Spices make the meal! These are my bare minimum spices. They’re not as expensive as you think, and with most of them, a little goes a long way.
Louisiana Brand Cajun Seasoning. This is my #1 spice. Buy it. It is a replacement in most meals for both salt and pepper. Use ONLY a little because unlike most seasonings it very easy to use too much. I use it on chicken, pasta, beef, even rice dishes. If a dish comes off as a little bland, you might consider using Louisiana Cajun Seasoning.
McCormick Spices. This is a GREAT product. It’s a combination jar of black peppercorns and it’s a pepper grinder! Don’t use powdered black pepper when you can freshly grind your own. Always have it handy. It works well with tuna, some pastas, and whenever you need a little kick.
Always have some dry Parmesan handy. It’s the perfect topping to Italianize your dishes. Plus, the dry texture helps give your dinner an extra sensory thrill. I recommend Kraft, though there are cheaper brands. I’ve just found it to be the best.
Thai spice is good when you can’t figure out what to do with a dish and you want it to speak up a bit. You’ll find a use for it, believe me.
Soy sauce is a great salt substitute. Kikkoman is the best, I think. Yeah, it’s full of salt, but ohhhh the flavor! You can use on fresh salads (a little, not a lot because it IS salty, after all), or as a topper for a mild meat or fish.
Sure, you can use fresh garlic, but that’s too much hassle for me. Use it, stick it into the refrigerator. It seems to keep forever when chilled. This is another McCormick spice product.
Curry powder is a lot of different things. But basically, all curry powders contain turmeric and cumin. After that it’s anybody’s game. In the Middle East and Far East curry powders are usually secret family recipes. Most cooks wouldn’t go out to a store to buy a curry powder. Indian, Chinese, Mediterranean, and other kinds of curry are all different. For me, I like an Indian curry, and each time I get a new jar I try a different one. Curry power is a Major Spice for a dish. It adds body and focuses the dish. Rani happens to make a good one, but there are other brands, as well.
Onion powder is one of those easy things to sprinkle into a dish when you know it’s missing something. Sure, you could cut up onions and that would be better, but I always manage to have onions go bad on me because I don’t use them up fast enough. Having some onion powder (which is usually made from white onions) is an easy thing to have in your arsenal of spices.
There is “balsamic vinegar” and from that is made “balsamic vinaigrette”, which is a salad dressing. While I usually don’t have a need for the vinegar itself, I normally stock the vinaigrette. It has nothing to do with balsam; in Italian it only meant that it had a balsam-like flavor. It’s good to use on fresh veggies, or somewhere where you might need a little acetic punch. Meijer makes one of the best, I feel.