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Spice It Up

Spices are a mystery to many people who are trying to put together a flavor-packed meal. When combined with herbs, they can make bland food downright tasty. But, which ones go best with which foods? Spices don’t look appetizing enough to have a spoonful of them to see how they taste. How they taste in their natural form is not necessarily the same flavors given when cooked in a meal.

Here is the first thing you need to know about spices… they are very different from herbs. Spices come from fruit buds and berries, the roots, seeds and barks of plants, whereas herbs come from the flowers, stems and the leaves of plants. Spices in whole form are good for two years on the shelf, while ground spices last about six months. I recommend that you grind spices as you use them to maximize the flavor intensity.

Let’s look at some of the common spices people blend with certain foods to enhance the flavor.

Allspice – This is a dried berry that has a strong sharp sweet flavor with a kick of pepper to it. You can use it in pickling and preparing meats. This spice gives sausage and jerky their defined flavors. It also goes well in desserts and adds sweetness to savory sauces, chili and stews. It pairs well with cinnamon and nutmeg. Its sweet punch makes it a great way to add flavor to a large variety of dishes.

Cayenne Pepper – Add this to your sauces to make them hot. If you have a taste for spicy hot foods then mix a bit of cayenne pepper into anything you want to have hot zing to.

Ginger – Ginger adds a little sweeter taste to food. It tastes great in curry, seafood, vegetable and chicken dishes. It is also popular in tea. Many traditional Japanese and Chinese dishes have ginger in them.

Cumin – This is the second most popular spice in the world right behind pepper. Cumin adds a bit of bitterness to stews, soups, curry dishes, chili, lamb and many Mexican dishes.

Caraway Seeds – These add a licorice type flavor to foods. You can use them in casseroles, cakes and curry dishes. Toss them on top of fancy cheeses. Caraway seeds have a strong flavor in sauerkraut. They are also a great substitute ingredient for lemon or orange.

Celery Seeds – If you don’t have fresh celery on hand, celery seeds make a good substitute. Celery seeds are a popular ingredient in homemade salad dressings. Mix them in Greek yogurt with some dill for tuna or chicken salad. Add them casserole dishes, meatloaf and homemade pasta sauces.

Paprika – Paprika is a dried peppery fruit. Although you can use it for garnishing and adding color to food, it is well-known for its peppery zing. The flavor steps up when cooked. You can mix it into ground sausage or add it to soups, casseroles, stew or any dish that you want to make colorful with a little more peppery spike.

Not everyone enjoys the same spicy flavors added to their foods. Experiment with these and other spices in different foods to find your favorites. You can enhance many foods with a combination of several spices blended together.

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