Spicing Up Your Meals

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From ancient times, certain spices more than others have provided loving enticements and flavor chicken with whole spices-1enhancement to foods. In the Old Testament books of Song of Solomon, Proverbs, and Psalms there are verses extolling the romantic excitement offered by various fragrant spices. From Pharaohs to Kings to Explorers, to common folks—all found enjoyment of adding a little spice to life. If it weren’t for our taste buds, food would have no real interest or hold on us.

Want to spice up a special meal for Valentine’s Day? You veggie and spicy dip picdefinitely can by just adding some spices to your food menu selection. Dishes with saffron, ginger, cloves, Cayenne pepper, thyme, cinnamon, and natural vanilla are some aphrodisiac spices. These particular spices are good for your health because they help increase blood circulation and improve your mental state while tantalizing the taste buds.

gingerbread-cakeYou can incorporate spices (and herbs) into a special Valentine’s Day meal. Start with a veggie plate and spice infused dip using onion soup base or sour cream base and then add a little cumin, mustard or horseradish. Roast a chicken (whole or chicken breasts) with added spices and herbs as your entrée. Then for dessert, make gingerbread and add whip cream sprinkled with cinnamon when serving.

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I hope you have a spice-filled Valentine’s Day.

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Turmeric

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Turmeric is from the root of the curcuma longa plant. It has a tough brownTurmeric_plant-300x225 skin and a deep orange flesh. Turmeric, when dried, has a peppery, warm, and bitter flavor as well as a fragrance similar to orange and ginger. It is a popular ingredient used in making curry, and gives mustard its bright yellow color. India and Pakistan are significant producers of turmeric.

When using fresh turmeric, you must exercise caution since its deep turmeric-700x400color can easily stain both clothing and your hands. Many chefs highly suggest wearing kitchen gloves when handling fresh turmeric.

One of the main ingredients in turmeric is curcumin, which gives turmeric its yellow color with potential benefits in promoting an immune system against stress, aiding in maintaining a healthy digestive system, healthy bones, joints, and overall skeletal system, not to mention maintaining cholesterol levels while promoting healthy blood and liver functions. Turmeric is an excellent source of manganese and iron, and turmeric-powder-and-othercombined with cauliflower, it is shown to prevent prostate cancer and stop the growth of existing prostate cancer. It has anti-inflammatory properties, is a natural treatment for arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, and may prevent/slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

Turmeric is on our recommended supplement list if you look at “The Plan.”

If you haven’t used this spice before, try some because it’s great for your health!

 

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Horseradish

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Horseradish is a root vegetable native to Russia or Hungary. Despite its name, it is unrelated to radishes and poisonous to horses. It is widely used as a condiment horseradish plant picand as an ingredient in sauces and dressings. Horseradish is one of the five symbolic bitter herbs celebrated in the Jewish Passover Seder meal.

Both the horseradish root and leaves were used as medicine during the Middle Ages; and in Germany, Scandinavia, and Britain the root was used as a condiment on meats. It was introduced to North America during colonization horseradish in spoonwith both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson mentioning horseradish growing in their gardens.

If you tasted a strong horseradish, you know it brings tears to your eyes and heat to your tongue. The culprit is the volatile mustard-like oil in horseradish. Once the horseradish root is cut, grated, and exposed to air, heat and fumes rapidly deteriorate. Heating horseradish also quickly eliminate its zing and aroma.

What are the health benefits of horseradish? Glucosinolates in the kraft horseradish pichorseradish root increases resistance to cancer, environmental toxins and also acts as a natural antibiotic against various infections and bacteria/fungi toxicity, and aids in rapidly removing waste products from affected areas. Its powerful antioxidant properties aid in relieving sinus and respiratory distress.

Start with a mild horseradish mixture, and enjoy it for your health!

 

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Mustard

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Mustard seeds are from the mustard plant and one of the most popular spices in the world today. There are three principal types of mustard plants used in producing mustard seeds: black, white, and brown. Black mustard seeds have the strongest taste while white mustard seeds picmustard seeds are actually yellow, the mildest, and the ones used to make American yellow mustard. Brown mustard seeds (actually a dark yellow color) have a strong acrid taste and used to make Dijon mustard. Mustard seeds are sold either whole or as a ground powder.

Throughout the centuries, people have incorporated mustard seeds medicinally as well as for culinary enhancements. Romans invented a paste from the ground seeds leading to our modern-day mustard condiment. Mustard seeds are mentioned in the New Testament regarding faith and the kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 13 and 17).  mustardseedpowder1

Mustard seeds are an excellent source of selenium, omega-3 fatty acids, manganese as well as a good source of phosphorus, magnesium, copper, vitamin B1, fiber, and sodium. Mustard stimulates the appetite by increasing salivation, and aiding with digestion, laxative, antiseptic, and stimulating circulation. Mustard mustard on hot dog picneutralizes toxins, helps ward off upset stomachs, but too much can cause irritation. Mustard plasters as well aid in decongesting lungs and clearing sinuses.

Here’s to your health because mustard isn’t just for hot dogs anymore.

 

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Black Pepper

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Black Pepper is a berry, the fruit of the black pepper plant. The distinctive spicy taste is due to piperine which increases nutrient absorption in foods and Black peppercornssupplements. It is available whole (peppercorns), crushed or ground into powder. The best flavor is gained using whole peppercorns and grinding them yourself.

As a much sought-after spice throughout the centuries in both culinary and medical uses, pepper was also used to pay taxes and ransoms. During the Middle Ages the wealth of a man was oftentimes measured by his stockpile of pepper.

pepper pile picThe health benefits of black pepper include relief from respiratory disorders, coughs, the common cold, constipation, indigestion, anemia, impotency, muscular strains, dental disease, diarrhea, and heart disease, just to name a few. It is also used to preserve food due to its antibacterial properties; and it is an excellent anti-inflammatory agent. As an antioxidant, it can help prevent/repair damages (cardiovascular diseases) caused by free radicals.

Black Pepper is a rich source of Vitamin K, C, B6, riboflavin, black pepper shaker picmanganese, iron, potassium, calcium, and dietary fiber. A sprinkle of black pepper on your food dishes will definitely be an aid to healthy living. A word of caution: black pepper can cause allergic reactions relating to certain medical procedures and should not be taken in high concentrations.

 

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Saffron

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SAFFRON is a unique spice deriving its name from the Arab word zafaran which means yellow. There isn’t a single ingredient known that can substitute for its unique flavor which tends to be different for different pallets. A product of the crocus flower, saffron adds a saffron-flower picpungent, aromatic flavor to food with its beautiful regal golden color.

Asia Minor is the native ground where saffron has been cultivated for thousands of years and used this spice not only in medicines but perfumes and dyes. It is a wonderful flavoring for foods and beverages but when used in cooking, it is best to start with conservative amounts. Larger amounts of saffron can be bitter, so you definitely want this particular spice to enhance food dishes, not ruin them. Do not use wooden utensils when cooking with saffron because they will absorb the saffron flavor as well as color.

saffron-with-stems-and-ground-red-and-yellow-150x150The health benefits of saffron may not be well-recognized but saffron can reduce fevers, cramps and enlarged livers, as well as to calm nerves. It is used externally for bruises, rheumatism, and neuralgia. Before using this or any other spice medicinally it would be best to consult with your physician.

Uses of saffron are endless—from relishes to entrees to rice pudding to even saffron-buttered popcorn. Enjoy this great spice.

 

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Anise

 

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Anise seeds, oil, and fresh young leaves are used in cooking. The seeds have a delicately sweet, anise seed spice bottlearomatic bouquet with a distinctive liquorice flavor. Anise seeds also contain essential B-complex vitamins (pyridoxine) that helps increases neuro-chemical levels in the brain.anise plant

History has recorded the importance and use of anise for thousands of years. During the time of Christ, spices including anise were used in partial payment of taxes (Matthew 23). In Egyptian medical texts the diuretic use of anise and treatment of digestive problems and even toothaches was referenced. Greek historical writings tell how anise helps breathing, relieves pain, provokes urine, and eases thirst.

Anise oil has been used commercially since the 1800s. It is added to anise oil bottle piclicorice candy or used as a “licorice” flavor substitute. Anise is used widely as a flavoring in all food categories including alcohols, liqueurs, dairy products, gelatins, puddings, meats, and candies. Anise is sold as a spice, and the seeds are used as a breath freshener. The essential oil is used medicinally as well as in perfume, soaps, creams, and sachets.

Be aware of potential side effects possible from excessive doses of anise. It may cause allergic reactions of the skin, respiratory tract, and GI tract.

 

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Cumin

 

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The Cummin (Cumin) spice is from the Hebrew word: kammon, referring to a “condiment”. It is the fruit (seed) of an umbelliferous plant, a flowering plant. Interestingly enough, it is a member of the Cumin seedsparsley family. You’ll find it cultivated extensively in the Middle East, Mediterranean to India. Cumin has been used for thousands of years and there are several Biblical references to cumin Isaiah 28 and in Matthew 23. Obviously from the reference in Matthew, both the Scribes and Pharisees paid tithes of several spices and herbs—mint, anise, and cumin, yet were called out because they pushed the importance of paying tithes of “mint and anise and cumin,” yet missed weightier matters.

Cumin can be used ground or as whole seeds. The health benefits cumin seeds picinclude aiding in digestion, improving immunity, treating hemorrhoids, insomnia, respiratory disorders, asthma, bronchitis, common cold, lactation, anemia, skin disorders, boils and cancer.

The Greeks used cumin much like we do pepper when dining. Ancient Roman cuisine added cumin as a staple in stews, soups, curries, and chili. It is now commonly used in traditional Brazilian cuisine and in variety of Texas or Mexican-style chili recipes. Enjoy cumin for your health.

 

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Cloves

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CLOVES
are one of the world’s oldest and most popular spices. It is both aromatic with a spicy smell, yet its taste compliments many food dishes. The clove itself resembles small brown nails; and actually its name comes from the French word “clou” which means nail. The clove is cloves-pic1-150x150the dried flower bud of an evergreen tree.

Cloves have been used throughout the history of the world, with Chinese as far back as 226 BC, to the Romans. During the 16th-17th century it became one of the most precious spices in the world.

Because of its historic past, different cultures have incorporated the clove into cloves-plant1-150x150their culinary dishes from studding a ham with clove, to inserting it into an onion for use in chicken stock, to adding it in curry powder. Cloves can actually go with most anything, in their whole form or ground up. I’m sure you’re familiar with them in pumpkin pies as well.  

Eugenol is a powerful essential oil found not only in cloves but also in nutmeg, cinnamon, basil, and bay leaf. Properties in cloves make it a good local antiseptic, analgesic, and as an effective insect repellent. The cosmetic industry also adds cloves’ essential oil when creating pleasant smelling perfumes.

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Ginger

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GINGER is a root that is aromatic yet pungent, peppery yet sweet. It adds an extra zest to stir fry or vegetable dishes. You will find fresh ginger root year round in the produce section of your local market. The fresher the spice, the strong it is. Not only does ginger add a kick to ginger-plant-and-root-128x150your cooking with its distinctive flavor, but it’s also used as a flavoring by the food and drink industry, gingerol being the main active component responsible for its distinct flavor. It is also used for fragrance in soaps and cosmetics.

Ginger is beneficial to your health. It contains a chemical used as an ingredient in antacids, laxatives, and anti-gas medications but that’s not all. According to the ginger-root-150x150National Library of Medicine, ginger is widely used throughout the world for treatment with loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting after surgery and from cancer treatments. Ginger is also known to help with symptoms of upper respiratory tract infection, bronchitis, cough, menstrual cramps, arthritis, and muscle pain. Within ginger there are numerous therapeutic properties that counter inflammation. Its antioxidant properties will enhance your health.

Isn’t it time to incorporate more ginger into your meals? Use it to add flavor and zest to dishes, the distinct flavor in ginger ale and ginger tea, and don’t forget a piece of gingerbread.

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