By Rachel from A Southern Fairytale
That is a question that I get all the time and really, it depends on you, your personal cooking style, what flavor profiles you prefer and how adventurous you are.
Not all of those hundreds of little bottles on your grocer’s shelves are actually ’spices’ a good portion of them are herbs, but for the purpose of today’s discussion, we’ll refer to them all as spices.
There are a few basic spice staples that everyone should have in their arsenal (we’ll ignore salt and pepper for now because if you don’t have those, well..):
- Garlic: Garlic is one of my favorite spices to use, period. When purchasing your Garlic Spice for your pantry you need to decide whether you want Garlic Salt or Garlic Powder. Garlic Powder is just dehydrated Ground Garlic while Garlic Salt is a mixture of Garlic, Salt, Garlic Oil and a preservative like silicate. Garlic Powder is stronger than Garlic Salt and if you use Garlic Salt in a recipe, watch the addition of any other salt.
- Cinnamon: This heady and aromatic spice is thought to be the oldest of the spices and can be used in everything from baking cakes and cookies, spicing up your applesauce to adding a bit of richness to your morning coffee. In addition to the wonderful flavor that the cinnamon adds to everything, 1 tsp of ground cinnamon contains as many antioxidants as ½ C of blueberries!
- Red Peppers : The red peppers family includes: Cayenne, Ground Red Peppers, Chili Powder and Paprika (in descending order of heat index) each of these adds a bit of heat, color and flavor to whatever dish they’re added to. One of additional benefits besides the delicious zing and flavor you get when cooking with red peppers is that the red pepper family are believed to boost your metabolism a bit when eaten and the capsaicin they contain helps increase your feeling of fullness so that you end up eating less.
- Rosemary: Rosemary is a wonderfully fragrant herb that is fabulous in everything from chicken, roasted potatoes, fish and even heated up with melted butter and spread over rolls. Rosemary is versatile and can make the most simple roast chicken dish taste like a gourmet meal.
- Cumin ; Cumin is a staple in my household because I love to make Mexican food. Cumin is an ingredient in most taco seasoning mixes and adds a wonderful nutty, peppery, rich earthy flavor to your foods. Cumin is also believed to aid in indigestion, boost the immune system and metabolism!
- Oregano : Oregano has a strong earthy flavor that many find to be bitter on it’s own so it’s best to combine it with other spices and herbs. Oregano is most commonly used in pizzas, sauces, chili’s and stews
This is just a basic beginner’s guide to the most useful and most used spices. There are many more like nutmeg, turmeric, basil, saffron, curry… the list goes on and on. To choose the spices right for you, you should learn what kinds of food you enjoy the most and go online and do a little research into those recipes on sites like allrecipes.com and mccormick.com . Both contain a wealth of information with recipes and spices and herbs.
Once you become a bit more confident and comfortable in your cooking abilities, you can branch out and start making your own spice blends like this one that I make and use for just about everything or even a basic spice blend such as 1/3 garlic powder, 1/3 salt and 1/3 pepper. Great flavor and simple to use in everything from steaks and chicken to corn and green beans.
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