Know Your Ingredient – Nutmeg

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Description

This is a brown-colored hard seed from the nutmeg tree that gives a spicy sweet taste. This originates from Indonesia but can also be found in the Caribbean (Grenada).

Nutrients and Health Benefits

Nutmeg has anti-oxidant, health promoting and disease preventing properties. It’s a good source of minerals like copper, manganese, magnesium, potassium, iron and zinc. It has also B-complex vitamins and vitamin C, and folic acid, niacin, riboflavin and vitamin A.

Medical Use

In traditional medicine, it is used as anti-depressant, anti-fungal, aphrodisiac and carminative agent. It also aids digestion and prevents constipation.

Culinary Use

Nutmeg is a popular spice. It can be used in preparing many dishes and recipes. It can be used in making cakes and pastries, and can also be added in making smoothies. Nutmeg is considered a natural flavoring in baked goods, syrups, sweets and beverages.

Know Your Ingredient – Lemon Balm

Lemon Balm

Description
Lemon Balm is a herbal plant that belongs to the mint family Lamiaceae. Its leaves are heart-shaped and deeply veined characterized by a mild lemon scent. It grows up to 150 cm tall. It produces white flowers during summer, which attracts the bees. The flavor of this herbal plant comes from its contents like citronellal, geranial, linalyl acetate and caryophyllene.

Nutrients
Lemon Balm contains phenolic compounds, rosmarinic, protocatechuic acids, caffeic, and flavonoids.

Health Benefits/ Medical Use
This herbal plant has been known to cure cold sores, stomach upset, sleep disorders, and even Alzheimer’s disease. It is also used to cure colic to breastfed babies. It also helps in maintaining a normal blood pressure. The leaves are known to have antiviral and antibacterial properties. It’s a good treatment for flu, insomnia, indigestion, depression, and Herpes virus. It also acts a memory booster.

Culinary Use
Lemon Balm has a delicate lemon flavor and has been widely used in making dishes. It is a good garnish to fruit salads and drinks.

Know Your Ingredient – Oregano

OREGANO

Description

Oregano is a small shrub with many stems covered with small grayish-green oval leaves and small white or pink flowers. It is called wild marjoram in many parts of Europe because it is very much related to the herb that we know as sweet marjoram. Oregano is a wonderful herb that adds a warm, balsamic and aromatic flavor to many different dishes, especially those of the Mediterranean cuisine.

Nutrients

Oregano is not just for aroma and flavor but it is also composed of several nutrients. It has 14% Vitamin K, 5% Manganese, 4% Iron, 3% Calcium, and 3% Fiber per 2 teaspoons serving.

Health Benefits and Medical Use

Oregano is an effective anti-bacterial agent. It reduces the growth of bacteria hence, decreases the risk of infection. Oregano contains numerous phytonutrients that have also been shown to function as powerful antioxidants that can prevent oxygen-based damage to cell structures all over the body. It is also proven that it is a good source of fiber which aids in the prevention of cancer.

Culinary Use

Oregano is famous among pizzas. In addition to that, it is widely used in making special cuisine.

Know Your Ingredient – Chives

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General Description
These herbs are the smallest members of the onion family. They have flavor similar to onion and a distinctive smell and taste. They are commonly used in plural form (chives) because they grow as clumps and not individually.

Nutrients and Health Benefits
Chives contain low calories and are rich in fiber, anti-oxidants, vitamins and minerals. They comprise more vitamin A than any other allium family member veges. Folates can also be found in fresh chives. In addition to that, its leaves have B-complex vitamins and other essential minerals like copper, iron, zinc, manganese and calcium.

Medical Use
Chives can be used to treat flatulence, stomach upset, clogged nose, and also helps prevent bad breath. These herbs also lower down cholesterol level in our body and since they’re high in Vitamin C, they boost our immune system preventing influenza. They also lower the blood pressure if combined with a low salt diet.

Culinary Use
Fresh chopped chives (leaves) are added to mint, parsley, shallot, and cucumber and tomato salad to have a great taste. In China and Japan, garlic chives are used to add flavor to dumplings, stews and soups. While in Europe, they are used as a garnish especially in baked or mashed potatoes.

Know Your Ingredient – Stevia

stevia

Description

Stevia is a green leafy plant native to South America. It is unique among food ingredients because it’s most valued for what it doesn’t have. It has no calories. Its leaves produce sweet components, known as steviol glycosides, which are up to 300 times sweeter than sugar, and can be extracted from the leaves of the Stevia plant to sweeten food without adding calories. Unlike other sugar substitutes, Stevia is derived from a plant. It is part of the Asteraceae family, related to the daisy and ragweed.

Nutrients

Stevia is ironically healthy because it contains zero sugar, zero calories, and zero other macronutrients. However, it is sweeter than sugar up to 300 times.

Health Benefits and Medical Use

Stevia has a component named stevioside which lowers the blood pressure. Hence, it is found out that by taking Stevia, the risk of hypertension is reduced as well as its potential complications like heart disease, stroke, and kidney failure. Aside from that, Stevia has been studied in diabetic patients with impressive results. It is known to prevent type 2 Diabetes.

Stevia has also been shown to have anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, diuretic and immunomodulatory effects in animals. But of course, not all that works in rats works in humans, too.

Culinary Use

Stevia is a well known sugar substitute. It is used by many to serve healthy and, at the same time, tasty food.

Know Your Ingredient – Cardamom

cardamom

Description

Cardamom is native to the evergreen rain forest of southern Indian Kerala state and grown in only a few tropical countries. The spice features three-sided pods with a thin, yet tough papery outer cover. Inside, tiny, deep-brown to black, aromatic seeds are arranged in vertical rows with each grain unsheathed again inside a very thin membrane. There are two types of cardamom pods: the green cardamom pod and the black cardamom pod. Generally, the plant can grow up to four meters in length.

Nutrients 

Cardamom is a good source of potassium, calcium, and magnesium. It is also an excellent source of iron and manganese. In addition to that, it is rich in many vital vitamins, including riboflavin, niacin, vitamin-C that is essential for optimum health. It as well contains many essential volatile oils that include pinene, sabinene, myrcene, phellandrene, limonene, 1, 8-cineole, terpinene, p-cymene, terpinolene, linalool, linalyl acetate, terpinen-4-oil, a-terpineol, a-terpineol acetate, citronellol, nerol, geraniol, methyl eugenol, and trans-nerolidol.

Health Benefits/ Medical Use

Cardamom has antiseptic, antispasmodic, carminative, digestive, diuretic, expectorant, stimulant, stomachic and tonic properties. It also helps control heart rate and blood pressure. It is a good source of manganese which is a very powerful free-radical scavenger. It helps in red blood cell formation and cellular metabolism.

Culinary Use

Cardamom is being used as flavoring agent in both soups, foods, and revitalizing drinks. Many sweet dishes in Asian countries use cardamom.

Bantha Milk Pudding

This recipe was derived from my Milk Chocolate Panna Cotta recipe but tweaked especially for the Star Wars themed party that we had. I didn’t make the chocolate layer because of time constraints, but you are welcome to include it if you want. Here is how I did my Bantha Milk Pudding dish for hubby’s Star Wars themed party:

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Ingredients:

1/2 cup cold water
2 packs unflavoured gelatin
1 can condensed milk
2 cups cream
Few drops of blue food coloring
Chocolate syrup (optional)
2 Oreo biscuits (optional)

Melt gelatin in cold water.  Set aside.  Mix cream and condensed milk in a saucepan and cook over low heat until hot.  Add the melted gelatin and stir until well blended (approximately 10 minutes).  Remove from the stove and continue stirring to cool down the mixture.  Gradually add a few drops of food coloring until desired color is achieved. Stir well until color is evenly distributed.

Transfer the mixture into a mold.  Refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

To serve, turn the pudding upside down on a serving platter. Drizzle chocolate syrup on top and position the Oreo biscuits on the top center.

Know Your Ingredients – Cumin

 Description
Cumin is an aromatic spice with a unique bitter flavor and strong, warm tang due to its abundant oil content. Cumin looks like caraway, which is oblong in shape, longitudinally ridged, and yellow-brown in color. However, cumin is hotter to the taste, lighter in color, and larger. Its seeds come in three colors: amber, black and white.

Nutrients
Per 2 teaspoon serving, cumin has 16% iron, 7% manganese, 4% copper, 4% calcium, 4% magnesium, 3% Vitamin B1 and 3% phosphorus.

Health Benefits and Medical Use
Aside from giving flavor to food, cumin has also many uses when it comes to health and disease prevention. It is a good source of iron for energy and immune function. Cumin seeds have also been noted to have good effects to the digestive system. It stimulates the production of pancreatic enzymes which are necessary for proper digestion and nutrient absorption. Furthermore, cumin seeds have anti-carcinogenic properties that help in the prevention of cancer.

Culinary Uses
Cumin matches well with beans, chicken, couscous, curry, eggplant, fish, lamb, lentils, peas, pork, potatoes, rice, sausages, soups, stews, and eggs.

Know Your Ingredient – Dill

Description
Dill is a green herb with feathery leaves. The flat tan dill seed is the dried fruit of the herb. Dill’s green leaves are flimsy and fernlike and have a soft, sweet taste. Dried dill seeds are light brown in color and oval in shape, featuring one flat side and one convex corrugated side. The seeds are aromatic, sweet and citrusy, but also slightly bitter. The fresh dill is available during summer and early fall while the dried dill is available all year-round.

Nutrients
Dill has several nutritional contents like carbohydrates, sugar, soluble and insoluble fiber, sodium, vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, amino acids and more. It has other mineral components like dietary fiber, iron, magnesium and manganese, too.

Medical Uses
Dill has monoterpene components that can help neutralize particular types of carcinogens coming from cigarette smoke, charcoal grill smoke, and the smoke produced by trash incinerators. It is used as protection against free radicals and carcinogens. Dill has also antibacterial properties that prevent the growth of bacteria. In addition to that, it is also considered as a good source of calcium which helps prevent bone damage.

Culinary Uses
Dill is commonly used in soups, stews, and for making pickles. It is also used in making salad dressing and fish dressing. It matches well with beets, breads, cabbage, carrots, chicken cucumbers, cream sauces, eggs, fish, pickles, potatoes, salmon, scallops, seafood, sour cream, tomatoes, and veal.

Know Your Ingredient – Coriander

coriander

Description
Coriander is also known as cilantro, Chinese parsley or dhania. It is from the family Apiaceae that grows annually. It’s a soft plant that can grow up to 50 cm tall. The leaves have different shapes, largely lobed at the base of the plant, and small and downy higher on the flowering stems. The flowers are borne in tiny umbels, uneven, white or very pale pink in color, with the petals pointing away from the center of the umbel longer than those pointing toward it. The fruit is globular in shape and about 3-5 mm in diameter. Coriander has different description of its taste. Those who like it say it has a refreshing, lemony or lime-like flavor, while those who dislike it says it’s like soap and bugs.

Nutrients
In a 100g amount, coriander leaves are mainly rich in vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin K, with reasonable content of dietary minerals. Even though seeds generally have lower content of vitamins, they have considerable amounts of dietary fiber, calcium, selenium, iron, magnesium and manganese per 100 g.

Health Benefits
Coriander has linoleic acid and known to have components of essential oils that are used to treat skin inflammation. It has detoxifying and antiseptic properties used to cure skin disorders. They also reduce the level of bad cholesterol (LDL) deposition along the inner walls of the arteries and veins, which can lead to serious cardiovascular issues like artherosclerosis, heart attacks, and strokes. It is also helpful in curing diarrhea caused by microbial and fungal action, since components like Cineole, Borneol, Limonene, Alpha-pinene & beta-phelandrene have antibacterial effects. Coriander is also known to treat many disorders like diabetes, hypertension, mouth ulcers, conjunctivitis, menstrual problems, and small pox. It has also components that aids in digestion, bone development and eye care.

Culinary Uses
Coriander leaves and seeds are both used in culinary arts. The seeds are used as spices while the leaves are used as herbs. It is also used in all sorts of cuisines, from Latin American to Asian. In Mexico and the United States, fresh coriander leaves are frequently used as a garnish for salsas and spicy soups.