Let’s face it we are creatures of habit. And, with so many different priorities, these days we tend to cook the same staple dishes over and over. Jessica and I believe that this is a good thing; in fact we cook different variations on the same 10 recipes regularly.
In order to keep those staple recipes fresh and exciting, however, we rely on variety in the flavors of the dishes we present. We’ll change a soup or stew by leaning towards Middle Eastern spices one day and Mediterranean spices another day, or by simply switching up a complimentary vegetable based on what is in season. And while this makes cooking fun, and eating an adventure, the real benefit comes from what this brings to your body. Each spice, fruit or vegetable has a differing positive impact on the body, which is the best reason to live by the adage “variety is the spice of life”.
This week we wanted to provide you with a little of our own inspiration by sharing an easy breakdown of spices we found on wholeliving.com. It’s the perfect “cheat sheet” for mixing up your every day cooking.
Spices Cheat Sheet
Bay Leaf: This venerable spice, a distant relative or cinnamon and avocado, is an unsung hero of the modern kitchen. Its aromatic, highly astringent flavor is a great compliment for beans, soups, sauces, and marinades. For a sweet adventure, add a leaf to rice pudding, poached pears, or stewed apricots. (Remember to remove the leaves before serving.)
Black Pepper: The world’s most popular spice is so ubiquitous that its health is often overlooked. (Capsaicin, the alkaloid that gives pepper its bite, stimulates digestion, circulation, and perspiration.) It’s also a cooling agent. For a refreshing drink, try an Indian-style glass of sweetened lime juice and soda garnished with pepper.
Cinnamon: Most cinnamon on the market today is actually cassia, the dried bark of a tropical laurel tree. (The real stuff is lighter in color and sweeter in flavor.) Cinnamon oil is a powerful antiseptic, and the spice is believed to help regulate blood sugar and cholesterol. Toss a stick into beef stew, or use as a stirrer for coffee, chai tea, or hot cocoa.
Cumin: Used as a medicine in ancient Egypt, cumin is still extolled for its health benefits: It’s believed to stimulate the pancreatic enzymes responsible for digestion and the liver enzymes that handle detoxification. Incorporate cumin into black beans, or make a simple spice butter to serve with corn on the cob.
Curry Powder: This spice blend contains nutritional heavy hitters like fenugreek, which relieves everything from bronchitis to menstrual cramps, and turmeric, whose potent antioxidants help prevent cell damage. Add a dash to potato soup, whip together with mayonnaise for a tasty egg salad or try our easy curry chicken recipe below.
Nutmeg: Once used to fight the spread of bubonic plague, nutmeg improves digestion and, when applied topically, soothes joint and muscle pain. Its woodsy flavor is almost familiar from holiday classics like apple pie, but this delicate spice adds an intriguing note to savory comfort food, too. Dust it over roast lamb, macaroni and cheese, broccoli or creamed spinach.
Paprika: Ground from dried peppers, paprika can be smoky, fruity or bitter. Applied topically, the capsaicin in peppers has been known to relieve headaches, psoriasis and shingles. Pair smoked paprika with parsnips and butternut squash, or sprinkle sweet paprika on your cucumber salad.
Red Pepper Flakes: Put on the table in lieu of black pepper in Hungary, Turkey, and the Middle East, red pepper flakes add a welcome kick to almost any dish. They’re also an excellent source of vitamins A and C, capable of preventing ulcers and treating diarrhea.
And, to make things slightly easier, we’ve raided our recipe box for the best meals using these four spices. Take a look and try a few. Let us know what you think!
Moroccan Harira Lamb Stew
One-pot Green Chicken Curry
Spicy Lamb Burgers
Spicy Roasted Cauliflower Soup