Thursday, February 24, 2011

What’s Cooking?: Spicing It Up

"Once you get a spice in your home, you have it forever.  Women never throw out spices.  The Egyptians were buried with their spices."  
~Erma Bombeck  

Recently I received this fabulous cook book as a gift The Gourmet Vegetarian Slow Cooker I love my slow cooker and use it a couple times a week so I was super excited to try some of the recipes.  In the introductory information in this cookbook the author talks about seasoning.  She mentioned that she likes to buy her spices whole instead of ground online from Penzeys Spices and then grind them herself using Japanese Suribachi right before she adds it to the dish to get the most flavor possible. 

I loved this idea and it got me thinking about the spices on my spice rack.  After a little bit of research I found out that spices are going to be best for about a year if ground, two if whole.  I know I have some spices I have been using for more than a year.  So I followed my nose, *sniff, sniff* yup, that doesn’t smell fresh, not bad just not as flavorful as I know it could be.  So believe it or not I threw out many of my spices that didn't seem to be a fresh as they could be.  *gasp!* Time for shopping!  I think more women might throw out their spices if it meant a fun shopping trip :)

I found out that there is a Penzys spices store that is pretty close by me.  No online shopping for me, I’m in for the real thing!  My sister and I went to go check out the store last weekend and we had so much fun! Walking around the store and picking up the sample smelling jars of the spices and completely overwhelming our noses with it all!   It was fabulous, and a little expensive.  I got some whole cumin seeds (I seem to use cumin often), bay leaves, turmeric, a few of the Penzeys spice mixes like one of their chili powders and a curry blend.  I think my favorite spice mix I got was a 'salad dressing' blend called Green Goddess which is a mix of green onion, sugar, basil, celery flakes, minced garlic and dill weed.  I used the green goddess this week for a veggie dip, just mixed a bit of it in some low fat sour cream and it was wonderful! 

I have been slowly working my way towards removing most/all processed foods from my diet.  Ideally I would like my diet to be 100% real food, from scratch.  Fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, eggs and dairy (but no meat for me)… you know real food!  I don’t want to rely on soy based meat substitutes in my diet.  I don’t want to eat canned or frozen foods loaded with preservatives and unnecessary sodium.  I want to eat the very best things I can to support full health!  And I think adding a little spice can help make that process more fun and flavorful!

What kind of spices do you like to cook with?  Have a favorite 'go to' when you cook?

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