Cooking with Herbs and Spices

spice cabinet
Cooking with herbs and spices is what gives food flavor and makes it taste great. Have you ever tasted something that really didn't taste good? Chances are it lacked seasoning, it had a mix of spices that didn't go well or it had too much seasoning. This online cooking lesson will have you cooking a vegetable soup to experiment with seasonings and try several different methods of adding flavor to food including dry rubs, marinades and more.

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Cooking with Herbs and Spices

Spices, whether it is simply salt and pepper, add flavor to your cooking that finishes off the dish. You can use dry spices that are bottled or fresh herbs. Use 3 times more fresh herbs if you are substituting fresh for dried.

How to successfully use spices in cooking is acquired mostly by cooking, experimenting and often times following the recipe.

spices in bowls

Vegetable Soup

I like to use this recipe for teaching about how important adding spices to cooking is. It is a lot like the story of Stone Soup, you add whatever vegetables or meat you have on hand. stock
  • cauliflower
  • cabbage
  • potatoes
  • onion
  • carrots
Wash, peel and cut all vegetables in small cubes or pieces. Add to a large soup pan. Cover with water.  Imagine how the soup would taste without seasonings if we left it just like this! Go ahead and taste your soup. Now add the follow seasonings and spices to your soup,
  • 1 teaspoon basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 -3 cubes beef bouillon
Allow to cook 20-30 minutes. Taste the vegetable soup again and see if you'd can tell if it needs any more flavor. You can add a little more if you think it needs it. Cook until all vegetables are tender.

Tasting soup or other "safe dishes" while cooking is key. It helps you know what your soup might need. As you continue to cook, you'll learn quickly if it needs more salt, pepper, parsley or other seasoning.

~Some dishes you can't taste, such as anything with raw meat. ~
spices in soup

Seasoning Ground Meat

When cooking meat, season while browning with chopped onions, salt and pepper. This add lots of flavor while it is cooking.

If I'm adding ground meat to spaghetti sauce or an Italian type dish, I add 1 Tablespoon Italian seasoning while it is browning.

If adding to chili, I'll add chili powder or taco seasoning while I brown ground hamburger or ground chicken.
taco beef

There are several ways to season or add flavor to food

1. Cooking with Herbs and Spices

When cooking remember to start with a little seasoning and add as needed. You can always add more if needed but too much you can't always fix.
Common spices: Where to use them:
Bay leaf
soups, marinades, sauces, pot roasts
tomato dishes, tomato sauces, pesto, salads, soups, pasta
Black pepper
variety of dishes
Cayenne pepper
chili, anything you want spicy
salad, egg dishes, potatoes, vegetables
chili, soups, Mexican and Indian food, beans
Curry powder
Indian food-soups, meats
potato, soups, cream sauce
Asian cooking, stir fry, marinade
baking, dairy, sauces, soups
Italian dishes, soups, sauces, salads, dressings
egg dishes, chicken
salad dressings, salads, soups, sauces, Italian dishes
chicken, stuffing, pork, roasts
vegetables, chicken, meats, soups

Print off a spice and herb chart for your kitchen.
spice chart

Try this spices around the world chart
to learn more about what spices are used around
the world.

Some good recipes to taste test spices. Taste the difference before and after adding spices.

Taco soup-The flavor of your soup will be pretty bland until you add your Taco seasoning which is where all the flavor comes in.

Spaghetti Sauce- Italian seasoning, Oregano, parsley, and Basil all add flavor to the sauce. Without them your sauce will just taste like tomatoes with no flavor.

Homemade Chicken Soup-Adding a Bay leaf when you boil your chicken not only flavors the chicken meat it will give a wonderful aroma to your kitchen.

Chicken Wontons- Ginger and garlic
Shred chicken and add 1 Tablespoon soy sauce. Taste test. Now sprinkle 1 teaspoon ginger and 1 clove of garlic. You can add a bit more ginger or garlic if you would like. This is where the experimenting comes in adding and tasting until it turns out how your taste buds like it. Open the wonton wrappers and dip your fingers in water. Brush sides of wrapper with wet fingers. Add a teaspoon of chicken mixture in the middle and fold in half.
Deep fry or cook in hot chicken broth.

Having fresh herbs growing in your backyard or kitchen windowsill is not only fun but helps in your cooking. Learn how to grow your own herb garden and how to use fresh herbs.

Cooking with Spices around The World

world spices

2. Cooking with Herbs and Spices- Dry Rubs

Dry spices and ingredients that are mixed together and rubbed over meat is called a dry rub. This method of cooking with herbs and spices works on roast chicken, beef or pork roast and meat.

Try this Spicy Roast Chicken recipe.
spicy dry rub chicken

Try these Food Trivia Worksheets
spice trivia

3. Marinade

This method to cooking with herbs and spices is great for chicken and beef. A marinade is a mix of liquid ingredients. It is best poured into a Ziploc bag or glass container with a lid. Add meat and marinade in the fridge at least 1 hour-4 hours.

Try any of these recipes:
Marinated Beef Kabobs

Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce

Prepare chicken marinade and place in the fridge in the morning. Then mix together your peanut sauce and store in fridge as well.
  • 6-8 drumsticks-but you can use chicken breasts or chicken thighs also
  • 1/4 Cup orange juice
  • 1/4 Cup soy sauce
  • 3 Tablespoons honey
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 Tablespoon ginger
In large measuring cup, add orange juice, soy sauce, honey, garlic and ginger. Blend together and pour into large Ziploc baggie. Add drumsticks and marinade several hours in the fridge.

Chicken Peanut Satay Sauce

  • 1/2 Cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 Cup orange juice
  • 1/4 Cup peanut butter
Mix three ingredients together and store in a bowl in the fridge until ready to use.
At dinner-time take out chicken drumsticks and place in a casserole safe dish. Cook for 15 minutes. Pour peanut sauce over the top and continue to bake 15-20 minutes or until chicken is tender and no longer pink.
marinade chicken drumsticks

4. Cooking with Condiments

You can even go beyond cooking with herbs and spices and use condiments such as BBQ sauce, chili sauce, spaghetti sauce, Italian dressing and many common other ingredients found in your fridge that we often use as dips can also be used to cook your meals. Place meat in baking dish and pour condiment over top. Bake.

Or try these recipes:

Eggs in Spaghetti Sauce

Simmer spaghetti sauce in bottom of a skillet several minutes. Crack an egg for each person of the family into the sauce. Season with salt and pepper and allow to cook several minutes until eggs are cooked through. Serve with garlic toast.
eggs in sauce

Applesauce Pork Chops

This applesauce pork chops in the crock pot, makes moist pork chops that will taste great as a main dish.
  • 2 Cups applesauce
  • 1/3 Cup sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger
  • 6 pork loin chops
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
Combine applesauce, sugar, soy sauce, garlic and ginger in a large measuring cup or bowl. Mix well. Pour into greased baking dish. Brown pork chops in butter and place in crock pot. Pour applesauce mixture over top. Place in your crock pot and cook on low for 6 hours or bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes
  apple pork chops

Italian Chicken Strips

  • 1 lb. chicken breasts, cut in strips
  • 1/2 cup Italian dressing
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon lime juice
Add ingredients together in a Ziploc baggie. Marinate for 1 hour.  Bake or grill. Add to lunch box in the morning.

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Related Basic Cooking Lesson Pages:
~ Basic Cooking Lessons, ~ Stock and soups, ~ 5 mother sauces, ~ Yeast and baking breads, ~ Herbs and spices, ~ Vegetables, ~ Dry beans, ~ Grains, ~ Eggs, ~ Different cooking methods, ~ Growing an herb garden, How to Cook Q&A

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