The autumnal equinox has come and gone, practically beckoning the cooler temperatures that will soon dominate the forecast and temper the last hints of summer. I was born and raised in the desert, so my experience with the cold is rather limited. Now that I live on the East Coast, I’ll soon be seeking warmth in the form of nourishing, vegan recipes. The following spices are already staples in my kitchen, but they will be making even more of an appearance because they boast so many warming and health-promoting properties.
Celebrated for its purported health benefits as early as 2,000 BC, cinnamon is a staple in kitchens throughout the world. In addition to its ubiquity, did you know that studies have found that cinnamon lowers blood sugar in people with type 1 and 2 diabetes? This spice has also been cited as a way to reduce inflammation, relieve indigestion, and boost the immune system.
To get your proper cinnamon fix, why not bake some Pumpkin Pecan Cinnamon Rolls with Ginger Cream Cheese Glaze or Banana Caramel Bread Pudding? If savory is more your style, try this grounding dish of Spiced Lentils and Rice.
Another time-tested spice, ginger has been used for thousands of years as a way to aid everything from mild digestive upset to the common cold to serious heart conditions. Further research suggests that ginger may also protect the liver against damage. Finally, this spice is known as an anti-inflammatory, reducing joint and muscular pain in those who suffer.
Ginger has traditionally been used in Indian and Asian cultures, but you don’t have to limit your taste buds to a single cuisine! Warm up with this simple Carrot Apple Ginger Soup or Gingered Sesame-Coconut Udon with Roasted Broccoli. For dessert, enjoy some “Honey” Ginger Almond Date Cookies.
Cayenne pepper is known as a warming spice because it stimulates circulation and blood flow to the skin. It has also been called an anti-irritant, soothing a sore throat or cough, in addition to aiding other common cold and flu symptoms. Some research has found that cayenne may even aid osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Add cayenne to chilis, stews, or even salad dressings. If you want a special treat, try these delicious Mexican Hot Chocolate Snickerdoodles or some Sweet N’ Spicy Candied Nuts.
This unique spice has been reported to act as a powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and aphrodisiac. One study even found that cardamom may reduce the tendency of blood platelets to clump together, thereby reducing or preventing blood clot formation. In India, cardamom seeds are regularly consumed after meals as a way to freshen the breath.
For a raw twist on traditional chai, check out this Raw, Vegan Chai Spiced Hot Chocolate. Alternatively, try serving up some Swedish Cardamom Bread with a little vegan butter or jam for a mid-afternoon respite.
This orange-hued spice has been gaining popularity in medicinal circles as a result of its many reputed health benefits. According to a 2007 study published in Advanced Experimental Medical Biology , turmeric is cited as exhibiting “antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antifungal, and anticancer” properties. As a substance that repairs damaged or inflamed skin, some individuals suggest sprinkling a bit on an open wound to act as a disinfectant.
Scrambled tofu is practically requisite on those proverbial lazy Sunday mornings. Try out this Scrambled Tofu with Collards and Turmeric or, if you’re preparing breakfast with a special someone, make this Tofu Scramble for Two. If you’re not a fan of brunch (but really, who isn’t?), this vibrant Golden Beet Soup with Roasted Garlic Cashew Cream won’t let you down. Turmeric is of course essential in any curries. Try this simple but delicious chickpea mash: Saute garlic, Swiss chard, and cooked chickpeas in a little olive oil, adding turmeric, cumin, and coriander and mashing the beans as you go.
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Photo: 123rf; Peaceful Dumpling