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I don’t have a traditional spice rack, and come to think of it, I don’t even have a particularly organized way of managing my spices.  Most of them sit on top of the microwave in various caper and bullion jars that have been emptied over time.  The major players like cumin, nutritional yeast, soy sauce, dill, and Italian herbs sit on top of a little ledge above my oven; the ones who come out only every so often, like allspice and Chinese five spice, are in a different cupboard, with my backstock teas and big empty jars.

Which is why the Hanukkah present I got from my dad and his girlfriend a few months ago was one of the most useful gifts I’ve ever received.  They pretty much had a heyday at Penzeys, and my meals are now all the more flavorful for it.

I’ve always been about using fresh bulk spices, never the ones that sit in plastic containers on the grocery store shelves for years.  I usually fill little baggies at the New Seasons bulk area and bring them home and put them in cute little mismatched jars, or even order online at The Spice House for the harder-to-find stuff like nigella and saffron.

So, here’s my loot, and what I’ve been using it for these past few months:

A whole box devoted to curry!  I actually rarely use powders to make actual curries — for that, I’ll usually go with some good paste and coconut milk.  But, I do love to sprinkle any of these on roasting veggies, on a lentil salad, or in dressings.  I also love using a teaspoon of the Tandoori seasoning in my rice while it’s cooking.  It has just enough saffron to make the entire pot taste like it, but without having to use up my valuable saffron threads!

The green herbs.  These are great in just about anything, and they’re right when they say the Pasta Sprinkle is really all you need with some yummy pasta, a good olive oil, and some salt or Parmesan.  In fact, one of my favorite quickie lunches on my day off is to cook a cup of macaroni elbows, and toss it in a bowl with some homemade cultured creme fraiche (I make this every few months and it keeps in the fridge seemingly indefinitely, always ready to be used as a creamy, tangy butter substitute), salt, pepper, nutritional yeast, some TJ’s red pepper spread, and the Pasta Sprinkle.  It takes about seven minutes and is the best faux mac’n’cheese you’ll ever eat.

I’m totally in love with having high quality powdered ginger on hand.  I do try to keep fresh ginger in the fridge all the time too, but sometimes it’s just so much work.  To be able to add a pinch or two of this to an Asian salad dressing or stir-fry is luxurious.  I haven’t gotten to try the nutmeg yet, because these boxes all came nestled in beds of bay leaves, cinnamon sticks, and whole nutmeg, so I’ve been using the latter ground fresh whenever I need it.  But, this box is just screaming out for me to make some sort of delicious coffee cake, I know it.

The title on this box was “Pepper Lover’s Assortment,” and that couldn’t be more right on.  I put pepper on everything, and now for the first time ever, I own a super snazzy pepper mill (that I’ve already had to refill twice, if that gives you any indication) instead of the grocery store one I’ve been using and refilling for five years.  Damn, it makes a big difference.  This pepper lover just got seriously upgraded.

And finally, I think it’s time to take up baking.

What do I use lemon extract for?  Lemon poppyseed bread?  I’m hosting a clothing swap at my house on Sunday and I think I just decided what I’m going to have to make for a sweet treat to go with my coconut vanilla iced coffee cocktails…

So, needless to say, I haven’t had to spend any money on spices yet this year!  There’s certainly enough here to last me for awhile, so this was a nice little bonus to kick off my grocery budget.

What are you favorite spices to experiment with?  What are your go-tos?  Do you have a good spice store in your neighborhood that you love?

How did the rest of my Project: Food Budget-ers do?




4 thoughts on “Spices

    • Ooh, I like it! I’ve never made macaroons, but given my recent coconut infatuation, it seems about time.

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