Power Spicing, a cookbook review

One skill that I constantly feel like I am trying to develop is flavor combining.  Growing up, the flavors I was most familiar with were soy sauce, ginger, garlic, sesame oil, and scallions.  Cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves only made their appearance in a spiced apple cake that my mother would make on occasion because it was my favorite.  Anything beyond that can easily feel alien to me.

I think it’s the main reason why I am a tad obsessed with spices and spice mixes.  Power Spicing by Rachel Beller would have been the perfect book for me when I was getting into cooking.  It’s a cute cookbook with only about 60 recipes, and an overview of 25 spices. This is not Spice Master Lior Lev Sercarz level of cooking.  But that doesn’t mean that this book doesn’t have any value. One could argue that maybe it has more relevance to the average home cook.  

In the spice introduction, Beller mentions potential health/medicinal benefits of the 25 spices she chose to highlight.  For example, “studies show that cinnamon may help regulate blood sugars, improve insulin sensitivity, and reduce hemoglobin A1C levels.”  She also includes some general helpful information on each spice that varies from where you can find a certain spice to flavor substitutes.  She also offers from spice pairings based on absorption enhancers, synergistic actions, or doubling potential health effects.  

The book has seven main chapters:

  • DIY spice blends
  • Daily power beverages
  • Spicy and sweet breakfasts
  • Mains that pack a punch
  • Sizzling up your sides
  • Dressings and dips
  • Snacks and sweets

A lot of the recipes are plant based, but not all of them.  Some recipes that were of interest to me are:

  • Red-hot chili cocoa
  • Butternut squash and apple bake
  • Apple-zested muesli
  • Tzimmes oat crumble
  • Lentil salad with spicy vinaigrette
  • Vegan creamy brussels sprout Caesar
  • Warm fennel salad
  • Green goddess fenugreek tahini sauce
  • Spiced nut and date bars

Since the temperatures are dropping here in New England, I was mostly interested in the spiced warm drinks.  I made three of them (but only remembered to take photos of two). The first one I made was the golden choco-latte. The purpose of this drink is to help soothe inflammation and to balance your blood sugars.  Honestly, I just thought that it was pretty tasty.

View this post on Instagram

spice blend 🙃

A post shared by @ awesomesauceeats on

The second drink I tried was the saffron and cardamom latte.  This was the recipe that caught my eye first when I initially received the cookbook.  Made with saffron, green cardamom, cinnamon, and fennel, it’s supposed to boost your mood, strengthen your immune system, and help with bloating.  I was mostly curious about using saffron and cardamom as a blend. (I use cardamom today when I’m making masala chai.) Sadly, I was disappointed in this one.  Also, my efforts looked nothing like the photo. It just didn’t taste interesting enough to me. Maybe the fennel is a little too strong? I think I would have preferred just plain fennel tea (which is something I do from time to time).  Maybe I’ll play with the ratios of cardamom and fennel next time (if there is a next time).

View this post on Instagram

Matcha, cinnamon, ginger

A post shared by @ awesomesauceeats on

So then I made the stabilizing matcha in hopes that it would make up for the latte.  The stabilizing matcha says that the “combination of ginger, cinnamon, and matcha has been shown to stabilize blood sugar levels and decrease the risk of diabetes.”  I was a little worried that the cinnamon and ginger would completely overwhelm the matcha, but that didn’t seem to be the case. The spices hit the tongue first, but I think the matcha lingered afterward the most.  Final review? Yeah, I think this made up for the latte. I’m normally a plain green tea kind of person, but I think I can make an exception for this recipe from time to time.

While I recommend taking health claims with some skepticism, I don’t think there’s any harm in experimenting with whole and natural foods to try to increase benefits.  Especially if those experiments are tasty. Anyone with an interest in general spice blending or looking for a starting point in spice blending will find Power Spicing to be useful.

 

Disclaimer – I kindly received this book from Clarkson Potter for this review.  I’m not getting paid for this post. The views and opinions expressed are purely my own.  

 

Warming grapefruit tea, for people who hate grapefruit

I’m coming down with a cold. meh.

So, all I want right now is is something that is warm, soothes my throat, and is full of things that’s supposed to be good for you. I don’t know why, but I rarely crave orange juice when I’m sick. Apple cider is nice but sometimes it tastes too sweet to me. Grapefruit is on sale at my local markets, so that’s what I brought home.

DSC00749

The problem? I don’t like grapefruit. I very nearly hate it. So why did I come home with grapefruits? To make grapefruit tea! Ok, I guess this is more like a spiced grapefruit cider than tea but the original recipe calls it tea so I’m leaving it like that. The original recipe called for 1 stick cinnamon and 1/2tsp allspice berries for about 2 cups grapefruit juice to be heated on the stove. However, I have a jar of chai masala that I made recently, so I went with that instead. Plus, the black pepper in the chai mix feels nice on my sore throat.

Continue reading

Earl Grey Cookies

What is this? An update? Really?!

Yes, really. 🙂

I will admit though that I’m posting at the request of a friend. haha, I’m so lazy otherwise or something like that.

I’ve been experimenting with earl grey butter cookies. They aren’t perfect. The flavor is very subtle. I haven’t been able to keep these in my house long enough, but it’s been reported to me that the flavor improves after a couple of days. I’m still going to experiment – need to see if I can bump up the earl grey flavor a notch, but dang! they smell amazing when they are baking in the oven.

Makes about 5 dozen? I don’t know. Uh… I must admit that I lost some of the dough to the floor.

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs, beaten lightly
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
4-5 bags of early grey tea leaves (open up the bags and crush with mortar/pestle)
3/4 teaspoon coarse salt

Cream the butter and sugar first. Then add the eggs and vanilla, and mix. Finally add the flour, tea leaves, and salt. Mix until well combined.

Now, you can roll these into two logs and freeze them for at least an hour, or you can fill plastic bags and roll out flat before putting into the freezer. The first method gives you traditionally round butter cookies. The second gives you the chance to make very neat squares. I’ve done it both ways.

After freezing, slice up your logs into about 1/4″ rounds. If you used the plastic bags, cut the bags open flat and cut your cookies into neat squares. Either way, your cookies should probably be about 1 1/2″ in size.

Preheat oven to 375. Space cookies 1 inch apart on baking sheets lined with parchment. Bake until edges are golden, 18 to 20 minutes.

(My oven runs hot. I baked at 360 for 16-17 minutes.)

Cookies made for Tammy Raabe Rao; photo taken by Tammy Raabe Rao. ♥

~Mikan