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How to Spice up Any Meal

Updated on April 16, 2018

What is the Difference Between a Spice and an Herb?

A spice is defined as dried bark, roots, berries, seeds, twigs, or anything that is not the green or leafy part of a plant or tree. Spices can be used to add a variety of flavors, change or enhance the color or to act as a preservative for food. Some examples of spices include:

  • Cinnamon, which is the bark of the tree.
  • Allspice, which is dried berries.
  • Nutmeg, which is seeds.
  • Ginger, which is roots.

The part of the plant or tree that is green or leafy is considered an herb. Herbs are also defined as plants that maintain savory or aromatic properties that can be used for flavoring food, in medicine, or even as fragrances. Adding a variety of aromas can add depth to any meal. While spices are dried only, an herb can be used dry or fresh. Some examples of herbs include:

  • Chamomile
  • Echinacea
  • Lavender
  • Peppermint

Endless Possibilities!

Which Spice or Herb Is Your Fave?

Which spice or herb do you use the most when cooking?

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Health Benefits From Using Spices and Herbs

Cooking with spices and herbs not only enhances the flavor, color and aroma of the meal, but it also contains health benefits that are great for everyone to enjoy. The health benefits depend on what spices and or herbs are being consumed on a regular and consistent basis. Using spices and herbs can replace or reduce the use of salt and sugar. Some examples of health benefits from using spices and herbs when cooking include:

  1. Having more disease-fighting antioxidants than most common fruits and vegetables and also containing phytochemicals, which are healthy plant chemicals that reduces damage to cells.
  2. Incorporating spices and herbs into meals can also improve brain function and memory, which could reduce Alzheimers and Dementia.
  3. Some spices and herbs improve digestion. Spices and herbs have been proven to regulate the metabolism and detoxifying the body.
  4. Certain spices and herbs can protect the body by fighting infection, boosting the immune system, reducing inflammation, and preventing cancer.

There are numerous health benefits of using spices and herbs when cooking any meal. Incorporating more than one spice or herb at a time can increase the health benefits.

How to Spice Up Any Meal?

Any breakfast, lunch, or dinner can be spiced up into a sensational and more healthy meal just by adding certain fresh or dried ingredients to any recipe. By incorporating spices and herbs into daily cooking, any meal can become more appealing, more tasteful, and even more healthy. All meals can be spiced up with spices and herbs because they are all natural. Fresh herbs may be grown at home or purchased at any local grocery store in the produce section. While some spices and herbs are more traditional, others are more nontraditional, which makes cooking fun. Spices and herbs can contain more health benefits than others and there is a large variety to choose from. Spices and herbs are always in season so there is no reason not to utilize them while preparing and cooking each meal no matter what month it is. How exactly does a person spice up any meal? The tips listed below will demonstrate and illustrate how anyone can use spices and herbs to spice up each and every meal in a tasteful and appealing way.

1. Timing is Everything.

Many people understand the process of adding spices and herbs to food while it is cooking and being prepared, but the timing of when the spices and herbs are added is significant to the taste, appearance, and aroma of the meal being prepared. For example, because fresh herbs have a more subtle taste, they are best added to recipes with a shorter cooking time. If a recipe takes longer to prepare, add the fresh herb toward to end of cooking time so it maintains the flavor. For example, fresh parsley leaves will lose its aroma after an hour of simmering. Black pepper alters its taste and spiciness when under heat. Paprika will become unpleasant when slow cooked for 8 or more hours. Dried herbs are ideal for longer cooking times because they release their flavors slowly and evenly throughout the cooking process. Adding herbs to cold foods like dips and dressings several hours before or overnight allows the flavors to adequately blend.

2. Use Multiple Spices and Herbs.

Never limit the number of spices or herbs used when preparing and cooking a meal. Many different spices and herbs compliment each other and can be used simultaneously. Since certain spices and herbs contain different health benefits, using a variation can increase the health benefits and health value of food. Do not mix two very strong flavored spices and herbs together.

*Combine one strong flavored with one or more milder flavored spices and herbs to complement both the stronger herb and the food at the same time.

3. Always Perform the Smell Test.

The worst thing a person could do is to experiment with dinner, by adding new and never before used spices and herbs. There are spices and herbs that do not go together and may not go with the type of meal being prepared. Many spices and herbs are universal, but the aroma and or taste may be unappetizing. Performing the smell test involves smelling the meal being prepared, then smelling the spice or herb being considered. Repeat this process once more to confirm the blending of aromas. This doesn't need to be done with familiar spices and herbs because the aroma and flavor are already known. The smell test is a confirmation that the spice and or herb being added with blend well with the meal being prepared.

4. Use Your Imagination!

With the variety of spices and herbs to choose from, get creative and try something new. There are limitless possibilities of new flavors and aromas that have never been discovered. Some examples of being creative and using your imagination are:

  • Homemade sauce for pasta or pizza using fresh ingredients.
  • Homemade seasonings for meat, stew, or casseroles.
  • Adding new spices and herbs to already established recipes.

5. Certain Spices Can Keep You Cool in the Summer.

The central nervous system reacts to whatever the sensory system says is going on. Therefore, the activity pattern from pain and warm nerve fibers triggers both the sensations and the physical reactions of heat, including vasodilation, sweating, and flushing. There are certain spices that can keep you cool during the hot summer months. Spices with a bitter character are known for their cooling effects.

  • Mint
  • Saffron
  • Fennel Seeds

Gordon Ramsey is Cooking With Spice!

© 2012 Cristale Adams


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    • Cristale profile image

      Cristale Adams 5 years ago from Los Angeles

      Try these great ideas any time, with any meal. Thanks for reading!

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 5 years ago from San Francisco

      Thank you for these great suggestions.