Saturday, October 17, 2009

Autumn Warmth

Published on my aromtherapy blog Nov. 2006

Autumn is one of my favorite times of year. Autumn in Georgia has turned out to be fairly short this year. It is usually well into November before it gets really cold here. The overnight forecasts for this week calls for temperatures in the 30's and there has already been snow in some parts of the country.If it is so cold and snowy now, what does the rest of the fall/winter season have in store for us? To help counteract the chill and dampness of this season increasing your intake of certain spices during the winter months may help keep you warm from the inside out.

Chinese medicine, Ayurveda, and Western nutrition all include ginger at the top of their list of warming winter spices. Ginger also calms an upset stomach, aids digestion, and serves as an anti-inflammatory. Ginger can be simmered as a tea, added to soups, stir fries, and meat or chicken dishes, or, for the more gutsy types, eaten raw.

Cinnamon helps soothe mild gastrointestinal conditions such as bloating and preliminary government research indicates that a teaspoon of cinnamon daily may lower high blood sugar. Cinnamon is one of the easier spices to fit into your diet. Simply sprinkle it on oatmeal, fruit, yogurt, ice cream, etc... You can also make a spicy rub to use on seafood or poultry by mixing 2 parts cinnamon, 2 parts cayenne pepper, 2 parts salt and 1 part sugar.

Turmeric is an important health-promoting winter spice. Curcumin, a component of turmeric is being researched for its anticancer properties. A member of the ginger family, turmeric has active ingredients (curcuminoids) and beneficial essential oils that are optimally digested after undergoing cooking. Add 1/2 teaspoon turmeric to pots of homemade soup, especially bean soups, rice dishes, and curries; it goes well with spices like chili powder, cumin, bay leaf, parsley, and oregano. Don't use too much as it can taste bitter.

Cayenne Pepper

Cayenne Pepper is a member of the chili pepper family. It contains capsaicin and warms the body by helping increase circulation. Cayenne pepper should be used in moderation. A pinch of cayenne livens up chili, spaghetti sauce and vinaigrettes.Warming spices are not just good for their flavors—they warm us up from the inside out and are good, healthy ingredients to use even when it's not cold outside.

Recipe: Spiced Chai Latte

's been a brrrr kind of week here in Georgia so far. Most of us will be lighting our fireplaces in no time to beat the chill. This homemade chai tea is filled with herbs that warm you from the inside out. You can experiment with any combination of the spices below and the following: licorice root, fennel seed, allspice berries, bay leaves, nutmeg, orange peel, coriander seed, mint leaves, vanilla bean, and lemon. Once you find a combination you like. Mix it up in bulk and store in a closed jar so it's ready when you are in the mood to whip some up or to give as gifts. You can also coarsely grind the spices up in a coffee grind instead of crushing with a knife. If you will be storing the spice blends, omit the fresh herbs, like ginger, and add them when you are ready to make the tea.

2 cups water or milk
10 to 20 cardamom pods, crushed in a mortar or with a knife handle
3 whole cloves
1/4 tsp. black peppercorns, slightly crushed
1 3-inch cinnamon stick
1 1/2-inch piece of ginger, sliced and crushed with the handle of a knife
4 tsp. loose black tea, such as English Breakfast tea or Darjeeling
honey to taste

Put the milk or water in a 2-quart saucepan and add the spices and ginger. Bring to a boil being careful not to let it boil over. Then lower the heat and simmer for 3 minutes. Add the tea leaves and simmer 3 more minutes. Turn off the heat, cover the pan, and let steep for 2–3 minutes longer (taste to make sure the tea doesn't get too strong), then strain into teacups. Serve with honey or desired sweetener.

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