Spice It Up

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January is here, the holidays are over. We made it. The schedule of family feasts and festivities has ended. Cue the advertising for weight loss programs and fitness equipment. This is the time of year where, apparently, most Americans are looking to get healthier and make some changes.

I’m not much on resolutions but do crave getting back on a regular schedule post-holidays. At my house, we use family dinners to get back on track. Cooking is almost always healthier than eating out and brings me great joy. Time is still tight, so I like to prepare quick and easy recipes that feed a crowd. Recipes using seasoning mixes are a great help and there are some local companies that make tasty ones—Michigan Salted, Love MI Seasons and Mickey & T’s.

Michigan Salted is a Grand Haven based company who has been selling a product called M Salt since 2008. M Salt is a perfect proportion of salt, herbs and spices reminiscent of a steak seasoning. Delicious and adaptable, it can flavor just about everything from grilled chicken to sautéed vegetables. Some creative uses for M Salt are to rim a Bloody Mary glass, mix with butter as a spread or sprinkle over popcorn.

Love MI Seasons is made in Dryden by Executive Chef Tom Chappell. Created long before selling the spice blends, Chef Tom has been cooking with these blends at a private hunt club where he perfected the flavors. Three blends are available: BBQ Rub, Fresh Herb and Acapulco Gold. All the products use local ingredients when available.

Mickey & T’s has been manufacturing gourmet rubs and international spices since 1997 in Davisburg. With a large variety of spices, rubs and garlic blends, Mickey & T’s has something for everyone. I particularly like the Taste of Mexico and Taste of Italy blends. These blends are colorful and flavorful with larger pieces of dehydrated herbs and vegetables.

All of these local seasonings have no MSG, are gluten free and are without fillers or preservatives. Local spices and herbs are sustainable and are also proven to boost health benefits. Buying local seasonings is a tasty and healthy New Year’s resolution you can bet on.

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Roasted Chicken

1 whole cut up chicken (about 4 pounds)
2 tablespoons olive oil
¼ cup Love MI Seasons BBQ Blend Rub

Preheat oven to 350o. Place pieces of chicken evenly apart on rimmed baking sheet. Brush chicken with olive oil. Season chicken under and over skin with BBQ Rub. Roast for 1 hour or until skin is crisp and golden brown.
Cook’s Note: Chicken can be prepared on the grill during the warmer months. Preheat grill to medium and cook, turning once or twice, until the skin is crisp and the chicken is cooked through.

Maple Roasted Acorn Squash

2  whole small acorn squash, cut into 1-inch slices
2  tablespoons melted butter
1 ½ tablespoons maple syrup
½ teaspoon M Salt

Preheat oven to 425o. Place cut squash slices on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle squash with butter and syrup. Sprinkle with M Salt seasoning. Roast in oven 20 to 30 minutes or until golden. Serve hot.
Cook’s Note: To make squash slices; cut acorn squash in half carefully. Scoop out the seeds and discard. Place squash cut side down and cut in half again. Repeat until slices of squash are to desired thickness.

—Pam Aughe, R.D.