Taking a Spice Class.

Abby and I did something that was so much fun the other week, and I wanted to share a little bit about it with you. We took a spice class with homeschooling friends. Yep, a spice class!

Savory Spice Shop

A friend of mine who also homeschools her daughter signed us up for this class in downtown Franklin, TN. The spice shop is new to the historic town square and just the coolest little shop! The night we went they were offering their first class and taught us all about cinnamon and vanilla. Did you know that cinnamon actually is a bark? As in tree barK? We all got to chew on a piece of actual cinnamon bark… whew, it was hot! We saw the difference between the cinnamon that you might buy off of your grocery store shelf and real cinnamon. There was quite a difference! True cinnamon is Ceylon Cinnamon. Most of what you find at the grocery is cassia cinnamon (also called chinese or saigon cinnamon). These come from a different plant altogether. Who knew? And did you know that the shelf life of cinnamon is only six months? How long has your cinnamon been in your spice rack?

smelling ceylon cinnamon

Next we learned about different kinds of vanilla: mexican, madagascar, and tahitian. I was amazed at how different these three vanilla pods smelled. The tahitian has a strong orchid aroma (did you know that the vanilla pod is actually the pod from the orchid flower?). The mexican has a more peppery aroma, at least to my nose. The madagascar is very flowery as well. It was so cool to see the inside of a vanilla pod and scrape out the thousands of teeny tiny seeds. They’re called caviar, much tastier than the fish kind. ;)

learning about vanilla at Savory Spice Shop || www.thesoutherninstitute.com

Savory Spice Shop is such a cool place! They have every spice, salt, pepper, extract or blend that you can think of. The best part is that you can taste everything! If you ask the girls they will tell you that the best part was throwing the extra spices on the floor. Such rebels they are! Here they are tasting the curries…

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I was super impressed by the salts that they had! They had an Italian Black Truffle salt that I’m dying to try on some hand cut french fries.

savory salts

After we learned about the spices they had a spread of foods for us to taste, all made with spices from the shop. There was guacamole, baked brie on crackers made from the Baker’s Brew Coffee Spice, and blondies made with yellow curry! They were so delicious! We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and had a hard time leaving the snack table.

The flexibility that homeschool allows has been one of the things that we have enjoyed the most so far. We attended this class on a Thursday night and were out until about 10 pm, but that was alright, because I was able to let Abby sleep a little bit later the next morning. What she learned by being able to attend this class was so valuable. She didn’t read about the spices, she touched, smelled, and tasted them for herself, while learning about them. I was so proud of how adventurous she was. She tasted things that I never imagined she would try. The experience really excited her! That will stick with her.

We will definitely be going back to Savory Spice Shop. They have offered to put together a class specifically for our homeschooling girls on pretty much whatever topic we’d like, and these ladies are passionate about what they do. They love what they sell. They live with them and cook with them and they love to talk about them… I love that! You can visit Savory Spice Shop online. Check out their locations and see if there’s one near you! You need to visit if there is, it’s such a lovely shop!

Savory Spice Shop in Franklin TN

Frozen Chicken Soup.


Hello everyone! It’s Tiffany from The Nesting Project here to address an important issue in the month of January and during flu season: homemade chicken soup.  The unfortunate thing about homemade chicken soup is that when you need it your are usually least likely to feel like making it. So I’m going to share a process that I’ve come up with that helps me make sure I always have some on hand for my family or even care packages for friends who end up needing a little extra food TLC.

One of my favorite things to freeze soups and purees in is Mason jars. While I love canning I rarely need to do that when I can just stick it in the freezer. I did this for all the baby food I made for my daughter this year. I would just freeze it in Mason jars and then defrost it one at a time. The trick to doing this is make sure you leave room at the top (I leave about an inch). Another good thing about this is that when I make soups I always have so much left over and we rarely finish it all even when I try. So instead of having to throw it away I fill up Mason jars and then we have it for another meal the next week. Another way I use this? Tomato sauce. I make a large batch and fill up Mason jars and I have fresh tomato sauce all month.

Now back to my chicken soup. Whenever I roast a chicken or during a busy week get a rotisserie chicken I never throw away the bones. Usually there is plenty of bits of chicken left that make the perfect addition for chicken soup. To make this less time consuming I add chicken stock to it and the pasta into the soup instead of cooking it before. Everything goes in the pot and simmers for a couple of hours and then I have chicken soup for dinner or in mason jars as insurance against a cold.

It’s definitely one of those pantry staples you should try to have on hand for you or your loved ones.


Chicken Soup

Bones from 1 leftover roasted chicken

3 medium sliced carrots

3 medium stalks of celery chopped

1/2 of a medium onion chopped

4 cloves of garlic minced

6 cups water

6 cups chicken stock

6 oz Rotini pasta (roughly 1/2 a box)

2 tbsp of olive oil

2 tbsp of Italian seasoning

Salt and pepper to taste


In a stockpot add the olive oil, onion and garlic and cook on medium-high until translucent. Add the celery and carrots and cook for about 3 minutes. Add the chicken stock and water. Then add the chicken bones along with the Italian Season. Reduce to a simmer and let cook for 1.5 to 2 hours. During the last 30 minutes take out the bones and clean any chicken meat off and put into the soup. Then add the pasta and finish cooking until it’s al dente.

Let cool and put into sterilized Mason jars while leaving at least an inch at the top. Add the tops and put in freezer.



GROW Method: Cook Smart.

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 Well, it’s the day before Thanksgiving and we’ve come to the end of the GROW Method series!  I have really enjoyed exploring the principles of the GROW Method.  We started by looking at a huge problem in the world, hunger and a broken food system.  We’re ending with the fifth principle, COOK SMART.  This principle is just as easy as the first four.  It’s beautifully simple and it makes a difference!

The daily tasks of cooking and heating our foods can add up to sizable energy bills and emissions.  What are some things that you can do to save energy in the kitchen and reduce the consumption of our precious fossil fuels?  Here are a few things that the folks at GROW Method suggest:

Sandwiches, Salads and Cold Soups.  These are all meals that don’t require the use of your oven, stove, grill, or microwave… and they are perfectly acceptable as a meal, right?  Who says that dinner has to be hot to be good?  You’ll use less energy, and because there is no heat involved, your kids can be more involved in the meal prep!

Give Your Plate a Smile!  Add more raw veggies to your plate and let your kids have fun with them.  Add a variety of color and let them make faces with their food.  Lately I have been cooking many less hot veggies sides and have been serving a whole lot more raw veggies with lunches and dinners.  Some of our favorites are sugar snap peas, persian cucumbers, baby carrots, broccoli, and ceasar salads.

Tap Off!  When you do boil foods, use only enough water to cover the food.  While waiting for the water to boil cover the pan, and as soon as it starts boiling reduce the heat.  You’ll save water and energy by doing this one simple thing!

Power Down.  When you’re not using your appliances, unplug them.  I’m not talking about your fridge, of course.  I’m talking about your Keurig with the digital display, your microwave with the clock, etc.  These appliances will pull plenty of energy even when not in use.  Plug them in when you need to use them- simple as that!

Are you already doing some of these things?  Well then welcome to the GROW Method!  If you aren’t then try incorporating one or two this week.  

Heck- why not try #2 tomorrow as you prepare the Thanksgiving meal.  

Snap a picture while you’re at it… then come back here on Friday and link up with our GROW Method Linky Party!  

If you have been following along and have taken the GROW Method challenge (even if you’ve tried just one principle) I would love to hear about it.  Link up on Friday and show us how you are making a difference!

Have a blessed Thanksgiving everyone!  I pray that you have much to be thankful for and that none of us would take for granted the gifts in our lives.  

Veggie Face image source