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The secret to great cooking is in the spice. Pairing foods with spices and herbs is an art, just like pairing food with wine. For beginners, or those who are trying to add to their current spice collection, here is a list of spices to keep handy and the foods that they compliment. Some spice racks do not come equipped with everything you use; you will need to add your favorites as desired. One of my favorites for chicken is tarragon, and many spice racks do not include it, so remember this when investing in one.

Marjoram (a flavorful, basil-like herb) - squash, eggs, chicken, asparagus
Thyme - steak or chicken, vegetables, meat sauces
Oregano - sauces, eggs, chicken and steak, asparagus
Basil - eggs, sauces, asparagus
Curry (yellow Indian spice) - chicken, rice
Turmeric (orange Indian spice) - chicken, rice, use with curry
Crushed Red Pepper - pizza, pasta sauce, hamburger and steak
Chili powder - hamburger meat, pasta sauce, Mexican dishes
Cumin - meat sauces, enchilada sauce, hamburger meat, Mexican dishes
Dried Parsley - garnish any dish, chicken, rice
Tarragon - chicken and asparagus
Rosemary - potatoes prepared any way, chicken
Lemon Pepper - marinating chicken and steak, asparagus, other vegetables
Garlic Salt - marinating chicken and steak, vegetables
Savory - chicken and eggs


Quick Fixes for those everyday dishes (Normally use a teaspoon or pinch of each herb and spice, add more or less as desired)

Scrambled Eggs: add marjoram, savory, salt, and a lot of pepper
Pasta Sauce: Tabasco, crushed red pepper
Chicken: tarragon, thyme, garlic salt, lemon pepper, dried parsley, savory
Chicken with a southwestern twist (great for quesadillas or other Mexican dishes that call for chicken): marinate and cook with lime juice, cumin, chili powder, lemon pepper and garlic salt)
Chicken with an Eastern twist: marinate with lemon or limejuice, turmeric, curry, lemon pepper, garlic salt and a couple cloves of garlic. Barbecue or bake on skewers and serve with rice
Hamburger meat; Italian and Mexican sauces (lasagna, enchilada sauce etc.): cumin, chili powder and crushed red pepper
Asparagus (broiled or steamed): garlic salt, lemon pepper, basil, oregano, and lemon juice
Summer and yellow squash (steamed, baked or skillet fried): marjoram, oregano, basil, garlic salt and lemon pepper
Red potatoes (steamed, baked or mashed): rosemary, parsley, basil, oregano, and marjoram.

Don't have time to make a spice concoction? Keep these blends on hand:

Steak Seasoning - use as a marinade along with olive oil
Chicken Seasoning - use as a marinade along with olive oil
Seafood Seasoning - use as a marinade along with lemon juice and butter