Sunday, December 4, 2016

Spice Up Your Meals!

Adding spices to your meal may help to lessen the negative effects of overeating.   This is perfect news for the holiday season, full of parties and family gatherings.  In a small 2011 study in The Journal of Nutrition, participants who ate a meal that included about 2 tablespoons of spices (a blend of rosemary, oregano, cinnamon, turmeric, black pepper, cloves, garlic powder and paprika) had lower triglyceride and insulin levels and higher antioxidant levels after eating a high-fat, high-calorie meal compared to when they ate a nearly identical meal that lacked spices. Researchers think the spice blend may help slow fat absorption—and the antioxidants help mop up harmful free radicals produced when you overeat.  Mix and match recipes to get a variety of spices in your meals.  In addition to adding lots of great flavor, it may help you stay healthier too.

Often I worry about choosing the wrong spice or herb.  This list of complementary spices can serve as a handy resource for making a shopping list for your spice cabinet or having on hand to use in a pinch. You can also experiment with various combinations of the complimentary spices that you enjoy most to enhance the flavor of the meat for which it is recommended.

Beef: Basil, Bay Leaf, Black Pepper, Cayenne, Cumin, Curry Powder, Dry Mustard Powder, Garlic, Green Pepper, Onion, Oregano, Rosemary, Sage, and Thyme.

Fish: Bay Leaf, Cayenne, Curry Powder, Celery Seed, Chives, Dill, Fennel, Lemon Zest, Marjoram, Mint, Dry Mustard Powder, Onion, Paprika, Parsley, Red Pepper, Saffron, Sage, Sesame Seed, Tarragon, Thyme, and Turmeric.

Lamb: Basil, Cinnamon, Cumin, Curry Powder, Garlic, Marjoram, Mint, Onion, Oregano, Rosemary, Sage, Savory, Sesame Seed, and Thyme.

Poultry: Basil, Bay Leaf, Cilantro, Cinnamon, Curry Powder, Garlic, Mace, Marjoram, Mint, Onion, Paprika, Parsley, Rosemary, Sage, Saffron, Savory, Tarragon, and Thyme.

Pork: Allspice, Caraway, Celery Seed, Cloves, Coriander, Fennel, Ginger, Juniper Berries, Dry Mustard Powder, Paprika, Sage, and Savory.

Veal: Bay Leaf, Black Pepper, Curry Powder, Dill, Ginger, Lemon, Marjoram, Mint, Oregano, Paprika, Parsley, Saffron, Sage, and Tarragon.

Eggs: Basil, Chives, Curry Powder, Dry Mustard Powder, Green or Red Pepper, Onion, Paprika, Parsley, and Tarragon.

Cheese: Chives, Nutmeg, Oregano, Red Pepper, Sage, Tarragon, and Thyme.

Don't forget the side dishes.  You may not want to season your main dish with all of the spices in the recommended blend.  But you can season the different dishes to get the total combination.

 Here is an idea for a stew.  Pair it up with some biscuits or bread made with herbs.  Finish you meal with a dessert with cinnamon and cloves.

Rosemary Sweet Potato Stew

6 chicken thighs, skin removed, trimmed of fat (May remove bones too)
2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into small chunks
1/2 pound white button mushrooms, thinly sliced
6 large shallots, peeled and halved (or substitute a small onion)
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1 cup dry white wine (may substitute broth or water)
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary, or 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons white-wine vinegar

Place chicken, sweet potatoes, mushrooms, shallots, garlic, wine, rosemary, salt and pepper in a 6-quart slow cooker; stir to combine. Put the lid on and cook on low until the potatoes are tender, about 5 hours. Before serving, remove bones from the chicken and coarsely shred.  Stir in vinegar.  Makes 6 servings.

Make Ahead Tip: Place in shallow bowls and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 1 month.  For easy cleanup, try a slow-cooker liner. These heat-resistant, disposable liners fit neatly inside the insert and help prevent food from sticking to the bottom and sides of your slow cooker

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