How to spice up your life

My friend Beckie has been married for over fourteen years. We were sitting in the sun the other day, drinking a Jasmine IPA and talking. She mentioned her recent camping trip with her husband – one week together 24/7. She was ready to come home and not ready to leave my house to go hang out with him. It happens in all relationships – disillusionment, boredom, the same old shit…. The magic is gone. People begin asking themselves, ‘is it time to give up, to move on?” But there is something that many people don’t understand (and I’ve dated a few – fuck I even married one) – there is a value to the tried and true. You don’t need to exchange, you need to bring some freshness into your life. Give it a little spice, take the time to make it special even if it’s only for a day or a dinner. And POW! Some thoughtfulness, creativity and a little boldness go a long way toward making your relationship spicy again. This goes for your relationship with your food too.

We all get stuck in a cooking rut, but here are a few spices that can do wonders for all of your relationships:

Chocolate – Can be added to black beans and is particularly good in Mexican and South American cooking. Chocolate give a richness to dishes which include tomatos, are spicy or include meat. Be creative. Here are some tips from Chefsline . com:

Tips for introducing chocolate to your dinner:

  • If a recipe you are using calls for flour, substitute up to 25% of that flour with cocoa powder.
  • Put a small piece of bittersweet chocolate at the bottom of a bowl of hot soup or chili. As it slowly melts, you can experiment with how much chocolate you like with each slice of your spoon.
  • Add a tablespoon or two of melted chocolate (or cacao nibs in lieu of nuts, if your recipe calls for them) to a buttery sauté.
  • Try using rosemary, thyme, lavender, cayenne, olive oil, or some other ingredient normally associated with savory cooking, to your favorite chocolate dessert.
  • Be aware, water can make chocolate seize (stiffen and lump suddenly), but you can usually unseize it if you stir it vigorously enough.
  • Use good chocolate. It’s worth the extra cost.

Cardamon – This is a wonderful spice that is also amazingly flexible. You can added it to salads, salad dressing, fruits, breakfasts, meat dishes – well, just about anything. It originates from South West Asia and is used extensively in Indian cooking.

Cinnamon– Cinnamon is great it Mexican and South American cooking, Indian, breakfast foods and baked goods.  Here is a short history of Cinnamon from About. com:

Native to Ceylon (Sri Lanka), true cinnamon, Cinnamomum zeylanicum, dates back in Chinese writings to 2800 B.C., and is still known as kwai in the Chinese language today. Its botanical name derives from the Hebraic and Arabic term amomon, meaning fragrant spice plant. Ancient Egyptians used cinnamon in their embalming process. From their word for cannon, Italians called it canella, meaning “little tube,” which aptly describes cinnamon sticks.

In the first century A.D., Pliny the Elder wrote of 350 grams of cinnamon as being equal in value to over five kilograms of silver, about fifteen times the value of silver per weight.

Medieval physicians used cinnamon in medicines to treat coughing, hoarseness and sore throats. As a sign of remorse, Roman Emperor Nero ordered a year’s supply of cinnamon be burnt after he murdered his wife.

Hummmm, maybe she should have tried some new recipes….

Almond Flour – This is my tip of the week from Beckie. She made a breaded chicken the other night with this, but you could also use it in Eggplant Parmigiana or fried green tomatoes. It is best used in place of flour, in cakes and for breading.

Alcohol – I think every one knows that alcohol is great to add to food, but I don’t think that people use it enough. I like to add it to sauces right before I finish them, to stir-fries, to baked goods, to sautes and to my glass. The general rule of thumb for wine is that if you would drink it with the food you can cook it in the food. For other alcohols and liquors make sure that any flavor is complimentary to your food. For instance, if you are making something with lime – try tequila.

Breaded Rock Fish

Here is a simple recipe for breaded Rock Fish:

Rock Fish

baking chocolate

semolina flour


Cashews or other nuts

1-2 eggs

salt and pepper to taste

pinch of sugar

Mix together the chocolate, cinnamon, salt, pepper, sugar and flour. I doesn’t really matter how much, you’ll just need enough to cover the fish. Roll the fish in the flour mixture, dip in egg (beaten) and then crust with crushed nuts. Cashews, pecans, walnuts, whatever. Drop it in the frying pan with a little oil until the fish is nice and flaky. If you are using my favorite Chili-Lime cashews, even better. (There are some amazing flavored cashews that “JJ” introduced me to. When I find out what they are called I will post it here. They would be great with this.) I drizzled my fish with Armando’s Cilanto Garlic Sauce.

The side in the picture above is Quinoa with a saute of beets, turnips and ginger with a splash of red wine. It is sprinkled with fresh Cilantro and Jalapeno’s. My son said “Yum”.


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