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Personal spice blends mixed to taste

Making spice blends at home is an easy way to add great flavor to your meals while saving money at the same time. You’re likely paying a premium for packaged spice blends that contain mostly salt and sugar.

Another great reason to make your own spice blends is you can control what your family is ingesting. You control the sodium and sugar, MSG, partially hydrogenated oils, modified food starch or chemical preservatives. Your blends are made fresh and customized to your family’s taste and dietary preferences.

This is fun for the whole family. Have a tasting party were everyone can contribute their opinions. It’s a great way to explore the flavor profiles of various herbs and spices. Even young children can play along. Give them bowls and measuring spoons as they learn to measure, do simple math and stir to their hearts’ content.

Begin by picking up some basic herbs and spices that act as building blocks for popular spice blends. Besides the grocery store, check the dollar store and the bulk foods section. The beauty of the bulk area is you can buy only what you need. You can literally purchase by the teaspoon.

Next, you’ll need containers. Glass is preferable as it’s reusable, easy to clean and won’t hold aromas. Baby food jars are perfect, as are small glass canning jars.

Here are some basic recipes to get you started. Then you can experiment and get creative to make your own signature spice blends. You’ll notice I didn’t include salt. That amount is to your taste.

Chili seasoning: 1½ tablespoons chili powder, 1 tablespoon garlic powder, 1 tablespoon cumin, ½ tablespoon onion powder, 1 teaspoon oregano, ½ teaspoon paprika. Seasons one pound of ground beef or other meat for making chili.

Poultry seasoning: 1 tablespoon sage, 1 tablespoon thyme, 1 tablespoon rosemary, ½ tablespoon parsley, ½ teaspoon ground pepper. Other options can include granulated garlic, celery seed, lemon peel, ground ginger, allspice, savory, oregano, dried onion, paprika or cayenne pepper. This makes enough to season two medium chickens.

Italian seasoning: 1½ tablespoons oregano, 1 tablespoon basil, 1 tablespoon garlic powder, ½ tablespoon parsley, ½ teaspoon ground pepper, 1 teaspoon red chili flakes. Use this in pasta sauce, Italian dressing, burgers or soups or as a seasoning for ground beef, chicken or fish.

Taco seasoning: 1 tablespoon chili powder, ½ tablespoon cumin, ½ tablespoon garlic powder, ½ tablespoon dried minced onion, ½ teaspoon paprika, ½ teaspoon onion powder, ¼ teaspoon cayenne, ¼ teaspoon ground pepper. Seasons approximately 1 pound of ground beef or other taco meat.

No-salt garlic herb blend: 1 tablespoon garlic powder, 1 tablespoon onion powder, 1 tablespoon dried parsley, 1½ teaspoons dried basil, 1 teaspoon ground thyme, 1 teaspoon ground black pepper, 1 teaspoon dried sage, ½ teaspoon paprika, ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper. Add a “dash” (wink) to poultry, meat and vegetables.

As you create your signature blends to spice up your life, remember these make great gifts, too.

I’ll see you next week.

Lifestyle expert Patti Diamond is the recipe developer and food writer of the website “Divas On A Dime – Where Frugal, Meets Fabulous!” Visit Patti at www.divasonadime.com and join the conversation on Facebook at DivasOnADimeDotCom. Email Patti at divapatti@divasonadime.com

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