I fell in love with seasoning blends when I was a teenager, maybe younger. I couldn’t cook yet, but I loved food, experimenting and helping my mom come up with new stuff. To give you an idea of my ignorance at that point, I thought that making spaghetti sauce from scratch, instead of just adding a jar of sauce to the meat, was a very original idea. So, when I saw “Italian seasoning” for the first time I thought it was brilliant. I had no idea what spices produced what flavors. I mean, I knew a few – onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper – but basil and oregano were completely alien terms to me.
Fast forward a few years and, I still didn’t know my spices and still didn’t know how to cook much. It wasn’t that no one had tried to teach me when I was growing up. I just wouldn’t learn. It was a matter of principle and patience. I loved experimenting with food. But there was no way in Hell I was going to grow up to be one of those women who was stuck in the kitchen! When it came to relationships, I looked for men who could cook. I was not going to play that role.
But I loved food and making new dishes. So I did a lot of experimenting and very little practicing. And, seasoning blends seem like a good idea for someone who doesn’t know which spices to use, right? Well, I didn’t read the ingredients. That was my worst mistake. I decided to make some wonderful Mexican dish for some friends one night and used “Mexican seasoning”, but I didn’t know it included salt. In fact, salt was the first ingredient. So, as was my way, I salted the Hell out of the dish. And that was on top of all the salt in the seasoning blend.
To me, the dish was so over-salted that it was barely edible. My poor friends weren’t as fond of salt as I was and I don’t know how they choked it down. The worst part was that I served it before I tasted it. Yeah, I did. And, being the cook, I didn’t even get to start on mine until they were well into theirs. I felt terrible!
Now I know. I know so many things I didn’t know then. And knowing things about food just raises more questions and bafflement like – what the Hell is 100% avocado-free guacamole? And, there is no such thing as fat-free sour cream (you know what cream is, right?). So, what is in the stuff they call “fat-free sour cream” and why are they allowed to call it that? But I digress…
Back to seasonings. You don’t need to buy seasoning blends, or things like taco seasoning mix. Anyone can make their own. Yes, even if you don’t know what goes into them yet! The easiest way, if you already have one that you like, is to read the ingredients and make your own from the spices listed. Of course, now you can find recipes online for any seasoning blend you might want to try.
Why Make Your Own?
So, many reasons, but here are the two that are most important to me. First, you bypass the unwanted and unknown ingredients in the pre-mixed blends. You do want to know what you’re putting in your mouth don’t you? Second, you can tweak it to your personal taste.
Both points can apply when it comes to the salt content. When you make your own seasoning blends, you have total control. You choose the type of salt you will consume as well as the amount. For me, one of the big problems with the pre-made spice blends was the high ratio of salt to other spices. And I wasn’t concerned about sodium levels in my diet, I just wanted more of the other flavors and I couldn’t get enough of those flavors without overwhelming the dish with salt.
How I Make My Basic Blend
My basic spice blend is very simple. Just onion, garlic, salt and pepper. Mostly onion and garlic. It’s a good starting point for dishes that call for other spices, and works as a stand-alone for a few others. It’s a time saver, and makes life much easier when you’re seasoning raw meat.
I use and empty spice container. You can go large or small. If you go small, you will probably find yourself moving up to a larger size so you don’t have to make it as often. You don’t want to fill the container because you need to leave some room for shaking it up. It’s all about proportions, and I totally eyeball mine, so I broke out the tape measure to give you an idea of how it works.
My container is about 5 inches tall (not counting the lid and all that). For that size I pour in about:
- 1 ¾ inch onion powder or granulated onion
- 1 ¾ inch garlic powder or granulated garlic
- 1/8 to ¼ inch salt
- Less than 1/8 inch freshly ground pepper
Put the lid on and shake well until fully blended.
The reason I use so little pepper is that I’m picky about how I add pepper to my food. I like to add it freshly ground, and sometimes toward the end of cooking. If you’re not picky, or just don’t want to have to add more pepper later, you can always include a larger portion of pepper in your mix.
You can use this as a starting point for other blends. For tacos, you would want to add some chili powder, oregano, cumin, and cayenne (if you like it hot). For burritos, I would do the same, but leave out the cumin. Either one could include cilantro. If you want an Italian seasoning, start with the basic and add some oregano, basil, and parsley.