Taco Seasoning

Homemade Taco Seasoning comes together in minutes with spice cabinet staples. Turn up or down the heat to your liking.

Homemade Taco Seasoning comes together in minutes with spice cabinet staples. Turn up or down the heat to your liking.

There are some dishes that I’ve been making for years, but never got around to blogging. Maybe I make it, but don’t measure anything. Or maybe it’s something that I don’t consider super impressive, and therefore, not blog-worth. That pretty much describes this taco seasoning.

It’s so easy and takes only a minute to toss together from ingredients that are always in my spice cabinet. I have been making it for years and always have a jar around to make weeknight dinners easy. Most often, a couple of tablespoons are sprinkled over ground turkey or beef and a little bit of vegetables (corn, diced tomatoes or bell peppers, some hidden mushrooms – whatever I have on hand) for a quick taco dinner. I’ve also been known to sprinkle some on chicken and sliced peppers and onions in lieu of making a separate fajita seasoning. This taco seasoning is also one of the unusual ingredients in our favorite chili recipe.

Do you have an unusual or creative use for taco seasoning? Leave a comment and tell me!

Homemade Taco Seasoning comes together in minutes with spice cabinet staples. Turn up or down the heat to your liking.

If you’ve been buying the taco seasoning packets at the grocery store, stop now. You can make it at home in under a minute, and control exactly what goes into your seasoning. No added preservatives. Add a little extra kick or mellow out the heat according to your preference. Chipotle chili powder would add a lovely smokiness if you use that, in lieu of regular chili powder. I’ve also been known to use garlic granules or minced dried onion instead of the powders on occasion.

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Homemade Taco Seasoning comes together in minutes with spice cabinet staples. Turn up or down the heat to your liking.

Taco Seasoning

Homemade Taco Seasoning comes together in minutes with spice cabinet staples. Turn up or down the heat to your liking.
Course Condiments
Cuisine Tex-Mex
Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Servings 5 2-Tbs. servings
Calories 43 kcal
Author Liz

Ingredients

  • 4 Tbs. chili powder
  • 3 1/2 Tbs. paprika
  • 3 Tbs. cumin
  • 2 Tbs. onion powder
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne

Instructions

  1. Add all ingredients to a bowl or jar. Stir or seal and shake to combine.
  2. Store in an airtight container until ready to use. Use 2-3 Tbs. per pound of meat.

A Books n’ Cooks original recipe.

Homemade Taco Seasoning comes together in minutes with spice cabinet staples. Turn up or down the heat to your liking.

Jerk Seasoning

Add a kick to your favorite protein with homemade Jerk Seasoning.

Homemade Jerk Seasoning

Have you ever made your own seasoning or rub mixtures? I used to prefer buying the premade seasonings at the grocery store just because it’s easier, but over the past couple of years, I pretty much stopped doing that. I’m all for convenience items (hello, prechopped onions and presliced fajita veggies!) but I found that the convenience isn’t worth it for seasonings. Not only can most seasonings and rubs be made in under 2 minutes, but homemade versions are cheaper, can usually be made with the spices and herbs I already have in my pantry, healthier (no weird preservatives or extra sodium), and are customizable to our tastes.

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Cranberry Orange Relish #CranberryWeek

Tart cranberries are sweetened with sugar and an orange to create a relish perfect for the Thanksgiving table, a topping for breakfast favorites like french toast and waffles, or a spread for turkey sandwiches.

Cranberry Orange Relish

I think I’ve mentioned before, but I’m not really a big fan of Thanksgiving. I can take or leave most of the food, and pretty much never host. I’ll bring a dish to a friend’s house when we crash their dinner, but the lack of Thanksgiving recipes on this blog give you an idea of how little I get excited about the holiday. I eschew the standard pumpkin or pecan pies for a cranberry pear tart, or maybe, as a homage to the traditional, a chocolate pecan pie. I’ve got some lovely cranberry appetizers on this blog, which scream fall and Thanksgiving appetizers to me. That’s as close as I’ve really gotten to Thanksgiving recipes on this blog.

Until now. This cranberry orange relish recipe is similar to one my uncle brought one year to Thanksgiving at my parents house, when I was growing up. Compared to the canned cranberry… sauce? gelatin? that my mom used to buy, this was wonderful. Tart cranberries sweetened with sugar and orange, with a hint of Grand Marnier – yum! It’s a wonderful side dish/condiment for your Thanksgiving table, or even better – a topping for brie, pancakes or french toast, or a spread for Thanksgiving Leftover Sandwiches.

Cranberry Orange Relish

Thanks again to Caroline at Caroline’s Cooking for hosting #CranberryWeek again! Be sure to scroll down to check out more fall cranberry recipes for all occasions!

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Cranberry Orange Relish - Tart cranberries are sweetened with sugar and an orange to create a relish perfect for the Thanksgiving table, a topping for breakfast favorites like french toast and waffles, or a spread for turkey sandwiches.

Cranberry Orange Relish

Tart cranberries are sweetened with sugar and an orange to create a relish perfect for the Thanksgiving table, a topping for breakfast favorites like french toast and waffles, or a spread for turkey sandwiches.

Course Condiments
Cuisine American
Prep Time 5 minutes
Refrigerate 1 hour
Total Time 5 minutes
Author Liz

Ingredients

  • 1 12- ounce package fresh or frozen fresh cranberries see note below
  • 1 medium orange cut into eighths, not peeled with seeds removed
  • 3/4 c. granulated sugar
  • 3 Tbs. Grand Marnier

Instructions

  1. Place cranberries and orange slices into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until desired consistency.
  2. Transfer to a glass bowl. Stir in sugar and Grand Marnier.
  3. Refrigerate at least an hour, or until serving.

Recipe Notes:

  • I used frozen cranberries in this recipe, which gives it a more liquidy texture (like in the photos above). If you use fresh cranberries, the relish will have much less liquid.
  • This recipe was adapted from Ocean Spray Cranberries.
  • Relish may be frozen for future use on pancakes, waffles, sandwiches, baked brie, or for use in other recipes. I recommend freezing in 2 Tbs. portions (i.e. in an ice cube tray) or in 1 cup portions.
Cranberry Orange Relish on Books n' Cooks

See all the other recipes being shared today as part of Cranberry week – follow #CranberryWeek on social media for all the tasty cranberry creations:

Tortellini with Fresh Basil Pesto

Happy Sunday! I hope you are enjoying a long weekend celebrating our great country.

My family and I are thankfully having a mostly lazy weekend – play dates, baking, and chores, with a dinner with friends planned for the 4th. We’ve had a whirlwind could of weeks with me away for a week and some family in town. I’ve been enjoying playing catch up. Enjoying the relative quiet in the house. And enjoying taking a little bit of time to menu plan, blog plan, and vacation plan.

Tortellini with Fresh Basil Pesto

Store-bought ravioli or tortellini with homemade pesto from the freezer has become an easy weeknight staple in our house. It takes so little effort and time to make that we really have no excused for ordering out when I’ve got the pasta and pesto in the freezer. I stock up on homemade pesto when my herbs (or my mom’s herbs) are growing like crazy over the summer time. They’ve been planted for less than two months and they’ve already started to grow a bit wild. I’ve already have to trim them back several times, freezing sage leaves and making both cilantro and basil pesto.

Tortellini with Fresh Basil Pesto

By Books n’ Cooks

Serves 2 as a main dish, 3-4 as a side dish

Ingredients for the Tortellini:

  • 1-9 oz. package store-bought cheese tortellini
  • 1 c. fresh basil pesto (ingredients and instructions below)

Ingredients for the Basil Pesto: (makes 1 cup) 

  • 2 c. packed fresh basil leaves, washed and dried
  • ¼ c. pine nuts
  • 2 cloves garlic, skins removed
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • pinch of black pepper
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil, more if needed

Prepare tortellini according to package. While tortellini are cooking, make the pesto. (If tortellini are finished before pesto, drain, toss with a little bit of olive oil to avoid sticking, and cover to keep warm.)

Make the Pesto: Place all ingredients except olive oil in a food processor. Pulse until large chunks. With the food processor still running, slowly pour in olive oil. Turn off when thoroughly combined.

Toss tortellini and pesto, until tortellini are completely coated. You may not need the entire cup.

Freezing Pesto: Basil pesto freezes wonderfully and is one of my favorite things to stock up on over summer, for quick weeknight dinners throughout the year.

To freeze, transfer pesto to an airtight container (I use mason jars) and freeze until ready to use. Pesto may be defrosted in the fridge or for 30-60 seconds in the microwave (don’t forget to take off the metal lid and rim!)

Fresh Basil Pesto
Tortellini with Homemade Basil Pesto on Books n Cooks
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Strawberry Jam

Being a working mom, I always wish that I had more time with my kids – time to go out and do things. You know, trips to the parks, local museums, children’s events… that sort of thing. With our current routines, I feel like there’s just not enough time to do all of that, with working 5 days a week, finding time to do laundry, clean the house, grocery shop, and still manage to find some time to see friends and decompress a bit. But the one thing I think my hubby and I have been pretty good at is taking our kids out to the local farms to pick fruit during the summer and apples and the obligatory Halloween pumpkins during the fall.

The past couple of years, I’ve been lucky enough that my parents were in town for strawberry picking. The first year we went, we set off with the intention of picking some berries and maybe making a batch of the jam that my mom used to make when I was growing up. We accidentally ended up with close to 20 pounds of strawberries. Needless to say that day was filled with 3 times as much jam-making as anticipated (in addition to setting aside berries for freezing and eating) and a number of trips to the store to pick up extra supplies.

Since then, we’ve prepared a bit better. We still pick roughly 20 pounds of strawberries, but with the intention of canning more (my brothers and uncles have been over the moon with gifts of homemade jam). My son and daughter have a blast picking and eating the fresh berries, and my daughter can’t wait to get into the kitchen with Mommy and Manna (aka Grandma) to make some jam. It’s a family tradition that makes everyone happy.

This jam can be made as chunky or smooth as you’d like, depending on how much you crush the strawberries. And I’ll give you my little secret – It’s on the sweeter side, and makes a wonderful topping for vanilla ice cream as well.

Cooking Note: I’ve made jam this two years in a row now, both times with my parents. I highly recommend taking advantage of the prep steps noted below, as the jam cooks up pretty quickly. If you have a second set of hands around to help with setting the timers and getting the jars ready for you, use them!

Strawberry Jam

Adapted from Certo

Makes 8-10 Cups

Materials:

  • Canning jars, with lids and bands
  • Very hot water (i.e. heat on a stove until very hot or boiling)
  • Wax, for sealing the jam
  • A small inexpensive pot with a lip, for melting the wax (I recommend one designated solely for this purpose)
  • Tongs, to move hot jars
  • A large (8+ quart) stainless steel stockpot, for making the jam (Don’t got smaller – the mixture will bubble up a good bit)
  • A stainless steel ladle, for portioning out the hot jam
  • A wide-mouthed funnel, for portioning out the hot jam
  • A baking sheet, lined with aluminum foil
  • Kitchen timer

Ingredients:

  • 5 c. barely crushed strawberries (from ~8 c. whole strawberries, hulled)*
  • 7 c. granulated sugar (I used Dixie Crystals sugar)
  • 1/2 tsp. unsalted butter
  • 1 packet Certo pectin

* Strawberries were barely crushed – smashed once or twice with a potato masher so that most were not whole. Don’t worry if it looks too chunky – the strawberries will break down more as they cook.

Prep: Wash jars and clean out sink. Place clean jars in the sink.

Fill a medium stockpot (~10+ cups) with water and start heating on stove. This water will be used to heat up canning jars.

Start melting wax in a small pot on another burner. When wax is completed melted, keep warm on lowest setting.

Place foil-lined baking sheet on the counter next to the stove (or wherever you’re going to be filling the jars). Set kitchen timer nearby.

Make the Jam: In a large (8+ quart) stainless steel stockpot over high heat, combine crushed strawberries, sugar, and unsalted butter, stirring constantly until sugar is melted. Bring to a rolling boil, 8-10 minutes.

When mixture is very close to a boil, take hot water and fill waiting canning jars. The goal is to keep the jars very hot, so refill as needed, if the water cools before the jam is ready.

Stir to make sure the mixture is fully at a boil. Boil for 1 minute (time it!). Stir in Certo. Return to a rolling boil (happens very quickly, within a minute) and continue boiling for another minute. Turn off stove.

Can: Working quickly, empty water from canning jars and move jars onto waiting baking sheet. Using the funnel and ladle, quickly fill jars with jam, leaving about an inch of room at the top of the jars. Top off with about a 1/2 inch of melted wax. Let jars rest, allowing the jam to thicken and cool, and the wax to harden and seal in the jam.

If jars don’t completely seal (wax moves around or jam starts to come up above the wax), remove wax and store in the fridge for immediate use.

Store sealed jars in a cool place.

Serving: When read to open a jar, use a fork or knife to puncture the wax and remove from jar. The wax may be cleaned and set aside to be remelted for future canning.

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