Seasonings for the Season!
Sprucing up your Spice Collection in Preparation for Holiday Cooking
Greetings! Is your spice collection ready for Holiday Cooking this season? I’m Chef Marie, and as the calendar transitions to fall and winter, I have some tips on starting your own indoor herb garden and the staple spices you need to have on-hand for upcoming holiday cooking. I used to grow all sorts of plants, vegetables, herbs and spices when I lived in San Diego, CA. My dog didn’t seem to care for them and left them alone. However, I have cats now and they love to eat everything alive in my house! Flowers in vases, my lucky miniature bamboo and yes, even my little containers of herbs. So, barring any greenery-munching pets, I hope these ideas inspire you to start your own fresh indoor herb garden.
Start your own herbs plants from the roots of herbs you’ve used from previous cooking!
- When using fresh chives, save the white part of the chives with its roots, place it in a container with 2 inches of water. In a few days they will be ready to plant in soil, starting your next crop.
- Plant Parsley and Mint tops directly into the soil and will root pretty soon.
- Have an abandoned garlic bulb showing a sprout of green on the top? Tuck it into some fresh soil!
- Some herbs can be grown just in water instead of planting in soil – what a simple idea! A few examples of herbs to try are Mint, Oregano, Sage, Basil, Lemon Balm, Thyme, Tarragon and Rosemary. Take cuttings from these herbs and place them in fresh water. Some may take longer to root but just be patient!
Just remember to not over-water. Feel the soil before each watering, making sure the top 1 ½ to 2 inches of soil feels dry to the touch. Make sure to fertilize your herbs every 6-8 weeks, for nice, lush plants, that will provide plenty of fresh leaves for your Holiday Meals, and beyond! If you don’t have a bright, sunny window for your indoor herb garden, you may need to substitute fluorescent lighting during our Seattle winter months.
Fall is a great time to refresh your spice collection
I love to cook Asian and Latin Cuisines so I have lots of those spices in my pantry. Your spice collection will reflect the preferred flavors of your household. For your Holiday Cooking basics, start with salt, black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano and cinnamon, making sure each is of the freshest and highest quality.
- In culinary school, salt and pepper were the first seasonings we were presented. Not iodized salt or ground pepper, but kosher salt and peppercorns that we ground into our own fresh black pepper. As I continue to grow as a chef, I now use fine sea salt as it is more naturally processed than the kosher salt. I still grind my own black pepper as I find the taste is better when its freshly ground. Invest in a good pepper mill, and leave behind the pre-ground stuff! I just like to have the feel of the spice in my fingers to have better control of the level of seasonings in the food.
- Oregano is a very versatile spice, found in Latin, Mediterranean and New American cooking and a cornerstone to every cook’s spice cupboard.
- Don’t overlook the aromatics, Garlic and Onion powder. Their flavor uplifts your cooking both with taste and smells.
- Cinnamon can be used for both savory and sweet cooking.
You can buy most spices either ground or dried. Ground spices lose their potency after 2-3 years, where dried spices last longer in your pantry, about 3-4 years. Despite these shelf-life times, we personally recommend cooking through your herbs and spices on a more frequent basis to maintain their optimal freshness. Keep them in a dry, non humid area, and go through them from time to time, discarding older jars to replace with new.
Thank you for taking the time to read this guest post. What are your favorite herbs and spices to cook with?