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Spice of Life

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.

Ultimate Spice Blend Infographic_Page_1

Cook Smart’s Infographics

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)

Taco Seasoning

Fajita Seasoning (I omit the sugar)

Pumpkin Spice Seasoning

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.







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Sugar Wars

Sugar and I have a tumultuous history. As a child my mom would allow me one small cup of chocolate milk (my favorite) per week. And because this treat was so rare and cherished I would often drink part of it then stash the rest away in a secret hiding place to drink later. Being 5 years old and not understanding the concept of heat and bacteria, my treasured chocolate milk would usually be found, curdled, in some cabinet a week later.

My mom was wise and she knew that me + sugar = unruly, annoying, hyperactive, non-cognizant child. No one wants this child. I certainly didn’t want to BE that child. So she restricted my sugar intake judiciously.

Thus my childhood was fraught with conversations such as these:

Me: Mom! Can I have Fruit Loops? My friend’s mom gets them for her.

Mom: *Uproarious laughter that echoes across the grocery store*

Me: Mom, please, can I?

Mom: *Wiping away tears of laughter* “That was a funny joke. Ahh, let’s get some Shredded Wheat.”

As a child this was discouraging, slightly embarrassing, and altogether confounding. But I owe a great deal of my eating habits and taste to my mother who refused to let her child succumb to the sugary madness around her.  That’s what moms are for – to protect us 0-17 year olds against our wills, because let’s be honest, our little wills were still learning what would and would not kill us.

As I grew up I noticed that if I ate too much sugar I would start to break out, and then come down with a cold. As a result I continued to limit my sugar intake much as my mom had. Dorritos on the other hand I CRAVED, but that’s a confession for another time…

Not all of us were raised with mom’s who were in a battle with sugar. Not because they were bad moms or negligent, but simply because they didn’t know. And sugar is just so.darn.good so why would you deprive your child of the delights you enjoy yourself? And let me add here that I’m not advocating that sugar never be eaten, definitely not (let’s not go crazy here) but I do firmly believe that it should be moderated more severely than it currently is in our food culture. The issue, I think, is not that we let our kids eat a cupcake here and there, but that we really understand HOW MUCH sugar is in our daily foods. We’d be shocked. In fact, I was!

My friend, an awesome will-protecting, super-hero of a mom to two gorgeous daughters, recently shared this post by Brooke McLay called 25 Reasons to Stop Eating Sugar. My friend, a sugar lover herself, was challenged by this and determined to change the way she interacts with sugar. In this article McLay sites research that shows the effect that too much sugar can have on our mind and body. I highly suggest you take a moment to read this article, do more research yourself, and then come back if you’re interested in changing your intake.

In short we are recommended to limit our sugar intake to 24 grams (6 teaspoons) per day. But in fact on average we take in 22.2 teaspoons per day (Heart Association FAQ About Sugar). For some shocking amounts of sugar found in things from yogurt to pasta sauce, check out WebMD’s Sugar Shockers: Foods Surprisingly High in Sugar. This will only concern you if you understand the effects sugar has on our bodies. (That means read the 25 Reasons to Stop Eating Sugar – seriously, do it!)

So, in an effort to help my super-hero mom friend, and many others who want to lessen their sugar intake, I have decided to do a blog series on foods we can make at home to help control the amounts of sugar we take in.

While I am not a mom, yet, I would say that 99% of my friends are and as such I have a keen sympathy to the demands you have on your time and energy. I will do my best to share recipes that are actually attainable to the working (in-home, or out) moms and other’s with busy lifestyles.

So, stay tuned for recipes to be flooding your inbox (or coming in at a somewhat moderate pace), as I begin this blog series – Cooking at Home so Sugar Doesn’t Take Over Your Life! Or something slightly less dramatic…

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