Archive for the ‘Spice Blends’ Category

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We just love Indian Chai tea.  Having lived in Tehran, Iran for a couple of years when I was 10-12 years old, I just loved drinking their unspiced plain hot tea from the little 2″ tall sipping glasses they serve tea in there.   It always reminded me of my childhood days, playing “house” and having “tea parties” with my dolls.

In Iran, sugar was sold in huge solid blocks and they would just hammer off chunks, pop a piece into their mouths and sip the hot tea right through that sugar “cube”.  At age 10, what fun!  Pure sugar in your mouth!  :)  What can I say?  My views on sugar sure have changed.  :)  I very quickly learned considerable Pharci language at age 10, mostly from our maid, Fatimeh, who spoke little English.  When we would pass a tea shop in the bazaar she would make a sipping gesture and ask:  “Chai meekhawheed?” (sp?) which I quickly figured out meant “Do you want some tea?” I learned the proper response in no-time flat “Adeh, chai meekhawham” (sp?), “Yes, I want some tea!”.  I also knew in that setting, I’d get it served Iranian style, with those fun chunks of rock sugar, something my mother would never  allow at home.  Wasn’t I a naughty little 10 year old?   Mom was always worrying about that evil, Mr. Tooth Decay (those old enough, remember him from the Colgate TV commercials in the late 50′s?).  Moms always over worry, don’t they?  My teeth haven’t all fallen out after all!  LOL  Wonder if Chai tea is served with rock sugar in India?  Sorry, I digress with my boring nostalgia trip………..

Cardamom Pods, cloves, black peppercorns and cinnamon sticks

Cardamom Pods, cloves, black peppercorns and cinnamon sticks

It was not until today, looking on the internet for the origins of the word CHAI, that I learned Indian hot chai tea, infused with all its lovely aromatic spices, actually gets its name from the Persian word for tea, CHAI (pronunced in Iran with second syllable stressed  CHA – EEEEEE )   Ya learn something everyday!

I really avoid commercial spice preparations as much as I can, what with all the “extras” they add to those prepared mixes, beaucoup salt and sugar.  So I decided to take the most common spices I can taste in a cup of chai tea and just make up my own, using equal amounts (roughly) of the likely spices.  I quickly learned it needs to be a little top-heavy with cinnamon and doubled that 1 ingredient.  The final spice blend, brewed into a 2-cup pot of tea, was DELICIOUS!  So I thought I’d share my new blend here with my readers.

I’m a lazy cook by nature and don’t like the nuisance of shelling cardamom seeds from those big pods, so once I saw that Penzey’s sells it already shelled, well you know I was on that one like a fly on flypaper!  :)  I order already shelled cardamom seeds from Penzey’s Spices on-line or their catalog.  Therefore, I have no earthly idea how many cardamom pods it will take to yield 1 tsp. seeds, but probably around 10-15?  There are about 8-10 little black seeds in the average green cardamom pod.

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¼” slice of fresh ginger root (about 1 tsp.)

6 black peppercorns

10 whole cloves

2 tsp. cinnamon (or 1 3″ stick broken up)

1 tsp. cardamom seeds

3/4 tsp. fennel seeds

DIRECTIONS:  Place all ingredients in a blender or spice grinder (I use a dedicated cheap coffee grinder for spices) and grind until all is pretty fine.  Store in a lidded jar in a dark cabinet or your refrigerator if you’re worried about the ginger.   To make tea from this spice blend, boil your water in a proper teakettle and add your teabag(s) or loose tea in an infuser (my pot has a built-in infuser that lifts in and out).  Add 1 tsp. Chai Spice Blend to the infuser along with your tea for every 2 cups of water/tea you want to serve.  Steep for 5 minutes with the lid on and serve in cups with milk or cream and sweetener of your choice.  Rock sugar, too, if you can get it!  (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) LOL Just kidding, I don’t eat real sugar anymore.  :)

NUTRITIONAL INFO:    Makes about 9 tsp. of spice blend, each teaspoon (amount to brew 2 cups chai tea) contains:

3 calories

.1 g  fat

.75 g carbs, .45 g  fiber, .3 g  NET CARBS

< .1g protein

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This is my version of the ever popular Cavender’s Greek Seasoning.  My brother, a professional chef before he retired, just LOVES his Cavender’s, in salad dressings, on fish and chicken, and even on vegetables.  My version is real close to the popular commercial product, but it has a more pronounced garlic/onion flavor and has no salt in it (I’m very sodium sensitive). I think you’ll  like my mock up of this flavorful blend.  This spice blend is suitable for all phases of Atkins, other Ketogenic diets and Primal-Paleo lifestyles as well.


1 T. dill seed

1 T. black peppercorns

1 T. dried basil

1 T. dried oregano leaves

1 tsp. dried thyme

1 T. granulated garlic

1 T. granulated onion

1 T. dried parsley flakes

1 T. dried rosemary

2 tsp. dried marjoram leaves

DIRECTIONS:   Mix ingredients in a bowl and transfer to a grinder (or your blender).  This may take several batches if using a dedicated coffee grinder like I use.  You want the blend fairly fine.  Store in an airtight jar in a dark cabinet with all your other spices.

NUTRITIONAL INFO:  Makes about 9 Tbsp. or 27 tsp.  Each teaspoon contains:

4.6 calories

.09 g  fat

1.0 g  carbs, .34 g fiber, .66 g  NET CARBS

2.1 mg potassium

1 mg sodium

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Recipes abound for mock ups of this very popular spice blend that McCormick created in their “Grillmates” line of seasonings, all varying by an ingredient or two, or the amounts of those ingredients. There are, however, similarities from one recipe to the other.  Those ingredients are in my blend below.  I’m not so fond of the chicken blend, but absolutely adore the steak blend.  For my blend, I have used less dill and coriander seed, (spices I’m not so fond of) and I use Smoked Spanish Paprika over regular paprika.  My blend is quite similar to the original but is more to my taste.  This is my favorite recipe with this spice blend:  http://buttoni.wordpress.com/2011/07/05/montreal-baked-chicken/


2 T. whole black peppercorns, ground coarsely

2 tsp. dill seed, ground coarsely

1 tsp. coriander seed, ground coarsely

2 T. Smoked Spanish paprika (or regular)

1 T. granulated garlic

1 T. minced dried onion

1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

DIRECTIONS:  Place all ingredients into a spice grinder or blender and pulse a couple times to coarsely grind.  Place in airtight, lidded jar and store.

NUTRITIONAL INFO:   Makes 20 teaspoons.  Each tsp. contains:

7.4 calories

.18 g  fat

1.6 g carbs, .59 g  fiber, 1.01 g  NET CARBS

.33 g  protein

1 mg sodium

38 mg potassium

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My inspiration for this spice blend was a jar of Smoky Paprika Chipotle Seasoning by Victoria Gourmet: http://www.vgourmet.com/Smoky-Paprika-Chipotle-Seasoning/p/VIC-00146&c=VictoriaGourmet@SeasoningBlends .   Alas, my jar of this tasty blend is about gone, so I have attempted to mix up a batch of my own.  I have no earthly idea of the ratios of the ingredients they use in their blend, but my first stab at recreating it is not bad if I do say so myself.  Clearly not quite the same, but not bad. This is suitable for all phases of Atkins. Paleo and Primal followers can enjoy this blend as well.  Remember, peppers and paprika are nightshades, so if you are allergic/sensitive to nightshades, you should avoid this spice mix.

This spice blend is a delicious addition to your favorite Mexican casseroles, at a ratio of 1 tsp. to a large 9×13 casserole.  Adding 1 tsp. to 1/3 c. homemade mayonnaise will produce a lovely condiment for charbroiled burgers.  It takes an ordinary chicken or turkey sandwich to a whole new flavor level. I find the flavor of chipotle mayo almost addictive and good on a variety of things, including broiled seafood!


1 tsp. dried ground guajillo pepper, seeded & ground (very mild pepper)

2 T. chili powder

2 T. paprika (I used Smoky Spanish Paprika from Penzey’s)

1 tsp. ground cumin

1 tsp. ground oregano

1 tsp. onion powder

1 tsp. garlic powder

3/4 tsp. chipotle chile powder

1 T. mesquite flour (or mesquite flavoring powder, available online from spice dealers)

DIRECTIONS:  Seed and grind a dried guajillo pepper in a spice grinder or your blender until fairly fine.  Measure out 1 tsp. of the mixture into a small bowl (store the rest in a plastic sandwich bag or lidded jar if any is leftover).   Measure out all remaining ingredients listed above and stir well.  Store in a tightly lidded jar, preferably in a cabinet away from sunlight.

NUTRITIONAL INFO:  Makes around 1/3 c. spice mix or 15 tsp.  Each teaspoon contains:

10 calories

.33 g  fat

2.0 g  carbs, .95 g  fiber, 1.05 g  NET CARBS

.39 g  protein

12 mg sodium

50 mg potassium

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I’ve grown quite fond of a spice mixture I stumbled upon in my local Marshall’s last year.  It is called 7-Seed Crust by Victoria Gourmet.  I absolutely adore this flavor in or on the tops of my low-carb rolls, focaccia and flax crackers.  As it’s fairly expensive, I decided to try and reproduce it myself at home.  I poured it out on a sheet of white paper to compare what I can see with the naked eye and what is listed on the back of the bottle.  I can clearly see all the listed ingredients except fennel.  I see it neither whole or crushed.  There is also no licorice fennel flavor to this blend, so I’m assuming it doesn’t really have fennel in it.

Next problem is how much of each item should I use?  This is proprietary information, so it’s a sheer guess really. Visibly, there appear to be equal amounts of the various colored/shaped seeds in this mix, but I find the taste of onion and garlic to be decidedly pronounced, so I am going to opt to use a little more of these than the other seeds and spices. I also decided to add Nigella (also known as onion seed, black caraway, kalongi and charnushka).  It has a peppery, caraway flavor and I think it will enhance this blend for use on savory baked goods.  Calculating the nutritional information was extremely difficult, as number for spices are difficult to obtain.  The amount of carbs in 1 tsp. in under 1, so I’m not going to worry about using 1-2 tsp. of this in future.  My end spice blend is very close to the VG brand product, perhaps a little more black peppery, but overall, I’m very pleased.  Mine isn’t exactly the same, but I didn’t really expect to get an exact match.   By the way, my blend below does not have the sea salt the original blend has.  I don’t like to put salt in my spices so I will know exactly how much total salt is going into a recipe.  I always add my salt separately.   I know this spice blend will be good on any of your savory low-carb rolls, breads or crackers.   This is of course suitable for all phased of Atkins and Primal-Paleo as well, since quinoa is also actually a seed.


1 T. coriander seeds

1 T. black peppercorns (I use a mixture of black and red)

2 T. dehydrated onion (I used dried shallot)

1 T. sesame seeds

1 T. caraway seeds

1 T. Nigella seeds (available in Indian groceries or from Penzey’s)

1 T. dark whole flax seeds

1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

1 T. poppy seeds

2 T. dried minced garlic (I found mine at Sam’s Club)

1 T. quinoa (optional; omit for Paleo)

DIRECTIONS:  Put the first 3 ingredients into a grinder.  I have a dedicated coffee grinder I use just for spices.  Pulse the grinder a few times, checking often, breaking these larger items up a bit, DO NOT reduce them to a powder.  You want them coarse ground.  Place this mix into a medium bowl.  Measure and add all remaining ingredients and spoon into a lidded jar.  Always store spices in a dark, cool cabinet away from heat sources.

NUTRITIONAL INFO:    Makes about 3/4 c., 12 T. or 36 tsp.  Each tsp. of the spice blend contains:

9.2 calories

.49 g  fat

1.04 g  carbs, .39 g fiber, .65 g NET CARBS

.31 g protein

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Peggy's Herb Blend

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This little blend I came up with to bake some chicken tonight.  It’s a light blending of flavors that was great on my baked chicken and would be nice for fish or pork chops.


Shown on Shallot-Herb Chicken

2 T. dried tarragon leaves

1 tsp.dried marjoram leaves

2 T. McCormick Grill Mates “Montreal Steak”

1 tsp. Mrs. Dash lemon pepper, salt-free

DIRECTIONS:   Mix all ingredients well in a bowl.  Stir well.  Spoon into a tightly lidded jar.

NUTRITIONAL INFO:  Makes 16 teaspoons.  Each teaspoon has:

3.5 calories

.03 g  fat

.62 g  carbs; .09 g  fiber, .53 g NET CARBS

.06 g  protein

210 mg sodium

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This spice mixture is delicious on braised (seared and simmered in liquid), baked or charcoal grilled chicken, pork or beef.  It is also good on baked or grilled fish.  It is Induction friendly.


4 T. paprika

4    3″ sticks cinnamon, broken up, (about 3 T. if using ground cinnamon)

¼-½ tsp. cayenne, depending on taste

3 T. coriander seed

1 rounded tsp. whole cloves (about ½ tsp. ground cloves)

1 tsp. cardamom seeds, removed from their outer pod/husk

1 T. black pepper

3 T. cumin seed (whole)

DIRECTIONS:  Measure all NOT GROUND spice seeds/kernels into a dry, non-stick skillet.   Turn heat to high and roast spices a couple minutes until they become very fragrant.  Turn off heat and cool.  Run through a spice grinder or coffee grinder dedicated to only spices.  Grind pretty fine and store in lidded jar.

NUTRITIONAL INFO:   Makes about 1 cup or 16 Tablespoons.  One tablespoon is about how much you would use for a meal or to braise or grill meat.  So I provide the nutritional info below for 1 T.  (adjust down whenever you use less)

18.4 calories

.75 g  fat

3.78 g carbs, 2.28 g fiber, 1.5 NET CARBS

.71 g  protein

26% RDA iron, 25% manganese

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When I was in high school, I learned this spice combination (which I have since learned is called Baharat), is used extensively in Iraq.  I’ve since learned other Arab nations use it as well.   From my reading it would appear that this spice mixture varies somewhat from country to country, and even from kitchen to kitchen.  Not surprising really.  The mixture sometimes includes dried mint and hot red chili pepper.  My husband is particularly fond of dishes made with this spice.

My father, career Air Force who did a tour of duty in Iran in 1958-60, was asked to sponsor a visiting Iraqi officer stationed temporarily where we were at the time.  Sponsoring a newcomer, in the military, means to make them feel welcome to the city, to the country, and to get them quickly acquainted with our culture and daily life.

To make a long story short, he dined in our home several times and before he went back home to Iraq, he insisted my mother allow him to cook us a traditional Iraqi chicken dinner.  Let me just say it was good beyond words!  He was quite impressed my mother not only had Iranian rice (200 lb. of which we had shipped back home with us when we left Iran), but that she also knew how to prepare it traditionally, to create that wonderful nutty-tasting, crusty browned layer at the bottom of the rice pot that is so prized at the Iranian dinner table.

He was also impressed Mom had all the spices he required.   Being an addicted recipe collector, she wrote down every little thing he was throwing into the big chicken stew pot.  I recently came across his chicken recipe while browsing through my mother’s oldest recipes and extracted the spices therein for this posting.  I had completely forgotten about this spice from my past!

The predominant flavors of this blend are cloves and cinnamon.  But the subtle mixture of ALL the ingredients is truly delightful, I think.  This is also good on beef and lamb stews.


2 T. black peppercorns

1 whole nutmeg, grated

1 tsp. turmeric

2 T. paprika

1 T. cumin seed

1 T. coriander seed

1 stick cinnamon, 3″ long (yields 1 tsp. ground)

1 tsp. cloves, whole (or allspice)

1 tsp. cardamom seed (Removed from outer husk/pod coating

DIRECTIONS: Break up the cinnamon stick a bit and place in spice grinder.  Grind until quite powdery.  Add all other spices and grind as fine as possible.  Depending on the size of your grinder, you may have to grind these in batches and then stir up in a bowl.  Place spice blend in an air tight jar and store in dark cupboard.

NUTRITIONAL INFO: Makes about 1/2 cup (8 T.) of spice mixture.  Each tsp. contains:

6 calories

.26 g  fat

1.25 g  carbs, .60 g fiber, .65 g NET CARBS

.24 g protein

0 mg sodium

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Dad's Poultry Seasoning

My Dad, the REAL cook in the family, made a lot of his own spice blends.  This was one he nailed!  Thought I’d share his special blend here.  It’s a little more intense but I think much better tasting than commercial poultry seasoning, with the garlic powder and cayenne in it.  But it’s definitely not real “hot” from the cayenne.  I increased the thyme slightly in this recipe as I like a lot in my stuffing.   In a 9×13 pan of dressing, I tend to use 1T.+2 tsp. of this mixture. This recipe usually lasts me about a year, as I use it fairly frequently.  It’s great in stuffing, on roast pork, pork chops and baked chicken.


1½ T. dried sage

1½ T. onion powder

1½ T.  black pepper

1½ T. celery seed (not celery SALT)

1 T. + 2 tsp. dried thyme

1½ T. dried marjoram

2¼ tsp. dried rosemary

1 tsp. garlic powder

½ tsp. cayenne pepper

DIRECTIONS: Mix all ingredients in a small bowl and spoon into dark, tinted storage jar with a tight lid.  Or store in a dark cabinet.  Spices store best away from light exposure.

NUTRITIONAL INFO: Makes about 11 tablespoons (33 teaspoons).  Each tsp. contains:

4.79 calories

.12 g  fat

.95 g  carbs

.31 g  fiber

.64 g  NET CARBS

.18 g  protein

1 mg. sodium

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I’ve mentioned before in other recipes how much we love a Chicken Shawarma spice mixture we used to buy at the Phoenicia Deli and Importers on Westheimer Street in Houston, TX.  My existing bottle was getting low so I decided I better try to come up with my own before it was totally gone and I would lose the capability to compare any trials to the flavor of the real thing!  Houston is 3 hours away, so I no longer consider buying direct an option and they do not manage a website.  :(

So I took down my almost empty bottle of Chicken Shawarma Spice and examined it closely.  First for visual clues as to its possible ingredients. I could clearly see black pepper in it.  It had a yellow hue, so turmeric and cumin were bound to be in it, as these spices are so prevalent in Middle Eastern cooking.  Then I smelled its aroma over and over again to add to my understanding of what might be there.  Finally, I tasted and tasted until I decided I’d just go for it and mix up the few things I felt certain were in it.  I could definitely detect a little “bite” on my tongue, so I deduced maybe cayenne?

I decided to mix equal amounts of everything but the cayenne, because the “heat” was barely noticeable on my tongue.  Stirred it up and tasted……but something was missing.  Seemed a bit flat.  So I decided to spunk it up with a little onion and garlic powder.  Stirred again and tasted and  finally, I was getting real close to the real McCoy!  Here’s the final product of my experiment.


3 T. ground cumin seed

2 T. ground coriander seed

1 T. turmeric

1 T. black pepper

1 tsp. cayenne

2 tsp. garlic powder

1 tsp. onion powder

Mix all and store in jar in a dark cabinet.  This is sprinkled on broiled chicken or chicken that has been grilled outside for the famous Shawarma sandwich wraps. I find I also like it on a plain cooked ground beef patty.  I like it so much I often put 1T. into a double batch of my homemade mayonnaise recipe.  Mmmmm.

NUTRITIONAL INFO: Makes 8 T. or 24 tsp.  One tsp. contains:

7.2 calories

.27 g  fat

1.28 g  carbs

.47 g  fiber

.81 g  NET CARBS

.27 g  protein

trace sodium

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Seafood Spice Blend

Seafood Spice Blend

This is my version of Emeril’s seafood spice blend.  It is good on all seafood and pork.  I’ve even experimented with it on some vegetable recipes with success.  Hope you like it.


7 T. paprika

4 T. garlic powder

2 ½ T. crushed oregano

3 T. ground thyme

3 T. onion powder

2 T. black pepper

1 T. cayenne pepper

DIRECTIONS: Mix all ingredients and put in convenient shaker.   Once you try this on baked fish, cajun recipes and seafood, you’ll be using a LOT of it!  I sure do!


serving size = 1/4 tsp. which contains:

5 calories

0 g  fat

1.5 g  carbs

0 g  fiber

0 g  protein

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My husband and I just love Indian food and after experimenting with so many garam masala recipes, this is one that has now become my “permanent recipe”.  This mix is well worth adding to your spice rack and I promise you won’t be sorry you added this to your arsenal of culinary “secrets”. I have found it to be good in all curries, on all grilled meats and even on broiled or grilled seafood.  This mixture is Induction friendly.


6 T. coriander seeds
3 T. cumin seeds
2 T. black peppercorns
1 T. whole cardamom pods (outer part and seeds inside)
5  small cinnamon sticks broken into small pieces
2  tsp. whole cloves
1  whole grated nutmeg (about 1 tsp)

DIRECTIONS:  In a dry skillet, over low heat, heat the first 6 spices until they become very fragrant. Turn off heat. Then using a spice/coffee grinder, grind all toasted spices to a pretty fine grind, but it doesn’t have to be as fine as salt.  Add grated nutmeg at this point.  When adding this spice to curry recipes, I once again heat the dry skillet and reheat these until they become fragrant and then proceed with whatever recipe I’m making. This is outstanding in all chicken, beef and fish curries.  It’s great on charcoal grilled, buttered  fish and chicken, too!

NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION: Each teaspoon contains:

6  calories

.31 g.  fat

1.1 g.  carbs

.6 g.  fiber

.23 g.   protein


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