Seasonings, often referred to as herbs and spices, are truly miraculous little gems. These powerful leaves, seeds, flowers and bark can heal the sick, uplift the spirit, as well as make our food taste “awesome.”
So when I’m cooking for Thanksgiving, there’s one herb and one spice that I always invite to the holiday party, and I’m sure they’re on your holiday guest list as well.
SAGE & CINNAMON
Bear with me while we run through this short botany lesson, then on to the recipes.
SAGE (Salvia Officinalis)
- There are over 900 species of Salvia, but this is the garden variety best known for culinary uses.
- The word salvia comes from the Latin, salvare, meaning, to rescue or to heal. The English word, sage, means, wise one.
- During The Middle Ages, sage was believed to provide wisdom, and improve one’s memory. It was also thought to restore energy, lift one’s mood, and promote longevity.
- Counteracts intestinal inflammation
- Aids in the digestion of fat
- Dried sage makes a terrific medicinal tea. Add hot water and honey to the leaves to ease sore throats and colds.
So, I debated whether to give you a sage stuffing recipe this week in honor of Thanksgiving, and then realized that most everyone has their own favorite, either handed down by your foremothers, or found on one of the many fabulous food related websites. But do not fear, my friends, you are in for a real treat. Unless of course you’re vegetarian, then I invite you to scroll down to the Cider-Cinnamon Brussels Sprouts recipe.
Bacon Wrapped Apricots with Sage
I know, you’re probably wondering why I’m offering you these hors d’oeuvres, when I’m supposed to be inspiring you to live a healthy lifestyle. Well, that’s just it. In order to live a “healthy life”, we need to pay attention to all aspect of our life that makes us healthy and happy. This includes our relationships, our career, our exercise routine, our spirituality as well as the foods we put into our bodies. Just remember, if you were to deny yourself every yummy treat that you are going to face this holiday season, I guarantee you will not be healthy or happy in mind or spirit. So, eat only 3 bacon wrapped apricots instead of 17. Or don’t eat any at all if you don’t want to, just don’t feel guilty about “living.”
I found this recipe in Real Simple Magazine back in December 2009, and I’ve made it many times for company. It’s a huge hit with adults, teens and kids.
Makes 24 pieces
24 small fresh sage leaves
24 large dried apricots
8 slices of bacon; cut crosswise into thirds
2 tbsp. pure maple syrup
Toothpicks for serving
1. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Place a sage leaf on each apricot, wrap with a piece of bacon, and place seam-side down on a baking sheet.
2. Bake until bacon begins to crisp, 6-8 minutes per side.
3. Remove from oven and brush with maple syrup.
4. Serve with toothpicks.
CINNAMON (Cinnamon zylanicum – true cinnamon and Cinnamon cassia – Indian cinnamon)
- A delicate spice with a sweet and pungent flavor.
- One of the world’s oldest seasonings dating back to 2500 B.C. in China.
- In the West, cinnamon enhances mostly cakes and desserts, while in the East, it is mostly found in savory and meat dishes.
- What we know as cinnamon is actually, Cassia, a sturdier and more pungent form of cinnamon. It travels well, and keeps longer than true cinnamon. Because it is more crudely processed, it is a less expensive and more salable product than true cinnamon.
- True cinnamon can be found in health food stores and specialty markets under the name, Ceylon Cinnamon.
- Both cinnamon and cassia are the shaved bark from the branches of several evergreen trees in the laurel family. The dried bark naturally rolls into scrolls called “quills” or sticks. Since this is difficult to grind at home, packaged ground cinnamon is readily available.
- Counteracts congestion.
- Aids in circulation.
- Eases nausea, and calm the stomach.
- May reduce cholesterol levels.
- May be useful in the treatment of Type 2 diabetes.
Cider-Cinnamon Brussels Sprouts
This recipe is from www.epicurious.com. I believe it was originally in Self Magazine by Emily Malone. It’s a slightly sweet side dish offering a ton of fiber and more than half of your daily Vitamin C requirement.
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 cups Brussels sprouts, halved
1 large apple, diced
1 large pear, diced
1 cup apple cider
¼ tsp. cinnamon
1. In a large pan, heat oil over medium heat.
2. Add Brussels sprouts, cut-side down and cook until browned, about 10 minutes or so.
Only flip once.
3. Add apple and pear; cook until soft, 5 minutes.
4. Add cider and cinnamon; stir and simmer until all of the liquid cooks away.
Since seasonings are our theme for this week, why don’t we stay with that and clean out the spice cabinet or drawer? Now don’t sign off yet my friends, this one is super easy. I promise.
You all know Rachel Ray, right? Well, not actually know her, but know who she is. Anyway, on her show, 30 Minute Meals, a few years back, she confessed that every November she automatically buys a bottle of poultry seasoning when she shops for her Thanksgiving supplies, and one year she realized that she had accumulated 7 unopened bottles in her pantry. Since we’re all watching our pennies these days, we certainly don’t need 7 jars of the same spice in our cabinet, let alone 2 of the same. We’re still trying to figure out what we’re supposed to do with the cream of tartar, right?
Take all of the herbs and spices out of your spice cabinet or spice drawer.
Wipe the inside of the cabinet with a warm, soapy paper towel or dish cloth. Dry.
Open every bottle and take a whiff. If you can’t smell anything, there’s a good chance the herb or spice is past its prime; it won’t add much flavor to your dish. If you can smell the aroma, then recap the bottle and put it aside until this is done with all of your seasonings.
(Just an FYI; I believe if you find a bottle that has a company logo on it from eons back, you might fetch some $$$ on eBay as a collectors item.)
Make a list of those herbs and spices that you need or want to buy the next time you go food shopping.
Replace all of the bottles and jars into your cabinet or drawer that you want to keep.
Extra-Credit: You can alphabetize the jars if you wish; however, not even this extra-credit girl does that one. But feel free if you are inclined. I’ll even give you extra-extra credit.
So my friends, I want to thank you for sharing your time with me again this week. I wish you all a healthy and happy and yummy Thanksgiving. And remember, living a “healthy lifestyle” is all about “living life.”