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.

Cooling Down with a Mojito Beverage

Cooling Down with a Mojito Beverage

Mojito is a traditional alcoholic beverage of Cuba, the Highball. The drink consists of white rum, sugar cane juice, lime juice, sparkling water, and mint, or as it is called in Spanish, yerba buena. Actually the drink gets its name from the type of mint used, which is mojito.

Mojito (the herb) is a native plant to Cuba, and was previously unavailable in North America but thanks to Toronto mojito enthusiast Catherine Nasmith who visited Cuba in 2006, we now have the authentic plant from Cuba. It is not only used in beverages, but mojito mint also makes a great seasoning for meats and confections (Helping Gardeners Grow).

Mojito has a clearly distinctive flavor from most other mints. The scent and flavor are mild and warm, not pungent nor overly sweet like other mints.

Recent medical studies have reported that the smell of  mint has been proven to stimulate brain activity and could be useful before taking a test of any type, such as in school or collage. Other herbs, such as rosemary, and sage have been reported to do the same.

Summer Drinks - using MojitoWhen making a Highball, you can use any fruit you wish, just so long as you use the mint, mojito. Unless your not a person of tradition, and that’s OK.

Here are links to some recipes here at Splendid Recipes and More where mint was used. Not specifically mojito, but it can be substituted in place of the common fresh variety you can purchase at your local market.

1. Melon Berry Fruit Salad with Mint-Lime Dressing

2. Gluten-Free Chocolate Peppermint Cupcakes

3. Orange, Fennel and Mint Salad

If you are not into drinking alcholic beverages, then you may be interested in cooling down with another type of mojito beverage: Blackberry Mojito Tea Lemonade.

Today is the annaversary, so to speak, of Splendid Recipes and More, posting the recipe for the lemonade beverage. It was first posted July. 15, 2014, and to-date has had 4,383 hits. Most of the hits have come during the summer months, either in the northern (June-September) or the southern (December-March) hemisphere.

Blackberry Mojito Tea Lemonade -over-head-Here is the link to the original post (click here) and following is a picture and the recipe. You’ll note there is no mojito, but is mixed in with the tea. The tea use was purchased at Tevana, and is available only during the summer months.

12 teaspoons Blackberry Mojito Green Tea

1 cup lemon juice, from 5 lemons

1/2 cup sugar (optional to use Teavana‘s rock sugar)

6 cups fresh water, boiled

Bring fresh water to a boil in a large sauce pot. The boil point should reach 175 degrees. Turn off heat and add the tea mixture, and steep for 10 minutes.

Strain off tea mixture and add tea to a glass serving container. Stir in sugar, and add lemon juice and stir some more.

Enjoy Cooling Down with a Mojito Beverage.

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Lemongrass Basil Thai Chicken

Lemon Grass Basil Thai Chicken

Have you had lemongrass before? When mixed with other ingredients it can be really tasty. Lemongrass is associated with Asian cooking especially in Thai, Malaysian and Vietnamese food.

Lemongrass is also classified as an herb and is reported to have many health benefits.

The herb has antibacterial and antifungal properties. It is very potent in helping to detoxify internal organs, such as the liver, exocrine gland, excretory organs, and the digestive tract.

It also helps to lower the buildup of uric acid (herb can bring relief for those who suffer with Gout), cholesterol, superfluous fats and other toxins in the body while helping with digestion, and improving blood circulation.

It also has been report for use as calming effect in relieving insomnia and stress.

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

4 chicken breast, chopped 1-inch squares

16 oz. bag Mediterranean vegetable blend

¾ cup Desiccated Coconut

1 green chili, serrano, without seeds

2 garlic cloves

½ cup extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil

½ tsp. Himalayan salt

3 tbsp. lemon juice

1 tbsp. dried basil or 5 fresh Thai basil leaves

½ tube of Garden gourmet Lemon Grass or 3 fresh chopped stalks lemon grass, white parts only

1 tsp. arrowroot starch

close-up of Lemon Grass Basil Thai ChickenIf you can’t find fresh Thai basil, the common sweet basil will work. Lemongrass can be hard to find fresh, so the tube of Garden Gourmet Lemon Grass will work just as well.

In a food processor, add coconut, chili, garlic, oil, salt, juice, basil, lemongrass, and process until a paste is formed, about 45 seconds to 1 minute. Set aside.

In a large frying pan over medium-high heat, add either 2 tablespoons of coconut oil or avocado oil and heat. Add chopped chicken breast and cook until outside of meat is white or oblique. Add vegetable blend and stir in.

Next add lemongrass mixture and stir in. Add 1 tsp. arrowroot starch to ¼ cup of cold water and mix till arrowroot is dissolved, add to meat mixture, mixing in till well incorporated.

Side of Wild Rice with Rosemary, Parsley and ThymeContinue to stir ingredients till mixture starts to boil and thicken some.

Turn heat down to simmer for 10 minutes more or until chicken is cooked through.

You can serve over cooked rice.

We served our Lemongrass Basil Thai Chicken with a side of Wild Rice with Rosemary, Parsley and Thyme.

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Food as Medicine – How to Add Healing Power to Everyday Meals

Food as Medicine Have you ever heard the ancient saying, “Let your medicine be your food, and food be your medicine”? It’s a wise saying by Hippocrates, the ancient Greek physician, from who originates the Hippocratic Oath taken by doctors. Oddly, while modern doctors recognize Hippocrates’ contribution to medicine in the form of the Oath, the idea that our food can be our medicine is generally not included in the practice of modern medicine.

The good news is, foods are still “medicines,” and you can affect your health positively with the foods you eat. If you’d like to incorporate more healing herbs and foods into your diet, here are some tips that can help.

Herbs

The healing power of various herbs is becoming more and more recognized and accepted. Here are some of the more readily available herbs that you can add to your foods to boost their healing power.

ginger a Food as Medicine * Ginger is an effective anti-nausea remedy and has significant antibacterial properties. The fresh root, sliced or diced, can be added to stir-fries, and it can be candied and eaten out of hand.

* Oregano is a tasty herb when added to pizza, spaghetti, and so forth, is considered an antioxidant. Antioxidants help mop up “free radicals” in the body, which are by-products of the body’s metabolic processes. Free radicals are implicated in the development of arthritis and other inflammatory conditions. So sprinkle this herb on regular dishes that are Italian or Greek in flavor.

rosemary a Food as Medicine * Rosemary is another antioxidant herb, and may help enhance memory and prevent cataracts. It may even help prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Rosemary is very good when used in meat marinades and sprinkled on dishes like pizza, focaccia, or pasta.

* Turmeric is commonly found in Indian curries. It has a yellowish color and earthy flavor, and is said to help reduce the pain and inflammation of arthritis. Turmeric can be added to soups and stews, curries, stir-fries, and other dishes.

Foods

The food you eat – not just the herbs you put on it – can help heal, too. Here are some suggestions.

garlic a Food as Medicine * Garlic is a powerful food for the prevention of colds and flu, and it has anti-fungal and antimicrobial properties. You can make garlic sauce for pasta, or add it to soups.  Onion a Food as Medicine Garlic a simple food can be the base ingredient for main dish meals you prepare.
* Onions are like garlic in their healthful properties. They are perhaps even more versatile; they can be made into a dish on their own or added to other foods.

Berries food as medicine* Berries are known for their antioxidant power. Add berries to salads or eat them out of hand. You can also freeze them and blend them into smoothies.

 

 

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Rosemary and Thyme Oven-Roasted Chicken

Our last article on cast iron cookware – 4 Commonly Asked Questions About Cast Iron Cookware – ended with stating..”Come back later  and we will show you how to oven roast a whole chicken using a 10.25 inch cast iron skillet“. Will you came back and here’s the recipe.

Rosemary and Thyme Oven-Roasted Chicken and here is what you will need:

ingredients for Rosemary and Thyme Oven-Roasted Chicken

Most cooks and those that prepare oven roasted chicken will use lemon, but I have chosen to use an orange.

1 whole roasting chicken, approximately 4-5 pounds

1 large yellow onion or 2 medium, cut into uniformly thick slices

1 whole orange, cut into quarters

8-10 cloves garlic, crushed and skins removed

4 tablespoons butter, cut into slices

2 sprigs fresh rosemary leaves removed and chopped, plus 3 whole sprigs

3 sprigs fresh thyme leaves removed, plus 3 whole sprigs

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Salt

You can opt to make some vegetables of your chose, while roasting the chicken. We will prepare some potatoes with our chicken.

1 batch Oven-Roasted Red Potatoes* (optional)

Preheat the oven to 425˚ degrees.

Remove giblets from chicken cavity and discard. Rinse chicken and pat dry with paper towels.

preparing to roast  potatoes

If you are preparing the potatoes, do so according to the recipe instructions in a 12” pre-seasoned cast iron skillet. As a suggestion the recipe can be for Oven-Roasted Red Potatoes. 

Once potatoes have been browned on the stove top, push them to the outer edge of the pan and placed sliced onions in the center. Otherwise, omit the potatoes and just place sliced onion on bottom of skillet.

place cleaned chicken over potatoes

Set chicken on top of onions and fill cavity with sliced oranges, garlic cloves and whole sprigs of rosemary and thyme. For a nicer appearance, tie legs together with kitchen twine.

ingredients for herbed butter

Add chopped rosemary and thyme leaves to a flat plate and press butter slices into the herb mixture. Repeat on the other side.  Use a knife to separate the skin from the breast meat and slide the herb butter slices in between.

Drizzle over top of chicken breast with some olive oil. Use fingers or pastry brush to coat the exposed surface, and season generously with salt and pepper, to taste.

roasting chicken in cast iron skillet in the oven

Place skillet in oven and roast for approximately 1 hour or until juices run clear when you cut into the area near the base of the thigh. Actual cooking time will vary depending on how large the bird is and individual oven settings.

Remove skillet from oven, and tent with aluminum foil. Let rest for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

Rosemary and Thyme Oven-Roasted Chicken

When ready to serve carve chicken meat from carcass, plate and serve with potatoes and leafy greens. The meat should be very succulent and juicy with hints of citrus flavor. Enjoy!!

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