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.

How Too Eleminate Pungent Kitchen Smells

Woman washing a cup in white kitchen. Vegetables on the background - How Too Eleminate Pungent Kitchen SmellsWe all enjoy good aromas in our kitchen. But let’s face it, there are just some smells which we can’t avoid while cooking and are hard to get read of after making dinner.

If you made some fish, then you know how hard it is to get to eliminate the smell from your cutting board or the air? Even preparing onions on cutting surfaces and your hands leave you with that unwanted onion smell? We’ve all been there.

But there’s no need to fret, as there are simple ways without synthetic chemicals to tackle common kitchen odors. And if you want to go – “Green” – you will like employing these ideas.

Let’s start with general everyday kitchen odors.

baking soda to clean odors from cutting board

Image Credit: Homedit

General odorsBaking soda is not just for baking and cooking, it can also be used for removing odors from all over the kitchen. Just as baking soda placed in your fridge will remove odors, but it will also remove odors from your hands.

You can also create a paste with a little water and baking soda and apply to your cutting board or other cooking services to remove any unwanted smells.

You can even wash your garbage pail with a mixture of water and baking soda. Also remove odors from dishrags and sponges by soaking them in baking soda and water as well.

raw fish on a cutting board

Image Credit: The Canadian Way

Fish Odors– Slice a lemon in half and use the lemon flesh down on the cutting surface and your hands to cut that fishy odor. You can also chose to mix lemon juice with water to rinse your hands and cutting surface.

The citric acid in the lemon turns a group of decaying organic compounds called amines. When the lemon juice makes contact with the compounds that are causing that “fishy” smell, they are turned into ammonium salts which are less offensive to your nose.

Garlic Odors – Coffee ground are great at removing garlic smells. Wash your hands and then scrub with the coffee grounds. This exfoliates the skin, removing the dead tissues which is where the stink resides.

Onion Odors– Use some organic made toothpaste, like Dessert Essence made with natural tea tree oil and ginger oil or fennel oil . This will work for any of those strong fish and garlic smells as well.

More Techniques To Removing Fowl Odors From The Kitchen

Have you ever used parsley to combat your garlic breath? Rub it on your hands to remove that garlic smell as well. Not only parsley, but any fresh herb will absorb those odors. Just tear the herb into pieces and rub between your hands.

Most herbs are anti-bacterial and anti-fungal. Meaning they kill germs, and with the germs gone, so is the odors they can cause.

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Creamy Pumpkin Soup with Brown Sugar Cinnamon Croutons

Creamy Pumpkin Soup with Brown Sugar Cinnamon CruotonsA very healthy soup to help you through the winter. Pumpkin is packed with immune boosting vitamin-C and the sweet potatoes in the soup are great for cancer, particularly mole cancer. There is also cinnamon and fresh ginger, both good for digestion, and the cinnamon is great for glucose control in the blood stream.

Before starting the soup, make the croutons first. Here is what you will need:

Brown Sugar Cinnamon Cruotons4 slices of 100% whole wheat bread. We used Crazy Dave’s Bread with 21 whole grains. We like this bread as it is not make with any oil, just water and yeast, all organic non-gmo grains. Heat your oven to 400 degrees.

In a small bowl mix together 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1 tablespoon of brown sugar, and 3 tablespoons of soft butter. On each slice of bread, spread cinnamon mixture evenly over one side only. Place bread butter side up on a baking sheet, and place into the heated oven for 8 to 10 minutes. When done, remove from the oven, cut crust off and cut bread into crouton size pieces and set aside.

Now here is what you will need for the feature recipe – Creamy Pumpkin Soup -.

1 cup chopped onion

2 tablespoons butter, melted

2 (14.5 ounce) cans chicken broth

1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree

1 teaspoon Himalayan salt 

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon ground ginger (or 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger)

1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 cup heavy whipping cream

steps to preparing Creramy Pumpkin SoupSaute onion with 1 tablespoon of butter in a medium saucepan until tender. Next add 1 can chicken broth, and stir well. Bring the broth to a boil, and  cover, reduce heat, and simmer about 15 minutes. Transfer broth mixture into the container of a blender or processor, and process until smooth. Return to sauce pan over heat.

Next add remaining can of broth, along with the pumpkin, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and ground pepper. Stir until well combined. Bring to a boil, and cover, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

After 10 minutes, stir in heavy cream and heat through. Do not boil.

Creamy Pumpkin Soup topped with Brown Sugar Cinnamon Cruotons or a bowl soup with olive breadLadle into individual soup bowls. Top each serving with Brown Sugar Cinnamon Croutons, or have with a slice of your favorite bread. Like a slice of sourdough, or as the cook did a slice of olive bread. Enjoy!!

 

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Chicken Avocado and Watercress Salad

Chicken Avocado and Watercress SaladUpland cress is high in phytonutrients, such as iodine, iron and phosphorus, as well as antioxidant vitamin A and C. It also has 14.76 mg of lutein per four (4) ounces, which is great for eye sight.

Upland cress has a peppery flavor much like arugula, and will add zing to your favorite sandwich or salad recipes. It is also reported that Cress soup can cleanse the blood in the Spring after a long cold winter. Cress is often recommended in cholesterol lowering and weight reduction programs, making it an alternative medicine.

Collage of Chicken Avocado and Watercress SaladOur featured recipe has a wonderful vinaigrette, Sweet Onion and Apple Vinaigrette.

To start you will need the following:

Sweet Onion and Apple Vinaigrette

½ cup rice vinegar

1 tbsp. grated sweet onion

¼ cup peeled and finely Gala apple

4 tsp. soy sauce

1 tsp. sugar

3 tbsp. avocado oil

When grating the onions and apples use the small holes of the grater.

Mix all ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.

Next wash 4 cups of Upland cress and set aside.

Dice up 1 mango into 1-inch chunks, or optional to use packaged thawed mango chunks, about 1 cup. Next peel and pit one firm, but ripe avocado, and slice.

Shred 1 1/2 cups of chicken meat or cut off in chunks from a fresh made rotisserie chicken.

Arrange cress onto plate, and top with mango chunks, meat, and avocado slices. Next pour or spoon on the vinaigrette.

Chicken Avocado and Watercress Salad - close-upServe and enjoy this dense nutrient salad.

Take Note

According to Power Your Diet, cress contains under 1/2 mgs of oxalic acid per 100 grams of leaves. Oxalic acid occurs naturally in some vegetables, which can crystallize as oxalate stones in the urinary tract in some people. If you know that you have oxalate urinary tract stones it is advisable to avoid eating vegetables belong to the Brassica family.

Being a Brassica family vegetable, cress may also contain goitrogens, which may interfere with thyroid hormone production and can cause thyroxin hormone deficiency in individuals with thyroid dysfunction.

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Yellow Summer Squash Pasta and Sauce

Yellow Summer Squash Pasta and SauceMost yellow summer squash is gmo now days, but not the ones we used. We got these fresh from a vegetable garden, harvested from non-gmo seeds. Without the grated cheese, this can be a Vegan meal.

Yellow Summer Squash Pasta and Sauce - Shaving Squash into SpaghettiThere are several gadgets on the market that one can use to turn a yellow summer squash into spaghetti strands. They can range from $3.99 to about $100.00 depending on the one you buy. We bought a OXO Good Grips Julienne Peeler Stainless Steel Blade , and the cost was $9.99 at Macy’s.

You wash the squash, remove the blade protector cap, grab the squash in one hand and the peeler with the other hand, and start peeling until you reach the seeds.

You can mulch the rest of the vegetable after discarding the seeds or remove the seeds and steam the vegetable flesh in a steamer, and enjoy with a little butter and Italian seasonings.

But before you peel the squash into spaghetti strands, let make some sauce. What you will need is:

1 15 ounce can of stewed tomatoes, with no other flavors or added salt

1/2 cup fresh basil

3 cloves fresh garlic

2 tbsp. tomato paste, no added salt

1/2 tsp. Himalayan salt ( or sea salt) optional

5 tbsp. olive oil

1 tsp. garlic powder

Open can of tomatoes and pour into a food processor. Add basil, chopped garlic, and puree.

Side not: allow garlic to set 10 minutes after chopping before adding to processor. To get the health benefits of garlic, oxygen needs to active the enzymes within the garlic, to give us it s health benefits. When ever using garlic after mincing, or chopping it, allow it to set for 10 minutes before using it, your body will be thankful you did.

Yellow Summer Squash Pasta and Sauce - Preparing SauceNow add the puree tomato sauce to a medium sauce pot over a med-high heat. You will note that the tomato sauce will be a little soupy. Just add 2 tablespoons of tomato paste and stir in, and see how it thickens. Lower heat to simmer and place lid over pot. Just before pouring sauce over sqauch pasta, stir in 1/2 teaspoon of Himalayan salt, but is optional.

Yellow Summer Squash Pasta and Sauce - Sautéing Yellow Squash in Olive OilOn med-high heat place a (1) large ceramic coated frying pan, and pour 4 to 5 tablespoons of olive oil into pan. Allow to heat some, then add 1 teaspoon of powdered garlic.

Next, (2) add squash pasta to pan, put timer to 5 minutes, and stir now and again.

Note (3) the olive oil has stuck to the squash, if it hasn’t, then you added to much olive oil. Continue to stir now and again.

After 5 minutes (4) turn squash pasta onto a flat plate or pie pan and set aside for 2 minutes. Then turn pasta squash into a strainer to drain off any water, that may have accumulated, but do not rinse.

Yellow Summer Squash Pasta and Sauce platedPlate squash pasta, top with spaghetti sauce and with your favorite Italian cheese and serve.

Forking Yellow Summer Squash Pasta and SauceIf you can fork the squash pasta like traditional pasta, then it was cooked right. But if  squash cannot be forked and falls apart, it was cooked to long and in too much oil.

 

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Beef Steak Fajitas

Beef Steak Fajitas

We’er always craving Mexican food here in the kitchen of Splendid Recipes. Our featured recipe though is not authentic Mexican food, but a Tex-Mex style food with Mexican ingredient influence. If you didn’t get an opportunity to view our Blog Guest speaker on the Tastes of Mexico then link here. In one of the posts the guest speaker talks about Mexican Food verses Tex-Mex Food.

Now for our featured recipe and here is what you will need:

1 teaspoon ground Mexican oregano

1 teaspoon ground red pepper

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander

½ teaspoons sea salt

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 ½ pounds flank steak, fat trimmed

1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and thinly sliced

1 green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and thinly sliced

1 yellow bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and thinly sliced

1 small white onion, thinly sliced

1 small purple onion, thinly sliced

4 tablespoons avocado oil

6-8 corn tortillas, warmed

In a small bowl mix together the first six ingredients and set aside.

Seasoned beef strips  for Beef Steak Fajitas

Trim fat from flank steak and cut into 1 x 2 inch strips. Next, with ingredients from small mixing bowl, season beef strips and set aside.

Sliced peppers and onions for Beef Steak Fajitas

Next, seed peppers, and thinly slice. Next thinly slice both onions, then mix together and set aside.

steps to cook Beef Steak FajitasWith a large ceramic coated frying pan over medium heat, add avocado oil. When oil is hot add beef strips and cook on all sides, about 2 minutes. Add, pepper onion mix, stir in and continue to cook until meat is done to your preference (145 degrees for medium…155 degrees for med-well…160 degrees for well-done). Read our article: Keeping Your Family Safe with a Reliable Meat Thermometer.

Beef Steak Fajitas focusing on beef and corn tortilla

Plate the Beef steak Fajitas and serve with warmed corn tortillas.

 

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Green Beans and Egg Salad

Green Beans and Egg Salad

Green beans contain the trace minerals magnesium, potassium, and calcium all which are needed for heart function. They also contain some of the B-vitamins, which are needed to help absorb other vital vitamins like A and C. Believe it or not, green beans contain fat. One cup of fresh beans have 4.5 % of your daily need for omega-3 fatty acids.

Eggs of course are a great source of protein.

Onions reduce inflammation and heal infections. They contain chromium, which assists in regulating blood sugar and raw onions produce good cholesterol (HDL), which is heart healthy.

Knowing all of that should start your day off right. It may not be your ordinary breakfast, but than again what is ordinary now days.

Here is what you will need for the featured recipe:

2 lbs. green beans

1/2 yellow or white onion

4 eggs, hard-boiled*

1/4 cup olive oil

1 tbsp. wine vinegar

1 tsp. salt

Trim green beans and snap or cut into 1-inch lengths and steam them for 3 to 5 minutes.  Put egg through a egg slicer twice, turning 90 degrees, or chop with a knife.

Slice onion, cut slices in half.

Place steamed green beans, chopped eggs, and sliced onions into a large mixing bowl. It is optional to add olive oil, vinegar, and salt. Toss together mixed together.

Plate and serve. It makes about 4 servings.

*Best way to hard boil eggs: Place eggs in pot of water. Bring to a boil, turn off heat source, place lid on sauce pan, remove pot from burner and let eggs set in hot boiled water till cooked hard, about 7 to 10 minutes. Drain off hot water and plunge eggs into ice water while they are still hot to prevent the greenish, grey ring from forming around the yolk. Make sure to keep the water ice cold while the eggs are cooling down.

 

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