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Herb and spice blends

Keep it Spicy


For our final venture into spice land we will explore blends. These are dried mixes that combine spices with herbs. Some are commonly used and others may surprise you. I hope they all will tickle your taste buds by enhancing the dishes they are used in.

A homemade blend that I want to share is an all purpose blend for savory dishes. Savory is referring to dishes that are not desserts. I like it because you can make it ahead and vary the ingredients to accommodate the food you are preparing (see Basic Savory Blend Recipe and Variations). If you are using only a portion of the mix, an adjustment will have to be made when adding the variant ingredient. There are about 12 tablespoons of the dried blend in each quarter of a cup. I suggest you add one half teaspoon of the new ingredient for each quarter of a cup. If using less than a quarter of a cup adjust the amount of the added ingredient proportionally. Keep in mind that spice and coffee grinders work well for attaining the fineness you prefer in your blend.

The second home made blend we will look at is a dessert blend (Dessert Blend recipe). I use it in sweet breads such as pumpkin, zucchini, carrot and fruit. It adds a different verve to pies such as apple, and even French toast. (See recipe for Carrot Cake).

Another blend that I make is Herbes de Provence. It is an all purpose savory seasoning that is especially good in marinades for meat, fish and poultry. Add it to your favorite marinade mix and send me your recipe so we can share it.

There are many commercial blends available for specific use. You are likely familiar with poultry seasoning that is used in stuffing. It generally contains paprika, sage, thyme, celery seed, nutmeg, ginger and pepper in varying proportions depending on the manufacturer. Another one you may have used is apple pie spice and this can vary a lot. It often mixes cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg. Compare this to my Dessert Blend and you will find allspice missing. If you recall from an earlier column it is a substitute for the combination of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves so not needed in this recipe.

Curry powder is a blend of the seeds from cumin, coriander, mustard and fennel along with cloves, dill weed, cinnamon, peppercorns and turmeric. We hear a lot about the healthfulness of curry and one reason is turmeric. It not only adds the yellow color but aids digestion and may help with cholesterol. Chili powder blend is a dry mix of mild and hot chilis, oregano, cumin and other spices. Do not confuse it with straight chili powder. That is hot stuff! Many ethnic combinations are available including Greek, Italian, Mexican, Asian, Cajun and Jamaican (jerk). Keep them in mind when you are cooking in these genres. Taylor's Provisions 208 S. Mill Street in Tehachapi carries some of these blends and they are organic.

I hope you will make use of the many interesting and tasty blends available commercially and try making some of your own letting your taste buds guide you. Contact me at and let me know what you discover.

Basic Savory Blend

Ingredients: • 2 Tbsp of each dried and ground: basil, chives, coriander (crushed), lavender flowers, marjoram, oregano, parsley, rosemary, thyme • 1 Tbsp of each dried and ground: tarragon, dill weed, sage, savory, ground allspice • 1 tsp ground ginger

Blend all thoroughly. Store in an airtight jar away from heat, light and moisture.

Variations of Basic Savory Blend

• For poultry add tarragon • For pork add rosemary • For salad dressing add sesame or poppy seeds along with the blend • For Latin dishes add ground chili peppers • For Italian dishes add crushed dried fennel • For marinades or dips add to your favorite oil and vinegar recipe

Add one half teaspoon per quarter of a cup of basic blend for these variations.

Dessert Blend

Ingredients: • 1 Tbsp of each dried and ground: cinnamon, ginger, lavender blossoms, cloves, cardamom, nutmeg, and mace.

Mix ingredients and store in an air tight jar away from heat, light and moisture.

Carrot Coffee Cake

Ingredients: • 1 cup flour • 1 cup whole wheat flour • 1 Tbsp baking powder

• 1 and a half teaspoons of baking soda • 1 tsp salt • 2 tsp of dessert blend

• 1 cup sugar • 8oz. butter • 4 eggs • 2 cups shredded carrots • 1 cup chopped nuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Use cooking spray on a nine inch pan. In a large bowl sift together both flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt and dessert blend. In a large mixing bowl cream the butter, and sugar until fluffy. Blend in eggs one at a time. Add dry ingredients and stir until blended. Stir in carrots. Add the dry ingredients and stir until blended. Fold in nuts. Place in the baking pan. Top with streusel.

Streusel Topping

• One half cup flour • One quarter cup brown sugar • 4 Tbsp butter or substitute

• One third cup chopped nuts

Combine flour and sugar in a bowl. Cut in butter until size of peas Add nuts and toss together. Sprinkle over batter and bake for one hour or until an inserted tooth pick comes out clean.

Herbes de Provence

Ingredients: • 1 Tbsp each dried and ground: lavender blossoms, rosemary, thyme, marjoram, savory, basil, and sage.


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