I’m the type of girl that will tote spices along when I travel, or sometimes even into a restaurant. Call me crazy, I know… But I don’t much care for bland food and since I follow a primarily vegan diet I like to jazz up my plate with a little dab of this or a dab of that. (Okay so the only spice I actually carry in my purse is red pepper flakes but sometimes I wish I could bring more!)
Don’t get me wrong, I can truly appreciate the natural flavor of an unseasoned bowl of brown rice, a baked sweet potato, crisp and cold veggies, a ripened piece of fruit or even an unseasoned bowl of oatmeal. But with that sad, I still prefer to liven things up most of the time. Plus, there’s a little more to it then just adding flavor. Most herbs and spices are packed full of nutrition and have some powerful healing properties.
So what are some of your favorite spices? I was tidying up the kitchen today and had to do some major reorganization in the spice drawers so I snapped a few pics. I have a select group in my spice drawer that are my favs :) Yes, I pick favorites. I think it’s just because I’m a person of habit. My all time top favorite three spices that I couldn’t live without are probably cinnamon, cumin and red pepper flakes. Mmmmm. But I have lots of favs.
- Cayenne Red Pepper: Is hot, hot, hot! I love adding it to soups, chili, stir-fry, guacamole, fajitas, and even sprinkling a dash on top of fruit like melon and pineapple with a squeeze of lime is a wonderful flavor combination. Health benefits: This spicy stuff has been used for centuries as a medicinal and culinary herb. Studies have found that this miracle herb improves circulation, rebuilds blood cells, lowers cholesterol, removes toxins from the bloodstream, heals ulcers and hemorrhoids, aids with digestion, alleviates pain from arthritis, promotes healing in the body and so much more! Talk about a superman ;)
- Nutmeg: Sweet and savory. I add it to smoothies and fresh juice, desserts, baked goods and banana soft-serve!Health benefits: Studies have shown that nutmeg stimulates our brain. It relieves stress and stimulates mental activity. Have a big slice of nutmeg banana bread before your next job interview or exam ;) It also alleviates the cough and is a common ingredient in cold medicine.
- Paprika: Has a sweet and smokey flavor. I add it to rice, veggie dishes, sweet potato mash, baked squash and curry dishes.Health benefits: As an antibacterial agent and stimulant, paprika can normalize blood pressure, improve circulation, and aid in digestion. It contains capsaicin, which has been linked in studies to lowering the risk of cancer.
- Ginger: Spicy, bitter, savory and sweet, ginger is perfect for desserts, baked goods, stir fry and ethnic food, and my favorite is using it for hot ginger baths. Health benefits: Relieves pain and swelling, reduces motion sickness and nausea, contains antioxidant and antimicrobial properties, cleanses the digestive system, stimulates circulation, cleanses the blood, lowers blood cholesterol levels and so much more. **Fresh ginger is my favorite but the powder is a more concentrated form and is a necessity in any spice drawer!
- Corriander: This spice is actually ground cilantro. (Many people don’t know that). I use it in Mexican food, and the seeds are great for canning or pickling veggies. Health benefits: Aside from the fact that this lil gem is believed to be a natural aphrodisiac, it literally has every health benefit that I have already listed and THEN SOME. In addition it also cures ulcers, reduces menstrual pain, and prevents aging of the eyes.
- Anise seed: I discovered this lil gem quite recently. It has a powerful licorice-like flavor and it’s a wonderful addition for seasoning stock for soup. Health benefits: Basically this is and all-natural Pepto-bismol. It relieves, diarrhea, constipation, indigestion, flatulence and bloating. It also loosens phlegm and eases pain caused by bronchitis, asthma and coughs, along with reducing bad breath and is a common ingredient in mouth wash and tooth paste.
- Cinnamon: Basically something I couldn’t live without. (I’ll put this in the same category as my Macbook, my Nook, my kitties and my juicer. You get the picture now?) I add it to oatmeal, smoothies, desserts, curry dishes, hot totties at Christmas time, on top of fruit (specifically apples, bananas and pears) and pretty much anything else! Health benefits: Significant studies have shown that cinnamon lowers your LDL cholesterol levels, regulates blood sugar, has an anti-clotting effect in the blood, speeds up your metabolism, relieves arthritis, boosts cognitive function and memory and mucho, mucho mas! Wowzas!
- Cumin: A nutty and peppery flavor that is perfect in… well for me, everything! I almost always add cumin to my bean dishes and it’s also fab in guacamole, chili, Mexican food, and soups. Health benefits: Cumin is often used as a stimulant and for digestive disorders. It contains antiseptic properties and may reduce symptoms of the common cold. Studies have also shown it increases metabolism, boosts the immune system and increase memory or concentration. Basically everything in one neat lil package!
- Fennel seed: Add these suckers to any vegetarian dish and your dinner guests will think there’s meat in there! I swear! Fennel seed is often found in sausages and it has a wonderful earthy and woodsy flavor. Health benefits: In addition to aiding in digestion, studies have shown this miracle seed may relax the uterus and promote natural breast enhancement. No need for a push-up bra when you can have fennel seed ladies ;)
- Red Pepper Flakes: My all time favorite. I might love them more than my beloved cinnamon. (gasp!) I literally carry a jar in my purse. No joke. I add this stuff to basically everything that I eat. Bean dishes, rice, seared tofu, salads, stir fry, roasted or grilled veggies, baked sweet potatoes and squash, salad dressings and dips, etc. What can I say? I’m a spicy kind of girl ;) Health benefits: Aside from the fact that carrying a jar in your purse is a sure-fire way to end a bad date (not that I’ve ever done this… or have I? **wink**) this stuff also contains capsaicin, which is shown to reduce inflammation and discomfort and promote circulation.
There you have it, spiceducation 101. I may have gathered most of this info from a fabulous herbs and spices book that my sweet lil brother got me for my last birthday. He knows me quite well =) Don’t be afraid to add seasoning and flavor because you could be doing your body and your mind a huge favor. Believe it or not some folks take capsules of ginger, dandelion root, cinnamon and cayenne pepper to name a few, to receive the wonderful health benefits these herbs and spices offer.