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Adventures with Ami: Spice it Up!

When foregoing fat, salt and sugar in dishes that you are cooking, it’s important to consider the flavors that are inherent to the ingredients and what spices may compliment the flavor and enhance the dish.  Herbs and spices are an important part of the plant-strong kitchen.  Most cooks have use a standard set of spices including:

  • cinnamon
  • garlic powder
  • Italian seasoning
  • chili powder
  • paprika
  • onion powder

Walking past the spice section at your grocery store, you’ll notice a plethora of choices.  Many of them may be mysteries, others for special occasions, some for ethnic dishes all mixed it in with the simple basics.  Branching out and making use of spice blends can make old favorite dishes new and exciting.  Here are some great ideas and resources for your spice adventures!

For vegetables, try one or more of these combinations:

  • Carrots: Cinnamon, cloves, dill, ginger, nutmeg, rosemary, sage
  • Corn: Cumin, curry powder, onion, paprika, parsley
  • Green Beans: Dill, curry powder, marjoram, oregano, tarragon, thyme
  • Greens: Cayenne, lemon pepper, onion powder, pepper
  • Potatoes: Dill, garlic, onion, paprika, parsley, sage
  • Summer Squash: Cloves, curry powder, nutmeg, rosemary, sage
  • Winter Squash: Cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, onion
  • Tomatoes: Basil, bay leaf, dill, marjoram, onion, oregano, parsley, pepper

General Rules for Amounts. If you don’t know how much of a spice or herb to use, follow this advice…

Remember to use more herbs if using a fresh or crumbled dried form:
Begin with 1/4 teaspoon of most ground spices or ground dried herbs for these amounts and adjust as needed:

  • 4 servings;
  • 1 pound of tofu or beans;
  • 1 pint (2 cups of soup or sauce)

Start with 1/8 teaspoon for cayenne pepper and garlic powder; add more as needed.  Red pepper intensifies in flavor during cooking; add in small increments, wait and taste before adding more.

When doubling a recipe:

1) DO NOT double spices and herbs.
2) Increase amounts by 1-1/2 times.
3) Taste, add more if needed.
Try spice blends for easy amazing flavor without having to buy several bottles.  Every spice brand has their own salt-free blends.  I love Mrs. Dash, widely available and a vast array of flavors.  Find out more at:  http://www.mrsdash.com

Learn more about the flavor profiles and uses of various herbs and spices check out a great site that includes so much information on origin and use: Frontier Natural Products Co-op http://www.frontiercoop.com/prodlist.php?ct=spicesaz

Spices don’t last forever. Check ground or crushed herbs and spices for freshness at least once a year. Test by crushing a small amount in your hand. If no aroma is detected, the seasoning needs to be replaced. Buying the smaller size jar instead of the economy size container will save you money if you won’t use it all while it is still fresh.

Heat, sunlight, and dampness cause herbs and spices to lose their flavor and aroma quickly.

  • Store away from moisture. Dampness causes caking and loss of quality.
  • Store in tightly covered jars.
  • Use clean, dry spoons for measuring.
  • Store in a cool place.
  • Do not store in a window or in sunlight.
  • Do not store near heat sources such as above the stove or dishwasher.

Enjoy the adventure of trying out new flavors.  Look for spices that come in small 1 oz. sized jars at your grocer.  Buying a little often for around a dollar can be a great way to try new twist on your old favorite soup or salad recipe.  Don’t feel constrained by the spices you have always used in a particular dish.

About the author

Ami Mackey
Ami Mackey is a food coach at Engine 2 Extra and has been plant-strong since 2011. She is also the Program Director at St Louis All City Boxing a nonprofit youth program. She earned certificates from eCornell in Plant-Based Nutrition & Fitness Nutrition from NASM.

2 Responses to “Adventures with Ami: Spice it Up!”

  1. Rebekah says:

    I feel like I ought to be Remy in Ratatouille, smelly the food and knowing it’s just right, or terrible. But terrible didn’t mean he had to through it out, just add a little more this and that. But the smell of a spice doesn’t help me, yet.
    In new recipes I’ve tried, I’ve been surprised at the combinations. I’ve used soy sauce where I’d never think to. I made Chocolate Covered Katie’s Lentil Sloppy Joe’s and while cooking and adding all the spices and liquids, it smelled a bit strange, but once it was all combined and given time to soak in together, it was great!

  2. Ami.. Thanks… Great article. Helps me out especially since I am such a novice with spices… Love the 1 oz idea!! Will do that next time..

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