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.

The Agitators of Good Food

The Agitators of Good Food

A blender or a food processor, even a Magic Bullet or the Ninja Kitchen Blender, are all kitchen aids known to blend or process food ingredients together. They could also be describe as agitators. Is this what we are referring to by the theme of this post? That they are the agitators of good food? Far from it.

The agitators we want to talk about are those that are mixed with spices and herbs to enhance their flavors.

Spices and herbs can enhance any dish from sweet to savory, but it is the agitators which must be used in conjunction with them to have any real effect. What are those agitators? Salt is one of them, but so is vinegar, citric acid and sugar. Sugar by the way is more popular with baking, but has a place at times in cooking.

Zest of lemons and oranges can also be used as an agitator in accompanying some of the spices and herbs to enhance flavor. Lemon zest, or the grated rind, is a popular flavoring for baked goods and desserts as well as in savory dishes, such as meats and sauces.

grating lemon zestThe rind holds the lemon oil, and adds exciting taste. After you have squeezed a lemon for its juice, don’t toss out the rinds, freeze them and use them for zest in anything from desserts, vinaigrette, and vegetable side dishes. Frozen citrus rinds graded for zest are as fresh as a fresh lemon or orange.

Lemon juice can replace or compliment vinegar in salad dressings, or to marinate and tenderize meat, poultry or fish.

Here are some seasonings without salt but have another agitator that can be used in some of our favorite recipes. See if you can guess the agitator being used in them.

Taco Seasoning: chili powder, domestic paprika, granulated onion, cumin, granulated garlic, Mexican oregano, brown sugar, black pepper medium, & cayenne pepper (the agitator is brown sugar).

Garlic Herb Seasoning: sesame seeds, black pepper, garlic powder, green onion, lemon zest and citric acid (the agitators are the zest and citric acid). Citric acid is sold packaged in powder form, and can be purchased at any health food store.

Italian Seasoning:  oregano, red pepper flakes, sweet basil, garlic flakes, parsley flakes.

In the Italian seasoning there is no agitator used. Do we add salt, then? No, but if you add it to spaghetti sauce which has tomatoes in it, then you have your agitator. Tomatoes have citric acid in them.

Pizza Seasoning - The Agitators of Good Food

Pizza Seasoning

Pizza seasoning: oregano, basil, garlic, onion, thyme, fennel seed, red bell pepper, crushed red pepper, parsley and marjoram.

As you can see, there is no agitator used. What does pizza have as part of it ingredients? Tomato sauce, which has citric acid, the agitator.

When using salt as your agitator, use Himalayan salt. Not only will you get a boost of trace minerals in the meal, but you can also use less salt than you would if using table salt.

 

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Simple and Easy Beef Stir-Fry with Coconut Milk

Easy-and-Simple-Beef-Stir-Fry-with-Coconut-Milk

This stir fry really is simple and easy. This is another Asian meal right out of our kitchen here at Splendid Recipes and More.

When it comes to food there are always health benefits, that is if you are eating the food in a healthy way. This recipe includes red pepper flacks, and if you have a problem with your appetite, that is wanting to eat to much and possibly putting on a few extra pounds, red pepper flakes can help.

Adding 1/2 teaspoons of red pepper flakes three times a day to what you eat, you can cut down your appetite by 30%. Of course if you cut out simple carbohydrates (refined carbs) from your diet as well, and add complex carbs (100% whole grains, including the fiber), you can also suppress your appetite another 30 to 40 percent. Complex carbohydrates digest slower, leveling your blood glucose not spiking it, and giving you energy for longer periods as well as a full feeling for 3 to 4 hours.

A great snack between meals is a piece of fruit. But don’t add the red pepper flakes to your fruit, just to your breakfast, lunch and dinner. Speaking of dinner here is our featured recipe and what you will need:

ingredients-for-Simple-and-Easy-Beef-Stir-Fry-with-Coconut-Milk

1 lb. beef, cut into thin strips for stir fry cut

1 tbsp. Ginger, minced

1 tbsp. Garlic, minced

1 Large Onion, sliced lengthwise

1 Green Pepper, sliced lengthwise

1 tbsp. Red chili flakes

1 tbsp. Curry powder

1 14 oz. can Coconut Milk

 

Heat some avocado oil in a wok or large pan, and fry the beef on both sides. Add the following 6 ingredients and stir-fry some more till the beef is thoroughly cooked.

Add coconut milk; simmer on low heat for 10 -15 minutes more. Plate and serve with a side of rice.

Easy-and-Simple-Beef-Stir-Fry-with-Coconut-Milk

 

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Mexican Marinated Steak Fajitas

Marinated Steak Fajitas

This flavorful Mexican fajita recipe is sure to become a family favorite. The following recipe will cook up best in a cast iron skillet. The recommended size, is about a 12 inch skillet. Fajitas can be made with beef or chicken, your choice.

To get that wonderful sizzle at home, serve on pre-heated individual cast iron fajita skillets. 

Here is what you will need:

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided

2 pounds skirt steak

2 medium yellow onions, sliced lengthwise (not into rings)

2 green peppers, sliced lengthwise*

2 red peppers, sliced lengthwise*

8 – 10 flour tortillas

*opt for orange and yellow peppers

Marinade:

1 tablespoon fresh lime zest

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 cloves garlic

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon onion powder

¼ cup fresh cilantro

½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon pepper

Combine all marinade ingredients in blender and process until smooth. Pour marinade into shallow glass dish and add meat. Turn meat to make sure it is coated on both sides.

Marinate at room temperature for 1 hour or overnight in the refrigerator. Turn meat occasionally while marinating.

To cook:

Add 1½ tablespoons olive oil to cast iron skillet and heat over medium-high heat for a couple minutes. While pan is heating, remove meat from marinade and drain off excess moisture.

Place steak in hot skillet and cook for 2 or 3 minutes per side or until it reaches the desired level of doneness. Remove steak from skillet and let rest under an aluminum foil tent for 5 to 10 minutes.

While the steak is resting, add the remaining olive oil to the pan, and return heat to medium-high. Add sliced onion and peppers to the pan. Do not stir vegetables until they begin to brown, then stir and allow to brown on remaining sides. Do not overcook – the goal is to get a nice brown sear without burning.

To Serve:

For soft tortillas, place them in a tortilla warmer or wrap in aluminum foil and place in warm oven.

Slice steak into thin slices and serve with warm tortillas, the cooked vegetables and your choice of toppings.

We used red salsa, but you can also use green salsa. Some diced avocado, and lime wedges. Enjoy!!

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