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Cooking with Crevolyn: Secret to good food is the spices
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I’m sure you’ve heard the expression “variety is the spice of life.”

As a cook and food experimenter, I prefer to say “variety in spice brings life to cooking.” Adding just the right spice can change a dish from boring to fabulous.

If you’re like me, your cupboard is jampacked with just about every spice available. My collection comes from years of my husband’s trips to food shows and the samples he brought home. I’m guilty of adding to the assortment after trips to kitchen stores, specialty shops and fall festivals.

I’m sure there are probably things in the spice rack I need to toss, but I just can’t seem to part with them. I am inspired by the possibilities that come along with all those little jars of goodness. Darrell said I have more spices than shoes. I’m pretty sure I don’t, but I’m not telling him that. 

If I had to pick and choose my favorite, must-have spices, they would include these seven: sea salt, coarsely ground peppercorns, lemon pepper, garlic powder, nutmeg, cinnamon and chili powder. 

If you’re still using regular table salt for cooking, I suggest trying sea salt. Sea salt has a rougher texture and larger grain than traditional table salt, which is more heavily processed. It is produced through evaporation of ocean water or water from saltwater lakes. Sea salt is especially good when roasting vegetables, preparing meat for grilling or baking with chocolate and caramel. 

Pepper is probably the most popular spice in the world. I like to buy the whole peppercorns and grind them for my recipes. Lemon pepper is a great variation of traditional pepper in that it combines granulated lemon zest with black ground pepper. It gives a great flavor to poultry, meat and especially fish. 

Garlic powder is ground dehydrated garlic. Some foodies look down on this spice, perhaps believing it is a poor substitute for the real thing. While I agree fresh garlic cloves will give you the purest flavor, sometimes a couple of shakes of this powder will be the perfect addition to a sauce, soup or meat rub. 

Nutmeg is a great spice to add to vegetable dishes, pasta and desserts. The best flavor is grated from the whole nut but the ground powder is a suitable substitute.

Perhaps the most versatile of all is cinnamon. Its bittersweet flavor is a perfect complement to sweet and savory dishes.

To round out my list, I had to choose chili powder, which is typically made from a blend of dried chilies, cumin, coriander and oregano. It is delicious in Mexican and Southwestern dishes, but you can’t go wrong adding it to grilled meats, beans, soups or sprinkled on macaroni and cheese. I’m just sayin.’

While I might not have mentioned your favorite, I think we can agree spices are vital to great cooking. Mixing up combinations of flavors is one of the great mysteries of preparing a delicious meal.

This sirloin tip roast with creamy horseradish sauce is a good example of pulling together a variety of flavors that will truly invigorate the palate. After all, the secret to any dish is in the spice.

Sirloin tip roast with creamy horseradish sauce

Ingredients for roast:

  • 2 – 2 1/2 pounds sirloin tip roast
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon lemon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • Sea salt, to taste

Ingredients for sauce:

  • 1 cup sour cream
  • ½ cup prepared horseradish
  • 2 tablespoons milk

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Rub roast with olive oil. Combine parsley, garlic powder, lemon pepper, black pepper and sea salt; press into roast.

Place roast on rack of shallow roasting pan. Cook for 1 hour 15 minutes to 1 hour 30 minutes, being careful not to overcook.

Meanwhile, combine sauce ingredients in small bowl; cover and refrigerate.

Remove roast. Transfer to carving board; tent loosely with aluminum foil. Let stand 10 to 15 minutes.

Carve into thin slices. Serve with horseradish sauce.

Crevolyn Wiley is a Gainesville resident with her first published cookbook “Cooking with Crevolyn” available at J&J Foods. She can be contacted at

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