How To Spice Things Up When Cooking

Large collection of metal bowls full of herbs and spices -How To Spice Things Up When CookingHerbs and spices are used to enhance the flavor of food, either it be for cooking Spaghetti Carbonara or baking an apple pie.

An herb or spice can be a seed, fruit, root, bark, berry, bud or leafy part of the plant. They are principally used for flavoring food among other uses. They can be used fresh or dried.

Herbs And Spices Through The Ages

It is said that by the Middle Ages, the most common spices and herbs being traded and used were black pepper, cinnamon (including the alternative cassia), cumin, nutmeg, ginger and cloves.

Herbs and spices are useful for many things, among others are medicinal uses, cosmetic or perfume production uses, and of course they are used add flavor to a meal.

By 1000 B.C. medical systems based upon herbs were found in China, Korea, and India. Also the Egyptians used herbs and spices for their embalming practices and their demand for exotic herbs and spices helped stimulate world trade.

Extracting A Spices Flavor

The flavor of an herb or spice is derived by exposing the volatile oil compounds of the seed or leafy part, that oxidize or evaporate when it comes in contact with air.

As an example, fresh ginger is usually more flavorful than its dried form, but fresh spices are more expensive and have a much shorter shelf life.

Flavor of herbs and spices can be maximized by storing them whole and grinding when needed, as grinding greatly increases its surface area and so increases the rates of oxidation and evaporation.

If you decide to use dried spices, be sure to use them within 6 to 8 months of purchase. Ground spices are better stored away from light, as it also increases the oxidation of the volatile oils.

metal bowls filled with spices

How To Use Herbs And Spices

When using herbs and spices you’ll want to pick flavors that complement each other, such as the spice mix known as “pumpkin pie spice.”

The ratios of cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg add great flavor to the pie, and each spice doesn’t over power the other.

The key or rule of thumb to spicing things up is that less is more. Avoid adding too much all at once. Instead, add a little at a time and add more to taste.

A good example of over spicing and unable to fix it, is when you use oregano or cloves. Their volital oils are great for flavoring culinary and pastry dishes, but they are strong in flavor, and only require a small amount.

When using spices to flavor your meat or vegetables, use only 3 different types at a time.

You can even use herbs and spice to replace salt. Choose your spice or spices, add a little lemon juice and unsalted butter.

Which spices pair well together for the best culinary dishes you can make?

Let’s examine some of the most commonly used spices and which spices pair well with them. LINK HERE

Greek Yogurt Dill Spread with Ham and Red Cabbage On Wasa Crisp Bread

Greek Yogurt Dill Spread with Ham and Red Cabbage On Wasa Crisp Breadmultigrain Wasa crackersWasabröd is a Swedish company that is the largest producer in the world of Scandinavian style crisp bread.

Wasabröd produces a wide variety of crisp breads, with the original crisp bread made of rye. Other additions since 1919 include sesame,wheat, oats, flax seed, and other grains. Like matzo, Wasa is noted for its shelf longevity.

Wasa crisp bread is popular during the EuropeanOktoberfest‘ (a festival that takes place from mid-September through October).

Oktoberfest comes once a year, with vibrant music, over-flowing beer, sausage, and colorful German costumes. It is a festival held every Fall to celebrate German heritage, and includes lots of great finger foods.

Our featured recipe is an inspiration of the German festival and the Wasa crisp bread: Greek Yogurt Dill Spread with Ham and Red Cabbage On Wasa Crisp Bread. Here is what you will need.

Prepartion per serving:

1 multigrain Wasa crisp bread

2 teaspoons Greek yogurt dill spread

1/4 cup chopped red cabbage

1 fresh basil leaf, medium to large

1 slice uncured lunch meat, your choice, without nitrates

steps to preparing food ingredients with Wasa crisp breadYou can find the recipe for the Greek yogurt dill spread by linking here: Greek Marinated Chicken with Butter Leaf Lettuce Salad.

Prepare the yogurt-dill spread. Cut basil leaves from stems and wash (pat dry). Spread yogurt-dill onto a piece of Wasa crisp bread. Next top with a slice of lunch meat. We used a smoked black-forest honey ham. Next top the meat with a fresh basil leaf, and top that with the red cabbage.

multigrain wasa with cabbage - ham - and a greek yogurt dill spreadYou don’t need to wait util the next Oktoberfest to enjoy this healthy and awesomely delicious finger food. When making your shopping list be sure to include a package of Wasa Crisp Bread (your favorite), and the accompanying ingredients. Oh, and it makes a great party favorite finger food.

For more great ideas to topping Wasa Crisp Bread link here: Wasa – Since 1919.

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Apple Whole Wheat Bread Strata with Cream Cheese Glaze

Apple Whole Wheat Bread Strata with Cream Cheese Glaze

Strata or stratta is a layered casserole dishes founded in American cuisine.

Strata is most commonly found among other prepared brunch dishes or recipes. Strata is compared to a quiche or frittata, made from a mixture which mainly consists of bread, eggs and cheese, including cream cheese.

Some bakers or cooks have even prepared strata with meat or vegetables.

Now for our featured recipe: Apple Whole Wheat Bread Strata with Cream Cheese Glaze, and here is what you will need.

Ingredients for the strata:

1 -24 oz. loaf of 100% whole grain bread

3 medium baking apples, peeled, cored, and sliced into 1/4-inch wedges

8 large eggs

2 cups whole milk

1/3 cup lightly packed dark brown sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Ingredients for the glaze:

3 ounces cream cheese

2 tablespoons honey

2 tablespoons whole milk

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

 

Line the bottom of a 9 x 9-inch glass or ceramic baking dish with organic parchment paper, and brush the sides with organic unsalted butter.

Unpack the bread, and use all of the slices less the ends. Cut the crust off each piece, and set the crusts aside.

Line the bottom of the prepared baking dish with half of the crust-less bread. Layer apple slices on top of bread, and layer remaining bread slices over the apple.

In a medium bowl, mix the eggs, milk, brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Whisk until well incorporated. Pour the egg mixture over the apples and Apple Whole Wheat Bread Strata with Cream Cheese Glaze - slicebread. Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil, and refrigerate a 1 to 2 hours, or longer (If you wish you can remove strata after refrigerated time, leaving foil over dish, and let set for 30 minutes before baking).

Heat Oven to 350 degrees.

If you haven’t already done so, remove strata from the refrigerator, and place into heated oven with foil still over the dish.

Bake for 35 minutes, if the strata was room temperature or for 45 minutes if coming straight from the refrigerator. Remove foil, and bake for additional 15 minutes.

In a small sauce pot over medium heat, mix cream cheese, honey, milk, and vanilla. Continue to stir until cheese is melted and glaze is formed. Pour glaze over warmed strata. Spread glaze with back of a wooden spoon until evenly distributed.

Let sit 10 minutes. Sprinkle with organic powered cinnamon, and serve with apple slices and blueberries if desired.

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Honey Roasted Nuts

Honey Roasted Nuts

A part from being a mouthwatering snack, honey roasted nuts have nutritional benefits as well.

Nuts have protein, fiber, antioxidants and mono-saturated fat. It’s the fat that protects you from chronic heart disease. Some studies have reported that consuming one ounce of nuts daily reduces the risk of developing diabetes.

To receive the value of 6 grams of protein in Almonds you need to eat one ounce (about 24 nuts). There is also the benefits of vitamin E and the trace mineral magnesium.

To get 4 grams of protein from Cashews it is also one ounce (about 18 nuts) along with these trace minerals: selenium, magnesium, phosphorus and iron.

Twenty halves of pecans will give you 3 grams of protein along with vitamin B-1 for energy and the trace mineral zinc.

Now let’s get to roasting!!

Here is what you will need:

ingredients for Honey Roasted Nuts

In a medium bowl pour in three cups of mixed nuts, almonds, cashews and pecans. Pour 1/4 cup of honey over the nuts. Cut up 3 tablespoons of butter into small chunks
and disperse over nuts. Add 3 teaspoons of orange zest and sprinkle in the 1/2 teaspoon mixed cinnamon and nutmeg. To make it a better choice snack for the health of your heart replace the butter with 3 tablespoons of coconut oil (read our article about: Adding a Little Zest).

mixing all ingredients together for roasting

Next place bowl into microwave for 4 to 7 minutes. The time will depend on your microwave. I was able to roast the nuts in 4 minutes. Half way through the roasting stir
the mixture up. Place back into the microwave and continue to roast. While you are waiting place a sheet of parchment paper onto a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan.

preparing  finished roasted nuts for cooling

When nuts have finished roasting, remove the bowl and pour nuts out over parchment paper. Allow the nuts to cool for about 20 to 30 minutes.

adding sugar, dried cranberries and dried coconut
Next, with clean hands break up cooled roasted nuts and place into a large bowl. After you have broken apart the roasted nuts add about 1/4 cup or less of sugar (optional). The amount of sugar is to your liking. Mix up the nuts to coat them with the sugar. The amount of dried cranberries and shredded coconut is also to your liking. I added two handfuls of cranberries and two handfuls of coconut. Now mix in these additions until well incorporated.

Take your Honey Roasted Nuts and place them into a jar or container with a tight fitted lid. Enjoy!!

Honey Roasted Nuts packed into a Jar

You can have Honey Roasted Nuts with your next party or dinner gathering along with these other favorites Party Favorites .

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Orange Almond Cake

Orange Almond Cake

Orange zest is a way to bring orange flavor to a dish without the bitterness that whole orange peel can bring.

The zest is the outer part of the peel and can be shaved from the fruit with the use of a zester (very fine shavings) or cheese grater (shavings are a bite larger).

The use of zest not only adds the most aromatic part of the orange fruit to your dish, it does so unobtrusively.

Different uses for orange citric peel include among others,

Candied Orange Peels

Citrus zest is added to flavor confectionery icing.

Orange zest is used in cheesecakes.

Here is what you will need to prepare the Orange Almond Cake:

ingredients for Almond Orange Cake

For the cake
1 ½ cups dry roast almond pieces, processed to flour
4 large eggs, at room temperature, separated
½ cup honey
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt

Candied Oranges and Syrup
1 ½ cup Sugar
¾ cup water
2 or 3 medium oranges, thinly sliced

Start with candying the oranges first. Cut the ends off both sides of the orange and cut into thin slices.

Heat the sugar and water in a large skillet over medium heat, stirring until sugar has dissolved.

Add oranges and cook over low heat for 15 minutes until candied.  Set aside.

Candied oranges for the Orange Almond Cake

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Prepare a 8 inch cake pan or spring-form pan spreading butter on sides of pan and lining the bottom with parchment paper.

From a room temperature stick of butter, cut off one tablespoon. Using a spatula spread the butter over the sides of the spring-form pan (coconut oil can be used).

preparing spring-form pan with parchment paper and buttering the sides

Next roast the almonds. 

To toast whole almonds, spread on a light colored baking sheet and bake at 350°F, mix nuts around once, roast  7 to 9 minutes or until they start to smell fragrant.

When you smell the fragrance of the almonds and continue to roast them, they will have a burnt flavor.  

roasting almonds to make almond flour

The 7 to 9 minutes depends on the calibration of your oven. Hint: gas ovens will roast faster than an electric oven.

Roasting the nuts makes a finer flour. As the image shows here not roasting the almonds makes a gummier flour and will not work will to prepare the cake.

differenc of almond grind fromroasting and not roasting

After you have processed the nuts prepare to assemble the ingredients.

Orange Almond Cake step by step

Beat the 4 egg yolks, ½ cup honey, vanilla, baking soda and salt in a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until well combined. Add the ground almond flour and beat on low until combined.

Beat 4 egg whites in another large bowl with the electric mixer on medium speed until very foamy, white and doubled in volume, but not stiff enough to hold peaks, 1 to 2 minutes.

It is important that there is no hint of yolk in the whites or they will now whip up.

The bowl cannot have any water in it or oil as well as the attachments to the electric mixer. The whites will not whip up.

Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the nut mixture until just combined.

With the candied oranges fill the bottom and line the sides of prepared cake pan.

lining spring form pan with candied oranges

Next scrape the batter over the oranges evenly, taking care to not move the oranges slices.

Bake 38-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cake should have the appearance of golden brown.

Remove cake from spring form pan onto a large dessert platter by inverting it. Then pour syrup over the cake while it is still hot. 

Set cake aside to cool completely before plating and serving.

Orange Almond Cake

Orange Almond Cake

For the cake

1 ½ cups dry roast almond pieces, processed to flour

4 large eggs, at room temperature, separated

½ cup honey

1 tsp. vanilla extract

½ tsp. baking soda

½ tsp. salt

Candied orange and syrup

1 ½ cup Sugar

¾ cup water

2 or 3 medium oranges, thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 350 ° F

Heat the sugar and water in a large skillet over medium heat, stirring until sugar has dissolved. Add oranges and cook over low heat for 15 minutes until candied.  Set aside.

Prepare cake pan spreading butter on sides of pan and lining the bottom with parchment paper.

Process dry roasted almonds pieces in a food processor or blender until finely ground.

Beat 4 egg yolks, ½ cup honey, vanilla, baking soda and salt in a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until well combined. Add the ground almond flour and beat on low until combined.

Beat 4 egg whites in another large bowl with the electric mixer on medium speed until very foamy, white and doubled in volume, but not stiff enough to hold peaks, 1 to 2 minutes. It is important that there is no hint of yolk in the whites or they will now whip up. The bowl cannot have any water in it or oil as well as the attachments to the electric mixer. The whites will not whip up.

Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the nut mixture until just combined.

With the candied oranges fill the bottom and line the sides of prepared cake pan. Next scrape the batter over the oranges evenly; taking care to not move the oranges slices.

Bake 38-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cake should have the appearance of golden brown.

Remove and unmold cake onto a large dessert platter by inverting it. Then pour syrup over the cake while it is still hot. Set cake aside to cool completely before plating and serving.

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The Smoke Point of Oils

Smoke Point of Cooking Oils

 All oils used in cooking contain varying smoke points. That is the temperature at which they start to smoke and break down.

Heating the oil beyond this point can cause toxic fumes and free radicals that are able to harm your body.

The more refined the oil, the higher the smoke point.

The following image shows the healthiest oils to consume as well as their smoke point.

Healthiest Oils to consume

Avocado oil when refined has a smoke point to 500 degrees.

Almond oil also is a high heat oil to 450 degrees as well as coconut oil to 450 degrees.

Extra virgin olive oil only has a smoke point to 350 degrees. Olive oil is best used as a salad oil or dipping oil.

Remember: Anytime you cook with oil, you risk overheating it, which can lead to the formation of unhealthy compounds. When your oil starts to change color, that’s a sign that it’s starting to degrade from to much heat.

Seed oils are not healthy for consumption. These include: corn, soybean, canola oil, sunflower, grape seed, and safflower.

Most vegetable oils today are made from GMO’s or Genetically modified Organisms. Many independent scientific studies have shown them to be toxic to our bodies.

Canola Oil, Vegetable Oil, and Corn Oil are oils high in omega 6 fatty acids, which in excessive amounts are actually bad for your heart.

For more information read these related articles: Food Breaking News  –  Livestrong – Health risks of Corn Oil   –  Health Line News – USDA Clears the Way for Corn, Soybeans Able to withstand an Herbicide in Agent Orange

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