Caribbean Cooking Class – Grilled Jamaican Jerk Shrimp

Denise From @ Savory Spice Shop of Raleigh

Below is the recipe for grilled Jamaican Jerk Shrimp that I shared during a Caribbean Cooking class that I presented at the Savory Spice Shop in Raleigh, NC.

The marinade for the shrimp features the Savory Spice Shop’s Jamaican Jerk Season Blend, Citrus Juice and Annatto Oil.

It is perfect for upcoming summer parties. You can grill outdoors or use your grill pan to grill indoors. It is easy and quick especially since you only need to marinate the shrimp for 30 minutes.

I also made this with turkey cutlets.



Banana Salsa

Grilled Jamaican Jerk Shrimp

2 lbs Large Shrimp, peeled and deveined
4 tablespoons Annatto Oil
Juice from 2 Limes
4 tablespoons Jamaican Jerk Seasoning
Salt & Pepper to taste

    • Combine annatto oil, lime juice and Jamaican jerk seasoning in a shallow dish. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.
    • Add shrimp to marinade. Toss to evenly coat.
    • Cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.



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Caribbean Cooking Class – Annatto Oil

Denise From @ Savory Spice Shop of Raleigh

Below is the recipe for Annatto Oil that I shared during a Caribbean Cooking class that I presented at the Savory Spice Shop in Raleigh, NC.

Annatto is described as being “slightly peppery with a hint of nutmeg“. I use Annatto Oil for adding both color and flavor to my recipes. It adds a wonderful golden hue to rice, vegetables, seafood and poultry. In my family, it is a key ingredient for making Pastelillos.

Please note that Annatto Oil is a deep golden red. It does stain easily, so, be careful not get it on your clothing.

Annatto seeds have health benefits too!



Annatto Oil
*Recipe Source: Miami Spice

1 cup Olive Oil
1/2 cup Annatto Seeds

  • Heat olive oil in a heavy saucepan over medium heat.
  • Add annatto seeds. Cook until oil is reddish gold and the seeds begin to crackle (about 3 minutes).
  • Strain oil into a clean container with a lid.

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Caribbean Cooking Class – Black Bean & Mango Salad

Denise From @ Savory Spice Shop of Raleigh

Last week, I taught my first cooking class at the Savory Spice Shop in Raleigh, NC. The theme for the class was Caribbean cooking.

We had a lot of fun cooking, talking and sharing information, stories….and laughs.

Below is the recipe for Black Bean & Mango Salad. I love this salad recipe because it is easy to make and perfect for spring/summer parties. The flavors are simple, fresh and versatile. It pairs well with chicken or seafood.




Black Bean & Mango Salad
*Recipe adapted from Miami Spice

3 ripe Mangos, chopped
3 15-oz cans Black Beans, drained and rinsed
1/4-1/2 cups fresh Cilantro, chopped
4 Scallions, trimmed and chopped
4 tablespoons Olive Oil
Juice of 2 Limes
Salt & Pepper to taste

  • Add all ingredients to a mixing bowl.
  • Adjust seasoning as needed.


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Caribbean Cooking Class – Banana Salsa Recipe

Denise From @ Savory Spice Shop of RaleighLast week, I taught my first cooking class at the Savory Spice Shop in Raleigh, NC.   The theme for the class was Caribbean cooking.  

Below is the recipe for Banana Salsa.  I chose to present this recipe because it is simple, flavorful and colorful. 



If you like mango or pineapple salsa, you will love it. Also, bananas are SO much easier to chop than both mangos & pineapple. 

Try serving it with blue corn tortilla chips or serve alongside of either chicken or fish.

It was a big hit at the class too. Enjoy!


Banana Salsa

Banana Salsa
*Recipe adapted from Miami Spice

8 Finger Bananas, diced
1/2 cup Red Bell Pepper, diced
1 Jalapeño Pepper, diced
1 Serrano Pepper, diced
1 teaspoon ground Ginger
1/2 teaspoon Cardamom
4 Scallions, trimmed and chopped
1/2 cup fresh Mint, chopped
1 tablespoon Brown Sugar
2 tablespoons Olive Oil
Juice from 2 Limes
Salt & Pepper

  • Add all ingredients to a mixing bowl.
  • Adjust seasoning as needed.
  • Serve with blue corn tortilla chips, fish or chicken

Banana Salsa

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Mastic Scented Salmon

Mastic Tears


If you have not tried it…you need to!

Mastic will add a very unique (“in a good way”) pine-like flavor backdrop to your dish.

It is typically used for cake, pudding and ice cream recipes.

The suggested serving is 1/4 teaspoon of ground mastic for every 4 servings that your recipe calls for.

My creative cooking “take” was to make poached salmon. Below is an easy recipe that is good to have on file…especially when you need to pull dinner together quickly.

Mastic tears are harvested from the sap of the Gum Mastic tree. It is also used to cure ailments as well as have aphrodisiac qualities. (google “mastic tears” to learn more)

Be sure to look for mastic tears at your favorite spice shop or Mediterranean market.



Mastic Scented Poached Salmon

Mastic Scented Salmon

1/2 teaspoon Mastic tears
1/2 cup White Wine
1/2 cup Water
2 Garlic Cloves, finely minced
1 teaspoon dried Marjoram
1 teaspoon dried Parsley
1/4 teaspoon Hot Paprika
1 tablespoon Butter, cut into small cubes
1-1/2 pounds of Salmon
Salt & Pepper (to taste)

  • Crush the mastic tears with the 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt with a mortar and pestle; set aside.

Mastic Tears and Kosher Salt

Mastic Ground with Kosher Salt

  • Add the white wine, water and garlic to a large saucepan. Warm over medium heat.
  • Add the salmon to the saucepan.
  • Season the salmon evenly with the marjoram, parsley, hot paprika and mastic-salt mixture. Add salt & pepper to taste.
  • Top with butter cubes and bring to a boil.

Mastic Scented Salmon Poaching

  • Cover and reduce heat to a simmer until fish is opaque and firm (about 15 minutes).

Note: I served with brown rice and steamed veggies….. Delish!


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Creamy Saffron Pastina with Mini Turkey Meatballs

This month I am cooking with one of my favorite spices…Saffron!

I love the floral aroma and gorgeous color it adds to food.

My first recipe combines two of my favorite comfort foods…creamy pastina and mini meatball soup.

The addition of saffron along with the layering of flavors and textures is absolute perfection.

Everyone at my dinner table agreed that this dish is a new regular….  Hope you try it and enjoy it as much as we did.

Best part? The leftovers were even better the next day!

Enjoy! Denise


Creamy Saffron Pastina with Turkey Mini Meatballs

2 tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Shallot, finely chopped
1-1/2 teaspoons Saffron threads, divided
64 ounces of Chicken Stock
20.8 ounces of Ground Turkey Breast
2 carrots, chopped
2 cups of Frozen Petite Peas
1/2 teaspoon ground Nutmeg, divided
1 Bay Leaf
1 Egg
1 teaspoon of Italian Seasoning
1/2 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
1/2 cup Panko Breadcrumbs
1/4 teaspoon of Hot Paprika
One box (13.25 ounces) of Mini Pasta Shells
10 oz. Lite Alfredo Sauce
Salt & Pepper

1. Prepare Mini Turkey Meatballs

  •  In a large bowl, mix the ground turkey, egg, parmesan, breadcrumbs, hot paprika, Italian seasoning, 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste.
  •  Roll into mini meatballs ( about 1 rounded teaspoon each) and set aside.


2. Prepare Saffron Stock and Cook Mini Turkey Meatballs

  • In a large stock pot, warm the extra virgin olive oil over medium high heat.
  • Add the shallots. Cook until shallots are translucent.
  • Add chicken stock, carrots , bay leaf, 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, salt and pepper (to taste).
  • Bring to a boil. Add 3/4-1 teaspoon of saffron and frozen peas.
  • Simmer until carrots are tender (about 15 minutes).
  • Drop mini meatballs into the saffron stock.
  • Simmer for 15-20 minutes until turkey is thoroughly cooked.
  • Keep warm.


3. Prepare Pasta

  • Bring water to a boil.
  • Add remaining 1/2 teaspoon saffron to pasta water.
  • Add pasta to the boiling water. (Check pasta box for cooking times.)
  • When pasta is cooked to al dente, drain pasta (reserving 1 cup of the pasta water).


4. Prepare Saffron Pasta Sauce

  • In a large saucepan, warm the Alfredo sauce. Whisk in 1 cup of the reserved pasta water and 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper.
  • Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer for 5-10 minutes.
  • Toss pasta with Saffron Pasta Sauce to coat.


5. Serve

  • First, add a serving of the creamy pastina to a bowl.
  • Next, layer the mini meatballs, carrots, peas and saffron stock.
  • Garnish with grated cheese, red pepper flakes.
  • Serve with garlic bread.


Pumpkin Turkey Chili (Calabaza Chili)

With the hustle and bustle of the holidays, it is good to have an easy and delicious chili recipe on hand that is hearty and “heart healthy”.. 

Did you know that pumpkin is a  “power food” with a ton of health benefits?

Why not double the recipe and freeze half?



Tip:  Be sure to stock pile Pumpkin Puree this time of year (when it is readily available and on sale).

Pumpkin Turkey Chili (Calabaza Chili)

2 tablespoons Olive Oil

1 medium Onion, chopped

2 cloves of Garlic, minced

20 oz. Ground Turkey

7 oz. Smoked Turkey Sausage

2 (15 oz.) cans Black Beans, drained and rinsed

2 (11 oz.) cans Mexicorn

15 oz. can Crushed Tomatoes

15 oz. can Pumpkin Puree

32 oz. Chicken Stock

2 cups Water  (I fill the emptied can of crushed tomatoes)

1.25 oz packet of Reduced Sodium Chili Seasoning

1 tablespoon Unsweetened Cocoa Powder

1 tablespoon ground Cumin

1 tablespoon dried Oregano

1/4 teaspoon ground Cloves

1/2 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper

2 bay leaves

1/4 cup fresh Cilantro, chopped

Salt & Pepper

  • Quarter the smoked turkey sausage lengthwise and thinly slice.  Set aside.
  • Warm 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a stock pot over medium-high heat.
  • Add the onion and garlic.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Sautee until vegetables are tender (about 3-4 minutes).
  • Add ground turkey and sliced smoked turkey sausage to onion/garlic mixture. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Sautee until ground turkey is cooked through.
  • Add the black beans, mexicorn, crushed tomatoes, pumpkin puree, chicken stock and water to the stock pot.   Stir to combine the ingredients.
  • Add the chili seasoning, unsweetened cocoa powder, cumin, oregano, cloves, cayenne pepper and bay leaves.
  • Stir to combine the ingredients.  Adjust the salt and pepper to taste.
  • Bring to a boil.  Then simmer 45 minutes to 1 hour.
  • Stir in the fresh cilantro.  Discard the bay leaves and keep warm until ready to serve.
  • Serve with your choice of “fixings”.
Slow Cooker Espresso Beef with Brown Pumpkin Gravy

Slow Cooker Espresso Beef with Pumpkin Brown Gravy

Do you have a picky eater?  I do and my picky eater loves beef.  

It was a chilly day and I decided to develop a new slow cooker beef recipe using coffee and pumpkin. 

Dedicated to my special “Picky Eater” who made my day when he told me that this was “sooooooo good” and even tried “white mashed potatoes” for the first time and loved them!



Slow Cooker Espresso Beef with Brown Pumpkin Gravy

Slow Cooker Espresso Beef

with Pumpkin Brown Gravy

Ingredient List

1 medium Onion, sliced thinly

2.5 lbs. Boneless  Half-Eye Round Roast

1 teaspoon dried Oregano

1/2 teaspoon Garlic Powder

1 teaspoon Sumac (optional)

2 Bay Leaves

1 15 oz can Pumpkin Puree

1 teaspoon ground Sage

1 tablespoon Espresso Powder

Salt & Pepper


  • Spray your slow cooker with cooking spray.  Line the bottom with your onion.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Slow Cooker Espresso Beef with Pumpkin Brown Gravy

  • Season the beef with salt, pepper, garlic powder, sumac and oregano.  Place in slow cooker.  Add the bay leaves.

Slow Cooker Espresso Beef with Pumpkin Brown Gravy

  • In a small bowl, mix together the pumpkin puree, espresso powder and ground sage.

Slow Cooker Espresso Beef with Pumpkin Brown Gravy

  • Cover the beef with the pumpkin mixture.

Slow Cooker Espresso Beef with Pumpkin Brown Gravy

  • Cook on low for 6-8 hours.  Adjust seasoning to taste.

Serving suggestion:

  • Add a green vegetable or salad.
  • Serve with mashed potatoes (try adding 1/2 – 3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg to them)
  • If you prefer a thinner gravy, add 1/2 cup beef stock or white wine to the slow cooker when you add the pumpkin mixture.

Slow Cooker Espresso Beef with Pumpkin Brown Gravy

Slow Cooker Beef Sandwichese ... Served Up Philly Style

Slow Cooker Beef Sandwiches (Served up Philly Style…Of Course)

It’s almost unbelievable that summer has come and gone…

Once it starts to get cooler, I tend to use my slow cooker a lot to make soups and stews. 

I recently purchased London Broil cut of beef and was inspired by my favorite hometown sandwich, the Philly Cheesesteak. 

While London Broil is definitely not the kind of beef used for Philly Steaks, the end result tasted very similar.  We bought hoagie rolls (not as good as those in Philadelphia…but they did the job), added the beef and cheese…  It was a big hit. 

There are different toppings for Philly Cheesesteak Sandwiches.  Half the family goes for ketchup and the other half prefers marinara sauce. 



P.S.  Dedicated to all my special “Philadelphia Peeps” ….

Slow Cooker Beef Sandwichese ... Served Up Philly Style

Slow Cooker Beef Sandwiches (Served Up Philly Style … Of Course)

4 stalks of Celery, trimmed to fit your slow cooker

2 medium Onions, sliced thinly

2 lbs. London Broil

1/2 teaspoon dried Oregano

1/2 teaspoon Garlic Powder

1/3 cup Red Wine

Salt & Pepper

  • Spray your slow cooker with cooking spray.  Line the bottom with your celery.

Slow Cooker Beef Sandwichese ... Served Up Philly Style

  • Cover the celery with half of your sliced onions.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Slow Cooker Beef Sandwichese ... Served Up Philly Style

  • Season the London Broil with salt, pepper, garlic powder and oregano.  Place in slow cooker.

Slow Cooker Beef Sandwichese ... Served Up Philly Style

  • Top with remaining sliced onions.  Season with salt and pepper.

Slow Cooker Beef Sandwichese ... Served Up Philly Style

  • Pour red wine into slow cooker (along the side so it goes straight to the bottom of the slow cooker).
  • Cook on low for 6-8 hours.

Slow Cooker Beef Sandwichese ... Served Up Philly Style

  • Remove meat and trim fat.   Discard celery.  Shred meat with 2 forks.

Slow Cooker Beef Sandwichese ... Served Up Philly Style

  • Add meat back to the slow cooker.  Stir to coat with meat juices.  Keep warm until ready to serve.

Slow Cooker Beef Sandwichese ... Served Up Philly Style

Serving suggestion:

  • Add meat to roll.
  • Add cheese of choice (American or Provolone recommended).
  • Grill or microwave to melt the cheese.
  • Serve with ketchup or marinara.

Versatile Vanilla – Vanilla Infused Champagne Vinegar (Plus Bonus Recipe for Vanilla Champagne Vinaigrette)

Continuing on the Versatile Vanilla Voyage….

Lately, I have been into infusing vinegar with herbs and spices. 

Below are the steps on how you can make a vanilla infused vinegar.  Keep in mind that it does take a few weeks …so patience is key to success with this recipe. 

The results are worth it!

There is a bonus recipe below for a simple Vanilla Vinaigrette. 



P.S.  If you are look ing for other ideas on how to use Vanilla, check out some “Vanilla Recipe Finds” on the Gypsy World Spice Cafe Facebook Page  Please visit and remember to “like” while you are there.

Gypsy World Spice Cafe Recipe – Vanilla Infused Champagne Vinegar

Yield:  16 ounces

Ingredient List:

  • 1 Pint Size Mason Jar (16 oz)
  • 1 Vanilla Bean
  • 16 oz Champagne Vinegar


  • Time
  • Patience
  • Sunny Shelf


  1. Carefully split the Vanilla Bean with knife or kitchen scissors.
  2. Place Vanilla Bean in mason jar.
  3. Fill with Champagne Vinegar.
  4. Place cover on tightly.
  5. Place mason jar on a sunny shelf.
  6. Wait 3 weeks.  Give jar a soft shake every few days.
  7. Transfer to a nice vinegar dispenser (optional).

Blogger Comments:  I use vinegar on salads, in marinades, to deglaze pans, in vegetable saute’s and as a secret ingredient when I think a dish needs a little kick…  We tried this on berries and it was really good.

Gypsy World Spice Cafe – Bonus Recipe – Vanilla Champagne Vinaigrette

Yield:  8 oz


  • 1/4 cup Vanilla Infused Champagne  Vinegar
  • 3/4 cup Olive Oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground Coriander
  • 3/4 teaspoon rubbed Sage
  • Salt & Pepper to taste


  1. Add all ingredients to a jar.
  2. Put the lid on the jar and give a good shake


Versatile Vanilla – Shrimp Penne with Vanilla Bean Vodka Sauce

Continuing on the Versatile Vanilla Voyage…

When buying Vanilla beans, you want to make sure that the Vanilla bean is dark brown (almost black), flexible and very aromatic.    When buying Vanilla extract, be sure to examine the ingredient list to make sure that what you are paying for is only flavored with Vanilla and not with artificial flavors.

Today’s Versatile Vanilla post features a recipe for an entrée.  Below is my take on Shrimp Penne with Vodka Sauce… I added a Vanilla Bean (minus the seeds) that I reserved from my previous Versatile Vanilla post.  The Vanilla really took it up a notch.    

My picky eater loved this dish!





Gypsy World Spice Cafe Recipe – Shrimp Penne with Vanilla Bean Vodka Sauce

2 tablespoons Olive Oil
1 medium Onion, sliced thin
2-3 Garlic Cloves, minced (depending on your taste)
1 1/2 teaspoons dried Oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons dried Thyme
2-3 tablespoons fresh Basil, chopped  (plus more to garnish)
2 cups prepared Marinara Sauce 
1/2 cup Vodka
1 Vanilla Bean, split (with or without seeds)
1/2 Cup Fat Free Half & Half
2 lbs medium Shrimp, Peeled and Deveined
1 lb Penne Pasta, cooked (drain and keep warm)
Salt & Pepper

  • Heat olive oil in a large sauce pan.
  • Cook onion for 3-4 minutes.  Add garlic, oregano, thyme and basil.  Cook for 1 minute.  

  • Stir in marinara sauce and Vanilla Bean and cook for 5 minutes. 

  • Remove pan from heat and stir in Vodka.
  • Place pan back on heat and stir in Half & Half.  Bring to a simmer and add shrimp.  

  •  Cook shrimp until opaque (about 2-3 minutes).  Season with salt & pepper.
  • Add your pasta to your Vanilla Vodka Sauce.  Stir to coat.  Plate or serve family style.

Celebrating Cinco de Mayo – Homemade Black Pepper Tortillas

Tortillas are very versatile…  They are great with appetizers, main dishes and desserts.  They bring back childhood memories because when I was little my Titi (endearment for Tia) used to make them for us as an afternoon snack.  I remember feeling especially lucky (and proud) when she made them for my third grade class who had never tasted tortillas.   By the way, there were 42 kids in my third grade class.  Wow!  That was definitely a labor of love…. 

This week was my first attempt at making tortillas.  Inspired by this childhood memory, my sons and I worked together on this article.  They really got into rolling the dough.  We were very excited when one of the tortillas ended up in the shape of a heart.  We took pictures as we went along to share. 

We decided to put a dessert twist on tortillas and peppercorns.  So, for the feature picture of this article, we took a homemade black pepper tortilla and used a heart-shaped cookie cutter to cut out 3 hearts.   We then made a little napoleon dessert by layering the  tortilla with Nutella and Strawberry Preserves.  The flavor combination rocked!  You definitely have to try it.  For more information on Peppercorns, check out my post in the archives,



P.S. Sending Special Birthday Wishes to my sister, Desiree.  Love Ya!




Gypsy World Spice Cafe Recipe – Homemade Black Pepper Tortillas

Yields:  12 tortillas


3 cups Flour, plus extra for rolling out the dough

1-2 teaspoons Salt (depending on your taste)

2 teaspoons Baking Powder

1 tablespoon coarsley ground Black Pepper

3/4  cup Hot Water

3/4 cup Shortening


  • Measure your flour, salt, black pepper and baking powder into a bowl and set aside.  
  • Add the shortening to the flour mixture.  Using a pastry cutter, cut the shortening until the mixture has consistency of meal (crumbly).



    • Add hot water to flour mixture.  Use a spatula to combine the ingredients into a ball (until the dough does not stick to the sides of your bowl).  Note:  You may have to add a few tablepoons of flour. 
    • Cover the bowl with a clean dish towel and let rest for 1 hour.
    • Divide the ball into 12 smaller balls.  Cover with a clean dish towel.

  • Using a rolling pin, roll each ball into to be about 1/8 inch thick.  


  • Place tortilla on a hot skillet.  Cook for 1-2 minutes on first side.   It will start to bubble which is a sign to flip it. 
  • Cook for another 1-2 minutes on the other side.


*Variation:  Instead of black pepper, try your favorite blend of Herbs.  We made a variation by swapping out the coarsley ground black pepper with with 2 tablespoons of our “house blend”.  You might want to try Italian Seasoning or Herbs de Provence…


Assembling the Black Pepper Napoleon:

Using a cookie cutter, cut out 3 shapes from a black pepper tortilla.  Spread some Nutella and Strawberry Preserves onto the first tortilla.  Top with the second tortilla.  Repeat.   Garnish with whipped cream and mini-chocolate chips.