Flavors of the Week

It's official. Starbucks is now serving coffee in their red and loud, festive Christmas cups. The Holiday season is here! No other 2 months of the year seem to go by as quickly as November and December for me. Probably because I get so ridiculously excited for the holidays. As a kid the first week of November meant halloween candy Mom would buy on clearance, eggnog lattes, pumpkin-flavored anything, creamy mushroom soup... the list goes on. But there came a point when I realized I couldn't eat all this every day through November and December (let's not forget New Year's day - because of course our resolutions don't kick in until January 2nd.) Finally reaching an age of self-control and some common sense, I learned how to portion out these indulgences and pace myself through the holidays. While still managing to get a taste of the holidays each day.

Cause really... who says you can't enjoy the flavors of the seasons everyday?

Well let me indulgde you with this... enjoying your favorite seasonal spices and flavors on a daily basis will help you loose weight. Roasted garlic, chopped chives, simmering thyme and (my personal favorite) the holy trio of cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger are powerfully potent spices that will help you feel more satisfied with each meal and help you loose your unwanted fat. The variety of spices are about as wide as variety of produce.

The flavors of this week are thyme and ginger.

Thyme helps relieves coughs, bronchitis, and chest congestion. Thyme also has a pronounced effect on the respiratory system; in addition to fighting infections, it dries mucous membranes and relaxes spasms of the bronchial passages.

Perfect for cold season.

Winter vegetable soup

(adapted from Everyday Food magazine Nov. 2009)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice

2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped

coarse salt and ground pepper

1 pound acorn squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch chuncks

1 bunch kale (3/4 - 1 pound), ribs cut off and discarded, roughly chopped

5 1/2 cups of range-free chicken stock

1 can of cannellini beacs

3 sprigs of thyme

grated Parmesan, for serving (optional... but highly recommended)

In a large pot, simmer oil, onion and garlic until golden over medium heat ( about 3 minutes.) Add squash and kale and cook until kale is wilted (another 3 minutes); season with salt and pepper. Add broth, beans and thyme. Bring to a simmer and cook until squash and kale are tender, around 12 minutes. Serve soup with salt and pepper and parmesan if desired. And you should!

Ginger also relieves colds, upset stomaches, morning sickness as well as reduces reduce heartburn, migraine and menstrual pain. Studies show that ginger also can help reduce the spread of ovarian and colon cancer.

Nonfat Gingersnaps

(may just be my favorite cookies of all time)

Makes twenty to twenty-two cookies

Inspired by a recipe by Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa.

1 cup, packed (180g) dark brown sugar

1/4 cup (75g) applesauce

1/3 cup (45g) molasses (preferably mild-flavored)

2 1/4 cups (315g) flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 1/2 teaspoons ground dried ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 large egg whites, at room temperature

1/2 cup (50g) finely-chopped candied ginger

additional sugar (about 1/2 cup, 100g) mixed with a big pinch of cinnamon for rolling the cookies

1. In the bowl of a standing electric mixer, beat the brown sugar, applesauce, and molasses for five minutes at medium speed. Meanwhile sift together the flour, baking soda, spices, and salt.

After five minutes add the egg whites. Beat another minute. With the mixer at its lowest speed, add the dry ingredients and mix on medium for one minute more.

Stir in the chopped candied ginger. Chill the batter very well.

To bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 350F (180C). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Pour some cinnamon-scented granulated sugar in a shallow baking dish. Scoop the cookies into heaping tablespoon-sized balls (about the size of an unshelled walnut) and roll them in the sugar.

Afterward, use your hands to form the dough into sugar-coated balls: don’t be shy with the sugar either. It not only helps to shape the sticky dough, but makes a tasty crust for the cookies.

Evenly space the dough on the two baking sheets, leaving room between them to spread.

Bake no more than 13 minutes, or until the cookies feel just barely set in the center. Which I find normally at 11 minutes. Remove from oven and cool.

Idea for a heartier version :

If you like a crunchier ginger cookie, these are great with an additional 1/4 cup of olive or coconut oil adding in with the wet ingredients.

So it's a win-win. Eat more spices and you'll eat better and live better.

Thanks to our guest photographer extraordinaire (and professional calligrapher) - Pam Crosby!