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Day 4: Spicing It Up And Healthy Snacking

Posted Jan 07 2010 2:00am

Two Things Today

Hey y’all! We’re three full days in now…feeling those caffeine withdrawals yet? Mike and I are both doing the Challenge with you all. I can tell you that yesterday was a rough day to have no caffeine. I had another little mishap with the shoulder Tuesday night, only about an hour or so after falling asleep, that ruined my sleep for most of the night. (By “mishap,” I mean that I woke up in intense pain when my left shoulder decided to exit its rightful position, yet again.) But I stuck with the no caffeine rule, even though it would’ve been a nice comfort with my achy arm. So don’t worry, you’re not in this alone. Me and my janky left wing are right there with you.

Yesterday, we all took a look at how we spend our time. Guess what? I spend too much time on the internet doing unproductive things. How about you? What are your time sucks? So with your new-found time, it’s time to get back in the kitchen. Hopefully you’ve been taking to this new (for some of you) cooking thing and trying some new foods, but if not, you will today.

Two quick things today: a brief discussion of herbs and spices and a little bit on healthy snacking.

almonds Day 4: Spicing It Up And Healthy Snacking

Herbs And Spices

While most people don’t give herbs and spices much love, they are really the most important ingredients in my kitchen. I mean, on two consecutive nights, I can have steak and kale, or chicken and a sweet potato, or pork chops and broccoli. And on those two consecutive nights, my meals will taste far different, just by grabbing different herbs and spices. When you think about it, for the most part, most regional cuisines taste different because of the way they are spiced, not because of the main ingredients, which are usually the same types of meat and vegetables.

I think excitement about cooking and eating is at least as important as having a cabinet full of recipes. I find that keeping things interesting in the kitchen makes it more likely that I’ll spend time there eating right. I’m not one of those people that can eat the same meal three times a day and be fine with it. So I’m always trying something new. Sometimes it’s a recipe, sometimes it’s just grabbing and creating…science meets art. So really my goal here is to tell you to make sure you don’t get bored.

For tips on buying and storing herbs and spices, see this article: How To Buy Herbs And Spices. And for a run-down of my favorites, check out Eight Essential Herbs And Spices In My Kitchen. Finally, there’s a big list of herbs and spices in our shopping list if you’re looking for some ideas.

Healthy Snacking

Part 2 of this quickie post is about snacking. It’s important to be prepared for the inevitable hunger that’s going to strike, especially if you’re not super-strong with the willpower just yet. What do you do when you walk through the breakroom and see a box of Dunkin’ Donuts staring you in the face. By “being prepared,” I don’t mean having $.75 sitting on your desk so you can get to the vending machine more quickly either. Doritos and Twinkies aren’t going to cut it.

I’m talking about apples, oranges, and bananas; almonds and cashews; hard-boiled eggs; beef jerky. Vegetables like carrots and celery work well here, but I’ll be honest, I don’t snack on those. The first thing I usually do when I walk in the door, before I even start thinking about dinner, is grab an apple and eat it with some almond butter (or this awesome Coconut Peanut Butter from Tropical Traditions) and a couple hard-boiled eggs. That takes the edge off so I can relax a bit before I get to cooking.

In Tuesday’s comments, lel posted a link to a recipe that can make your almonds a bit more flavorful. It looks really good to me: Ginger Almonds. I can eat almonds by the truckload, but I’m always keen on giving things new flavors.

If you’re looking for something different, check out Steve Liberati’s Paleokits, which go to support his non-profit in Camden, NJ: Steve Liberati’s Paleokits.

If you’re not a snacker, ignore everything I just said since the last heading.

Task For The Day

Okay, another pretty easy task for the day, but what I’m trying to get you to do is realize that you don’t necessarily need a recipe to get things done in the kitchen. I like to use recipes as a starting point, but a lot of times I just start putting things together to see what results.

Today, you are going to go buy spices you’ve never used before. I don’t care how many. 1, 2, 5, whatever you can afford. Here are a few ideas: allspice, turmeric, cloves, cardamom, and fennel. Blends like garam masala are fair game too. A couple of those have been recent additions to my spice rack and none of them were there more than 2 years ago. If you’re someone that has a well-stocked spice rack already, you probably have your go-to spices that you run out of constantly and then there are the ones that sit collecting dust. We want the dusty ones.

So start throwing things together and find a new favorite combination. Cumin and cinnamon. Anise and nutmeg. Cilantro, allspice, and tamari. Note, I have no idea how those combinations will taste. It’s just the kind of experimenting that I do when I’m making something. Throw stuff together and see what happens. As I said Tuesday, it will probably be edible, it might be amazing (or in need of just a little tweaking) and most likely won’t be deadly, so get to it.

Here’s a video we posted about a month ago with Antonio Valladares and Donna Sonkin with a fairly haphazard, “grab what’s nearby” type of recipe. It’s how I cook most of the time, which is probably why I enjoy it so much. Check it out here: Cooking Tips

herbs and spices 300x225 Day 4: Spicing It Up And Healthy Snacking

What are your go-to spices and what are some new ones you’re going to experience?

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