Kitchen Basics Part 1: How To Make Your Food Taste Good

herbs and spices make your food taste good
My slightly messy spice cabinet – make your food taste good with a variety of herb and spices!

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Hey all! Mixing things up a bit this week. I realize that 2020 turned a lot of us into first time home cooks, and I remember how overwhelmed I was when I first started cooking.

So, I’m going to do a short series on some basic cooking information to help you make the most of your kitchen! If there’s something specific you would like me to cover, send me a message!

First up: Herbs and Spices

(or, what do I do with all of these green and smelly things in my cabinet??)

If you’ve watched any cooking shows, you are likely already familiar with “mirepoix”, or what chefs refer to as the “holy trinity” of cooking: onion, carrot and celery.

I have a slightly different “holy trinity” in my kitchen: Garlic powder, paprika and salt.

Seriously, that combo makes just about anything taste delicious. Add in an herb to round it out. For chicken, I’ll usually use thyme; rosemary or basil for beef or lamb, dill for fish. Sage is good for poultry too and always makes me think of Thanksgiving.

I should also note that I use what’s called “sweet paprika”, not smoked. Sweet paprika is usually labeled as just “Paprika”. Smoked has a much stronger flavor and does not work with everything.

As far as ratios, I use the same amount of salt and garlic powder and 1/4 the amount of paprika. For example, if I used a teaspoon of salt, I would use a teaspoon of garlic powder and 1/4 teaspoon of paprika.

The amount of herb you add will depend on how strong a flavor you want it to have, but as a rule of thumb use 1/4 – 1/2 the amount of salt you’re using. Too much of an herb can give you a soapy flavor, especially rosemary, so always start with less and add more to taste.

Additional combinations:

Garlic powder, cumin, paprika and chili powder – great for barbeque or tex-mex flavors. Cumin has a strong flavor so use very sparingly! Chili powder is actually a combination of chile powder (ground dried chiles) and other herbs and spices. The heat level varies a little bit with the brand.

Garlic, onion and ginger: gives the classic (Americanized) Chinese food flavor. Equal parts of garlic and onion (aka 1 head of garlic for 1 large onion), easy on the ginger (unless you really really like ginger). Generally fresh works better for this combination than dried.

Garlic powder, salt, basil and oregano – I use this mix for Mediterranean cooking (works well for Greek or Italian style). Equal amounts of garlic and salt, and 1/4 – 1/2 parts of the herbs. Oregano is another one that can end up tasting a little soapy if you use too much.


Those who have followed my blog for any amount of time, or simply looked at my logo, know how much I love garlic. Garlic will make your food taste good, plain and simple. I put it in just about everything savory, which is why it features in all of the combinations I mentioned.

Your nose is your friend! If you’re not sure if an herb or spice would work in something, give it a sniff. Often that will tell you more about the appropriateness of an herb for a dish you’re making than any recipe could.

Personal preference plays a role too. For instance, I’m really not a big fan of rosemary, so even if a recipe calls for it I don’t always use it (or I’ll use less than a recipe calls for).

Don’t have a particular herb? This handy substitute chart from The Spruce Eats can help you figure out what to use instead!

In case you were curious, here’s a list of what’s in my spice cabinet:

Spices:

Herbs:

  • Basil
  • Dill
  • Marjoram
  • Oregano
  • Parsley
  • Sage
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme

So there you have it, the basics of how to make your food taste good! I plan to do a couple more posts similar to this in the future. Next week is our blogiversary though – Give Me The Recipe, Dammit turns one year old!! What better way to celebrate than with cake? Come back next week for a celebration!

Have a question about any of this? Anything I didn’t cover that you need help with? Leave a comment with your question and I’ll do my best to get it answered!

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