imagesAm I the only one glad to be done with THE CHALLENGE?!?!  So nice to not have to think about every bite!  I know it was good to do, but I have to confess that I am happy to be done.  Jenny and I were talking and she asked what kind of spices I keep on hand.  I know everyone cooks a little different, but I think herbs and spices are the key to cooking really good dishes.

Now that spring is finally here I will plant fresh herbs.  I always have a big planter full of basil on my back porch.  Last year I expanded that and also grew rosemary, thyme, and oregano.  These herbs are all excellent to add to vegetables and marinades.  Fresh herbs give things a brighter flavor and make a big difference.  I especially like fresh thyme and lemon zest in summer squash stir fry, with peppers and onions!

This leads me to another staple in my kitchen, lemons.  I buy them by the bag and keep them in the refrigerator.  I use fresh lemon juice and lemon zest about two or three times a week.  The acidity adds a great flavor and it can be used to brighten up vegetable dishes, salad dressings, and again, marinades.  The lemon juice also works as a natural tenderizer in the marinades.  I love lemon juice and garlic salt on avocado, add tuna or salmon and it makes a delicious lunch.

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My spice cabinet is an interesting assortment.  My staples are chili powder, cumin, paprika, kosher salt (or sea salt) and pepper.  I also keep dried oregano, turmeric, cinnamon, whole nutmeg, sage, coriander, dried ginger, ground mustard, and good asian curry.  This is the bulk of what I use.  Occasionally I will come across a spice I don’t have in a new recipe, I usually buy a small container and see if I use it much, before buying a larger one.

One other spice I use is fresh ginger.  If a recipe calls for slices or julianne strips of ginger I buy fresh, but if it calls for grated ginger I use frozen.  I find that ginger spoils quickly.  A friend of my mom’s who has a Chinese restaurant gave us the tip that you can freeze ginger root and then grate what you need from the frozen root.  This works great and now I always have some in the freezer.

This brings me to my final tip.  It is not a spice, but a tool.  It is a microplane.  It is great for zesting, grating ginger, fresh nutmeg, and other similar things.  There is nothing else that works quite as well, and it makes using lemon zest so much easier.  Hope you found something helpful in all of this, now excuse me while I go make some paleo chocolate chip cookies!