Recipes shine with Penzeys spices

February 7, 2020

Whenever I present a cooking demonstration, I bring along the ingredients and my own tools. All the knives, whisks, bowls, pans, cutting boards and measuring cups I think I’ll need and enough of each ingredient for the dishes I plan to make. Sometimes, I’ll pre-package the exact amount of an item into a zip-top bag, but more often, I bring an unopened bag or box. Except for spices. 

I am completely devoted to Penzeys spices and have a three-shelf, pull-out cabinet drawer packed with dozens of herbs, spices and blends - all with the Penzeys label. Whenever I conduct a demo or workshop, I take along the specific jars I’ll need, which always generates a few questions about why I prefer Penzeys.

For starters, their quality is impeccable. Their website is easy to navigate and highly educational. If you click on “cinnamon,” you’ll be introduced to four different types of cinnamon, each with a description of its signature flavor qualities. Next you’ll find three kinds of cinnamon sticks, as well as cinnamon sugar and a proprietary blend.

Click on “chili” and start scrolling. Not only are there six unique chili powder blends, but you’ll also find ten familiar dried chili peppers in preparations including crushed, ground and whole. They also know how cooks think, because in addition to the chili mixtures and peppers, you’ll discover other key ingredients in Mexican cuisine, such as cumin and epazote.

I am particularly fond of the spice blends they’ve developed to make recipes easier. One of my favorites is “breakfast sausage seasoning.” It’s mixed from salt, sugar, pepper, paprika, nutmeg, cayenne, sage and thyme; it adds the perfect balance of flavors to let you create homemade breakfast sausage patties. We’ve used it with ground pork, beef and turkey, all with excellent results. They also offer Italian, venison and bratwurst sausage seasonings.

Many of their spice blends have zany names, like “Tsardust Memories,” “Arizona Dreaming,” and “Krakow Nights,” but they list ingredients in the blends as well as where to put them to best use. Another favorite is “sandwich sprinkle,” which can be used as a seasoning on your favorite sandwich or transformed into a sandwich spread or salad dressing.

And, speaking of salad dressings, Penzeys has a dozen different dry mixes to whisk into tasty toppings for all sorts of salads. Their inventory of grilling spices and curry options is vast, and you’ll find every type of peppercorn or ground pepper you might ever need. They also stock pepper and salt grinders.

Of course, all of these products wouldn’t be worth any mention if they weren’t of the high quality Penzeys guarantees. They don’t add any preservatives, and they do offer a number of salt-free versions of popular blends. The website features recipes, stories from customers and the option to buy small trial-size packets (a sample of which is usually tucked into your order).

For the breakfast in the photo, Penzeys spices can be found in the ground-beef breakfast patties, seasoned with breakfast sausage seasoning. I like the way the paprika creates red hints of color and sugar caramelizes a crunchy crust on the meat. The cheesy eggs are seasoned with sandwich sprinkle, adding garlic hints that go nicely with the garnish of Penzeys freeze-dried chives.

I’ve included recipes from the Penzeys website for examples of how to use their spices. The first is a breakfast sausage seasoned with ingredients typically on hand in your pantry, not as easy as using the pre-packed blend, but just as tasty. The saffron rice is best made with basmati or jasmine rice; the delicate grains look lovely with the colorful saffron threads.

And, since next Friday is Valentine’s Day, here’s a special breakfast recipe: cocoa pancakes. If you order quickly, you may be able to serve them with Penzeys Raspberry Enlightenment, but if not, whipped cream works well.

Breakfast Sausage*

1 1/2 lb ground beef
1 lb ground pork
1 T crushed red pepper flakes
1 1/2 T kosher salt
1 1/2 T pepper
1 1/2 t rubbed sage
1 1/2 t garlic powder
1 t paprika
1/2 C ice water

Combine the meats in a large bowl; set aside. In a small bowl, stir together spices and water. Add spice mixture to the meat and work thoroughly to incorporate evenly. Shape into 2 oz patties. Wrap each patty separately in waxed paper and place them in a zip-top freezer bag. Remove the number of patties you need from the freezer the night before to defrost in the refrigerator. To cook, sauté in a skillet over medium, turning once, until browned on both sides, about 5 minutes. Yield: about 30 patties. *Adapted from

Saffron Rice*

1 T butter
1 T finely minced shallot
1 C Basmati or jasmine rice
2 C chicken stock
1 pinch saffron
1/2 t salt

Combine butter and shallot in a one-quart saucepan. Sauté over medium until softened. Add rice and stir to coat grains with butter. Crumble saffron in broth and whisk together. Pour broth into the pan and bring to a boil. Immediately reduce heat to very low, cover and cook until tender, about 15 minutes. Yield: 4 servings. *Adapted from

Cocoa Pancakes*

3/4 C flour
3 T cocoa powder
1 T baking powder
1/2 t salt
2 T sugar
1 egg
1 t vanilla extract
1 C milk
2 T melted butter
1/2 C mini chocolate chips
confectioners sugar

Preheat griddle or nonstick skillet over medium low. Sift together dry ingredients into a large bowl. In a measuring cup, whisk the egg, vanilla, milk and melted butter. Create a depression in the center of the dry ingredients. Pour in the wet ingredients and stir to combine. Fold in the chocolate chips. Pour 1/4 C of batter into heated pan for each pancake. Cook until bubbled on the surface; flip pancakes and cook another minute or two. To serve, dust with confectioners sugar, Raspberry Enlightenment or whipped cream. *Adapted from

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