Excerpted from a Judy E. Buss article, first published in the Sun Coast Media Group Newspapers.
LET SPICES BE YOUR KITCHEN WORKHORSES!
Falling into a cooking rut may encourage you to “medicate” your kitchen creations with the old standbys such as bacon, butter, sugar, cheese and cream, or to reach for frozen “convenience food.” (How did these rascals find their way into your kitchen?) Luckily, spices come to the rescue and, along with herbs and a few other friends, delishify any food. Spices are the aromatic, dried parts of plants, except for their leaves and stems (herbs). They are central to a seasoned cook’s kitchen arsenal and include dry bark, roots, seeds, twigs, and berries.
There are hundreds of spices to choose from, but even having just a few at your disposal can turn boring dishes into an exceptional culinary experience. Spices are used whole or ground into a powder. When food is described as spicy, it means that it is hot, as in the Oriental kimchi, for example. Most spices though, are not mouth searing; they are flavor bombs which lend a magnificent taste to any dish and can be used in soups, grain dishes, meat, vegetable salads, even fruit salads and desserts.
Basic spices worth buying are cinnamon, allspice, cloves, cumin, nutmeg, cayenne, and black pepper. Curry powder, another talented flavor star also worth purchasing, is used in numerous ethnic dishes. It is actually a blend of herbs and spices ground into a powder. There is no need to buy the most expensive spice brands; cheaper ones work just as well.
Try using CINNAMON in new ways: in a carrot salad, with raisins and orange juice; on your cooked breakfast oatmeal; or mixed with a mashed sweet potato or squash. Sprinkle CUMIN and lemon juice on stir-fried boneless chicken nuggets; corn salsa; or bean soup. Add a dash of NUTMEG to cauliflower florets and steam. Use CURRY POWDER in lentil salad; on halved, hard-cooked eggs; in chicken salad mixed with any cooked whole grain; in vegetable stew; or sweet potato soup. The sky is the limit!
When using spices, keep them away from steaming food, as they will be ruined by moisture. Simply measure the needed amount away from your stove. They may also lose some of their flavor and aroma after a few months, so use them frequently and restock your spice rack.
Spices are not only exciting flavor enhancers; they also contain powerful nutrients and medicinal agents. Various spices are used as natural remedies to help alleviate many conditions; from pain, indigestion, to inflammation and more.
Explore the wonderful world of spices. Travel to faraway places without leaving your kitchen; your taste buds will jump from joy and body will thank you!
GERMAN-STYLE RED CABBAGE
2 cups shredded red cabbage
¼ cup raisins
1 tablespoon olive oil (not extra virgin)
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1-1/2 tablespoons wine vinegar
1 tablespoon whole wheat flour
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1. Place the shredded cabbage in a small saucepan and enough water to just cover it. Mix in the raisins, oil, and pepper. Cover, and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook about 12 minutes, until the cabbage is tender. Do not overcook.
2. Meanwhile, in a cup, mix the vinegar and flour with a fork until smooth. Set aside. To the cabbage in the saucepan add the cinnamon and nutmeg. When the cabbage is cooked, add 4 tablespoons liquid from the cabbage to the flour mixture in the cup and, with a fork, mix well until blended and smooth.
3. Gradually add the flour mixture to the cabbage, stirring constantly (with a spoon). Any remaining flour lumps can be dissolved by pressing them with the back of the spoon against the saucepan wall. Cover, and cook slowly 5 minutes until the liquid is thickened, stirring occasionally.
Serve with meat and potatoes (if desired) – a traditional German dinner.
TURKEY OR CHICKEN CHILI
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
¾ pound ground turkey or chicken
½ tablespoon ground cumin
1-1/2 tablespoons dried oregano
¼ teaspoon powdered cayenne
Salt and pepper to taste
1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
½ cup water
1 large tomato, chopped
½ green bell pepper seeded, chopped
1 cup cooked pinto beans, drained
1. In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Stir in the onion, cover, and cook about 12 minutes, until the onion is translucent, stirring once or twice.
2. Mix in all the other ingredients, except the beans and increase the heat to medium. When the chili begins to bubble, reduce the heat and cook gently for 20 minutes, breaking up the meat lumps, and stirring occasionally. Add the beans and cook 3 minutes to heat through. If too dry add ¼ - ½ cup water and adjust the seasoning.
Keep the doctor away – deliciously!