The secret of happiness is variety, but the secret of variety, like the secret of all spices, is knowing when to use it. Spice a dish with love and it pleases every palate.
I believe in the magic of preparation.
You can make just about any food taste wonderful by adding herbs and spices. Experiment with seasonal ingredients, garlic, cilantro, basil and other fresh herbs to add excitement to your meals.
Great cooking is about being inspired by the simple things around you, fresh market produce, herbs, spices, etc. Cooking doesn’t have to be complicated. We can take the most basic ingredients and create a 5-star meal. Flavoring is the magic potion of any dish and that starts with herbs & spices. I’m a busy, working mom and regardless of what I’m doing in my day, I try my best to have a healthy and delicious meal on the table every night for my family.
I love the complexity and richness of flavors in my food so I’m always experimenting with combining different herbs, spices and oils into my cooking.
Today I want to explore spices with you! How to store, prepare, combine and use them to take simple, basic ingredients to a whole new level to create easy, delicious meals every day of the week.
If you love Indian Cuisine, here’s a simple dish I made using lots of wonderful herbs & spices.
Tandoori Chicken with Basmati Rice
3 tbsps vegetable oil
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tbsp garam masala
1 tbsp paprika
1 cup plain yogurt
2 tbsps lemon juice
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsps minced fresh ginger
1 tsp salt
4 chicken leg quarters (thigh and leg), skinless and boneless
Heat the vegetable oil in a pan. Cook the coriander, cumin, turmeric, cayenne, garam masala and paprika, stirring often for 2-3 min. Cool completely.
Whisk together yogurt, lemon juice, garlic, ginger and salt.
Add spice mix to the yogurt mix and stir until combined.
Score chicken and coat with marinate. Chill for 1-6 hours.
Heat one side of the grill very hot and one side cooler. Place the chicken on the hot side for a few minutes. Then move to the cooler side until chicken is cooked and juices run clear.
Let the chicken rest for a few minutes and then enjoy!!!
I served this dish with some basmati rice. I added 1/2 tsp of cumin and some peas to my rice for flavor. Of course also served with some naan bread. Delish!
STORING & PRESERVING THE SHELF LIFE OF SPICES
Herbs & Spices are extremely vulnerable to light so proper packaging and storage is critical to maintaining their freshness and potency.
To prolong shelf life, spices are best kept in glass containers. Plastic and bags can be porous, allowing small amounts of air to enter and slowly deteriorate spices. Store spices in a cool, dark place, away from direct heat or sunlight; keep tightly sealed when not in use.
While every herb & spice has an expiration date, if it is properly stored and sealed, you can significantly extend the shelf life. Worth it!
AVERAGE SHELF LIFE OF SPICES
Whole Spices | 3-4 Years (unground, such as peppercorns, whole allspice, caraway seeds)
Ground Spices | 2-4 Years (such as cumin, ginger, paprika, chili powder)
Ground & Whole Leafy Herbs | 1-3 years (basil, oregano, rosemary and most seasoning blends)
Indefinite | Vanilla extract & Salt (Other extracts will fade in 2-3 years)
TIP: When you’re making your own spice & seasoning mixtures, be sure to use the freshest ingredients and label your jars with the date and ingredients.
HOW TO TEST YOUR SPICES FOR POTENCY & FRESHNESS
When a spice has “gone bad” it simply means it has lost its color, potency and flavor.
To test your herbs & spices for vibrancy, take your spice and rub or crush a small amount in your hand, then taste and smell it — if the aroma is weak and the flavor is not obvious, the herb or spice should be replaced.
TOASTING BRINGS OUT THE FLAVOR OF SPICES
Toasting spices & nuts is a wonderful technique I use often. Toasting spices intensifies their flavor, bringing out the aromatic oils and adding complexity to their taste by layering in a warm, toasty flavor.
Toasting is especially useful for aromatic blends like cumin, coriander and curry powder. Since spices toast and brown at different intervals, toast them individually or in separate pans.
To properly toast your spices:
Heat a dry pan (preferably cast iron as it transfers the heat more evenly) and add your whole spice.
Shake the pan or stir the spices frequently to ensure even toasting on all sides.
Do not leave the pan unattended. Spices can quickly burn and as a result become very bitter.
When you start to smell the beautiful aroma you’ll know they are toasting.
Transfer your toasted spices to a bowl as the residual heat will continue to toast them.
Once they are at room temperature, crush them with a mortar & pestle or food processor.
Once you have each of your spices toasted, then you can mix them together to create your signature blends. ENJOY!
MORTAR & PESTLE OR FOOD PROCESSOR?
Well, let’s see… A mortar and pestle crushes, while a blade cuts. So, if you truly want premium expulsion of all the essential oils & full-bodied flavors, crushing is definitely the way to go. Investing in a mortar and pestle is well worth the investment if you are looking to elevate the intensity of flavors in your dishes. They range in size, weight & materials. Select what works best for your everyday needs.
ESPECIALLY FOR YOU....
I PUT TOGETHER A LIST WITH SOME OF MY FAVORITE HERB & SPICE COMBINATIONS.
This is one of my favorites! I sprinkle it on eggs, veggies, flatbread, etc. It's so versatile and packs so much flavor.
Try this Everything Bagel Combination. You won’t be sorry ♥️
1 tbsp coarse sea salt
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp black sesame seeds
1 tbsp white sesame seeds
2 tbsps poppy seeds
1 tbsp minced onion
For a little kick, add some crushed red pepper 🌶
Stir & Enjoy!
So, to sum it all up...
I hope you learned just a little something about spices today!
Be bold and experiment. There are no wrong answers here. Try to make some of your own blends, or tweak my recipes to adjust them to your palate.
Try your spices toasted and un-toasted and taste the difference.
Find your own favorite combinations and please, if you have some favorites I would love it if you would share them with me. And... if you make any of the recipes or use any of the spice blends, send them to me so I can share them.
I hope to hear from you!
Happy cooking :)