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Me with my favorite spices

Don’t get me started on spices. I have so many I use constantly, but these are my favorites. And I will tell you how I use them.

First of all cinnamon. This is a must. The 1.5 ounce size costs about $5 or $6 in the market. If you go to Costco, their ten ounce size is about $3. Go figure. I think it tastes just fine.

You can use cinnamon in so many things. You must put it in chicken soup. It is great on apple anything. You can even sprinkle raw apple pieces with a little lemon juice/cinnamon for a real taste treat. Of course it is a nice addition to oatmeal cookies and many pies.

Cinnamon and honey are a cure all for almost any ailment. Look on the internet for what and how. I notice that toothpaste now comes in cinnamon flavor and Listerine has those little pocket breath film strips in cinnamon.

My absolute favorite is cinnamon toast. You mix some unsalted butter/sugar/cinnamon together and spread on lightly toasted bread. (preferably sour dough) Then retoast (is that a word?) for a minute or two. Yum. This will be the first thing I eat when I am ‘done’ with my diet.

Next up: Nutmeg. But it has to be a whole nutmeg, ground by you. The stuff in a jar that is preground doesn’t taste the same at all. I have a nifty grinder (see photo). It costs around $30 and I got it at Williams and Sonoma. However I think you can buy a rasp at a hardware store and just rub the whole nutmeg up and down on this and it works just fine. Plus it costs about $10.

Nutmeg is great in spinach (chopped onion too) and of course anything to do with custard. Lots on top of baked custard makes a nice crust.

Dill weed is essential for tuna spread, potato salad (don’t forget the sweet pickle relish) and on any fish. The dill/garlic/orange juice combo is wonderful on salmon. Always keep your bottle of dill in the refrigerator and it will stay nice and green.

Tarragon is terrific on chicken (inside and out). Also nice sprinkled on cut up potatoes/onions/carrots that you roast under and around the chicken.

By the way, if you roast chicken or pieces at 425 for an hour it is perfect. Lay the chicken on top of cut up various potatoes etc. Put half head of garlic and cut up lemon in chicken. Drizzle some olive oil, salt, pepper and lots of tarragon over all. After one hour remove chicken and roast veggies another 15 minutes.

Red cayenne pepper. This is hot hot hot. A little goes a long way. I use it in pea soup. It adds a nice kick. I have been making my Mother’s pea soup for fifty years. I just found out it is really Anderson’s pea soup.

I always use a ham bone, but if you like a totally vegetarian pea soup, you can leave this out. Best is a real ham bone, but if you don’t have one you can use ham hocks, and leave out the salt. Or, you can buy a Cook’s ham steak, cut out the little round bone and some meat and add that.

I had a bone from a Honey Baked ham and it was wonderful in the soup. Plus all the great little ham pieces that cooked off the bone.

Anytime you are going to use  bones in soup, it is a good idea to boil for a few minutes first to cook off excess fat and such. Then just rinse and add to veggies you are cooking first.

In some olive oil, saute three stalks of celery, an onion and three carrots. (cut up of course) Add bag of dried green peas, seven cups of water, salt, pepper, quite a bit of thyme and some cayenne pepper. Cook a couple of hours or so. I like it a little chunky but you can run it through the blender. BE CAREFUL.  It sort of ‘explodes’ in the blender. Don’t fill it too full.

There is a good diet drink using cayenne pepper. Juice of one lemon, some real maple syrup, some cayenne pepper. Stir and fill glass with cold water and ice. Nice lemonade. If you drink this for a week and eat nothing else, you will lose ten pounds. (And probably, your mind)

And my favorite of all: Vanilla. I like it in everything. (Even bubble bath). This is another of those items that costs about $10 for a couple of ounces in the market and at Costco the 16 ounce bottle is less than that. Again, I am a vanilla afficianado and it tastes just fine to me. Of course it has to be Pure Vanilla.

If you want to get fancy, you can buy a few vanilla beans. These you slit and scrape out to add to ice cream, custard or egg nog. They are expensive but a fun ingredient to have on hand.

Also, in a pinch you can slit bean and drop it in an empty vanilla bottle, fill with vodka and in a week you will have homemade vanilla extract. I would use a little bottle for this. This is good if you are stranded in a mountain cabin and not near any Costco.