Today I’m continuing my ‘Clean Eating’ series and moving into the spice cabinet. For me, my spice cabinet is also where I keep my tea, oils, vinegar, and honey so “spice cabinet” or sort of a loose designation. Because of this, there aren’t a lot of actual spices or herbs in this list. Needless to say, I have a full spice rack where I keep dried herbs like thyme, basil, and oregano and also have multiple ground spices on hand that I use frequently such as cumin, cayenne pepper, paprika and curry powder. Those are probably my most frequently used herbs and spices – but here are five other “must haves” that I keep in that cabinet.
1. Homemade Taco Seasoning.
I wrote about my love (and the recipe) for my homemade taco seasoning in this post. But it bears repeating here. This seasoning blend combines some of my favorite spices in the cabinet, and adds an instant Tex-Mex feel to any number of foods. I not only use it to season taco filling (beef, turkey, pork, chicken, lentils, etc) but also as a rub on chicken or steak and as a seasoning to canned black beans. I do not include granulated onion or garlic in my seasoning mix because I usually use fresh onion and garlic in with whatever I’m cooking; however, if you’re out of those items or prefer to use the ground spices then definitely add a tablespoon each of granulated garlic and onion to your dish. The seasoning mix is also salt-free so that you can season each dish individually to taste.
2. Balsamic Vinegar.
I also adore balsamic vinegar. It’s my go-to acid in homemade salad dressings. And I actually had just run out before I took the picture above so it’s not in the line-up! If I wasn’t leaving for Florida in a day, I would have run to the store for more – but I’m trying to hold off on all grocery shopping until I get back. In addition to salad dressings, balsamic vinegar can be reduced and drizzled over steaks, chicken, or even strawberries (which is particularly delicious). There is just no other ingredient that replicates the aged, tangy taste of balsamic vinegar. Make sure to invest in good quality vinegar for the best results.
3. Local Honey.
I’m not a big sweets eater. To the point that I rarely use sweeteners – I don’t drink them in my tea, or in my morning smoothie. But local honey deserves a spot of this list for two reasons. First, it’s a wonderful remedy for colds and flus, and for helping to prevent allergies. And two, the honey most people keep in their kitchens is a weak, processed version of what real honey can be. Read my entire post on the benefits of raw, local honey here. But trust me, do yourself a favor and invest in some raw, local honey. You won’t believe the difference.
Although I excluded most spices from this list, I had to include cinnamon because it’s so often underrated and relegated to sweet foods. While I love cinnamon in desserts, French toast, and in my homemade whole wheat pancake mix, it’s also delicious in chili, and other spicy foods. Just a pinch of cinnamon (don’t overdo it – you don’t want to be able to discern the cinnamon flavor) in spicy foods is that “hmm, what is that?” flavor in the background that can really make a dish. I even sometimes throw a pinch into my taco fillings. A pinch of cinnamon is also a delicious addition to your morning coffee. And cinnamon has been found to have numerous health benefits such as the ability to lower cholesterol, lower/stabilize blood sugar, and in some studies has been found to reduce migraines.
5. Olive Oil.
I had to include at least one oil on this list. Coconut oil is another of my favorites, but olive oil wins the day because it’s my go-to oil for everything from salad dressings to sautéing meat and veggies on the stove. I think we all know the nutritional powerhouse that olive oil is, and how its heart-healthy monounsaturated fats support a healthy body. It’s definitely one kitchen ingredient I absolutely could not cook without.
This list was a little more diverse as the ingredients weren’t as clear-cut as other areas of the kitchen like the fridge. In fact, I had to leave out a few items, like green tea and coconut oil, that I truly think of as kitchen superstars. What about you? Any of your favorite items that didn’t make the list?