Holiday baking and cooking always warms my heart along with my kitchen. This was a learned tradition for me, though. Growing up in Honolulu did not lend itself to abundant cold-weather cooking. Living in central Texas gave me a few weeks of cooler weather that allowed me to make merry in the kitchen, but it was not until I landed in Northern Virginia that I began some serious cold-weather holiday cooking. I quickly learned that I could lift my spirits and warm up wonderfully with warming, seasonal spices. Here’s a list of favorites with fun holiday ideas.Ginger
Available candied, powdered or fresh, all have unique and interchangeable uses. You can add grated ginger to fruit juice, dairy, nut or coconut milk, and even a little rum! Add dried (or fresh) ginger to cookies, cakes, muffins, pancakes, soups and stews. Here’s a recipe for Cranberry Sauce with Candied Ginger and here’s an idea for Ginger Applesauce, so perfect for the season. If you love hot soup, this Carrot-Ginger Soup will hit the spot. You can also try a cup of hot ginger tea on a cold day, or add it to punch and fruit juice for holiday parties. Peel ½-inch piece of ginger root finely grate it into a mug and pour boiling water over it. Cover and steep for 5 minutes. Strain or leave as is. If desired, add a squeeze of lemon and a bit of honey or other sweetener.Cinnamon
Available powdered or in stick form, cinnamon can be added to baked goods, pies, pancakes and waffles, hot cereal, whipped cream for holiday pies, hot cocoa, brownies, soups and stews. In some cultures, cinnamon is used as a rub or a marinade for roasting meats. Don’t hesitate to use it in grain-based side dishes and sauces for vegetables (think glazed carrots simmered in a cinnamon sauce)! This holiday-party-perfect Roasted Spiral-Sliced Ham with Maple and Orange Marmalade Glaze uses both cinnamon sticks and ground cinnamon. And this recipe for Classic Gingerbread Cookies is made with cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves. Yams are a holiday favorite and this recipe for Baked Pecan Yams with cinnamon and maple syrup is a must-try. Nutmeg
Perfect sprinkled over eggnog at Christmas time and baked custard all the time! Ground or whole, nutmeg is a must for holiday baked goods, quiches, yeast and quick breads, nut-meat pies, and hot cocoa. Grate fresh nutmeg over beverages, puddings and cookie dough, or try this beautiful breakfast of homemade Almond-Nutmeg Granola and Breakfast Turkey Sausage made with apples and nutmeg. If you’re baking gifts this year, consider a Nutmeg Coffee Cake to warm and please your friends. Cloves and Allspice
Cloves and allspice are powerfully aromatic, so just a pinch goes a long way. The two are interchangeable in recipes. Buy them ground for baked goods, spice cakes and muffins, yeast breads, quick breads, soups and stews (especially stewed fruit). Whole cloves and allspice are perfect for long simmered or steeped recipes such as flavored stews and meat dishes, applesauce, apple butter, chai tea and slow simmered fruit. This recipe for Gingerbread Squares uses allspice and this recipe for Orange and Clove Greek Yogurt Tea Cake would make a great treat or gift. Both whole and ground cloves add depth and flavor to this Cassoulet-Style French Bean Stew.Cardamom
Frequently called for in Indian foods and beverages, cardamom adds a unique, sweetly aromatic flavor to chai tea and sweet treats. Perfect for cakes, coffee cake, tea breads and other baked goods. Cardamom pods are awesome when simmered with rice and stewed with fresh and dried fruit and ground cardamom is a welcome spice in this Creamy Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with Cardamom. These Baked Apples Stuffed with Cranberries and Almonds use ground cardamom for flavor and aroma and Homemade Chai Tea would never be the same without cardamom pods.Got a special spice that lifts your spirits for the holidays? I’d love to know!