March means 2 things: spring is on its way and National Nutrition Month (NNM) is here. NNM is a celebration of picking, buying, tasting, savoring….FOOD! In light of this year’s theme is “Savor the Taste of Eating Right”, here are some of my favorite herbs and spices to use in my cooking followed by some flavorful recipes. Enjoy!
Parsley-Helps to activate a powerful antioxidant, glutathione, to help the body rid of excess toxins. It is also a great source of folic acid, an important B vitamin essential that ensures healthy cell division.
Basil-Is a great source of magnesium and vitamin K, two nutrients important for bone health.
Ginger–Is a warming spice with immune boosting, anti-inflammatory and digestive benefits. Ginger has been shown to be even more effective than Dramamine for motion sickness. In addition, studies show that gingerols, the active ingredient in ginger, may prevent the growth of colorectal and ovarian cancer.
Cilantro-Is traditionally used in Indian and Latin cooking. Cilantro not only adds a flavor boost but also protects against the foodborne illness, Salmonella.
Turmeric-Is a powerful spice with a variety of health benefits. Studies show that turmeric helps to prevent cancer cells from getting into the blood supply and growing and may even protect against Alzheimer’s and heart disease. Its anti-inflammatory properties make it similar in effectiveness to NSAIDS like advil.
Rosemary-Is protective against dangerous gut bacteria, like H. pyrlori as well as staph infections. Studies show that marinating meats with rosemary helps to decrease hetrocyclic amines, a cancer causing toxin found in the char marks.
Oregano-Contains thymol and carvacol, two essential oils that have natural anti-fungal and antibacterial properties. Oil of oregano also can help combat the flu and yeast infections.
Cinnamon-Plays a role in blood sugar control. There are 2 main kinds of cinnamon: Ceylon and cassia. Cassia cinnamon is the one you typically see in the store. Ceylon cinnamon is also known as “true cinnamon” and is preferable over Cassia. Ceylon is free of coumarins, a chemical that could be toxic to the liver in large amounts.
Garlic-Contains sulfur compounds that increase blood flow, are anti-microbial and protective against stomach cancers. Slice it at least 5 minutes before exposing to heat to preserve the beneficial phytochemical: allicin. Garlic also has many general uses: mix with water and natural soap to spray on plants as a natural pesticide, ruba sliced clove on acne to help control pimples.
Indian Tomato Chicken
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 slice fresh ginger root
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1 (1 inch) piece cinnamon stick
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 6 skinless chicken thighs
- 1 (14.5 ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, crushed
- Place onion, garlic and ginger in a food processor and process into a paste. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat, add onion paste and saute, stirring continuously, for about 10 minutes.
- Stir in the cumin, turmeric, salt, pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, bay leaves and nutmeg. Saute, stirring, for 1 to 2 minutes. Place chicken pieces in skillet and stir them around with the spice mixture until they are well coated.
- Saute for another 4 minutes, then pour in the tomatoes with liquid and stir. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 1 to 2 hours, or until the oil has separated from the liquid. Stir occasionally. (Note: If you simmer uncovered, the sauce will thicken; add water, or keep covered while simmering.)
Spaghetti squash with avocado pesto
- One 4-5 pounds spaghetti squash halved and with seeds scooped out
- 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1/4 cup fresh basil
- 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice, or more to taste
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium ripe avocado
- Water, to thin out (I use around 2-3 tbsp water)
- Fine grain sea salt, to taste (I use between 1/4-1/2 tsp)
- Black pepper, to taste
- Preheat oven to 375F. Wash spaghetti squash and place on an old tea towel (this helps prevent it from slipping) or cutting board. Slice off stem, flip cut side down, and then carefully slice it in half, lengthwise. Remove seeds + squash guts and set aside.
- Brush the cut-sides with oil and then season with salt and pepper. Place cut side down on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for 35-45 minutes, depending on the size of the squash. Squash is ready when the strands scrape off with a fork fairly easily. My 5 pound squash took 40 mins.
- Meanwhile, make the avocado sauce. Add the garlic and basil to a food processor and mince. Now, add in the lemon juice and olive oil and stop to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
- Slice avocado in half and pit. Scoop out the flesh and drop it into the processor with the motor running. Add water, 1 tbsp at a time, to thin out the sauce as needed. Stop to scrape down the bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste and process again. Feel free to add more lemon or oil, adjusting to taste, if desired.
- When the squash is ready, flip over and allow to cool slightly so it’s safe to handle. Grab a fork and scrape off strands of squash until you have two empty “shells”. Place strands onto a plate (or just serve in the shells), season with s & p, and top with the avocado sauce. Sauce will keep for 1 day in the fridge in an air-tight container