November 30, 2014

Spices for healthy holiday cooking

The early winter holidays are traditionally a gathering time. Come together with friends and family, slow down and enjoy the peaceful darkness of long evenings. As you circle around the meal table, remember that the light will return at winter solstice, December 21st.

Honor the peace that comes before the light slowly starts returning. Nourish yourself and your loved ones while staying healthy by incorporating these spices into your holiday cooking. You probably already do!

During the colder months, cinnamon increases warmth and circulation and supports efficient digestion of fats and heavy foods. It counteracts the congestion that is often accompanied by dairy-rich foods. Cinnamon also brings relief from the common cold and flu by dissolving mucus and resolving coughs and bronchial congestion. 

Nutmeg is a highly prized digestive aid, commonly added to cheese sauces and creamy desserts. Enjoy it! It mediates the effects of rich food, sweets, overeating and late-night eating. Watch this short video on how to make a vegan cream sauce that mimics the flavor of dairy.

This potent spice comes from a beautiful beautiful tropical bush, the clove bush. It can develop into a large woody shrub. I have seen it growing in the shade of coffee trees in Indonesia. It is antimicrobial and antiseptic, particularly for the gums and teeth. Heavy holiday desserts are known to clog the sinuses and produce mucus. Cloves clear the sinuses, encourage mental clarity and clear mucus. Hence, they are a perfect addition to sweet treats as well as savory dishes.

Try these recipes to incorporate a taste of health into your meals.

Coconut Carrot Rice Pudding

You will need:

1 can organic, full-fat coconut milk
2 cups water
1 cup uncooked long grain brown rice
2 medium carrots, grated
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon each: salt, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger
1/3 cup raisins
2 tablespoons raw honey to finish

In a pot, bring coconut milk, rice and water to a boil.
Meanwhile, grate carrots.
Reduce heat to low; add carrots, vanilla, spices and raisins.
Stir well, cover, and simmer for 25 minutes, until rice is tender. The mixture will still be liquid, like a thick stew. Cook it down more if you like or try it as is.
Remove from heat, stir in honey, and serve in small bowls, perhaps with an extra sprinkle of cinnamon on top.

GET CREATIVE! Two ideas: substitute parsnips for carrots. Instead of raisins, add chopped almonds and dates.

Baked Apples Stuffed With Almonds and Figs

You will need:
1/2 cup dried figs, chopped
1 cup almonds, chopped
¼ cup red wine
6 tart apples
pinch salt
3 tablespoons butter OR coconut oil
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon each: cinnamon and nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Combine chopped figs, almonds and wine in a small bowl. Set aside.
Chop apples in half, remove core, and place right-side up in a greased baking dish that has a lid. If you do not have a lid, cover tightly with aluminum foil.
Fill apples with fig almond mixture.
Whisk together remaining ingredients, pour over apples, seal tightly, and bake for 1 hour. 
Serve with ice cream or whipped cream if you like!

Red wine is rich in resveratrol, which enhances protein digestion, balances blood sugar, and maintains a healthy appetite. 

Pectin-rich apples provide an excellent pre-biotic source of inulin, which feeds the beneficial bacteria in our guts, which lend strong immunity and facilitate effective metabolism.

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