Tag Archives: spices

Seven Super Spices-Mission Accomplished!

29 Dec

Busymomswellnesss has been on a mission to get more spices in use in our kitchens.  The benefits of spices are undeniable, and hey…who doesn’t need a kick in the wellness pants every now and again?  Spices, all plant based, provide a wonderful flavor punch to food, are loaded with beneficial antioxidants, and they have medicinal healing properties.  Adding spices to our food can have a big impact on overall good health.

Cumin, cinnamon, oregano, ginger, turmeric and sage have been covered in this series of super spices.  Time to move along to the seventh and final spice.  Remember, though, while these spices are fantastic, do not be limited by these seven.  Use them as a springboard to inspire planning, cooking, and discovering new flavors.  Allow these seven fabulous spices to expand the palate and mind.  That said, the seventh super spice to discover, rediscover, and use is…clove!

For quite some time I thought clove was either an “artsy” cigarette that was super cool (what can I say?  I have never been a smoker!) or something poking out of a ham.  Yikes!  Did I really just admit to that level of ignorance?  Ugh!  Good news though.  I have now moved far beyond that in the quest to increase wellness through an in-depth second look at super spices.

Cloves, like all spices, have positive effects on wellbeing.  How so?  Cloves have been used for healing in Indonesian and Chinese medicine for centuries, a tradition that continues today.  Cloves have been attributed with the ability to relieve everything from an earache to toothaches.  They are great for gastrointestinal disorders and upset, such as nausea.  They reduce hypertension.  Cloves can he;p reduce inflammation related to arthritis.

From a nutritional standpoint, cloves are a good source of fiber.  They are also rich in vitamin C, important for tissue repair in the body, and vitamin K.  Vitamin K is essential for blood clotting.  Cloves are a great source of manganese, which is beneficial for bone health, regulating blood sugar, and helps thyroid function.  The list goes on.   There is no downside here folks.

Cloves are buds from an evergreen tree that is indigenous to Indonesia.  They are available to use in three forms:  whole, powder, and oil.   As you can imagine, they have the same benefits but are used differently.  Whole cloves are woody and used in many dishes, but often removed prior to consumption.   Cloves in powder form are often added to sweet dishes, such as muffins, and savory dishes like sweet potato casserole.  Clove oil is a natural remedy for infections and pain.  It is widely used, but since oil is concentrated, it must be used in moderation.

To get started, try this simple stewed fruit recipe. 

Stewed Fruit

  • 2 apples or pears, peeled and cubed
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 4 cloves
  • 3-4 cups water

Place the chopped apples or pears, sugar, cloves and water in a medium-sized pot and cook on medium heat till the apples are soft. Drain and remove cloves.   Toss them warm onto oatmeal for a hearty breakfast or allow them to cool and add them to your favorite low fat low sugar yogurt.  Isn’t it time to see what wonderful dishes you can discover with cloves?  Bon appetite!

Here comes the sixth super spice!

22 Dec

Spices have wonderful medicinal healing powers.  The benefits are undeniable.  There is no reason to leave them out of our home cooking.  Don’t like heavy flavors?  No problem. Use them lightly.   Spices, even in small amounts, have healing properties.

So far, we have looked at cumin, cinnamon, oregano, ginger, and turmeric.  Next comes sage.  This is a real brain booster so lets start adding it to our wellness improvement program!

In my past, I associated sage with pork breakfast sausage.  And I heard that some folks added it to their thanksgiving stuffing.  My mom was not a fan of sage, so I wasn’t familiar with it as a child.  And while she may not have liked sage, my mom gave me a creative spirit, a love of cooking, and a deeply ingrained value of family and togetherness, so I discovered sage on my own cooking for my kids.  I gotta say, I am digging it!

We have been discovering sage together as a family.  With the flavors and positive health  properties in mind, I purchased a bottle of dried sage.  We all opened the bottle and smelled it.  I talked about the recipes and flavor profile with my family.  I also reached out to others to get another point of view on sage.  Off we went.  Sage has been a wonderful addition to our culinary palate.  The medicinal properties are an added bonus.

Herbalists will likely recommend sage for an upset stomach or sore throat relief.  Stories abound of monks in the middle ages using sage leaves to make a healing syrup for easing symptoms of bronchitis and coughs.  Rumor has it that opera singers gargle with sage tea to reduce voice strain.  Sage is also credited with boosting memory and increasing attention span.  Hey, I will try anything to decrease my occasional brain fog and reduce my brain farts!

Ready to try sage?  It really is wonderful.  Liking bottled sage, I have graduated to using fresh sage leaves sometimes.  I have a wonderful recipe to kick off your experience with sage.  It is a simple pasta sauce.

Sage Pasta Sauce

  • 8 ounces Pasta, cooked al dente
  • 2 T. butter
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 5 fresh sage leaves
  • juice from 1/2 a fresh lemon
  • 1/2 t. lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1 cup stock (I use chicken or vegetable)
  • 1/2 cup pasta cooking water, added when pasta is done
  • salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter in a a sauce pan over medium heat.  Add olive oil.  Whisk gently to incorporate.  Add sage leaves and lemon juice and zest.  Whisk gently.  Set aside while the pasta is cooking.  Put sauce back on a medium heat after the pasta is done and drained.  Bring to a gentle simmer.  Add the stock and pasta cooking water.  Gently simmer for 5 minutes.   Add the cheese, toss with pasta and serve.

There you have it.  Now start creating!  Be inspired! Get healthier!  Let spices do their thing and start enjoying better health in a simple manner.  Bon appetite!

Seven Super Spices-Going Yellow

8 Dec

Spices pack a surprising punch of positive health benefits.  Simply adding more spices into the daily diet can be an easy way to forge a new pathway to wellness.  So far we are creating new dishes with  cumin, cinnamon, oregano, ginger.

Continuing through the rainbow of spices is fun.  We are excitedly taking a leap to yellow on this culinary adventure.  Bursting onto the scene here is an unusual but not new spice for this country.  Here comes the “Queen of Spices” as it is known.  Time to discover, or rediscover, turmeric.

Turmeric is the main ingredient in curry.  But don’t chalk it off to being limited to Inidan dishes.  Yes, it is in many of our lentil dishes.  But surprise!  Turmeric is also what gives the mustard on our sandwiches its yellow color, so it certainly isn’t just for Indian cooking.

Turmeric has been used for centuries medicinally.  It is effective as an anti-inflammatory, and, like its relative ginger, can aid digestive problems as well.  Current research has indicated that turmeric destroys some types of cancer cells.  It can help improve glucose control in diabetics.  It is also credited with being an immune system booster.  Fantastic news, isn’t it?  Time to start cooking!

I have made chicken salad and tossed in some turmeric and curry.  I am pretty light handed with it because it packs a big flavor punch, and it is absolutely fabulous with chicken.  Unlike ginger, which I usually use fresh, I tend to use turmeric and curry dried.  Take your favorite chicken salad recipe and add 1-2 teaspoons of turmeric.  Or try my chicken salad recipe.  Try it as is or adjust the flavors for you and your crowd.  But at least this provides a jumping off point so give it a go!

Amy’s Curried Chicken Salad

  • 4 boneless chicken breasts, cooked and chopped into bite size pieces
  • 1 to 2 cups light mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons mango chutney
  • 2-3 teaspoons curry powder (the turmeric is there)
  • 1 cup grapes cut in half (green or red)
  • 3/4 cup medium-diced celery, including leaves
  • 1/4 cup chopped scallions, white and green parts
  • salt and black pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients and chill.  Serve on lettuce, put on bread for a sandwich, or grab a few crackers and savor this delicious salad.

Don’t have any chicken breasts on hand?  Go easy then, and make a smoothie using turmeric.  Here is a recipe, but feel free to customize it to your taste!

  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup plain or vanilla yogurt
  • 1/2 fresh mango, chopped
  • 1/2 cup cooked or canned pumpkin
  • 1/2-1 teaspoon dried turmeric
  • cinnamon to taste
  • Honey to taste for sweetening

Place ingredients in a blender.  Blend on high speed for 30 seconds.  Pour into a glass, pop a straw into it, and enjoy!

It is easy to start enjoying fresh spices.  There is no reason not to start using fresh new spices in a bold and flavorful step toward better wellness!

Seven Super Spices-Yay for Healing Power!

24 Nov

Spices are fantastic.  They have been used for medicinal healing for centuries.  Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine said “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”.  Wise words and great advice, even today.  Sometimes a flavor boost with spices is just what the doctor ordered.

Since we are having a ball with spices, let’s keep adding them.  They have too many benefits to ignore.  It’s time to put them front and center in our culinary adventures.  We have covered cumin, cinnamon, and oregano.  The fourth super spice to inspire better health is… ginger!

Ginger, for some reason, illicits a strong response.  Either people love ginger or they hate it.  It is not a wishy washy flavor; it is pretty distinct and bold.   If you love it, keep eating it!  If you hate it, it is time to try it again, maybe in a way that is more mild.  Here are some reasons to love ginger:

According to The National Institiute of Health (NIH) ginger is used throughout the world to treat a host of maladies, including:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Flatulence (a delicate and genteel name for bloating and farts)
  • A sore throat
  • Bronchitis
  • Menstrual cramps
  • Arthritis

Not only that, but ginger is great for:

  • Treating chronic inflammation
  • Making healing tea
  • Destroying certain viruses
  • Combating morning sickness in pregnancy and nausea from chemotherapy
  • Settling an uneasy tummy
  • Healing the gut
  • Easing cold symptoms, and by some accounts even shortening one.

Ginger is great to cook with, and compliments a variety of dishes.  While ginger is typically used in sweet dishes here in the United States, in other countries such as India and Pakistan it is used in preparation of vegetables, and many lentil dishes.  In Japan, it is used usually raw, on noodles.

Ginger can be used in powdered form, pickled, and fresh.  Fresh ginger is in the produce section of the grocery store, and can be used sliced or grated.  It is a root, so if fresh, peel it before use.  Fresh ginger needs to be stored in the fridge, and can even be frozen. Powdered ginger should be stored in a dark cool cupboard.   Get it in small quantities so it is always fresh.

Ginger can be grated to use in sauces or sliced to use in tea.  It is a wonderful addition to many soup recipes.   It is delicious added to fish, chicken, pork, or tofu.  Ginger can be combined with other flavors such as scallions, apples, honey, mango, cumin, and coconut.  The internet has a zillion recipes using ginger, or start with the ones I have below.  The possibilities are endless and exciting!

Ginger Tea:

Add four slices of fresh ginger to 2 cups of boiling water and continue boiling for 10 minutes.  Remove from heat and strain.  Discard ginger.   Add 1-2 teaspoons honey to the tea and enjoy!  Simple, warming, and soothing!

Ginger Fruit Salsa:

  • 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon mild vinegar, such as apple cider or rice vinegar
  • 2-3 tablespoons white wine
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh ginger
  • 3 tablespoons thinly sliced scallions
  • 1 tangy apple, peeled, cored and diced
  • 1 medium mango, peeled and diced

Heat olive oil in sauce pan.  Saute ginger and scallions for 2 minutes, stirring frequently.   Add vinegar and wine.  Stir.  Simmer for 4-5 minutes.  Add sugar, apple and mango.  Let cook down for 5 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Serve over chicken, fish, or tofu.

Seven Super Spices

11 Nov

Spices are used to enhance the flavors of the food we cook.  But there is an added bonus!  Did you know that spices are packed with healthy antioxidants?  Spices, even in small amounts, can pack a good healthy punch in your daily diet.  How?

Antioxidants prevent oxidation.  How is that helpful to our bodies?  Oxidation harms our cells, and antioxidants protect our cells from the damage oxidation can cause.  That is why we hear so much about antioxidants today.  Where are antioxidants found and how can we incorporate them into our diet?  There are many ways.  Using spices is a good place to jump start your cells to better health!

Antioxidants in spices are super concentrated.  What are the best spices to focus on?  We will start with one at a time.  Let’s talk about cumin.  It is prized for medicinal healing.  But we will focus on what the studies have shown to make cumin medically beneficial.

  • Studies have shown cumin to help reduce glucose levels naturally in diabetics, increasing glucose sensitivity.
  • Cumin has been a proven bronchiodilator, beneficial for asthmatics.
  • It is packed with antioxidant properties.
  • Cumin contains iron and manganese, great for the immune system.
  • Cumin has been shown to benefit the digestive system by stimulating pancreatic enzymes.
  • Studies have indicated that cumin seeds may also have anti-carcinogenic properties.

Cumin seeds physically resemble caraway seeds.  Both the cumin seeds and the powder can be found in the grocery store.  The seeds are fresher, and can be toasted and easily crushed to use in any recipe.  But use which ever is best for you.

Cumin is generally associated with Mexican and Spanish foods.  It is also widely used in Mediterranean cooking.  You can throw it into your tacos, chili, or enchiladas.  Add cumin to black beans and rice.  Give your cauliflower a healthy punch by sprinkling it with cumin.  It doesn’t matter how you use it…just start!  You will quickly be in your way to better health!  And the next of the seven super spices is…