Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Week 49

Learn to use spices - they are key to creating delicious meals!

I have lots and lots of spices.  I use them so much that I typically buy them in 1 pound bags (often from Frontier Wholesale).  Spices can be expensive, so the upfront cost is high, but they last a long time and they are definitely a key to creating outstanding, delicious meals.

Years ago when we lived in Austin, I tried several times to make homemade chicken soup.  Every time I tried, it turned out bland and tasted like water.  I thought it was my lack of cooking ability - that I was unable to make delicious foods.  But it was just a lack of important cooking knowledge.  I did not realize then the importance of owning and using spices.  Of course, I was not making my own homemade broth back then either (another key ingredient), but the spices and fresh herbs are essential ingredients.

I have posted many recipes and I hope that when you buy the ingredients to try one that you also make sure you buy the spices.  For instance, yellow rice is delicious because of the turmeric (Jon does not like brown rice even when cooked in chicken broth, but he LOVES our "yellow rice"). 

Buy and use the spices that your family enjoys.  We love nutmeg and thus I sprinkle it into almost all my breakfast creations.  Reading about the health benefits of cloves, I started experimenting with that.  The secret ingredient for the wheat-free waffles is the cloves.

Start off with small bottles until you learn which ones you use often.  We use a lot of cumin, oregano, turmeric, poultry seasoning, nutmeg, and cinnamon - to name a few.  If you keep the spices sealed and in a dark, cool location, they will last for several years.  I like to store my extras in glass bottles in my utility room as shown in the top photo.  I never throw away my little spice jars that I have in the kitchen, instead I refill them (and do so often).  Besides buying directly from Frontier, or from a good on-line company such as Mountain Rose or from a coop such as Azure Standard, you can also buy good quality bulk herbs at Whole Foods to refill your small jars, which is less expensive than buying another little jar. 

Make this challenge a fun one and treat yourself to a new spice each week when you grocery shop until you have a good collection.  Then be sure to use them!  Buy good quality spices (I buy almost exclusively organic ones), and always read the labels.  Often spice mixes, such as poultry seasoning, will contain other additives, so be careful.  Spices, gold, and precious stones - three things listed as gifts for a king.  Appreciate and treasure the wonderful spices that are so readily available to even the common folk in our world today.

"When the queen of Sheba heard about the fame of Solomon and his relation to the name of the Lord, she came to test him with hard questions.  Arriving at Jerusalem with a very great caravan - with camels carrying spices, large quantities of gold, and precious stones - she came to Solomon and talked with him about all that she had on her mind."  1Kings 10: 1 - 2

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