Herbs and Spices: Natural Weight-Loss Food

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Herbs and Spices: Natural Weight-Loss Food

There are dozens upon dozens of herbs and spices, from commonplace black pepper to more exotic turmeric and cardamom. But all share two unique features: they add incredible flavor and aroma to food, especially low-salt dishes where flavor can sometimes be lacking.

Herbs and spices are necessities in the fight against fat. Too often, they are relegated to attractively labeled but rarely used bottles on revolving spice racks. This is unfortunate, because using the right blend of these taste enhancers produces delicious, low-calorie dishes that will make it easier to stick with your new weight-loss-friendly eating habits.

Health Benefits

Most dried herbs and spices are low in calories, providing about 4 to 7 calories per teaspoon. So feel free to use them even if you are following a low-calorie regimen. Some are surprisingly good sources of nutrients. Paprika is an excellent source of vitamin A, parsley is rich in vitamin C, cumin is an unexpected source of iron, and caraway seeds even contribute a little calcium to your diet.

New research findings suggest that several herbs are also rich sources of antioxidants that may possibly prevent the growth of cancer cells and protect delicate arteries from oxidizing damage that begins the buildup of plaque. Among them: allspice, basil, clove, coriander, dill, fennel leaves, mint, nutmeg, parsley, rosemary, and sage.

Aside from their nutrient and antioxidant contents, there are many health claims made for individual herbs. Here are but a few: Mint relieves gas and nausea; cinnamon enhances insulin’s activity; oregano has antiseptic properties; sage contains compounds that act as antibiotics; thyme is said to relieve cramps. Most, however, have not been scientifically proved.

Selection and Storage

In our opinion, fresh is best. But it’s not always easy to find fresh herbs. Farmers’ markets are your best bet. Supermarkets may carry them year-round in small, clear plastic containers or bags. You may find them through internet Web sites, or you can grow your own windowsill herb garden. In any case, buy fresh herbs only as you need them. Wrap them in damp paper towels, place in a plastic bag, and refrigerate or store in their plastic containers. They should last a few days to a week.

When fresh aren’t available, dried will do. Store dried herbs and spices in airtight containers, away from heat and light (over the stove is the worst spot). Dried herbs will keep for a year. Whole spices, like cloves or cinnamon, keep much longer. The flavor of dried herbs tends to fade faster than that of dried spices.

Preparation and Serving Tips

Becoming acquainted with herbs and spices is a must if you’re committed to low-salt cooking. When you remove salt, a lot of flavor goes with it. That loss of flavor can be masked with herbs and spices.

If you’re a novice at using herbs and spices, start by using only one or two per dish. If you’re using fresh herbs, don’t be shy. Their flavors are often subtle, and it usually takes more than you think to flavor a dish. With dried herbs, however, a little often goes a long way, so use judiciously. Start with about 1 teaspoon until you get a better feel for the amount you like in dishes. If you’re cooking with fresh herbs, wait until the end of the cooking time to add them, so they’ll retain their delicate flavor. Dried herbs and spices, on the other hand, hold their flavor well — even under intense heat.

If you’re looking to add herbs and spices for a genuine multinational dish, try using fresh cilantro for a distinctive Mexican flavor. For Asian flavor, use fresh chopped ginger. Get Italian flavor with fresh basil.

To flavor your food, reach for herbs and spices rather than high-sodium table salt. Be sure to read the labels of seasoning mixes because some contain salt.


Barbeque: Grilled Banana Split


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Cheer up your BBQ party with a Grilled Banana Split

YIELD: Makes 2 servings


  1. 1 large ripe firm banana
  2. 1/2 teaspoon melted butter
  3. 1/2 teaspoon liquer ( optional )
  4. 1 cup sugar-free ice cream syrup
  5. 2/3 cup sugar-free vanilla ice cream
  6. 2 tablespoons sliced almonds, toasted


  1. Spray grid with nonstick cooking spray. Prepare grill for direct cooking
  2. Cut unpeeled bananas lengthwise; brush melted butter over cut sides. Grill bananas, cut side down, over medium-hot coals 2 minutes or until lightly browned; turn. Grill 2 minutes or until tender.
  3. Combine syrup and liqueur, if desired, in small bow
  4. Cut bananas in half crosswise; carefully remove peel. Place 2 pieces banana in each bowl; top with 1/3 cup ice cream, 1 tablespoon chocolate syrup and 1 tablespoon almonds; serve immediately

NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION: Serving Size: 1/2 of total recipe

Fiber 2 g | Carbohydrate 33 g | Cholesterol 3 mg | Saturated Fat 1 g | Total Fat 5 g | Calories from Fat 22 % | Calories 198 | Protein 5 g | Sodium 59 mg

DIETARY EXCHANGE: Fruit 1-1/2 | Starch 1 | Fat 1


EN – Brunch: Jewel salad

Coming to the end of the year, is time to add a bit of flash and color to your food.

The skies are in your country perhaps low-hanging and weepy. The days are short, getting shorter.

Each fall and winter, there is a must for all manners of dried fruits, juicy citrus, and rosy pomegranates. They work beautifully in salads, including this jewel-inspired ensemble.

Mixed leafy salad greens, wild rice, toasted hazelnuts, dried figs and pluots are combined in a big bowl and then tossed with a simple ginger juice vinaigrette spiked with just a hint of jalapeno. It’s festive with enough going on flavor-wise to keep people guessing.

The key to an amazing salad is seeking out the very best lettuce you can find. In this instance a blend of red romaine and little gem lettuces is great. Avoid bagged, pre-washed lettuce – it often smells off. I baby my lettuce all the way home, making sure other groceries don’t smash or bruise it.

To clean it; tear the lettuce into manageable, bite-sized pieces, wash it gently in cold water, and then spin it dry. If not using it immediately, re-bag it with a clean (lightweight) dish towel and place it back in the crisper until I’m ready to toss the salad.

Ginger Jeweled Salad Recipe

Feel free to substitute other dried fruit if it is more convenient. Just try to imagine if it will pair nicely with ginger and go from there. I also do my best to seek out unsulphured dried fruit when we are shopping in our ” Tesco Lotus ” superstore in Ubon Ratchathani. As mentioned before, in this instance use a festive combination of leafy red romaine lettuce along with some little gem lettuce, but buy whatever lettuce looks the most vibrant at the store.

Feel free to make the vinaigrette the day before.

  1. 1 tablespoon fresh ginger juice, made by grating a 4-5-inch piece of ginger into a pile and then pressing it against a strainer to extract the ginger juice
  2. 2 tablespoons white wine or Champagne vinegar
  3. fine grain sea salt
  4. 1/2 teaspoon jalapeno, very finely chopped
  5. 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  6. 2/3 cup dried figs, stems trimmed, quartered
  7. 1/3 cup dried pluots, chopped
  8. 1/2 cup toasted hazelnuts, loosely chopped
  9. 1 1/3 cup cooked wild rice, room temperature
  10. 5 big handfuls of leafy salad greens (see headnotes), washed and dried

In a mason jar or medium bowl make the ginger vinaigrette by whisking together the ginger juice, vinegar, jalapeno, and a couple big pinches of salt. Slowly drizzle the olive oil into the jar whisking all the while. Stop when the dressing takes on a slightly creamy appearance. Taste and adjust the flavors if needed. Set aside.

Hold off dressing the salad until just before you are ready to serve it. This will help to keep the lettuce vibrant and lively. In a large bowl toss the figs, pluots, hazelnuts and wild rice with a generous splash of the dressing. Once they are nicely coated, add the lettuce, a bit more vinaigrette, and a pinch of salt. Gently toss until the lettuce is evenly coated. Taste and adjust if needed. The little bits of fruit and nuts tend to fall to the bottom of the bowl, so before serving scoop them back up from the bottom so you end up with plenty of rice and fruit on top.

Serves about 6.


Fruit: Dragonfruit

I am living with my wife inside a tiny rice-farmer village in the district Loeng Nok Tha, province Yasothon, Thailand. When we go to the market in Loeng Nok Tha together – this does not happen every day – I can see the curious fruit that looks like a blowfish mated with a Venus fly trap?

The dragonfruit, also called the pitaya or strawberry pear – and in Thai ” Kaew Mang Korn ” – , is one of those strange-looking things you see in a market and just have to try. Here in Thailand’s North-East, dragonfruit is sold at almost every market and served as dessert at many higher-end restaurants.

Dragonfruit is also happily consumed in Vietnam, Malaysia, and many other sub-tropical places.

They liven up your grocery bag like nothing else, a bright spindlyfucshia thing amidst a sea of cardboard boxes and plastic cartons. The flesh of the fruit, dotted with little seeds, looks and tastes a bit like kiwi. Some people think dragonfruit tastes a bit bland, but that may depend on where you buy them. (There are bland and tasty versions of every kind of fruit.)

Dragonfruit with the pink flesh tend be sweeter than the ones with white flesh. But I’ve also had sweet versions of the latter, like this one sent all the way up to a supermarket in Beijing.

You can find dragonfruit jams and wine, and use them in homemade salsas or even mooncakes. My favorite way of consuming of dragonfruit is diced up in a fruit salad, perhaps with clementine slices and grapes. Or simply cut the whole fruit in half and eat it one delicious scoop at a time.

I may try out the salsa recipe at a later date though.


Herbs: A World of Flavor

You can change a chicken dish from Middle Eastern to Hungarian or Asian with just a pinch of spices and a sprinkle of herbs.

Adding herbs is an easy way to add a world taste to your everyday meals.

Here is a chart to clip on how to follow through with the recipe to give it authentic ethnic taste.


Asian: Cook with garlic, fresh ginger, lemongrass, and scallions using peanut oil and/or a drop of dark sesame oil. Spice the dish up with cayenne pepper and add additional flavor with Thai fish sauce, soy sauce, rice-wine vinegar, hoisin sauce, and Sambal Oelek. Finish with chopped cilantro or chopped scallions.

French: Cook with garlic, onions, or shallots in olive oil. Add fresh herbs such as thyme, rosemary, or tarragon. Stir in wine, tomatoes, and bay leaf. Finish with fruit-infused wine vinegars and/or Dijon mustard.

Hungarian: Cook with garlic, onion, and/or bell peppers. Season the dish with Hungarian paprika, caraway seeds or dill seeds, and freshly ground pepper. Finish with plain nonfat yogurt and/or a splash of red wine vinegar.

Indian: Cook with garlic, fresh ginger, and onion in olive oil. Season the dish with ground cumin, ground coriander, paprika, or turmeric. Spice it up with cayenne pepper. Stir in tomatoes. Finish with plain nonfat yogurt, lemon juice, chopped mint, and/or chopped cilantro.

Italian: Cook with onion and garlic in olive oil. Use plenty of herbs: basil, marjoram, oregano, and rosemary. Spice it up with cayenne pepper. Stir in tomatoes, wine, and bay leaf. Finish with grated Parmesan or Romano cheese and more fresh herbs.

Latin: Cook with garlic, onion, and fresh chiles. Season the dish with Mexican oregano, ground cumin, allspice, cinnamon, and/or chili powder. Stir in fresh lime or lemon juice or white wine vinegar. Finish with chopped scallions and cilantro or a bit of low-fat melting cheese.

Middle Eastern: Cook with garlic, onion. Season the dish with turmeric, ground cinnamon, ground cinnamon, and/or ground cloves. Spice it up with cayenne pepper or ground chiles. Finish with plain nonfat yogurt, lemon juice, fresh mint and/or fresh dill.