Spice Up Your Life - The Cuban Blog at Allrecipes.com - 250481

The Cuban

Spice Up Your Life 
Sep. 18, 2011 9:38 am 
Updated: Oct. 1, 2011 9:49 pm

There were two events that made me a better cook.

The first was when Kelly informed me, “The Doctor says I’m Lactose Intolerant.”

The second was when her mom, who lived with us at the time, said, “The Doctor says I can’t have salt.”

After my grumbling about Doctors was over, I realized I had to find ways to cook even the simplest of recipes without either dairy or salt. Easier said than done since everything I knew how to cook included one or usually both of those.

What this forced me to do, however, was broaden my horizons where spices are concerned.

online spices
Here's a few of our Spices

I began a weekly process of taking a few minutes standing in front of the spice rack at the grocery store. I would read each name and found that there were many, many spices I had never heard of or, if I had heard of them, didn’t know anything about. One week, I grabbed a jar of Ground Chipotle. I made it my mission to include it one of my meals that week. And everyone loved it. So, the next week, I bought a jar of a different spice and found a recipe for that.

Before I knew it, my spice cabinet grew one jar at a time from one shelf next to the stove to two. Then, the whole cabinet.

Then, the cabinet above the stove.

Then, the cabinet next to the fridge.

The key, of course, is not to just use the spice once and forget about it but to learn about it, find out what other spices it enhances and to incorporate it into any number of new dishes. I started making my own salad dressings. I started making different flavored butters. I developed my own BBQ Sauce that uses no less than 15 different spices, 2 sugars and three different vinegars (oh yeah, vinegars are another whole blog post and we won’t even mention all the different kinds of oil).

There is nothing more satisfying than reading a recipe that may be a little complicated and going to my spice rack (or one of them anyway) and pulling every spice they ask for out and being familiar with it. Funny enough, I also realized that when I used the spices they called for instead of substituting because I didn’t have the right ones the dishes actually tasted like what I expected them to.

I have found that there is a huge difference in a dish if you use White Pepper instead of Black Pepper or Black Pepper instead of Fresh Ground Black Pepper. I learned that if I want to add a little smoky flavor to a dish I can use smoked paprika instead of regular paprika. I spend a lot of time reading about Spices and probably even more time experimenting and then watching Kelly as she takes her first bite to gauge her reaction.

One other advantage I just found last week was when Kelly and I decided to have tacos. While trying to decide which one of the 273 different packets of Taco Seasoning at our local grocery store would make our tacos taste the best, I thought, “Maybe I should check the numbers.” While reading the Nutrition Info on the back I was amazed to realize that using pre-packaged Taco Seasoning adds anywhere from 10 – 20 calories per serving to your tacos.

So you know what I did.

I went home, grabbed a bunch of spices and made my own No Calorie Taco Seasoning by not using sugar. And nobody could tell the difference.

Here’s what I used:

  • 2 Tsp Hot Chili Powder
  • 2 Tsp Smoked Paprika
  • 2 Tsp Ground Cumin
  • 1 Tsp Ground Chipotle
  • 1 Tsp Garlic Salt
  • 1 Tsp Black Pepper
  • ½ Tsp Ground Coriander
  • ½ Tsp Kosher Salt

Even though trying to cook for two people who had special requirements sort of started out as a chore, I feel it has made cooking much more fun in the end. The next time you taste something and think to yourself, “Hmmm… it needs something.” Instead of grabbing for the salt or pepper shaker, open your ever-growing spice cabinet and spice it up!

Here's Some of Our Spices
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Sep. 18, 2011 9:53 am
Very cool. Your spice collection is admirable and hats off to you for exploring that marvelous world of fenugreek and kaffir leaves, Madagascar cinnamon and Hungarian paprika. Lets not forget a 50$ bottle of aged Balsamic vinegar and what that can do to sauce. I love me some spices too!! Great blog.
Sep. 18, 2011 10:30 am
I agree that a well stocked spice cabinet is a great substitute for salt. I would like to add: dont buy any more of a spice than can be used in four to six months, because most of it's potency will drift away after that. I have disappointed myself a few times when a recipe has tasted like it lacks something because I used an over the hill spice.
Sep. 18, 2011 11:06 am
Mike, I've long been and advocate of a product called a food saver, one of those vaccuum bag sealing systems. I buy all my spices in bulk, I likely have enough fenugreek to last me the rest of my life and I seal all of those big bulk purchases in a Foodsaver bag. It keeps, seemingly indefinitely, really. Even simply using a double layer of plastic wrap over the jar before re-lidding it will keep the spice for much longer. Then there is the freezing option. It's entriely possible to keep spices for years if they are stored properly. Air is the enemy.
Sep. 18, 2011 1:02 pm
Great JOB....I have lots of spices as well I have a pantry door with an over the door clear shoe rack that most of my spices go in (chilies/garlic/chicken stuff/etc great to see plus I date it as well :O0
Sep. 18, 2011 1:38 pm
Great blog! And so timely. I've been composing a new blog entry about the very same thing, from my Gluten Intolerance perspective. Loved it.
Old 'N' Still Cookin' 
Sep. 18, 2011 1:53 pm
There are 4 things that are enemies of spices, heat, light, moisture and air. If all of these things are taken into consideration, then you have done all you can to preserve your spices for the long haul. Bill Penzey of Penzey's Spices is a straight shooter, if there ever was one, gives a spice tip column in every one of his frequent catalogs. It is all the advice anyone requires to care for them. As a retired professional I always have bought and still buy all my spices that I don't grow and dry myself, from Penzey's because I know that it is the only place I can get fresh spices. I have never found fresh spices in a grocery store. (dried) Common sense tells us that spices only grow once a year, so if all the rules are followed then they will last at least that long.
Sep. 18, 2011 2:47 pm
That is quite an impressive spice collection! Smoked paprika is my current fav and it's fun finding new uses for it. I haven't purchased taco seasoning in years. It's so much better made from my spices plus I can customize it to fit the occasion and just for variety.
Sep. 19, 2011 12:49 pm
I started hoarding spices after having to go gluten free. I'm moving and was trying to consolidate, going through my old stuff and I ended up realizing that most of the spices I had from before are all expired! I guess I'll have to go get new [better quality] ones... what a BUMMER, right? ;)
Oct. 1, 2011 9:49 pm
It's all about the flavor. You have done alot of expermenting. I like to as well but my partner is a meat and potatoes kind of guy. I sneak different herbs and spices in meals and not tell him. I also wait for a reaction and most times he likes what I make. Got to be carefull on the hot stuff though. I love the heat so I usually jazz up my food later.
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The Cuban

Living In
Springfield, Illinois, USA

Member Since
Mar. 2011

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Cooking Interests
Baking, Grilling & BBQ, Frying, Slow Cooking, Mexican, Italian, Southern, Mediterranean, Dessert, Quick & Easy

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