As you begin to think more about the quality of the foods you purchase one area of your kitchen you may not have considered is your spice cabinet. It may surprise you to know that store-bought spices and spice blends can be keeping icky little secrets from you (like everything else).
The way herbs and spices are handled and processed is important and there can be additives such as anti-caking agents at the very least and even GMO’s and MSG, which is a bit more concerning. These types of things are more often found in seasoning blends like those for meats, guacamole, soups, dips, etc. (Think, McCormick brand seasoning and seasoning mixes, bless their heart.)
Finding a spice or spice blend with a clean list of ingredients is only part of the quest. You also want to purchase from a reputable label that packages fresh herbs and spices that have been handled with care. Herbs and spices can pack quite the medicinal punch. Many are antimicrobial, anti-fungal, and can help with anything from blood pressure to chronic inflammation! We want the best version of these types of foods going into our bodies in order to reap the most benefit….not to mention, they work wonders in terms of how our foods actually taste!
Before you allow this to stress you out let me tell you this is an easy thing to fix. Recipes for spice blends that are everything from classic to exotic are a dime a dozen on the internet and I can give you a little guidance about how to choose the best brands of spices for your family.
- When you can, choose an organic spice or dried herb. There can be many chemical additives (such as sterilization chemicals. Remember, sterilized food = nutritionally bankrupt food) and pesticides in your product. This helps to avoid that.
- Sprouts has their own organic line of spices.
- We also love Frontier brand and Simply Organic brand.
- There are many names for anti-caking agents and many of them have the word “sodium” or “calcium” or “silicon” in them. However, any chemical type sounding ingredient should send a little red flag up in your brain as the only ingredient in a spice should just be the spice itself.
- With that said, it isn’t required by law to include anti-caking ingredients on the list! So, if this is a concern for you, you need to research your brands. Any brand you’re interested in should have a website with information and a customer service department that is happy to answer any of your questions.
- Usually, you’ll know whether your spice or blend has an anti-caking ingredient in it because if it doesn’t it will tend to clump together a bit. This isn’t anything problematic. Just break up the clumps with your finger or a utensil of some kind….or just stir it into your recipe as usual and it will incorporate just fine.
- Many reputable brands of herbs and spices will go out of their way to talk about these common issues with this type of food. They’ll mention it on their labeling or talk about their practices and the superiority of their product on their website. You may see words like, “non-GMO” or “non-irradiated.”
I am not suggesting you go home and throw out your entire stash of spices and start over all at once. This can be very expensive. Maybe just purchase one or two new ones every other week. Or, as you run out of one spice, replace it with a more quality version. Whatever you do, once you have a good collection of basic spices there are many common spice blends you can mix up yourself. I keep my spice blends in little jars in my cabinet. Below is our taco seasoning blend I use at home and you can also click on over to our tasty ranch seasoning mix recipe. It’s great on meat and potatoes as well as for making homemade ranch dressing/dip.
Here are some common herbs and spices you may want to upgrade or purchase first:
Salt (try Real Salt or Celtic Sea Salt brands)
Basil and Oregano
Last but not least, don’t forget our Pinterest board, “Seasonings, Herbs and Spices” for more recipes and resources for purchasing quality spices, herbs, teas, etc online!
Here’s how you prepare your own taco seasoning blend in no time at all:
Get a pint size glass jar with a lid or other glass container.
Add to the jar:
-3 Tbs dried oregano
-3 tsp ground cumin
-1 ½ Tbs garlic powder (or granulated garlic)
-1 ½ Tbs onion flakes OR 1 Tbs onion powder
-3 Tbs chili powder
-2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Put the lid on and shake it around until all the spices are evenly combined.
I use at least a couple Tbs of spice blend per 1 pound of ground meat when I make taco meat.
I omitted salt from this recipe because I like to salt my food to taste at cooking time. Plus, I make it a standard rule of thumb to prepare all of my spice blends salt-free or else I’ll forget which ones have salt and which ones do not!
Simple Taco Meat
- 1 lb. ground beef, chicken, turkey – whatever you like!
- 1 medium size onion, chopped
- 2+ Tbs homemade taco seasoning
- Salt to taste (at least a few tsp)
- ¾ C water
- 1 can black beans, drained (optional)
- 1 can or jar organic diced tomatoes with juice (optional) – around 15 oz
- reheat a large pan on the stove over medium-high heat
- Add ground meat and the chopped onion to the pan
- Break up meat and stir around until the meat is cooked through and the onions are starting to get soft.
- If you have a lot of fat you can drain some of it off or soak some up with paper towels. My ground beef is grass-fed and I usually do not drain off the nutritious healthy fats that cook off the meat.
- After the meat is browned, sprinkle the taco seasoning and salt over the top. If you’re addng beans or tomatoes, do that now, too.
- Pour your water in and stir the whole mixture to combine evenly. NOTE* If you are using tomatoes with juice you won’t need all ¾ C of water. Just add about a ¼ C of water instead.
- Turn your heat down to medium and let the pan stand, uncovered, until the water is cooked away. Stir every few minutes.
- When the meat is no longer watery, it’s done! Take it off heat and make a salad or a….taco!
I use at least 3 Tbs of spice blend per 1 pound of ground meat when I make taco meat.
I omitted salt from this recipe because I like to salt my food to taste at cooking time. Plus, I make it a standard rule of thumb to prepare most of my spice blends salt-free and label them either “salt” or “no salt” so I don’t forget which ones have salt and which ones do not!
You can double or triple this recipe if you want. These measurements make about 1/3 C of spice blend.