’Tis the season

Spice use demonstrated at Marquette Senior Center

Dip infused with the Spice Merchants’ special Great Lakes blend is available for sampling at Tuesday’s “foodie” class put on by the Northern Center for Lifelong Learning at the Marquette Senior Center. (Journal photo by Christie Bleck)

MARQUETTE — Local seniors literally added a little spice to their lives at the Marquette Senior Center.

The Northern Center for Lifelong Learning sponsored a “foodie” demonstration/class Tuesday at the center, with the mother-son duo Carolyn and Michael Carl giving tips to participants on how to spice up food.

The Carls own Spice Merchants, located at 108 W. Washington St. in downtown Marquette, so they know something about the subject. And fortunately for the participants’ taste buds, they provided samples seasoned with special mixes from their store that included roasted nuts, dip and meatballs, spiced with what Michael Carl said were simple blends.

Those simple blends, though, resulted in more complex taste sensations, as was obvious with the attendees happily tasting them.

However, the dishes can be simple to make.

“Our nuts have our peppered rosemary on them, and that’s really easy,” Michael Carl said.

Carolyn Carl elaborated a bit on the recipe.

“I use olive oil, and then you get the olive oil hot, and then you put your spice in, and you just toss your nuts for six or seven minutes,” she said.

The nuts then are cooled.

However, it’s not just peppered rosemary that can be used to flavor nuts.

“You can do this with any spice, whatever flavor notes you want to pick up,” Carolyn Carl said.

She also talked about their Great Lakes blends, one of which was used to flavor dip for the class.

“We have several blends at the shop that you can mix with sour cream, mayonnaise, cream cheese — whatever you want to do,” she said. “For dips and the holidays, it’s just kind of a nice, fun thing.”

Chances are most people won’t think a dip flavored with such a blend is bland.

For instance, Michael Carl said the Great Lakes mix has a lot of shallots.

“That one’s got a nice little kick,” he said about Tuesday’s sample, which had the potential of making the accompanying crackers and pretzels much tastier.

Sally Olsen was the NCLL class liaison for the day.

“This group likes to know more about spices,” Olsen said. “How do you use spices? Which ones go best with which things? There’s so much information about spices and health, like turmeric and ginger — you know, anti-inflammatories for people with arthritis.”

For example, Carolyn Carl talked about the many varieties of salt their shop carries, including the Himalayan salt used in the nuts, chardonnay and merlot.

“We have a smoky salt, so if you want to make anything and make it taste like it’s wood-fire grilled, you can just add that as a finishing salt,” she said.

She particularly touted the Himalayan pink salt, which she stressed has health benefits, having 84 minerals.

“Even people who have high blood pressure can tolerate it better because it doesn’t get so much sodium chloride in it,” Carolyn Carl said, “and also, it’s full of magnesium, which women really need.”

Michael Carl said it’s also high in iron.

“The only thing it lacks is iodine,” he said. “There’s no iodine in Himalayan salt.”

Although Carolyn Carl noted iodine is beneficial for thyroid function, gargling with Himalayan salt also can help asthma sufferers since it kills mouth germs.

On the sweeter side during Tuesday’s demo was pumpkin dip, which she said is good on toast in the morning.

“Tastes like pumpkin pie, basically,” she said.

She also made roasted butternut squash with a little bit of apple and carrot and mixed with the store’s Autumn Spice blend, which was appropriate for the time of year.

That blend has cinnamon and clove, she said.

Carolyn Carl said that with butternut squash, she microwaves a good-sized one for three or four minutes to soften it, after which she peels or cubes it.

“I tossed it with also a little bit of our garlic olive oil just because I kind of think it takes away the sweetness from that,” she said. “Roasting your vegetables also is going to bring out a natural sweetness in the vegetables.”

She did acknowledge going “a little heavy” on the Autumn Spice so the class could really taste the flavor.

Mashed potatoes probably won’t rise to the top of most culinary lists when it comes to spicy flavor. However, that dish too can be seasoned to add zip.

Michael Carl said the store’s cheddar-cheese powder can be added to mashed potatoes to add flavor.

“Dill is also great in mashed potatoes,” he said.

Once spices find their way into people’s homes, a little “maintenance” needs to be kept in mind.

Carolyn Carl recommended people replace their spices every six months.

However, she had one suggestion for the spices still good enough to be used in recipes: “The more spices you add, the more it tastes more ‘restaurant-esque.'”

For more information on the NCLL and upcoming programs, visit www.nmu.edu/ncll.

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is cbleck@miningjournal.net.