Thursday, November 5, 2009

Herbs in the Kitchen - The Simple Helpers

A well stocked kitchen should include ingredients for health as well as for taste.  An example of ‘Let Food be your Medicine’ is East Indian cooking.  Every ingredient is there for a health benefit.  The bonus is that these foods taste wonderful.

Healthy foods should balance the body temperature, discourage microbes (non paying tenants),  enhance digestion by improving glandular secretions, and increasing nutrition.

Ginger is a vastly under-rated remedy for nausea or stomach upset, especially when the digestive system is sluggish, or overloaded.  It is simple enough to add it to the hot oil when making a stir fry, or peel it and cut in slices and add hot water for tea.  One can even grate it and then squeeze it to get all the juice out of it.  This juice can be added to flavour food or add to warm water.  In the Oriental 5 Element tradition, the small intestine is in the Fire Element.  Ginger is warming to the body.

Mint is another wonderful simple that aids digestion and cools the body.  Mint can be easily used for tea in either the dried or fresh form.  I like mint in just about anything; a topping for rice or noodles, in salads, on top of vegetable dishes.  It is a summer essential for me.

Licorice, the root, not the candy, is great energy food and nourishment for the adrenals.  It can be chopped and added to hot water to make a tea.  It is also available in tincture form.  The taste is sweetish, and makes a nice tea.

Fennel is often recommended for digestion when there is bloating and gas.  Fennel too is great energy food.  Fennel seeds are made into a tea.

Something valuable, but smells awful and tastes worse, is Valerian root.  This is excellent for nourishing the nervous system and relaxing the muscles.  Whenever tension is noticed, even tension in the neck muscles or one feels ‘wound up’ and headachy, valerian is a wonderful aid.  Athletic remedies for runners and athletes often combine magnesium and valerian.  Being the wimp that I am, I usually put valerian tincture drops in an empty capsule.

Onions and garlic are wonderful for keeping us healthy during the winter.  My once had a Polish boyfriend who called garlic ‘Polish penicillin’.

Eating beets is a simple way of getting more absorbable iron in our diets.  Boil oat straw and make a tea out of the water.  This is high in absorbable  calcium and other minerals.  Nettles is a great herb to have on hand.  This makes a nice tea and is rich in iron and minerals.  Nourish the body with horsetail, comfrey leaves, and alfalfa leaves.

Any culinary herb has anti-microbial properties.  Thyme, Sage, Oregano, Summer Savory, Basil, Rosemary are great herbs to have on hand.  I grow them in pots outside my kitchen door.  Oil of Oregano was been touted as a powerful anti-microbial.  During the winter, I make a Greek salad by putting a drop or two into my salad dressing.

You should never have to compromise health for taste.  Conversely, often the best tasting meals are those made with good health in mind.

One Pot Vegetarian Rice Meal
¼ to ½ Cup Oil
1 tsp black mustard seed
1 tsp whole cumin
Sliced fresh ginger
1 clove garlic mashed
1 medium onion diced

1 large carrot diced
2 small pieces cinnamon bark
2 whole cloves
1 tsp cumin ground
1 tsp coriander ground
1 tsp turmeric or any good curry powder
¼ cup sunflower/pumpkin seeds or almonds/cashews
¼ Cup large flake coconut unsweetened or fresh coconut
2 Cups Basmati Rice (817 Elephant Brand)
3 cups water with  2 Morga Soy Cubes or vegetable stock

½ chopped fresh parsley
1 apple diced

Heat oil and add mustard seed.  When they begin to pop add cumin and fry until golden.  Add ginger, garlic, cinnamon pieces and cloves and sauté a couple minutes.  Add onion and sauté for a couple of minutes.  Add carrots and sauté a few minutes more.

Add uncooked rice and sauté stirring continually.  Add more oil if you need to.  Sauté until golden and fragrant.

Add ground cumin, coriander, turmeric, curry powder, coconut, nuts and seeds and sauté for 1 minute adding small amounts of water to prevent sticking.

Add water quickly and soy cubes stirring to dissolve cubes and bringing the water to a boil.

Add apples and parsley on top, cover and turn heat to minimum.  Cook 20 minutes.   Be careful that you don’t overcook.  The rice should be firm not mushy. 

This dish can have any ingredients you prefer.  It can be cooked in the oven in a rice cooker or stove top.

I have made this meal many times when I would swear that I hadn't any food left in the house.  Lo and behold, fast food, and healthy!

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