I Love Spices!

When I first started eating clean, spices were the first magical thing I discovered. My taste buds were changing, and I was able to recognize differences in flavor from the spices alone. I found, and still find, it fascinating that one can travel the world through spices.


I actually have three drawers full of spices…and 1/2 a cabinet shelf.

So today we’re going to travel the world together! If you want your dish to have a Middle Eastern flavor, I’ll give you the spices for that. Chinese? Indian? French? Italian? I’ve got it all. I haven’t figured out all areas of the world (Greek food, I’ll get to you soon!) but here’s a good starting place, especially if you’re new to spices.


Basil, Garlic, Onion, Oregano, Parsley, Rosemary, Sage, Thyme, Crushed Red Pepper Flakes, Fennel, Cinnamon (Southern Italy) and Marjoram (Southern Italy)


Chili powder (you can buy it, or make your own using any of the following spices), Chili peppers, Cumin, Oregano, Garlic, Cloves, Coriander, Onion, Cocoa, Cilantro, Cinnamon, Saffron


Chili Powder, Chinese Five-Spice (star anise, Szechuan peppercorns, cinnamon, cloves, fennel), Coriander, Crushed Red Pepper Flakes, Cumin, Ginger. I also like to use Toasted Sesame Seeds for garnish.


Turmeric, Chili Powder, Cinnamon, Cloves, Coriander, Curry Powder, Thyme, Nutmeg, Paprika, Allspice, Cardamom, Mint, Sage, Saffron, Garlic (especially Northern India), Ginger (Northern India), Cumin (Northern India), Cilantro (Southern India)


Allspice (considered the Jamaican pepper), Cinnamon, Bay Leaf, Cilantro, Cloves, Thyme, Parsley, Dill, Garlic, Ginger, Nutmeg, Onion, Orange

A great flavor combination: cilantro + garlic + onion

Middle Eastern

Aleppo Pepper, Cinnamon, Coriander, Cumin, Cloves, Paprika, Garlic, Ginger, Dill, Parsley, Marjoram, Mint, Nutmeg, Oregano, Thyme, Sesame Seeds, Ras el Hanout

Ras el Hanout (rahs-el-haNOOT) is a spice blend. Usually vendors all over the Middle East and North Africa will have their own version. This is the recipe I use. It’s delicious!


Bay Leaf, Basil, Coriander, Garlic, Marjoram, Oregano, Mint, Parsley, Rosemary, Sage, Thyme, Savory

Great combination: marjoram + rosemary

Moroccon/North Africa – my favorite flavor combinations!

Cumin, Paprika, Cilantro, Cinnamon, Coriander, Ginger, Saffron, Mint, Parsley

Great combinations: Moroccon: cinnamon + coriander + cumin; North Africa: cumin+garlic+mint


Coriander, Cumin, Chili pepper (West and South Africa, especially), Garlic, Onion, Cinnamon (South), Cloves (South), Ginger (South), Turmeric (South)


Chives, Thyme, Tarragon, Mustard, Parsley

Southern/Provençal: Anise, Basil, Garlic, Lavendar, Marjoram, Rosemary, Sage


Bay Leaf, Garlic, Onion, Orange, Sweet Paprika, Parsley, Thyme

Great combination: garlic + onion + paprika


Chili Powder, Cinnamon, Thai Basil, Cilantro, Coriander, Cumin, Chili Peppers, Curries, Garlic, Ginger, Lemongrass, Mint, Turmeric

Great combination: chili pepper + garlic + cilantro + coconut milk (I know, not a spice, but it’s yummy!)


Cabinet full of spices and spice mixes. I love Penzeys!

So there’s my list so far! But you might be asking, “Where do I start? Buying all those spices at once is too expensive!” And I completely agree. Therefore…

My List of Most-Used Spices (and some others that are good to have)

Most-Used: Cinnamon, Cumin, Cloves, Coriander, Cilantro, Chili Powder (you can make your own to save money), Garlic, Ginger, Onion, Parsley, Thyme

Good-To-Have: Basil (especially if you make a lot of Italian food), Cardamom (not used by itself often, but used in a lot of spice mixes), Chinese Five-Spice (for Chinese food), Cocoa Powder (Mexican), Marjoram, Oregano, Rosemary, Paprika, Mint, Turmeric


Well Fed 2 Spice Mixes

Well Fed and Well Fed 2 by Melissa Joulwan are two of my all-time favorite cookbooks. I’ll write a full review in a different post someday, but among all the things I love about these books, the thing I love most is the way she teaches the reader to create different ethnic meals through the use of simple base ingredients and a change of spice mixtures. The spice mixes pictured above are from Well Fed 2. The tall jar is Magic Dust, and it’s more than just a spice mix…I use it like a condiment. I also have a few favorite Penzeys spice blends that I’ll share in another post.

Poll Time! 

Question Time! What’s your favorite, go-to spice or spice mix? Answer in the comments!


Well Fed + Well Fed 2

The Flavor Bible by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg


Tomato Soup/Sauce

Well, I got train-wrecked with a cold since my last entry – one of those colds that starts as a hacking-up-a-lung cough and then travels up to the sinuses and ears. Silver lining: I did not lose my voice. It’s very difficult to substitute teach with no voice.

Being sick, I haven’t wanted to cook that much. But since I started the 21 Day Sugar Detox on Monday, I sort of needed to make sure I had good food to eat so I wouldn’t go grabbing for sugar. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the Sugar Monster reared its head in a major way. The constant cravings for something sweet and feeling “hungry” every couple of hours were two big clues that I needed to do a sugar detox. Basically, the detox is no sugar for 21 days…so yeah, no leftover holiday treats, but also very limited fruit and starches. It’s been trickier than I’ve expected, but I want to blame a lot of that on Mr. Cold.

So, between the cold and lack of sugar, I wanted a hug in a bowl. And that, to me, is either chili or tomato soup. Since I’ve been eating chili for the last week and am starting to get sick of it, tomato soup it is! But not just any tomato soup. A tasty, simple and quick-to-make tomato soup. Most store-bought tomato soups have extra…crap stuff added to it . Either they’re high in sodium, or there’s added sugar, or worse – modified food starch and weird chemical names. It’s just not necessary to have these ingredients added to make tomato soup taste good.

This is the first recipe that I created as a true kitchen experiment. Until I started cooking with real food, I had to follow a recipe exactly. I still will do that with someone else’s recipe the first time I make it, and then I’ll play around with the ingredients. But about a month ago, I wanted tomato soup. I had tomato paste and coconut milk, and a ton of spices. So I just started mixing things together, and it tasted awesome! It even worked well as a sauce with chicken, which I then wanted to make with my boyfriend. Not remembering what spices I used, we made it up, and it still tasted awesome.

Yesterday I made it again, but this time I made sure to record how much of each spice I was using (I didn’t, however, remember to take a picture. Oh, learning curve!). Here’s the cool thing with spices: if you like one spice more than another, just add more of the spice you like! I particularly love garlic, so I always add a extra bit of garlic. But play around with it yourself. As long as you don’t dump tablespoons of any spice in the sauce, you’ll be fine. Remember: you can always add more, but you can’t take away.

Easy Creamy Tomato Soup/Sauce


1-3 6-8 oz cans tomato paste – Make sure there is no sugar or citric acid added. The can should just say “tomatoes”.

1 can full-fat coconut milk – Your body needs fat to function, and coconut is one of the healthiest fats out there. Thai Kitchen and A Taste of Thai are the two brands I use most often. DO NOT use light! It will not taste good!

2 teaspoons of garlic powder – A great way to get garlic in if you like the taste but not the texture.

1 teaspoon each of: onion, turmeric, cinnamon, sage, coriander, ginger, and sea salt (not table salt!) – Lots of health benefits in these spices. onion: dietary fiber, manganese, calcium and vitamin C; turmeric: anti-inflammatory, brain-function booster, manganese, iron, vitamin B6, fiber and potassium; cinnamon: manganese, fiber, calcium, and some evidence that it may help lower blood sugar and boost brain function; sage: antioxidants, Vitamin K, anti-inflammatory, and some evidence that it may help with memory; coriander: anti-inflammatory, fiber and calcium; ginger: anti-inflammatory, and may relieve gastrointestinal distress; sea salt: strengthens immune system, trace minerals such as magnesium, potassium, and calcium, minimal processing compared to table salt


1. In a medium sauce pan, heat the coconut milk on medium heat.

2. Once the coconut milk starts to bubble (but not boil), add 1 can of tomato paste and stir until the tomato paste has dissolved in the milk. The color could be anywhere between a pale red to a slightly burnt orange-y red depending on the consistency of the paste and milk you used.

3. Add in all spices and stir. Let soup simmer for about 5-10 minutes to thicken up. Stir often so the bottom doesn’t burn. Make sure you put a lid on the pot, or it could pop soup bubbles all over the stove, and then you have to spend time cleaning the stove instead of eating, which stinks. I’ve learned this the hard way. (I also learned I dislike white stoves.)

4. Here’s where personal choice comes in! Taste the soup. If it’s the thickness you want and you like the flavors, you’re done! If you want more of a tomato bisque, add another can of tomato paste. If you want a sauce and the bisque isn’t thick enough, add the third can of paste. You may need to add more spices to compensate for the added tomato paste. If you want to add veggies to the soup, go right ahead, and let me know how it goes!

Servings: Since I ate the whole pot, I’m a really bad judge…oops. But it should be enough for two people.

Tomorrow I hope to have my favorite winter hug-in-a-cup recipe – bone broth!

Question for you: What do you like to eat when you’re sick?



Sources for spice info: