Kick It Up a Notch

Living with a kitchen this year has been both incredible and terrifying. Incredible because now I can cook whenever and whatever I want, and terrifying because, other than mac and cheese and eggs, I really don’t know how to cook. Sure, I can follow a recipe. But create my own unique dishes? That is still a challenge. Even though I wouldn’t consider myself a competent cook, my experiments in the kitchen have taught me that it’s not about what you’re eating, it’s about how you’re spicing.

Although normally considered an add-on to a meal, spices are a critical component of any dish. Now this doesn’t necessarily mean go crazy and pour spice on top of everything, but adding a little bit here and a little bit there can turn almost any ordinary dish into a little slice of heaven.

Check out the descriptions below for a quick list of my spice cupboard essentials.

Black Pepper

A little bit of pepper can go a long way, adding pungency and sharpness to a variety of dishes, including meat rubs, stewed vegetables and even mac and cheese.

Cayenne Pepper

Made from a hot, spicy pepper, this spice goes great with barbecued meats and veggies alike. Personally, I enjoy adding it to pulled pork.

Chili powder

Normally a combination of chilis, cumin, coriander and oregano, chili powder is useful for spicing up a variety of meals including chilis, barbecues and rice-based dishes.


This bittersweet spice pairs great with baked goods and warm drinks, but can also be a flavorful addition to stews and chilis. Personally, I enjoy sprinkling cinnamon over fresh fruits as well.

Curry Powder

There are many different types of curry powder consisting of up to 20 different spices, each with its own unique taste. I suggest experimenting to find one that fits your personal tastes.

Garlic powder

A pungent spice, garlic powder is just as flavorful as raw garlic, and is useful for mixing into rubs and sauces.

Herbes de provence

A mixture of fennel, thyme, rosemary and lavender, herbes de provence creates a delicious rub for poultry and other grilled meats.

Onion powder

Onion powder can be added to almost anything and is rarely overwhelming. Instead, it adds a subtle but flavorful presence which enhances the other spices in the dish.


A slightly bitter herb, oregano is primarily used in pizza but also gives pasta sauces, seafood rubs and salad dressings a more robust flavor.


From vegetables, to fish and even chocolate, a little bit of salt can add life to the most basic dish by adding richness to the individual ingredients and deepening the overall flavor of the dish.

In addition to their flavor, spices also have health benefits, including protecting against chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer, and combating inflammation. So don’t be afraid to get creative in the kitchen; experiment with what you have and go kick it up a notch!

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