Food and Nutrition

Pro Tip: Having a Highly-Curated Spice Library Will Make Crafting Flavorful Meals for One a Cinch

Emily Laurence

Art: W+G Creative
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Confession: I am not a very creative cook. I treat cooking dinner the same way most might bake a dessert: I follow the recipe to a T, never straying far from the author’s instructions. I’m consistently amazed by those who try new dishes without following a recipe and go through the motions without enlisting help from a mountain of measuring cups. Secret whimsy ingredients? A ‘few shakes’ of oregano or ‘an extra pinch’ of rosemary on a whim? Not for me—in the kitchen, clarity is my love language.

My careful approach to cooking is part of what drew me to Occo Spices, a brand that packages single-serve spices in pre-portioned, pre-sealed packs in recyclable aluminum. It takes the guesswork out of how much of a spice to use because it’s already measured out for you. All you have to do is just peel open the individual bubble and add it to your dish.

Occo American Basics 101

Occo American Overachiever

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This especially comes in handy if you’re cooking for a small number of people. I live alone, so the majority of my meals I make are for the company of me, myself, and I; individual amounts of seasonings are really all I need. Each little Occo spice bubble has one-half teaspoon of a spice, which is the ideal amount when you aren’t doing big batch cooking.

What I didn’t expect to occur was that the carefully measured spices would make me more creative in the kitchen, but that’s exactly what unfolded. I started out with the American Basics 101 library ($36), which included booklets of crushed red chili flakes, California garlic powder, cumin powder, and sweet basil. They were all spices and herbs I was familiar with, but weren’t ones I often blended together. Because they were part of the same library—like books in a series—I was inspired to start blending them together. After all, what’s the worst that could happen when you’re only working with a half teaspoon.

Watch the video below to learn about the health benefits of cooking with garlic:

All the ways I mixed and matched them were delicious. One night I made zucchini noodles and I cooked them with olive oil and a blend of the sweet basil, Mediterranean oregano, California garlic powder, and crushed red chili flakes. Another night, I roasted sweet potatoes using the cinnamon, black pepper, and cumin for an unexpectedly flavor-packed mix.

After playing around with the American Basics 101 library, I graduated to one called American Overachiever ($38). This one included spices like rose petal, fennel pollen, fenugreek seed, black cardamom, and asafoetida. They were all spices I wouldn’t normally be brave enough to buy a full glass jar of, but when faced with a sleeve of pint-sized portions, I was fearless.

This was the library that really stepped up my cooking game. I literally sought out new dishes to try specifically so I could use the aromatic ingredients inside. When I researched how to use rose petal in cooking, I learned that it is commonly used in Arab stews, rice, and fish dishes and pairs perfectly with cardamom, cinnamon, curry, and mint.

Friends, if you have not had rice with rose, cardamom, and curry, I can tell you that you are missing out on one truly delicious dish.

What I love about the Occo’s spice libraries is that they’re a non-intimidating, zero-waste way to try new (healthy) seasonings and step outside your comfort zone. They’ve truly elevated my cooking-for-one meals into dishes that are truly special. And why shouldn’t nourishing yourself feel that way? It is special. Now that I’ve added some whole new spices—whole new dishes in fact—to my repertoire, you could say I’ve turned into an (ahem) well-seasoned chef.

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