Spicing things up

I held two spice classes this week for my food as medicine groups, looking at what benefits certain spices have to our health and how we can incorporate them into our daily lives.

Photo From Wikimedia commons

As well as tasting individual spices, we created a variety of blends from different countries and then tasted them in either applesauce, butternut squash or sweet potato - as vehicles for the spice, so you could get the true flavors.

Tasting stations at the ready!

The key spices we focused on were

  • cinnamon - great for diabetes
  • turmeric - anti-cancer and anti- inflammatory activity
  • black cumin - immune system boosting
  • cloves - toothache, mosquito repellent, anti-infection
  • cocoa - great source of flavonols which increase nitric oxide production, and help heart health
  • Plus we looked at those spices that can affect the Cancer "Master Switch" - NFkB
The blends we made we:
  • Chai tea - India - we actually made a tea-less version
  • La Kama from North Africa
  • Garam Masala - India
  • Golden Milk -India
  • Panch Phoron - India
  • Chinese five spice - China
  • Colombo Powder - Latin America
  • Quatre Epices - France
  • Hot Chocolate - Mexican
We then ended up with a chocolate tasting of 6 chocolates with cocoa contents of >75%.  I'll tell you more about that another day!


It was a great class.  People really started to focus on tasting carefully and identifying different flavor and whether spices predominated or harmonized. 
Comments

Health benefits of Chai Tea

Chai tea has many wonderful healing spices in it.  However frequently when you buy it, it includes dairy products and refined sugar.  Instead you can make your own and tailor it to your own tastes.  My own taste is that I don't like tea, so I make mine without green or black tea.  But there is still plenty of flavor in it as I include 7 different spices in my recipe - plus orange peel.

(Sorry - I forgot about photographing it and nearly drank it all!)


The spices have powerful healing capacities, not just by being antioxidants and anti-inflammatories, but also because they can switch off the Cancer Master Switch in the cells, namely the nuclear factor kappa beta (NFkB).

The spices in this recipe which have this activity are:

  • black peppercorns
  • cardomom
  • cloves
  • cinnamon
  • anise
  • nutmeg
  • and ginger

When free radicals, infections, or agents that damage DNA (eg carcinogens, toxins, etc) enter the body, they are all capable of activating NFkB which is a molecule inside the cell. On activation, NFkB increases inflammation and inhibits cancer cell death.  While pharmaceutical companies are busy looking for drugs to turn off NFkB, we need look no further than spices as many of them have this NFkB switching off capacity.

And Chai tea is an easy way to get 7 spices all in one drink.

Here is a recipe that originally came from Jeanne Wallace
Chai Tea

4 cups water
1 teaspoon cardamom pods – green
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 teaspoon whole cloves or 3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 teaspoon cinnamon chips
1 teaspoon dried orange peel or 4 teaspoons orange zest
2 whole star anise
1 teaspoon nutmeg chips or 2 whole nutmegs
2 teaspoon minced fresh ginger or 1 tablespoon dried ginger pieces
½ vanilla bean, chopped fine or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teabags or 4 tablespoons green or black tea leaves (TEA is optional!)
Coconut nectar or other unrefined sweetener to taste (optional)
Non dairy milk

Make the spice mix: bring water to boil, add spices but NOT tea, if using.  Reduce heat and simmer on low for 20 minutes or longer for a spicier flavor.  Remove from the heat. Add tea and steep for 3 minutes.  Strain into a pitcher or container.  Keeps refrigerated for up to 10 days.
To make one cup of chai, combine ½ cup of non dairy milk with ½ cup of the spice mixture.  Heat and add sweetner to your taste.  Can be served iced in the summer.



Let me know how you tailor it to your particular taste.
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