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

chives-47444_640.jpg

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 – Caraway

caraway

Description
Caraway is a Eurasian plant that has finely divided leaves and clusters of white and pinkish flowers. Its seeds called the caraway seeds are commonly used in cooking and medicine. Its leaves are sparingly used in stews and soups.

Nutrients
Caraway seeds are rich in dietary fiber that helps prevent constipation. Caraway contains several health benefiting essential oils like carvone, limonene, carveol, pinen, cumuninic aldehyde, furfurol, and thujone. Caraway is an excellent source of minerals like iron, copper, calcium, potassium, manganese, selenium, zinc and magnesium. Vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin C as well as many B-complex vitamins like thiamin, pyridoxine, riboflavin, and niacin are concentrated in the caraway seeds.

Health Benefits/ Medical Use
Caraway helps lower blood cholesterol levels and prevents constipation. It’s also known to have antioxidant properties which protect the body from cancers, infection, aging, and degenerative disorders. Sometime, it’s used in the treatment of flatulence and indigestion, especially to relieve infantile colic. It’s also used as flavoring agent in mouthwash and gargle preparations. It can also be a remedy in bronchitis and irritable bowel syndrome.

Culinary Use
Caraway seeds have a warm, sweet and peppery aroma when squeezed. It is generally roasted under low heat and ground just before using them to keep its flavor.

Know Your Ingredients – Cinnamon

cinnamon stick powder

Description
Cinnamon is the brownish-reddish inner bark of the cinnamon tree, which when dried, rolls into a tubular form known as a quill. Cinnamon sticks are made from long pieces of bark that are rolled, pressed, and dried. Ground cinnamon is perhaps the most frequently used baking spice. It has a sweet, woody scent in both ground and stick forms.

Nutrients
Per 2 tsp of ground cinnamon, it has 46% manganese, 11% fiber, and 5% calcium.

Health Benefits and Medical Uses
Cinnamon has anti-clotting actions thus preventing the formation of unwanted blood clots. Cinnamon’s ability to lower the release of arachidonic acid from cell membranes also puts it in the category of an “anti-inflammatory” food that can be helpful in lessening inflammation. It has also anti-microbial properties that help stop bacterial growth as well as fungi. It is also known for its impact on blood sugar levels. Cinnamon can help people with Diabetes 2 respond to insulin thus, normalizing their blood sugar levels. Just by smelling its scent, it can boost your brain functioning. In addition to that, it improves colon health and provides protection against heart diseases because of its high calcium and fiber content.

Culinary Uses
Cinnamon is used in cakes, cookies, and desserts throughout the world. It is also used in savoury chicken and lamb dishes from the Middle East. In American cooking, Cinnamon is often paired with apples and used in other fruit and cereal dishes. Stick Cinnamon is used in pickling and for flavoring hot beverages.

Know Your Ingredient – BASIL

Basil

Description
Basil is a key ingredient in Mediterranean cooking. It is a leafy herb from the mint family with a licorice-clove flavor. It is commonly green in color however there are purple varieties like Opal Basil. It’s available all year round but the true harvest in during summer.

Nutrients
Basil is an excellent source of Vitamin K and manganese. It is also a very good source of copper, Vitamin A and Vitamin C. Moreover, it has moderate amounts of calcium, iron, folate, magnesium and omega-3 fatty acids.

Health Benefits and Medical Use
Basil has been shown to provide protection against unwanted bacterial growth. These anti-bacterial properties of basil are associated with its volatile oils, which contain estragole, linalool, cineole, eugenol, sabinene, myrcene, and limonene. It has also flavonoids which gives protection at the cellular level.  It has also anti-inflammatory effects and contains nutrients needed for cardiovascular health.

Culinary Use
Basil matches well with cheese, chicken, duck, eggplant, eggs, fish, lamb, liver, olive oil, onions, pasta, pesto, pizza, pork, potatoes, rabbit, salads, shellfish, soups, sweet peppers, tomatoes, veal, vegetables, vinegars, zucchini, and tomato sauce.  Famous recipes are Basil Pesto, Basil Cream Chicken, Tomato and Basil Bruschetta, Tomato Basil Soup, Basil Lemonade, Basil Shrimp, Orzo with Basil and Parmesan, Zucchini Ribbons with Basil Butter, Honey Mustard Basil Salmon, Thai Basil Chicken, etc.

Know Your Ingredient – Garlic

garlic

Description

Garlic’s scientific name is Allium Sativum.  It is a bulbous plant that grows up to 1.2 m in height. It creates hermaphrodite flowers. Bees and other insects are responsible for its pollination.

Garlic is easy to grow and can be grown in all climates year-round. Garlic plants are commonly very hard, making it hard to be attacked by pests. It is usually used as spice for culinary purposes.

Nutritional Benefits

Garlic has found no significant nutritional value with the content of all essential nutrients below 10% of the Daily Value. However, when expressed in 100 g, it is found that garlic contains several nutrients in rich amounts like vitamin B6, vitamin C, dietary mineral and manganese.

Herbal and Medical Uses

Garlic is used for several conditions connected to the heart and blood system. These conditions include coronary heart disease, heart attack , high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). Some of these uses are supported by science. Garlic actually may be effective in slowing the development of atherosclerosis and seems to be able to reasonably decrease blood pressure.

Garlic is also known to treat cancer and diabetes. Some people use it for treatment of fever, cough, headache, sinusitis, asthma, gout, rheumatism, shortness of breath and snakebites. Others also tried to to treat fungal infections, warts, and corns.

Culinary Use

Garlic is an important part of the kitchen. Regardless of the race, all people know that it is used as food additive to enhance flavor and aroma. Almost all main dish recipes use garlic. It is often sautéed with tomatoes, onions, and ginger depending on what dish you’re making. Italian dishes make use of garlic all the time.

Garlic cloves can be roasted, too. It is also applied to breads to make a variety of dishes like garlic bread, garlic toast, brochette, crusting and canapé. It can be added as flavor enhancer to oil and is used as seasoning to various meats, breads, and pasta.

In Eastern Europe, garlic shoots are pickled and eaten as an appetizer.

Know Your Cheeses (1)

BRIE

Background

Brie cheese is a soft cheese named after Brie, the French region where it originated. There are a lot of varieties of Brie cheese worldwide. We have plain brie, herbed brie, double and triple brie, and so forth.

Physical Description

It is a soft cheese made from cow’s milk. It has a slight greyish tinge under a white-molded rind. It is pale in color and its flavor depends on its ingredients.

Best Uses

Brie is popularly used in sandwiches, burgers, and pizzas. You may also use it in making tarts or pair it with nachos. You may use it in baked or grilled recipes.


CHEDDAR

Background
This cheese originates from the suburb of Cheddar in Somerset, South West England. It is known to have many caves that support and maintain the temperature and humidity needed for maturing the cheese. In the United States, this is the most commonly used type of cheese.

Physical Description
Cheddar cheese is off-white in color and comparatively a hard type of cheese. “A firm texture that melts in the mouth” describes the physical characteristic of this cheese.

Best Uses
You can use cheddar cheese for breakfast or as an appetizer. Mild cheddars are best used in grilled cheese sandwiches or nachos. On the other hand, macaroni, salads, and sandwiches often use sharper cheddars for flavor.


FETA

Background
This cheese comes from Greece. The word “feta” is a greek word that means “slice”. It is made of cow’s milk or a combination of cow and goat’s milk. Some may contain buffalo milk. Aging time in making this cheese is a minimum of three months.

Physical Description
Feta cheese is slightly coarse in texture. It is commonly produced in blocks. It is white in color and has no or small holes making it compacted and firm.

Best Uses
Feta cheese is used in salads and pastries. It is also used as a table cheese.


MANCHEGO

Background
Manchego is a type of cheese from La Mancha region in Spain. It is made of sheep’s milk that comes from the Manchega breed. The word “manchego” comes from the Spanish term “queso manchego”.

Physical Description
Manchego cheese is firm and compact in texture. It weighs minimum of 0.4kg and maximum of 4.0 kg. It has a maximum height of 12 cm and maximum diameter of 22 cm. It contains air pockets which are unevenly distributed. Its color varies from white to ivory-yellow.

Best Uses
Thinly sliced, Manchego is great to top in salads. It can also be shredded and mixed with mashed potatoes. Another great way to use it is to pair it with jams or spreads on sandwiches.


MOZZARELLA

Background
Mozzarella cheese originates from Italy. It is made from Italian buffalo milk but there’s also an American mozzarella that comes from pasteurized milk.

Physical Description
The semi-soft texture of this cheese makes it well-known. It is commonly white but may vary, sometimes, to light yellow.

Best Uses
It is best used in most types of pizza, pasta dishes, and in some variety of salads, too.

Know Your Ingredient – Turmeric

turmeric

Description
Turmeric is a green plant. It is the main spice in curry. It has a warm, bitter taste and is frequently used to flavor or color curry powders, mustards, butters, and cheeses. It is perennial herbaceous plant of the ginger family of which have been used from olden times as a condiment, a textile dye, and medically as an aromatic stimulant.

Nutrients
Basic nutritional aspects of turmeric include a 26% daily value in manganese and 16% in iron. It’s also an excellent source of fiber, vitamin B6, potassium, and healthy amounts of vitamin C and magnesium.

Health Benefits and Medical Use
Turmeric is used for diarrhea, intestinal gas, arthritis, heartburn, stomach pain, stomach bloating, loss of appetite, jaundice, liver problems and gallbladder disorders. It is also used for headaches, bronchitis, leprosy, fever, menstrual problems, and cancer. Other uses include depression, Alzheimer’s disease, water retention, worms, and kidney problems. Some people apply turmeric to the skin for pain, ringworm, bruising, leech bites, eye infections, inflammatory skin conditions, soreness inside of the mouth, and infected wounds.

Turmeric is also proven to lower cholesterol and prevent type 2 Diabetes.

Culinary Use
Turmeric is a famous spice in Asian and mid-Eastern dishes. Along with added flavor, it gives a golden yellow color to your recipe.