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How do you use 'good for you' spices in unexpected ways?

I've been reading for years about how great turmeric is, but I eat Indian food only occasionally, and French's mustard only with things that are very bad for me ... so I bought some, and used it in pretty generous quantity in taco meat. It does change the look of it a bit, but it still tastes great. I'm thinking it would also work well in BBQ sauce, sloppy joes ... perhaps I could sneak a bit into spaghetti sauce.

I use cayenne in most things I cook ... I especially like it on lightly breaded/sauteed chicken livers.

Cinnamon I use pretty conventionally ... made an apple crisp this morning with generous quantities.

Ginger I like to add to my balsamic vinaigrette.

What about you?

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  1. I love putting cinnamon into whatever ice cream I eat, which isn't too often. It's great in any chocolate ice cream, especially, and of course, pumpkin ice cream. I use turmeric in any soup I make and rice dishes, those are probably ordinary uses for it, though. Will be interesting to see what others offer. EDIT: I did use turmeric in egg salad last time I made it...I imagine it would work nicely in deviled eggs too, right? Scrambled eggs also!!!

    1 Reply
    1. re: Val

      yep - turmeric totally works in scrambled eggs. i love curry powder or garam masala in egg dishes too - scrambled, egg salad, omelet, whatever!

    2. I like to put ginger in the water I use to steam vegetables. Adds a nice (slight) spicy dimension to the steamed vegetables.

      Then I reserve the water for things like rice, congee, soup, etc. Or I just let it cool and drink it like tea.

      By the way, ginger is great for you. People should use/eat more of it.

      10 Replies
      1. re: ipsedixit

        Yep, I buy fresh ginger every week now...I usually slice it, bruise it and brew it and then add my green tea to it to steep for ginger-green tea...and I like to eat the slices, too, after they're brewed. I didn't add that as an answer here becaused it's more expected than unexpected as foiegras requests. This morning I made chai tea with fresh ginger,whole cloves, cardamom pods, cinnamon, black pepper and black tea, really nice change-up from my coffee.
        It actually got into the 30's last night here in FL...I'll be having some more of that chai in a little while!

        1. re: Val

          Yeah, I eat raw ginger slices as well (although I eat them completely raw, without brewing or steeping).

          Glad to see I'm not the only one!

          1. re: ipsedixit

            eeek...very hardcore...might try it sometime!

            1. re: ipsedixit

              ipse, do you enjoy spicy food in general? i thought only lunatics like me with asbestos palates did stuff like that ;)

              1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                I love spicy food.

                Aside from raw ginger, I also like to eat raw garlic cloves, straight. Just peel and eat. Pop them like M&M's.

                I'm also famous for my Sichuan peppercorn omelet. You can only imagine what that's like!

                1. re: ipsedixit

                  i can't do the raw ginger cloves because my digestive tract tends to punish me for it. but i'm sure i'd love the omelet :) and actually, i'm fighting a rotten cold right now, so i've been od'ing on ginger, pepper and acid because they're the only things that can make a dent right now on my dulled sense of taste! congestion is a Chowhound's worst enemy...

                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                    Ginger, honey and lemon tea does wonders for a head cold.

                    Rest up and get well soon!

                    1. re: ipsedixit

                      thanks. sipping my umpteenth cup as i type ;)

                      1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                        I do the ginger/lemon/honey thing also when congested, usually with black tea but sometimes straight ginger tea works very nicely too...GHG, do you take little steam treatments too? sounds funny...and I think Gomez Adams was always having a towel over his head or something...LOL., but last time I had a cold, that really helped. Don't forget the chicken soup! Feel better!

                        1. re: Val

                          LOL! i totally remember that from the Addams Family :) and did you ever see Crocodile Dundee when he dumps the guy's cocaine stash into a bowl of steaming water because he thinks he's snorting it to treat a cold?

                          ok, back on topic here...the lemon-ginger tea i drink isn't technically tea, just an herbal infusion. and since i haven't had the energy to make my own chicken soup, and i refuse to eat soup from a can, for dinner last night i settled for some leftover lentil soup i had in the freezer - i spiked it with plenty of fresh minced garlic (which i wholeheartedly believe possesses curative power), cayenne, and garam masala.

                          i'm already feeling much better today! i get sick maybe once every two years, and it rarely lasts for more than 3 days. i should be able to taste everything again by tomorrow...assuming i haven't scorched off my taste buds with an overdose of capsaicin ;)

        2. building on ipse's reply, i love ginger. it's great in stir-fry sauces, or in a seasoning rub for meat or fish. it's also wonderful in chutney or preserves. i keep crystallized ginger chunks in the freezer for snacking. oh, and ginger + chocolate is one of my favorite flavor pairings.

          cinnamon is delicious mixed into peanut butter or almond butter. as Val said, it's also a great spice to pair with chocolate... and it works with most root vegetables - not just the standard carrots, yams, winter squash & pumpkin, but parsnips & turnips too. i've also had delicious rice dishes with cinnamon.

          and just to hit the trifecta, i need to point out that cayenne/chile is also great with chocolate. sensing a pattern here? ;)

          1. I love using spices in everything! Turmeric in my yogurt or eggs, cayenne or habanero, cinnamon and allspice mixed with peanut butter in my sanwiches, some kind of hot pepper on/in everything! even tea - yummy and clears out the sinuses. Turmeric is good for the immune system and inflammation so I like to add it to soups and things when i'm sick. Lots of other places for spices too - thanks for starting this thread - love it!

            1. Well I almost always put turmeric on my chicken. In stock and with anything chicken because it takes that "smell" away.

              Cinnamon is good with ground beef, so I'll add a dash when browning minced meat with chopped onions and it gives it the best aroma and flavour/twist.

              Cinnamon is also good with chicken, just rub it all over and bake, easy and delicious.

              One of my new favourite blend is 5 spice, a dash of it here and there is great, even in tea!!

              Fenugreek seeds (ground) are very healthy, good in curries, or try adding a dash of it with paprika when browning some stir fry beef or sausage, or even ground beef.
              the downside with it almost always for most people is that you'll smell like it because it really comes out of your pores.

              Fennel, the seed (ground or bruised in the mortal and pestle) is great with fresh lemon juice, olive oil and salt as a marinade for chicken, yum!

              Cumin is great on fish with fresh crushed garlic (try it!!) it's an egyptian recipe that is super good. Lots of cumin mixed with a paste of fresh garlic, salt and oil rubbed all over a fish steak or a whole fish (inside and out) and grilled or fried. You could also pat the pieces with some flour before frying to give it a crispy coating.

              Things like cinnamon and cayenne (together or separately) can go into brownies or gingerbread. 5 spice too adding more benefit!!

              2 Replies
              1. re: BamiaWruz

                what "smell" bothers you about chicken? The smell of it cooking? Tumeric would be great with chicken - and make it an interesting color, too!

                Tumeric is great in rice - put it in the water when you are cooking and it will come out beautifully.

                1. re: momskitchen

                  Well I don't have a problem with it but some people (family members) are sensitive to the chicken smell, my mother always used this trick and it makes things a lot nicer.

                  I'm guessing it's the "not so fresh" chicken smell or something? Supermarket chickens sometimes have this.

                  I almost always put whole cloves in beef stock. In addition to turmeric with rice a few cardamom pods are great too.

              2. cinnamon of course is great in oatmeal, smoothies, pancakes, waffles, muffins, coffee cakes, etc. it's also great with sweet potatoes or butternut squash.

                gramercy tavern gingerbread has tons of ginger, cinnamon, as well as some nutmeg and cloves... that's good for you right? ;)

                Spinach, Lentils and Beans
                cook lentils til soft
                mix yogurt with tomato paste, seasoning with garam masala, tumeric, cumin, and chile powder.
                saute some onions in olive oil and ginger and S&P, til onions are soft. mix in tomato/yogurt, then fresh tomatoes and cilantros. add in cooked lentils and any other cooked beans you like!

                7 Replies
                1. re: Emme

                  Emme, that Gramercy gingerbread is da bomb! Such a gorgeous cake to make and enjoy! Nice to know it's healthy too! ^__^

                  1. re: Val

                    Anyone have the recipe for the Gramercy Tavern gingerbread?

                      1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                        It's delicious! I make the Smitten Kitchen every December.

                        1. re: newfoodie

                          to clarify, as the issue of assigning proper credit *just* came up in another, unrelated thread, the recipe is not technically from Smitten Kitchen. it was created by Claudia Fleming, the pastry chef at Gramercy Tavern (hence the name of the recipe).

                          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                            I've got to say I am not so smitten with smitten kitchen....so thanks for clarifying.

                        2. re: goodhealthgourmet

                          it rocks. i've tweaked it some just over time, but it's very forgiving and always a hit. it grows better over time. i always do it in 6 mini-loaves... can't say enough great things about the recipe...

                  2. I made a lamb stew yesterday with cinnamon, apricots and prunes. It was wonderful

                    1. You can add cinnamon to your coffee grounds when brewing coffee. Sometimes I add a star anise pod...is that a healthful one?

                      I add ginger slices to my peppermint iced tea in the fridge. I just add tea bags and ginger to cold water and put in the fridge.

                      I'm now adding cayenne where ever I can. Even into bread dough now...not that I make much bread.

                      1. Five spice powder is one of my favorites as well; I put it in brownies and added to orange blondies; also good in chocolate ganache..I love sweet & spicy combinations and use chipotle pepper powder in both sweet & savory dishes like chocolate cake, cheese soup, etc. Also like the smokiness of ancho chile so I use that with sweet dishes like orange glazed chicken, key lime glazed shrimp, baked sweet potato, etc.

                        I like smoked sea salt a lot and use that on raw apple slices, mango, cantaloupe....Add ginger to my home made BBQ sauce...

                        1. I don't find turmeric to have much taste, so I've been sneaking into all kinds of stews, soups, sauces. We've been eating a lot of yellow food. :-) Who knows if the anti-dementia effects will pan out, but I figure it doesn't hurt.

                          1. What about oregano (high in antioxidants)? I'm not doing anything original--just Italian and Mexican dishes.

                            1. I saute cabbage with onions and turmeric. It's delicious!

                              Cinnamon and ginger make their way into all kinds of sweet and savory dishes.

                              1. At the risk of pooping in the punch bowl, I doubt that the amounts of cinnamon, turmeric, and ginger that you'd get by adding them to your food are enough to help your health unless you eat each of them at every meal. I make a point of eating legumes and whole grains daily, and taking turmeric, cinnamon, fish oil, green tea, and niacin, all in capsule form, every day. Cinnamon was the only spice that I could conceivably have eaten enough of in food, but when I tried mixing a half-teaspoon into a few tablespoons of applesauce, it was still too pasty to choke down. Without other meds or dietary improvements, these supplements, plus vigilance regarding dietary fiber, have substantially improved my bloodwork in recent years.

                                7 Replies
                                1. re: greygarious

                                  I take the opposite approach...I don't believe in taking things in capsule form. For one thing, I don't trust what else might be in the capsule as supplements are totally unregulated. I do pay attention to dietary fiber and eat a good mix of fruits and vegetables. The studies regarding anti dementia benefits of turmeric were with completely reasonable amounts (attainable through diet). I'm glad it's worked out for you, but I'm sticking with nutrition through food.

                                  1. re: greygarious

                                    I'm not sure what all the benefits of cinnamon are, but I believe one of the primary ones is its antioxidants. I do take an antioxidant supplement, but studies are quite mixed on whether they do any good at all.

                                    I don't see it as I have to get xyz amount of cinnamon or whatever daily ... I see it as one of the many healthy foods and spices I could be eating. Though right now I'm getting a substantial amount daily as I'm eating fruit crisp for breakfast with a substantial amount of cinnamon in it.

                                    Back in the day there was a seasonal rhythm to the nutrients people got, certain ones during only a brief window each year. So I see no problem with rotating things in and out ...

                                    1. re: foiegras

                                      Cinnamon helps regulate blood sugar but you need at least a half teaspoon daily.

                                      1. re: greygarious

                                        Half a teaspoon of cinnamon is very easy to do (for ME...LOL) .. I probably put more than that in my oatmeal on frequent mornings and just now put about that much in my hot cocoa. I guess it depends on your spice tolerance.

                                      2. re: foiegras

                                        foiegras, here's more information about cinnamon's benefits in addition to greygarious' comment about bloodsugar regulation...it does much more (scroll down after the apple curry recipe):

                                        1. re: Val

                                          Thanks. Here's an interesting quote from the article ...

                                          Recent research suggests cinnamon is one of the best foods (not just spices, but foods) that help in the decrease of harmful intestinal bacteria and fungi.

                                          1. re: foiegras

                                            And a very important quote: too much can be toxic.

                                    2. I wouldn't bother trying to incorporate specific spices into my diet for health reasons. Basically every plant product has some chemical that is "good for you." Some have been discovered and linked to specific health claims. Many, many more have not.

                                      Focusing on macro-nutrients is at least 99% of the health battle. I think it's best to focus your efforts there.

                                      That said, I look forward to this topic continuing anyway!

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: jeremyn

                                        Plus, Alzheimer's/dementia is mostly hard on other people, not you, once you get to a certain point ... but I think I'll forge ahead with the turmeric anyway. What can I say, Buddhists may not approve, but I sure am attached to my fully functioning brain.

                                        1. re: foiegras

                                          I'm trying to be helpful, so I don't think the snarky response is necessary.

                                          My point is that if you try to focus your diet around foods that have proven health benefits, you are likely doing so at the expense of other foods with health benefits that have yet to be discovered.

                                          Add to this the fact that links between specific foods and diseases are generally extremely weak and speculative, and soon you're overflowed with a list of foods that are "good for you."

                                          If you are already in good aerobic shape and eat a healthy, diverse diet, then what you're doing is surely not going to hurt. However, most people would be better off focusing their efforts on eating smaller pieces of cinnamon apple crisp, metaphorically speaking.

                                          1. re: jeremyn

                                            Perhaps those of us thinking about the health benefits of spices are not at all in need of a nutritional sermon? I very much suspect we are paying attention to the larger nutritional picture as well ... but this (spices) seems to be an area where you can get a lot of bang for your buck.

                                            Speaking of health benefits yet to be discovered, I do keep wondering when the good people at Kraft (I guess RJR Reynolds, actually) are finally going to fund a study that shows the amazing benefits of their three-cheese shells. Like the rain forest, a vast untapped resource on aisle 9 ... Especially from a company with so much expertise in the area of health, I can't imagine why this hasn't been forthcoming! I'm waaaaaiting ...

                                            1. re: jeremyn

                                              Jeremyn, I wholeheartedly agree with "If you are already in good aerobic shape and eat a healthy, diverse diet then what you're doing is surely not going to hurt." I do feel that (overall) I eat pretty well, but don't think it hurts to toss in a bit of turmeric. Certainly I don't think any kind of supplement can take the place of eating in a sensible way (and exercising).
                                              My husband and I laugh about which studies we choose to believe. Health benefits of chocolate? red wine? Who wouldn't want to believe that? All things in moderation, and I fully realize that there is no magic bullet to health.

                                        2. I put half a teaspoon of turmeric into my daily pot of green tea. It adds a lovely taste and colour to it! I also sprinkle cinnamon on my oatmeal and in Middle Eastern stews and kebab marinades. I am consciously trying to incorporate spices for their health benefit although I naturally tend to find most foods without spices quite bland. It's about finding the right balance and not overpowering dishes with spices for the sake of it.