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We Tried It: Just Cook Spices

We Tried It: Just Cook Spices

It's no secret that every cook—no matter the level of expertise—should have a well-stocked spice cabinet—or a pantry, if you're anything like my family. My father and I are suckers for experimenting with spices. In our kitchen, we play with any and every flavor combo possible. Call it, we've tried it. For a house of seven, we rack up almost 90 small glasses of magical flavor boosters. (No regrets.)

Eating healthy should still be delicious.

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However, for the sake of clearing a cluttered pantry, my mother would be much happier with a smaller space filled with fewer ready-made spices. And who can blame her? For the not-so-adventurous cooks, it's way easier to have pre-mixed herbs and spices at hand that you know will be good again and again. That's where Just Cook comes in. With just a few dashes of their all-natural (YAY!) spice combinations, cooking has never been easier, healthier, or more delicious.

Any Day Chicken: The name is extremely fitting for such a versatile seasoning. No more boring bird with sweet tones of citrus and a perfect balance of salty and sweet.

Taco Night: Ever thought of adding chocolate and cinnamon to your Taco Tuesday favorites? No? Well, this seasoning will change your mind. I will admit, when I first stuck my nose in the container, I cringed a little. The smell is strong and rich, but when cooked, the flavor is so deliciously subtle you'll happily welcome the surprising ingredients.

No. 19 Salmon: Similar to the Taco Night mix, this blend will provide any meat with a fiery kick. Taking on a deep red color, paprika and smoked chili powder are the stars in this spice.

Close to Curry: The flavor of this curry powder is not too strong, but it's also not too subtle. It's actually just perfect! With a slightly sweet touch, this spice would make a delicious addition to soups, stews, noodles, and stir-fries.

Gimme Steak: An unexpected, but welcomed, secret ingredient: Licorice. (Seriously, licorice!) A variety of peppers, citrus zest, and bold garlic undertones make this spice a really special addition to any meal featuring beef. Fire up the grill!

Herbed Coffee: At first, I thought there's no way this rub could taste good. I was completely, totally and utterly wrong. The ground coffee beans provide a crunchy texture that would compliment any beef or pork dish.

Try all the Just Cook Spices in a 6-pack for $45. Or mix and match individual containers ($8.50) to build your own spice cabinet.

More Seasoning Ideas:


3 Must Have Homemade Spice Recipes

Fall is in a full swing in Vancouver. For me it means crisp air walks to school with sun or rain in my face. I click 5K a day just by walking to school. No fitbit required. I just enjoy the fresh air that clears my mind. Walking is my antidepressant. Fall also means baking healthy pumpkin bread, processing 50 lbs of wormed apples into applesauce and cooking pots after pots of soups and stews. For Alex, fall means fishing which means stinky trash for me (ugh). For kids, fall is all about Halloween and somehow Christmas too which I blame on Costco’s Christmas stock in August. Seriously?!

While stirring the healthy pumpkin soup I thought what an amazing journey it had since Saturday. First I supported a local farmer by buying the squash from Phay. Peeling it I couldn’t stop but thinking of my mom peeling the squash and complaining how she understands why it is so cheap. It was funny and sad at same time. Later on Saturday pumpkin soup fed 3 of us twice and Alex after completely soaking fishing trip.

He caught us a 60 lbs spring salmon which I gently named a Canadian dolphin. Look, does it look like a fish to you?! It is a freaking sea monster. And interesting enough it has white meat.

Alex “vacuumed” 2 bowls of bone warming soup with many “mmm-mmm-mmm” sounds. On Sunday, we all ate soup again for lunch. It fed sick Adam and made him feel better. And on Monday, the same never ending pot of squash soup fed exhausted overwhelmed me, sick Adam and tired Carole. On Tuesday, I still had a bowl of leftover soup for lunch while writing this post and not setting a foot in the kitchen yet.

Do you see what a $10 2 gallon pot of soup can do?! Amazing. There is a reason why comfort food has its name. I am talking about healthy comfort food. Do you understand why I make pots and pots of soup? They save my life!

So, while getting back to soups, stews and casseroles this fall I noticed using 3 specific spices a lot. Homemade spice mixes that you can buy in a store but I don’t. Years ago I started making my own from recipes easily found on the web. Believe it or not it is extremely hard to find spice mixes and seasonings without preservatives and fillers that are affordable. Of course you can find them organic or natural eventually but it takes a lot of time and money. So, why not make your own?! Here are the spices I make on a regular basis and a collection of clean recipes I use them for.

Homemade Taco Seasoning Mix Recipe

I used to buy Trader Joe’s taco seasoning but because of the $ exchange rate I do not grocery shop in the US anymore. Organic taco seasoning costs way too much here in Canada. Usually a recipe calls for quite a bit of taco seasoning so a small packet of it doesn’t last long. 1-2 meals and poof gone. Here is a shocking fact for you. Our friend Adriana, an exchange student from Mexico, have never ever heard of taco seasoning. I wonder if it has been created by North Americans.:)

Automatically you would think taco seasoning is meant for making tacos. Frankly, I do not even cook tacos often because they do not make great lunch leftovers. But taco seasoning is good in so many other dishes besides tacos:

Homemade Chili Powder Recipe

I don’t think I have used chili powder in many other recipes besides making chili (logically!). To be perfectly honest, I do prefer store bought version but I can’t find affordable organic one without fillers. I don’t understand why even spices need to be loaded with crap?! So, the above recipe will do for now. It is not bad at all and makes chili a chili. Here are a few of my favourite chili recipes I have created over the years:

Homemade Pumpkin Pie Spice Recipe

Oh, I love pumpkin pie spice with all my heart. It is super super expensive and hard to find in stores. Have you tried?! At first I almost got knocked off my feet but then thanks to amazing internet people I made my own. Yes, you could add cinnamon, cloves, all spice etc. separately to each pumpkin recipe but it is so much more convenient to have it all in one jar already measured.

As you can tell, for a Ukrainian born I have quite a large collection of North American inspired pumpkin recipes. Yes, I get your love for pumpkin. I get it. Fine!

And this is just a preview of my entire spice collection. Very simple.

Be healthy, my friends! And don’t eat crap, even in spices. Next time in a store pick up a container of smoked paprika. You will be blown away by its ingredients. I was!


We Tried It: Just Cook Spices - Recipes

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Rigatoni Alla Silana Spice Kit

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Amarena Cherries

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Pomodorino Di Corbara

These fresh, vibrant tomatoes are a welcome addition to any pasta dish. “Sweeter than any other variety you&rsquoll ever try, these adorable gems shine in a super-simple tomato sauce simmered with some salty, umami-packed parmesan rinds to balance out their intense natural sugars,” De Laurentiis says.

Anchovy Filets

Look no further for the best anchovies they’re Armatore’s anchovy filets, which are caught off the Amalfi coast. According to De Laurentiis, “they&rsquore all you need to take a simple pizza to the next level, or try them layered under fresh chopped tomatoes for a craveable bruschetta.”

Before you go, check out our gallery below:

Our mission at SheKnows is to empower and inspire women, and we only feature products we think you&rsquoll love as much as we do. Please note that if you purchase something by clicking on a link within this story, we may receive a small commission of the sale and the retailer may receive certain auditable data for accounting purposes.


7 Spices That Every Cook Needs

Alex Guarnaschelli opens her spice drawer and shares her essentials.

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Photo By: Michael Moriatis

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The Essentials

Recently on Instagram , Alex opened up her immaculate spice drawer for the world to see. Take a peek inside to see what she thinks are the essentials for beginner cooks, including a couple of underrated superstars and a few of her high-end treats.

Dry Oregano

"The is the only herb I really like dried," says Alex. She uses it in meatballs, meatloaf, salad dressing and on top of fish.

Red Pepper Flakes

"I love the classic pizzeria red pepper flakes," admits Alex. "Whether you just sprinkle it on top of your tomatoes or add to your tomato sauce."

Garlic Powder

"Let&rsquos not act like we&rsquore too fancy to use it," says Alex. When Alex was a kid, her father used garlic powder to make his own special dressing which consisted of one tablespoon of garlic powder, one tablespoon of vinegar and two tablespoons of olive oil.

Hot Paprika

For a touch of tingly heat, Alex uses a dash of hot paprika.

Sesame Seeds

Alex considers these another underrated spice-drawer essential. She toasts them in a little bit of butter to add a nutty note to a dish.

Ground Mustard

Alex thinks that ground mustard is a very underrated spice. In addition to using ground mustard in a dry rub or barbecue sauce, Alex uses it in simple vinaigrettes. "Mustard has a natural thickening property, it can give body to a vinaigrette," she says. "You can even add water to ground mustard and make &hellip mustard."

Ground Cinnamon

Every spice rack needs this tried-and-true classic. Alex keeps it on hand for lots of baking applications. But for cinnamon ice cream, she&rsquos packing extra-long cinnamon sticks.


    1. Set an expandable steaming basket (use one with legs) in a pot and add water just until it touches the bottom of the basket. Cover the kettle and bring water to a rolling boil. Add the shrimp and sprinkle with the spices. Steam the shrimp, covered tightly, for 5 minutes or until firm and just cooked through.
    2. Serve the shrimp with lemon wedges and a dish of the spices for dipping if desired.
    3. Note: If you can't find a prepared spice mix you can make your own. Blend together: 1 tablespoon chili powder
      1 tablespoon paprika
      1/4 tablespoon cayenne pepper
      1 finely ground bay leaf
      1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
      1 teaspoon dried oregano
      1 teaspoon salt
      1/2 teaspoon black pepper
      1 teaspoon sugar
      1/2 teaspoon ground coriander seed

    Simply Shrimp, Salmon and (Fish) Steaks, by Leslie Glover Pendleton


    6. Coconut Bread

    "A few months ago I bought a cute loaf pan from Fishs Eddy, which has given me another excuse to make bread (not that I needed one in the first place).

    I love this coconut bread because a) I love coconut b) it's quick and simple but feels a little fancy, especially if you brown the butter — don't be intimidated, but do keep an eagle eye on your butter as it browns so it doesn't burn, and c) the size is perfect for bringing to a party. Last weekend I took the pan out of the oven and had to leave for an Easter picnic almost immediately, so I swaddled the loaf in foil and a few tea towels, wrapped it in a reusable shopping bag, and biked across the Williamsburg Bridge with the whole package stowed in my backpack. The bread was still warm and only a teeny bit dented on one side when I got to the party." —Susie Armitage


    THE ROOTS OF THIS RECIPE

    Another recipe ticked off the Recipe Request list, another RecipeTin family effort!!

    As always, we love to look to the pros to build a starting point for recipe inspiration. We ate biryani at our favourite specialty restaurants in Sydney, Pakistani chain Student Biryani in Auburn, and the Indian restaurant Paradise Biryani House in North Strathfield.

    To learn the techniques, we looked at a few books (love the local library!), dozens of internet pages and Youtube videos from home cooks in India.

    Yes the ingredients list is long – but you’ll find everything at the supermarket. And while there are a number of steps to make Biryani, it is actually quite a straightforward recipe. (Video is helpful too!)

    And even if yours doesn’t turn out perfect, don’t be put off because even less than perfect biryani is still delicious (we happily scoffed the first few test batches despite the flaws!). – Nagi x


    How to make spinach curry

    1.Heat oil in a pot and add cumin seeds.

    2.When they begin to splutter, add onions and green chilies. Saute them well until the onions turn golden. Then add chopped ginger garlic, salt and turmeric.

    3. Saute for 2 minutes to bring out the aroma of ginger garlic. Then add besan (gram flour) and garam masala. If you do not have gram flour then you can use 6 tbsps (¼ cup + 2 tbsps) grated fresh or frozen coconut. If you do not have both then, skip it and use thick coconut milk later as mentioned below.

    4.Regulate the flame to low and saute all of these for about 4 to 5 mins without burning. When done you will begin to get a nutty aroma.The raw smell of the gram flour/ besan should disappear completely. If the flour begins to stick to the pot, add a bit more oil and cook covered.

    6. Saute again till the leaves wilt completely. Cool this slightly.

    7.Pour water to a blender jar and add this mixture. Blend to a smooth or coarse puree to suit your liking. I do it smooth as my kids don&rsquot like the chunky curry.

    8. After transfer the puree to the pot along with water. Give a stir and bring it to a boil.

    9. Cook it for 3 to 4 mins adding more water if needed. The spinach curry begins to smell flavorful when done. Crush kasuri methi and add it. Turn off when the curry turns slightly thick yet is of pouring consistency. It thickens further after cooling.


    This is a simple dhal recipe that is easy to make. It is the basis of most of the more complicated dhal (dal) recipes. You may want to try the following dhal curry recipes for a more authentic flavor.

    Masoor Dal. This is a quick and easy recipe. First, it is the fastest lentil to cook, only fifteen minutes after soaking. Secondly, it is high in protein, making it an ideal choice for vegetarians who want to obtain a balanced nutrition.

    Dal tadka. This is a more complicated recipe than the basic dhal in this article. The spices are tempered until aromatic. In addition, I also introduce the smoke flavor by using the dhungar method. The spices used are also more authentic, for example, hing and kasuri methi. Try this recipe if you are looking for an authentic Indian recipe.