How To Spice Things Up When Cooking

Large collection of metal bowls full of herbs and spices -How To Spice Things Up When CookingHerbs and spices are used to enhance the flavor of food, either it be for cooking spaghetti carbonara or baking an apple pie.

An herb or spice can be a seed, fruit, root, bark, berry, bud or leafy part of the plant. They are principally used for flavoring food among other uses. They can be used fresh or dried.

Herbs And Spices Through The Ages

It is said that by the Middle Ages, the most common spices and herbs being traded and used were black pepper, cinnamon (including the alternative cassia), cumin, nutmeg, ginger and cloves.

Herbs and spices are useful for many things, among others are medicinal uses, cosmetic or perfume production uses, and of course they are used add flavor to a meal.

By 1000 B.C. medical systems based upon herbs were found in China, Korea, and India. Also the Egyptians used herbs and spices for their embalming practices and their demand for exotic herbs and spices helped stimulate world trade.

Extracting A Spices Flavor

The flavor of an herb or spice is derived by exposing the volatile oil compounds of the seed or leafy part, that oxidize or evaporate when it comes in contact with air.

As an example, fresh ginger is usually more flavorful than its dried form, but fresh spices are more expensive and have a much shorter shelf life.

Flavor of herbs and spices can be maximized by storing them whole and grinding when needed, as grinding greatly increases its surface area and so increases the rates of oxidation and evaporation.

If you decide to use dried spices, be sure to use them within 6 to 8 months of purchase. Ground spices are better stored away from light, as it also increases the oxidation of the volatile oils.

metal bowls filled with spices

How To Use Herbs And Spices

When using herbs and spices you’ll want to pick flavors that complement each other, such as the spice mix known as “pumpkin pie spice.” The ratios of cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg add great flavor to the pie, and each spice doesn’t over power the other.

The key or rule of thumb to spicing things up is that less is more. Avoid adding too much all at once. Instead, add a little at a time and add more to taste.

A good example of over spicing and unable to fix it, is when you use oregano or cloves. Their volital oils are great for flavoring culinary and pastry dishes, but they are strong in flavor, and only require a small amount.

When using spices to flavor your meat or vegetables, use only 3 different types at a time. You can even use herbs and spice to replace salt. Choose your spice or spices, add a little lemon juice and unsalted butter.

Which spices pair well together for the best culinary dishes you can make? Let’s examine some of the most commonly used spices and which spices pair well with them.

Green Curry Chicken

Green Curry Chicken

Most curry dishes use a curry paste which is a pureed blend of beautiful smelling or aromatic spices, herbs, and vegetables. It is widely used as an ingredient in the cuisines of many cultures to make curries, stews, and other dishes. Most of the time though, Indian food comes to mind when you talk about curry. There are many different types of curry pastes, and each country’s blend has a distinct flavor.

The common spices used are cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, cloves, coriander, cardamon, cumin, fenugreek, fennel, ginger, garlic, lemongrass, and onion. The base ingredient to start a curry paste is turmeric, which makes a yellow curry. Red pepper is added to make a red curry, and cilantro is added to make a green curry paste.

Using all of these ingredients makes for a healthy meal. To learn more about the healthy side of these culinary spices link here – Spice and Herbs Benefits -.

Our featured recipe uses green curry, and here is what you will need.

1 lb. rice noodles, cooked

1 pound (1-inch) cubed chicken breast tenders

½ lb. cut green beans, steamed

2 cups tricolor pre-chopped bell pepper mix

Oils to Use for Healthy Cooking - avocado oil or coconut oil2 to 3 teaspoons green curry paste

1 (14-ounce) can light coconut milk, divided

Cooking oil, avocado oil or coconut oil ————->

Steam green beans first, about 5 minutes, then remove steaming basket and use boiling water to cook rice noodles according to package directions. Set both aside when done. Rinse rice noodles when cooked.

 

Chicken cooking in coconut oil and green curry sauce - Green Curry ChickenHeat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking oil. Add chicken to pan and sauté 4 minutes or until chicken is lightly browned. Stir in curry paste and cook 1 minute more, stirring frequently.

Meat and Vegetable Mix for Green curry Chicken

Stir in 1 cup coconut milk and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 4 minutes or until chicken is done, stirring occasionally.

Stir in bell pepper mix, and remaining coconut milk. Cook 3 minutes or until peppers are tender. Add steamed green beans and mix in. Add ½ teaspoon of Himalayan salt (optional).

showing the details of the Meat and Vegetable Mix for Green curry ChickenThere are 3 rules to a good meal. Besides flavor and smell, can you SEE what else makes a good meal appealing? Leave a comment below to let us know if you can guess the third rule of a good meal.

Green Curry ChickenPlate the rice noodles and top with Green Curry Chicken. If you wish top that with cilantro or with fresh basil as we did here. If you find the rice noodles to sticky, just take a plate one serving at a time and run warm water over it. Shake it dry and plate it. Enjoy!!

 

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Chicken Curry Soup

Chicken Curry Soup

This dish was really painless, effortless,  and simple to prepare. First for the painless part, it was cooked in a slow cooker. Just effortlessly add your ingredients to the slow cooker, and leave on low for 6 hours. How simple is that?

Chicken legs, thighs, and quarters are a low cost, versatile source of protein, chicken has long been a staple of diets around the globe. In fact, it is the world’s leading source of animal protein and has been a healthy alternative to red meat.

Thigh meat though by many who frown on fat, prefer not to consume it. Keep in mind that thigh meat is also high in protein as breast meat is, and the fat in the meat is needed by your cells for their protection from oxidation.

Also power builders will eat thigh meat over chicken breast because of the fat and protein content that help to build muscle and actually loss fat.

You can also remove the skin of the chicken before cooking it to reduce the fat content.

Nutritional Content of Chicken Quarters

100 grams or roughly ¼ pound of chicken quarters with skin has:

Calcium    880 mg

Phosphorus   500 mg

Potassium    210 mg

Sodium    8.0 mg

Zinc       0.2 mg

Here is what you will need:

3 pound of chicken leg quarters, skinless, if desired

2 ounces leek and potato soup mix

1 tablespoon curry powder

zest of 1/2 a lemon, grated

8 ounces green beans, trimmed and blanched

chicken-leg-quarters-added-to-slow-cooker-for-chicken-curry-soupTrim chicken of any fat, and remove skin (optional), and place into a 4 quart or bigger slow cooker.

Dried potoate leek soup mix and prepared organic Creamy Potato Leek soupNext the recipe calls for combining the curry and soup mix and sprinkling it over and around the meat, and adding water until chicken is barely covered. We found a dried soup mix at Albertson’s for $7.00, we felt it was expensive, but did buy it.

Then we made a trek over to the Whole Foods Market, and found a prepared organic Creamy Potato Leek soup for only $3.99 and on sale for $3.69. We went with the prepared soup from Whole Foods.

adding curry powder to Chicken Curry SoupAfter placing the chicken leg quarters in the slow cooker, add the soup, and 1 tablespoon of curry powder, and mix in thoroughly.  Turn your slow cooker to high for 4 hours or on low for 6 hours, and place the lid over the slow cooker.

blanched green beans for Chicken Curry SoupThe beans are added to the slow cooker 1 hour before the meat is cooked. Trim the fresh green beans and blanch in boiling water for 3 minutes only. Remove from water and drop beans into some ice cold water for 3 minutes, to stop them from continuing to cook. Remove from cold water, and add to slow cooker, and mix in well.

Chicken Curry Soup in slow cooker ready to plateNext add zest from 1/2 a lemon, and mix in well. Cover slow cooker with lid, and continue cooking one hour more.

Chicken Curry Soup with a side of white ricePlate and serve the Chicken Curry Soup with a side of rice. You can also top with more lemon zest. Enjoy!!

If you have any questions about the use of a slow cooker, such as are they safe to cook with, view our article: Slow Cooking, is it Safe?

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Simple and Easy Beef Stir-Fry with Coconut Milk

Easy-and-Simple-Beef-Stir-Fry-with-Coconut-Milk

This stir fry really is simple and easy. This is another Asian meal right out of our kitchen here at Splendid Recipes and More.

When it comes to food there are always health benefits, that is if you are eating the food in a healthy way. This recipe includes red pepper flacks, and if you have a problem with your appetite, that is wanting to eat to much and possibly putting on a few extra pounds, red pepper flakes can help.

Adding 1/2 teaspoons of red pepper flakes three times a day to what you eat, you can cut down your appetite by 30%. Of course if you cut out simple carbohydrates (refined carbs) from your diet as well, and add complex carbs (100% whole grains, including the fiber), you can also suppress your appetite another 30 to 40 percent. Complex carbohydrates digest slower, leveling your blood glucose not spiking it, and giving you energy for longer periods as well as a full feeling for 3 to 4 hours.

A great snack between meals is a piece of fruit. But don’t add the red pepper flakes to your fruit, just to your breakfast, lunch and dinner. Speaking of dinner here is our featured recipe and what you will need:

ingredients-for-Simple-and-Easy-Beef-Stir-Fry-with-Coconut-Milk

1 lb. beef, cut into thin strips for stir fry cut

1 tbsp. Ginger, minced

1 tbsp. Garlic, minced

1 Large Onion, sliced lengthwise

1 Green Pepper, sliced lengthwise

1 tbsp. Red chili flakes

1 tbsp. Curry powder

1 14 oz. can Coconut Milk

 

Heat some avocado oil in a wok or large pan, and fry the beef on both sides. Add the following 6 ingredients and stir-fry some more till the beef is thoroughly cooked.

Add coconut milk; simmer on low heat for 10 -15 minutes more. Plate and serve with a side of rice.

Easy-and-Simple-Beef-Stir-Fry-with-Coconut-Milk

 

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Ingredients for Making Amazing Asian Food

Ingredients for Making Amazing Asian Food

Throughout the Asian world, they have their own unique cuisine.  The first countries that come to mind in most conversations when we talk about the Asian world is Japan, China, Korea, and Vietnam. The following map shows the actual world of Asia. Yes, it includes the Middle East and Russia.

southeast Asian countries

Asian food can even be healthy for you when cooked right. Some of the unique foods from the Asian world:

Chinese food

Chinese Food

Russian Food

Russian Food

Japanese Food

Japanese Food

The following is a basic list of food stuffs used in preparing Asian Cuisine along with preparations and techniques.

Bamboo Shoots

Bamboo shoots are called for in many Asian recipes. In order to prepare a bamboo shoot for cooking you need to peel them and boil the white inner stalks for 30 minutes in water. If you are using canned bamboo shoots you will only need to boil them for 10 minutes, or if they are going into curries or soups, boiling might not be required.

Basil (fresh)

There are three types of basils used in Thai cooking; sweet, holy and lemon. Sweet basil is much easier to find because it is commonly used in western cooking. Holy basil has a spicier taste and can be recognized by its slightly purple leaves. Lemon basil has a lemony flavor and can be detected by its distinct lemony scent. If you can only find sweet basil you can compensate for holy or lemon basil by adding finely chopped chili peppers or a bit of lemon rind.

Bergamot

Also known as kaffir lime leaves has a slightly limey flavor which goes well with all Thai dishes. Since this may be hard to find, granted lime rind can be used in its place although it is a poor substitute.

Chili paste

This can be bought in bottles or tubes in almost any supermarket. Used for adding spice and flavor to most dishes, a particularly popular version by Thai cooks is burnt mild chili paste.

Chinese mushrooms

Mushrooms are added to a lot of Asian cooking and many people chose to use the dried variety because they are cheaper and have just as much flavor and nutritional value. You will need to soak the mushrooms in warm water for 30 minutes before using them and the stems are usually discarded because of their tough nature.

Coconut milk

Coconut milk can be bought in cans almost anywhere. If the recipe you are using calls for coconut cream scoop the harder white substance that has formed at the top of the can. If you need coconut milk, stir the can thoroughly before using.

Curry Paste

While some people prefer to prepare their own curry pastes, many bottled curries are available at the supermarket. Most recipes use red, green or yellow curry.

Fish sauce

Made from collecting the liquid off of fermenting salted fish, this pale, watery brown sauce is sometimes used to replace all the salt in recipes. It is very flavorful and compliments all Asian food. It is called for in many recipes but you can also use your imagination with it, as it is very versatile.

Galangal

A close relative to ginger is used in many curries and soups. Since it is quite rare to find fresh you will probably have to purchase it dry and soak it in water for 1 hour before using.

Garlic

Asian garlic might be available in some Asian markets, however if you cannot find it, the Western variety will work just as well. Use the smaller, tighter cloves on your garlic head for Thai cooking because they are more flavorful and will not be over powered by the other herbs and spices used in your dish.

Ginger

Easy to find and used quite often in modern cooking, ginger is extremely healthy and flavorful. It must be peeled before it is grated or chopped. Fresh ginger is much better than dried, although dried may be substituted if needed.

Lemon grass

Lemon grass is one of the most commonly used items in Asian cooking. It is a long stalk that looks like a small leek. The hard outer portion should be removed and the lower, bulbous part is used. You can either add sliced pieces to your food while it is cooking and remove them before serving your dish, or you can blend them in a food processor so they can be consumed with the dish, which will give it more flavors.

Palm Sugar

Some Asian recipes call for palm sugar which is available in some Asian markets as cellophane wrapped blocks. If palm sugar is unavailable you can substitute with dark brown sugar or real maple syrup.

Rice

The Asian people prefer long-grain white Jasmine rice, which is flavorful and aromatic rice that cools and compliments spicy Thai dishes.

Rice papers

Used for making fresh Asian spring rolls, you can buy rice papers at any Asian food store. To use soak papers (one at a time) in warmish water until they are soft and pliable, then dry off with paper towel and use immediately.

Sesame Oil

An oil that comes from pressed sesame seeds and originated in East India. A very flavorful oil and works very well with Asian cooking.

Preparation and Cooking Techniques

Vegetables

Vegetables used in Asian cooking should be cut as finely as possible. The idea is that the smaller they are chopped, the less time they will need to be cook, therefore retaining as much nutrients as possible.

Stir frying

Oil should be poured into a wok (or similar pan) and vegetables should be added over high heat while being constantly stirred. Vegetables should only be stir fried for a couple of seconds so they remain crisp and brightly colored.

Mortar and Pestles

Perfect for making sauces, curry pastes and salads, every Thai cook should own a mortar and pestle preferably made out of clay or wood.

Mincing

Since Asian cooking uses so many intensely flavorful ingredients they should all be chopped very finely so one flavor never overpowers the other. You should always use a very sharp knife for this.

Roasting and grinding spices

When adding spices and herbs to your Asian dish you should always roast them by slowly heating each spice individually in pan until they begin to crackle and turn brown. When each spice is done roasting they should be ground very finely in a food processor or mortar.

A 2 minute video demonstration of an Asian Cuisine Recipes : Tips for Pot Sticker Soup Ingredients

For more video demonstrations of Asian food click here.

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