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DIY Spice Lab

A little of this, a dash of that—the right blend of herbs and spices can transform an otherwise bland dish into something magical. And, your best collaborators can be your children. My kids always jump at the chance to lend a hand grinding, blending, and tasting the transformation of flavor. Although children can be picky about what they eat, spices can be a way to get them interested in food. Here are his tips for getting spicy with your kids in the kitchen.

Let your kids taste for themselves. 

Being hands-on is the key to becoming a good cook for anyone, young and old alike. I have Oliver and Pippa smell things when they’re in the kitchen or going through the market. At home, we taste everything. My only rule is that you try something once. If you don’t like it, that’s ok. I’ll grab a jar of something and have them dip their finger in and identify what they like or don’t like - saying I don’t like it isn’t enough they need to explain why.

Follow the spice trail. 

Oliver especially is very into history and culture but is my picky eater. To help him be interested I share little bits about the history of spices and even where a spice came from, what language the people who grew it speak, and what foods they might eat, so they get a sense of the people and cultures behind the flavors.

Encourage them to try new flavors on familiar dishes. 

We use different spices when we make oatmeal. They’ll add cinnamon, cocoa powder, or vanilla for sweetness, paprika or turmeric to change the color, and they’ll sprinkle sesame seeds or thyme for a savory twist. Oatmeal is such a familiar thing for them that they trust they’ll like the result, so it’s safe to experiment. You can try something similar at home with your kids’ favorite foods, like pasta or yogurt.

Let your kids experiment with their own blends. 

Put things on the table for them to mix and match, then try on their food. Sometimes they like it, sometimes they don’t. But I keep putting it out there and hoping. Start with a few different kinds of salt (coarse vs flake, for example, Himalayan pink or black Hawaiian) to discover texture and color, and then work in some spices.

Ready to mix up your own magic? Here are some ideas to help get you started creating your own DIY Spices!

Sweet and Warming—for pancakes, waffles, or oatmeal

1 tablespoon cinnamon

2 teaspoons ginger

1/2 teaspoon cocoa powder

Everything Seasoning—we like it on pasta

1 tablespoon sesame seeds

1 tablespoon oregano

1½ teaspoons granulated onion

1½ teaspoons granulated garlic