Add Herbs and Spice to Your Life

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Herbs and spices are both derived from plants; they add flavor and aroma to food. Plus, they are packed full of antioxidants, which stops or delays damage to cells in our body. We hear antioxidants and usually think of kale, kiwi, blueberries, dark chocolate, and other produce, but herbs and spices also fit into that group! As little as ½ tsp of clove has more antioxidants than a ½ cup of blueberries and a ½ tsp of dried oregano contains the antioxidant power of ½ cup of sweet potatoes.

Herbs come from the leaves of a plant. They are often used in larger amounts than spices.

Some seasoning ideas to try:
• Dill- potato, tilapia, cucumber salad, baby carrots, tuna salad
• Oregano- pizza, pasta sauce, herb breads, meat marinades, chicken, zucchini
• Basil- pesto, tomato, pizza, soup, stir-fried vegetables, Thai chicken, shrimp linguini
• Thyme- roasted pork, chicken or turkey, stuffing, green beans, soups, stews
• Rosemary- roasted pork or chicken, herb breads, salmon, roasted potatoes, steak, butternut squash
• Other spices to check out: Sage, Parsley, Marjoram, Chives, Mint

Spices are obtained from roots, seeds, flowers, fruits, or bark of the plant. Typically, spices are more potent and have a stronger flavor than herbs, so are used in smaller amounts.

Some seasoning ideas to try:
• Turmeric- scrambled eggs, soups, rice
• Cinnamon- smoothie, baked fruit, tea, cider, pancake batter, sweet potato, oatmeal
• Cumin- spicy soup, Chile con carne, curry dishes, roasted chickpeas, pork, lamb
• Other spices to check out: Ginger, Paprika, Clove, Nutmeg, Vanilla
How long will herbs and spices remain fresh, if stored properly?
Store in an airtight container at room temperature. Herbs last approximately 1 to 3 years. Ground spices can stay fresh for 2 to 3 years. Whole spices are good for about 4 years. Seasoning blends are good for 1 to 2 years. Bright color and strong aroma are a sign of freshness.

I like to grow herbs – How do I dry them in the oven?
1. Wash herbs, with the leaves on the stems, in running water to remove any dust, soil, or bugs.
2. Drain thoroughly in a strainer or on a paper towel.
3. Strip the leaves off the stalks after they are drained.
4. Preheat oven to its lowest temperature (140ºF-150ºF).
5. Place leaves or seeds on a cookie sheet, place in oven with door slightly ajar (about 1 inch), and dry for about 2 to 4 hours until completely dried.

Taco Seasoning Mix
• ¼ cup dried minced onion
• 2 Tbs chili powder
• 1 Tbs cornstarch
• 1 Tbs crushed dried red pepper
• 1 Tbs garlic powder
• 1 Tbs dried oregano
• 1 Tbs ground cumin

1. Combine all ingredients. Mix well.
2. Place in a storage container with a tight-fitting lid. Seal tightly.
3. Store in a cool, dry place for up to one year.
4. Stir or shake well before each use.
5. Use this mixture instead of purchased taco seasoning mixes. Measure 2 Tbs per pound of ground meat.
• Makes the equivalent of 6 (1.25 ounce) packages.

Taco Seasoning Mix: Makes 6 packages (2 Tbs ea.) | $0.41 per package (2 Tbs)
Nutrition information (per package): 35 calories, 1g total fat, 0g saturated fat, 0mg cholesterol, 80mg sodium, 8g total carbohydrates, 2g fiber, 2g sugar, 1g protein

• 4 slices whole wheat bread
• 1 Tbs oil (canola, olive, or vegetable)
• 1 tsp garlic powder
• 1 tsp dried basil
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Cut bread into one inch cubes.
3. Stir bread and oil together in a medium bowl.
4. Sprinkle garlic powder and dried basil on top of bread cubes. Stir until the bread is evenly coated with garlic and basil.
5. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray. Spread croutons evenly on the baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. Stir. Bake for up to 5 minutes more or until croutons are golden brown.
6. Let croutons cool and store in an airtight container for up to one week.
• Put these in a plastic baggie and crush to make seasoned bread crumbs.

Croutons: Serves 6 (1/2 cup) | $0.22 per serving
Nutrition information (per serving): 70 calories, 3g total fat, 0g saturated fat, 0mg cholesterol, 85mg sodium, 8g total carbohydrates, 1g fiber, 1g sugar, 2g protein
Recipes both courtesy of ISU Extension and Outreach’s Spend Smart. Eat Smart. Website:

Iowa State University Extension and Outreach- Nutrition: Seasoning Savvy
Iowa State University Extension and Outreach- Horticulture: Herbs vs. Spices
Today’s Dietitian: Adding Spice for a Healthier Life — Evidence Shows Antioxidant-Rich Herbs and Spices May Cut Chronic Disease Risk