Herbs, Spices: Not Only Delicious, but Healthy!

Herbs and spices, whether fresh or dried, add great flavors to our recipes.

But did you know many have scientifically proven health benefits, as well?

On "The Early Show," registered dietician Ellie Krieger, author of "So Easy: Luscious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Week," ((see excerpt), pointed to some of her favorite and healthiest fall herbs and spices, and told how you can easily incorporate them in your recipes.

She noted that many spices are rich in anti-oxidants and act as anti-inflammatory and antiviral agents.

"Early Show" Recipes Galore!

HERBS AND SPICES: DRIED AS OPPOSED TO FRESH

Dried herbs and spices can lose potency when sitting on a shelf. You should buy the smallest container, unless you are cooking up a huge feast. You really shouldn't keep a bottled spice or herb longer than six months. You will want to keep these in an airtight container away from light and heat, and check to make sure they remain green and their aroma is strong upon crushing.

There are some studies indicating herbs and spices lose some of their antioxidant power in processing, but Krieger believes the studies are inconclusive, and that both dried and fresh will provide you similar health benefits. But make sure not to keep them around for long!

When thinking about substituting dried herbs for fresh herbs, keep in mind that, because of their more intense, concentrated flavor, dried herbs can be substituted for fresh herbs at a ratio of 1-to-3.

ROSEMARY

Rosemary contains antioxidants -- carnosol, one of its strongest, may play a preventive role in cancer and cholesterol oxidation. The fresh leaves have a strong pine smell and have a lemony pine flavor.

When preparing soups or other long-cooking dishes, dried rosemary works fine. As with most herbs, two teaspoons of fresh rosemary will provide the equivalent flavor of one teaspoon of dried rosemary.

Plenty of cosmetics and soaps contain rosemary because of its anti-aging properties. Basically, rosemary is often thought to rejuvenate the skin by strengthening the blood capillaries just below the surface of the skin.

And some studies, like one conducted at the Illinois Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, indicate rosemary's antioxidants have been proven to protect cells from carcinogens (cancer-causing agents). Rosemary was found to block the conversion of normal cells into cancer cells in rat mammary tissue in another study done at Pennsylvania State's College of Health and Human Development, University Park, Pa. For two weeks, the researchers fed laboratory rats a diet supplemented with 1 percent rosemary powder -- the same you buy in the spice section of the store. Then they treated the rats with DMBA. The binding of carcinogens to cells is one of the first steps in tumor formation, and the rosemary diet was found to reduce by 76 percent the number of instances that DMBA bound to the mammary cells, compared to rats fed a control diet.

TRADITIONAL ROSEMARY RECIPE

Tuscan Roasted Chicken and Vegetables

From "The Food You Crave: Luscious Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Week"

6 Roma tomatoes (about 1 pound)
3 medium zucchini (about 1/2 pound each)
1 bulb fennel
3 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 teaspoons salt
4 bone-in chicken breast halves (about 2 1/2 pounds), skin removed
4 cloves garlic, finely minced (about 4 teaspoons)
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary or 1 teaspoon dried, crumbled

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Cut the tomatoes lengthwise into quarters and remove the seeds. Trim the zucchini and cut it in half crosswise. Then cut each piece in half lengthwise twice if the piece is thin and three times if it is thicker, so that the pieces are relatively uniform.

Remove the outermost layer of the fennel bulb and discard. Cut the bulb in half so that each half retains part of the stem end. Cut each half into 8 thin wedges so each wedge is held together by a little piece of stem.

Put the vegetables in a large baking dish. Toss them with 2 tablespoons of the oil and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt. Arrange the chicken pieces in the pan with the vegetables.

In a small bowl, combine the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt, the garlic, and lemon zest and juice. Rub the mixture into the chicken in the pan. Season with a few turns of pepper. Roast for 30 minutes, then give the vegetables a stir and add the rosemary. Return to the oven and roast until the chicken is just cooked all the way through and the vegetable are tender and beginning to brown, 20 to 30 minutes more.

Makes 4 servings
Serving size: 1 piece of chicken and 1 1/2 cups vegetables

Per Serving:
Calories 410; Total fat 13.5g (Sat fat 2g, Mono fat 8.2g, Poly fat 2g); Protein 56g; Carb 15g; Fiber 5g; Cholesterol 132mg; Sodium 637mg

NON-TRADITIONAL ROSEMARY RECIPE

Oranges in Rosemary Honey with Toasted Almonds

Adapted from "So Easy: Luscious Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Week"

3 tablespoons whole natural almonds
1/4 cup honey
4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 sprig fresh rosemary, plus more sprigs for garnish
4 navel oranges

Place the almonds in a dry skillet and toast over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until fragrant and light brown, about 3 minutes. Allow to cool, then roughly chop.

Place the honey, lemon juice, and 1 rosemary sprig in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and let the rosemary steep for 10 minutes, or up to 1 hour, then remove the rosemary sprig.

Slice off the tops and bottoms of the oranges, then slice down the sides of the oranges, removing the skin and the white pith. Slice each orange into 4 or 5 rings and place into a bowl or on a serving plate. Stir the juice that accumulated from cutting the oranges into the honey-lemon mixture.

To serve, drizzle the orange slices with the honey-lemon mixture. Top with the almonds and garnish with additional rosemary sprigs.

Makes 4 servings

Per Serving:
Calories 180; Total Fat 4 g (Sat Fat 0 g, Mono Fat 3 g, Poly Fat 0.5 g); Protein 2 g; Carb 36 g; Fiber 4 g; Cholesterol 0 mg; Sodium 0 mg

CINNAMON

Of all of our spices, Cinnamon is THE highest in antioxidant power. And the antioxidants in Cinnamon have been linked to lower inflammation, as well as a reduction in blood glucose concentrations in people with diabetes, according to WebMD.com. It's also a good source of manganese, iron and calcium. It has also been shown to tame nausea and stomach ulcers, and increases insulin sensitivity to help focus fat burn. A great ingredient in anything to use from savory to sweet, it's versatile in all sorts of fall foods.

TRADITIONAL CINNAMON RECIPE:

Apple Brown Betty

From "So Easy: Luscious Healthy Recipes for Every meal of the Week"

5 large Golden Delicious apples (about 2 pounds), peeled and thinly sliced
1 cup apple cider
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 slices whole-wheat bread (1 ounce each; crusts included), or enough to make about 2 ¼ cups crumbs
3 tablespoons chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Combine the apples, apple cider, 1 tablespoon of the brown sugar, the vanilla, and ½ teaspoon of the cinnamon in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the apples are tender but still retain their shape, about 10 minutes. Stir in 1 tablespoon of the butter until melted, remove from the heat and transfer the apple mixture to a 9-inch pie plate or a ceramic dish.

Place the bread in the food processor and process until crumbs are formed, about 15 seconds. Melt the remaining 1 tablespoon butter in the microwave for 20 seconds. Toss the crumbs with remaining melted butter, walnuts, remaining 2 tablespoons of brown sugar, and remaining ½ teaspoon of cinnamon. Scatter the crumb mixture on top of the apples and bake for 30 minutes, until the topping is crisped and lightly browned.

Makes 6 servings
Serving size: 1 cup

Per Serving:
Calories 230; Total Fat 7 g (Sat Fat 3 g, Mono Fat 1.5 g, Poly Fat 2 g); Protein 3 g; Carb 42 g; Fiber 6 g; Cholesterol 10 mg; Sodium 75 mg

NON TRADITIONAL CINNAMON RECIPE

Aromatic Beef Stew with Butternut Squash

From "So Easy: Luscious Healthy Recipes for Every meal of the Week"

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 pound stew beef (round or chuck), cut into chunks
1 large onion, chopped
1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound peeled cubed butternut squash, cut into 1 ½ -inch cubes (about 2 ½ cups)
One 14.5-ounce can no-salt-added diced tomatoes
One 8-ounce can no-salt-added tomato sauce
1 1/2 cups low-sodium beef broth
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
3 cups cooked whole-wheat couscous
[1/4] 1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted in a dry skillet over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until golden brown and fragrant, about 2 minutes
4 teaspoons minced fresh parsley

Heat the oil in a 4-quart saucepan over medium-high heat.

Add the beef and cook until browned on all sides, about 5 minutes. Transfer the meat to a plate, leaving the juices in the saucepan. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until softened and translucent, about 6 minutes. Add the ginger and garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 additional minute. Return the beef to the pot and stir in the squash, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, beef broth, cumin, cinnamon, and red pepper flakes. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover and cook until the beef is tender, 30 to 35 minutes.

Spoon the stew over the couscous, and sprinkle each serving with almonds and parsley.

Makes 4 servings
Serving size: 1 3/4 cups

Per Serving:
Calories 480; Total Fat 13 g (Sat Fat 3 g, Mono Fat 6 g, Poly Fat 2 g); Protein 34 g; Carb 56 g; Fiber 8 g; Cholesterol 65 mg; Sodium 150 mg