Spice Up Your Holidays

If there’s one time of year when your spice cabinet gets a workout, it’s the holidays. Between mulled wine, gingerbread cookies and pumpkin pie, I imagine olfactory glands across the country lighting up as they sniff on cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and ginger. Ah, joy! Joy smells like spices, don’t you think?

Joy to the world!

Well, if you’re looking for some ways to sneak some of the inhabitants of your spice cabinet into your Christmas dinner, here are some ideas for you:

1)     Mango-Glazed Ham

Pick up a jar of mango chutney from your grocery store, and use that to make a glaze for your cooked ham. Sizzle some crushed cumin and coriander seeds in a little warm oil, add some crushed garlic, then add a healthy dollop of mango chutney along with some mustard and some kind of acid (red wine vinegar, orange juice, lime juice, etc).

2)     Salad Dressing

To your traditional oil and vinegar/lemon juice dressing, add some red chile flakes, minced garlic, ground cumin and a pinch of cinnamon. A little honey or maple syrup rounds out the heat.

3)     Garam Masala Biscuits

Add a little of this warm Indian spice blend (an incredibly convenient blend of cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and black pepper, among others!) to your favourite biscuit dough recipe along with a fresh herb, like chives or cilantro. Especially good when slathered with butter!  Another idea?  Dried fenugreek leaves.  Dang, my mouth is watering!

4)     Vegetable Side

Here’s one of my favourite ways to dress up a simple vegetable side. Steam (or microwave!) your vegetables, whether they’re haricot verts, Brussels sprouts, carrots or even sweet potatoes. Cook them through, and then set them aside. In a large skillet sizzle a cinnamon stick with some garlic, some minced shallots and a dried red chile (or red chile flakes).  Once it’s fragrant, add your cooked vegetables and toss until evenly coated and warmed through. Finish with chopped pistachios or pine nuts or toasted almonds.

5)     Garam Masala-Chocolate-Gingerbread Cookies (pictured above)

Yup. The recipe is here.



Aarti began cooking as a chubby kid, as soon as she realized that in order to satisfy her sweet tooth, she’d have to make dessert. It was only as an unemployed adult that she graduated to cooking other dinner courses, and once she did, she was hooked. Her blog, aartipaarti soon birthed a YouTube cooking-variety show of the same name, shot with her husband in her tiny Los Angeles apartment. After much coercing, she applied for season 6 of Food Network Star, was accepted, competed and won. She now hosts Aarti Party on Food Network, and appears on Cooking Channel’s Drop 5 Lbs with Good Housekeeping, Unique Eats and will host a new show, Taste in Translation, that debuts in January of 2013. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter (@aartipaarti) and Instagram, as well as her blog.