Tag Archives: spice

Cloves – From Cigarettes to Spice Cake!

Lula’s Pumpkin Spice Cake with Orange-Creme Ganash

OK folks, back to “winter” spices…though the clove is also a fantastic home remedy for toothaches all year long…did you know dentists used to prescribe sucking on a whole clove to alleviate toothaches?  Oil of clove is a numbing agent.  Cloves are also extremely popular in cigarettes … but DON’T!! 🙂  You can get cloves ground ( a little dab’ll do ya – enough clove in your spice cake and you’ll FEEL the numbing!!), or you can get cloves whole.

This is another spice that you could be put to death for in the mid 1600’s – planting OR trading cloves was a capital offense, and cloves are also a critical ingredient in French cuisine – you can’t make a stock without studding a whole onion with cloves and throwing it in!!

Here’s the most fun fact of all … back in the day when people didn’t bathe very often and STANK, cloves were a favorite ingredient in pomander balls (the usually metal balls with holes that one stuffed with aromatics and hung from their belt (men) or dangled from their wrist (women) to hide the ODOR…  ahhh… the things you learn when armchair traveling with Lula…for more tips, tidbits and fun on a weekly basis you can sign up HERE.

 

MAD for Mace!

OK, week two of “fall/winter” spices…I’m going to continue where I left off and discuss MACE – which is simply the thin, apricot colored, lacy outer layer of the nutmeg seed.  Since there’s not as much of it, it has always been way more expensive.  It resembles nutmeg in scent and flavor but is more delicate.   Once again, this spice can be used in a variety of savory recipes as well as sweet.

At the height of its popularity the Dutch ruled the spice trade, and one year (1770) production exceeded demand by a year’s supply and the whole lot was BURNED – making Amsterdam the best scented city of all time!  Fun Fact:  Most American hot dog manufactures include mace in their recipe!!  And NOW Lula is going to give away a closely guarded secret..put a dash in your BBQ sauces (think my Kentucky Black Bourbon…) YUUUUUuuuuuuuuuuuum.  Hit here for more tips and tricks!  With love, Lula

I am a NUT for Nutmeg!

OK, we’re here…it’s fall rapidly descending into holidays…so I thought I’d touch on some winter spices that everybody uses for BAKING…but since I’m not the Pastry Queen I’m going to talk a bit about nuance and savory cooking.  Nutmeg is one of my favorite spices because it has such a nuanced flavor if you use the right amount that most people can’t tell it’s in there…it’s the big ole’ “What IS that flavor?!?” that I love to hear so much 🙂

Nutmeg was fought over (the islands that grew it) and considered so valuable that it was sterilized when it left an island so that it couldn’t re-seed or grow anywhere else.  It comes from a tree that also produces mace (more on that next time) The DEATH penalty was enforced for anyone smuggling nutmeg.  First the Portuguese and the Dutch battled over dominion.  Then the Dutch and the English.   I’m going to leave you with two fun facts:

1)   The Island of Manhattan, then called New Amsterdam, is part of the United States because of a negotiation in 1667 ending this particular spice war.

2)    Add a pinch of nutmeg whenever you use cream, milk, or eggs.  No matter the recipe.  You’ll thank me!

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Scent and Memory – a Powerful Combination!

Pumpkin Spice Cake with Orange-Creme Ganash
Pumpkin Spice Cake with Orange-Creme Ganash

As you smell a fresh pine tree, cookies baking, bayberry or orange, do flashes of past Christmas holidays come flooding through your mind?  This very aromatic season is an easy way to describe the phenomenon of scent and memory.

The process of smelling is a thing of beauty.  Smell is a chemical sense detected by sensory cells called chemoreceptors in the nose that detect smell and pass on electrical impulses to the brain.  The brain then interprets patterns in electrical activity as specific odors and olfactory sensation becomes perception – we recognize this as smell.  The only other chemical system that can quickly identify, make sense of and memorize new molecules is the immune system (Sarah Dowdy, How Stuff Works).

Gratefully reprinted with permission from my good friend Pat Faust, Gerontologist – and her blog “My Boomer Brain”

Spice and Inflammation

sweet potatoes

Linda Baier of Isaiah’s Way Nutrition has made my post extremely easy this week – I’m just copying her info to pass along to you!

 Inflammation is a key contributor to heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, cancer, and joint pain, so reducing inflammation is important to your health. According to a study cited in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, the herbs and spices that best reduce or suppress inflammation and protect against DNA damage are: • Cloves  • Ginger  • Rosemary  • Turmeric  • Paprika  • Sage  • Cumin.

Of all the spices listed above, turmeric is a health superstar! That’s because it contains curcumin, an antioxidant compound found in the root of the turmeric plant. Years of studies continue to show that turmeric helps to: • Protect brain function  • Reduce the risk of memory loss  • Aid digestive and cardiovascular health  • Improve the immune system  • Prevent the growth of certain cancer cells  • Improve liver function (your body’s natural detoxifier.)  • Reduce cholesterol level  • Reduce joint pain and improve flexibility (especially in arthritis sufferers)  • Serve as a natural antibiotic, inhibiting the growth of bacteria.   What’s the best way to get all the health benefits of turmeric? Scientists note that combining black pepper with turmeric increases the amount of curcumin your body can absorb. (India and Thai recipes often contain both!) So mix the two spices when you’re cooking with turmeric!  Lula’s for Lunch…and More! Catering uses all of these spices copiously, not only because they’re so good for you but because they enhance the flavor of so many foods so beautifully!  One example is our Sweet Potato and Kale Salad with Bulgar.  Bask in the deliciousness and vibrancy of this healthful dish!