Herbs Amp Up Flavors, Health Benefits of Food
Food is many things, but in some ways, it’s providing information for every cell in your body.
The right foods in your diet can optimize your health, but when we eat the wrong foods, they can contribute to oxidative stress and inflammation. These conditions are often root causes of chronic illness.
With that in mind, we should seek fresh, healthy whole foods, and honestly, they taste great. If you want to layer another level of flavor and health benefits to whole foods, consider adding herbs to your cooking. Herbs are bountiful sources of plant compounds that combat oxidative stress, infection and inflammation in our bodies.
Herb Garden for Healing
I grow an herb garden, and some of the staples are the familiar such as basil, cilantro, oregano and parsley, but I also include fennel, rosemary, sage, thyme and garlic in my herb plot. All grow well in a Midwestern climate, and each provides a good variety of flavors for food.
I prefer to grow my herbs outdoors during the growing season for optimal flavor in the plant. You don’t have to miss out on fresh herb flavors and benefits during the winter months. When the herb plants are at their peak, you can harvest, chop and divide them using ice-cube trays. You can then cover them with olive or avocado oil and freeze them.
If you store the frozen herb cubes in large zip lock bags in your freezer, you’ll have convenient flavor that’s as easy as pulling out of the freezer each time you want to add flavor to your cooking.
Relish in the Variety Rainbow of Health Benefits
Many herbs vary from one taste to another, and a great example is basil. This uniquely sweet/savory herb comes in 30 varieties, giving you plenty of ammunition to experiment with the many varietal flavors.
The oils that impart the distinct smell to basil are the plant compounds that are beneficial to your health. Eugenol oil blocks pain triggering enzymes in your body, and it can help relieve pain. The oils of other herbs contribute by helping to balance blood-sugar and stress-hormone levels.
Cilantro gives a fresh boost of flavor to many different ethnic cuisines, while the greens and coriander seeds they offer provide two unique flavors. This herb, common in cuisines native to nations in Asia, Africa and Central America, can help your body rid toxins.
Fennel can add a unique flavor to your menu, and it’s often the distinct flavor you notice in real Italian sausage and dishes with that ingredient. As an herb, it’s packed with beneficial plant chemicals, and they are well known for providing favorable feelings to your gastrointestinal system. It’s also a potent anti-inflammatory.
More Flavors, More Assistance
Historically oregano has been used for its infection-fighting properties in ancient Greece and Egyptian civilizations. The major components of oregano oil are carvacrol and thymol, and both pack properties that can fight off bacterial, viral, fungal and parasitic threats. Medical research continues to investigate oregano’s benefits in relationship to weight loss and metabolism, as well as cholesterol control.
Parsley is rich in flavonoids, which are antioxidants that can help protect you from cancer and heart disease. It also contains apigenin, a plant chemical that boosts your body’s detoxification. Rosemary is an herb with many health benefits due to its anti-inflammatory properties. It is also well known for its benefits stimulating the mind.
Sage also has brain benefits improving mood and memory. Thyme is well known as one of nature’s most powerful antiseptics it contains a class of phytonutrients called thymol. It also imparts antioxidant protections for our bodies. It takes no science to realize that rosemary, sage and thyme offer the allure of amazing aromas, too, no matter what you’re cooking.
Garlic’s benefits are in the plant chemical that packs its powerful aroma, allicin. This potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent has been studied for its heart health benefits and cancer prevention. It even proved its value as an anti-infectious remedy, and was widely used during World War I and World War II in this fashion.
These are merely tips of a tasty and good-for-you iceberg when it comes to herbs. Yes, something that adds such amazing taste is good for you too – so get planting, get snipping and get more herbs in your food.
You’ll love it.
Herbed Roast Chicken with Charred Poblano Sauce
- 2 tablespoons ghee at room temperature*
- 1 lemon, zested and quartered
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves
- ¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon chopped oregano
- One 4-pound whole chicken
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- Mix ghee, olive oil, cilantro, oregano, garlic, lemon zest, salt and pepper.
- Separate skin from breast meat. First use index finger working from back end of the bird, and use a table knife to continue to separate where your finger won’t reach all the way to the neck. Do not remove the skin just pull it loose for the next step.
- Use a small spoon to stuff one-third of the herb butter under each breast half, and massage it throughout the pocket.
- Rub the remaining one-third over the outside of the bird. Then stuff the lemon quarters, along with some cuttings of fresh oregano and sage, inside the chicken itself.
- Tie the legs together with a cotton string, tuck the wingtips under the chicken’s body then put the chicken on a rack in a shallow roasting pan. Roast for approximately 1 hour 15 minutes or until the internal temperature of the breast reaches 175 degrees F.
- Remove from oven, tent with foil rest bird for 15 minutes and serve with warm Poblano sauce on the side.
* Note: Ghee is clarified butter, which you can buy in many stores or make at home. You can substitute regular butter instead, but the recipe is best with ghee.
Charred Poblano Sauce
- 3 whole Poblano chilies
- 1 jalapeno pepper, whole
- ½ cup chicken stock
- 1½ tablespoons cider vinegar
- ½ large red onion, peeled and cut into four pieces
- 1½ teaspoons sea salt
- 2 garlic cloves peeled
- 1 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves loosely packed
- Roast the whole Poblano and jalapeno on all sides using a grill, broiler or gas burner set on high for about 10 minutes or until skin is thoroughly blackened on all sides. Set roasted peppers in a covered bowl to allow to steam and cool.
- While wearing rubber gloves remove the peppers’ skins and discard the seeds and stems. Cut the jalapeno in half crosswise.
- Puree the Poblano peppers, one-half of the jalapeno, along with the onion, garlic, stock, vinegar, parsley and salt in food processor until smooth.
- Warm the sauce in a small saucepan over medium-low heat prior to serving.