Cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cardamom, vanilla — the spices and flavors of the season are as integral to the holidays as pumpkins, gift-giving and family gatherings. It’s hard to imagine ever tiring of seasonal flavors, especially when they illuminate baked treats and other holiday dishes, but there’s also nothing wrong with craving new ways to enjoy seasonal spices.
By all means, give your sugar cookies a dash of personality with some ginger, and deck your glazed ham with whole cloves. And while you’re savoring holiday spices and seasonings in traditional ways, why not try some innovative ideas for incorporating the flavors and aromas of the holidays into other aspects of your celebrations?
The spice and seasoning experts at Simply Organic offers some tips to spark your creativity:
Decorate with spices
Some holiday spices not only smell wonderful and festive, they’re pretty, too. Incorporating whole spices such as star-shaped anise and cinnamon sticks into your celebrations will fill the air with holiday scents while creating visual interest. Try presenting star anise in a pretty glass bowl as a centerpiece. Strew bundles of cinnamon sticks tied with ribbons in holiday hues on the fireplace mantel. Add festive interest to a holiday table with a small potted rosemary bush.
Spice up holiday cocktails
When you think of holiday cocktails, is peppermint the only seasonal flavor that comes to mind? You can make your own flavored vodkas and liqueurs by learning to make infusions with virtually any holiday spice. Or, use organic spices to update traditional holiday beverages like this one:
Organic Cardamom Orange Old Fashioned
Prep time, 15 minutes. Makes one serving
Start by preparing cardamom simple syrup:
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon Simply Organic Cardamom
In a small pot, bring the water, sugar and cardamom to a boil, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and to cool. The simple syrup recipe will provide more syrup than needed to make this drink. Store extra syrup in the refrigerator for later.
Ingredients for the Old Fashioned:
2 ounces bourbon or rye whiskey
2 to 3 dashes Angostura Bitters
2 teaspoons Cardamom Simple Syrup
1 orange peel
1 Simply Organic Cinnamon Stick (optional)
In a glass, combine the bourbon or rye whiskey, Bitters and syrup. Add orange peel. Using a muddler, crush the orange peel into the drink to release the orange flavor. Add the cinnamon stick, then let the drink rest for a few minutes. For more orange flavor, substitute an orange slice (with flesh) for the orange peel. Allow drink to rest for a few minutes, then stir to release flavor.
Slip savory spices into traditionally sweet dishes
Holiday spices and seasonings fall into two categories — sweet and savory. Traditionally, sweet spices have been the stars of holiday baked goods, while savory ones added flare to main courses and side dishes. There’s no rule that says you can’t incorporate your favorite savory holiday spice into baked goods. In fact, some, like allspice, are naturals for adding interest to baked items. For example, freshly ground peppercorns pair well with chocolate, and rosemary compliments lemony flavorings.
“Sweet” spices work outside the oven
Nutmeg is one of those spices associated with baked holiday goodies like cookies and cakes, but it works great on stovetop dishes, too, such as pastas — especially in cream sauce — soups and greens. It’s a great spice to add flavor and interest to a variety of side dishes. Because it goes so well with dairy, nutmeg is a winner in mac and cheese, and its hint of musky sweetness means it works well to foil the bitterness of certain greens.
Pamper yourself with Spice
You can cook up a variety of homemade beauty treatments using holiday spices — and after all the work you’ll be doing this season, you deserve it! Rinsing hair with a rosemary infusion shines and clarifies your tresses. Cinnamon and clove, when paired with Bentonite clay powder or honey, make refreshing facial masques. And you can find recipes online to make your own lip balm with cinnamon, cardamom and nutmeg.