Who are we, anyway?

We are fun, food-and-wine frenzied married folk with three crazy kids and a passion for sharing what we do in the kitchen with our favorite people in life! Living in a food mecca like the Bay Area, we are fortunate enough to have an incredible market for fruits and vegetables year-round as well as inspiration from hundreds of amazing restaurants and cuisines in the area. Since we believe in cooking healthy meals 99% of the time, we have fun putting our own spin on the dishes we love most with high-quality herbs and spices, and fresh, local ingredients.

We love cooking and barbecuing for friends and family as often as we can, and after several years of using Animal Head Spice Mix in our home, we want you to use it in yours.  There’s no better way to spice up the spice rack.

We sincerely hope you love it as much as we do!

 

Not just for meat.

Not just for meat.

Some of Our Latest & Greatest Ideas…

We rock our spice in soups, veggies, proteins, and more. Here’s some of our latest concoctions. Interested in sharing your favorite recipes? We’d love to hear how you rock Animal Head Spice. Drop us a line with the details, and we might end up sharing it right here!

Recipe: Greek Chicken Salad

greeksaladChicken breast can be super boring, especially when you eat it as much as we do. But this marinade and salad makes for some serious wow-factor if you want your chicken pecs served up with flavor that goes above and beyond.

Marinate 4-5 breasts in red wine vinegar, olive oil (equal parts, enough to coat the breasts after a good shake), lots of freshly minced garlic, juice of one lemon, salt and pepper, and a tablespoon each of thyme, parsley and oregano.  ***Fresh only!!!  Do NOT use that dried crap.  Seriously.  I marinated the chicken for about 4 hours.  You can do less, but at least an hour.

The salad can be made up of a broad range of things you love in the summertime.  We included tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, avocado and red bell pepper.  You can also add a hearty lettuce like romaine if you want the salad to go a bit farther, but we just did veg this time.  (We also had some Kalamata olives that would have been great, but we forgot them this time.  Boooooo.)

Dressing was Chez Matt’s department.  Olive oil, dijon mustard, red wine vinegar, and Animal Head make for a lovely vinaigrette.  Keep it light on the oil.

Home-made tzatziki is the absolute must-have finish for this dish.  Use fat-free Greek yogurt, chopped mint, more minced garlic (do as much as you can handle…more is always better in tzatziki!!) lemon juice and salt to taste.  This is the dream dollop!!  This seriously makes this salad rock on a whole new level.

Grill the chicken, chop and serve either tossed in or alongside your dressed salad.  Add a handful of feta cheese.   Top with tzatziki, and prepare yourself for some garlic perfume in the coming hours.  But it’s so worth it.  So. Totally. Worth it.

And you can feel good about this meal!  Healthy, tasty, and fresh!  It’s what summer grilling should be about!!  Enjoy!!

Recipe: Skinny Jalapeno Margarita

jalapenomargSometimes we love being stay-at-home moms, sometimes we…do not.  A major bonus is the Friday (or Tuesday) afternoon cocktail that can commence immediately after school-pickup.

Starting early often means ending early, but if you’re like me, this is not the case.  Therefore it is imPERative that we count our booze calories.  It’s annoying, but so is cellulite, and therefore I present you with the Skinny Jalapeno Margarita.  I LOVE margaritas, but I don’t love 400 calories a pop.  I also don’t love tequila with lime juice–the “other” skinny margarita out there, because it’s sour and gross.  I developed this recipe maybe four years ago when the baby pounds were starting to get a little bit harder to shed.  Never will I sacrifice my margaritas.  Ever.  Since then, the whole craft cocktail movement has turned a new addiction my way: the jalapeno margarita.  We are all about the heat in this house.  Fresh jalapeno and lime just go so well together.  Simply, I am combining my two favorites.

All you need is a citrus press (MUST), shaker and muddler (but I’ve used the end of a rolling pin to muddle, so just get creative), fresh limes, navel oranges (they are the sweetest and the smallest and so they fit in the press more easily), tequila (silver is the lowest calorie tequila, but I don’t stray from reposados in my margs), chopped jalapenos, and the secret ingredient: Diet 7-up.  Weird, I know.  But it gives you the necessary sweet to offset the sour, and this LOVELY touch of effervescence, so just trust.  (Aspartame-aphobics may sub a smidge of agave for 1000 more calories.  Just kidding.)

Muddle the jalapenos–seeds and all, don’t be a wussy!–then fill your shaker with ice.  Squeeze 3 lime halves, 2 orange halves, and add a shot of tequila.  Shake with a pint glass.  Take the pint glass and rim with a 50/50 mix of kosher salt and Animal Head Spice Mix.  Don’t forget the Animal Head.  Don’t ever forget the Voodoo.  Fill your rimmed pint with fresh ice and strain your concoction in.  I like to let a few chunks of jalapeno in for effect, but you can strain them all out if you want.  Fill the rest of the pint with Diet 7-up.  AND sip.  Seriously.  Try to sip.  It won’t happen.  This thing goes down like a gallon of water in a desert oasis.

Calorie count is roughly 95.  So have three.

And invite your sister over to have three, too.

Cheers to the weekend!  Happy cocktailing and grilling with your Animal Head Spice Mix!

Recipe: Animal Head and Curry-Spiced Cauliflower Soup

caulisoupAs a girl from Michigan, I could never understand why someone would slave over homemade chicken stocks and roasted veggies and herbs and seasonings (and all the other delectables we find in our favorite soups)–for an entire DAY–only to throw the final product into a food processor and turn it into baby food.  WTF?  When I moved here, I thought Californians were crazy.  And also afraid to chew stuff.  Soup and stew are practically synonyms where I grew up, so for the longest time, I refused to give up my chunky soups.  Little by little, though, as my relationship with my culinary stud of a husband progressed, and meals at great restaurants became notches on my belt, I figured out baby food soup really isn’t that bad.

Especially cauliflower soup.

I’m determined to master it.  Not only do I love cauliflower in its simplest form, but this soup is healthy, easy, and lends an excuse to use a crapload of onions and roasted garlic.  Last attempt, I may have overdone it a SMIDGE on the garlic.  This time, I got it right.  Even Chez Hubby said so.

I’ve been craving some Indian flair the last few nights, so in addition to Animal Head Spice, I used a heavy hand of some obscure Vindaloo Curry we have in a plastic baggie in our cupboard.  After chopping a head of cauliflower and tossing it with a good dose of olive oil, kosher salt, Voodoo and curry, I roasted it in the oven on broil for about fifteen minutes, until browned.  Then I added it to the soup pot, which was sweating one cooked onion and about ten (smaller) cloves of garlic.  Added five cups of chicken stock, simmered on low for about an hour, then into the blender with another couple of shakes of curry and Voodoo.  Depending on your desired consistency, you could choose to add more stock during or after blending.

Then the hubby made it look reeaal niiiice with some green onion, garlic oil drizzle and a pretty line of Animal Head Spice as garnish.  The spice mix goes SO well with this soup, and with Indian flavors in general.

If I weren’t taking the month off of wine to prepare my liver for the looming holiday season, I would have enjoyed a nice bottle of…ANYTHING with this meal.  Really.  Anything.  I’d especially kill for a glass of the Loma Prieta Pinotage flipping me off from my wine fridge right now.  But you enjoy, please.  Bottoms up!

Recipe: Grilled Cauliflower Salad

caulisaladAnother winged masterpiece from my husband tonight, and I must say, this time I was SUPER skeptical.  Green grapes?  Hot peppers?  Grilled cauliflower? BLUEBERRIES?

And I stand corrected.

This will be my shortest entry yet, because it was so simple and so $$$ with red meat.  Of course, we paired it with Animal Head spiced-grilled short ribs, which is becoming a staple in our home, but the salad was the winner.  Simply, grill large chunks of cauliflower seasoned heavily with Animal Head Spice Mix until tender, about 15 minutes on medium heat.  Alongside that, throw your favorite large hot pepper–padron, jalapeno, etc.–and get a nice char on those as well.  We grilled four of those bad boy padrons, but they be HOT, so we only chopped one up to go into the salad.  The others rimmed the “piggy platter” (how rad is that platter??? You will have to check us out on Instagram for the full pic) for the bravest diners amongst us, which included myself, chef hubby, and my mom.

For just three peeps, we chopped a handful of green and purple grapes, blueberries, half a red onion, and one of the grilled peppers.  Throw in the cauliflower, add a few more shakes of Animal Head, and dress minimally with some good olive oil, kosher salt and pepper, and you have a virtually dressing-free masterpiece that will force you to finger-lick the afterthoughts.  The sweetness of the grapes mesh so well with the charred and spicy flavor of the grilled pepper, and the olive oil brings all of the heat and cold together into a splendid little salad you never thought would work.

Okay, well I’M the one that didn’t think it would work.  That’s why he’s the chef, and I’m the writer.

Cheers to your Monday night feasts.  May they rock like ours do.

Recipe: Root Veg Zoodle Soup

Ironically, I was inspired by this super-healthy recipe in Bon Appetit Magazine while I was waiting for Gus’s three-cavity diagnosis at the dentist office. It was a good three months ago, and I remember thinking we would need some healthy, new soups under our belts after the decadent holiday season. Well, here we stand on January 2, and the Zoodle Soup is in the house.

Obviously you can Google “Bon Appetit Zoodle Soup,” and presto, there she be, but because I must always deviate from the norm in some small way, I’m relaying our version. Plus, I have to aim to please Chef Hubby by doing something a smidge different that works, because it’s just not cool to follow a recipe straight up (in our house, anyway). Basically, the soup is pretty straightforward. 4-6 oz. of bacon, one large carrot, one large parsnip, a turnip, brussel sprouts, one large onion, 8 cloves of garlic, scratch vegetable or chicken stock, bay leaves, basil, thyme sprigs, oregano sprigs and of COURSE, some Animal Head Spice Mix. We also threw a rutabaga in just because we’re crazy like that.

I used a “veggie noodler” (a sort of medieval-looking gadget that turns veggies into noodle-esque looking things–Google it, I really don’t know what the technical term is) for the carrot and parsnip, but the rutabaga and turnip required a fine matchstick chop because I was going to grate my knuckles off trying to wring those dense veggies through the noodler. After chopping the bacon into 1–inch portions, saute it until crispy. Remove bacon. The actual recipe calls for dumping all but two tablespoons of the bacon fat, but I say hell no. Keep most of it. Especially since we did extra veg, and had to add more stock at the end…keep that bacon fat, baby. Add the onion, then the garlic, cook until translucent, then add everything else–your stock, your mecca of root vegetables, bacon (save some for the finishing touch, though!) bay leaves, thyme and oregano sprigs, and 2-3 tablespoons of Animal Head Spice Mix. Now, we deviated again from the recipe because it only said to cook the veggies for three minutes to create an al dente vegetable. We weren’t diggin’ that, because we wanted more flavor from the veg. Everything cooked for about a half an hour on low, and the veggies were cooked perfectly. The rutabaga did sweeten it a little bit, but a little red wine vinegar (about one cup) balanced it out at the end and really gave the broth the acid it was needing. I also played with the salt and black pepper levels until it was just right.

Bon Appetit suggests a basil oil/anchovy/lemon zest finish for the real deal, but we said skip the extra oil (do more bacon on top instead!!) and did some chopped fresh basil instead. The bacon, basil and acid from the soup with the veg was just killer. A healthy and flavorful way to bring in the New Year! Plus is was really filling. After three bowls.

Since we’re cleansing our abused bodies of holiday toxins for awhile, we didn’t get to enjoy a nice glass of Sauvignon Blanc with this. That part hurts a little. Okay, a lot. I will live vicariously through those of you who eat this soup with a great bottle of white wine.

Cheers, and Happy end of Holidays!

Recipe: #TheHeadMakesItRed Chicken Verde

NFL Playoffs. Do or die. Matt’s Raiders have the one o’clock, my Lions have the evening game. Let’s rock some kickass chicken chile verde, and just munch on it the whole day long.

Take 10 chicken thighs (we like leftovers), doused heavily with Animal Head Spice Mix and nothing else, and sear on high heat over a splash of oil for five minutes on both sides. Put aside. In another saute pan, cook down two yellow onions, three Serrano peppers, and six chopped scallions. Combine with the chicken, and add half a cup of chopped cilantro. Check the score of the game. Don’t get mad that your team is losing.

Next, add 16 oz. of canned chile verde sauce, two cups of 505 Hatch Valley Green Chili Salsa…which many of you won’t have access to. You can sub 3 small cans of diced Ortega chiles (mild or hot, you choose) instead. Add an additional tablespoon of Animal Head Spice to the mix, and bake for two hours at 300 degrees. Just so you know, we understand that “verde” means green. But the Animal Head makes it red.

We roll healthy. So we did a spin on a Mexican pilaf as opposed to tortillas, cheese and sour cream: Toast a teaspoon of whole cumin for two or three minutes (you can totally sub ground cumin), and add a tablespoon of oil, five cloves of sliced or minced garlic. Cook until golden brown. Add two cups of hominy, two cups of corn (fresh or frozen), one diced red bell pepper, one diced tomato, four chopped scallions, and two cups of cooked quinoa.

Drink. Cuss at the T.V. One of our teams has already lost, the second one is losing.

Mix thoroughly. Finish with fresh cilantro to taste.

Delicately place your amazing chicken verde on top of your even more amazing Mexican pilaf. Decorate with sour cream, chopped lettuce, salsa, avocado, fresh red onion, or nothing at all. Eat with full food spirit, because this dish is soooo good, and sooo not that bad for you. Spice is good for the soul.

Football, as we have seen today, is not, at least in this house.

Cheers!

Vibrant color and flavor

for your favorite dishes.

Vibrant color and flavor

for your favorite dishes.

Here’s the stuff.

Animal Head Spice
8oz. Bottle

Women’s Tee-Shirt
S / M / L / XL

Men’s Tee-Shirt
S / M / L / XL

Low sodium. Hint of heatTouch of sweet.

Low sodium. Hint of heatTouch of sweet.

About Animal Head Spice Co.

Animal Head Spice Mix was created in 2005 by chef Matt Mermod upon opening his own Creole-influenced restaurant in downtown Napa, California. Though the restaurant did not survive the economic hit of 2008, his twelve-ingredient spice mix used in many of his most popular dishes did, and for ten years, he has been using it endlessly on various culinary creations in the Silicon Valley catering world. With a hint of heat and a touch of sweet, Animal Head Spice Mix is heavier on flavor than it is on salt, making it a perfect seasoning of choice for the sodium-conscious.  Most importantly, Animal Head gets its edge from its versatility–no spice out there pairs equally well with poultry, seafood, or beef. Our love for this stuff goes beyond grilled meats, though; this spice is easily rocked in soups, pastas, breakfast dishes, cocktails and more!

Our love for Animal Head Spice Mix is carnal.  Order some today, put it on everything, and enjoy.  Your love will be carnal, too.

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