Dinner

Spice Blends Provide New Answers to What’s For Dinner

Most people are reluctant to try something new. You may not know half the ingredients in the recipes talked about on your favorite cooking show or recommended by your friends. And you don’t have the time to look for those ingredients in the grocery store. Time is so precious that you find yourself rushing through the store and grabbing the same standard ingredients on your way home from work. You know how long the meal will take to prepare, and it has become easy and automatic.

Easy is good and there is nothing wrong with your standard recipes. But what if, instead of having to buy all sorts of new foods, you could get by with just a few new spices? Who knows? You may have been collecting spices and already have a drawer full of things you don’t know how to use. Why not try sprinkling a mix of new spices over your chicken or burgers instead of that basic salt and pepper routine?

If you have a favorite pasta dish, feel free to be generous with the Italian spices. Because most of them are herbs, their flavor cooks out quickly. So even if you overdo it, continue cooking to ease out the flavor. Garlic can become bitter if overcooked, so add it moderately. These spices probably are not new to you, and you know that an Italian blend is always handy to keep on hand. Try your own blend with 2 teaspoons each of basil and marjoram, 1 teaspoon each of garlic powder and oregano, and ½ teaspoon each of rosemary, sage and thyme. Adjust to your own likes and dislikes or add more of any individual spice that you like.

One of the reasons so many people avoid vegetables is that they often taste bland. You should look at this as an opportunity to add not only flavor, but also more nutrients and vitamins. Here is a good veggie spice and herb blend that you can put together in its own jar. Add or subtract from it, as you like. Start with a small blending of 1 teaspoon of basil with 1 teaspoon of marjoram, ½ teaspoon of celery seed, ½ teaspoon of tarragon and ½ teaspoon of ground fennel.

Sometimes by mixing up your own blends, you don’t have to worry about whether this spice goes with that meal. Quite honestly, if you start with small quantities and/or work with one or two spices at a time, you will quickly see that almost anything goes when it comes to spicing. Meat is especially forgiving and allows you to feature one or two spices for every meal. There is no need for that chicken to ever taste the same, even if your preparation of it is still a standard.

Here’s a beef blend to get you started. Feel free to add or subtract not only quantities, but also different spices as your taste buds become more acquainted with the various flavors. Start with 1 teaspoon each of black pepper, onion powder and rosemary, ½ teaspoon each of savory and thyme and 1/8 teaspoon of garlic powder. If you like a smoky flavor consider adding paprika.

If you like Greek food, but don’t know how to copy the flavor, try a Greek blend of spices. Start with 2 teaspoons of garlic powder, 1 teaspoon each of lemon peel and oregano and ½ teaspoon of black pepper.

Now you have the blending basics to become even more creative. By blending the spices and putting them in a labeled jar, your whole family can become familiar with the new flavors and start experimenting on their own. Wouldn’t it be nice if you came home and found that your partner or your child wanted to surprise you with a little taste sensation of his or her own?

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