Big Dave's Big Secret
Alright, it's time for me to come clean. This is about to be a very revealing blog post, and I'm not sure if all of my friends will accept it. It's a different lifestyle choice for sure, but this is something I feel I need to share with the world.
I have a fully-stocked spice cabinet.
Spices for Flavor
Even the most simple of dishes has the potential to be improved with a bit of spice. I really can't think of anything I've cooked at home that hasn't used a variety of spices at some point; from a loaf of bread with cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and black pepper, to crockpot beer chicken with garlic powder, cayenne pepper, chili powder, cumin, and a host of other spices. Anything is fair game when flavor is on the line.
Spices for Adventure
A well-spiced dish with the right combination of flavors can take you on an adventure of flavorful wonder. Various flavor profiles from different cuisines around the world rely on the right spice mixes to give a distinct kick. With the right sorts of flavors in your dishes, the taste will take your mouth on a vacation:
Tex-Mex and Mexicali Cuisine
When you think of Mexico and the flavors you'd find there, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, and cayenne come to mind. They're the signature flavors found in everything from the best Mexican-style meals to the simple taco seasoning packets at the store.
Kick in some fresh (or dried) cilantro and some lime or lemon juice (or lemon salt, if you like) and go surf instead of turf on your proteins, and you've got more of those coastal, California-meets-Mexico type flavors.
Cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, and chili powder. Sound familiar, Tex-Mex? These spices can be adapted to Indian cuisine as well. Kick in some cinnamon, ginger, and curry powder for big Indian flavor. While not a spice, honey can also be a very flavorful addition to Indian-style dishes. Use with tomatoes, a bit of cream and chicken for a great carnivore meal, or go vegetarian like much of India and try this flavor combo with peas, potatoes, and chickpeas. Cilantro can add a nice touch at the end for extra fresh flavor and healthy greenage.
What could be more pleasing than a delicious serving of Italian-style pasta, fish, or another favorite protein of yours? Use spices like oregano, basil, parsley, garlic powder, and onion powder for that kick of bold flavor you find in spaghetti and pizza sauces. Dried works alright, but fresh is even better and can give you the same punch of flavor, plus a bit of added health bonus.
Spices for Health
Speaking of health, I'm always hearing about the health benefits of things like garlic, cayenne peppers and chili powder, and greens in general. Whether from grandma, a dietitian, a TV show, or even blogs on this network, it's all good advice to listen to:
- Garlic could help lower LDL cholesterol and prevent colon cancer. (Not that the colon part matters much to me.)
- Garlic has some anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties.
- Herbs and spices in general increase flavor without increasing sodium levels.
- Hot peppers like cayenne have been known to aide circulation and help the body produce appetite-reducing substances.
- Ginger has been used to help with stomach cramps, digestive trouble, and IBS.
- Garlic allegedly keeps vampires away.
Spices are often a bit pricier when you get the name-brands, but at bargain stores like Save-A-Lot, Big Lots, Aldi, and Dollar Tree, you can often get generous shakers of dried and powdered spices for $1 or less. Even store brands like Meijer carry fairly cheap spices, and bulk discount stores can be great for heavily-used spices you run through often.
Once you have the spice cabinet stocked and ready for action, it'll last you a very long time and help you get out of many flavorless situations. Give herbs and spices a try - even if it's as simple as a sprinkle of this and that in your mac 'n' cheese, or as complicated as your own personal garam masala.