We warmed up a winter evening this week by attending a “spice” class at our local food co-op. Awaiting us was a choice of hot beverages, homemade Chai tea, Spicy Loco Cocoa/Cardamon Coffee. The cocoa was loco in the hot category, not just temperature wise from being warmed up by electricity but hot because chile had been added. That kick was a terrific way to warm up!

Our instructor for the evening was Elizabeth Geissner, an English teacher by profession but a life learner with the uses of spices and herbs in her life for both medicinal and savory gusto. Dedicated to educating herself about spices she has some 100’s of hours of self and formal courses under her belt. Our evening would be concentrating on both warm and exotic spices and herbs… grinding, grating, chopping them for infusing, rubs and blending these as new additions to old recipes.

Elizabeth brought some of her favorite resources.

Ceylon Cinnamon

As the class description promised we had an opportunity to touch, smell and taste basic and exotic spices and herbs. In front of us were 14 spices alphabetized to help us keep straight what they were with handouts listing them and room to jot down notes on which dishes/ sauces to add them and some of their medicinal properties.

The 14 included: allspice, anise, cardamon cayenne, cinnamon, clove, cumin, fennel, ginger, juniper, nutmeg, peppercorn, turmeric and vanilla.

Also set up was a sampling station with pickled mustard seed which also was added to yogurt, homemade spice berry jam, tumeric honey, spiced peanut butter which could be added on top of goat cheese and crackers, and we sampled her Grandma’s recipe of pickled watermelon. We received all the recipes too except for Grandma’s.


The discussion about exotic spices from all over the world included a short description and a sampling of many of them: Anardena, Annatto, Asafoetida, Ceylon Cinnamon, Fenugreek, Galangal, Grains of Paradise, Juniper Berries, Saffron and Sumac. These were not in our collection in the End of the Rainbow Valley but will certainly make their way onto our shelves.

We were able to create a couple blends in class but since we have most of the ingredients, the juniper berries , rose petals and ceylon cinnamon were the only ones chosen to come back home with us. I also am definitely going to try the chopped up ginger in water for the winter and setting a vanilla bean in that pint of vodka to shake it up every time I open that kitchen cabinet to help it transform to vanilla…

Ginger water on the far right…

If you’d like any of the recipes for the sampling foods, just let me know. There are also great handouts at the Coop: ie this one below for buying in bulk for gifting. It even comes with recipes and gift tags!

Elizabeth’s spicy zest wasn’t lost on us as now we will pursue adding different spices and herbs to our meals!

*A big hug to my book group, The Happy Bookers, who were so generous for this wonderful People’s Food Coop gift certificate which I applied for this class with Natureman! xoxo

2 thoughts on “SPICING IT UP…

  1. Very cool, er warm and spicy! Sounds like a great class Karen. I’m sorry I missed it. I have Sumac in my cupboard from a friend and I need to learn how to use it. Your post has inspired me to explore recipe options!


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