Tag Archive: SPICE

Spice Things Up with Alternative Seasonings

With today’s continued focus on healthy eating and the dangers of high blood pressure, seasoning and cooking with salt has decreased.  Alternative seasonings such as herbs and spices are excellent additions to any dish without the dreaded sodium.  Herbs and spices are easy to use and can add a variety of delicious flavor combinations to any family favorite.

The difference between an herb and a spice is the part of the plant used.  Herbs come from the leaves and soft stems of the plant.  Spices are taken from the roots, seeds, bark, fruit, or flowers of the plant.  Spices tend to have a stronger flavor than herbs, and are usually used in smaller quantities.

Besides being a healthy substitute for salt, herbs and spices can also replace added fat and sugar without contributing extra calories.  Instead of adding extra sugar to oatmeal, for example, try using cinnamon or allspice.

Add cumin or ground black pepper to more savory dishes instead of reaching for the salt shaker or butter.  Try seasoning meats with herbs and spices instead of coating them in breading or gravy.

Not all herbs and spices pair well with all types of foods.  Herbs and spices should be used to enhance and complement the flavor of food without taking it over completely.

A strong herb such as rosemary would completely overwhelm a mild-tasting food like peas or other vegetable.  Conversely, a mild herb such as parsley would be completely overwhelmed by a strong-tasting food such as lamb or beef.

Dried herbs can be used instead of fresh herbs in recipes, and vice versa.  Keep in mind the flavor of dried herbs is much more concentrated than that of fresh, so reduce the amount accordingly.

Use only a quarter to half as much dried as fresh.  Start with a smaller amount, and then add as needed to achieve the desired taste.

Look for herbs with a bright green color and little or no wilting when choosing fresh ones.  Avoid bunches showing signs of mold, slime, or pests.

Wash fresh herbs in clean, cool water to get rid of any sand.  Fresh herbs need to be stored in the refrigerator, in an unsealed plastic bag, to maintain optimal freshness.  They can last up to three weeks, though should be used within a week for the best flavor.

Dried herbs and spices, if stored correctly, do not spoil.  However, they will lose their flavor and aroma over time.

Ideally, flaked or ground herbs and spices should be replaced every six months for maximum flavor, but can remain viable for up to three years.  Whole spices such as cinnamon sticks and peppercorns can remain effective for up to five years.

Not all herbs and spices are created equal.  When using them in cooking, it is important to remember the more delicate herbs such as basil and chives should be added right before serving to preserve their flavor.

Less delicate herbs such as thyme and oregano can be added earlier in the cooking process since they retain their flavor better.  When creating herb blends, mix, match, and be creative.  Add them to a cheese shaker for easy access during meals.

To learn more, sign up for the Extension Cooking Class series which starts September 7, 2017 at the UF/IFAS Wakulla County Extension Office at 84 Cedar Avenue in Crawfordville. Start time is 6:00 p.m. and the cost is $ 10.

For additional tips about cooking with herbs and spices, call Samantha at the UF/IFAS Wakulla County Extension office at (850) 926-3931.


Author: Samantha Kennedy, M.S. – skennedy@ufl.edu

Samantha is the Family & Consumer Sciences agent in Wakulla County. She has worked for UF/IFAS Extension since 2004. She has a B.S. in both Microbiology & Cell Science and Nutritional Sciences and an M.S. in Agricultural Education, both from UF. Her areas of expertise are nutrition, health & wellness, chronic disease prevention, food safety, disaster preparedness, and financial literacy. You can reach her via email at skennedy@ufl.edu or by calling (850) 926-3931.

Samantha Kennedy, M.S.

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/08/24/spice-things-up-with-alternative-seasonings/

SPICE Up Your Holiday Meals

The holiday season is upon us and that means many of us will be spending more time in the kitchen.

Add that extra-special touch...experiment with a variety of seasonal spices for your holiday meals. And, enjoy the flavors as the aromatic scents fill your home.

Add that extra-special touch…experiment with a variety of seasonal spices for your holiday meals. And, enjoy the flavors as the aromatic scents fill your home.

If you would like to make an impression with a less-than-ordinary meal, use traditional family dishes as a starting point for your special menu, then add seasonal spices to easy-to-prepare dishes to create a holiday feast that your family and friends will talk about for weeks. 

Spices are native to warm, tropical climates and are obtained from roots, flowers, fruits, seeds, or bark.  Adding “holiday” spices to your recipes will add just the right amount of Christmas charm along with a rich, warm flavor and aroma that enhances many dishes.

Spices do come with some health benefits, the greatest being that spices serve as flavorful alternatives to salt, fat, and sugar without adding any extra calories to meals. Instead of adding sugar to oatmeal, sweet potatoes, and desserts, try adding spices like cinnamon and allspice. For savory meals, replace salt with spices like black pepper, cumin, and dill seed. Try flavoring foods with spices instead of using breading, gravies, and sauces. Seasoning meats with spices and cooking them on the grill are healthy alternatives to frying and easy, flavorful ways to reduce fat intake. Adopting changes like these can help reduce sodium, fat, and sugar in your diet.

How long will these spices last in your kitchen?  Dried spices never actually spoil, but their flavor and aroma fade over time. They should be stored in a cool, dry place in tight containers and away from heat. When cooking, keep the container away from steaming pots to avoid exposure to moisture. Ground spices, such as paprika, cinnamon, and nutmeg, can be kept for 2–3 years. Cinnamon sticks, peppercorns, and any other whole spices can be used for up to 5 years.  Always start with small amounts of spices. When adding spices to foods that are served cold, it is important to refrigerate the food for a few hours to ensure that the flavors of the spices are well absorbed.

Now you know using spices is a great way to reduce sodium, sugar, and fat in your diet while adding bold new flavors. It’s a good idea to plan your meals before going to the grocery store so you know which spices you will need. Use the advice above to keep seasonings fresh and flavorful. The examples listed above are just a snapshot of possible uses, so be creative! Follow these tips, and you will spice up your cooking in no time.

Here are few of the traditional holiday spices you may want to try this season:




Best used

Pair with


Dried bark of the cinnamon tree

Pungently sweet

Dried sticks or ground powder

Breads, cakes, chicken, coffee, cookies, pork, spiced beverages, sweet potatoes, squash, tea, yogurt (often paired with allspice, cloves, and nutmeg)


Seeds of the nutmeg tree

Warm, spicy, sweet

Freshly ground

Applesauce, baked goods, beverages, cheese dishes, cream dishes, desserts, ground meats, pies, sauces, soups, stews, and many vegetables


Roots of the ginger plant

Mix of pepper and sweetness

Dried powder or freshly grated from root

Beets, beverages, breads, cakes, cheese dishes, chutneys, cookies, curries, dipping sauce, dressings, meat, poultry, soups, stews, and yellow vegetables


Dried flower buds of the clover tree

Sweet or bittersweet

Dried and ground

Baked goods, beets, chili sauces, cookies, curries, fruit sauces/syrups, gingerbread, squash, and tomato sauces


Dried unripe berry of the Pimenta dioica plant (a tropical evergreen tree)

Pungent and fragrant (ground allspice releases aromatic notes reminiscent of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves)

Dried, ground, and fresh leaves

Meats, jerk seasoning paste,  marinades for chicken and pork, stews, roasts, soups, barbecue and tomato sauces, roasted vegetables, rice, applesauce, fruit compote, oatmeal cookies

Be sure to add this spiced tea to your holiday table.  Enjoy and Happy Holidays!

Mulled Holiday Tea


3 quarts simmering water

3 red fruit tea bags

3 regular tea bags

1 orange, cut in quarters and studded with 4 whole cloves

1 lemon, cut in quarters

1/2 cup fresh cranberries

2 cinnamon sticks


1. Simmer water in a large pot on the stove.

2. Add all ingredients and turn the heat to low.

3. Heat for a few minutes until the tea is steeped.

4. Remove the tea bags.

5. Serve hot to your guests.


Serves 12. Each 1 cup serving: 2 calories, 0g fat, 0g saturated fat, 0g trans-fat, 0mg cholesterol, 10mg sodium, 0g carbohydrate, 0g fiber, 0g sugars, 0g protein

Source:  Shopping for Health: Herbs and Spices, J. Norris, W. Dahl, University of Florida/IFAS Extension.


Author: Melanie Taylor – metaylor@ufl.edu

Melanie Taylor

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2013/12/18/spice-up-your-holiday-meals/