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I’m a total spice girl. If I were in the Spice Girls, I’d be Spicy Spice. It’s not just a matter of taste; the spice thing helps me to eat healthy because I need a ton of flavor. Plus, spices are super affordable and you can throw them in anything. Add a few Indian spices like cumin or freshly ground turmeric to your spinach, or sprinkle some chiles on cauliflower or string beans, then put them on a baking sheet with a little oil and roast them at 350°F for ten minutes; you get your veggies in, and they just taste so much better.

Here are some of my favorite herbs, spices, spice mixes, and aromatics and how I use them:

Bay leaves: Literally, add them to EVERYTHING for some extra flavor: spaghetti sauce, soups, sauces. I even add them to the water I use to cook veggies or pasta. Virgin bay leaf users take note: Remove the leaves from the pot or pan before serving the food—you’re not supposed to ingest them.

Garam masala: You’ll find this spice blend in my chicken (or lentil) saagwala recipe here. It’s aromatic, sweet, and warm—my favorite of all the Indian spices.

Garlic: Just call me Stinky Behrs, because I add garlic to everything I make… like, one or two cloves more than the recipe calls for. And I eat ’em whole when I’m getting sick (see here). Hey, want to make out? Pro tip: After you crush or chop garlic, let it sit for about fifteen minutes to really activate all the compounds that give your dish great flavor.

Ginger: Um, see GARLIC. As in, USE GINGER IN EVERYTHING. Add it to smoothies every morning or use it in tea as a cold fighter and to help digestion (it “heats up” your tummy).

Marash and aleppo pepper: These are two types of ground chile peppers that I found at my local spice shop. They are incredible in anything and everything. I use them for a spicy kick in almost every dish I cook. I wish I could stash them in my purse and add them to dishes when I go out to eat. Wait, that’s not a bad idea…

Paprika: Add to your sweet potato fries, hummus, omelets—anything where you want some subtle spice. For a little smokiness, buy smoked paprika. It reminds me of being outdoors in the fall, my favorite time of year.

Rosemary: I grow it right outside my kitchen and use it as flavoring for chicken, pasta, and salad dressings as well as a pretty garnish for omelets. Some of its fresh, herby cousins include thyme, oregano, sage, dill, parsley, and tarragon.

Turmeric: A staple at my house. I sometimes add it to my smoothies, and I swear by Turmeric Tea (here). You can peel and chop the fresh root, or use the powder form, which is amazing for cooking curry dishes and other ethnic eats. Even though it doesn’t have a ton of flavor on its own, it’s an amazing anti-inflammatory/disease-fighting/anti-aging helper. Heads up: It will stain your cutting board, nails, fingers, et al.… but it’s worth it! Just scrub it out with a little soap and water.

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