Feel Better with Ginger

Ginger Rhizome

Calming, spicy, curvy, flavor packed. This pretty much sums up ginger.  You may want to pick some up before your next date … between its exotic flair, bold taste and stomach calming capabilities, it’s damn sexy. Ginger is an interesting ingredient that often goes over looked yet it is usually both a key element and soft undertone in any curry or teriyaki dish. The undertone that usually makes you stop and think “mmmm, what is that”? In my opinion, this root gives a dish that put together taste, like some well placed accessories. As in fashion, too many bold statement pieces can put an outfit over the edge or in this case too much ginger can overpower your dish! Use with taste and grace for the perfect combination. My favorite way to use ginger is by grating a bit into a curry, stir-fry, or soup!

One of my favorites, carrot-ginger soup! Delicious and relaxing.

Insider tip: Store ginger in the freezer in a plastic bag. Freezing prevents the root from fraying at the ends. Next time your recipe calls for freshly, grated ginger, you will be able to grate with ease!

Prevent the fraying!

Spicy Profile: Ginger
Country of Origin: Southeastern Asia
Significant roles in the Chinese, Japanese and Indian culture since 1500’s!
Current Producer: In 2005, China was the lead producer. Additionally, the U.S., India, West Indies and tropical regions largely contribute.

Scientific Name:  Zingiber Officinale

Healing benefits: Most noted for it’s anti-nausea effects:  indigestion, morning sickness, motion sickness and nausea associated with chemotherapy. May contribute to fighting inflammation, cleanse the colon, and reduce spasms and cramps. With its strong antioxidant profile, it is an effective antimicrobial agent for sores and wounds. Protects liver and stomach. May aid in arthritis, fever, headache, hot flashes, muscle pain,  and may induce anti-platelet effects (blood thinning). Good for circulatory problems.

Ginger for Chemotherapy Related Nausea:
A study published in 2009 that tested the benefit of using ginger to prevent post-chemo nausea found:

“In result, all doses of ginger significantly reduced nausea and the largest reduction in nausea occurred with 0.5 g and 1.0 g of ginger.” Note: this study used ginger in a  concentrated pill form.

Kim, Kidong and Ryu, Sang-Young. “Major Clinical Research Advances in Gynecological Cancer 2009”. Journal of Gynecology Oncology. December 2009; 20 (4) 203 – 209.

Nutrient Profile:
Vitamins: A, Thiamin (B1), Riboflavin (B2), Niacin (B3), Pyridoxine (B6), C
Minerals: Calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, zinc
Phytochemicals: beta-carotene, caffeic acid, camphor, capsaicin, chlorogenic acid, curcumin, gingerols, lecithin, zingerone
Other: Amino acids, essential fatty acids

Parts used: Rhizomes (horizontal stem) and roots

It's all in the root!

Fun Fact: Gingerbread roots back to the ancient Greeks who used to follow a big meal with a piece of ginger wrapped in bread. This was used as a digestive aid and over time the ginger was incorporated into the bread. Over time, sugar was mixed in to create the sweet treat.

Yum!

Ginger is a creeper … a perrenial that grows about 3 feet long!

How to use it: Stir fry it, grate it, boil it into a tea, soup (carrot-ginger), candied ginger  for an upset stomach, gingerale

Candied-Ginger

Selection and Storage: Available year round, choose robust firm roots with a pungent, spicy fragrance and smooth skin. Select roots that are not cracked or withered. Either store in plastic bag or tightly wrapped paper towel in the fridge for 2-3 weeks

Caution: Not recommended with anticoagulants (Warfarin, Coumadin) or those who have gallstones. Not recommended for extended use during pregnancy. Please talk to your doctor before taking ginger supplements.

I hope you enjoyed this spicy and interesting root! I encourage you to seek out some ginger inspired recipes and share. Check back next week for delicious ginger dish!

Have you or someone you know used ginger for medicinal or feel-good purposes?

Keep it Spicy,

RDMeg

Sources:

Complimentary medicine for pregnancy complications

http://www.racgp.org.au/afp/200609/20060906woolhouse.pdf

E. Ernst and M. H. Pittler. Efficacy of Ginger for nausea and vomiting: a systematic review of randomized clinical trials British Journal of Anastesia. 84 (3), 367-371.

Holistic-Online: Ginger http://www.holistic-online.com/Herbal-med/_Herbs/h61.htm

Mayo Clinic: Ginger (Zingibe officinale Roscoe) http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/ginger/NS_patient-ginger

Categories: Spices | 2 Comments

Can You Handle This? Cayenne Pepper

Sweet potatoes already provide a flavor burst on their own, but what happens when you bake them to an airy crisp and throw some cayenne pepper in the mix? Your taste buds experience an explosion of spicy and sweet that leaves you wanting more. Can you handle that?

Sweet potatoes are already rich in things like vitamin A, fiber, potassium and beta-carotene BUT before we dive in to eat, let’s check out what packs the punch in: CAYENNE PEPPER!

Spicy Profile: Cayenne Pepper

Country of Origin: Central and South America
Current Producers:
Some of the top include: China, Turkey, Nigeria, Spain & Mexico

Scientific Name:   Capsicum frutescens or C. annum

Healing benefits: Aids digestion, improves circulation, stops bleeding from ulcers. Antioxidant activity aids in the prevention of free radical damage that can lead to cancer. May prove beneficial for the heart (cardiovascular disease), kidneys, lungs, pancreas, spleen and stomach. Useful in arthritis and rheumatism. Helps ward off colds, sinus infections and sore throats. Good for pain when applied topically. When used with lobelia may help nerves. Acts as catalyst for other herbs.

Nutrient Profile:
Vitamins: Thiamin (B1), Riboflavin (B2), Niacin (B3), Pantothenic acid (B5),
Pyridoxine (B6), C, E
Minerals:
Calcium, folate, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc
Phytochemicals:
Alpha & Beta-carotene (can be converted to Vitamin A)*,
caffeic acid, campesterol, capsaicin**, carvone, caryophyllene,  citric acid,
kaempferol, limonene, lutein, myristic acid, p-coumaric acid, quercetin,
stigmasterol, zeaxanthin
Other:
Amino acids, essential fatty acids

*Most rich in these nutrients
** Main anti-inflammatory, antioxidant

Parts used: Berries (the dried pods of chili peppers)
Flavor Notes: Hot!

How HOT are we talking? HOTT

Below is the Scoville Heat Units scale with interpretation:

  • Mild: 0 to 5,000 SHUs
  • Medium Hot: 5,000 to 20,000 SHUs
  • Whew! Hot!: 20,000 to 70,000 SHUs
  • Really, Really, Hot: 70,000 to 125,000
  • Really, Extremely Hot: 125,000 to 500,000
  • Really, Extremely, Uncomfortably, Shockingly Hot: 500,000 to 1,250,000
  • Devilish Hell Fire, I-Wish-I-Were-Dead Hot: 1,250,000 to 16,000,000 SHUs

Fun Fact: Can be dusted around plants as a natural insecticide! In 1597, the hot and dry substance was used for skin and throat infections. In the 1800’s it was thought to counteract  rheumatism, arthritis, depression, chills, treat tumors, toothaches, fevers, and respiratory conditions. Part of the nightshade family.
How to use it:
Try adding it to salsa, guacamole, dips, omelets, pasta dishes….add it to anything you want to give a little kick!

Caution: Avoid contact with eyes.

Wow, did you check out all those anti-inflammatory phytochemicals?! I bet you know a few, see if you can guess which foods they are rich in:

Beta-carotene …………………………………………………………….Carrots, Sweet Potatoes
Lutein and zeaxanthin……………………………………………..….Broccoli, leafy greens
Help fight macular degeneration
Quercetin………………………………………………………..…………Black and green tea, onions, berries

“Largest reduction in energy intake was observed when capsaicin was administered orally compared to gastrointestinal stimulation, suggesting that sensory stimulation by capsaicin is of importance to the total response.”

Reinbach H.C., Smeets A., Martinussen T et. all. “Effects of capsaicin, green tea and CH-19 sweet pepper on appetite and energy intake in humans in negative and positive energy balance.” Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2009 June; 28 (3) 260-265.

This means it is better to eat it than take a pill!

Let’s eat!

These sweet potato chips were great, so great, every time we took a batch out of the oven they were gone before the next batch was done. We could only bake one small pan at a time, as you see below……………….but still, you get the idea?

Sassy Sweet Potato Chips

Ingredients:

1 sweet potato, washed, dried, thinly sliced
Cayenne pepper or seasonings of choice (cinnamon?!)
1 TB of Olive Oil

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F
  2. Arrange sweet potato slices in a single layer onto non stick baking sheets
  3. Mist lightly with olive oil or brush a thin layer of olive oil on top
  4. Sprinkle on cayenne pepper
  5. Bake in preheated oven about 8 minutes, then flip chips and bake for another 7 minutes – watch for edges to curl upwards to know they are done!

Slice up the potatoes! Working with the Mandolin.

Sweet Potato Chip Goodness!

Tips:
Try not to let the cayenne pepper clump…..to save your tongue
Does anyone know a good way to do this?
The thinner the potatoes are sliced – the crispier the chip!
Keep your eye on them so they don’t burn, every oven is a bit different

These were great, but for something a little bit sweeter I am looking forward to trying this recipe out in the near future.

My potatoes came out well sliced due to one of my favorite kitchen tools, the mandolin. No… it’s not an instrument, even though it is A sharp ….. anyway it will make your life a lot easier! Careful, remember, it is extremely sharp! Check it out below:

Mine is not as fancy but I love it just the same!

Sweet potato chips with cayenne make for a tasty snack and give you a healthy boost. Don’t you want to do your body a favor?

Keep it Spicy,

RDMeg

What is your favorite kitchen tool?
What dishes do you like to spice Cayenne Pepper with?

Categories: Recipes, Spices | 1 Comment

Charismatic Cumin

The spicy highlight of this week is, yes, you guessed it, cumin! Being one of my favorite spices, I opted to try something a little different in my cooking adventure rather than my normal cumin routine. I made cumin infused jasmine rice. The warm, rich, sultry flavor  cumin can impart on many dishes (including my rice dish!)  gets me every time! What a versatile spice too –  it plays a starring role in Indian inspired, Thai or Mexican cuisine. Enjoy!

Country of Origin: Egypt but grown in the Middle East, India, China & Mediterranean
Scientific Name
:         Cuminum cyminum

Healing benefits:        Stimulant, astringent and supports digestive health. Used as remedy against indigestion, flatulence (a carminative), nausea and diarrhea. May have anti-carcinogenic properties including free radical scavenging abilities and the ability to enhance the liver’s detoxification enzymes.

Nutrient Profile:
Vitamins: Thiamin (B1), Vitamin A, Niacin (B3)
Minerals: Iron*, Manganese*, Calcium, Potassium, Magnesisum, phosphorus, copper
Phytochemicals: Limonene
*Most rich in these nutrients

Parts used: Seeds – resembles caraway seeds,  in the same family as parsley & dill

Flavor Notes: Peppery and nutty flavoring

Fun Fact: In addition to flavoring, in ancient times, cumin was mentioned in the Bible as a
currency used to pay tithes to the priests and as an ingredient to mummify pharaohs. It is also a symbol of love and fidelity – people were known to carry cumin in their pockets when attending wedding ceremonies
Some Uses: Mexican, chili, refried beans, cumin tea (boil cumin seeds), curry

Allahghadr T, Rasooli I, Owlia P, et all. “Antimicrobial Property, Antioxidant Capacity, and Cytotoxicity of Essential Oil from Cumin Produced in Iran.” Journal of Food Science. 2010; 75 (2).

Cumin Infused Rice

Ingredients:

2 TBSP vegetable oil
½ teaspoon cumin, seeds or ground
1 ¾ cup water
1 cup jasmine rice

Directions

  1. Heat vegetable oil over medium heat.
  2. Sprinkle in cumin powder, lightly mix, heat for 1-2 minutes
  3. Add Jasmine rice, stir and fry for 1 minute – careful not to let the grains burn
  4. Add water, bring to a simmer, cover and cook for 15 more minutes.
  5. Fluff with fork and serve!

Ground Cumin

Cumin in Oil                                                               Frying the rice

Finito!

If given the choice at Trader Joe’s I would have bought brown jasmine rice but they were out so I bought white. Jasmine rice has such wonderful flavor and aromatic qualities.  I imagine the flavors from the cumin would complement brown rice even more due to its’ light nutty flavor.  Frying the rice gives it a nice toasted flavor as well, but let’s just say mine was a bit heavy on the toasted flavor (I burnt the rice a bit, oops!). It still came out very tasty, I am looking forward to my leftovers! Only adding the cumin was not flavorful enough for me however the original recipe that I used called for cumin seeds so that may have made a difference. In the last five minutes the rice was cooking, I sprinkled in some dry minced onion, a little salt and another sprinkling of cumin. It came out delicious. I would definitely make this again but probably only use 1.5 TBSP oil. This “spicy” rice really jazzed up what otherwise may have been a boring meal with my fish and veggies. Added bonus, the rice only took 20 minutes and was so easy to make!


Cumin infused rice, green beans and fish

Keep it spicy!

RDMeg

How do YOU like to use cumin?

Do you have a favorite dish or food you like to use cumin in?

Categories: Recipes, Spices | 1 Comment

The 411 on Artificial Sweeteners

Aspartame. Saccharin. Sucralose.

Aspartame compound

What do these three names have in common?They are artificial sweeteners and have attracted quite a crowd of controversy since their birth.  Are these non-nutrtive sweeteners safe and what are the long-term effects? What happens if I drink that diet coke everyday? Let’s find out …

In short, Aspartame was developed in 1965 when a scientist studying new treatments for gastric ulcers accidentally licked a sweet compound off his hand that had been ejected from his experiment. Thus, Aspartame was born.  200 times sweeter than sucrose (table sugar) and marketed as Equal or NutraSweet, aspartame was approved by the FDA in 1981 as a table top sweetener and in 1996 as safe for all purposes. Are you eating some sugar-free candy, sipping some sweet diet soda or chewing gum right now? Chances are you may be consuming aspartame or another type of non-nutritive sweetener.

Ok, but how does this effect me?

According to the American Dietetic Association (ADA), aspartame consumption is not associated with adverse effects in the general population. To reach this conclusion, they evaluated numerous studies and developed conclusions based on the scientific evidence.

In terms of weight loss, according to the ADA, aspartame does not affect appetite or food consumption. Thus, consuming calorie free beverages (such as diet coke) in place of sugar-sweetened beverages (regular coke) is a potential calorie saver. So what they are saying is that the consumption of artificial sweeteners (Splenda, NutraSweet, equal, etc) does not cause a person to eat other food in order  make up for the lost calories from the “calorie free, artificially sweetened” food item or beverage. You follow? While supporting evidence is strong for it to be generally considered as safe, the evidence is limited for whether or not non-nutrative sweeteners may or may not cause a person to find their lost calories elsewhere. With limited evidence, I find this last statement to be non-conclusive and further research needs to be conducted.

I recently came across a study published in 2008, entitled “The Potential Toxicity of Artificial Sweeteners” that offers up some good information and gives us a second opinion on the matter. Let’s take a look at some of the more common artificial sweeteners highlighted in this study and their effects:*

*Whitehouse CR,  Boullata J and McCauley LA. “The Potential Toxicity of Artificial Sweetners.” AAOHN J. 2008 Jun;56(6):251-9.

So we see the short-term (acute) effects and long-term (chronic) effects. What can we gather from this chart? I’m thinking some good ole gastrointestinal distress! – or a gassy gut if you will, mixed in with some nausea and diarrhea. Doesn’t that sound fun? I didn’t think so either. In my opinion I find there are enough things out there to cause bloating and if I can’t avoid artificial sweeteners to avoid these unpleasant side affects, I think I will! It is important to keep in mind not everyone will experience these symptoms. Is it worth checking into how your body reacts? Think about it.

In conclusion, these sweeteners are approved by the FDA as “safe” yet studies show various symptoms associated with consumption of these artificial sweeteners that may cause discomfort or illness.

Where do natural sweeteners such as Stevia fit in you ask?

Good question. I recently had the opportunity to taste a Stevia leaf. I personally can not stand the taste. It tasted like chemical sweetness that grew slowly with strength in my mouth. What can I say, I am partial to honey anyway.  The stevia plant, sometimes marketed as “Truvia, Only Sweet, PureVia, Reb-A, Rebiana, or Sweet Leaf” is 300 times sweeter than table sugar. In 1995, stevia was approved by the FDA as a dietary supplements and in 2008 as a food additive.

Stevia Plant

The Bottom Line: These items are FDA approved yet may cause some side effects.

I am a big fan of eating organic and eating from the earth, and by earth, I mean things that are natural. Things that were originally found on earth the way nature intended and not altered in a lab. For persons who experience altered or impaired blood glucose control, the benefits of non-nutritive sweeteners may out weigh the risk. For the general adult population, I believe in eating foods in proper proportions to promote satiety (feelings of satisfaction and fullness) and balanced eating, which may include natural sugar or raw honey. Evidence is somewhat lacking for artificial sweeteners and by consuming natural foods in balanced proportions, artificial sweeteners could be one less thing to worry about.

Do you consume artificial sweeteners? Have you ever noticed any side effects?

Thanks for stopping by!

RDMeg

Categories: Hot!Topics | 10 Comments

A Cinnamon Update

Sri Lankan Cinnamon Tree

I am in the process of developing an easy to read format that conveys fast facts. Not sure
which format I like yet but I thought I would give this one a try.  I updated the cinnamon format of the “Cinnamon Spice and Everything Nice” post which is found below. Which do you prefer… this style or paragraph form?

Cinnamon

Country of Origin: Sri Lanka
Scientific Name
: Cinnamomum zeylanicum
Old World Uses: Meat preservation, treat coughing, hoarseness and sore throats. Used in ancient Egypt for embalming!
Fun Fact: A study by Alan Hirsch, M.D. at the Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago found cinnamon scored high as an aphrodisiac for males.

Healing benefits: Antibacterial, antifungal, antimicrobial, and anti clotting properties. Relieves diarrhea and nausea, congestion, aids peripheral circulation, enhances digestion (especially fat metabolism), helpful in diabetes, yeast infection and uterine hemorrhaging
A word on Diabetes:
Cinnamon may enhance the ability of insulin to metabolize glucose which may help control blood sugar levels. Some diabetics have added 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon per day to their daily diet, proclaiming favorable results. Cinnamon works as an insulin sensitizer and anti-oxidant.

Nutrient Profile:
Vitamins: A, Thiamine (B1), Riboflavin (B2), Niacin (B3), C
Minerals: Calcium*, Chromium, Copper, Iodine, Iron*, Manganese*, Phosphorus,
Potassium, Zinc
Other
: Fiber, Phytochemicals including: beta-carotene, camphor, cinnamaldehyde, and limonene to name a few.

Parts used: bark, leaf

Other Notes: Some commercial ground cinnamon is actually a combination of cinnamon and cassia. This is permitted with no restriction by most countries, including the U.S. Both Cassia and cinnamon are derived from the bark of evergreen trees and are thus members of the same family. However, cassia has a stronger flavor and less is required in volume to flavor. Cassia may be a better choice for savory dishes rather than sweets.
Caution: Should not be used in large amounts during pregnancy, may be linked with miscarriages. Caution intake with liver damage, see your doctor first.

* Rich in these nutrients

Curr Diab Rep (2010) 10:170–172

Categories: Spices | Leave a comment

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