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.

Greek Yogurt Dill Spread with Ham and Red Cabbage On Wasa Crisp Bread

Greek Yogurt Dill Spread with Ham and Red Cabbage On Wasa Crisp Breadmultigrain Wasa crackersWasabröd is a Swedish company that is the largest producer in the world of Scandinavian style crisp bread.

Wasabröd produces a wide variety of crisp breads, with the original crisp bread made of rye. Other additions since 1919 include sesame,wheat, oats, flax seed, and other grains. Like matzo, Wasa is noted for its shelf longevity.

Wasa crisp bread is popular during the EuropeanOktoberfest‘ (a festival that takes place from mid-September through October).

Oktoberfest comes once a year, with vibrant music, over-flowing beer, sausage, and colorful German costumes. It is a festival held every Fall to celebrate German heritage, and includes lots of great finger foods.

Our featured recipe is an inspiration of the German festival and the Wasa crisp bread: Greek Yogurt Dill Spread with Ham and Red Cabbage On Wasa Crisp Bread. Here is what you will need.

Prepartion per serving:

1 multigrain Wasa crisp bread

2 teaspoons Greek yogurt dill spread

1/4 cup chopped red cabbage

1 fresh basil leaf, medium to large

1 slice uncured lunch meat, your choice, without nitrates

steps to preparing food ingredients with Wasa crisp breadYou can find the recipe for the Greek yogurt dill spread by linking here: Greek Marinated Chicken with Butter Leaf Lettuce Salad.

Prepare the yogurt-dill spread. Cut basil leaves from stems and wash (pat dry). Spread yogurt-dill onto a piece of Wasa crisp bread. Next top with a slice of lunch meat. We used a smoked black-forest honey ham. Next top the meat with a fresh basil leaf, and top that with the red cabbage.

multigrain wasa with cabbage - ham - and a greek yogurt dill spreadYou don’t need to wait util the next Oktoberfest to enjoy this healthy and awesomely delicious finger food. When making your shopping list be sure to include a package of Wasa Crisp Bread (your favorite), and the accompanying ingredients. Oh, and it makes a great party favorite finger food.

For more great ideas to topping Wasa Crisp Bread link here: Wasa – Since 1919.

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Greek Cucumber Yogurt Sauce for Gyros

Greek Cucumber Yogurt Sauce with Lamb - Beef Sirloin StripsTzatziki sauce is a Greek sauce served with grilled meats or as a dip. Tzatziki is made of strained yogurt, usually from sheep or goat milk, and is mixed with cucumbers, garlic, salt, olive oil, sometimes lemon juice, and dill, mint, or parsley.

The culinary cuisine of Bulgarian, Macedonian, and Serbian use this sauce as a cold soup by just adding water to thin it out.

Caucasus Mountains Map LocationThe people who live in the Caucasus Mountains, between the Black sea and Caspian sea, use kefir instead of yogurt to make Tzatziki. Doing so makes the sauce a drink that is poured over a mixture of vegetables, eggs and ham to create a variation of okroshka, a Russian cold soup by origin.

This cool and creamy Greek Cucumber Yogurt Sauce or Tzatziki sauce is used in preparation of  Greek Gyro Sandwiches.

You will need whole grain flat bread, the soft and thin kind ready for wrapping up your Gyro.

Depending on the amount of servings you want you will need both Lamb and Beef  sirloin strips, about 1/2 pound of each. BBQ the meat is the best way to prepare it.

As for the sauce you will need…

diced English Cucumber1 English Cucumber – peeled and diced
1 tablespoon Himalayan salt

Place diced cucumber in a colander and spread out evenly and sprinkle salt over it. Place colander over a large plate or bowl and top the colander and set aside for 30 minutes. The salt will drain the water from the diced cucumber. Leaving the moisture in the cucumber will make for a runny sauce.

ingredients for Greek Cucumber Yogurt Sauce1 garlic clove minced

1 tablespoon fresh dill

Juice of one fresh medium lemon

2 to 4 pepper corns – either white or black

3 cups of real Greek Yogurt – the one that is authentic strained

Place all ingredients but the yogurt into a blender or food processor – processes or blend about 30 seconds to 1 minute.

mixing cucumber sauce with Greek yogurtAdd mixture to the yogurt and mix in until well combined. Cover bowl and let sit for 2 to 3 hours in refrigerator, which will allow flavors to blend and infuse.

Greek Cucumber Yogurt SauceIt is optional to add more salt, but doing so after you have prepared the sauce.

Greek Cucumber Yogurt Sauce with Lamb - Beef Sirloin Strips for GyrosThis sauce can also be used as a dressing for a Greek salad or any salad of choice that goes well with cucumber.

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Apple Mango and Radish Salad

Apple Mango and Radish SaladThe principle cleansing system of the body is the liver, it is always working at burning fat and cleaning and purifying the blood. The liver produces bile for healthy digestion of food, and then disposes of toxins, a by-product of the food we consume.

It also cleans the blood of medicines, alcoholic beverages, and external toxins we may breath in or that could be absorbed by the skin.

Keeping the liver functioning well is vital if we want good health. There are several foods that promote the liver to detox our bodies regularly, and radishes are one of those foods.

Our featured recipe is Apple Mango and Radish Salad, and besides tasting great it is healthy for you and your liver as well.

The recipe contains fresh dill, and scientific studies have shown the oil of dill is toxic to five bacteria’s that are harmful to us, including Staphylococcus aureus. A study at the University of Vienna reported that dill extracts taken from seeds, and that were stored for 35 years, were still able to kill several fungal strains such as the mold Aspergillus niger and the yeasts Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Candida albicans.

What makes this salad so wonderful tasting is the flavor of the dressing.

The dressing consists of:

2 tsp. creamed horseradish

1 tbsp. chopped fresh dill

½ cup sour cream

You mix up those three ingredients and pour it over:

2 Fuji apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced

8-12 radishes, sliced thinly

2 celery stalks, sliced thinly

1 ripe mango, peeled and cut into chunks

Once you have poured the dressing, mix in with the fruits and vegetables until well coated.

Apple Mango and Radish Salad -close upThe salad pairs well with any barbecued food, or to take to a potluck.

Enjoy the color, the flavor, and health benefits of Apple Mango and Radish Salad.

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How to Use Herbs in Cooking

How to Use Herbs in Cooking

An important part of cooking is also to know the flavors of herbs and spices and how to use them. Seasonings are the key to making a great meal.

If you are not familiar with different herbs, experiment. Get to know the flavors and how herbs work to flavor your food.  Also be aware herbs are not just for flavoring foods, but also have nutritional value as well as medicinal traits.

The following are the most popular used herbs.

Basil: This herb has a very aromatic odor and some can even be sweet. It can be fresh or dried. The herb goes well with lamb, fish, roast, stews, ground beef, vegetables, dressing and omelets. Basil should always be added after cooking your recipe dish, as heat chances the color and texture of basil.

Basil is also best used as whole leaves or torn. Do not use kitchen shears to cut basil as this will brown it. Smaller leaves at the top of the bunch are the sweetest.

Chives: This herb is part of the onion family. Though it can be sweet, and does have a mild flavor. They can be used dried or fresh. They go well with salads, fish, soups and potatoes.

Cilantro: It has a lively aromatic flavor. It looks similar to flat-leaf parsley, though it is not parsley. This herb originated from the Middle East and goes well with Asian, Mexican, and Indian dishes. It is also used in salsas and chutneys.

Cilantro is best used fresh. If you do grow this herb in your garden, note that the leaves become bitter after the plant flowers. The dried seeds of cilantro are the spice called coriander, which is popular in use with making Chai Tea.

Dill: This herb is very aromatic. The herb has grassy and feathery like leaves. It is used in pickle brine, as well as fresh in tuna salad, omelets, vegetables, seafood dishes, yogurt dressings that use cucumbers, and herbed vinegars.

Marjoram: Though not a popular herb, it is used either dried or fresh. It is used to add flavor to fish, poultry, omelets, lamb, stew, and stuffing.

Oregano: A very strong herb with a strong aromatic odor. Be careful when using this herb, as it is strong, adding to much will over power other flavors you will use in your recipe preparations. Oregano is unforgiving. If you have added more than the recipe calls for, there really is now way to fix it.

It can be use fresh or dried. It is added to recipes using fish, eggs, pizza, omelets, chili, stew, gravies, poultry and vegetables.

Rosemary: This herb has a pungent aroma like smell or pine flavor. It goes great with Mediterranean dishes, lamb, poultry, fish, and breads. Fresh sprigs or finely chopped leaves can be added to long-cooking stews.

It is noteworthy, that when grilling, sturdier stems of the plant make good skewers for broiling or BBQ dishes. Adding flavor to the meats and vegetables placed on the skewers.

Paprika: This spice works well when marinating steaks, in use with vegetables, soups or as a garnish for potatoes, salads and deviled eggs. The Paprika we are familiar with using is Hungarian and is sweet. There is also Smoked Paprika that is used in Mexican dishes. Most of the paprika we buy today is grown and processed in California.

Thyme: This delightful herb can be used fresh, though it is popular used dried. The leaves are dried than crushed, and can be sprinkled on fish or poultry before broiling or baking.

Here’s a tip using thyme as a meat smoking agent if you’re grilling fish or poultry: Place a few sprigs directly onto coals shortly before meat is finished grilling.

Rules to Using Herbs

The basic rule to using herbs is ¼ teaspoon for every 4 servings. Also, if you are using whole dried herbs, crush them before using to release their flavor. The rule of thumb is to use 3 times more fresh herbs if substituting for dried.

When preparing your dish, dried herbs should be added at the beginning and fresh herbs should be added just before serving the dish.

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Warm Brussels sprouts and Dilled Potato Salad

Warm Brussels Sprouts and Dilled Potato Salad

The high fiber that Brussels sprouts contain can lower cholesterol by binding with bile acids that the liver produces from cholesterol for digesting fat.

The vitamins and minerals found in Brussels sprouts, include vitamins C, E, and A, and the mineral manganese.

Brussels sprouts are high in vitamin-K  about 273.5% per 8 ounce. Vitamin-K promotes healthy bones, prevents calcification of body tissues, and also helps as an anti-inflammatory agent, and also essential for brain and nerve function.

Studies have shown it can ward off cancer with only 4 servings a week compared to 10 servings a day of any other vegetable that isn’t part of the family of cruciferous vegetables.

Enjoy the video.

Print a copy of the recipe 

Warm Brussels sprouts and Dilled Potato Salad   

1 lb. baby potatoes, washed, skins left on

10 oz. Brussels sprouts, sliced

6 min-sweet peppers, seeded, diced

4 tbsp. avocado oil, divided

1/3 cup almonds, slivered

1 tsp. dried dill

¼ cup balsamic vinegar infused with pomegranate

½ tsp. salt

Heat oven to 350 degrees

Wash potatoes and roast in oven 25 to 30 minutes. Set aside.

Slice Brussels sprouts and sauté in heated pan with 3 tbsp. avocado oil.

Add slivered almonds and continue to sauté for 4 to 5 minutes.

Add mixture to potatoes. Set aside.

Wash peppers and remove seeds. Dice and add to salad mixture.

Mix in 1 tsp. dry dill. Add balsamic vinegar and 1 tbsp. avocado oil and mix until well incorporated.

Next add 1/2 tsp. salt and mix in well.

Plate and serve with your favorite meat.

 Print a copy of the recipe here

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