Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Crispy Bacon Jalapeño Popper Stuffed French Toast with Blackberry Syrup

Big news everyone! After many months of soul searching, praying, working 3 jobs and almost going crazy... I've accepted a position to head-up a breakfast and lunch cafe called "Chives" here in Mesa, Arizona at the  beautiful wedding venue, Stonebridge Manor.  It  is scheduled to launch the first week of October, but I will keep everyone posted on the Grand Opening!
Isn't it beautiful?!!!

I will still be doing my Friday night classes at Shar's and selling bakery items until things get too crazy. I'm scheduled for Friday nights until the end of the year.  Yes, with a real schedule I will also be able to teach private classes in the evenings, but they will probably be fewer and farther between.  

That being said, I'm going to be sharing a lot more breakfast and lunch ideas, along with everything else you've come to love and expect here on the blog.  I'll be working a lot less hours than I have been the last few months and I will finally be able to post a lot more awesomeness!  

That brings us to today's recipe.  Initially when I developed this recipe, it was for a contest to win a years supply of eggs from our local Hickman's Farm eggs.  I have teenage boys, so I thought it would be a good fit. I actually got really  busy with work and didn't ever send in the recipe but I decided that with the changes in my life and things happening so quickly around here to launch a cafe, that this would be a good recipe to add to the menu.  What do you think?  Mind you, I really won't give the full recipe for the menu here on the blog. I have to have some secrets. However...I think that sharing this will make a few of you hopefully think about coming down to see us!

This is a savory stuffed French Toast sandwich. If you can, use bread made from our simple recipe for  No Knead 4 Ingredient Overnight Bread Anyone Can Make.  Between two slices of thin French bread there is a remarkably savory filling made with cream cheese, bacon and jalapeno with a hint of garlic and sharp cheddar cheese. The sandwich is dipped in a savory egg coating and then covered with a crispy cornflake-Parmesan layer. When the sandwich is pan-fried it is remarkable. Warm and crispy from the pan and oozing with the jalapeno-bacon and cheese mixture,  it is drizzled with a savory-sweet blackberry black-pepper syrup. I think it is probably the best breakfast sandwich on earth. 
Crispy Bacon Jalapeño Popper Stuffed French Toast with Blackberry Syrup
2- 8 ounce packages cream cheese, room temp
1 cup mayonnaise
2 cup sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup seeded, minced, fresh jalapeno
1 cup bacon crumbles
1T fresh minced garlic

Savory Egg batter:
4 Hickman's jumbo eggs, cracked and whisked
½ cup buttermilk
½ tsp fresh cracked black pepper
½ tsp fine minced garlic
½ tsp kosher salt
¼ tsp ground cumin

1 cup corn-flake crumbs
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

Tangy-sweet Blackberry Syrup:
½ cup balsamic vinegar
1 cup seedless blackberry jam
1 tsp fresh cracked black pepper

You will also need 12 slices thin sliced sourdough French Bread (depending on how large the slices, usually about 4 inches by 4 inches). 

Mix the filling ingredients.
 Fill slices of bread generously with filling, enough to make approximately 6 sandwiches. 
One for my family to share. The rest for me. 
In a container the size of the sandwiches, combine the cornflakes and the Parmesan. 
In a separate container combine the ingredients for the egg coating. set up a dipping station.  
Dip the sandwich in the egg mixture and coat well. Then coat with the corn flake mixture.  Continue until all the sandwiches are coated. 
 In a large skillet over medium high heat, cook the sandwich in a few Tablespoons of bacon fat or vegetable oil. 
 Prepare the blackberry syrup by combining all the syrup ingredients and stirring until smooth.  Drizzle over the warm toast.

There you go my darlings.
More amazing ideas to come. 

Always My Very Best,
Your Friend Chef Tess

Friday, August 1, 2014

Sweet and Hot Slow Cooked Spanish Pork

We've made it to another Freezer Friday! Hooray! It's not just any Friday, mind you, but Labor Day weekend Friday! It's going to be a really nice four days to get together with family and friends. I may just relax and snooze. Tonight is "girl's night out"...and I'm going to leave dinner with the kids and a sitter. So, I thought I'd share one of my favorite freezer meals that also doubles as an amazing meal to serve to guests, neighbors, friends...or the babysitter. Good news, it's also gluten free and dairy free (if you don't top it with sour cream).

Sweet and hot is a weird combination. It's like a gorgeous drop-dead-to-look-at mom who can also bake brownies. Hmm. I'm not going to point fingers at anyone in particular. My mom says I totally fit that description. To the rest of you, you know who you are. I'm just saying, it's a hard balance to keep. Apply the sweet and hot combination to a dinner that can also double as a freezer meal for just about any Mexican filled entree...and you will be ready to cry tears of joy. Then and only then will you understand what it feels like to truly achieve dinner zen. Ohhhmmm. You love me already...Ohhmmmm. You can't wait to try this.
I've been goofing around with this recipe for quite a while. I hope when you have it, you will experience all the combined wisdom several different recipes. Call me crazy. What I wanted was a recipe that had fairly few ingredients, without using a jar or packaged item of to "count" as an ingredient. I also wanted the meal to be satisfying. I wanted them to love it! So much love...that I would hear a lot of general moans of adoration for my skills as a chef. I'm selfish that way. I like praise. Doesn't everyone?

Tess' Sweet and Hot Slow Cooked Spanish Pork

3 lb boneless pork carnitias (or a boneless pork loin, cut into cubes)
2 tsp dry ancho chile,
2 tsp dry Mexican oregano
1 tsp whole cumin,
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup lime juice plus zest of one lime
1/2 cup Homemade sundried tomatoes or store purchased sun dried tomato julienne
1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped
3 green onions, chopped
salsa and sour cream (optional)

Directions: In a spice mill, combine the ancho chile,
and cumin seed.

Grind until a fine powder is achieved.

Spread the spice mixture over the carnitas (pork). Drizzle with honey.
Add the lime and sun dried tomato.

I cooked mine in my solar oven (350 degrees) for 4 hours, but you can put it in the crock pot on low 5-8 hours or high 3-4 hours.

Meat will be very tender. Thanks to the tomato and lime juice for the acid that breaks down the meat to make it so divine. You can leave it in chunks or shred it, depending on your preference. It's so tender it easily shreds with a fork.

Serve as a taco filling. I like to add fresh chopped cilantro and green onion and top it with some avocado yogurt cream and some of my Home canned Salsa.

Yields 6 3/4 cup servings. Recipe is okay to double or triple as needed for freezer meal purposes. To freeze, place 3 cups of the meat and juice mixture in a quart size bag along with fresh chopped cilantro and green onion. Label clearly with date and reheat instructions:

"To serve, defrost overnight in the fridge or remove bag and defrost in the freezer. Shred the pork. Heat 5-7 minutes in the microwave or 8-10 minutes on the stove top. Be sure to keep the juice with the meat. Salt and pepper as needed. Serve hot as a taco filling, taco salad base, enchilada or burrito filling."

Lay bag flat in fridge. When cool, transfer to the freezer. Freeze solid and place in your freezer file.

Last note.
My sweet friend Andee Andee Farnsworth Bergeron sent me this wonderful recipe that would also work wonderfully!
Costa Vida Sweet PorkPork Roast (4-5 lbs), thawed if frozen
3 c. Dr. Pepper
1 can tomato sauce
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. (packed) brown sugar
1 Tbsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. powdered garlic
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 large carrots, peeled and grated
1 (smallish) Serrano pepper, seeded and diced
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
Cut away any obvious fat portions from the roast. Place all ingredients in a crock pot and cook on high for 6-7 hours.
Remove pork to cutting board.
Add an additional 1/2 c. granulated sugar and 1 cup Coke to the liquid in the crock pot. Stir.
Shred the pork, removing excess fat and bones, and add back to the crock pot. Stir.
Reduce to low and cook an additional 3 hours.
There you go!

Always My Very Best,
Your Friend Chef Tess

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Updated July and August Classes in AZ!

Private Events and Classes
I teach private classes in people's homes as well as teaching low charge church/non-profit group classes. Teaching is how I support my family, so I can't usually do classes totally free of charge to your group, but I am very reasonable in price. I am happy to help in any way that I can for your upcoming group classes for community involvement.  I'm willing to travel in the future. Questions? Comments? Requests? Get in touch. Contact Now

Arizona Class Locations are stores that are willing to have me come teach in their show-rooms. Please contact me if your store is interested in hosting classes! I'd love to be part of your adventures!
July and August Classes
 Shar's Kitchen Center

1130 N. Gilbert Rd. Suite 1
Gilbert AZ, 85234

*All classes at Shar's must pre-register and pre-pay. Shar's classes and samples are very generous! Shar's is also the location where I have my bakery orders for pick-up on Saturdays. Thanks Shar's!

In-home Ice cream parlor
Friday, July 25th 7 pm $15
Chef Tess will be teaching the basic chemistry for great ice cream and sharing some remarkably delicious and healthy versions of some of her favorites. Plus, creative homemade ice cream cones!

Classic Summer Cream Cakes
Friday, Aug 1st 7pm  $15
Chef Tess will be teaching fluffy mousse and fresh fruit filled cakes including strawberry white chocolate and a banana split cake that will blow your mind! She'll also be covering some basic cake decorating skills.

Ice cream sandwiches of Glory!
Friday, Aug 8th 7 pm  $15
Summer desserts couldn't get any easier or more delicious! Chef will be teaching how to make soft-baked beautiful cookies and perfect ice cream to go inside of them! Plus some great ideas for making them kid-friendly during the last dog-days of summer break!

Downtown Abby Pastry Party
Friday Aug 15th 7pm $15
It's time to play with the ladies and get some great face-time with grown-ups! With the kids back in school, how about some classic foods from the popular Downtown Abby series with a chef who will make it fun?! Costumes are optional, but laughing is required!

Crepes Shoot!
Friday Aug. 22nd 7pm $15
Delicate crepes are just a thin French pancake but chef is teaching you how to fill them many different ways and the simplest possible way to make them! You'll love the flavors and the easy way to keep these lovely delicious beauties!

Oh Yeah Do-ssant!
Friday, Aug 29th 7 pm $15
Back by popular demand! The delicate doughnut made with croissant dough! Chef will be drizzling them with different chocolates, topping them and filling them with gourmet flair! You won't want to miss this!

July and August at

 Honeyville Farms 

33 South 56th Street
Chandler, AZ 85226


Homemade Ice Cream
Thurs. July 24th 11 AM
Summertime is killer...but Ice cream will save you! Chef Tess is here with the basic recipes for ice cream and the science behind this frozen confection! You'll love this class! $5 a person. 

Chef Tess Herb and Spice Alchemy 
Sat. July 26th at 2 PM
Learn how herbs and spices work together in flavor profiles as well as culinary medical uses. Chef Tess will turn three identical salads into 3 totally different flavor profiles. Come hungry! $5 a person.

Gluten Free Cinnamon Rolls
Sat. Aug 2nd  2pm
Probably one of the most difficult skills to master in gluten-free baking is the technique for cinnamon rolls. Chef Tess has mastered not only how to make them perfectly, but how to make them taste like the cinnamon rolls you gave up to be gluten-free! Cost is $5 a person.

Meals in a Jar: Family Classics
Sat. Aug. 9th 11 am
School is back in session and Chef Tess has some great solutions for family dinners and single-serving lunches that will rock! Come and taste some of the classics as well as some new family favorites! Plus some desserts from the book!
 Cost is $5 a person. 

Indian Fry-Bread Tacos
Tuesday Aug. 12 11 am
Taco Tuesday! Fry bread is a classic here in Arizona. Come and taste some amazing tacos and get all the great tips and techniques for making this native dish. Cost is $5 a person. 

Egg-streme makeover
Sat. Aug. 16th 11 am
Ever wondered the difference between dehydrated eggs, egg crystals and freeze-dried eggs? Chef Tess will share some amazing dishes and give you the chance to taste the differences. $5 a person. 
Chef's Knife Skills 101
Thurs. Aug. 21st 11 am
Chef Tess will start with the basics of chopping and end with Edible arrangements & embellishing party trays! This is a great class for anyone who has ever wanted to see how chef's make all those fancy cuts! Cost is $5 a person. 

Home Canning 101
Sat. Aug 23 at 11 am
What is water bath canning? When do you pressure can? How do you know what is safe? Chef Tess will be here going through the basics of home canning and all the safety you need to feel confident in your home preserving. Cost is $5 a person.

 Grain Surgery
Sat. Aug 30 11 am
What is amaranth? How do you cook quinoa? Is there gluten in rye? Chef Tess will not only answer all your question on grain but also give you a chance to taste some fabulous dishes made from amazing Honeyville grains! $5 a person

Preparing Wisely

144 s. Mesa Drive Suite G
Mesa Az 85210

Preparing Wisely carries my books and spices and I teach ONE class monthly at their store location. This is the only store where I teach classes that are FREE to the Public. 

Meals in a Jar: Family Classics and Personal Sized Meals
Tuesday Aug. 26th at 6 PM
Come taste some family classics for back to school and learn how to pack the meals in personal sized containers for travel, school, or work. This is a great introduction to shelf-stable homemade freeze-dried meals. 

For details visit their website.  If you're looking for a great location to get your food storage needs filled, these guys are amazing!  Details about the store can be found at! Xoxo!

I teach private classes in people's homes as well as teaching low charge church/non-profit group classes. I am happy to help in any way that I can for your upcoming group classes for community involvement. I'm willing to travel in the future. Please let me know your location and we'll see what we can do! Please contact me directly ( for specific questions. 

Friday, July 18, 2014

2 NEW Chef Tess Meals in a Jar: Instant Chicken Stuffers and Toppers

Instant Chicken Salad was such a popular post for fast and easy sandwich filling that I thought I would take it a step further and introduce all of you to this great way to make instant BBQ chicken bun stuffer and instant oriental chicken wrap or  salad greens topper. These are great convenience meals for family picnics, camping trips, travel and whenever you're on the go. They are perfect for scout camp and are really delicious.  

 If you are new to this 52-method Meals in a Jar  you'll probably need to read the posts on how to pack the jars with a food saver (if you don't want to use an oxygen absorber) as well as how to make the meals in mylar bags if you decide not to make them in the jars.  Those posts are here: 
For camping and backpacking I generally will use the method of packing in the mylar bags. Keep in mind that mylar is shelf-stable for a very long time but is not rodent-proof and can puncture, so take precautions when packing them in your bags. This is one I packed for my son for scout camp. {Best. Bartering meal. Ever. }

Now. On to the recipes! 

This isn't just BBQ chicken. It is Kansas City BBQ Chicken. If you know anything about BBQ then you know that the Kansas City version of BBQ are usually  tomato based with the addition of molasses or brown sugar. Using tomato powder give you the ability to control the thickness of the sauce without having to simmer it for hours.  If you like your bbq chicken saucy, then this recipe is for you! 
 I used just a few simple ingredients for this stuffer. Once you've used  freeze-dried chicken, you'll wonder why you have waited so long to try it! I have been so impressed with the lean, clean, awesomeness of this stuff for a long time. Mainly because it doesn't have any added junk to it. No soy, or msg or extra flavor. It is just chicken. Ahhh. It is a great way to make a shelf-stable meal without added chemicals. The Honeyville store in Chandler, AZ was nice enough to give me some chicken to play with to develop these recipes. 
 One thing I am pretty particular about is the seasoning. If you haven't tried my Chef Tess Spices Chef Tess All purpose seasoning,  is one that I developed as a chef for restaurant and banquet use. It goes with everything and hands-down is one of the best seasoning blends on the planet. You won't be disappointed.  Today, for BBQ, this is a must. It has bold flavor that will really enhance the sauce and give it a remarkable well rounded taste.

Kansas City  BBQ  Chicken Stuffer 
1/2 cup Tomato Powder
1/2 cup Brown Sugar
2T Freeze Dried Onion
2 tsp Chef Tess All Purpose Seasoning

1/2 tsp hickory smoke flavor powder or 2tsp smoked paprika
2 cups Freeze Dried White Chicken

Directions: Combine all ingredients in pint sized jar and top with an oxygen absorber. You may also use a mylar bag instead of the jar.  You can cut the recipe in half for smaller portions or double for larger families. Simple stuff. 

Safety Note: For the love of Pete, please use an oxygen absorber. They are the magic ingredient that makes these meals safe for long-term storage. Bacteria and junk can't grow without oxygen and moisture so this is a biggie! By the way, oxygen absorbers  are a one time use. They are a must! After you have filled all your jars or mylar bags with the recipe ingredients, place a 300cc oxygen absorber in each jar (or bag). Seal withing 20-60 minutes for the oxygen absorber to be viable. 

To prepare: Combine chicken stuffer mix with 2 cups boiling water.  Allow  hydrate, about 10 minutes. Add more water to-taste of sauce thickness.

Fill your favorite buns with the mixture.I make hamburger buns using the No Knead 4 Ingredient Overnight Bread Anyone Can Make and they're  to go for a low cost meal!

Lettuce wrap filling  or salad green topper:

This recipe is versatile for either a salad wrap, topper or even a tortilla wrap. You'll love the heat! If of course you're not a spicy person, you can omit the pepper flakes all together. I serve my salad with a sqeeze of hot chile sauce and some fresh shredded carrots on salad greens. It is a simple grab when I'm traveling or just want a light lunch. 

Oriental Spicy Chicken Salad 

2 cup  Freeze Dried Chicken (3 oz) 
1/3 cup Soy Sauce Powder (1.5 oz)
2T  Lemonade Powder
1T dehydrated garlic slices (store purchased or make your own)
2 tsp red pepper flakes (more or less depending on how hot you like your meals)
1/3 cup Dehydrated Onion
1T Chef Tess Amazing Wok Star seasoning blend Chef Tess Spices 
1T Ultra Gel 

Directions: Combine all ingredients in pint sized jar and top with an oxygen absorber. You may also use a mylar bag instead of the jar.  You can cut the recipe in half for smaller portions or double for larger families. 

To prepare: Combine chicken stuffer mix with 2 cups boiling water.  Allow to hydrate, about 10 minutes. Add more water to-taste of sauce thickness. Serve on top of greens.

Or wrap in lettuce leaves for salad wraps.

There you go! Enjoy some wonderful new summer meals in a jar! 

Always My Very Best,
Your Friend Chef Tess

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

3 Classes and a Giveaway this Week at Honeyville in Chandler

Here is the scoop on classes this week! 

We are excited to announce that Chef Tess will be teaching three classes at our Honeyville store in Chandler this week! With her classes we will be having a series of giveaways for those who attend her classes. Additionally, if you attend two of Chef Tess classes this week, then you will get the third one for free!

When you attend a Chef Tess class this week you will be entered in for the chance to win a FREE Meals In A Jar starter kit. The kit will feature ingredients and supplies to help you make Chef Tess popular Baked Ziti in a jar. Not to mention during each class you will have the chance to win prizes such as Chef Tess cookbook, bread pans, and more... and yes you will be entered in each time you attend one of her classes this weekend! Click Here now to sign-up for Chef Tess' upcoming classes. 

Wheat To Bread Basics
Thursday, July 17th, 2014 11:00AM

Chef Tess will be walking you through the basics of bread making from scratch, as well as, giving valuable tips for making the perfect loaf of bread! $5 per person

Whole Grain Gluten Free Bread Basics
Friday, July 17th, 2014 11:00AM

Looking for a new gluten free great tasting bread recipe? Chef Tess is your gal. She specializes in Gluten Free bread making and has great tips on specific grains you can use. $5 per person

Meals In A Jar
Saturday, July 18th, 2014 2:00PM

Chef Tess,the author of Honeyville's, "Meal in a Jar" cookbook, will be teaching everything you need to know about making shelf stable meals in a jar/mylar bag. Come enjoy the great taste and laughs of Honeyville. $5 per person

33 South 56th Street
Chandler, AZ 85226
Phone: (480) 785-5210

Always My Very Best,
Your Friend Chef Tess

Cheeseburger Salad Video from AZ Midday

I was so blessed to be part of Arizona Midday on Channel 12.  Here's the video of the segment along with the recipe below. Hopefully this gives you a great idea for summer salad. I know it is one of my family's favorites!

Cheeseburger Salad


6 sesame seed hamburger bun tops
1 pound 95% lean ground beef
Grilling seasoning (heavy on the garlic)
1 small red onion, sliced thin
1/2 cup sliced dill or sweet pickles
1/2 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon yellow mustard
6 cups thinly sliced romaine lettuce or shredded iceberg lettuce
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
2 plum tomatoes

Additional toppings: thousand island dressing, bacon bits or blue cheese crumbles if desired.

Slice bun tops into 1/4-inch strips. If bun tops are very thick, slice bottoms off horizontally before slicing into strips). Arrange in a single layer on large bake pan; bake 8-10 minutes at 425 degrees or until lightly toasted. Place on a cooling rack; cool completely. Cook ground beef over medium-high heat 5-7 minutes or until no longer pink, breaking beef into crumbles. Season well with grilling seasoning of your choice. Add sliced onion and cook a minute or two more. Finely dice pickles and add along with ketchup and mustard to the cooked beef. Remove from the heat.

To serve:  Arrange lettuce on large serving platter. Spoon beef mixture over lettuce. Top with cheese, tomatoes and sliced onion. Arrange hamburger bun croutons around edge of platter. Drizzle with Thousand Island dressing and sprinkle with bacon bits and blue cheese if desired Serve immediately. Yield: 6 servings

Always My Very Best,
Your Friend Chef Tess

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Bread of Life Section: True Identity

Sunday is the day I share a little of my soul. Enjoy.
I don't have a lot to say this week. I just wanted to share a little insight from my life. I hope it helps your life.  

I did a lot with TV and classes this week. I visited 3 different television shows. I taught over a hundred people how to cook at cooking classes. I baked a lot of bakery orders.   In between that I was mom and wife and daughter-in-law. I'm not going to lie... I felt frazzled. I felt tired. I felt incredibly stressed.  Somewhere in there I also felt overwhelming peace as I walked my path. 

When did it start?  I have a Christian friend named Jane who reached out to me and prayed with me. Literally. Jane stopped in the middle of our conversation and had a prayer with me...right in the middle aisle of her store. It was awesome. She reminded me by her example of being a believer that I am first a disciple of Christ. Always.   

A few days later I had opportunities presented to me that would help support my family until I can find full-time employment.  An old friend reached out to me, one I had lost contact with, but  who was baptized just a few years after we first met. I got to see his family and the joy they have found following Christ. I have to admit I cried a lot after our reunion. Not because of the work he gave me (even though that is awesome and appreciated) but because of the path his choices have taken his family. 

 I found joy. I found gratitude.

The most amazing moments of the week were those when I remembered that no matter what I face, I am not really a chef, wife, mom, or teacher.  I am...His daughter. My friends who are followers are with me. My friends who don't care what I believe are still my friends.  I am loved, not because of what I do or what I accomplish, but because I am a His daughter. 

  Focusing on that has been an amazing gift this week. It has carried me forward.  

So that is my thought for today.  Breathe. Rest when you need to...and keep moving onward and upward.

There it is.

Always My Very Best,
Your Sister Tess

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Profiling of a Killer...Salad. Herb Alchemy 101 (4 Salads from One basic Recipe)

I was blessed to be a guest on the The Morning Scramble AZTV7 with the legendary PAT McMAHON and LISA SCHNEIDER-CIPRIANO.  It was one of the most pleasant experiences ever!  They were just simply adorable down there at the studio and warmly welcoming.  I always appreciate that!  It was such a treat! Oh mercy. I just said, "treat" my granny. It was such an awesome dude-fest rockin'-down party event. There. Phew. I can't use granny words yet. Oopsie Daisy.  {Crap. Just did it again. Granny word.} Ya know what? Who cares if I use a granny word? I don't.  

Okay. Photo opp:
Aaaaaa-freakin'-dorable. See?!

 On the show we talked about a few recipes and flavor profiles and I wanted to share them here on the blog.  Oh I also wanted to just kiss Pat...but I think he would have taken it wrong. Such a cool guy!  Lisa shared some really great stories about her culinary genius kiddos. She. Has. Triplets. I have no excuse for having a fat butt.  

Okay. for the recipes.  These are the ones I share in my herb and spice class, but in the class you will get a freakish ton more of information...and you'll get to taste the salads I make. So you should still come to classes darlings.  I do however realize that there are some of you who live waaaaay out of town and I have not forgotten any of you. 

Herb Alchemy 101 Cooking Without a Recipe

How many just read the words "herbs and spices without a recipe" and panic set in? I can hear you saying, "I don't cook like that! I need a recipe.” If that is you, then this post is for you. I want you to try to let go of your cooking inhibitions and think with your heart. If my 11 year old can do this, you most definitely can do it! I believe in you!

So to begin with a basic explanation, herbs are the aromatic leaves, flowers, and stems of plants and spices are seeds and the bark of aromatic edible plants. Fresh or dry herbs and spices will work in cooking applications, but make sure you smell inside the jar. If it smells like the spice or herb, then the stuff inside is still full of flavor. Most spices will need to be in ground or grated form for cooking or baking. If you don't have a spice mill (not many people do), then just buy them pre-ground. 

Below is the basic outline of some flavors that work together well. Follow the steps and you will find success.   

Step 1: Begin with the pasta salad base.

Chef Tess’ Pasta Salad 101
Basic Pasta Salad
1 lb. pasta of your choice, cooked al dente and seasoned well with salt and pepper
1 cup chopped bell pepper
1 cup carrots, shredded or chopped
1 stalk celery, sliced thin
½ medium red onion, sliced thin or chopped fine

Mix together all ingredients in a large bowl. 

Step 2: Make one batch of basic vinaigrette.

Basic Vinaigrette for Pennies a Jar! (FAT free available)
¾ cup olive or vegetable oil (flavored oils are great)
¼ cup red wine vinegar or cider vinegar
1 tsp. fresh pressed garlic
Herbs and spices (see below for variations)
Salt and pepper
Directions: Whisk oil and vinegar with other ingredients in a bowl. Start with a half teaspoon at a time of the herb or spice you want to add and then sample. Adjust flavors according to your taste. For one batch of salad, you will need one batch of salad dressing. Want a fat free salad dressing? You can make this dressing almost completely free of fat if you have ultra gel and juice or broth! Use ¾ cup vegetable broth or juice in place of the oil. In a cold sauce pan, combine the broth or juice with 2 tablespoons of ultra gel. Add the liquid slowly and whisk well. Next add the vinegar and remaining herbs and spices, adjusting the same as above when tasting. Use the dressing immediately and keep refrigerated. If the dressing gets too thick, simply add a little more liquid to thin it out.

Step 3: Add flavor profile to dressing & mix salad. 

Dressing Variations These herb and spice suggestions are to be used in the basic vinaigrette recipe to customize the recipe to fit your need. Add the flavor combinations directly to the basic pasta salad recipe. Come up with your own and try mixing and matching fresh veggies as they are in season. You can even add seasonal fruit you like. For hearty dinners, add some roasted chicken or beef. Try marinating your meat in the vinaigrette to save a lot of money instead of buying those fancy bottles of pre-made stuff. You can do this! It can be very liberating, but for you folks who just want a grab and go dressing fix, just use the pre-made spice blends.
These are lists of flavors that work together for the cuisine you want to create they are not a complete list. They are intended to get you started. 
Herbs: Basil, rosemary, thyme, flat leaf parsley, marjoram
Spices: Fennel, caraway, crushed red pepper, celery seed
Flavoring: Hard cheeses like parmesan, asiago, olives, roasted peppers, citrus zest, capers

Herbs: Dill, oregano, rosemary, mint, parsley,
Spices: Fennel, anise, black pepper, dill seed
Flavoring: Feta cheese, olives, pickled peppers

Herbs: Cilantro, oregano, thyme
Spice: Cumin, coriander, chile pods, black pepper, allspice
Flavoring: Lime zest, roasted corn, green onions, radish, black olives

Herbs: Cilantro, mint, lemon grass, sesame oil (use 2 tsp. in place of some of the oil)
Spices: Cumin, chile paste, curry paste, fennel, ginger
Flavoring: Lime zest, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, citrus zest, peanuts or cashews

 ©Chef Stephanie Petersen. 2011. All rights reserved. Copies NOT permitted without written consent from the author even for personal or church use! Chef Stephanie Petersen can be contacted at and is Chef Tess on Facebook and Twitter. 

There you go darlings. Begin learning some flavor profiles. I'll be posting more in the future! I promise.

Always My Very Best,
Your Friend Chef Tess

Here are the blends that started it all!

Here are the blends that started it all! 
The highest quality. The best flavors. A blessing to our family when you buy them here. Thank you so much.