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Archive for the ‘Spices & Health’ Category

Adapted from a recipe by Heidi Swanson

This recipe is a great example of how spices can allow you to go very light on the salt. It’s a take on guacamole, which is usually quite salty. Instead, it uses curry powder and toasted mustard seeds for an incredible Indian flavour. Plus, between the coconut oil and the avocados themselves, it’s full of healthy fats. And it’s warm! We ate it with blue corn chips, but it would be great with crispy pappadums.

Curried Avocado Dip

 For the Dip you will need:

3 ripe avocados
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
½ tsp fine sea salt
½ cup fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped
1 Tbsp extra virgin coconut oil
1 tsp black or brown mustard seeds
¼ cup yellow onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 Tbsp Yellow Curry Powder, Sweet
1 small green Serrano chile, minced

  • Scoop the avocado flesh into a bowl. Add the lemon juice, salt and most of the cilantro. Mash everything together with a fork. Don’t go wild, though – it’s best left chunky.
  • Heat the coconut oil in a pan over medium high heat.  Add the mustard seeds when hot. They will pop and jump, so you might want to keep a lid handy. After about a minute, stir in the onion and garlic and sauté for 2-3 minutes until the onion is translucent.  Add the curry powder and minced Serrano chile. After about 20 seconds, remove from the heat.
  • Stir the onion mixture into the avocado mixture and serve in a nice bowl. Garnish with the rest of the cilantro.
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SpiceWallSubmitted by Vanessa Gillard

The grocery aisles are full of products touting “Healthiest Ever!” and “Low-Trans-This” and “Low-Sodium-That,” but none seem to broadcast in big bright letters on a giant starburst, “High In Flavour!” Spices can be the best option to enliven your recipes, be they simple everyday fare or elaborate, tried and true favourites. And the difference between a fresh ground spice and the pre-ground variety can truly astound the taste buds.

Whether you are a long-time culinary conjurer, a mad scientist experimenting with whatever recipes and ingredients that pique your interest, or just someone trying to get out of the weekly grind, spices can inspire and reinvigorate your love of cooking.

The Silk Road has many, many vibrant, distinctive and delicious ingredients that arrive weekly from around the world and are hand-blended in-house. Spices are a great alternative to salt and fat when it comes to adding flavour, but replacing the spices that have languished in your cupboard for years is essential to the depth of flavour in your creations.

Herbs and spices owe their flavour to volatile oils that oxidize when exposed to air and become stale. This is inevitable, but you can slow this process by storing your spices and herbs in a cool, dark place in airtight containers. The top of the stove may in fact be one of the worst places to keep your favourites, however handy. Most salts are fine to keep out and about, though, as standard salt doesn’t get its saltiness from oils (this doesn’t apply to flavoured salts, however, such as Black Truffle Salt – keep those ones stored properly ).

We recommend that dried herbs be replaced within six months due to their delicate nature, ground spices a year to year-and-a-half, and whole spices any time after a few years. Your spices won’t “go bad” after this time period, they will just have lost a portion of their intensity. It is also worth mentioning that shaking spices over your pot while cooking is not ideal as the moisture from the steam can ruin them.

The amount of surface area exposed to the elements is directly related to how fast your spices will deteriorate, so ground spices won’t last as long as their whole counterparts. Grinding your spices freshly for each meal will always ensure the most flavour; this is easy to do with a mortar and pestle or a coffee grinder, both of which we have in our accessories section. Just toss in the desired amount and wiz around until the right coarseness is achieved. A customer recently suggested cleaning your spice grinder by grinding some rice and then discarding it.

If you don’t want to grind for each meal and prefer the convenience of ground spices then try to buy what you will need for the year. This will save you time and money and you’ll know approximately when you should be restocking that particular spice as well.

It’s pretty simple to figure out if your spices and herbs need to be replaced. If they aren’t adding anything much to your cooking, that’s a good indicator but even just giving a sniff is an effective and simple test. If you can’t smell much you won’t taste much either.

SpiceJarSizingWe offer various sizes of jars to suit whichever rack, cupboard or pantry your spices live in. Don’t want to waste the jars you have? We can pack you up a baggie to take home and refill your jars, and refill bags are a dollar off the original jar price.

Cooking can be fun and exciting, but without the right ingredients you may be left disappointed by what your efforts have resulted in. Surprise yourself with some fresh spices and you might find you can’t wait to try some in another creation, and another, and another.

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Eating Salt-Free?

As a society, we consume way too much salt. The Globe and Mail recently did a big, four-part series on the high levels of sodium in the foods we eat and what our government can and should be doing about it:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/special-reports/hard-to-shake/

The consensus is that we eat more salt than we need to, and that in a lot of cases, our intake is dangerously high.

Salt ShakerNow, a big part of the problem is fast food, junk food and highly processed food (or is that all the same thing?). Home cooking is not notoriously high in salt, and in fact a small amount of salt is essential to almost all dishes. It acts as a flavour enhancer and tenderizer, it balances acidity, and it helps the ingredients in a dish come together. We use kosher salt and sea salt in our kitchen every day.

Many of our spice blends contain a small amount of salt for the reasons above. In almost every case, however, they contain far less than comparable big-name brands, which use salt as a cheap way to fill up the jar.

However, people are increasingly choosing to limit their salt intake as much as possible. To help you identify which of our spice mixtures contain no salt at all, we’ve created a page on our site for all our salt-free blends:

http://www.silkroadspices.ca/t/categories/salt-free-blends/

Currently, this page shows all the blends which simply don’t contain salt (Apple Pie Spice is an obvious example). Soon, though, we will be adding specially-designed salt-free versions of our other popular blends, like St-Laurent Steak Spice. Stay tuned to Twitter or Facebook for updates as new blends are added.

By the way, want to know a good way to get lots of flavour without too much salt? Spices!

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We love reading about the wonderful benefits of cooking with spices. We’re thoroughly convinced that good spices can do wonders for your cooking, but every day more research is coming out about some of the other perks that come with getting your daily dose of spices.  Here are some highlights from an article by Jack Turner that was recently published in Bon Appétit magazine:

  • In recent studies, spices have proven to be an important part of the brain’s mechanism for regulating appetite.
  • Spices like ginger, garlic, and fenugreek reduce the amount of fat we absorb
  • Spices such as chili increase the metabolic rate, burning fat faster
  • When we cook with plenty of spices, we need less fat to make food interesting

So instead of reaching for the butter when cooking your next meal, reach for the spice rack. You’ll get just as much flavour, a lot less fat, and may even give your metabolism a boost as well.

You can read the whole article here: http://www.bonappetit.com/magazine/2009/03/the_spice_of_life

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