Healthier living, one day at a time!

Spice Up Your Life With Flavor, Not Empty Calories

This time of year is full of temptation when it comes to foods!  Fall is filled with socializing with friends and family, and that tends to be accompanied by sugary, calorie laden foods.  If you are trying not to gain weight and, more importantly, stay healthy, this can be a difficult time.

Next time you are craving something, try reaching for a food that is full of flavor instead of empty sugar calories or processed ingredients.  Using herbs, spices, and other seasonings will help flavor your food without adding extra sodium, calories, sugar, or fat.  Not only that, but herbs and spices can be healthful as well as flavorful.  Many combat chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease by regulating blood sugar levels, combatting inflammation and improving cholesterol levels.

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

Here are a few of my favorite herbs and spices and some ways I use them.  I encourage you to experiment with new flavors.  They may become your new favorites too!

Cinnamon is my all time favorite.  Studies have documented its ability to help regulate insulin levels and lower blood pressure.  I use it in desserts as well as dinner recipes.  It helps bring out the sweetness in foods and has a sweetness all its own.   I use it to spice up Roasted Pumpkin Seeds for a delicious healthy snack (something I have a lot of this time of year!) and use it in my Cinnamon Almond Crackers.  For breakfast, I might add it to a morning smoothie (Apple Pie Smoothie or Cinnamon Rolls for Breakfast) or a hot porridge (Evey's Breakfast Porridge.)  I also make an awesome snack bar recipe (Pumpkin Pie Bites.)  The ingredients can also be used to make this delicious Pumpkin Mousse.  One of my all time favorites though, is Cinnamon Parsnips.  I had never tried roasted parsnips before this recipe.  When they are roasted their natural sugars caramelize. Adding cinnamon brings out the intense sweet flavor.  I like to mix the parsnips with an equal amount of carrots to get a variety of flavors.

I have recently come to appreciate thyme as a seasoning.  I have found it is very easy to grow in a pot along with oregano and basil.  I add it to my salads (fresh or dried), but I really like cooking with it!  One favorite recipe is Greek Chicken that pairs the oregano and thyme for a fail-proof, guest worthy dish.  I use this for roasting a chicken whole or using chicken parts.  Pair it with basil to make a wonderful Roasted Ratatouille.

Sumac is a new addition to my spice cabinet (which has started bulging at the seams!)  It is deep red in color, a little bit spicy with a hint of tangy lemon.  It’s flavor comes out when it is not cooked.  I like to sprinkle it onto my salads or as a finish on top of my home-made hummus.   It would be great in with this Chickpea Salad with Red Onion, Sumac, and Lemon recipe too. 

Some of my favorite spice blends include Chinese 5 Spice Powder and Zaatar. 

I discovered Chinese 5 Spice when I made Chinese 5 Spice Pistachios for a party appetizer and snack.  I was addicted ever since.  If you ever have had Korean BBQ ribs, you are already familiar with this complex flavor.  The mix consists of star anise, fennel, clove, Szechwan peppercorns and cinnamon.  I buy mine from an international grocery store, but you can find it in gourmet or Asian markets as well.  Here is a simple, quick recipe for 5 Spice Chicken.  I use olive oil with a bit of toasted sesame oil in place of the peanut oil.    I have also seen similar recipes for mild fish, and looking forward to trying it used this way.

I am still discovering uses for Zaatar.  I was introduced to it when I traveled to Israel a couple of years ago.  Different countries use different spices to make up their blends.  Originally, zaatar was made with the dried wild plant by the same name, but this plant is now a protected species due to over-harvesting.  Today, zaatar can be a mixture of any number of herbs.  The one I like is green in color and contains holy hyssop, salt, and sesame seeds (I love anything with sesame seeds in it, it seems!) Some mixes use lemon zest or sumac.  I haven’t tried it with sumac, but since I like sumac and sesame seeds, it might become a new favorite! 

I like to sprinkle Zaatar on my morning eggs.  You can also sprinkle it on salads, or add it to a tuna salad.  It can be used as a dry rub for fish or chicken, or added to marinades for grilled or roasted vegetables.  It can also be added as a savory balance to the sweetness of an oven-roasted winter squash and as a secret ingredient in hearty soups.  Great for the winter months we are entering.  Here is author Yotam Ottolenghi's Roasted Butternut Squash recipe.  I think this would even taste great without the tahini sauce on it! 

Whew!  That's a lot of recipes.  I am heading into the kitchen right now to make some of these.  Just thinking about them stimulates my taste buds.  Hope you will enjoy them too.  Let me know if you try them!  I love hearing from you.

Yours in Health,



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