Having cooked in many different kitchens, people’s houses and friends apartments, I’ve rifled through my fair share of spice cabinets.

I certainly have a system for mine*, but every kitchen is as different as its cook, and I’m going to be honest…most aren’t organized or even frequently used.

I’m here to change all of that! Here are some ways to use your standard spices in unexpected ways to add flavor to everything you cook!


Ground Ginger
Try some in a smoothie or sprinkle it into a cup of green tea. It’s also great on winter squash and sliced apples.

Bay leaves
Simmer one in your vanilla pudding (even the kind from the box!) to add a sophisticated flavor, and don’t forget to add one to rice or grains before cooking.

A sprinkle of dried thyme elevates canned soup like a charm. It’s equally delicious stirred into mashed potatoes, even store-bought chicken salad.

Use it to wake up a ho-hum ham or turkey sandwich, or add pizzazz to potato chips and oven fries. Potato chips are my favorite. Scatter a bag of plain salted chips on a baking sheet and heat for a few minutes in the oven. While hot toss with oregano. Instant gourmet snack!

It’s classic in apple pie but also provides an unexpected burst of flavor to popcorn and chocolate chip cookies, even baked chicken and meat dishes.

This citrusy spice is my favorite by far. It adds a refreshing kick to marinades and grilled meats, roasted potatoes and baked goods like bread and cookies.

It’s delicious tossed on potatoes or cauliflower before roasting; a dash also gives grilled cheese sandwiches an exotic edge.

Mustard Powder
The subtle flavor perks up meatballs, turkey burgers and bread stuffing. Try adding it to olive oil before you saute veggies.

Curry Powder
Use it to rev up crab cakes, shrimp salad and even chicken soup. Or toss with mixed nuts to add major flavor. I keep the nuts in their canister, add the curry powder and lid and shake. Kids can even make this snack!

Dried Red Pepper Flakes and Cayenne
A pinch of cayenne or red-pepper flakes adds a pleasant heat to omelets, guacamole and salad dressings.

*I alphabetize my spices. There! I said it. It’s out there, and I will take whatever Type-A comments you want to throw at me. I love my spice drawer. I’m lucky because it’s a wide, deep drawer. But it could also be a wide, flat bin slipped under a cabinet so it can be pulled in and out if you don’t have a drawer. I use a little sticker and Sharpie to label the tops of each jar and stand it upright so I can just see the lids and labels…in alphabetical order. I use my spices ALL the time because they are accessible and I don’t have to dig through a cupboard to get the one at the back. I encourage everyone to take a few minutes and organize your life. I mean spices!!!
It will change your life! 🙂

See me and these spices in action on KSL Studio 5.

Join the discussion 9 Comments

  • Trina says:

    Hello! I watched your spice segment on Studio 5 today and didn’t catch your ‘go to’ seasoning mix. I heard lemon peel and cumin, but missed the other ingrediants. Could you please let me know? Thank you!

    • Tara says:

      Hi Trina thanks for watching! Along with all the other recipes, it will be posted this week. It’s the Citrus Herb Rub!

  • Ashley says:

    You mentioned a chocolate malt popcorn on Studio 5, do you have a suggested recipe somewhere for it?

  • Kristin says:

    I loved watching your segment on studio 5 today. I was wondering when you were going to post your popcorn and toast recipes? They looked absolutely delicious! I am dying to try them.

  • Stephanie Cannon says:

    I too would like those recipies of which you spoke on KSL today. Great job, great ideas, and so well done (as usual).

  • Kristin says:

    Thank you! I am anxiously awaiting 🙂

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