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Do this one thing to dramatically improve your meals: use spices.
Use spices liberally and with love.
Keep them fresh.
Don’t be afraid to mix and mingle them.
Spices make meal time a joy. They create little explosions of flavor in your mouth. The right combination of spices can dress up a .99 cents a pound roasting chicken like nobody’s business.
Spices can transport the whole table to the Southwest, the Far East and everywhere in between.
Spices also save you money because they make eating bean and vegetable-based dishes more satisfying.
I don’t think I’ve ever met a spice I didn’t like, except for curry. Curry and I don’t hitch horses. But that’s okay. I have so many other spices to enjoy.
Here are my 7 Favorite Spices and Dishes to Put Them In:
Garlic Powder: garlic lime chicken, turkey rub
Ground white pepper: mashed potatoes, marinades
Onion Powder: voodoo chicken
Chili Powder: Best Ever Spicy Beef Chili
Cumin: Kid-Approved Quinoa Chili, Sensational Southwestern Marinade
Cayenne powder: Best Rib Rub, Best Ever Spicy Beef Chili
Smoked Paprika: (sweet or hot) Best Rib Rub, Best Ever Spicy Beef Chili
But, spices are amazingly versatile. They can go in sweets, of course, and drinks.
Have you ever had a Mexican hot chocolate? Here’s a recipe for brownie version, Chocolate & Chile de Arbol brownies from Food52.
De Arbol Chile (Whole) – $6.00
There’s a variety of chile powder, called Ancho Chile Powder, which is especially good for Southwestern dishes, like my Southwestern Quinoa Salad. I always have to order Ancho Chile Powder because it cannot be found in my little corner of rural, coastal Maine. Believe me, I’ve looked everywhere.
Ancho Chile (Ground) – $7.00
This chile powder is probably richer and darker than any you’ve seen, but don’t be intimidated — it’ll add a new level of depth to marinades, sauces, and chili. Made in: Mexico. Size: 2.2 ounces.
Star Anise Spice can be used in baked goods or soup but my very favorite use for it is in an Ayurvedic tea. I learned to make this recipe from my yoga teacher’s former best friend. It wasn’t my business to ask what happened. All I know is that they had a seemingly beautiful, supportive friendship and then it was over. But I digress. This is what I drink many winter mornings. The heat and spice melt away the pervasive chill that is a Maine winter.
Star Anise Spice (Whole Hand-Select) – $10.00
Here’s what you do: in a pot or if you’re at work, a Thermos sprinkle a few crushed cardamom pods, 2 whole cloves, a star anise pod or a bit of crushed star anise, a teaspoon of fennel seeds and a cinnamon stick or two. Cover with three cups of very hot water and let steep. Drink up. I’m in the newsroom for a good chunk of the day unless I have interviews to do. But frequently, I’ll have to go shoot a house fire or a car accident in the cold and snow. It’s so nice to have a pot of that Star Anise tea waiting for me in the newsroom.
Your turn, tell me what your favorite spice is and how you like to use it.