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Don't know how to use spices

post #1 of 5
Thread Starter 
I'm a pretty good cook. I can usually just throw random things together in the kitchen and something delicious will come out. But I tend to use pre-made sauces and spice mixes to season my food. Now I have a little baby, and he's been having reactions (rash and reflux) so I'm heading towards a whole foods diet, and needing to learn to cook all over again. And I've realized I don't know how to use spices on my own.

Can anyone point me in the direction of a book or website that might have charts of what spices go well with what foods? Or something like that? I'm getting really tired of eating everything with just salt, pepper, and non-dairy spread.
post #2 of 5
I don't know of any sites or books that will tell you what goes well with what, but I can say that a few years ago my spice rack consisted of salt, pepper, lemon pepper and thyme. Now I have tons of spices and I just experiment. Things I've noticed are yummy:

Good in pretty much anything:
Garlic powder, salt, pepper, sage,thyme

Good in pork:
sage, thyme, rosemary, cinnamon

Good in gr. beef:
anything, but I like ginger a lot in beef. I also love the ginger/cinnamon combo. Celery seed, chineese five spice, paprika, ground mustard seed

Good in Gr. turkey:
nutmeg, sage, thyme, celery seed, paparika

Good in beans:
cumin, cayenne, garlic powder, chili powder, cayenne and paprika.

White sauces (like for pasta) always get:
Nutmeg, fresh citrus juice, salt, pepper. I then choose other spices based on what the sauce is going with (seafood? sausage? veggies?).

Red sauces (for pasta) always get:
salt, pepper, ginger, paprika, cayenne

Eggs:
salt, pepper, rosemary, thyme, celery seed, garlic powder

potatoes:
pretty much anything. Garlic, salt, pepper, cumin, rosemary, thyme. (My favorite for fried pots. in the morning is salt, pepper, and thyme).

I pick and choose from from the above lists to suit my tastes. Really, I think the best way for you to figure it out is to buy some spices and experiment. I have some pretty random spices on hand and through experimentation I've found what works for my family and what doesn't-for example, dh and ds hate curry...Spices can be expensive. When I first started to expand beyond seasoning salt and lemon pepper, I'd commit to buying one new bottle of spices each time I went grocery shopping. This helped me build my collection without droping tons of moolah in one trip.

Also, if you read the recipes in cookbooks you'll start to notice a trend for spice pairings.

Good luck and have fun!
post #3 of 5
post #4 of 5
It takes a bit of time to get used to using spices. I'd suggest getting a few of the old standby's: garlic powder, oregano, thyme, rosemary, and cumin.

This will give you a meditteranean/latin american based taste. Do you have any cuisines you really like? If so, look up a few basic recipes and jot down the spices. After a few you will get an idea for what spices form the basis of that "cuisine."

Also, something that's helped me a lot is using my nose. If I think a spice/herb would smell good in whatever I am cooking, it'll most likely taste good too.

hth

Ami
post #5 of 5
Thread Starter 
Wow, thanks for all the great suggestions!
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