Cavegirl’s Top 7 Essential Spices
These 7 essential spices will ensure your weekly recipes are tasty…even breathing new life into a tried-and-true recipe with new and different flavors. Sometimes, we throw more salt or butter into the skillet, when all that we need is some flavor and balance. In addition to fresh herbs, I like to experiment with those spices in the back of my spice rack, like turmeric. I really, really want to love turmeric. I so do. I’m supposed to, right? And, don’t get me wrong, it’s healthy and tastes good. But, I just don’t use it like I promise myself I will. Curry powder is another one. So, although the list below seems pretty simple at first glance, these spices are my essentials that get me through the week…they are my comfort zone. With that said, I purposely look in the back of the spice rack a couple times a month and let the spices influence that night’s meal. It helps me stay out of my rut and gives my family something new! 😉
Cavegirl’s Top 7 Essential Spices
- Smoked Paprika ~ This is single-handedly my favorite spice. I put this on steaks and burgers…on raw jicama sticks and deviled eggs…in stews and in chilis, and even on chicken! Called pimentón in Spain, the smoky flavor is just on-point and so versatile and congruent with most savory dishes. I LOVE it in my Porcini Mushroom Dry Rub. Although regular paprika is made from the same type of chilis as smoked paprika, the smoking of the chili prior to crushing yields a deeper flavor in my opinion. Rich in a variety of carotenoids, start adding this to your sauces and meats.
- Garlic Powder ~ I am the first person to tell you that fresh garlic is amazing. But I am also a mom, a busy mom that loves garlic. I keep garlic powder in my spice rack because I don’t always have fresh garlic on-hand. So, this spice is essential to keep in-a-pinch for my daily meals when I’m a little less than prepared. It’s also fantastic when I’m making dry rubs when I don’t want the moisture of fresh garlic, such as my Cavegirl Rib Dry Rub.
- Cumin ~ Although my favorite place for this spice is in my Homemade Taco Seasoning and in chilis, this little peppery unique flavoring can also be used in Indian curry dishes and Mediterranean recipes. If you ever taste your chili and it already has enough salt, throw in some more cumin as I’m sure that’s the missing piece of the puzzle. Great in meatloaf and stews too! Plus, cumin is a super-spice as it aids in digestion, immunity, insomnia, respiratory disorders, the common cold, lactation, anemia, skin disorders, and cancer.
- Cinnamon ~ This is not your mama’s spice. There are more than holiday cookies and pumpkin pie that cinnamon is worthy of. OK, funny side story, I remember when I was about 8 or 9. It was Saturday morning and my folks were still in bed. Yippee!!! I ran downstairs and instantly climbed up on the counters and reached up above the stove and grabbed that coveted bottle of cinnamon. It was time to dump some down my throat. Cough ~ cough ~ gross ~ cough. Did you know cinnamon wasn’t sweet?? I didn’t. Now I do too. Cinnamon gives such a great depth of flavor in dry rubs for beef and poultry. It’s compatible with cloves and chocolate. And it is amazing in a variety of Indian and Mediterranean dishes. On top of that, there are different kinds of cinnamon from Vietnamese to Saigon cinnamon which are amazingly fragrant ~ try them!
- Nutmeg ~ If you’ve ever eaten a dish prepared by someone else and couldn’t quite place your taste buds on that last ingredient, it was probably a little added nutmeg. Amazing in sweet and savory dishes alike, this little drupe (a fruit with one seed), lends a sweet nuttiness like no other. Although there are ground varieties in the spice aisle, do yourself a favor and buy them whole. Grate off what you need each time and use it sparingly in dishes but use it often!
- Ground Mustard ~ I love using prepared or Dijon mustard in a lot of dishes, but just like the garlic powder, sometimes (a lot of times), I like making a dry rub for steaks. Or…shhh…sometimes, I haven’t been to the store and I’m just out of mustard. Having this go-to backup foots the bill in a pinch.
- Cayenne Pepper ~ “A little dab’ll do ya” was never so true than when it comes to cayenne pepper, as well as a pinch “packs a big punch”! Although there are a lot of sayings that I can throw around, cayenne pepper adds just enough balance to a lot of meals ~ meatloaf, dry rubs, Asian dishes, soups, salsas, and other tomato-based dishes…do I need to continue? I like to throw a pinch or two of this in most of my dishes. You’ll figure out your heat tolerance…just don’t be afraid to experiment! In addition to the incredible balancing act a little heat will garner in a meal, the health benefits are also impressive. Among many things, cayenne pepper is known as a digestive aid, anti-cold agent, and joint-pain reliever.