- Food and Cooking
Spice Mixes and Herb Blends
Spices can be as individualized as your personality. Herbs and spices are a part of an exciting diet and can also be healthy for the mind and the body. Herbs and Spices are used to season food and are some times referred to as "seasonings". Many spice mixes contain both herbs and spices, as well as salt blends. The difference between herbs and spices can be a bit murky; many herbs and spices can be found in both groups.
Spices are dried seeds, fruits, roots, bark, or other plant material usually used in small quantities as an additive for flavor, color, or preservative. Spices can be whole or ground. Herbs come from the green leafy part of a plant and may be used fresh or dried, whole or ground. Herbs are used to enhance the flavor of food.
Although spices and herbs are used in small quantities, there may be health benefits to using them in food. The flavor of bland food can be greatly improved through the use of spices, herbs, and mixes. Cooking with spices can be exciting and fun.
photo by heydrienne, flickr.com
Types of Spice Mixes
... and Herbs
Spice mixes are a blend of spices and herbs that are used in many different recipes or are used in a recipe that is made frequently. Some common spice mixes are:
Barahat- Eastern Mediterranean spice blend
Berbere - Ethiopian spice blend
Bouquet garni - a bundle of herbs used in French cooking of soups and stews
Chili powder - A blend of ground 'hot' chili peppers
Five spice powder - Chinese blend of spices that combine the sweet, sour, bitter, pungent, and salty.
Curry powder - is a mixture of spices used in South Asian or Indian cuisine
Fines herbes - combination of herbs used in Mediterranean cooking
Garam masala - basic 'hot' blend of spices used in Indian and South Asian cooking
Garlic salt - garlic flavored salt used frequently in place of fresh garlic
Goda masala - a blend of 'sweet' spices used in South Asian cooking
Herbes de Provence - an herb mixture originally from southeast France, often used in grilling
Hawaij - ground spice mixture primarily used in soups and coffee
Italian Spice - a spice blend consisting of basil, marjoram, rosemary and other herbs and spices.
Lemon Pepper - lemon zest and cracked black peppercorn used on chicken and pasta
Mixed spice - blend of sweet spices that are similar to pumpkin pie spice
Onion salt - onion powder and salt mixture, usually bought pre-mixed at the grocers.
Pumpkin pie spice - American sweet spice mixture used in pumpkin pies
Rasel hanout - popular blend of herbs and spices from North Africa
Rubs - any mixture of spices that is intended to rub on the surface of meats prior to grilling or cooking.
Seasoned salt - blend of salt, herbs, spices, and other ingredients. It sometimes contains MSG. It is a standard seasoning that is used in many restaurants for many different types of foods.
Taco seasoning - seasoning used on tacos, a traditional Mexican food
Tandoori masala - traditional Indian, Pakistani, and Afghani mixture of spices used for cooking in a tandoor, or clay oven
Za'atar - blend of herbs used in Middle Eastern cooking, sometimes mixed with sesame seeds. There are many different blends that fall under this name.
8 Unconventional Ways to Use Cinnamon
Household uses for Cinnamon
Cinnamon is one of the most popular and widely used spices and is commonly used in a variety of spice blends and mixes for flavoring foods. Other than cooking and baking cinnamon has a variety of other household uses as well. Stick cinnamon can be fairly inexpensive when bought in bulk and can be found in most supermarket's international sections.
There are many benefits to using cinnamon other than your traditional uses. Here are just a few.
- Place a dash of cinnamon in a pot of brewing coffee - This will reduce the bitterness of the coffee.
- Break up and place a cinnamon stick in a pan and bring to a boil - The aroma of cinnamon in the air is very welcoming and can mask some odors. Humidity is also added to the air and is good during the cold winter months.
- Reserve the liquid from the boiled cinnamon stick, it can be used to gargle with. Allow the liquid to cool down first and then swish in your mouth. Cinnamon acts as a natural antiseptic.
- Brewing your tea with a stick of cinnamon is an easy, tasty way to benefit from it's healthy properties. Cinnamon has compounds that naturally neutralize gas and aid in digestion of food.
- Place a stick of cinnamon in your vacuum cleaner's bag. The cinnamon helps reduce musty smells when vacuuming.
- Toss a stick of cinnamon in with your cornmeal and flour containers. Cinnamon has a compound that is considered by some to be a natural insect repellent.
- If you feel a cold coming on - cinnamon has been said (as well as some other spices) to help cure a cold. As always use in moderation.
- Reportedly, cinnamon is said to have beneficial effects in the treatment of type II diabetes. Cinnamon has a high antioxidant activity.
As with most good things, over-use or consumption of cinnamon may have negative effects. It is good to use in moderation.
photo by Sam Mugraby, photos8.com
some facts about curry powder
Curry powder is not a spice but is a blend of up to 20 different spices. It is widely used in Indian cooking and is usually ground fresh each day. Each region has their own special blend and the recipe can vary from city to city as well as from family to family - many times the recipes are guarded secrets that are passed on from generation to generation.
Curry powder is used to flavor rice, soups, stews, sauces, marinades, vegetables, eggs, meats, and salads. Since curry powder is made of many different spices it's flavor can be lost quickly and should not be stored longer than about 2 months. Storage should be in an airtight container and preferably in the freezer (but never above the stove).
Authentically blended curry powder is nothing like the commercial product that can be found on the store shelves. It is well worth your time to make your own curry, begin with a recipe and begin to adjust the recipe to your taste.
Common herbs and spices: black pepper, cardamon, chili pepper, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, fennel seed, fenugreek, mace, nutmeg, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, saffron, tamarind and tumeric (this gives curry powder it's traditional color).
Very few curry powder recipes contain all of the ingredients, but each recipe no matter how unique is considered to be a curry powder recipes. Because of the large number of spices and the almost infinite number of combinations; every curry spice blend is unique.
Photo by a href=">/en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GNU_Free_Documentation_License">lijjccoo of wikimedia.org
Mace is obtained from the dried outer covering of the Nutmeg seed - and has a distinctive taste.
A Recipe for Curry Powder
...just one of many
5 tablespoons ground coriander seeds
3 tablespoons ground cumin seeds
2 tablespoon ground turmeric
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons dry mustard
2 teaspoons ground fenugreek seeds
1 teaspoons ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground chili pepper
Combine all the ingredients and blend well. Place in an airtight, resealable container. A good place to store your spice mix is in the freezer if you have room. Just be sure not to store your spices above your stove, the heat from the stove will drastically reduce the shelf life of your spices as well as other food items.
Where to Buy Bulk Spices online
suppliers of bulk spices and herbs
If you live in a large city you may be able to find bulk herbs and spices at decent prices in different ethnic centers or districts. I like to buy many of my spices at local Indian stores, you can buy in bulk at fraction of the supermarket prices. I feel the quality is also superior. Buying bulk spices on the internet may be the way to go if you do not live near ethnic markets. You can easily find bulk spices for sale on the internet by doing a web search. Check out several internet bulk spice sites for the spice you are looking for to get the best deal.
Photo by Judepic's, Flickr.com
Make your own Dry Vegetable Broth Spice Mix
...add to hot water for quick soup base
Making your own mix allows the individual to save money and at the same time control the quality of spices used. Here is a standard recipe for a dry spice mix for vegetable broth. Making your own allows you to remove the salt if you are trying to watch your salt intake. Many of the spices in this mix are ones that most people keep on hand. I like keeping some on hand to add to chicken soup, potato soup.
1 Tbl onion powder
1 Tbl celery salt
1 Tbl dried parsley flakes
1 ½ Tsp garlic powder
1 ½ Tsp salt
½ Tsp ground savory
½ Tsp dried marjoram
½ Tsp dried thyme
1/4 Tsp pepper
1/4 Tsp turmeric
1.Measure the above listed ingredients and place in a resealable container or reuse a glass jar. Be sure to label your containers if you begin making your own spice mixes.
2.Close the container and shake well to mix.
3.Add a tablespoon of mix to one cup of hot boiling water.
This recipe is easy to make, you might want to make extra if you use a lot of vegetable broth in your cooking.
Use this dry mix to add to soups, stews, and dips.
Why pay for garlic salt, when is is so easy to make?
Directions: Mix one part garlic powder to three parts salt. You can make as little or as much as you like. Store your garlic salt in an air-tight container for when you need it.
Almost makes you want to kick yourself for buying it all this time - You could use your old garlic salt container to store it.
photo by RÃ¼diger WÃ¶lk, commons.wikimedia.org