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Monday, August 21, 2006

Adding Zest With Spices

Anyone who does any food preparation at all needs to have at a least a small collection of spices on hand. These bare essentials, which add flavor and make food more enjoyable would include at a minimum:

Salt - which, for health reasons, should be used in moderation but is excellent for bringing out the flavor in food.

Pepper - which adds taste to many dinner time items. Black pepper is the most common and now days you can purchase peppercorns, or unground pepper, that comes in a small jar with a built in grinder which can be placed on the table like a traditional pepper shaker. Keeping the pepper unground until you use it helps to retain the oils and freshness which gives it more taste.

Red Pepper and White Pepper - these are variations of black pepper with each having a slightly different taste and can be used in things like soups and stews when cooking.

Cinnamon - a great seasoning for baking. Adding cinnamon to homemade applesauce gives the applesauce a nice old fashioned taste. Mixing cinnamon with sugar makes a quick and easy topping for toast in place of jam or honey.

Oregano - an herb that is a must for Italian cooking. It also goes well sprinkled on fresh cut tomatoes.

Nutmeg - a pungent spice, a little bit of which greatly enhances things like fresh applesauce, eggnog and a common ingredient in baking.

Allspice - another all purpose spice for baking.

Garlic powder - fresh garlic cloves are great for many types cooking especially Italian. But powdered, garlic is great to have on hand as well and can be used in place of fresh garlic. My children and I make garlic bread by slicing fresh French or Italian style bread, buttering each slice then sprinkling garlic powder on each slice and placing them in the oven (set to broil) for a couple of minutes to toast them. These are a must with spaghetti!

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