Spicing Up the Ordinary

I've often wondered how a chef can make such aromatic mixtures simply by throwing in a leaf of this or a dash of that. How do they know just what to add to enhance their meal? I went straight to a local chef and asked him. He said, "You just know." Well, that wasn't much help for you or me. He also said, "A lot of it is taught in culinary school but the exact amount varies among chefs.

" Even better. now it's something I have to go to school to learn and I'll never do it like Emeril. Or so you think.

You CAN learn what each of the spices do and I've even put together a compilation of some of the most common spices for you. Feel free to print it out and keep it with your cookbooks for quick reference while you are flavoring your own meals. Cayenne Pepper - Cayenne pepper comes from grinding the dried pods of chili peppers. Needless to say, it is a hot spice that is usually used in Mexican foods.

You can add a unique twist to your vegetable dips by adding a dash of cayenne pepper or create "South of the Border" omelets by mixing chopped onions, green peppers and tomatoes to your eggs. Cilantro - Cilantro has an aroma similar to that of parsley and is best used crushed. Cilantro is primarily used as a topping for tacos, chili or enchiladas.

You may also use cilantro on stir fried vegetables to add color and a little flavor. Cinnamon - Cinnamon sticks are actually pieces of bark. When you purchase ground cinnamon in a jar, it has been processed by grating it finely. Cinnamon has a very sweet, woody aroma and is terrific for taking away the tartness in most fruit pies. You can also add cinnamon to hot chocolate or tea for additional enjoyment.

Dill Weed - When you purchase dill from the grocery store, most often you are getting dill weed. A feathery spice with a very pungent yet delicate aroma. Dill is perfect for adding flavor to fish, shellfish and dips. A quick and easy way to spice up leftover carrots is to chop them, add a little butter and sprinkle dill on top.

Cover and microwave for approximately five to eight minutes until carrots are tender but not mushy. Serve as a side dish with your fish. Ginger - Ginger generally can be purchased either fresh as a root or ground. Similar to cinnamon, ginger also has a very woodsy flavor which works wonderfully when added to sugar cookies and also can be used in Asian dishes. Marjoram - Marjoram has a delicate, sweet flavor that doesn't overpower when added to soups or stews.

It is also an exceptional variation for seasoning baked chicken when sprinkled on the chicken with salt and pepper. Rosemary - Rosemary comes from the mint family and has a very pungent piney aroma. Add rosemary to melted butter and drizzle over freshly cooked red potatoes or other vegetables.

It also works extremely well when used with fresh summer squash or zucchini. Tarragon - Tarragon is commonly used with vinegar for pickling cucumbers and relishes. With a slightly bittersweet flavor, tarragon also is an excellent addition to egg and cheese dishes. You can mix tarragon with melted butter and baste chicken or other poultry prior to baking.

Della Franklin is a business owner, successful IT Systems Manager & Internet Marketer. She counts 10 years experience as a teacher as well as being a Certified Network Engineer, cook, wife & mother. See more about her at or

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