately 1 1/2 teaspoons

    1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
    1/4 teaspoon onion powder
    1/4 teaspoon paprika (sweet or smoked)
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    1/8 teaspoon chili powder
    1/8 teaspoon ground coriander
    1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
    1/8 teaspoon black pepper
    1 dash of ground chipotle or cayenne pepper

    Combine all ingredients and store in a small sealable jar. This makes a zesty addition to grilled chicken or fish.

Uncle Jason’s No-Salt Cajun Blend
Yields approximately 2 tablespoons

    1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    1 teaspoon garlic powder
    1 teaspoon onion powder
    1 teaspoon dried parsley
    3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
    1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
    1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
    1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
    1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

    Mix all ingredients thoroughly. Use immediately or store in an airtight container. I keep a bunch of this in a bottle in my spice cabinet. We love sprinkling it on eggs, vegetables — just about anything, actually. It’s also an essential ingredient for blackening chicken or fish.

Versatile Vinaigrette
Serves 4 (medium-sized salads)

    2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar*
    1 teaspoon dijon mustard
    1 pinch salt
    1 dash black pepper
    2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil*

    Whisk together the vinegar, mustard, salt, and pepper. While whisking, gradually pour in the oil until thoroughly blended. Toss greens with the vinaigrette just before serving. If serving later, serve salad with dressing on the side.

    *You can substitute the vinegar or oil of your choice for more variety (e.g. herb vinegars, fruit vinegars, walnut oil, etc.).