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Kick up flavor in winter dinners

Healthy food need not be tasteless. In "Spices of Life," award-winning cookbook author Nina Simonds sets out recipes for flavorful dishes that include a dose of alternative medicine. For example, did you know that dill can help cure bad breath? That's only one of the tips, along with easy recipes for everyday foods, that you'll find in the book. Check out these recipes:Spiced AlmondsBoth adults an
/ Source: TODAY

Healthy food need not be tasteless. In "Spices of Life," award-winning cookbook author Nina Simonds sets out recipes for flavorful dishes that include a dose of alternative medicine. For example, did you know that dill can help cure bad breath? That's only one of the tips, along with easy recipes for everyday foods, that you'll find in the book. Check out these recipes:

Spiced Almonds

Both adults and children love crisp, spiced almonds. The nuts freeze beautifully so you can prepare them in large batches and freeze them in plastic bags to have on hand.

Spiced AlmondsNina Simonds

Nibbles for 6, makes about 4 cups

Preheat the oven to 300 F. Lightly grease a cookie sheet with the oil.

Put the almonds in a bowl. Mix the egg whites with the almonds and stir to coat. In a paper or a plastic bag, mix the sugar with the spices. Drain the almonds in a strainer and drop them into the paper bag.  Holding the bag shut, shake it to coat the almonds with the spices. Spread the coated nuts in a single layer on the greased cookie sheet and roast, stirring occasionally, for 40 to 45 minutes until golden and crisp. To test for doneness, cut the almond in half and make certain the inside is opaque and crisp. Let cool, then transfer to a serving dish. (These will keep for up to a week in a tightly covered container and indefinitely in the freezer.)

To re-crisp the nuts, bake in a 350-degree oven until crisp before serving.

Five-Spice Powder:This fragrant spice mixture varies with the manufacturer. The usual seasonings are star anise, powdered licorice root, cinnamon, Sichuan peppercorns, cloves, and fennel.

Substitution:You can make your own five-spice powder by combining 1/4 teaspoon each ground aniseed, ground coriander, ground cinnamon, and ground ginger, and 1/8teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. In some recipes,  allspice is an acceptable substitute.

To serve, just defrost them at room temperature and serve or reheat briefly in the oven.

91233646048982747olive or corn oil1teaspoon1 teaspoon olive or corn oilalmonds1pound1 pound raw, skinned almonds (or walnuts or peanuts)egg whites22 egg whites, lightly beatensugar0.5cup1/2 cup sugarfive-spice powder0.5tablespoon1-1/2 tablespoons five-spice powder OR mix the following seasonings (or see Substitution below):allspice2teaspoon1-1/2 to 2 teaspoons allspiceginger0.5teaspoon1-1/2 teaspoons ground gingersalt1teaspoon1 teaspoon salt

Turkey Sate With Spicy Peanut Sauce

Although sate (or satay) originated in Indonesia, it has become exceedingly popular all over the world. Usually small strips of meat, chicken, or fish are threaded onto skewers and served with a spicy peanut-coconut dip.  It’s a great light meal for lunch or dinner.  Leftovers can be tossed into main dish salads.

Turkey Sate With Spicy Peanut SauceNina Simonds

6 servings

Put the turkey cutlets in a bowl, add the marinade and toss lightly to coat. Cover with plastic wrap, and let sit 30 minutes or longer in the refrigerator.  Slightly flatten the lettuce leaves with a chef’s knife. Arrange the leaves in overlapping rows on a platter and sprinkle little bunches of shredded carrots on top.

In a blender or a food processor fitted with a steel blade, puree the sate sauce until smooth. Pour into a serving container and set aside. Prepare a medium-hot fire for grilling or preheat the broiler. Place the grill 3-inches above the heat source. Brush the grill with the olive oil. (Alternatively, you may heat a heavy skillet, add a teaspoon of oil and heat until near smoking.) Grill or broil the turkey slices about 4 to 6 minutes per side, depending on the thickness. Remove, let cool slightly and cut on the diagonal into thin slices. Arrange several pieces of meat on each lettuce leaf sprinkle shredded carrots on top and chopped cilantro, if using. To serve, spoon some of the sate sauce on top of each portion and eat.

912336460481060662turkey cutlets1.25pound1-1/4 pounds turkey cutlets, trimmed of any fat or gristlefish sauce0.33cup1/3 cup fish saucedry white wine0.25cup1/4 cup dry white winelemon zest1tablespoon1 tablespoon minced lemon zestgarlic0.5tablespoon3-1/2 tablespoons minced garlicboston lettuce3head2 to 3 heads Boston lettuce, stems trimmed, leaves separated, rinsed and drainedcarrots0.5cup3 carrots, peeled, ends trimmed, and finely grated (about 1-1/2 cups)peanut butter1cup1 cup smooth peanut buttercoconut milk1cup1 cup coconut milk (mix before adding)fish sauce3tablespoon3 tablespoons fish sauceginger3tablespoon3 tablespoons peeled and minced fresh gingerbrown sugar3tablespoon3 tablespoons light brown sugarsoy sauce1tablespoon1 tablespoon soy saucered chili peppers1teaspoon1 teaspoon crushed dried red chili peppersvirgin olive oil2tablespoon2 tablespoons virgin olive oilcilantro leaves3tablespoon3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves (optional)

Lemongrass Chicken With Green Beans  

This vibrantly colored and flavored dish is a quick stew. You may prepare the sauce base, and precook the green beans in advance, so that you can simmer all the ingredients together just before serving. The dish also reheats beautifully.

Lemongrass Chicken With Green Beans Nina Simonds

6 servings

Drop the seasonings in descending order into a blender or the feed tube of a food processor while the machine is running and process to a paste. Turn the machine on and off several times to get a smooth mixture.

Arrange the chicken breast flat on a cutting board. Holding the blade of your knife almost flat with the cutting board, cut the chicken into thin slices. Set aside. 

Bring 2 cups water to a boil in a 3-quart casserole or a large skillet with a lid. Add the green beans and partially-cook for about 4 minutes, then drain and refresh in cold water. Drain again.

Reheat the pan, pour in 1-1/2 tablespoons of the oil, and heat until very hot. Add the chicken and stir-fry over high heat until the slices become opaque and are cooked, about 3 minutes. Remove and drain. Reheat the pan, add the remaining oil and heat until hot. Add the seasonings, and cook over medium-low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon for about 1-1/2 to 2 minutes until fragrant.

Add the red onions and toss over medium heat for a minute, then add the red peppers and rice wine, and toss lightly for a minute. Cover and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until tender. Turn the heat up to medium-high, add the green beans and the coconut sauce, and heat until boiling. Add the chicken pieces, cover, and simmer, covered, for about 5 minutes, or until the green beans are tender. Add the basil, toss, and taste for seasoning, adding more salt if necessary. Scoop the chicken and vegetables into a bowl and serve with steamed rice.

91233646048160662dried red chilies22 dried red chilies, seeds removed, or 1-1/2 teaspoons dried chili flakeslemongrass4stalk4 stalks lemongrass, ends trimmed, tough outer stalks removed, and cut into 1/2-inch sectionsgarlic6clove6 cloves garlicchicken breast meat0.5pound1-1/2 pounds chicken breast meat, skin removedgreen beans1.5pound1-1/2 pounds green beans, ends snapped and cut in two on the diagonalolive oil3.5tablespoon3-1/2 tablespoons olive oilred onions 1.51-1/2 medium red onions cut into thin slicesred peppers1.51-1/2 medium red peppers, cored, seeded, and cut into thin slicesrice wine or sake2tablespoon2 tablespoons rice wine or sakecoconut milk0.5cup1-1/2 cups light coconut milkfish sauce0.5tablespoon2-1/2 tablespoons fish saucesugar1tablespoon1 tablespoon sugarsalt 0.5teaspoon1-1/2 teaspoons salt or to tastethai holy basil or sweet basil leaves1 full cup chopped fresh Thai holy basil or sweet basil leaves

Vietnamese Shrimp and Fennel Salad


Shrimp and shaved fresh fennel with its anise-y flavor are a unique combination, which is nicely complemented by the sweet and sour fresh lime dressing. If fennel is unavailable, substitute 1 pound blanched snow peas, sliced with the length in half.      

Vietnamese Shrimp and Fennel SaladNina Simonds

6 servings

Using a sharp knife, slice the shrimp lengthwise along the back in half. Bring 4 cups of water and the rice wine to a boil, add the shrimp and cook about 1-1/2 minutes, after the water reaches a boil, or until the shrimp are cooked. Drain in a colander and rinse under cold, running water. Drain again.

Cut each fennel bulb lengthwise in half, then cut the fennel into slices, about 1/4 inch thick and 1-1/2 inches long. In a large stockpot, heat 2 quarts of water until boiling. Add the softened rice stick noodles and swirl in the hot water. Cook for 10 seconds, or until just tender. Remove with a handled strainer or a slotted spoon and drain thoroughly in a colander. Rinse under cold, running water. Drain thoroughly and arrange on a deep serving platter. 

Bring the water back to a boil. Add the fennel slices and cook about 6 to 7 minutes, until crisp tender. Drain, refresh under cold, running water, and drain thoroughly. Arrange the fennel slices over the noodles and sprinkle the carrots on top, leaving a slight indentation in the center.  Arrange the shrimp in the center. Sprinkle the cilantro, basil, and scallions on top.  Soak the crushed red pepper in the lime juice for 2 to 3 minutes in a medium bowl. Add the remaining dressing ingredients, and stir to dissolve the sugar. Spoon the dressing onto the salad or serve on the side. Eat at room temperature or chilled.

9123364604843408260499shrimp1pound1 pound raw medium shrimp, shelled and deveinedrice wine or sake2tablespoon2 tablespoons rice wine or sake (optional)rice stick noodles0.33pound1/3 pound thin rice stick noodles, softened in hot water and drainedfennel bulbs2pound2 pounds fennel bulbs, stalks and root base trimmed, leaving 1/8-inch of the stem to hold the fennel togethercarrots3cup3 cups grated carrotslimes5cupJuice of 4 to 5 limes or 2-1/2 lemons (about 2/3 cup)crushed red pepper or chili pepper flakes0.25teaspoon1-1/4 teaspoons crushed red pepper or chili pepper flakesfish sauce0.33cup1/3 cup fish sauce, or more to tastesugar0.33cup1/3 cup sugargarlic0.5tablespoon1-1/2 tablespoons minced garliccilantro leaves6tablespoon5 to 6 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh cilantro leavesscallion greens0.25cup1/4 cup finely chopped scallion greensbasil leaves3tablespoon3 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves

Middle Eastern Herbal Rice

This dish was inspired by a recipe from Claudia Roden’s “The New Book of Middle Eastern Food.” The rice is fragrant and delicious.  It goes especially well with grilled, steamed, or roasted meat and seafood. You may vary the herb quantities according to taste.   

Roasted Winter Fruit With Ginger and Port Wine

This dish is so simple, but the combined flavors of apricot, ginger, and port are a wonderful topping for the slow-roasted pears. Serve them warm or cold.

Excerpted from “Spices of Life” by Nina Simonds. Copyright © 2005 by Nina Simonds. Published by Knopf Publishers. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced without written permission from the publisher.