Tag: spices

Let’s Talk Spices, New on YouTube

One of the things I love to talk about is food history. It’s no secret I’ve spent many, many hours reading and researching where the food comes from.

I got the opportunity in January at the Arizona VegFest to share some food history. I gave this talk on the history of spices, where they come from and why some of them are on our baking racks instead in our savory recipes.

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Following the Spice: Star Anise

We are back on the Spice Road and this time looking at star anise. What makes this licorice tasting spice so popular, even today?

Star anise is a spice that hails from southwestern China. It spread through Indo-China and Japan, ultimately finding its way into Europe and the rest of the world by the late 1500s. It is a medium-sized evergreen tree from the magnolia family. The fruit creates a star shape that can have up to eight points on it. The seeds are contained within this casing. The plant itself is highly decorative and can be grown for its beauty as well as its spice.

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Following the Spice: Cinnamon

Cinnamon sticks

Cinnamon was always on the shelf in my home growing up. Mom used it for everything from toothaches (just stick it on the gums) to cinnamon sugar on toast. She put it in a variety of dishes, which confused some of my friends and neighbors. Isn’t cinnamon a spice for baked goods? Pastries, apple pies, not spaghetti sauce and meat rubs.

It turns out my mom wasn’t wrong. She was operating on the idea that cinnamon is good for the gut, fights off diabetes, and helps reduce cholesterol. She learned these things from her mother, who learned it from her mother, and so handed down through my family. read more

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Spices Make the Pantry Go Round

I’m trying to figure out how many dried spices I use. In the spirit of reducing, reusing, and recycling, I’ve been using the small jars that jams come in, and the jars that the nut butters I buy come in. However, I’ve run out of the small jars because I make my own jam now. I’ve broken some, and some of them are in use.

I’m looking at needing to buy spice jars to organize the pantry. I’ve looked at Anchor Hocking, Oxo, Sur La Table, Bed Bath and Beyond, along with several on-line companies. I really really like the Anchor Hocking square jar. Problem: there is no price on their website. How can you be selling something and not show a price? Are they really that expensive? read more

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Following the Spice: Cumin

In ancient times, cumin was as common a spice as black pepper is on our tables today. Used as a condiment, baked in bread, and distributed widely, cumin seed generated several fascinating myths and origin stories as a list of incredible health benefits. In the Ancient World, people believed that cumin could cure anything but death. What is Cumin?

Sa cuminThere are two kinds of seed that are called cumin.

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The Spice Road: Coriander

Coriander (seeds)Certain foods inspire strong reactions in people.  For example, many people either love or hate cilantro.  Its prevalence in salsas and Mexican sauces make it easily recognizable to most diners. On the other hand, coriander is more of a stealth ingredient, finding its way into many foods without inspiring such a strong reaction.  What many people don’t realize is that those cilantro leaves and stems come from the same plant as the spice known as coriander.

Coriander is the fruit or seed of the cilantro plant (also known as Chinese parsley). The seed is ground up and used as a base in curry pastes or “gravies.” It serves as a base ingredient in Mediterranean, Chinese, and Indonesian cooking. It sports a pungent fragrance and provides a deep, rich flavor to food. Cilantro, on the other hand, lighter but stronger, imparts a “lift” to any food it seasons. Recipes usually add cilantro at the end of a dish while coriander is added at the beginning. Oftentimes coriander is toasted and ground, and then mixed in with ginger and turmeric. Diners can easily see and recognize cilantro in a dish, which can trigger an immediate reaction, either positive or negative. Since coriander is one of the invisible spices, most people don’t even know they are eating it. read more

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Spicing up your Cuisine: Exploring the World of Spices


SpicesSpices make up the “palette” of a chef. They have a long and intriguing story of travel; how they spread out from a point of origin to all over the globe. Each culture treats these spices a little differently, yet there seems to be several common spices used in global cuisine.

Cumin, coriander, turmeric, and ginger make up the base of most Asian and South Asian cooking. Pick up any Indian cook book, and at least three of the four will be listed. The combination is the base of a “curry,” or gravy, that is made to compliment the food on the table. read more

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Base Squash Soup Recipe

We've been discussing squash all month, and as a final tribute, here's a basic squash soup recipe that can be applied to several winter varieties of squash, including pumpkin, acorn, butternut, and kabocha squash. Winter squash are comforting when the temperatures drop and its cold outside. Enjoy this soup by the fire with relaxing music. Read on for the recipe.

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Spices: Saffron

SaffronSaffron is the most expensive spice in the world today. It can cost as much as $300.00 U.S dollars an ounce. This is because the part of the plant that is used must be hand-harvested.

Saffron is harvested from the three stigmas of the Crocus Sativus flower. The flower has to be hand picked, the stigma removed, and then separated. There is no machine that will do this job. Only human hands are capable of picking the threads without damaging them.

What’s in the name? Saffron is from the Arabic word zafaran which means ‘yellow’. The French culinary term safrané means ‘coloured using saffron’. The colouring properties of Saffron have been prized as much as its unique flavor.

Where does Saffron come from? It spread out from Ancient Persia, down through the Mediterranean peninsula, and up into China, and throughout India, where it was quickly adopted for dying Buddhist monk robes and anointing deities.

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Personal Chef Time

I had the opportunity and the time to create a special dinner for a friend's birthday. And here's what I created. The Menu:

Quinoa fruit Cakes Tofu and vegetable skewers marinated in a fresh herb vinaigrette Grilled/smoked zucchini and squash Micro green, jicama, and strawberry salad, complemented with a toasted cumin lime vinaigrette

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Books by Chef Johnna

  • Delectable Vegan Soups -------------------------------------------------------
  • Things Vegans Fry: Crunchy Comfort Food for Vegans

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