sunny anderson

Photo: Tina Rupp

Have a Spicy Day
Sometimes taking the easy way out isn't just smart, it's tasty. I could spend hours laboring over decent homemade puff pastry, or I could buy a perfectly made boxed version in seconds flat. To me, the choice is clear. As a shortcut connoisseur, I'm also partial to bagged coleslaw, packages of cubed butternut squash—and spice blends, which bring big flavor with minimal effort.

My goal in the kitchen is to create something that's both familiar and a bit surprising, and spice mixes make it easy to pile on deliciousness without filling your cabinets with a hundred jars. I add pumpkin pie spice (a mix of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and allspice) to pork tenderloin, which I stuff with spinach, apricots, and walnuts. The spices add a lovely hint of warmth. And while Chinese five-spice powder—mine is a mix of star anise, cinnamon, cloves, fennel seed, and Szechuan pepper—is traditionally used in meat dishes, its undertones of licorice and clove make a crisp slaw of cabbage, carrots, and raisins really pop. Spice blends can shake up dessert, too. Take my apple tart with garam masala, which has notes of cumin, black pepper, cinnamon, and cloves: There's nothing more retro than apple pie, and then in rolls that fragrant mix of Indian spices, balancing the sweetened fruit.

The sweetest thing of all, of course, is how simple it is to use these flavor enhancers. Toss them into a dish or two, and you'll see just how versatile they can be. Spice blends are definitely timesaving, but they're also wow inducing, lip smacking, and, if you like shortcuts as much as I do, maybe even life changing.

Photo: Christopher Testani

Spinach and Apricot–Stuffed Pork Tenderloin
Pumpkin pie spice adds unexpected flavors and a lovely hint of warmth to pork tenderloin.

Get the recipe: Spinach and Apricot-Stuffed Pork Tenderloin Recipe

Photo: Christopher Testani

Red and Green Five-Spice Slaw
Slightly sweet and savory Chinese five-spice powder adds depth to the crisp vegetable mix.

Get the recipe: Red and Green Five-Spice Slaw Recipe

Photo: Christopher Testani

Spiced Apple Tart
Garam masala, which has notes of cumin, black pepper, cinnamon and cloves, takes this apple tart to the next level.

Get the recipe: Spiced Apple Tart Recipe