Secret Ingredients: 5 DIY Herb and Spice Blends You'll Love

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Secret Ingredients: 5 DIY Herb and Spice Blends You'll Love
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Secret Ingredients: 5 DIY Herb and Spice Blends You'll Love

Italian Tomato Sauce Blend

“Italian seasoning” in the spice section of the supermarket is a blend of dried herbs such as basil, oregano and parsley — tasty, but a little one-dimensional. This blend, including a bit of sugar, garlic and onion powder and a touch of chili flakes, adds layers of flavors to any Italian dish. Use a heaping tablespoon of it in a meatloaf mixture or in your next batch of meatballs. You can also sprinkle it over pizza or pasta or an Italian sub; best of all, it’s the only thing you need to season a quick pot of rich tomato sauce.

Italian Tomato Sauce Blend

Image Credit: David Bowers

Zingy Mustard Ranch Mix

Ranch dressing is so easy to buy you probably don’t even think you could make it at home. For a very minor effort, you’ll be rewarded with far fresher flavor and no additives or preservatives. This tangy ranch mix is based on buttermilk powder, an ingredient readily found in the baking aisle of nearly any supermarket. If you can’t find it, you can leave it out, but be sure to use buttermilk and not milk if you’re making ranch dressing out of this mix.

To make ranch dressing or dip, mix 1/2 cup mayonnaise and 1/2 cup milk (or buttermilk) with 2 to 3 tablespoons of the mix, depending on how strong you like it. This seasoning mix is great as a dry rub for fish or chicken, and you can also sprinkle it on hot buttered popcorn or oven fries.

Zingy Mustard Ranch Mix

Image Credit: David Bowers

Golden Curry Blend

Even though you can buy a container marked “curry powder” in any grocery store, in classic Indian cooking, spices are always custom mixed for freshness of flavor. This mild and fragrant curry blend is a good starter to help explore what flavors you prefer. If you like it hotter, add a little more cayenne; if you like it sweeter, bump up the cinnamon and nutmeg a bit.

To make a simple chicken curry for dinner, sauté a sliced onion, two minced cloves of garlic, some minced fresh ginger, and a pound of sliced chicken breasts in a tablespoon or two of oil. Add 2 tablespoons of the curry blend and a 15-ounce can of coconut milk (low-fat is fine). Simmer gently for 15 minutes, until slightly thickened and serve over hot rice.

Golden Curry Blend

Image Credit: David Bowers

Smoky BBQ Rub

There are endless variations on barbecue seasonings and rubs and this is a terrific blend to experiment with. Once you try this out, you may find that your own tastes lead you into different flavor combinations. As long as you don’t make it too salty, it’s hard to go wrong. What makes this one special, however, is the inclusion of smoked paprika, also known as pimentón. Once a specialty ingredient from Spain (the best ones come from La Vera), it’s now widely available. If you don’t have it, double the amount of regular (or sweet) paprika; but adding it makes any barbecue taste naturally, addictively smoky, no grill needed.

Smoky BBQ Rub

Image Credit: David Bowers

Hazelnut Dukka

This Egyptian condiment (also spelled duqqa or dukkah, and pronounced DUE-kah) can be as complicated or simple as you like. Many versions include a variety of nuts, such as pistachios, almonds and cashews, but hazelnuts are the classic choice. For a brighter flavor, you can also add a handful of crushed dried mint leaves along with the sesame.

It’s often served with pieces of warm pita, to be dipped in oil and sprinkled with the dukka, and it’s wonderful atop sandwiches or sprinkled over roast vegetables. And don’t be surprised if you find yourself eating it by the spoonful out of the jar — it’s that good. Don’t halve this recipe, or it won’t grind properly in your food processor.

Hazelnut Dukka

Image Credit: David Bowers

Now, try using these spice blends when making the following delicious Kitchen Daily recipes!

Eggs Baked in Roasted Tomato Sauce

Use the Italian Tomato Sauce Blend to add a little flair to this dish of eggs cooked in antioxidant-rich tomato sauce.

Get the Recipe: Eggs Baked in Roasted Tomato Sauce

Lasagna with Slow-Roasted Tomato Sauce

Slow-roasting the tomatoes gives the tomato sauce for this lasagna recipe an intense depth of flavor—which is then enhanced by the umami in onions, Parmesan and spinach. The lasagna noodles are layered into the lasagna uncooked; the moisture from the fresh spinach cooks them perfectly as the lasagna bakes in the oven.

Get the Recipe: Lasagna with Slow-Roasted Tomato Sauce

Oven Fries with Herbs and Pecorino

Made with starchy baking potatoes -- flavored with garlic, fresh herbs and Pecorino Romano cheese -- and tossed with just a little extra-virgin olive oil, these fries emerge from the oven crisp and delicious. For a fun twist, season fries with Zingy Mustard Ranch Mix instead!

Get the Recipe: Oven Fries with Herbs and Pecorino

Fried Pickles with Ranch Dressing

Dip these tasty fried snacks in a ranch dressing which could be amplified with a touch of the Zingy Mustard Ranch Mix.

Get the Recipe: Fried Pickles with Ranch Dressing

Chicken Curry with Squash

Many curries are fiery, but this one is gently spiced with turmeric, which alternative-health experts laud as a powerful anti-inflammatory. Experiment with the Golden Curry Blend in this recipe.

Get the Recipe: Chicken Curry with Squash

Lamb Curry

This classic Indian dish is far simpler to make than you might think, and would taste great with a little bit of the Golden Curry Blend.

Get the Recipe: Lamb Curry

BBQ Salmon Salad

Good-for-you salmon just got richer with the abundance of vitamins already in the juice which makes a fabulous salad dressing. Also, try this recipe with the Smoky BBQ Rub.

Get the Recipe: BBQ Salmon Salad

Oven Barbecued Brisket

A relatively inexpensive cut of meat, a brisket needs to tenderize overnight before it's baked. Here we use a full-flavored, smoky barbecue dry rub (feel free to substitute this for Smoky BBQ Rub), then it's slowly baked and basted. Brisket cuts are notoriously fatty, but the flat "first-cut" section is a far better choice for healthy eating than the fattier "point cut." It may be worth calling ahead to make sure your supermarket or butcher has one on hand.

Get the Recipe: Oven Barbecued Brisket

Garlic & Herb Pita Chips

You can make your own tasty pita chips in a matter of minutes. Just cut pita bread into wedges (stale pitas work very well), brush them with a little olive oil and bake. Not only do homemade pita chips save you money, you'll also cut calories by 16 percent. Season the chips with Hazelnut Dukka.

Get the Recipe: Garlic & Herb Pita Chips

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Spice up your food (literally!) with five homemade herb and spice blends. They take seconds to make but will completely change the way you cook.

Almost everyone has a cabinet or drawer filled with herbs and spices that hardly see the light of day. Instead of using a pinch of this or that, turn those herbs and spices into custom blends that will be your secret weapon in the kitchen. We've got five delicious spice mixes including homemade ranch for salad dressings and dry rubs, a tomato sauce blend and a classic BBQ rub for meats of all kinds. All you have to do is mix them together, store them in a (labeled) airtight container and season away!

To see what five homemade herb and spice bends we're integrating into the daily cooking mix, check out our slideshow above!

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