How To Spice Things Up When Cooking

Large collection of metal bowls full of herbs and spices -How To Spice Things Up When CookingHerbs and spices are used to enhance the flavor of food, either it be for cooking Spaghetti Carbonara or baking an apple pie.

An herb or spice can be a seed, fruit, root, bark, berry, bud or leafy part of the plant. They are principally used for flavoring food among other uses. They can be used fresh or dried.

Herbs And Spices Through The Ages

It is said that by the Middle Ages, the most common spices and herbs being traded and used were black pepper, cinnamon (including the alternative cassia), cumin, nutmeg, ginger and cloves.

Herbs and spices are useful for many things, among others are medicinal uses, cosmetic or perfume production uses, and of course they are used add flavor to a meal.

By 1000 B.C. medical systems based upon herbs were found in China, Korea, and India. Also the Egyptians used herbs and spices for their embalming practices and their demand for exotic herbs and spices helped stimulate world trade.

Extracting A Spices Flavor

The flavor of an herb or spice is derived by exposing the volatile oil compounds of the seed or leafy part, that oxidize or evaporate when it comes in contact with air.

As an example, fresh ginger is usually more flavorful than its dried form, but fresh spices are more expensive and have a much shorter shelf life.

Flavor of herbs and spices can be maximized by storing them whole and grinding when needed, as grinding greatly increases its surface area and so increases the rates of oxidation and evaporation.

If you decide to use dried spices, be sure to use them within 6 to 8 months of purchase. Ground spices are better stored away from light, as it also increases the oxidation of the volatile oils.

metal bowls filled with spices

How To Use Herbs And Spices

When using herbs and spices you’ll want to pick flavors that complement each other, such as the spice mix known as “pumpkin pie spice.”

The ratios of cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg add great flavor to the pie, and each spice doesn’t over power the other.

The key or rule of thumb to spicing things up is that less is more. Avoid adding too much all at once. Instead, add a little at a time and add more to taste.

A good example of over spicing and unable to fix it, is when you use oregano or cloves. Their volital oils are great for flavoring culinary and pastry dishes, but they are strong in flavor, and only require a small amount.

When using spices to flavor your meat or vegetables, use only 3 different types at a time.

You can even use herbs and spice to replace salt. Choose your spice or spices, add a little lemon juice and unsalted butter.

Which spices pair well together for the best culinary dishes you can make?

Let’s examine some of the most commonly used spices and which spices pair well with them.

Cooking Great Meals In A Small Kitchen

Small simple kitchen - Cooking Great Meals In A Small KitchenIt can be a little perplexing to bake or cook in a small kitchen with limited space. Whether you’re in an apartment, condo, or just a house with a kitchen that isn’t quite as big as you’d like, cooking fantastic meals in a small kitchen is altogether possible.

How nice it would be, but you don’t need a big kitchen to make a big meal, no rather all you need is a little knowledge and creativity for working in a small kitchen with limited space.

Organizing Your Kitchen Space

The key to having a small kitchen with limited space, is organization. Keeping your limited space organized can actually give you more space to work with when preparing to cook or bake.

Organization can also save you money and a trip to the store. How so? Consider this. Say you’re making an “Apple Spiced Cake,” how many occasions have you opened the pantry to see if you have a certain spice, and it is no were to be found.

small kitchens

Image credit: Decoralia

As you need the spice, you end up going to the store to buy some more, only to find a week later the spice you we’re looking for hidden in the back of the pantry.

Cooking and baking in a limited space kitchen with organization can save you money.

Before you start cooking, pull out all the ingredients you’ll need for the meal, and keep them all on the counter in one place. Spreading out all over a small kitchen isn’t an option, so watch how much room you’re using for your ingredients. What ever you are done with, put it back right away.

Being organized before you start preparing food to eat, as well as while you are cooking will save you from becoming frustrated, because not knowing were items required for the meal preparation are could quit well discourage you from preparing meals.

Keep ion mind that small spaces and frustration are not a good combination.

Keeping your pantry, cupboards, fridge, freezer, and any space where food is stored, is essential to cooking in a small kitchen.

Keeping Your Small Space Clean

To start, a clean kitchen means prepared meals without food-born infections. Since you have a small kitchen, why not make recipes that only require the use of one mixing bowl or one pot recipes.

The less cooking and baking utensils you can use, the more counter space available and less clean up.

washing dishes

Image credit: Food52

Instead of grabbing a new bowl, pot, or mixing utensil, try to use the ones that are already dirty.

While you’re waiting for something in the oven or on the stove, wash the cooking utensils, and the ones that you don’t need anymore, put them away, and the ones you will keep using, leave them on the counter out of the way.

Also while you are waiting, put away ingredients you are done using at that time, as well.

This will help free up space and create less work in cleaning up after the meal has been enjoyed.

One Cook Kitchens

Kitchens that are small, and don’t have enough elbow room, as they say, is really a one cook kitchen. The best idea in a small kitchen is to kick everyone out while you’re cooking.

If you barely have enough room to turn around while you’re cooking, you’ll need as much space as you can get. Don’t let anyone in your kitchen while you’re preparing the meal, unless you want someones help to chop vegetables or round up and put away no longer needed ingredients.

There’s never anything wrong with asking for a little help, but if someone just wants to chat while you’re cooking, they’ll probably just get in the way.

A Small Kitchen – Buffet Style Or Plate and Serve

plate and serve - small kitchenWith limited counter space, it’s probably not the best idea to have a buffet style meal.

If you don’t have room to chat with people while you’re cooking, you probably don’t have enough room for guests to line up and get their food.

If you have the counter space to plate the meal yourself for each guest, that’s probably your best bet.

Otherwise, you can always pass serving dishes at the table and store them on the counter for people to get second helpings if they want.

Wouldn’t you agree these are great suggestions to follow in every kitchen, small or big?

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How To Prepare Thai Food With These Key Ingredients

Collage of thai food - How To Prepare Thai Food With These Key Ingredients

First Posted on February 24, 2016 – Updated October 30, 2021

Thai food is internationally famous. Thai cuisine is essentially a union of centuries-old Eastern and Western influences harmoniously combined into something uniquely Thai.

A prepared dinner table with a Thai meal placed on it, consists of a spicy or non-spicy soup, a curry dish with condiments, a dip with accompanying fish and vegetables, and there could also be a spiced salad.

Thai food has evolved much like Indian food, meaning the cooks or chefs take great care so there is a harmony of flavors and textures with each individual dish.

One dish must compliment the other dishes positioned at the dinner table.

What is needed in your kitchen to make a great Thai dish?

You need to know the “Key Ingredients.”

Key Ingredients Needed To Prepare Thai Food

When you dicide to make a Thai dish, the following is what you should find in your refrigerator or pantry.

Banana Leaves

Banana leaf-wrapped food, either it be meat, fish or a savory mixture can be grilled, steamed or roasted.

In the cooking process, the leaves add a unique herbaceous flavor to the dish.

Food cooked in a banana leaf

Photo credit: Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

Thai cuisine also used banana leaves as a cooking vessel, folding them into a shape that will hold and cook the food. They are also used as “to-go containers.

 Lemongrass

Lemongrass is a culinary herb that is produced from the stalk of the lemongrass plant and it has a lemony scent.

It is a primary culinary herb in several Thai dishes.

The flavor of the herb tastes almost like a mix of lemon and lemon mint.

Lemongrass tied laying on grey weather wood

The flavor is light and does not overpower other flavors in a dish.

It also adds a slightly sharp and tangy taste without the bitterness of lemon.

It is commonly used in soups, teas and curries.

If you can’t find lemongrass at your local market or Asian market, you can substitute lemon juice in its place.

But keep in mind that the citrus juice won’t be able to fully take the place of the flavor of lemongrass.

RecipeLemongrass Basil Thai Chicken

thai lime leaves

Thai Lime Leaves

Lime Leaves

The leaves are a glossy dark green color, and are used to flavor curries, soups, fish cakes and even teas for its fragrant herbal notes.

Thai and Holy Basil 

Thai basil and holy basil are related to each other and both are both used in Thai cuisine.

Thai basil has a subtle sweet anise flavor. Whereas, holy basil has a more spicy flavor.

The flavor of holy basil is more like a combination of black pepper and clove than like the sweeter notes of Thai basil. It tends to get even spicier as it is cooked.

Both can be found at your local Asian markets.

Recipe: Thai Chicken Stir-Fry with Holy Basil

Fish Sauce 

Fish sauce is a liquid condiment made from fish or krill that have been coated in salt and fermented for up to two years.

fish sauce container at a fish sauce factory

A fish sauce container at a fish sauce factory in Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam

The flavor is savory and the color is red-brown. Fish sauce is used as a staple seasoning in Thai cooking. Such as this Pad Thai Noodles with Chicken recipe.

Green Papaya

A green papaya and an orange papaya are actually the same fruit picked at different stages of development.

Immature green papaya has crisp white flesh with very little flavor.

It is prized mostly for its crunch and used primarily as a base for salads, most notably in Thai salads. Green papaya is used in salads much like cucumber or jícama is.

Tamarind Puree

When purchasing the tamarind puree, you can find it in sticky 14 ounce blocks.

In Thai cuisine the puree is used by diluting 1 ounce pureed pulp with 1/3 cup warm water, and then strained.

You can also buy it ready made and jarred with no need of diluting it.

The concentrated tamarind is said to have a sour taste that can be overpowering in Pad Thai.

Thai Chili Peppers

These peppers are small in shape, come in green, red, and orange color, and fiery in taste.

Though as spicy as the chili maybe, it is said the chili gives a subtle fruity flavor when used in Thai cooking.

If Thai chilis are too much for your palate, you can use Serrano peppers instead.

Dried Shrimp

Small little dried shrimp add salty flavor to noodle dishes and salads.

Dried shrimp can keep indefinitely in a cool dark place within an airtight container.

Having these key ingredients used in authentic Thai cooking in your pantry or refrigerator, will always be at your reach in a moments notice.

If unable to find them at your favorite grocers, try looking for them in an Asian market.

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