Kitchen basics: Taco seasoning

I can’t help but shake my head at the price for commercial seasoning mixes. In addition to being heavily laden with salt and/or sugar, they also create a lot of garbage waste with the packaging.

Here’s a remedy that let’s you control the amount of salt as well as coming in a reusable package! Use it freely for chilis, tacos, burritos or anywhere else you might be looking for a little kick. And if there’s a seasoning you don’t like, just omit it.

Homemade Taco Seasoning

Course: Kitchen basics

Cuisine: Mexican

Prep Time: 5 min

Total Time: 5 min

Yield: 1.5 cups


  • 8 tablespoons chili powder
  • 4 tablespoons cumin
  • 2 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 tsp chipotle powder ( optional)
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoon dried minced onion or 1 tsp onion powder (not salt)
  • 2 teaspoon oregano
  • 2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoon corn starch (optional)


  1. Add all the spices to a mason jar. Close and shake until fully combined.
  2. 2 Tablespoons of the mix is equivalent to 1 package of commercial seasoning

Plov: The Instant Pot Edition

The inspiration for this column came from an article in the Guardian that was written a couple of years ago. It reminded me how much I love all these rice dishes from the region, whether its origins are Iraq, Iran, or other parts of Central Asia.

I am convinced that there are as many recipes for Plov, a meat-vegetable-rice one-dish deliciousness, as there are Uzbeki grandmothers. It’s all part of a great regional rice tradition that fits into the umbrella term of pilaf or pilau.

Sheep farming is an important part of this nation’s agricultural tradition and so plov is usually made with lamb or mutton. Chicken and beef are also used but to a lesser extent. Vegetarian versions are less common but not unknown. I’ve chosen to offer a vegetarian version this time but I’m sure there will be meat editions coming in the future. Also in the future, I will publish a stove-top version of this dish for those who don’t enjoy an Instant Pot in their kitchen.

Jeweled Rice


  • 2 cups Basmati Rice or other long grained rice
  • 1 Tbsp oil
  • 1 large onion finely diced
  • 2 carrots grated
  • 2 stalks celery roughly chopped
  • 2 – inch piece of ginger, grated or 2 tsps of dry ginger
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 3 tsp salt , divided or to taste
  • 1 12 cup mixed dried fruits raisins, apricots, prunes, dates, currants etc
  • 1 head whole garlic head sliced in half horizontally
  • 2 12 cups hot water
  • 14 cup chopped nuts pistachios, almonds or pecans
  • 12 cup fresh pomegranate seeds for garnish
  • parsley (or cilantro) to garnish


  1. Wash and soak the rice until the water runs clear. Allow it to soak for a couple of hours. Drain well.
  2. Finely chop the assorted dried fruits into equal-sized ‘bits’. Set aside
  3. Set the Instant Pot to saute mode. Add 1 tbsp of oil to the pot and allow it to heat to “Hot”. Add onion and stir frequently until it is golden.
  4. Add ginger, coriander and 1 tsp of the salt. Allow it to continue cooking until aromatic.
  5. Cancel the saute function (off button) for the Instant Pot.
  6. Add the dried fruit bits on top. Mix the remaining 2 tsps of salt with the drained rice. Add the rice to the pot but DO NOT MIX. Smooth it with the back of a spoon.
  7. Using the end of a wooden spoon, poke five to six holes in rice all the way through to the bottom of the pot.
  8. Press the cut garlic into the rice. Again, do not stir or mix.
  9. Slowly, being careful to not disturb the rice, pour the 2-1/2 cups of hot water into the cooking pot.It helps to pour the water over the back of a serving spoon to make its flow more gentle.
  10. Cover and seal the Instant Pot. Set it for the “rice” cooking setting (approximately 12 minutes or if you prefer a manual setting, cook for 8 minutes on high pressure.
  11. Allow the cooker to depressurize for 10 minutes before opening.
  12. After opening, remove the garlic head halves and gently mix the contents of the pot. If you’re a fan of roast garlic, feel free to squeeze the cloves back into the dish.
  13. Traditionally, this dish is served on a large serving platter. Once the rice/vegetable mixture has been plated, sprinkle the top of the dish with the “jewels” — chopped parsley, chopped cilantro if you prefer, chopped nuts, and the pomegranate seeds.

How to press tofu

There’s a basic all-purpose tofu marinade at the bottom of this page.

Remove the tofu from its packaging and drain any remaining liquid from it.

Fold a kitchen towel to make a medium sized rectangle. Line with a folded paper towel. Set the tofu on the top third of the towel . Wrap the top of the tofu block with the kitchen towel by folding the bottom 2/3s up and over the tofu block.

Set a small cutting board on top of the tofu. Weight it down with something heavy, like a 28-ounce can of tomatoes or a cast iron frying pan. Allow the tofu block to press for 15 to 30 minutes.

Remove the weight and drain off the excess liquid. Pat the tofu dry with more towels. Slice the pressed tofu into cubes, thick rectangles, or sticks, according to how you plan to use it.

The tofu will now be able to accept a marinade or is ready for a starch coating.

A good all-purpose tofu marinade

Course: Kitchen basics

Yield: 4


  • 1 pkg Extra Firm Tofu – drained and pressed
  • 3 Tbsp Rice vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp Maple syrup
  • 3 Tbsp Tomato paste
  • 2 Tbsp Soy sauce or Tamari
  • 1.5 Tbsp garlic/ginger paste or 2 cloves garlic, 1 Tbsp minced ginger.


  1. Cut the drained and pressed tofu into the shape you want.
  2. Mix all remaining ingredients in a bowl. Add tofu and mix gently. Cover and refrigerate for 2 to 24 hours. Food safety: uncooked tofu must be refrigerated.
  3. Cook as called for in your recipe. If grilling, use the leftover marinade to brush onto the tofu burgers, kebabs, etc.