Spice Blends, Some Exotic Aisle: Garam Masala

Spice Blends are great for invigorating the flavor of cooked vegetables. They also make great dry rubs or a tasty addition to breading mix before meat is deep fried in oil.

That being said, the last thing anyone wants is to try something new, be sorely disappointed, and throw the unpalatable food out.

So I’ve added a new series to this blog spotlighting spice blends. If it sounds good, try it; if it doesn’t, at least you know what you’re missing and you’re more than okay with that.

I’m starting with one of my faves: Garam Masala (guhr-ahm mah sah lah)

Garam

Starting with the red bowl and moving to the right, we have Cumin, Black Peppercorns, Cinnamon, Cardamom, and Coriander.

Garam Masala is an Indian spice blend, whose versions vary across the subcontinent. Masala means blend, Garam means heat. But don’t be ‘alarmed’–the heat comes from its whole, unground spice pods, kernels, and sticks being simmered in oil to extract their individual flavors, and combine with the others for maximum impact. When the dish is ready to be served, ground spice is dusted on meat and vegetables.

In its native area, Garam Masala is used in curries.

Other uses: Here is the States, I like Garam Masala and melted butter for a great sugar-free flavor on sweet potatoes. Garam Masala is also tasty on scrambled or fried eggs. It would probably be pretty tasty on french toast as well.

 

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‘Later, Tater: Alternatives to White Potatoes and Other Starches

The American dinner. If it’s from Mom, Nana, or your local sit-down restaurant, it’s just unthinkable to have a main course without side dishes. That would be like a rock band with no drums and bass.

And the sides you most often see on an American plate? Potatoes, corn, rice, beans, pasta, maybe steamed vegetables.

If you’re cutting back, though, most likely starches are out of the question–no potatoes, no rice, no pasta, no corn; this makes eating out a little more choosy and thought-provoking experience.

Don’t be surprised if by cutting back on white or starchy foods, though, that the pounds start easing right off.

What can you eat in place of those starches at home?

Here are some things I’ve learned from Paleo cookbooks:

Root vegetables, sweet potatoes, and squashes are excellent ‘tater replacements’ Any of these can be diced, boiled or roasted, pureed, and who would know it wasn’t mashed potatoes until they tasted it?

  • Butter and unique spice blends of your choice can make all the difference in an otherwise mushy, bland, or earthy taste.
  • A little white or blush wine near the end of the cooking process can accent the flavor nicely without altering the color of food.
  • If you are not vegetarian, adding a meat broth to the cooking process can help flavor as well. If you are a vegetarian, there is always vegetarian vegetable soup, V8, or salsa to help with flavor.
  • For tropical flair, use coconut oil, non-sugary dried flakes, or coconut milk in the cooking process. **if you experience palpitations after eating coconut, don’t use it. I’m no doctor, but that’s not a good sign.**

To substitute for rice, take a head of cauliflower, break off each node, and break it up into chunks into a food processor. When the head is broken down, run the processor until you have a watery white powder. This is your rice. It has the slight sour taste of raw cauliflower, so squirting in some citrus, some wine and herbs can help conceal that flavor. Or pour the cauliflower rice into a bowl and use some sauce from the rest of the prepared meal and let it soak in for a few minutes, pour it on top and let it soak in for a few minutes.

To substitute for spaghetti, microwave a spaghetti squash, halved lengthwise, in about 1″ water on a microwave safe plate or bowl with a 1 TB. of water for 10 minutes. When it is done take it out and let it cool a little because the rind and interior are scalding hot. Flip each side over, use a fork to gently pull all the threads out onto another plate. Voila, noodles. If you wish to season them in a marinade, or saute them for a few minutes in a herb sauce, that is doable. They will have a slightly sweet taste to them that ordinary egg noodles do not have.

When eating out, always ask for alternatives. While I haven’t located mashed turnips or spaghetti squash risotto just yet, I have seen menus offering baked sweet potatoes, steamed seasonal vegetables, steamed asparagus, and the good old substitute garden/caesar salad for an extra dollar or two.