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10 Spices And Seasonings To Do Your Holiday Cooking With. And Why.

These flavors are as healthy as they are delicious!

Food & Drink

If you're someone who loves to cook, while I welcome you to skim this article, it's not exactly written with you in mind. This is more for those who try and avoid the kitchen at all costs yet, this year, they want to either make a dish or host an entire meal for the holidays and they're not quite sure what to use beyond the salt and pepper shakers that are sitting on their kitchen table.


As someone who personally really enjoys cooking, I can tell you that this is the kind of topic that could go on for days and days; however, you don't have the time and I don't have the writing space to cover all of the spices and seasonings that you should have in your arsenal. For now, take a look at these 10 as an introductory course, so that as you're in the process of grocery shopping, you can get an idea of which ones you should add in order to get a few "ooos" and "ahhs" from your folks once they get a taste of what you have prepared.

1. Allspice

If you're someone who thought that allspice is comprised of several different spices, you certainly wouldn't be alone. Here's the thing, though — it's actually just one spice that's made up of dried berries that derive from an allspice tree in Jamaica. When it comes to what will provide the most intense kind of flavor, whole allspice is best although ground allspice tends to be more popular. What I personally like about it is it tastes like a blend of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and a hint of pepper.

As far as health benefits go, allspice is good for you because it's packed with antioxidants, can help treat nausea and is even good at bringing relief to menopause-related symptoms.

What Dishes to Put Allspice In: lamb and beef, Jamaican jerk seasoning, pumpkin desserts, sausages, pickled veggies and curries

2. Basil

Basil is an herb that hails from central Africa and Southeast Asia. As far as the taste of it goes, it's reminiscent of a blend of pepper and mint. Basil is good for you because it's also high in antioxidants, can help to reduce oxidative stress and its antibacterial properties can help to fight against infections which is always a good thing during cold and flu season.

What Dishes to Put Basil In: If you opt to go the fresh basil route, there are all kinds of ways to use it — pesto, pasta, on top of appetizers (like deviled eggs), in homemade soups, on top of homemade pizzas and even as a garnish for cocktails

3. Cinnamon

A spice that definitely tops my cooking list is cinnamon. It comes from the inner bark of the genus Cinnamomum tree and it tastes like sweet meets wood meets spice. The health benefits of cinnamon are vast. Some of them include the fact that it contains antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. Not only that but cinnamon can lower your risk of heart disease, protect against cancer and fight bacterial and fungal infections too.

What Dishes to Put Cinnamon In: Geeze. What can't cinnamon go into? What immediately comes to mind is it's great for breakfast foods like French toast, any dessert that is apple-related, cookies, sweet potatoes, candied bacon and zucchini bread

4. Ginger

Ginger is a flowering plant that is pretty spicy (kind of peppery and sweet at the same time). It's really good for you because it has strong medicinal properties — ones that help to ease nausea and morning sickness. It also can help to ease indigestion and menstrual cramps. And it's effective when it comes to lowering cholesterol levels and fighting gum disease too.

What Dishes to Put Ginger In: lamb, sauces, noodles, desserts, drinks, eggplant, pasta and oatmeal

5. Orange Peels

I mean, of course, you know what orange peels are and where they come from, so let's get into some of the reasons why they are so good for you. They are high in fiber, vitamins B and C as well as calcium, along with polyphenols which helps to protect your system from various diseases. Orange peels are also known for being able to strengthen your heart, fight off allergy-related symptoms, help you to digest food better and, if you chew on a couple of 'em, they can even make your breath smell better. So yeah, orange peels, as a seasoning, definitely had to go on this list.

What Dishes to Put Orange Peels In: tea, salad dressing, glazes, fish, pork, slaw and (as a hack) to keep brown sugar from getting hard

6. Peppercorns

Here's something you may not know — black pepper comes from peppercorns (well, kinda; read more about that here) and peppercorns are actually classified as being a fruit! The vine that it comes from is called a Piperaceae and the health benefits of peppercorns consist of potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, being a brain booster, regulating your blood sugar levels, providing pain relief and promoting good gut health. Anyway, because peppercorns are prepared differently than black pepper is, they tend to have a fruitier taste to them.

What Dishes to Put Peppercorns In: salad dressings, fish and chicken dishes, soups and omelets

7. Rosemary

Rosemary is a Mediterranean herb whose actual name is Salvia Rosmarinus. As far as taste goes, it's basically woodsy meets citrus meets mint meets pepper meets pine. It's good for you because rosemary has lots of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds which are attributed to a strong immunity, increased blood circulation, alertness, focus, reduced pain and less stress.

What Dishes to Put Rosemary In: casseroles, stews, salads, meat, potatoes and bread

8. Sage

Sage is a plant that thrives in the Mediterranean region as well. It comes from the Latin word Salvere which means "to save". When it comes to how it tastes, it's got hints of lemon, mint and pepper to it. When it comes to why it's good for you, sage is bomb because it's a pretty good source of Vitamin K and antioxidants, it can help to lower your blood sugar levels, it can improve your memory and even combats aging.

What Dishes to Put Sage In: poultry dishes, infused butter, sandwiches, fish, roasted squash, pasta and stuffing

9. Vanilla Beans

If you've ever wondered where vanilla, as we know it, comes from, it's removed from pods of certain orchids, commonly the Vanilla planifolia. Something that makes it so beneficial, health-wise, is vanilla contains a plant compound called vanillin that is high in antioxidants and has anti-inflammatory properties too. Since this compound also helps to boost brain power, curb your appetite for sugar (check out "Ever Wonder If You've Got A Low-Key Sugar Addiction?") and lower your cholesterol levels, you shouldn't feel the least bit guilty about consuming it.

What Dishes to Put Vanilla Beans In: desserts, jam, syrup, fresh fruit and marinades

10. White Pepper

Let me tell it, one of the most unsung spices of our time is white pepper. It comes from the pepper plant (which again is a fruit) and is fun to cook with because it has a milder taste to it than black pepper does.

What makes white pepper different from black pepper, preparation-wise, is for black pepper to be made, unripe pepper berries are picked and dried so that its skin turns dark while white pepper is made from ripe berries that are left to ferment.

Anyway, white pepper has potent anti-inflammatory properties, can help to boost your immunity, promotes strong blood circulation, can help to soothe the effects of a headache and, believe it or not, can help to keep your breath fresh too. So, as you're putting your holiday menu together, try and add at least one recipe that calls for white pepper. You definitely won't regret it!

What Dishes to Put White Pepper In: creamy sauces, potatoes, seafood, fried rice and pasta

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