Lets talk Spices!

I have received quite a few inquiries about what spices and herbs are a must in
my cupboard. If you notice my recipes, I tend to stick to a lot of the same ingredients. I do this mainly for the flavors that my family and I enjoy, but it is also a lot cheaper than buying a lot of different spices that I rarely use. You should definitely do the same; find what you like and stock up. 

I also try and cook as healthy as possible so I always use Extra Virgin olive oil instead of butter and I rarely use salt, although I will use coarse kosher salt on meats when grilling out.

I started using different spices and herbs more when I started making my own baby food. I wanted to introduce to my daughter to different flavors without all of the sodium, preservatives, or MSG found in most processed items. Some examples of this are: cinnamon instead of sugar for sweetness, garlic powder instead of salt for flavor, red pepper flakes instead of hot sauce for a little kick, Parmesan cheese instead of bread crumbs for lower carbs, and when required, Crystal Hot Sauce instead of ketchup because it has less sugar and sodium. These are just things that I have found work for me with the flavors that I enjoy without all of the stuff that is not good for your body.

Spices and Herb Essentials:
Cinnamon
Red Pepper Flakes
Basil
Garlic Powder (not Garlic Salt)
Pepper
Coarse Kosher Salt
Rosemary
Paprika
Cumin

Extra Items:Curry Powder
Nutmeg
Sage
Oregano
Ginger
Cayenne Pepper
Chili Powder

Other Must have Cooking and Condiment Items:
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
White Vinegar
Balsamic Vinegar
Pure Vanilla (Not Imitation)
Yellow Mustard
Parmesan Cheese
Hot Sauce (my favorites are Crystal and Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce)
Lemon Juice

I stay away from seasonings that are a pre-blend mix. Unless it specifies the natural ingredients, most the of time you will find that they are full of unnecessary preservatives and MSG.

For instance, a fajita seasoning blend I saw at the grocery store has TCP and MSG. It also contains 100mg of sodium for 1/4 tsp. The only needed items in it are garlic powder, onion powder, and chili pepper.

Also, when I purchase a food product that comes with a packet of seasonings I look at the sodium content to see if it is worth putting it in my dish? Nine times out of ten, I usually create my own instead. A great example of this is one of my favorite soups, the 15 Bean Soup mix. I love the bean mixture, but that little packet that comes with it (both Cajun and ham flavor) is FULL of unneeded sodium and additives. I trash that and add my own spices to the soup. I then know exactly what is in it and what my family is eating.

If you want to have fresh herbs, read my blog on how to plant your own herb garden. I always like to have fresh basil, oregano, rosemary, and mint. It is usually less expensive to buy the plant in the produce section and plant it for later use than buying a container of dried herbs.

However, for those of you who don't have the time or space for your own fresh herbs, here are some money saving tips on buying dried herbs. I usually go first to the Spanish section of my grocery store and look for the large bottle of certain items like the red pepper flakes, cumin, garlic powder, and basil. I use these all the time and need a larger amount. The brand I prefer is Badia and is usually 1/2 the cost of the regular spice brands and twice the size. They also have little packets that are very inexpensive and I get those to just fill up jars of spices that I need but don't necessarily use all the time. I also look for special pricing on store brand spices. Quite often Publix runs places their spices on sale, 5 for 5.00. You don't have to buy 5 though...1 is $1.00. This is usually how I buy my paprika, cinnamon, and sage.

Find out what your favorite spices and herbs are today! Start creating, tasting, and making healthier choices when you cook. Let me know your favorite spices by leaving a comment below.

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