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Store Room Staples: Basic Spices & Dried Herbs (and at least one Dad joke...)

My pantry is one of the biggest sources of my pride & joy. My two pups are another source, but they just reeked havoc on my neighborhood so they are currently neither a source of pride nor joy. I'm currently hiding from the neighbors who's front porch they pooped on (I cleaned it up but that didn't seem to soften my embarrassment), so for now it is just the pantry, sigh.

I love, love, love herbs and spices. Every time I go to the store I check to see what's new & on sale (I once scored a close-out sale on vanilla beans, normally $18, for $4! I made the most moist vanilla bean bundtlettes, recipe coming soon!) A well stocked pantry is the difference in any dish. Frozen meats? Leftover ingredients? Bland veggies? These are what adds the flavor. Herbs and spices also pack a ton of nutritional benefits.

I have shelves & shelves of spices & dried herbs; but I've put together a list of my 12 basic ones that every pantry needs. These don't include salt or pepper (because a discussion on the various kinds you should have is an entire post in itself) or anything you need for baking or any specialty spices (I'm looking at you, garam masala). Cheers to being basic today!

1. Dried Parsley: There's no herb I use more than dried parsley. I love fresh herbs, but if you don't have any on hand, dried parsley is a game changer. I put it in almost everything and sprinkle a little on top for good measure. Pasta. Soup. Spanish Rice. Dips. Omelets. Literally everything, pick yourself up some.

2. Dried Oregano: When Chase comes home Mexican & Italian food are always on the menu. Oregano is prominent in both cuisines so it's a very common ingredient in most of the food I make. In addition, oregano is an excellent source of vitamin K, manganese, iron, dietary fiber and calcium.

3. Dried Thyme: This is the spice you smell & immediately think of Thanksgiving. When it comes to roasting poultry, this is the spice you need. Actually, when it comes to slow cooking anything (potatoes, soups, stews) add this spice- the taste just gets better with thyme (DAD JOKE!).

4. Red Cayenne Pepper: Most dried herbs & spices have nutritional benefits but red cayenne pepper has some really special qualities. From anti-irritant properties to clearing congestion to boosting your metabolism and supporting weight loss, a little goes a longgggg way with this spice. If you can handle a little heat, add this spice to your dishes. My favorite dish to add this to is roasted garbanzo beans- they turn out crunchy & packed with a kick from this spice.

5. Cumin: Do you have cumin in your pantry? If you don't, go. get. it. now. This spice has it's roots in the Middle East but it's also the spice that gives that taco-y favor to taco seasoning. Hummus, meat for burritos, and roasted veggies are just a few of my favorite uses for this spice.

6. Chili Powder: Chili powder sounds hot, but I promise it's not. If you can't quite handle the heat of red cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes, substitute in this milder spice. This is a blend of many chilies and is a delicious addition to any meal, especially marinades and dry rubs. And just like its pepper spice cousins it's packed with Vitamin A, Vitamin C, iron, potassium and magnesium.

7. Crushed Red Pepper: You know those rich dishes overflowing with cheese, cream and salt (think mac & cheese, fettuccine alfredo, pizza)? Add some crushed red pepper to cut through all that delicious dairy. Most crushed red pepper mixtures contain a variety of different peppers such as bell, jalapeno, ancho and cayenne peppers, so be aware of the heat level of this ingredient. Unless you're a lover of spicy food like me, then keep sprinkling away...

8. Paprika: When I think of Paprika, I always think of my mom's cheese stuffed celery recipe that is her go-to appetizer for parties. Every region of the world has its own blend of paprika ranging from mild to hot, but all varieties are known for their rich red color. The secret to paprika? The flavor is more effectively brought out by heating it in oil, so make sure you add it to dishes before cooking instead of sprinkling it on top as a garnish!

9. Onion Powder: In our house, you can never have too much fresh onion or garlic in a dish, so I rarely use onion powder as a substitute for the fresh stuff. However, I love onion powder in dips that you won't cook. They give you that onion flavor without the overpowering raw onion breath... your guests with thank you. I also use onion powder to kick up the onion flavor in my onion dip which uses caramelized onions (recipe coming soon, it's a reallllll crowd pleaser). Onion powder is also good to have on hand for marinades, dry rubs and to add in your burgers.

10. Garlic Powder: Like I said above, I put cloves of fresh garlic in everything. But when it comes to raw garlic, it can be a little aggressive for normal people (Chase & I don't fall into this normal garlic consumer category). So if you have a dish you aren't cooking, use garlic powder instead. Wherever you use onion powder (dry rubs, marinades, meat mixes), add garlic powder too.

11. Ground Cinnamon: In addition to the obvious baking uses for cinnamon (hello banana bread, snickerdoodles & cinnamon rolls), cinnamon is an ingredient in a surprising number of savory dishes. Sweet & spicy pork shoulder, Bolognese sauce & lamb are just a few of the places you'll find cinnamon. You could also be like my mom and keep a pre-mixed jar of cinnamon sugar for my all-time favorite comfort food when I'm sick... cinnamon toast...

12. Spice Mixes: I usually prefer to make my own spice mixes but there are some pre-made ones I like to keep on hand. One of my favorite spice blends is Creole seasoning for those times when I'm in the mood to pretend I live in New Orleans. My most used spice mix is Mrs. Dash Original Blend. I add this + red cayenne pepper to avocado toast, salmon, roasted veggies, etc. My one rule for pre-made spice mixes? Make sure they don't have any salt in them. Everyone's palate for salt is a little different and I don't like being boxed in to someone else's taste. I usually find that for the amount of flavor I want to add with the spice mix, it usually has too much salt for me. Do yourself a flavor and get the mixes without salt.

On my next Store Room Staples, I'm listing my favorite baking basics!



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