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Judy A. Toth is the owner of Simply Impressive Cooking School in Mesa. Reach her at (480) 654-1981 or simplyimpressive.com

Posted: Wednesday, April 13, 2011 4:00 am | Updated: 9:52 am, Mon Aug 13, 2012.

I have something to admit. I am a hoarder. No, not the kind you see on TV, where the house overflows with so much trash that it requires intervention. I am a spice hoarder.

When I see a spice or herb I have never tried before, I must buy it. I have long outgrown grocery store spices. I now go to local spice stores, online sites and ethnic markets.

My favorite place to get spices in the Valley is Penzey’s in Tempe. At Penzey’s, they let you breathe in the fragrance for an idea of what the spice will taste like. When I want something a little different, I go online to MySpiceSage.com. Besides everyday spices, they sell spices that I have never heard of before. 

When considering a new spice, I try to do some research about what it is used for. That will give me some idea if it is even something I might like. However, some spices just catch my eye and, with no forethought whatsoever, they end up on my shelf.

Most spices become a treasure trove of flavor that help me keep meals from becoming boring. A few simple spice changes will put a whole new twist on even the simplest dish. Even common spices are less common than you think. For example, if you think salt is just salt, you can try smoked salt, citrus salt or fire salt. Same with pepper; there is black or pink pepper and even a kind of pepper called “Grains of Paradise.” Then there’s paprika. Try sweet, Hungarian, hot and smoked paprika.

Add a little punch to your meals by switching up your seasonings. You do not have to go overboard like me. One new spice a month is fine.

How do you keep your meals exciting? E-mail me your ideas at judy@simplyimpressive.com.

• Judy A. Toth is the owner of Simply Impressive Cooking School in Mesa. Her column appears the second Wednesday of the month. Reach her at (480) 654-1981 or SimplyImpressive.com.

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