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Spice Up Your Winter

It’s back, the frost slowly creeping up on your windowsill and once again, Old Man Winter is making his presence known, bringing on the ice and snow. You knew this day would come. You shake your head, reminding yourself that Halloween and pumpkin spice season is over. So, stop scaring yourself! It is inevitable that we are going to be hit by winter because it’s Alberta. And in this province, we are sure to get some chilly weather.

Luckily, we don’t have to take it sitting down but cooking up a storm. This matters because spices make our foods flavourful as well as interesting. We have some special ingredients in spices that will keep us going during the colder months that we face. What would those spices be? What can I use them for? Well, here are some simple suggestions that would help make that feast fantastic.

Cumin: A spice that comes from the dried seed of a plant that is related to the parsley familyIt is a popular spice commonly used in Latin America, the Middle East, North Africa, and India. However, many other countries have been known to cook with it as well. It can be used in seed or ground form. Often used as a savoury alternative to cinnamon, cumin is known to have an earth flavour. However, it does have a slight sugary taste to it as well.  This easy lemon cumin dip is the perfect recipe for when you want a healthy appetizer. You will need; 1 pint of plain Greek yogurt, 2-3 tbsp of lemon juice, 1 tsp of cumin powder, ½ of a medium white onion (finely diced), and ½ cup of dill. Combine all ingredients and stir thoroughly. Serve with your favourite vegetables or chips. It’s delish! 

Turmeric: All the way from southeast Asia, comes this plant that you will find in so many dishes. Turmeric has been in Asia for centuries. It is often used in Ayurveda, Siddha, and traditional Chinese medicine because the benefits of this spice are numerous. A strong, peppery taste can be expected with turmeric which is slightly deceiving due to its musky aroma. Here is a good salad dressing recipe that will make any salad shine and be a little bit healthier than the rest. ½ cup of olive oil, ¼ cup of apple cider vinegar, 1 tbsp of finely chopped shallot, 2 tsp of honey, 1 tsp of turmeric, ½ tsp of garlic salt. Take each ingredient and mix them in a dressing container. Serve on your favourite salad.     

Cloves: A lot of people don’t know what to use them for, but it does have some usefulness in the culinary world. It is most often called for in various meat dishes (such as baked ham), curries, and marinades. Cloves have a robust, almost hot tang to them as well as a pungent flavour that packs a punch. An easy but delicious baked ham recipe that can be used by itself, in sandwiches, or even in a soup will surely keep you warm. All you need is a 12lbs ham, 1 cup of brown sugar, ½ cup of whole cloves, 4 cups of water (or as needed). In a large roasting pan press the cloves into the top at 1-2 inches apart, cover the top of the ham with brown sugar, pour water in the pan until the is about an inch deep, and then tightly cover the pan with aluminum foil. In a preheated oven of 350 degrees, put the ham in for 4½ - 5 hours. Let sit for 20 minutes before serving.

Allspice: This spice is an important element in Caribbean cuisine. You will often find it in meat dishes, stews, tomato sauces, and in the Americas, it can be used in desserts. Suffice to say, this is a spice that has a lot of versatility and is used worldwide in countless dishes. Allspice has the featured flavours similar to cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. Which is why, people often use this spice as a substitute to those spices if they do not have them available. A simple but spicy green bean recipe with tomato sauce will add a little something special to your table. What you need is; 1 tbsp of olive oil, 1 medium onion (diced), 4 cups of green beans (fresh or frozen), 15-ounce cans of diced tomatoes and tomato sauce, and lastly a small serving of these three spices; Allspice, cinnamon, and nutmeg (the amount of each is up to you). In a skillet you cook the onions until they are translucent (7-9 minutes), add the rest of your ingredients and mix well. After it boils reduce heat to low. Stir and wait for the beans to become tender (20-30 minutes). Now you have another flavourful side dish to enjoy  

Ginger: A plant has been used many times for culinary purposes and folk medicines since the 14th century. Not just a popular flavour for teas and candies but it has a strong spicy flavour that is unique all on its own. It is often described as warm but sweet. If you have access to younger ginger, it is a much more mellow tang to it than the aged examples. After finishing a beautiful dinner, sometimes it is best to have a cocktail that will ease your stomach, warm you up, and relax you. Such a cocktail is the Hot Toddy, a lovely ginger confection that does just that. You will need; 1 tbsp of lemon juice, 1 teabag of ginger tea, 1 cup of boiled water, 1-3 tsp of honey, 3 tbsp of whiskey, and 1 cinnamon stick. Mix all ingredients, serve, and enjoy. That’s all you have to do. 

Cinnamon: Cinnamon has been apart of many sweet and savoury dishes. It is considered the world’s #1 spice because of its versatility. Bot a sweet and woody flavour, cinnamon also has notes of citrus to those who have more of a definitive palate. There is an easy treat called monkey bread that can be made with this beautiful spice that is sure to bring joy to people of all ages. All you need are; 3 cans of refrigerated dough, 1 cup of sugar and brown sugar, ½ cup of butter, and a tablespoon of cinnamon. All you have to do is cut up the dough into quarters, mix up the sugars and cinnamon in the melted butter. Put the biscuit pieces into a well-greased Bundt pan, coat them with the cinnamon mixture, and bake in a preheated oven of 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes. Enjoy any time of the day.     

So, you see, a little spice can help with a bland feeling winter. We Canadians (particularly Albertans) know how to keep warm in the wintertime. Whether it is a sassy drink or a sweet dessert, our weather will never get us down. So, grab a hot toddy and a piece of monkey bread while you sit by the window watching the snowfall. Accompanied by a snuggly blanket and a pet, you can wait out the winter in comfort. 


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