Sweet Inspirations

I’m a big fan of cooking with herbs and spices, so buying them in bulk isn’t a problem.

But if you are like some people, a jar of spice might sit in your cupboard for a couple of years — if not more. While the good news is that dried herbs and spices never spoil, per se, the bad news is their flavor fades. So, the trick is to keep and use spices as long as they have flavor.

Well, McCormick’s, the spice people have come up with an idea that solves this problem, and I think it is just brilliant.

They’ve introduced something called "Recipe Inspirations,"  which makes it easy for home cooks to try something new, liked adding paprika and rosemary to perfectly roasted chicken and potatoes or turning the flavors of a quesadilla into a hearty one-dish casserole.

Each Recipe Inspiration packet contains six pre-measured, no-waste spices and herbs, along with a perforated, plastic-coated recipe card on the back that can be filed for future use. And if you do like the recipe, then buying a larger amount of the herbs and spices won’t be a problem.

The recipes, which serve four to eight, take just 15 minutes to prepare and 30 minutes to cook. There are six varieties of the Recipe Inspiration packets: Apple and Sage Pork Chops, Rosemary Roasted Chicken with Potatoes, Quesadilla Casserole, Spanish Chicken Skillet, Garlic Lime Chicken Fajitas and my favorite, Shrimp and Pasta Primavera. The packets are available in the spice aisle of supermarkets nationwide and cost $1.99.

Here’s a recipe for one of them, which I plan on trying shortly.

Shrimp and Pasta Primavera
1½ teaspoons dill weed
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon minced onions
½ teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon thyme leaves
8 ounces linguine
1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
4½ cups assorted cut-up vegetables such as broccoli florets, sliced carrots, red bell pepper strips and peas
1 cup heavy cream
¾ cup chicken broth
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons butter
½ teaspoon salt
Cook pasta in large saucepan as directed on package, adding shrimp and vegetables during the last 3 to 4 minutes of cooking. Drain well.
Mix remaining ingredients in same saucepan. Bring to boil, stirring constantly with whisk. Reduce heat to low; simmer 5 minutes. Add pasta, shrimp and vegetables; toss gently to coat well. Serve immediately with additional Parmesan cheese, if desired.
Yield: Serves 6.