Banish Bland Food and Learn to Store Your Herbs and Spices


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
  :  83 comments   :  15,108 Views

Some people buy dresses. I buy spices. They're my vice.

To me, food isn't worth eating if it's bland and flavorless. Novice cooks might reach for the unhealthy trinity of fat, salt or sugar for flavor, and they'll turn out some tasty food--but it won't be healthy. A good cook knows that flavor starts with your ingredients. Start with wholesome food that's as close to the source as possible (as unprocessed as can be), and use herbs and spices to impart flavor.

Spices are pricey, but a little goes a long way. Learn how to maximize flavor and get the most out of your investment by watching the video below. I'll share my tips for storing spices and using them to add flavor to your favorite foods.

I've also created a cookbook with some of the herb and spice combinations I've created for SparkRecipes. They have no salt!

What is your favorite spice combination?

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  • 83
    Spices and Shoes are my passions.
    i just bought a pepper melange ,ground peppers and dried peppers on "open sky"
    they are great. there is mexican chile pepper,ground jalopeno,roasted paprika
    wow just check it out. you will love itvif you like spice. - 3/16/2012   5:42:33 PM
  • 82
    I wouldn't say I have a favorite. More of just seeing what works. :) I like watching cooking shows like Top Chef and the Next Food Network Star which give me inspiration to try new combination's with whatever I am cooking. Unfortunately, I don't record amounts or what I added and have to recreate the next time around. - 1/18/2011   10:56:57 AM
  • 81
    When making fishball soup, the smell of cinnamon, star anise and cumin mixed together, hmmmm. - 6/8/2010   8:24:32 PM
    I could Never live without herbs and spices yum !!!! :-) - 5/16/2010   3:04:38 PM
  • 79
    I love basil, and use lots of Cavender's Greek Seasoning. - 5/9/2010   11:50:52 PM
  • 78
    I love cinnamon!! - 5/9/2010   1:36:12 PM
  • 77
    I love cinnamon! - 5/9/2010   10:39:15 AM
  • 76
    I don't know that I have a favorite spice combo, but I love cilantro, basil (with tomatoes and a drizzle of olive oil, yum!), ginger and cumin (can't make lamb chops without it.) - 5/9/2010   8:34:36 AM
  • 75
    I'm lucky that I have worked in both Indian and Chinese restaurants, and I know a few of the 'secrets ' behind some of my favourite dishes. Use of spices is a primary secret as are the proportions, but it doesn't stop there. Try cooking some foods in ways we wouldn't normally think of. Steamed Crab with Ginger and Lettuce. Delicious!! I would never have thought to cook LETTUCE! - 5/8/2010   9:59:26 AM
  • ANNE737
    Spices can make such a difference! - 5/8/2010   8:58:05 AM
  • 73
    My husband loves experimenting with spices, and I've been trying to maintain my window herb garden for years. I'll make sure to check out the video at my leisure. - 5/7/2010   10:45:44 PM
  • 72
    I grow fresh herbs in my garden and they make the best salad dressings. - 5/7/2010   10:41:08 AM
  • 71
    I'm a spice person,west indian cooking is all about spices....I have the herbal kind that i grow....and the.others i cloves,curry,tumeric,cayenne pep.,cinnamon,paprika....these ones i use daily........there lots of others as well. - 5/6/2010   9:06:37 PM
  • 70
    Spices don't have to be expensive if you know where to shop. I get most of mine at the 99 cent or dollar store. They even carry some whole spices so you get fresh flavor. I have gotten whole cumin, nutmeg, and cinnamon there. Also, the ground spices I use most often like lemon pepper and garlic (which I use in everything in place of salt) come in bigger jars. - 5/6/2010   10:42:23 AM
    I'm trying to use different spices other than my regular standbys. I have to greatly reduce the sodium in our meals. Your cookbook is helping me. - 5/6/2010   8:28:22 AM
  • JUDYANN069
    I just adore Fennel and garlic with tomatoe dishes. Can't live without cilantro either - 5/6/2010   8:08:15 AM
  • 67
    My spice cupboard is overflowing. I've become addicted to Penzey's Spice store. I just went last week and purchased 8 jars of various spices to make Indian curry and Mexican dishes. Made chicken tacos yesterday with their smoked chipotle powder and it was delicious! - 5/6/2010   7:27:53 AM
  • _MAOMAO_
    I love my fresh ground black pepper. Canned stuff is evil! I love my Costco Organic No-Salt Seasoning, it's fresher than any other combo I've found. Love my homemade pumpkin pie spice and homemade curry. Bay leaves, yummy, are cheap in bulk. Cilantro, cumin, fresh crushed cloves. Couldn't do w/o my mortar and pestle, too. There's nothing like standing over it, smelling those spices and herbs and seeds as I crush them and let all their flavors out. - 5/6/2010   1:27:07 AM
  • 65
    Gotta have garlic! - 5/5/2010   11:43:47 PM
  • 64
    Thank you so much - 5/5/2010   9:11:23 PM
    I love Penzeys Spices, too. I usually order on line, since the nearest store is 11/2 hours away. However, last week I happened to be at a Conference and made sure to stop on my way home. It was one of my motivation rewards to restock my spices and try some new ones. - 5/5/2010   5:06:05 PM
  • 62
    Spices add such layers of flavor to dishes. It's great. I love paprika and garlic as a combination. And shopping at Penzey's, especially since I'm on the mailing list and get coupons (sometimes for free jars of their new spice combos) with every catalog. - 5/5/2010   4:39:40 PM
  • 61
    Thank you for the tips. I love spices and when I first got married I use to pick up a new one each shopping day. I would look at recipes for the week and then write down what I needed to have for it. It was a great way to learn and to slowly add to the spice rack. I loved the little tips that would be on the containers stating what the herb or spice would go good with. Thanks - 5/5/2010   4:30:35 PM
  • 60
    I also am "hooked" on Penzey's spices. We are lucky enough to have a store locally, but the spices can be ordered on line. They have a wonderful selection of ethnic spices and also many salt free choices.
    Sue - 5/5/2010   3:08:55 PM
    I like basil. I make a basil pesto that is awesome! Haven't put it in the recipe calculator yet, but we like to use it for the leftover pasta. A great was to make a leftover new. - 5/5/2010   2:49:12 PM
    Oh, boy! I don't think I can pick a favorite! I grow quite a few varieties of herbs and dry them in my kitchen. I like a combination of sage, rosemary and oregano for lamb, pork, or chicken. I like dill, ground black pepper and lemon zest for mild-flavored fish. I like rosemary and garlic for trout. I like thyme, basil, and oregano for almost any poultry. I like chipotle powder, cumin, garlic and cinnamon for Southwestern or Tex-Mex. I like paprika, garlic and nutmeg for stroganoff, Swedish meatballs and just about anything with mushrooms in it (including sauteed mushrooms). I like the combination of ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ground cloves with sweet fruits like berries, apples, pears, and peaches. I'm a purist when it comse to my citrus fruits, though, and don't use anything on them. I like to season summer squashes with oregano and garlic. On winter squashes I use cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice with just little sprinkle of dark brown sugar. Spaghetti squash definitely calls for a tiny little splash of EVOO, garlic, crushed rosemary, basil and oregano - and a good sprinkling of grated fresh parmesan. cheese. For a basic barbecue dry rub, I combine paprika(2 parts), garlic powder (1 part), black pepper (1 part), dark brown sugar (1 part), and a healthy dash of cumin. I'm sure there are many more, but that's more than enough rambling grom me.

    I love herbs and spices and love trying them in various combinations. I've been cooking since I was tall enough to reach the stove and learned the "kitchen witchery" of herbs and spices on my grandmother's apron strings. I can't cook without them...seriously.
    - 5/5/2010   2:15:09 PM
  • 57
    I took a 'mini' home ec class when I was in 7th grade and fell in love with the school's spice cabinet . . . if just smelled so good and exotic when you opened the doors! My goal became having a spice cabinet like that some day and I'm happy to say, I DO have that now!

    I've been using a lot of cumin lately, so I guess that with garlic and hot pepper is my favorite, at the moment! - 5/5/2010   11:59:28 AM
  • 56
    Great tips! - 5/5/2010   11:55:06 AM
  • 55
    I love to use spices and have started growing a few of my own. I regularly use sage, tarragon, rosemary, thyme, oregano, garlic (all fresh, from my garden) and cinnamon, nutmeg, sea salt...I guess I would have to say my favorite(s) would be garlic and cinnamon. I don't think I have ever seasoned two like dishes exactly the same since starting to experiment and have never had a "bad" spice event! - 5/5/2010   11:48:08 AM
  • 54
    oops, repeat! - 5/5/2010   11:28:08 AM
  • 53
    My absolute favorite spice is cinnamon. I don't usually use spice blends, but I could add cinnamon to pretty much anything! - 5/5/2010   11:23:03 AM
    Spices are a staple in our household I can't do without them. - 5/5/2010   11:12:02 AM
  • 51
    I love cilantro & garlic!!! - 5/5/2010   10:58:44 AM
    Fresh garlic,m the best in most food groups, well, except for breakfast cereal. - 5/5/2010   10:12:57 AM
    Can't watch right now because I am at work, but I will definitely. Why get healthier foods if you're still infusing fat into them?! - 5/5/2010   9:38:49 AM
  • 48
    I find that lemon pepper is a great substitute for salt in most savory dishes. I use it in so much! Ginger can also add a nice kick to most things and it's good for your stomach. I add it to tomato dishes for taste and to cut down on heartburn. - 5/5/2010   9:38:10 AM
  • 47
    The video didn't show itself on my screen - I'm bummed! I wanted to hear about these great techniques!! - 5/5/2010   9:32:39 AM
  • 46
    I lean toward home-grown spices whenever possible, so I try to find best ways to dry, store and use them. I like to "taste" the food itself, and "taste" the healthy home-grown flavors of the spices as well. - 5/5/2010   9:28:05 AM
  • 45
    Could you consider writing more in a future piece on the use of fresh herbs? I have started doing a lot of gardening and have many tempting plants, but no actual experience in using fresh herbs (except last night when I harvested a snip each of Italian oregano, rosemary, and cilantro to add to a tomato/fresh-garlic/roasted pepper dish I was cooking). One of my primary Spark goals is to cook for flavor and to incorporate fresh herbs, but I suspect there's a little more of an art to it than just following ordinary recipes. Thanks! - 5/5/2010   9:16:06 AM
  • 44
    My friend introduced me to Penzey's spices and I am in love! I had no idea what a difference a great spice can make in a recipe. I've actually come to love cooking now that I have great spices. And I have to admit that buying spices has become a vice to me too. My cupboard is full of my new spices. - 5/5/2010   8:48:37 AM
  • 43
    I love the idea of changing from the normal everyday salt & pepper to trying different combinations of spices, you never know what delicious conconction you may end up with.
    Thanks for the tips chef.... - 5/5/2010   8:44:21 AM
  • 42
    Spices create a wonderful dish & keep you on your healthy path of new living!! love it!! - 5/5/2010   8:20:41 AM
  • 41
    Dill, garlic, basil, sage, chives, and italian seasonings are my faves. I have also experimented with savory and a few others. We aren't a spicy hot family, but I do try to add extra flavor when I can. - 5/5/2010   7:23:26 AM
  • 40
    I put spices into just about everything. - 5/5/2010   4:02:11 AM
  • 39
    Thanks for the cookbook! Mrs Dash isn't sold where I live, and I've been thinking about making my own. Perfect! - 5/5/2010   2:16:33 AM
  • 38
    When I need a spice I shop at my local health food store which has bulk products.
    Used to be you had to be a CEO of a company to shop in those places but it's change since then. I can get a little invelope 1 or 2 tspn. of what I want for $0.15 go $0.50 for gormet whole pepper corns. I don't have bottles of spices sitting round getting old and outdated expecially when it's a one use spice for a particular recipe. My store has many other things in bulk from grains,pastas,nuts, granola and snacks. I'm finding a serious savings buying what I want and if I don't use it all it's a little flat envelope to store away in a draw or freezer for meatloaf or a sauce.
    I also go to a bar when I want a speciality liquor. I carry a little screw top jug and order a shot or two for my dish. In the long run it's cheaper for me and I don't have a #32 bottle of Chamborg, rasberry liquore, getting dusty on the shelf and taking up valuable space. The bartender is used to seeing me now and gives me extra so I save the cost of a shot. Of course no one needs to cook with liquor or wine but for my taste it's a must and I include it on my nutrition counter. Alcahol cookes out about 118* or it can be flamed in a warm pan to remove the alcahol from the dish. Raw alcahol is nasty anyway except maybe a good sherry in chowder or bisque.
    Just a couple thoughts to share with my fellow sparkers.
    Have a wounderfull Mothers Day, may your day be sunny.
    Have a blessed day...Chef Jim
    - 5/5/2010   2:14:45 AM
  • 37
    I love using a variety of herbs and spices. Whenever possible I use fresh herbs. I have a bay laurel tree growing in my garden that I can just cut bay leaves from whenever I need one.
    With spices, again I have a variety stored in the larder - it's cool and dark - that I use depending on what we're cooking. The most frequently used would be cumin probably.

    I love the art in choosing herb and spice combinations for the greatest flavour. - 5/5/2010   1:24:38 AM
  • 36
    I love all varieties of MRs. Dash.. - 5/4/2010   11:32:53 PM
  • 35
    I use a lot of black & red pepper, fresh thyme from my garden, garlic and lemon is my most used flavoring or enhancer. - 5/4/2010   10:19:42 PM
  • 34
    Rosemary, garlic (fresh pressed or powder), onion powder, fresh ground pepper. toss veggies or potatoes in it and roast or grill. DELICIOUS! - 5/4/2010   10:16:52 PM

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