LETS TALK SPICES
Let’s talk spices! Do you ever open your spice drawer and wonder which ones you should use for which recipes? Well I’m here to help! I’m going to share with you my favorite go to’s, which ones I think should always be on hand and what some of the health benefits many of them bring.
Start with the Basics. First don’t be intimidated by these beautiful flavors, they are only going to do you good. But like most things in life, a little goes a long way. So remember, always go by the recipe measurements or, if you don’t have measurements add a little at a time. You can always add but you can’t take away.
Here’s a list of my favorite “go to” spices & Seeds
Poppyseeds I like to use Poopyseeds in my dressing and garnish for my Colorful Coleslaw. They also are great in my Orange & Vanilla Angel food cake. The thing I like most about Poppyseed’s is they give a great texture and crunch to many dishes and I love seeing the little black specks through out. It brings the dish to another level.
SESAME SEEDS Not only are Sesame Seeds packed with vitamins such as Iron, Magnesium and fiber but they’re nutty flavor pairs so well with many recipes. I always use them in my Asian dishes, especially my stir fries. You can throw them in or toast them ahead of time to give extra flavor. I also top my oatmeal in the morning with a spoonful of sesame seeds for added texture and taste.
FENNEL SEEDS This is always a staple in my spice drawer. I use it for seasoning veggies, stocks & sauces. Fennel seeds are also used in Italian sausages and fish dishes. Some people also chew the seeds after meals to help with digestion. I like to grind it up in my spice grinder or if I’m looking for more of a workout I use my Mortar & Pestle . I add a few teaspoons to my pasta sauce for an extra boost of flavor.
PAPRIKA This spice is a rich blood orange red hue. No wonder it makes your food look and taste so good. It comes in other flavors like Hungarian Paprika or smoked paprika. I love making Mediteranen dishes with this spice like Chicken and Olives, or I also like to top my hummus with a sprinkle of it for added color and taste. Paprika is loaded with essential vitamins and mineral and is rich in antioxidants, including vitamin C.
LEMON PEPPER I put this on everything. My lemony Asparagus, My Grilled Burgers and even my parchment wrapped baked Halibut with steamed veggies. Its a perfect marriage of flavor and taste.
PEPPERCORNS (PINK & WHITE) I should experiment more with these beauties but I have only used them on my Steaks. I like to grind them up in my Mortar & Pestle and give them a good crush, not to much though, I leave some whole for added flavor and texture. I then press them down into a steak and throw it on the grill. Make a peppercorn sauce to go with it and your in business!
GARLIC AND ONION POWDER I always have these on hand and I use them almost everyday. I would say the majority of my recipes have these two in them. Stock up, they’re great “on hand” spices.
CUMIN This is my “go to” spice when I am cooking Spanish, Indian or Mediterranean dishes. I love using it in my Ground Turkey Tacos, it gives the dish an extra warmth. I also love using it on my Spiced Pita Chips & Hummus. Cumin is rich in antioxidants, calcium, iron and magnesium. In addition to preventing disease, incorporating more cumin into your diet may reduce blood sugar and improve digestion.
RED PEPPER FLAKES Use this to spice up any dish. A little goes a long way so judge your tastebuds accordingly. I use this on top of Pizza, in my many slow cooker stews and also in my Guacamole.
OREGANO This dried herb is a powerhouse of flavor. It adds a lemony earthy taste that flavors many wonderful dishes. I use it almost always for any Italian Dish I am making like my Spicy Pork Meatballs or my Homemade Pasta Sauce. Its also great in Greek dishes such as Meyor Lemon Potatoes and Stewed Green Beans. I also found that Mexican Oregano is fabulous in Spanish Dishes. Chef Rick Bayless turned me onto using it and I’ve never looked back. You can expect on Taco Night in my house you’ll taste this!
Next, lets not be afraid to try something new and unfamiliar. Here’s a few exotic spices that are fun to experiment with.
FENNEL POLLEN This stuff is special yet is on the more expensive side. It’s usually picked from wild fennel, which grows in Italy and California. It doesn’t taste like fennel seed or anise, so it truly adds a different flavor to food. Fennel pollen has a strong, sweet flavor with some licorice notes and hints of honey and citrus. The aroma is somewhat musty with deep floral notes. We love topping it on Pizza or adding it to a slow cooked dish like a Pork Loin roast. Fennel Pollen not only enhances savory dishes but it is a wonderful secret ingredient to add to baking such as carrot cake muffins, fruit pies and even savory breads.
CARDAMOM is found usually in Indian dishes but it can also be used in Middle Eastern cooking. It comes as a pod and there are tiny black seeds inside that you can crush up or use whole. Cardamom has a strong, unique spicy-sweet taste, which is slightly aromatic. I like to use it in desserts as well as my Turmeric Pistachio Chicken & Persian yellow rice recipe. Its also great in afternoon teas.
CURRY POWDER Is always on hand. I use it in my Curried Yogurt Chicken or my Coconut Thai Curry vegetable soup. Curry powder is usually a mixture of turmeric, chilli powder, ground coriander, ground cumin, ground ginger and pepper, and can be bought in mild, medium or hot strengths. I usually go for the mild. It adds not only a beautiful color to your food but the aromas and flavors are very unique. I usually have some kind of curry dish at least once a week. And don’t forget about the health benefits like prevention of cancer, protection against heart disease, reduce Alzheimer’s disease symptoms, ease pain and inflammation and protects the immune system from bacterial infections. Its a powerhouse of a spice!
GARAM MASALA which means warm spice, is a staple blend in Indian cooking. Typically it includes cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, cumin, coriander, nutmeg, and peppercorns. Ground up it is this gorgeous burnt brown hue with aromas of an Indian kitchen. It pairs lovely in stews, my spiced lentils or even a sweet dessert.
TUMERIC is not only known for its powerful health benefits, it also adds the most beautiful shade of golden yellow to your food. You will mostly see it used in Indian cooking as well as Middle Eastern cooking but you will also find it in my Chicken Noddle soup. Tumeric has a warm, bitter taste and is frequently used to flavor or color curry powders, mustards, butters, and cheeses. My brother uses it in his wellness tea of Tumeric, ginger, lemon, honey & Cayenne for an added boost to his immune system or if he’s starting to feel a little cold coming on he will make up this concagtion. Warning, Turmeric will stain everything so wear gloves when preparing dishes.
NUTMEG has a warm, spicy aroma & flavor and can be used in sweet and savory cooking. It is a component of the classic béchamel sauce and is used to flavor a host of cakes, puddings and custards. I like to buy it whole not ground and grate it myself. I think it tastes better that way and its more fun. Whenever I use cinnamon I always use nutmeg along side, I just feel like they belong together. You will find this in many of my dishes including my Mac n Cheese, Apple Harvarti Grilled Cheeses, Spiced banana walnut bread and my cinnamon thumbprint cookies.
Last but not least here are a few of my “go to” enhancers, my favorite mixed spices.
HERBS DE PROVENCE was discovered by my husband while we were shopping at Williams Sonoma. I had heard about it but never tried it. We decided to give it a go and my first thought was this would taste great on chicken. So thats what I made and it came out delicious! This blend of dried herbs is a combination of thyme, marjoram, rosemary, oregano, savory and lavender. What can be bad about that? Not only is it a beautiful looking spice its also a powerhouse of elegant flavor just like the region!
ROTISSERIE CHICKEN SEASONING is exactly what you want on Chicken. This blend can be found at Williams Sonoma . Flavors include a combination of garlic, sea salt, lemon peel, thyme, rosemary, chile flakes, tarragon and parsley. It takes the chicken to another level and brings a family favorite to the table at least once a week!
PIZZA SEASONING If your going to make pizza or you just picked one up sprinkle this on top generously. You can also sprinkle this one your favorite pasta dish or I’ve even tried it on Tuscan potatoes, yum! This all time favorite blend of spices is made up of Garlic, sun-dried tomato, California chili, cayenne pepper flakes, onion, sea salt, basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme, black pepper. Get this in your spice drawer, trust me!
CHECK OUT SOME OF THE RECIPES….
Spiced Pita with Edamame Hummus
Spiced Banana Walnut Bread
Carrot Cake Muffins