Want to enhance your day from the get go? Take the time to eat a breakfast that nourishes your health and indulges your senses. No more plain toast, unadorned oats or simple salt and peppered eggs. With spices you can turn standard morning fare into breakfast that gets everyone off on the right foot!
Make your standard morning fare special, just by adding a few key flavours:
1) Enliven your hot cereal (porridge & other grains) with nuts, raisins and other dried or fresh fruit, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, and vanilla.
- 2) Whether you scramble your eggs or poach them, try a sprinkling of tarragon, basil, marjoram, oregano, dill, parsley, saffron, and/or rosemary, or — if you prefer a more robust breakfast — some curry, coriander, cayenne, cumin, garlic, and/or chives.
- 3) Make muffins or sweet breads over the weekend for a healthful breakfast on-the-go all week.
- 4) French toast looks as if it’s time consuming, but it’s actually pretty quick to prepare and quicker to make special. An added drop or two of vanilla or almond extract and some cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, allspice, cardamom, orange peel or lemon peel will greatly enhance the flavour. These same spices do a great job boosting your batter when you’re whipping up a batch of homemade pancakes or waffles, too.
Each time we exercise we cause microscopic damage to our working muscles, this is followed by inflammation as part of the repair process. The inflammation process should not be prolonged as this can result in injury. Why not try some of the following foods that have anti-inflammatory properties that will help with your recover.
- 1. Fatty Fish
Oily fish, like salmon, mackerel, tuna and sardines, are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to help reduce inflammation.
- 2. Nuts
All nuts are packed with antioxidants, which can help your body fight off and repair the damage caused by inflammation. Nuts (along with fish, leafy greens, and whole grains) are a big part of the Mediterranean diet, which has been shown to reduce inflammation in as little as six weeks.
- 3. Cherries
All fruits can help fight inflammation, because they’re low in fat and calories and high in antioxidants. But cherries have been shown to have high anti-inflammatory properties—possibly because of anthocyanins, the powerful chemicals that give them their rich colour. Cherries have been used to help athletes improve their performance and reduce their use of anti-inflammatory pain meds.
- 4. Dark Leafy Greens
The vitamin E found in these vegetables may play a key role in protecting the body from pro-inflammatory molecules called cytokines. Spinach, kale, broccoli, and collard greens are all packed with vitamin E. Dark greens and cruciferous vegetables also tend to have higher concentrations of vitamins and minerals—like calcium, iron, and disease-fighting phytochemicals—than those with lighter-coloured leaves.
There’s an expression used to define what goes on behind-the-scenes in a restaurant kitchen: “organised chaos.” An efficient kitchen staff operates quickly, quietly, and keeps up with the dance. To do this, chefs have many go-to tricks. Below is a list of some of their secrets that will benefit any home cook.
- 1. Really brown your meat
When a recipe asks you to start by browning the meat, really go for it – it's not the change of colour that's important here, but the flavours it brings with it. Searing meat over a high heat will caramelise the outside, adding an injection of savoury, umami goodness to the finished dish; if you just push it round a warm pan, it'll end up tasting as beige as it looks. Make sure you don't overcrowd the pan either; if the meat starts to steam in its own juices, it will never brown.
- 2. Softening onions takes time
The second step in many recipes is softening the onions, perhaps along with diced carrots, celery or tomatoes depending on what you're cooking. It’s tempting to blast them in the pan for 1 or 2 minutes but perfect results can take 20 – 30 minutes.
- 3. Chicken is almost always the best stock
Unless you're cooking for vegetarians, chicken stock is almost always the best option. Most commercial vegetable stocks taste powerfully of dried herbs, which isn't always a welcome addition to your carefully balanced dish, and beef and fish stocks need strong flavours to balance them.
- 4. Cherish the potato skin
The skin is where most of the flavour is. Don't bother peeling spuds destined for salad, hash browns or cullen skink and peel them after cooking when making gnocchi – you could even parboil roast potatoes along with their peelings. It may sound ridiculous, but it really makes a difference.
- 5. Peeling garlic
Blanch the cloves in boiling water for about 15 seconds and then shock them in ice water. Alternatively, position the broad side of a chef's knife on a clove of garlic. Gently smack the knife with the heel of your hand. You will hear a quiet "crack" when the skin breaks open.
- 6. Vanilla is not the only sweet spice
It's often included by default in baking recipes, and, as good as it is, it's just not necessary in a victoria sandwich or a tiramisu. Let the other ingredients speak for themselves – or ring the changes with nutmeg, cinnamon or ginger instead.
- 7. White sugar is boring
Golden caster or light muscovado will give your chocolate chip cookies, gingerbread men and banana bread a far more complex, interesting flavour. White sugar is, however, useful when making caramel, as the change in colour makes the process easier to judge.
- 8. Don't worry about oven temperatures
The temperature fluctuates in all ovens throughout the cooking cycle, so the dial is really just a guide. It really makes more sense to think in old-fashioned terms – low, moderate and hot – and use your senses instead: if food looks and smells done, it probably is. If you want further reassurance, a food thermometer will give you a far straighter answer than the thermostat in your oven.
- 9. Do worry about serving temperatures
Egg and dairy-based dishes such as frittata, rice puddings and custards taste far better warm than "piping hot". In fact, with the honourable exception of chips, most things do, so don't worry next time you're running late and the moussaka has been sitting around for half an hour – it's how they prefer it in Greece.
- 1. Olive Oil
- Olive oil is one of the best all around ingredients that you must keep in your kitchen in able to achieve healthy cooking at a moment's notice. Unlike other fat sources, like butter or vegetable oil, olive oil is rich in unsaturated fat, which has been found to be essential for good health. Olive can easily be used for frying foods, and it can also be used in a number of other ways, including as a dip for bread, mixed with herbs and spices and used as a sauce for pasta, or combined with balsamic vinaigrette and poured over a salad. Be sure to experiment with different varieties of olive oil in order to find the one that's best for you.
- 2. Applesauce
- Applesauce is another example of a food that is great to include as a staple in your cupboards if you're interested in healthy cooking. Applesauce can be used as an alternative to fats, especially in baked goods such as cakes, bars and cookies. It can sometimes be used as a replacement for refined sugar, due to its natural sweetness. When choosing a healthy applesauce, look for a variety that is made with little or no added sugar, or even better, consider making the applesauce yourself. You'll have a tasty treat that you can be sure is very nutritious.
- 3. Basil
- Consider basil as a replacement for sodium in order to follow healthy cooking principles. Sodium (or salt) is used to season meats, sauces and a variety of other dishes. However, while the inclusion of salt in your meal does not necessarily increase the calorie content, it can cause significant damage to your cardiovascular system, and can also lead to water retention and weight gain. Instead of immediately running for the salt shaker when you need to season your food, consider sprinkling a small amount of basil, or any other herb or spice for that matter, on top of the food. You will be pleasantly surprised at the flavor punch this addition can pack. Always remember when choosing between fresh and dried herbs and spices that the dried version will provide a more concentrated flavor, and therefore you will require less of it for the same taste.
- 4. Spinach
- When looking for a healthy vegetable to include in your cooking, consider spinach. Spinach is not only rich in a number of vitamins and minerals, but also contains fiber, which is essential for good health. Use spinach in salads, with pasta or even stuffed into meats.
- Adding vegetables of any kind to your diet is a step in the right direction, however, cooking processes like boiling or steaming vegetables can cause nutrients to leach out into the cooking water. While steaming can have it's benefits, most nutrients are best preserved when vegetables are eaten raw. Veggies are chock full of fiber and cancer-fighting nutrients, antioxidants and phytochemicals that keep your body's systems in peak shape.
- Veggies can be filling due to their high fiber content. Steaming reduces the amount of insoluble fiber in them. Insoluble fiber is the top cancer-fighter. Some veggies have so much fiber, chewing them well is actually necessary to start the digestion process.
- Antioxidants and Nutrients
- Depending on the vegetable, cooking may actually have added benefits.
- Vitamin C: Vitamin C breaks down almost instantly when it hits the heat. So, when considering steaming vs raw veggies, if high levels of Vitamin C are your goal, raw is best! Toss a few tomatoes on a spinach salad to help get maximum benefits.
- Lycopene: Tomatoes' super antioxidant, lycopene is responsible for attacking free radicals, which help prevent heart disease and cancer. It is also increased when cooked, making marinara sauce an excellent cancer fighter.
- Carotenoids: Carotenoids are the powerhouse antioxidants found carrots, borccoli, zucchini and asparagus. Their levels rise when heated, so a little steam, though it may ruin the Vitamin C, will bring out the beta carotene, making them even more beneficial. Be sure to steam until just al dente. Mushy veggies means that most of the nutrients have left, along with the crunch.
- Plus Side of Steaming
- Don't shy away from your veggie steamer all together. Some nutrients, even in reduced amounts, are more easliy absorbed after a little cooking, most likely resulting in the same or nearly equal net gain of the nutrient after digestion. On top of that, the vegetable may be better digested when it's cooked a bit. Stick to steaming, rather than boiling, and only do so for 30 seconds--1 minute to retain most nutrients, fiber and flavor.
- Ultimate Choice
- When preparing your veggies, try to include both steamed and raw veggies in your meals. Top cooked veggies, like broccoli or baked potatoes, with raw tomato salsa for the benefits of raw tomatoes, herbs, garlic and onions, all of which have significant health benefits.
- When all is said and done, vegetables are healthy and we ned to eat them. If they taste better to you when you cook them, you'll be more likely to consume more, which is the main goal. Although raw and crunchy preserves the most nutrients, steaming isn't necessarily bad. Keep cooking time to a minimum for the nutrient absorption to be at its maximum.