Spice Up Your Holiday Season!
by Stacey Tress
‘Tis the season! With the winter cold upon us, we begin to turn inwards to our homes and that usually means to the kitchen. There’s something very nostalgic and comforting about walking into the house after say, shovelling the driveway, to be greeted by the wafting aroma of fresh baked apple pie, or homemade chicken soup, or butternut squash puree with coconut, or “insert your favourite comfort food here.” What is it about these dishes that bring back such pleasant memories?
Besides tasting delicious, these aromatic dishes can also be nutritious. That pleasing smell coming from the apple pie is usually a result of the herbs cinnamon and nutmeg (and, of course, apples!); that yummy chicken soup is full of healing nutrition from the onion, carrot, herbs (garlic, ginger, thyme, sage, rosemary) and broth; the butternut squash puree aroma is a result of the herbs fennel and cardamom. Isn’t it wonderful just how many herbs and spices are out there—and better yet, having yummy and simple recipes that showcase some of these healing herbs!
This article will highlight some interesting facts and health benefits for a selection of herbs and then offer some suggested recipes to try. Let loose this holiday season with your health in mind! Invite family and friends to gather around your table while you share good food and make memories.
Herbs—Facts and Health Benefits
Cinnamon is a powerful spice that has been used medicinally around the world for thousands of years. It is still used daily in many cultures because of its widespread health benefits, not to mention its distinctly sweet, warming taste and ease of use in recipes.
According to researchers, out of 26 of the most popular herbs and medicinal spices in the world, cinnamon actually ranks #1 in terms of its protective antioxidant levels!
The unique smell, colour, and flavour of cinnamon is due to the oily part of the tree from which it grows. The health benefits of cinnamon come from the bark of the Cinnamomum tree. This bark contains several special compounds which are responsible for its many health-promoting properties including cinnamaldehyde, cinnamic acid, and cinnamate.
Researchers have concluded that the health benefits of cinnamon can be obtained in the form of its pure bark, in essential oils, in ground spice (which is bark powder), or in extract form when its special phenolic compounds, flavonoids, and antioxidants are isolated. These compounds make cinnamon one of the most beneficial spices on earth, giving it antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic, antimicrobial, immunity-boosting properties as well as protective benefits against cancer and heart disease.
Nutrition Benefits of Cinnamon
One tablespoon of ground cinnamon contains:
0 grams of fat, sugar, or protein
4 grams of fibre
3% Vitamin K
A little bit of cinnamon goes a long way and its antioxidant abilities are what make it especially beneficial to include in your diet. As little as 1/2 of one teaspoon of cinnamon daily can have positive effects on blood sugar levels, digestion, immunity, and more. One of my favourite natural remedies for cough/cold is to take 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon with 1 tbsp raw honey (take as needed).
Garlic is a plant in the Allium (onion) family. It is closely related to onions, shallots, and leeks. It grows in many parts of the world and is a popular ingredient in cooking due to its strong smell and delicious taste. (Side note—my father-in-law grows the BIGGEST and the BEST garlic—I may be a bit biased, but am I very lucky to have pretty much unlimited access to it! If you’re looking for local chemical-free garlic and are in the Yorkton/Regina area, I do highly recommend The Garlic Garden (Anna Schaab)—she’s amazing and so is her garlic!).
However, throughout ancient history, the main use of garlic was for its health and medicinal properties. Its use was well documented by all the major civilizations... including the Egyptians, Babylonians, Greeks, Romans, and Chinese. The entire “head” is called a garlic bulb, while each segment is called a clove. There are about 5–15 cloves in a single bulb, give or take. We now know that most of the health effects are caused by one of the sulfur compounds formed when a garlic clove is chopped, crushed, or chewed.
Check this out—the new buzzword when discussing nutrition and cancer is phytochemicals. These are compounds within natural food that have been proven to retard cancer development and growth. “At almost every one of the steps along the pathway leading to cancer,” says epidemiologist John Potter of the University of Minnesota, “there are one or more compounds in vegetables or fruits that will slow up or reverse the process.” Here is garlic’s contribution—garlic and onions contain compound allylic sulfides, which work by waking up enzymes that detoxify cancer-causing chemicals in the body. (Broccoli, cabbage, chili peppers, citrus fruits, berries, and tomatoes are also uniquely awesome and full of phytochemicals!)
My favourite way to enjoy garlic is to roast the entire head. (I know that eating raw has the maximum health benefits.) I just drizzle it with olive oil and pop it on a pan and into the oven at 300º–350ºF for about an hour. Fresh baked sourdough bread smeared with roasted garlic “butter”…OMG, delish! And another way to enjoy its medicinal properties is to crush it up and take with raw honey. So now we’ve got two remedies with raw honey (cinnamon and garlic)… hmmm, maybe I need to do an article on honey soon.
Nutrition Benefits of Garlic
A one ounce (28 grams) serving of garlic contains:
Manganese: 23% of the RDA
Vitamin B6: 17% of the RDA
Vitamin C: 15% of the RDA
Selenium: 6% of the RDA
Fibre: 0.6 gram
Decent amounts of calcium, copper, potassium, phosphorus, iron, and vitamin B1
Health Benefits of Fennel Seeds
Fennel symbolizes longevity, courage, and strength. In addition to its use as medicinal values, it has many health benefitting nutrients, essential compounds, antioxidants, dietary fibre, minerals, and vitamins.
Fennel seeds indeed contain numerous flavonoid antioxidants like kaempferol and quercetin. These compounds function as powerful antioxidants by removing harmful free radicals from the body, thus they offer protection from cancers, infection, aging, and degenerative neurological diseases.
Fennel seeds also are a rich source of dietary fibre—100g of seeds provide 39.8g of fibre. Much of this roughage is metabolically inert insoluble fibre, which helps increase the bulk of the food by absorbing water throughout the digestive system and easing constipation problems. Further, dietary fibres bind to bile salts (produced from cholesterol) and decrease their re-absorption in the colon. It thus helps lower serum LDL cholesterol levels. Together with flavonoid antioxidants, fibre composition of fennel helps protect the colon mucosa from cancers.
Fennel seeds are composed of health-benefitting volatile essential oil compounds such as anethole, limonene, anisic aldehyde, pinene, myrcene, fenchone, chavicol, and cineole. These active principles in the fennel are known to have antioxidant, digestive, carminative, and anti-flatulent properties. (You may enjoy a cup of Fennel Tea after a heavy holiday meal!)
Butternut Squash Puree with Coconut (Kaddu Bharta)
Preparation time (after assembling ingredients): a few minutes
Cooking Time: 15 min.
1 large butternut squash, freshly baked or steamed
4 tbsp unsalted butter
2 teaspoons fennel seeds, crushed
1/2 tsp cardamom seeds, crushed
1–2 tsp hot green chilies, seeded and minced
2–3 tbsp jaggery or maple syrup
3 tbsp cream (optional)
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup shredded coconut and/or chopped hazelnuts, toasted in a 300ºF oven until golden
2 tbsp lime juice
Cut and peel the squash. If it has been baked whole, scoop out the seeds and fibres. Place the pulp in a bowl and puree with a potato masher or in a food processor.
Heat 3 tbsp of the butter in a 12-inch nonstick frying pan over moderate heat. When it is hot and frothing, add the fennel seeds, cardamom seeds, and green chilies. Within seconds add the squash puree, syrup, cream, and salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until thickened, about 5 minutes. Before serving, garnish with coconut or hazelnuts, the remaining butter, and sprinkle with lime juice.
Cinnamon Roll Coffee Cake
Prep Time: 10 min. Bake Time: 50 min.
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
3/4 cup sour cream
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1-1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1-1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
4 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp cream cheese, softened
2 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
- Preheat oven to 350ºF and grease and flour a 9-inch springform pan. The pan must be at least three inches high on the sides. Set aside.
- Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together until it is pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
- Add sour cream, eggs, oil, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Beat until smooth. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Slowly add dry ingredients to mixer. Beat just until the dry ingredients are combined. Be careful not to over-mix. Spread the batter into the prepared pan.
- To make the filling, combine the melted butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon together. Spread the filling over the top of the cake batter. Use an offset spatula to make sure the layer is evenly distributed. Using a knife, go back and forth to make swirls in the filling. This should give a “marbled” effect.
- Place pan on a sheet pan and bake for 45–50 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Remove cake from oven and cool cake on wire rack for 30 minutes.
- For the glaze, combine all of the ingredients together with a whisk until smooth. If the glaze is too thick, continue adding an additional 1/2 tablespoon of milk until it is the desired consistency. If the glaze is too thin, continue adding an additional one tablespoon of confectioner’s sugar (icing sugar) until it is the desired consistency.
- Remove cake from springform pan and place on serving platter. Drizzle glaze evenly over the top of the cake.
Herbs for Common Ailments, Anne McIntyre
Herbs to Homeopathy, Michael Smith
Living Foods for Optimum Health, Brian Clement with Theresa Foy DiGeronimo
Credit for Recipes
The Best of Lord Krishna’s Cuisine—Favorite Recipes from The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking, Yamuna Devi
Stacey Tress, a Holistic Nutritional Therapist (HNT) and Young Living Essential Oil Distributor (#2282633), lives in Rhein, SK with her husband and two daughters. She is the owner of Garden Therapy Yorkton which offers fermentation workshops, permaculture design work, organically-grown produce, and more! She also offers essential oil support and carries a wide variety of Young Living Essential Oils and products for sale. To learn more, call 306-641-4239, email: email@example.com, www.gardentherapyyorkton.ca, or on Facebook “Garden Therapy Yorkton.” Also see the display ad on page 9 of the 23.4 November/December issue of the WHOLifE Journal.