You grab your bag for the day and make sure the door locks behind you.
The street is quiet, and you take a moment to admire your breath. Sitting on the curb is your trash waiting to be picked up. A few styrofoam and plastic containers stacked next to not one, but three empty pizza boxes grab your attention.
“Do I really order food that often?”
With your free hand, you lightly pinch your stomach in disgust.
At this point you can go about your day as you always have and relive the same sequence next week, next month, next year…
…Or you can make a change.
Don’t worry – I get it. You’re not a chef – food just doesn’t taste as good when you prepare it yourself.
Why eat healthy when you can just order from GrubHub?
It’s time to learn how to prepare food that will make you lean, healthy, and save you money, so listen up.
Any food can taste good, you just gotta know how to prepare it properly.
Today, we will dive into seasoning your food.
You’ll come out with a well-stocked spice cabinet and will be able to take a basic meal from bland to delicious.
We’ll break the basic use of seasoning down into 3 steps:
1. Stock your spice cabinet.
2. Learn the basics of flavor.
3. Begin experimenting.
Step 1: Stock Your Spice Cabinet
Level 1: The Basics
Just enough flair for the minimalist.
- sea salt (Redmond RealSalt is my absolute favorite)
- ground black pepper
- garlic powder* (granulated vs powdered)
- onion powder* (granulated vs powdered)
- Old Bay (basically seasoned salt; key flavor is celery seed)
*These two spices come in a granulated form and a soft, fine powdery form like flour. The finer the powder, the more intense the flavor. Not sure which to get? Start with the granulated.
Level 2: Welcome to Flavor Country
Recreate familiar flavors of diverse cuisines.
- Chinese hot mustard powder
- Chinese or Thai red curry
- Jamaican yellow curry
- cayenne pepper
- chili powder (spice blend of chilies)
- ground ginger
Level 3: The Herbs
Use fresh herbs for bold and fragrant dishes or stock dried herbs for everyday convenience.
- cilantro + coriander*
BONUS LEVEL: Sweet Spices and Other Flavors
Indulge your sweet tooth without blowing your diet.
- artificial sweetener (Stevia / Truvia /erythritol, Splenda / sucralose)
- cocoa powder (non-alkalized, if you can find it)
- instant coffee*
- vinegar (choose balsamic, red wine, or apple cider – red wine vinegar is my favorite)
- lemon / lime juice
*Instant coffee? When you want powdered coffee flavor that can easily go into a little yogurt or protein drink, this is the answer.
One Step At a Time
“Gee, that sounds like a lot of spices. I just have the plain old salt with the little umbrella girl on it,” I hear you mumble.
Start with one or a few at a time that strike your fancy or accomplish one new meal idea.
Who knows, you might even buy a new spice and hate it! Totally cool!
For now, just try it so you can have that experience.
And if you know you like a particular spice…
TIP: Use Amazon.com or a wholesaler like Costco to buy these things in bulk!
The markups I’ve seen on spices can be ridiculous.
Specialty spice stores like Penzey’s Spices or even the McCormick products in the grocery store are often way overpriced.
Me? I like the underdogs.
Badia, Starwest and Frontier are all solid choices for buying bulk spices on a budget.
Since you’re just starting out, you won’t care about the differences between 7 kinds of cinnamon, so there’s no use in paying for them. Go for the cheapest, you’ll be fine.
TIP: Don’t throw out your old spice containers!
If buying in bulk bags, you will want to buy some small spice jars.
Or, simply save and clean out your old McCormick or other spice containers you’ve had lying around.
Next time we will begin using these spices and combinations to make delicious meals.
Now go fill that spice cabinet and report back!