Let's Talk: Spices

So unbeknownst to you (this is a good thing), I carry on conversations between you and me all day long. I swear, it’s not as crazy as it sounds. Because my blog lives and explodes and wiggles around in my head 24/7, I’m always, and I mean always, thinking of things I want to talk to you about. Hundreds of things. Little things. Big things. All very important (like, the best hiding places to face plant into the bag of chocolate chips – that kind of important).

I decided in order to calm to my psyche (and help me fall asleep at night), it was time to start a real, live series where I actually talk to you (in a very virtual sense) about the things that pop into my head. Think of this Let’s Talk series like you’re sitting at my kitchen counter, elbows on there and everything, and we’re chatting a million miles an hour – sharing tips and tricks and advice and maybe even throwing in a good dose of venting every now and then (and chocolate, there would be lots of chocolate, and muffins, if we were doing this in person). I’m hoping this series will be a laid back way to share all the bits and pieces of kitchen and food and cooking related things that come to my mind. There’ll probably be some video tips here and there, some help from a few of my favorite people in the world, and generally I hope it boils down to some good old-fashioned chit-chat that might actually be helpful when it comes to how you and I roll (and feel like rock stars in the kitchen). I’m so excited about some of the ideas I jotted down, it almost makes me giggle out loud. Aaah! So much fun.

Today, I want to start with something simple. Spices. More specifically, the spices I keep on hand at all times. This obviously will vary based on how you cook and the cuisine(s) you make most often, but if you cook and bake from my site, the spices we talk about today will keep you happy and frolicking in the kitchen. You may even hear angels singing when you open up that spice cupboard, but as of yet, that can’t be 100% confirmed.

Let's Talk: Spices

First, The Hard Part

Let’s back up a little. Can we be honest with each other? How long do you keep your spices a’hangin’ around in that little pantry or cupboard of yours? As I dug deep into the depths of my pantry shelves, I found a jar of red pepper flakes I’ve had for eight years. Eight. I honestly don’t even have a dignified explanation, especially since I’ve moved about four times in that period and you’d think I’d have done a mass clean out at some point.

If you, like me, have spices that are expired. Toss them. I mean it. They’ll do you no good and a lot of times, they’ll give an off flavor to a dish (or just not pack the punch you need). Making sure your spices stay fresh and fragrant is very important. Now, I’m guilty of using up a jar of something or other if it’s only a month or so after the expiration date but if we’re talking month(s!) or years, just hold a hand over your eyes and throw them away. You can do it.

What’s In My Spice Cupboard

I keep all my spices in a cupboard next to my oven/stove. Here’s a simple printable with all the spices I keep on hand. I’d say 94.3% of these are everyday, common spices that I highly recommend keeping around. There are a handful that you  may not need or use (marjoram, tarragon, turmeric) but I kept them on the list because well, I didn’t want to make two lists and figured you could filter through and decide which ones aren’t worth your time. I keep them all close to my heart.

Let's Talk: Spices

Print out the list, tape it to the inside of your cupboard or pantry and the next time you read a recipe that calls for coriander, go straight to your handy-dandy alphabetized list and scan for it. Yep! Coriander. It’s there and waiting. When I run out of a spice, I immediately put it on my shopping list. You could laminate this printable or stick it inside a sheet protector and use a marker to X out the box when you’ve run out. Then the next time you put together your grocery list, glance inside your cupboard door and make a note of which spices to get.

Where I Buy My Spices

It all depends on what spice/seasoning I need. For those that I use constantly (namely coarse black pepper, coarse kosher salt, garlic powder), I grab at Costco because I use them in a very Costco-sized manner.
Let's Talk: Spices

Sometimes (too often) when I’m in a pinch and run out something that I need, like, yesterday, of course I just buy whatever brand is at the store. I’d say most often at the grocery store, I look for the McCormick (love their gourmet collection) or Spice Islands brands. I’ve also had great luck with the Archer Farms brand at Target and Trader Joe’s is always golden when it comes to spices (although their selection is limited). Since I know someone is going to ask me about generic brands, here’s my feeling: if you buy them and like the flavor and taste, by all means, use them! It really ends up being a matter of what you prefer and how much you want to pay. I tend to steer away from generic brands but only because I’ve had a couple experiences where the flavor was really off and it kind of scarred me and my taste buds (with paprika and chili powder and cinnamon).
Let's Talk: Spices

If I have planned ahead, Penzey’s spices is my go-to (no affiliation/unsponsored). I’ve waxed poetic about their sweet curry powder before but I buy a lot of my spices from there. The quality is magnificent and I notice a huge difference in flavor and potency. To be more cost efficient, I usually wait for a sale (or a free shipping code) and then I stock up. I buy most of their spices in the larger bags (they offer a variety of sizes) and then refill my own jars (they sell inexpensive spice jars on their site, too, with labels you can write on). I keep the bags in the freezer in between fillings. Here are the spices I try and keep stocked through Penzeys:

Chili powder
Cinnamon (their cinnamon blend is out of this world)
Sweet curry powder
Smoked paprika
Anise (I use it in the most amazing granola recipe ever; it’s not posted because the black licorice flavor of anise isn’t for everyone, but maybe I’ll throw it on here someday)
Whole nutmeg

Let's Talk: Spices

In the End

A well-stocked spice cabinet just might be your best friend in the kitchen. Not only does it save sanity when you go to make a recipe but it also gives you leverage to substitute and change things up now and then – if you’ve run out of one spice or just want to live life on the edge a little bit substituting cumin for chili powder (you crazy thing, you).

My list is definitely not comprehensive but it includes the spices that I use all the time and that aren’t so out there, you’d have to sell your firstborn child to afford them (saffron, I’m talking to you).

What are your go-to spices? Any that aren’t on my list? 


Now get on with it! Go plan a fun little afternoon and take inventory of your spice cabinet. It’s therapeutic, especially if you keep a bag of dark chocolate chips nearby. Also, stay tuned for the next Let’s Talk segment. It’s a doozy. I’m telling you, we have so much to talk about.

118 Responses to Let’s Talk: What’s in My Spice Cabinet {New Series + Printable}

  1. Laura Culbertson says:

    I was looking something up from this post and I realized that you definitely need this baby in your life: http://www.amazon.com/Copco-2555-0189-Non-Skid-Cabinet-Organizer/dp/B0036OQU4C/ref=sr_1_16?s=kitchen&ie=UTF8&qid=1440084593&sr=1-16&keywords=spice+rack

    I keeps my OCD heart happy! I always struggle with having too many spices in my cabinet and at least this way, this product keeps them nice and neat so I can find them quickly. I love, love, love it !

  2. Samantha says:

    Not too long ago I was looking through my spice cabinet and found a bottle of crushed red pepper flakes that had expired in January 2001… Whoops! Love the new series, and really everything you do… Thanks!

  3. Hilary says:

    LOVE this post!!! Please, please, please post the anise granola recipe…I am a fellow black licorice lover!!! You are THE BEST!!

  4. Leslee says:

    Some great suggestions here! I too, love Penzey’s and have used–and still use– many of their spices and blends over the years. I now work at a spice shop in Fort Collins, CO (small pitch here!) called Old Town Spice Shop. We have a website and an Etsy store. We carry a lot of items that Penzey’s doesn’t: extracts, salts, flavored sugars, etc. All available in small bags, too, so you can try them out. Anyway, as you can imagine, I have a pretty extensive collection of spices and salts at this point. I use small, stacking trays–like the drawer organizers you would use in the bathroom. I sort my spices by use: baking, grilling, international blends, traditional herbs, et. al.. The trays stack neatly in my cupboard, especially since I have lots of small bags and those short jars from Penzey’s (that I refill with OTSS products of course 😉 ). Love your blog! My coworkers and I always ‘research’ recipes and ideas at work and your recipes have always been hits. Thank you!

  5. Shannon says:

    Love. Love. LOVE this new series! Love the idea of everyone on here sitting down to a good ol’ chin wag with eachother at your kitchen counter 🙂 I’m so glad you started with spices as I’m a wee bit obsessed with them. I have an old hutch of my grandparents and a whole shelf is taken up by mason jars filled with a ton of different spices. Awesome way to add flavor without a ton of fat!
    PS – Although I don’t usually comment, I’m a HUGE fan of your blog. Not just for the recipes (although I haven’t tried one that was anything but “YUM” yet), but for your writing as well, always gives me a laugh.

  6. Barbara says:

    I’m a huge fan of Penzeys, echo you about the cinnamon (Vietnamese is the best) and drive about 70 miles to their store near Orlando a couple of times per year. You’ll never find anise, fennel, or anything licorice flavored in my cabinet, though. I’m not crazy about curry, but Hubs will eat roasted cauliflower with curry powder on it; not me. Be sure to save a couple of those small McCormick spice jars with shaker tops inside to refill with salt and pepper (and any other spices important to you) for travel. This year I’ve needed them not only for travel, but three hospital stays for the Hubster and I. I also keep sugar for hospital necessities. I have been making some of my own spices, like chili powder, onion powder, parsley, and although not a spice, a flavoring – tomato powder. Also sweet peppers, dried and powdered, go into our salad dressing. 15 pounds of ripe tomatoes dehydrated will fill a pint jar with tomato powder! Leftover spaghetti sauce becomes tomato leather! The virtues of turning fresh, no-pesticide veggies into powders with a dehydrator are super high on my list of seasonings. No artificial colors, flavors, or any other additives make it healthy. No refrigeration is needed for a flavor boost, but also cost reduction in storage. My motto is, “Don’t have leftovers to throw away – dehydrate them”!

  7. Kana says:

    The only other thing on our list is lemon pepper, which I know is a combination of spices, but it is a quick & easy one for us!

  8. Emilee says:

    When I read this post I was certain that I was pretty good at getting rid of old spices. We moved across the country two years ago and I remember going through and tossing a bunch of expired spices. Last night I was adding some black pepper to a dish and looked–2012. Oops. It’s on the shopping list now!

  9. amy says:

    Thanks for all this information. Now please share That granola recipe with anise. please!!!!

  10. Gail says:

    I LOVE the idea of this new series! Great list, too by the way. I keep a running list of spices I have in my cabinet as well. I am another BIG fan of Penzeys spices. Blends I absolutely love are Adobo, Northwoods, Chicken Taco and Hot Curry Powder. Those four are in constant use here.

  11. Carrie says:

    I have been a Penzey’s fan for years now! Their spices are such high quality and some I didn’t know had much flavor (oregano, paprika) until I used Penzey’s. They always have free shipping with orders over $30 and if you get their catalog in the mail there is coupons each time for a free spice jar. I think they are a great value and come out to be around the same price as McCormick’s from the grocery store. I do buy vanilla from Costco, a huge bottle of pure extract for that price….seriously can’t find that anywhere else!

  12. Cheryl says:

    What about freshly ground black pepper?! I must always have one of those disposable pepper mills from Costco on hand. You can’t compare the taste to the already ground stuff.

  13. Hilary says:

    How much would I have to pay you to create a “Paleo” category in your recipes section?

  14. John G says:

    Sweetie..Live next to the ocean and you are updating spices every 4 months!

  15. rachel garber says:

    We are all about the chili powder at our house – we make a lot of taco salad and I found we liked our ground beef to have the taste of chili powder over the taco seasoning. Costco was the way to go with how much we use!

  16. Sheila H. says:

    With this awesome list and my Spice Stack organizing my spices, I should never run out or not be able to find what I need. I love the recommendation for brands too and will have to find a Penzey’s.

  17. Kris says:

    Thanks Mel for your list. My husband had a heart attack recently and we had to jump off the salt band wagon. We were BIG fans of the salt shaker and it has been an interesting ride trying to figure out how to use spices to jazz up my recipes. I have bought a lot of spices over the years from San Francisco Herb Company and they are so fresh but do come in larger quantities. They are also SO much cheaper than buying in the grocery store. (Example: 1 lb of cumin is around $4.00) I have ordered with my church friends and we have divided them up so that they don’t get stale before I can them up.

  18. Alice E says:

    You are missing one of my most essential ingredients! Where is the summer savory? I use the bottle of leaves from Spice Islands. They cost more than some of the most common herbs, but once I started using them I make sure I don’t run out! You have some I don’t use such as anise, garam masala and the big container of pepper. Unfortunately I’m not supposed to have black pepper, it can make me sick, especially the coarse or fresh ground kind, so I use other herbs and spices more. Perhaps if I used pepper I wouldn’t miss it as much. It doesn’t in my opinion have a strong or obvious flavor, but works like salt of pepper to up the flavor of the dish or sauce. It is another case of getting your money’s worth, I think, because the one time I tried a cheaper kind it had lots of stems which didn’t work well for me at all.

  19. Sara k says:

    Do you ever use pumpkin pie spice? It’s a staple of mine that gets used in lots of ways besides pie. Oatmeal, French toast, granola, apple crisp, oatmeal raisin cookies, mixed with a little sugar and soften cream cheese fir bagels or with softened butter for muffins. I could prob mix my own, but the jar is convenient.

    • Mel says:

      Hi Sara – good question. I don’t keep it on hand because I usually just mix up my own with cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and a little cloves.

  20. Barb says:

    There is a very cool place in Shipshewana Indiana ( in the heart of Amish country) that I get most of my cooking supplies from. It is a place where the Amish shop themselves, and you know their reputation for cooking. All kinds of flours, sugars, meats and cheeses, bulk spices, jams and jellies, etc. every kind of sprinkle and every color sanding sugar…
    We used to live down there, but moved back to SW Mich, but when I get to go down there for the day, it is a real treat. In the fall, I make a trip down there for special things for the holidays.

  21. Jennifer says:

    Ok, I’ve never heard of Penzey’s so I checked them out online. With everyone on here talking about buying at their stores in Ohio, etc, I figured they wouldn’t be anywhere near me in Oregon. What do you know, there is one 10 minutes away! I’m so going! Thanks!

  22. Courtney N. says:

    This new series is perfect, because I already feel like we are friends! I use your recipes every day. And I LOVE reading your intros to the recipes! You crack me up, we have very similar personalities it seems! My mom and I talk about you like we know you, not creepy, I promise! Anyway, can’t wait for our next chat! Your blog is outstanding!

  23. Lachelle says:

    Thanks for the list. What kind of cinnamon do you like from Penzey’s?

  24. Cindi says:

    I too love Penzeys. The closest in about 90 miles from me. I don’t make trips just to go to Penzeys but if I’m there for medical appointments, I stop in.

    I keep my spices alphabetized. It makes finding them so easy.

  25. Susan says:

    Mel, you’re such a purist it surprises (and comforts) me to see a bottle of ground nutmeg. Next time you’re smoking pulled pork try Byron’s Butt Rub. I’m glad you’re speaking back to me because I have conversations with you too!

  26. Lindsay says:

    Could we maybe talk about suggestions for ORGANIZING the spice cupboard? Obviously, most used should be most accessible, but I’m forever knocking over little spice jars as I’m trying to search for the one I need in the dark recesses of my cupboard. I know there are better ways, and someday when I have more kitchen space I’d like to implement something better than the haphazard mess I have going now. So if anyone has any awesome ideas for spice organization, I’m all ears!

    • Kirstin says:

      Half pint canning jars from Walmart, mainstays brand. Then buy the plastic twist on lids for them. They will fit in a drawer, i use a sharpie to write the spice names on the lids, and never have to shuffle through a cupboard again. Plus, they look pretty and are inexpensive ( I want to say $7 for 12.)

  27. Melissa says:

    thsnk you for the list – very helpful! And please, please, please post your granola recipe. I love anise and it’s hard to find a lot of good recipes! 🙂

  28. Stephanie says:

    Great list! One thing that I have added since I cook your recipes so often is a bottle of mixed cumin,chili powder garlic and onion powder, equal parts. I make your taco cups almost weekly and slow cooker Mexican beef(or pork) enchiladas, and I use it on chicken in the slow cooker for killer taquitos. It makes it much easier to just scoop out of one bottle and then add salt rather than dragging all of the bottles so often. I also make my own red taco sauce, so when I make it I line up 6 or 8 little containers and measure out the ingredients the same into each one, then bag up the pre measured spice packets. This makes it really fast to grab one and dump it into the wet ingredients when I need to make it again. I love your suggestion to store spices in the freezer for freshness. I also love Winco bulk bins. Thank you for your fantastic site, you have made me rock in the kitchen for the first time ever! Stephanie

  29. Jennifer G. says:

    I love Penzey’s as well. In fact every spice jar I have is Penzey’s brand. Most of the time I just refill the jars with their bags. I have two round spinning racks and they are alphabetized. It sounds a little nutty but it makes it super easy to find what I am looking for. One rack is for baking spices and extracts. The other is herbs and spices used primarily in cooking. I really love their lemon, orange, almond and vanilla extracts as well. I keep a little list taped inside my spice cabinet door. I write down when I am running low on something so I can just grab the list and go next time I go to the Penzey’s shop.

  30. Holly says:

    I haven’t read through all the comments, but I have to give a shout-out to Winco bulk spices. Last year, i filled up my jar of bay leaves for 6 CENTS! I have since filled up ground ginger and other ones, and they are always really fresh. You can’t beat the price!

  31. Amber says:

    My absolute favorite Penzy’s spice is their Sandwich Sprinkle, I mix it 50/50 with smoked paprika and use it on my roasted vegetables, sweet potato fries and pretty much everything else. I use the sandwich sprinkle on my homemade pizza, and on chicken before I pan roast it. It’s the quickest and best blend they have.

  32. Renay says:

    Loved this post! I too would love the granola with the anise seed. I’m a fan. I used to think it was only for biscotti (which really, that alone would validate it), but I recently learned that it is wonderful in marinara and spagetti sauce. It adds the most wonderful flavor. Who knew?! I’m looking forward to more chats!

  33. Micki says:

    I was amazed when I saw your topic for the “Let’s Talk” series (which is a WONDERFUL idea!!!). It’s like you were peeking into my kitchen and watching me try to figure out what spices to keep and what to throw away etc. As it turns out – two weeks ago I found a recipe that I wanted to try. A quick glance told me that I should go ahead because I had everything I needed. SIGH. yeah. My Facebook post that day said “How can I NOT have “such-n-such” spice in my cabinet?” So that started my own personal “SPICE CABINET ORGANIZATIONAL CHALLENGE”. Thank you for a very timely post!

  34. Mel too says:

    What a great post today ! I have been in love with Penzeys since they opened their first location near where I work. (Jax FL) They are now in their 3rd location at a big Town Center mega shopping area and I think are doing well there. At least it’s more of a destination than the other 2. They closed up for about 8 months saying they were leaving our area and got so many emails they decided to open in a busier location. Believe it or not – I drove 2.5 hrs to Winter Park FL – the next closest brick and mortar with my list in hand. Oh yes I could have ordered from the web (and I have done that) but there is no joy in that especially once you’ve ever been to a Penzey’s store in person.
    On to my faves – I put Shallot Pepper in almost everything ! LOVE LOVE IT ! Ozark is another blend of theirs I like and use a lot. Talk about the bulk plastic bags – yes I buy in bulk and refill my little jars as needed. I have so much bulk they are stored in a paper grocery bag in the bottom of my pantry. I never thought of putting in the freezer and not sure I would even have room. We also love their ancho chili powder, chili 3000, Northwoods – another blend and the list goes on and on. How do people live without adding spice to their food. My first time commenting on your blog but I do enjoy reading. Cheers ! I’m a Mel too !

  35. HeyBeckyJ says:

    Brilliant!! I’m not sure why I never thought to store the half-empty Penzey’s bags in the freezer, but I’m so glad you mentioned it!

  36. Jennifer says:

    Your list looks a lot like my cabinet. Except I also ALWAYS keep Herbes de Provence and Lavender. And I’m not a fan of rosemary so I don’t keep that on hand. Love this new series!

  37. I’m currently amasing my own collection of herbs and spices (that’s growing alongside my parent (meagre) collection) and this is a really good list of what I should think about getting so I don’t constantly realize I have no whatever! And I can’t wait for your next ‘let’s talk’ post!

  38. Charmaine Puzey says:

    I am also excited for this segment as well. My kids always tease me because I talk to my food as I am cooking. So I totally get the talking to us thing. 🙂 Your site is my number one go-to for new recipes to try. The kids ask, ‘is this Mel’s?’ I keep telling them we are good friends even tho you don’t know it. We are all excited that we might get to meet you in July when we come visit my sister. (Makita) Thanks for all the yumminess!!

  39. George in Quito says:

    I’m a pack rat. I’ve had to drastically pare back my “stuff” with my move to South America, but it accretes organically in spite of my best intentions. That being said, I agree completely about the spices. It’s “use ’em or lose ’em” with most spices. Nice topic. Thanx for posting!

  40. Jessica Chamberlain says:

    I am excited for this new segment. I can always use a good chit-chat, even if it is a virtual one! Making me and my boys a batch of lemonies today. Can’t wait!

  41. Wow, lots of comments so far. Looks like other people were wanting to chat too. 🙂

    I buy all my spices at Penzey’s . They were not to far from my last home so it was easy. I love the bags and keep the spices in those in my spice drawer. Easier to get a tablespoon into a bag than a jar.

    If I am trying out a new recipe with a spice I don’t have I buy a small quantity from the bulk section. I prefer the bulk section at Bob’s Red Mill store but since it isn’t 10 minutes away anymore I go to Winco (not as good but will suffice)

  42. Jocy says:

    You are so fun! A great virtual friend to have. Thanks for sharing with us!

  43. Susan says:

    Thanks for talking about spices! I love using them everyday, and I agree with you about Penzeys are the best. I fell in love when I walk into their store and took a deep breath. I keep the spices I’m not using in a large tupperware container and when I open it to fill a jar, the aroma takes me back to Wisconsin! Thanks for sharing!

  44. Kristin says:

    Love the list…thanks! We like to use Herbes de Provence with chicken. Mmmm.

    Also! If you haven’t tried to Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning, put those running shoes on (again) and race to the store! It is amazing on anything grilled – chicken, fish, beef and…drumroll please…makes the most divine corn on the cob! Roasted pumpkin seeds were delish last autumn. Make sure your tastebuds are buckled and in their upright and locked position…there is a lot of zing in that green canister! Hope you try it!

  45. Connie says:

    I agree with Reenie! Great blog and thanks for sharing your spice list. Can not wait to clean out my spice pantry.

  46. Katharine says:

    I love Penzeys! I have used SO many of their spices, and the shocking thing is so few of my friends have even heard of them! Great list! I’m happy to say I have just about all of them in my pantry. 🙂

  47. Becky says:

    I’m a Penzey’s enthusiast, too! Their cinnamon is phenomenal and I notice a really huge quality difference between their oregano and basil and other brands. I didn’t really like dried oregano in things until I had their’s. Plus, it’s nice when they send little samples along with your order and I love the coupons they have with their catalog for a free spice.

  48. Julia says:

    Excellent post! I love Penzey as well and keep a list going at all times in case I happen to travel to a location with a Penzey store or they run a free shipping special. I am saving your post so my daughter can refer to it when establishing her kitchen. So helpful!

  49. Reenie says:

    This comment is long over due but thank you so much for your wonderful site. I have made so many of your recipes and we have loved everyone. I find your tips and recommendations so helpful. What great timing this post was. It was because of your praise of Penzeys I made it a special stop when I was in Ohio last weekend. What a great store and the staff was kind and helpful. I unfortunately left my list of spices I wanted back home but jogged my memory and was able to grab three i knew I needed bay leaves, sweet curry and thyme. Your tip of putting the bags in the freezer after refilling my jars was perfect. I will definitely make it a stop every time I get to that area. Because of you I now enjoy cooking again. Thanks again.

  50. Debbie A says:

    I wish we were neighbors!

  51. You covered my list (and then some).
    As a fellow garlic powder user, what do you think when people think fresh garlic is the only way to go and garlic powder is an abomination? I love garlic powder’s convenience, but do they have a point?

    • Mel says:

      Leah – your comment made me chuckle. I totally know what you mean. I think fresh garlic is fantastic and in some recipes, it makes a huge difference to use fresh garlic vs garlic powder (I’m thinking some marinades, salads, dips, recipes where it’s the star of the show – like garlic-rubbed steak or things like that) but I’m an avid garlic powder user just like you and have subbed it in for many recipes that call for fresh garlic when I’m in a hurry or am out of fresh. There will always be people who claim a certain way is the only way to go when it comes to food and ingredients (so many opinions! so much emotion!) but the only thing that really matters is what your preference is and what tastes good to you. With garlic powder in particular, I think it works well in many recipes but it doesn’t hurt to keep fresh garlic around and use it when that garlic flavor needs a real punch.

  52. Sara says:

    I love Penzey’s!!! I’m so lucky to have a store just down the road from our home. I cannot live without their Lemon Pepper Seasoning (I use it on Chicken, shrimp, veggies) or their Sandwich Sprinkle – It really perks up a boring sandwich. I also like their salad dressing mixes – great in a pinch when I don’t have time to make one from scratch.

  53. Heather says:

    The spice cabinet was the topic of conversation in the break room the other day; how we organize it, and how we convince our husbands that yes, we do need to buy yet another spice to add to it (I’ve been married 9 months and his spice collection has grown exponentially from salt, pepper, garlic powder, and cinnamon). I’m excited about this new series!

  54. Monica says:

    Have you tried Vanilla Powder? I love it, and use it quite a bit. I have to order it from the Spice Market it Seattle (no affiliation) or my nice friends pick me up some when they are visiting Pike’s Market. They have amazing spices. Seriously, though, try the Vanilla Powder – I think you will love it too.

  55. Marci says:

    Cumin, garlic powder and red pepper flakes are front and center on my counter because they get used the most. I love Penzey’s too.

  56. Ruchita says:

    Your spice list looks a lot like mine! I find I use a lot of cumin so I buy a big bag of that from the Indian store. I also buy garam masala, coriander and turmeric from there even though I don’t use those as often. Also – nerd alert! – I organize my spices alphabetically so I can easily find what I need. 🙂

  57. Kath says:

    Great post! I love ordering from Penzey’s, too, and I especially love their cinnamon. I was a little surprised you didn’t mention buying spices in bulk. Maybe it’s not available where you live. In Seattle almost all grocery stores have most spices available in bulk. You put the spices in little plastic bags to refill your jars at home. It saves SO much money. A little bag of a spice weighs practically nothing so it costs pennies. It’s much less expensive even than Costco. And if you need just a bit of a spice for a recipe you don’t need to buy a whole jar.

    • Mel says:

      Hey Kath – we do have a bulk grocery store (Winco) here that sells spices (some of them, at least) that way and I agree I’ve done it a time or two when I’ve needed just a pinch of something that I usually don’t use but I usually stick with buying them in the sealed jars or from Penzey’s because they are a little fresher than the bulk bins. Great tip, though – thanks for sharing!

    • Rachel says:

      Wow, our stores don’t have anything like that. It would be nice!

  58. Stacey says:

    Well, since we’re chit chatting, let me ask you about this. Last night someone at our RS taught how to make rolls. She pulled the dough out of the Kitchenaid as soon as it started to pull away from the bowl. She didn’t let it knead at all. Someone else said you have to do that to keep your dough soft. I always have mine knead for 5 or 6 minutes, as many/all of your bread/roll recipes state and my dough is soft. The rolls came out well and it was one of my recipes, so I know it works with kneading and without. But now I’m just super curious why.

    • Mel says:

      Hey Stacey – that’s a good question. What kind of rolls were they? I was just talking to my aunt about it. She swears when she’s making Gloria’s Cinnamon Roll recipe that it works better to only mix until the flour is combined and don’t knead. I think it really, really depends on the type of dough. Whole wheat doughs (even part whole wheat flour) need to be kneaded to develop the gluten. I think softer, sweeter, all-white flour doughs can get away with only a few minutes of kneading or none at all. I rarely make rolls or bread with all white flour since I’m usually trying to get whole grains in there somewhere but I guess I’m stuck in my ways because even when I do, I knead the dough for a few minutes. Looks like maybe we need a side-by-side comparison!

      • lisa Clawson says:

        Ok I have some input on this:) It’s all about the Dough Hydration levels. Generally doughs that don’t have a high percentage of water to flour need to be kneaded longer to get everything mixed together, and the gluten to form. These loaves of bread are a bit hardier. Dense loaves, bread that will stand up to sandwich making or breads with more whole wheat flour. Doughs that have more water in them create a really soft dough and don’t need as much kneading. A long rising pizza dough that comes out with big air bubbles, or the NYTimes No Knead Bread recipe where you just barely mix the dough together with a wooden spoon and that’s it. The texture is airy, lighter and more delicate. So usually a fluffy white roll, or cinnamon roll will have more moisture in them and therefore they don’t require the long knead. On the other hand a whole wheat loaf is a stiffer dough and requires a good 4-5 minute knead. Thought that might help a bit:)

      • Stacey says:

        Thanks Mel & Lisa. They were white parker house rolls. They have baking powder in them and they are so light and fluffy and easy to make. You can probably find the recipe, if you are interested, by googling “fairy rolls”….as in, they are so easy you feel like a fairy made them.

    • Liz says:

      Although I make mostly no-knead now, I make Mel’s dinner rolls (into hoagies, burger buns and hot dog buns) – with about 3/4 white whole wheat and 1/4 white plus vital wheat gluten. I knead by hand … it is just me and I make the regular recipe so not a huge bit of dough. At any rate, I think I might knead for 2-4 minutes max. I go by the feel of the dough – elasticity/soft/slightly tacky. I add a bit more water and let it rise a little extra.

      I think in the past I over floured AND over kneaded. I’m finding that the few recipes I make where I knead the dough, I’m getting better results with a bit more moisture and slightly longer rise and a lot less kneading than a recipe specifies.

      I’m guessing there are lots of variables: flour, humidity, temperature, “soft” dough, mixer or hand, yeast, etc. I’ve read a lot of bread books from top bread makers and they all do things a bit differently. Ultimately, I try different techniques and go with what works best in my kitchen!

      Re spices, though (sorry, dough is a passion of mine!) – ginger is one I have…but I think you commented that it missed your list. I buy small quantities of spices I don’t use often from bulk containers at my local natural food grocery. They keep medium sized jars and the brand is Frontier. I have not had any issues with these. Things like oregano, cinnamon, cumin, turmeric, curry powder … spices that can really make or break a dish and that I use a lot of, I buy from Mountain Rose Herbs (Oregon): excellent quality and service. They also sell a variety of jars and lids. I reused some spice jars when I switched to buying bulk and some things I use little jelly jars, but I did find I needed more “shaker” jars – they are very reasonably priced.

      Oh…re the garlic comment below … I like MRH dried garlic for anything I don’t use fresh for. It is not powdered.

      And while I don’t stock any mixes except Chili powder and curry powder, I do make an all purpose spicy mix…kind of a taco seasoning blend.

      Oh, the other additional … chipotle powder and smoked paprika.

  59. Stephanie B says:

    Nice list! The only thing I would add to it is ground ginger. I guess I mainly use it in gingersnaps, but also a few other baking recipes.

    I think the spices I use the most are cinnamon, cumin, basil, oregano, and parsley.

    • Mel says:

      Ah, ginger! How did I forget that one. I’m sure others will be brought up too even though I swear I went through my cupboard with a fine toothed comb. I just added ginger to my list, thanks Stephanie!

  60. sarita says:

    Loved this little chat! What exactly do I have to do to convince you to post the licorice-flavored granola?? Seriously, I need that in my life!

  61. Desiree says:

    This is great, Mel!! I just cleaned out my spice cabinet last week and now I can post your printable ! I’ve been dreaming about Penzey’s but never ordered. I think they have a store in St. Paul and I need to go check next time I trek to the big city! For now our local food coop sells bulk spices and I tend to buy most things there. Have a great weekend, thanks for the chat!

  62. Sheila says:

    Wonderful! So thoroughly enjoyed this visit! I will admit I played the “Where’s Waldo” game as I meticulously searched the picture to see if I could spot a dark chocolate chip lurking behind one of those jars. After all, best friends should know where the stash is hidden. I absorbed every word of this post. I purchased garam masala one time and have never found a use for it nor is it a required ingredient in any of my recipes. I forget why I purchased this spice. So if I were at your table indulging in say my very favorite your apple cinnamon waffles, I would ask you what you do with this spice. Way back in time you shared in a comment you used Penzey’s Spices and I have been hooked every since especially their china cinnamon. Excited for the doozy of the part 2 conversation.

    • Mel says:

      I cleaned out all the chocolate chip remnants before taking the picture, Sheila. 🙂 Ah, garam masala. It’s one of those spices (like chili powder) that’s a blend of a lot of different other spices so the actual flavor will vary by brand. I keep it around because a few of our much-loved Indian recipes call for it (this bean curry, and a few tikka masala recipes) although it’s probably one of those non-essential ones especially since a lot of times (food purists, look aside), if I’m out of it, I’ll sub a mixture of curry powder and coriander or something like that.

      • Sheila says:

        Thanks for the info, Mel! Good thing I keep this spice in the freezer.

        • Gillie says:

          Garam masala is wonderful sprinkled into or onto, depending on method of cooking, sweet potatoes. Don’t use the McCormick, in this instance, first ingredient is salt!

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