A few years back, I, too, was among those who hated to eat food that had a smell of spice or herb into it. I just thought that it was destroying the natural flavor of my diet. But when a friend introduced me to this wonderful blend of scents and flavors from the spices that she was incorporating into the food she prepares for her family, I began to love everything about them. And that was when I was determined to make it a habit of teaching my husband and children about the many benefits of herbs and spices to our minds and bodies.
I started opening this up to them by telling them about a certain study that I read. It said that consuming foods that are rich in spices and herbs decreases the tendency of the body to respond to foods that are high in fat content. In that particular study, the experimental group that ate food with a few tablespoons of herbs and spices – including oregano, turmeric, rosemary, black pepper, paprika, and garlic powder – has at least a 30% of reduction in fat content levels in their blood compared to those who had the same meals without the herbs and spices. It also revealed a 13%-increase in their antioxidant levels in their blood, which showed a tremendously positive effect considering the relatively small addition to the meals.
While I was telling them this, I, myself, was amazed by the information I was reading out loud. My husband was almost convinced right then and there that we should try doing this in our meals. I further read to them that herbs and spices are what they often call antioxidant powerhouses. Would you believe me when I say that just a teaspoon of cinnamon powder can equal the number of antioxidants that are found in one-half cup of blueberries? Or that a tablespoon of oregano contains the same number of antioxidants as a cup of sweet potatoes? That is astounding, considering that you only need to mix it into your daily meals and don’t have much trouble in doing so! Plus, they add taste, aroma, and color to every dish that you make for your family.
From then on, I did just that. I add a dash of white pepper to our morning eggs or a teaspoon of cinnamon to the kids’ cereals. I add them to just about anything that I cook. Here are some of the herbs and spices and some ways that you can use them for.
Allspice. Allspice can be bought ground or whole, although you will often find it in stores packed ground. Like cinnamon and nutmeg, it can be mixed with sweet or savory meals. It can do wonders when you mix it with a beef recipe, like stew or steak. And mind you, it is also great with fruit puddings, just as I did when I made apple muffins. This spice is quite strong compared to the others, so you might want to start with a dash first, and then get a taste of what you’re cooking so you’ll know how much more you’ll need.
Basil. I so loooove basil! I use it in almost all my pasta recipes, and my kids have learned to love its taste and smell as well. I usually use the dried basil, as it is a lot cheaper than the fresh ones. I’m now trying to grow them in my garden with the hopes that I will be the green thumb that I’ve always dreamed of and so I can use as much basil as I want. I’ll know for sure in the weeks to come. Anyway, basil is great with cheeses and tomatoes. It is a popular ingredient that is used in pesto, which is a staple in Asian and Mediterranean recipes. My family loves it when I add a lot of basil in my baked pork ribs, especially when it’s basted with extra (and extra) butter.
Cardamom. This herb has a strong spicy yet sweet flavor. It’s very aromatic, and those who love it, including me, agree that simply smelling cardamom feels like eating a bowl of your familiar comfort food. Unfortunately, my children don’t like it as much as I do, so I limit my use of it, as it can come really strong when it’s mixed with the simplest kinds of food. Cardamom is an Indian staple and is used in curries, baked goods, and even in tea. An Indian friend of mine prepared kheer for me. It is an Indian rice pudding, and it was the most delicious rice pudding I’ve ever tasted.
Peppers. Red, black, and white pepper, I believe, are something that our family cannot live without. They are in almost everything that we eat – from meals to snacks and even down to the shakes and teas that we have. Peppers are the most commonly used spices in the world because they are full of flavor and add fragrance and beauty to every recipe. My pork, chicken, beef, and fish recipes are all loaded with black peppercorns that not only increase our appetite but also boost our immune system. Our soups are not complete without a few dashes of white pepper to add a kick to the flavors. They are just among the things that I must have in the kitchen.
How about you? Do you love herbs and spices? Do you have a great herb and spice story? Why don’t you share it with us?