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.
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!