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Gettin' Spicy

This week we wanted to go into the depths of the world of fresh herbs and spices. After our online Q & A, there were a few questions regarding herbs and spices, and what are the differences between fresh and dried. We will discuss some of the tips and tricks we have for these! Below we will also share a few spice blends that are easy to recreate at home.

One of the questions brought to our attention, when should you add dried or fresh herbs to your dish? This is a great question! Knowing when to add herbs and spices to your food could make all the difference in flavor. Adding them at the wrong time could make or break the dish. So, when you add fresh herbs to your food in the beginning of the cooking process, it will create a more subtle flavor. If they are added at the end of the process, it will have a more pungent and strong flavor. You could even add the fresh herbs in the beginning and finish with them at the end!

Dried herbs and spices are a little different and similar at the same time. Some herbs and spices tend to get “cooked off” if you are cooking them for a long time. But, you can add dried herbs and spices all the way up until about 20 minutes before the cooking process is over. Dried herbs and spices are normally much stronger with a concentrated flavor, so you will need much less of the dried in comparison to fresh.

Another question we were asked about herbs and spices, is how can you make them last longer? Sometimes, at the store, they sell bunches of fresh herbs but maybe you only needed a small amount. What can you do with all that extra goodness? Freeze or dry them! Store bought dried herbs and spices tend to have less flavor depending on the brand. Drying them yourself will be much more flavorful! It is not difficult to dry herbs, it just takes a little time. To air dry fresh herbs, lay out the individual leaves or stems on a baking sheet lined with a cheesecloth or a drying rack. Make sure herbs are washed and patted dry first. Store the baking sheet in a warm area in your home but not in the sunlight. Flip the leaves or stems around every 10-12 hours. The herbs will be ready to go in no more than 3 days. Just crumble and store in an airtight container for up to a year. You can also dry bundles of herbs! This is actually very pretty as a decoration in the kitchen but can take up to two weeks. All you have to do is tie up small bundles with twist ties and hang upside down in your kitchen. Cover these bundles in a paper bag and poke some holes in the bag. This could take up to two weeks. Once they are dry, you are good to go!

Now, as for freezing the herbs, this method couldn’t be easier. There are two different ways of freezing your fresh herbs. If you want to always use the herbs as a savory dish, clean and chop the herbs and place about 2 tablespoons of the herb into an ice cube tray. Then top with olive oil. Once they are frozen, pop them in a plastic bag for storage and use whenever the recipe calls for it! Maybe you want to add herbs to a sweeter dish, or even a beverage! Try the same method, but instead of using olive oil, top the chopped herbs in the ice cube tray with water.

Another great tip for herbs and spices is to create your own blends! This way you know exactly what is in each blend, which is especially good if you are trying to cut back on certain ingredients, such as salt. We are providing measurements for three different types of common spice blends. Feel free to play around with the ingredients and the amounts of each as well!

Cajun Spice Blend - Perfect for Cauliflower, Tofu, Chili, Roasted Veggies

Makes about 1/4 cup

3 tbls. paprika

2 tbls. garlic powder

1 tbls. salt (optional, if not using, add 1 more tbls. garlic powder)

1 tbls. cayenne pepper

1 tbls. onion powder

1 tbls. dried oregano

1 tbls. dried thyme

1 tbls. ground black pepper

Chinese Five Spice - Perfect for Stews, Tofu, Sweet Potatoes

Makes about 1/4 cup

6 star anise pods

1 1/2 tsp whole cloves

2 tbls. ground cinnamon

2 tbls fennel seeds

2 tsp. black peppercorns

* Place everything in a spice grinder, and blend together*

* If you don't have a spice grinder, just use ground spices*

Italian Seasoning - Perfect for Tomato Sauces, Roasted Veggies, Salad Dressings

Makes about 3 Tablespoons

3 tsp. dried oregano

2 tsp. dried marjoram

2 tsp. dried thyme

1 tsp. dried basil

1 tsp. dried rosemary

1 tsp. dried sage

Store all spice blends in air-tight containers and keep for up to a year!

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