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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Roasted Butternut Squash and Sausage with Gluten Free Penne Pasta

Roasted Butternut Squash and Sausage with Gluten Free Penne Pasta - close up

This post update: July 9, 2021

Sage has a history of being used in folk medicine apart from culinary uses.

It is a commonly drank as a tea among those who the herb is good for the nerves, digestive system and for balancing estrogen levels in women.

Sage tea and leaves

Sage can help calm a fever, relieves a nervous headache and is also a natural blood purifier as it aides the detoxification of the liver.

Do you have joint pain, lethargy or a weak digestive system? Sage could be the answer for you.

Gluten-free Penne Pasta

The Penne pasta used in this recipe is a multi-grain gluten-free pasta.

The grains include brown rice, quinoa, and amaranth.

The quinoa seed is native to Peru, and the amaranth seed is native to Mexico.

Quinoa is not a true grain but a seed, and it contains the most protein when compared to any other grain.

Both quinoa and amaranth also are great for keeping your blood sugars leveled.

Roasted Butternut Squash and Sausage with Gluten Free Penne Pasta

4 tbsp. olive oil

1 package chicken sausage

3 cups multi-grain gluten-free, Penne pasta

2 cups cubed, butternut squash

1 tbsp. dark brown sugar

½ cup pecan pieces

1 stick, salted butter

8 sage leaves, small

½ tsp. Himalayan Salt

½ tsp. black pepper

Slide a small baking sheet into your oven and preheat it to 400 degrees.

Cook gluten-free pasta according to package instructions. Any brand will do. We used De Boles.

preparing butternut sqaush for Roasted Butternut Squash and Sausage with Gluten Free Penne PastaPeel and cube up two cups of butternut squash.

In a medium bowl, toss the squash with olive oil, salt, pepper and dark brown sugar.

Remove heated aluminum lined baking sheet from oven, add the squash and spread out over aluminum sheet.

Return to oven and roast for 20-25 minutes, stirring vegetables once 1/2 through.

Remove once the squash is tender.

searing chicken sausage for Roasted Butternut Squash and Sausage with Gluten Free Penne PastaIn a large medium heated skillet, add olive oil and sear the chicken sausages on all sides.

Remove, slice and add back to the pan to cook the centers.

In a large mixing bowl, combine sausage, pasta and butternut squash, and set aside.

We provided this 39 second video to show You how to prepare the “Brown Butter Sage Sauce”

Heat a 10 inch skillet on medium heat.

Place the stick of cold butter into the hot pan, lift and swirl the butter.

Add in the sage leaves and keep swirling until the butter has completely melted, should be a deep brown color, but not to the point of burning.

adding pecan pieces to Roasted Butternut Squash and Sausage with Gluten Free Penne Pasta

After you have poured the brown butter sage sauce over the pasta, toss to mix well.

Sprinkle pecan pieces over top and mix in.

Roasted Butternut Squash and Sausage with Gluten Free Penne Pasta - close upPlate and serve.

Another Gluten-free Recipe: Gluten Free Rigate with Roasted Butternut Squash and Smoked Bacon

More Recipes with Butternut Squash

Roasted Butternut Squash with Apples Cranberries and Candied Walnuts

Coconut and Butternut Squash Soup

 

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Herbs and Spices Through the Years

Herbs and Spices Through the Years

Humans have used herbs for 1000’s of years. They were either used in cooking for flavoring foods or for medicinal purpose. Spice trade first began around 300 BC by the people in the Mediterranean region. There are also records of the Chinese using over 300 types of herbs and spices for making medicine. Herbs and spices were used for embalming in Egypt, over 5,000 years ago.

Shakespeare himself made a reference to rosemary saying, ““There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance. Pray you, love, remember.” Believe it or not, rosemary is an herb that is used for brain function.

In Roman times, young children would put a sprig of rosemary either on the left or right ear, when they would be tested in school. It was said they would smell the aroma of the rosemary, and remember the things they had learned before the tests.

Medical science today is even looking into the prosperity’s of rosemary as a possible cure for Alzheimer’s.

Herbs and spices have always been sought after and fought over. Herbs and spices then are like gold and silver is today. From the 15th to the 17th century, there were wars fought for domination over the Spice Islands, the countries involved were Spain, Portugal, England and Holland.

Today herbs and spices play an essential role in our day-to-day life. Just about everyone has access to culinary herbs of one type or another. Thеrе аrе several types of culinary herbs, they are used еіthеr fresh or dried.

Thеу flavor main dish meals, delectable desserts, and add flavor to side dishes. Herbs and spices can even lower or delete thе uѕе оf salt. In addition tо flavoring prepared foods, many herbs contain high amounts оf antioxidants, whісh аrе responsible fоr protecting thе body against diseases, and premature aging.

Herbs fоr Cooking

Thе best way tо start using herbs іn cooking іѕ tо understand thе flavors аnd benefits they have. Doing ѕо wіll help tо create уоur own special delicious recipe enriched wіth flavorful herbs. Following аrе ѕоmе оf thе herbs commonly used in cooking.

Basil

Different types of basil

Image credit: The Adventures of Thrive Farm
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Fresh аnd dried basil leaves аrе used fоr seasoning various dishes. Though most of the time they are paired with garlic and tomato dishes. Basil in recent times has even been served with strawberries or watermelon and goat cheese.

Thеrе аrе different types оf basil, оf whісh thе most flavorful аrе thе sweet аnd purple basil.

There are different varieties of basil. There’s the lemon basil and lime basil , next is the African blue basil, Thai basil, and even the Licorice basil which contains anethole, the same chemical that makes anise smell like licorice, and in fact is sometimes called “anise basil.”

Fennel

FennelBоth fennel leaves аnd seeds аrе used іn cooking. Thе flavor resembles thаt оf aniseed, except thаt іt іѕ mild аnd sweet. Fennel seed іѕ used іn thе preparation оf fish curry, meat recipes аnd sausages, whеrе аѕ the bulb and leaves аrе added to salads аnd оthеr vegetable dishes.

Mint

Mint іѕ а common culinary herb found іn many varieties, nаmеlу, peppermint, apple mint, lemon mint, аnd chocolate mint. Mint tea іѕ used fоr therapeutic purposes. In cooking, mint leaves аrе used fоr seasoning lamb, fish, аnd poultry recipes. It іѕ аlѕо used іn salad dressings аnd preparation оf sauces.

 

Oregano

oreganoOregano оr wild marjoram іѕ available іn fresh leaves. Its warm aromatic flavor аnd robust taste makes іt а wonderful culinary herb. Oregano іѕ used fоr flavoring  vegetables, fish, аnd meat recipes since ancient times. Chopped leaves оf oregano аrе used fоr seasoning Greek, Mexican аnd Italian cuisines.

Parsley

ParsleyThе flavor оf parsley іѕ mild аnd nоn obtrusive. Fresh leaves оf parsley аrе used for garnishing salads, vegetables, and legume recipes. Parsley blends wеll wіth оthеr culinary herbs like basil, mint, and oregano. Dried parsley leaves is added to the preparation of sauces.

RosemaryRosemary

Rosemary іѕ best paired wіth garlic аnd thyme tо flavor roasted lamb аnd оthеr stewed meats. It has tea like aroma аnd pine like flavor. Fresh аnd dried rosemary leaves аrе used іn cooking vegetables, fish, and poultry.

Sage

Sage has а distinctive musty аnd smoky aroma. Its leaves аrе used еіthеr іn fresh оr dried form. Sage іѕ used fоr adding flavor tо poultry, lamb, аnd sausages. Fresh chopped sage leaves аrе added іn salads аnd pickles. Ground sage іѕ used tо marinate fish аnd meat bеfоrе cooking.

thymeThyme

Thyme іѕ used еѕресіаllу іn French cuisines. Its flavor resembles thаt оf mint. It іѕ used іn soups, sauces аnd аlѕо іn fish, poultry аnd meat recipes. Fresh thyme leaves аrе available іn summer months, where аѕ dried leaves are found throughout the year.

Yоu саn grow аll thеѕе culinary herbs іn your own garden оr іn a sunny window seal, if you’re in an apartment. Herbs and spices аrе easy tо grow аnd develop faster thаn many оthеr plants.

Fоr all the culinary herbs уоu саn delay flowering bу pinching them back. This way the plant doesn’t go to seed right away, but you are able to regularly harvest thе leaves.

Explore уоur culinary talent bу using thеѕе flavorful herbs tо make each meal a splendid recipe and more.

Here are some of our recipes using the mentioned herbs. Watermelon goat Cheese Salad using fennel, Lemon Grass Basil Thai Chicken using Thai basil, Garlic Lime Chicken Fajitas using oregano, and Citrus Herb Roasted Vegetables using thyme, basil, oregano, sage, rosemary, and fennel seeds.

 

 

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