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Cooking with Herbs and Spices

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It might seem an oxymoron that the more weight you lose, the more interesting food becomes.

When decreasing fats, sugars and salts from your diet, there is no reason food or drink should be bland or uninteresting.

Develop depth of flavors with herbs and spices.  Many also deliver additional beneficial boosts like antioxidants.  Your shrinking skin will glow with good health.

Food stores specializing in Asian, Middle Eastern and Hispanic products often sell cheaper packets of spices – perfect for taste testing.

Even in small apartments with a good light source, herbs can be grown indoors – year round.

Here are few herbs and spices to incorporate into your meals.

Basil

There are many types of this plant. Its flavor is similar to anise, cloves and a bit of mint can be used in fresh and dried leaves. Add it to pasta, tomato and egg dishes for a delicious green spark.  With anti-inflammatory properties, it is perfect in a post-workout smoothie.

Bay Leaf

Add two or three dried bay leaves to the water for potatoes, poached fish and steamed vegetables and the need for salt evaporates.  Bury it into dry rice kernels and have a deliciously seasoned side dish in the future.  Loaded with natural antioxidants and Vitamin A, some swear steeping a leaf in hot water for three to five minutes makes a delicious tea. It is said to reduce flatulence – a good tip now that your diet includes more fiber.

Cinnamon

Where once you sprinkled cinnamon into sugar, now instead sprinkle it alone over yogurt or oatmeal or add it to your coffee and tea. The powerhouse of antioxidants, cinnamon is also full of potassium, calcium, manganese, iron, zinc, and magnesium. It is also a great digestion aid.

Cumin

Like cinnamon, cumin is an antioxidant super spice with tons of minerals. Its uses are endless. It adds earthy delight to meat, fish and chicken and everything from beans and roasted root vegetables to a side dish such as quinoa.

Dill

Grow dill in your garden and be awarded three ways with its fresh aroma, yellow flowers at harvest and a refreshing taste.  Sprinkle it into soups and seafood dishes – particularly salmon and herring.  Add some to a potato salad and you will need less salt and mayonnaise.  Dill, high in Vitamin A and beta-carotene, is especially good in cabbage dishes.

Dried red pepper

Take the heat daily and let cayenne, crushed red pepper or paprika help enhance your metabolism. If you love spicy foods – add it to cottage cheese, to stewed meats or vegetables.  Fresh peaches slices and hot chocolate sweet tastes deepen with a just a pinch.

Ginger

Whether fresh in its knobby state or powdered, ginger is a top spice in its handiness mostly for its high levels of antioxidants.  Perfect in both sweet and savory foods, use ginger to jazz up green tea, sautéed carrots or steamed fish.

Lemon grass

Granted, lemon grass looks like dried out twigs. Cut down to its inner leaves to discover its fiber-rich goodness while enjoying its delicate citrus flavor.  Sauté slices of lemon grass, garlic and fresh ginger and add to a bowl of miso soup for a light lunch or weekend afternoon pick me up.

Turmeric

Bright orange and aromatic, this spice, alone or in curry powder, has superb anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antiseptic properties. Rub it onto meats instead of salt.  Its mild taste is also a treat in vegetable smoothies or sprinkled over salads. Put it atop baked potatoes and the need for butter and sour cream vanishes.

Peach, Melon, Honey and Basil Sorbet

Two servings

Ingredients: 2 ripe peaches ½ ripe cantaloupe (or 4 cups chopped) 25-30 basil leaves ½ cup water ½ cup honey

Directions: Remove the rind and seeds from half the cantaloupe and chop into pieces.

De-pit and chop the peaches.

Put the fruit in a bowl and place in the freezer to chill.

Simmer water and honey on the stovetop until the mixture seems dissolved-like a syrup.

Turn off heat and add 10-15 basil leaves

Let the mixture sit for at least 10 minutes, or until the syrup smells and tastes of basil.

Remove the basil leaves and leave the syrup to cool.

Once both the syrup and the fruit are chilled, add them to the blender, with another 10-15 whole basil leaves and puree until smooth.

Place mixture in an ice cream maker and freeze for at least 20 minutes.

Transfer to a freezer container and freeze until solid for at least an hour.

Recipe courtesy of www.nofany.org

About LJ Bottjer

LJ Bottjer is a citizen of the world, whose journey began in Manhattan. Now living in Northern California, her garden produces healthy food almost year-round and she enjoys biking, yoga and hiking. www.words4sail.com
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