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  • How to Cook with Turmeric

    With its sunny color, distinctive fragrance and warm flavor, turmeric has long been one of the world’s most versatile and popular spices. It’s an essential element in curries and Middle Eastern spice blends such as ras el hanout, and lends its golden color to many other dishes. Let’s get to know this colorful rhizome a little better, and look at the best ways to cook with turmeric to release its fine flavor and long-documented nutritional benefits.Turmeric Quinoa 3

    In the bazaars of the Middle East, India and other south Asian countries, amid the vast array of clove buds, coriander seeds, cinnamon bark and peppercorns — and all the other spices the world has come to love — you will see heaps of turmeric powder looking like a mountain range of gold.

    A perennial relative of the ginger family, turmeric comes from the root of the Curcuma longa plant. The rhizome has a tough brown skin and deep, orange-red flesh which, dried and ground, yields the turmeric powder found in most spice cabinets. In southern Asia, where the plant is grown, fresh turmeric leaves are also used to wrap food for cooking.

    For thousands of years, the turmeric rhizome has been used as a remedy for cuts, concussions, aches and pains and other ailments. Modern medical researchers have been studying the molecular properties of curcumin, the chief chemical compound in turmeric, as a way to effectively prevent cancer. Curcumin is also being studied as an effective means to fight against diseases such as arthritis, Alzheimer's and stomach ulcers, to name a few.

    At our Napa shop, customers often ask us about how to use this versatile, powerful spice. Here are our top tips for cooking with turmeric:
    » With its slightly bitter taste, turmeric can overpower a dish if you use too much. The best way to release its delicate flavor is to use small amounts per recipe, first sauteing it in hot oil for just a few seconds.
    » Also, piperine — a compound in black pepper — appears to help the human body absorb curcumin more effectively, so we always throw in a pinch of black pepper with the turmeric.

    For the best results cooking with turmeric:
    » Use about 1/4 - 3/4 tsp per recipe, depending on number of servings.
    » Saute the turmeric in hot olive oil before adding other ingredients.
    » Turmeric can burn very quickly: Prepare all the ingredients in advance.
    » If using onion or garlic, saute these first.
    » Once the onion is browned, mix in the sauteed turmeric and saute for about 20 seconds, allowing the oil to soak up the flavors. The turmeric will start to change color rapidly, from bright orange into darker orange.
    » Quickly add the rest of the ingredients to prevent the turmeric from burning.

    Once you start using turmeric on a regular basis, it's fun to find new ways to use it in home cooking. Try this recipe for a tasty side dish: Turmeric Quinoa »»

    Continue reading

  • Easy-to-Cook Lentils Make Salads Easy

    We all know that eating dried legumes — also known as pulses — is great for your health: They’re packed with fiber, protein and vitamins including thiamin, riboflavin and Vitamin B6. Pulses are even getting their own International Year from the United Nations! Continue reading

  • Unbeatable Beets Bring Color, Flavor, Health Benefits

    Ruby red, golden orange or striped, always topped with deep green leaves, beets — or beetroot, as this vegetable is known in other parts of the English-speaking world — are among the most colorful members of the superfood crowd.

    Beets' rich hues signal not only fresh flavor but a bonanza of health benefits from antioxidants, phytonutrients and carotenoids. Studies suggest beets also contain anti-inflammatory molecules that could have cancer-fighting properties. Continue reading

  • Super Seaweed

    We know that seaweed and sushi are synonymous to Japanese cuisine. But ever since the meteoric popularity of sushi hit the globe, seaweed has evolved from being just a healthy snack to becoming a versatile, all-purpose healthy super-food.

    Japanese people have been consuming this edible saltwater plant for hundreds of years with their dinner, their lunch, and even for breakfast. What makes seaweed so flavorful lies in the combination of certain ingredients. For example, the Japanese combine seaweed with salt, sesame seeds and a little sugar to make furikake, which is used to sprinkle over rice and to make rice balls; it is also used as a table condiment. Sometimes wasabi (the hot green stuff you taste in sushi) is also added to the seasoning to create a fiery kick. Continue reading

  • Tried and True Cinnamon

    There is cinnamon, and then there is true cinnamon the true cinnamon (also referred to as real cinnamon) is actually Ceylon cinnamon, which comes from a small tree (Cinnamomumverum) grown in Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Brazil, Vietnam and Egypt with Sri Lanka being the largest producer of this veritable spice.

    There are four main varieties of cinnamon, but Ceylon and Cassia are the most popular ones with Ceylon being more expensive. Cinnamon comes from the rough outer bark of the tree. Once the bark is removed the thin papery-like layers that lie beneath the bark are peeled away. These thin sheets are dried and rolled into quills of multiple layers and are left to dry in the shade. Continue reading

  • Super Maca

    Food enthusiasts have been raving about maca for sometime now, and if you are wondering why, then I am happy to provide what information I know about this amazing super food.

    Maca is an herbaceous plant of the cruciferous family that is native to the Highlands of the Andes Mountains in Peru where the Ancient Incas built and lived in a city on top of the Andes peak called Machu Picchu.

    For centuries, maca was revered by the Incas, as a miracle food sent by the gods to increase physical stamina, enhance fertility and especially as an aphrodisiac. It is still highly regarded by the Peruvians for its nutritional and energy boosting properties; and by all of us who have enjoyed its many benefits. Continue reading

  • Flax Seed in all its glory!

    Flax seed is one of humanity's oldest grains dating as far back as 4,000 years ago; it has been a long-held staple of the human diet in Africa, Asia and Europe. Much later in history, flax seed has garnered much attention in North America for its many nutritional benefits in fighting against life-threatening diseases.

    Flax seeds might be tiny but they are loaded with goodness through and through. They contain high levels of dietary fiber and an abundance of micro-nutrients and are a rich source of lignans, which has plant estrogen as well as antioxidants. Studies have revealed that flax seeds may lower cholesterol levels, and may lessen the severity of diabetes by stabilizing blood-sugar levels.And as far as Omega-3 plant foods go, flax seed stands high above all the others. Continue reading

  • Bee Pollen Natures Super Food

    In some of our past issues, we featured articles on natures super-foods, which included nuts, cocoa, turmeric and now, at the top of the list is bee pollen. Bee pollen is a mass of pollen that has been packed by worker bees into granules found in brood cells which are chambers of wood and mud created by female ground-nesting bees. Throughout the packing process, the pollen is mixed with nectar, enzymes, fungi, and bacteria, organisms that transform the pollen into bee pollen, which are harvested as food for humans. Continue reading

  • Cocoa nibs the wonder food!

    In last week's article we wrote about chocolate, and because this is such a huge topic to cover, we decided to split up the information. This week we will highlight the benefits of cocoa nibs.

    Most often we think of chocolate as a candy that's loaded with all kinds of fattening ingredients that will cause you to gain weight and is unhealthy to consume. But, pure chocolate in its unadulterated form is far from being that pure chocolate is packed with antioxidants and disease fighting properties. Nowadays, you can find a lot of chocolate products made with 100% cocoa butter and less sugar. Continue reading

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