How To Spice Things Up When Cooking

Large collection of metal bowls full of herbs and spices -How To Spice Things Up When CookingHerbs and spices are used to enhance the flavor of food, either it be for cooking spaghetti carbonara or baking an apple pie.

An herb or spice can be a seed, fruit, root, bark, berry, bud or leafy part of the plant. They are principally used for flavoring food among other uses. They can be used fresh or dried.

Herbs And Spices Through The Ages

It is said that by the Middle Ages, the most common spices and herbs being traded and used were black pepper, cinnamon (including the alternative cassia), cumin, nutmeg, ginger and cloves.

Herbs and spices are useful for many things, among others are medicinal uses, cosmetic or perfume production uses, and of course they are used add flavor to a meal.

By 1000 B.C. medical systems based upon herbs were found in China, Korea, and India. Also the Egyptians used herbs and spices for their embalming practices and their demand for exotic herbs and spices helped stimulate world trade.

Extracting A Spices Flavor

The flavor of an herb or spice is derived by exposing the volatile oil compounds of the seed or leafy part, that oxidize or evaporate when it comes in contact with air.

As an example, fresh ginger is usually more flavorful than its dried form, but fresh spices are more expensive and have a much shorter shelf life.

Flavor of herbs and spices can be maximized by storing them whole and grinding when needed, as grinding greatly increases its surface area and so increases the rates of oxidation and evaporation.

If you decide to use dried spices, be sure to use them within 6 to 8 months of purchase. Ground spices are better stored away from light, as it also increases the oxidation of the volatile oils.

metal bowls filled with spices

How To Use Herbs And Spices

When using herbs and spices you’ll want to pick flavors that complement each other, such as the spice mix known as “pumpkin pie spice.” The ratios of cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg add great flavor to the pie, and each spice doesn’t over power the other.

The key or rule of thumb to spicing things up is that less is more. Avoid adding too much all at once. Instead, add a little at a time and add more to taste.

A good example of over spicing and unable to fix it, is when you use oregano or cloves. Their volital oils are great for flavoring culinary and pastry dishes, but they are strong in flavor, and only require a small amount.

When using spices to flavor your meat or vegetables, use only 3 different types at a time. You can even use herbs and spice to replace salt. Choose your spice or spices, add a little lemon juice and unsalted butter.

Which spices pair well together for the best culinary dishes you can make? Let’s examine some of the most commonly used spices and which spices pair well with them.

Stuffed Sweet Potato with Chipotle Black Bean and Corn Salad

Stuffed Sweet Potato with Chipotle Black Bean and Corn Salad

Did you know a chipotle is a smoke-dried jalapeño? Yes, the word chipotle comes from the Nahuatl word chilpoctli which means smoked chili.  The people’s who lived in Mexico before the Aztec civilization are thought to have invented it.

The jalapeño chili is used in Mexican-inspired cuisines, such as Mexican-American, Tex-Mex, and southwestern dishes from New Mexico. Read our article and learn more on the differences in Mexican and Tex-Mex food: Mexican vs. Tex-Mex: What is the Difference?

Jalapeños come in different varieties, sizes and heat or spiciness. The chili loses little of its heat through the smoking process, and many enjoy both its spiciness and the natural wood smoke taste that accompanies it.

Though its used traditionally in Mexican cuisine, the chipotle now enjoys a broad range of uses throughout the USA and Canada.

Our featured recipe is a southwestern USA inspired  delight, and here is what you will need to prepare: Stuffed Sweet Potato with Chipotle Black Bean and Corn Salad.

fresh ingredients for Stuffed Sweet Potato with Chipotle Black Bean and Corn Salad

4 small sweet potatoes, baked (read here about Sweet Potatoes and Their Benefits)

1 (15 oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained

1 cup corn

3 green onions, thinly sliced

1/2 cup cilantro, chopped

liquid ingrdients for Stuffed Sweet Potato with Chipotle Black Bean and Corn Salad

Vinaigrette:

2 limes, zested and juiced

juicing limes for Stuffed Sweet Potato with Chipotle Black Bean and Corn Salad1 tablespoon coconut oil

2 teaspoons raw honey

2 teaspoons adobo sauce (from a can of chipotles in adobo)

1/2 teaspoon Himalayan salt

1/2 teaspoon fresh pepper, optional

vegetable mix for Stuffed Sweet Potato with Chipotle Black Bean and Corn SaladIn a large glass bowl, add the black beans, corn, onions, and cilantro. Stir to combine. In a smaller bowl, mix together the lime zest and juice, oil, honey, adobo, salt and pepper. Pour over the black bean mixture and toss to combine.

Stuffed Sweet Potato with Chipotle Black Bean and Corn Salad -close upSlice an opening down the center of  the baked sweet potatoes. Spoon vegetable mixture to stuff the potatoes, and have yourself a…Stuffed Sweet Potato with Chipotle Black Bean and Corn Salad. Plate and serve.

Can be served as a stand alone dish (as it contains protein with the black beans), or served as a side dish, and can be served as a party favorite dish. Enjoy the possibilities with this easy and simple real food recipe.

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