Spices have been used since the beginning of recorded history. Wars have been fought over nutmeg, and cloves; cures for mortal ailments have been promised; even Manhattan was traded by the Dutch in exchange for the island of Run which was brimming with nutmeg trees. The study of spices as a driving force in history is fascinating, but today we take these spices for granted. How many of us really know how to use them? Tumeric has been in use since 2500 BCE, but chances are it isn’t in your spice rack. I say it’s high time that we embrace the bounty and richness of spices in our cooking, and pay a humble homage to the men who waged and won wars to bring us the privilege of our spice cabinet.
But where to start? I am a fan of Cook Smart’s and their innovative, useful, infographics, meal plans, and videos. They have outdone themselves in the world of spice infographics, and I’d like to share one of their spice profiles with you here.
This genius chart shows you which produce and proteins each spice pairs with, as well as other complimentary spices. Notice that spices we often associate with sweet dishes: allspice, nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves, can be used on savory meat dishes such as beef, lamb and chicken. Turmeric is delicious in rice, and I also add it to chicken and dumplings!
With this basis of knowledge you can branch into spice combination that will liven up any dish. I have a few combo’s I like to have on hand to add to chicken or beef for a quick meal prep. One of my favorites is the Creole Spice Blend. I used this for main course chicken dishes, for chicken I’m adding to pizza, or anything else that needs a little pep. I’ve listed my favorite blends below. I keep these in small Tupperware containers in my spice cabinet.
Creole Spice Blend (I halve the recipe, and reduce the salt)
Fajita Seasoning (I omit the sugar)
Making your own spice blends allows you to control exactly what is in each one. No preservatives, added sugars, or overloads of sodium. And if you need gluten free spice blends, this is the way to go. If you already have these spices on hand (which you should), you’ll save a lot of money, and have these blends on hand any time you need them!
As William Cowper so eloquently put it, “Variety’s the very spice of life, that gives it all it’s flavour.”
Spice up your life this week and try adding the Creole Spice Blend to your sautéed chicken! You’ll love what happens.