West Indies-Inspired Marinade

We love this West Indies-inspired spice mix for it’s ability to transform hum drum everyday broiled chicken into something juicy and intensely spiced (but not spicy!). The warm, zesty aroma always picks me up after a busy day on the run and it gets my mind thinking about lazy barbeques, the beach and summer vacations. Anything that can accomplish that  gets a big gold star in my book and the fact that both my little guys happily scarf up these flavors is like the icing on the cake.

Anything you might be inspired to grill up with this mix will make a great filling for a taco or a sandwich, and is guaranteed to kick up a boring plate of rice and beans (or Orlando Cepeda’s famous Caribbean Cha Cha Bowls). I  can also recommend this spice mix as a fun mini cooking project to do with little hands. Kids will enjoy seeing the whole spices (and smelling everything of course) as well as getting into the act with measuring, grinding and marinating.

West Indies-Inspired Marinade

To save time, you could use all pre-ground spices or make up a big jar of the mix, but the flavors will be extra special if you start from whole and grind them when you need them.

In a coffee or spice grinder, grind to a fine powder:

  • 1.5 tsp whole allspice
  • 1 tsp whole coriander
  • 1 tsp whole cumin
  • 1/2 tsp peppercorns
  • fresh thyme (leaves from about 2 sprigs), or 1 tsp ground
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 Tbl ground paprika (sweet, smoked or a combination)
  • 1.5 tsp ground ginger
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • Optional: If you’re a chile-head like Simran, add cayenne, crushed red pepper flakes or chili powder to taste.

To the ground spices add:

  • Juice of 1 lemon or lime
  • 3 TBL of olive oil
  • 1 TBL of brown sugar or honey

This little guy hasn't mastered utensils yet, but he gives a wee thumbs up for this marinade.

You might also like: Vij’s Ground Fennel Seed Curry, Spiced-Up Orange Baby Foods, Spice Up Your Meals for Good Health, Indonesian Chilli Sambal, Teriyaki on Everything, Caribbean Cha Cha Bowls

Guest Post: Spice up your Meals for Good Health

We have been adding little amounts of various spices to Ria’s food right off the bat from when she was eight months old or so, to get her palate used to them.  I never thought about it but spices aside from adding flavor have several health benefits.  People tend to think of spices mostly as “chili hot” and shy away from them.  Chili is just one of the spices and you can leave it out entirely and still end up with “spicy” food.  The post below is from my friend Anji and talks about the health benefits of honey and some commonly used spices in Indian cooking.

by Anji Desai

I recently caught up with Simran while on a walk at Crissy Field on one of these gorgeous San Francisco Saturday mornings.  We discussed her blog and all of her yummy recipes.  I mentioned to her that she should do an entry on spices.  Last year I completed a one year course in Ayurveda at Vedika Global in Berkeley and I learned about how spices make your food tasty. Beyond the taste aspect though, I also learned about how they are vital in maintaining health, and when one does get sick, how they help speed your recovery.  By the end of our walk, Simran convinced me to do a guest post on spices.  I’m going to highlight some spices that really should be in everyone’s spice cabinet.

I think turmeric is one of the most important spices that exist.  It is a natural antibiotic and great for cuts and infections, for coughs, for allergies, for diabetics, and I’m sure some stuff I have left out too.  So anytime my kids are sick, I increase the amount of turmeric I use in my cooking or even add it to their milk with a spoonful of sugar.  There have been preliminary studies that show that people who use turmeric have a lower chance of getting Alzheimer’s and Breast Cancer.  You can easily add turmeric to your cooking, as it doesn’t even have much of a taste.  I often add it to rice to give the meal a bit of color.  I also add it to most of my vegetable dishes, lentils and meats.

Cumin is extremely good to add for digestive reasons.  If you have any type of digestive problems or a lot of gas, I’d recommend adding cumin to your cooking.  You can use cumin powder or the full cumin seeds.  Even if you don’t have digestive problems, to help you better digest heavier foods I’d recommend adding cumin to your diet.  After I had both of my children, my mom came and stayed with me and she put cumin in everything to help me recover from child birth.  I am lucky to say that because of her cooking and her use of spices, I healed quickly with both of my children and the weight was off within 6 weeks of delivery. I often heat a bit of oil and add whole cumin seeds and let it pop before I add a vegetable to it.  You can add any vegetable to it and it will taste good.  Some of my favorites are corn or potatoes.  If I am using cumin powder then I add it to most of my dishes, including lentils, vegetables, rice, and meats.

Black Pepper is also another great spice for helping with digestion, building immunity, and acts as an antibacterial.  So the next time a waiter comes by and asks if you would like to add some cracked pepper to your dish or your salad – say yes!! You can add cracked pepper to almost any dish, so the next time you are sautéing some vegetables add black pepper, turmeric and some cumin seeds.  It will add extra flavor and improve your health.

Honey
: Although honey is not a spice, it is a wonderful addition to your diet for many reasons.  I am talking about raw, unprocessed, uncooked and preferably local honey.  The kind in the cute bear bottle does not count.  The raw and unprocessed honey is the type that has all of the benefits.  Honey is great for building immunity or even adding to your diet if you have a cold or allergies.  It has “heating” properties and so it helps break up mucus and improve your immunity overall.  This is a regular part of our diet in my family.  I have two kids and they are constantly exposed to germs, so I make them take a spoonful of honey in the morning or they add it to their oatmeal.  Honey also tastes great with bananas as a snack.  According to Ayurveda it is great for losing weight.  Yes, I did say losing weight.  Honey has a scraping quality and it is a heating food so it helps increase your metabolism.  So the next time you are craving something sweet or something you shouldn’t be eating, take a spoonful of honey instead.

Hopefully, you found this helpful and the next time you’re in a rush to make dinner and you don’t have enough time to pull up a new recipe just throw some spices on your existing recipes and spice it up!

Mythili’s Edamame With Coconut, Cumin and Chili

I love recipes that get me thinking of flavor combinations I’ve never tried. Turns out coconut, cumin and ginger go great together. Edamame are so healthy and snack-licious that it’s always great to have new ways to prepare them. And I think these flavors would be very nice on, say, green beans, too. I see lots of opportunity to play with the flavors to suit your taste (and that of your young ones). If your kids are sensitive to bold flavors you could certainly go light on the cumin and omit the chili altogether. I know my husband would love this loaded up with chili.

Many, many thanks to Sapna and her mom Mythili for sharing some home-cooking love with this recipe. It’s quite special to cook a recipe direct from someone’s mom vs. out of a cookbook. As I was making these for my family, I got to thinking about the many different forms that comfort food can take. My most cherished childhood food memories include everything from fried rice, to jook, steamed fish, christmas toffee, and blackberry pie. I can’t wait to teach my son all these…. and maybe one day, once he’s through this frustratingly picky phase, he’ll actually love them as much as I do!

Mythili’s Edamame with Cumin & Coconut

Simran suggests trying this as a side dish to curry.

  • Shelled Edamame (1 cup)
  • Grated Coconut (About 2 TBL)
  • Jeera (Cumin Seeds, to taste)
  • 1 Minced Green Chili (optional)
  • Minced Onion (optional)
  • Small Piece of Grated Ginger
  • Squeeze of Lemon Juice

Method:

  1. Add 1 spoon of butter or olive oil to pan.
  2. Saute cumin seed (all I had was gound, seeds would be better!) and minced chili for one minute. Add minced onion and saute three minutes.
  3. Add edamame and saute five minutes.
  4. Add grated coconut and fry one minute before taking the pan off the heat.
  5. Off heat, season with salt to taste and a squeeze of lemon juice.