The Spice(s) of Life

True confession. I’ve become a little obsessed with spices.

There are still a lot of nights when my old standby of “salt, pepper, and olive oil” cover the bases for our family dinner, but the fact is that changing up the way a routine meal is seasoned can completely change its character. Consider the following four entrees:

Asian Rubbed salmon
Cajun Blackened salmon
Rosemary Scented salmon
Citrus Peel Oak Planked salmon

All “just salmon”, right? But simply changing up the spices creates a completely different flavor profile – what fun!

Any grocery store has a wide selection of spices you can peruse to find inspiration for dinner, but a company called Penzeys has really made me into a spice evangelist.

The company was founded in 1957 in Milwaukee, WI and by 1986 had established an expanding mail-order business. Their growth continued through the 80’s and 90’s as Americans became more and more enamored with cooking from other cultures, and in 2000, they started opening physical stores around the country. Lucky for me, one of them is a 5-minute drive from my husband’s sister’s home in Columbus, OH. The stores are rustic and homey and stocked with an incredible array of spices for baking, cooking and gift giving. Even if you aren’t lucky enough to have one nearby, you can shop online at You can also request a catalog through the website which includes recipes and images of some of the spices.

A few of my favorite Penzeys concoctions are:
Northwoods Seasoning
– delicious on salmon, also great on other fish dishes and chicken
Fajita Seasoning – great on pork tenderloin or chicken when making fajitas or to give a Southwestern flavor to meat or vegetables in a snap
Parisien Bonnes Herbes – makes wonderful roast chicken but very versatile in a variety of dishes
Chicago Steak Seasoning – a little smoky for me, but my husband loves it – great robust flavor on red meat

We all get into ruts of cooking the same things over and over…try some new spices on those old stand-bys and your family can experience an entirely new repertoire of dinner ideas!

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