Spicing Up the Dukan Diet
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If you have just started your Dukan diet then you know that you should be having a lot of protein, a lot of them in the form of lean meats. However, there are only so many ways to cook a chicken, and unless it keeps you and your taste buds interested, you are going to struggle. Lean meats like beef, chicken, turkey and fish will be the base of your diet up to the Consolidation Phase. If you have a lot of weight to lose this could take even months! Think it's going to be boring? It doesn't have to be! You can add plenty of flavor and spice to make each meal flavorful and varied enough to keep you and those taste buds of yours excited.

The History of Spices

Spices have a long and storied history. They conjure up images of exotic places and all the mysterious figures behind the quest for them. It is amazing when you think that something so small and common in our modern lives was used as currency and was even responsible for the discovery of the new world. Spices were so valuable in the Middle Ages that you could bribe a judge or have a man killed for a few peppercorns. Stealing a few nutmegs was punishable by death, and you could be burned at the stake for selling false saffron. Those were the days!

Only the rich and powerful had access to spices and they became a symbol of wealth. Spices were used not only to enhance the flavor of foods but in the days before refrigeration, to disguise the fact that the meat had gone bad. Thankfully these days there's no need for that use, and as spices are readily available at affordable prices everyone can use them to enhance their foods.

Other interesting historical facts about herbs and spices:

  • Spices helped endow Yale University.
  • Today's muscle sports creams are a derivative of ancient topical pepper poultices for rheumatism.
  • People's reaction to the rise in peppercorn prices was as volatile as what we see today for fuel oil.
  • Strong spices were used to politically intimidate a rival you had over for dinner. Health Benefits

The health benefits of spices are innumerable. You can add strong spices and herbs such as curry, pepper and chili powder to make bland foods more flavorful and reduce the need for salt. Likewise, the addition of cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger in desserts can make food seem sweeter therefore making sugar unnecessary.

We all know that the high fat content and over processing of fast foods is bad for us. Some studies have suggested that another reason it is dangerous is that we have gotten away from many of our ethnic diets. Diets that for centuries contained strong and pungent spices that elevated heart rates, promoted less salt and sugar, lowered blood pressure, and even made you sweat. It is even thought that more flavorful food tricks the brain into thinking you are full. In other words, you may actually eat more if you food is bland! Almost every ethnic food group has a spicy version in its culinary offerings. India has its curry, Asian foods have chili peppers and wasabi, Hispanic and South American foods have hot peppers and mole.

In the US people have adopted many of these influences in the American menu. There are spicy barbeques, hot chili, hot links and even fused ethnic dishes such as Tex-Mex. People add jalapenos to burgers, salsa to omelets, and Tabasco to tomato juice.

How they are used

Depending on how strong you want the flavor of the spices to be in your dish, you can add them during cooking for a mellower blend, or after cooking for a stronger taste. The strength of most herbs and spices is reduced greatly with cooking time, except red pepper which tends to intensify during the cooking process. It's best to start off with small amounts and then increase if you feel you need to. Leafy herbs such as oregano, basil and rosemary need to be crushed in your hand before using to release their aroma and oils. You can use them whole for longer cooking times when preparing slow cooked dishes such as soups and stews.

If you have ever wondered what basic herbs and spices you should have on hand, here are some that should be staples in your pantry:

  • Basil
  • Ground Cinnamon
  • Chili Powder
  • Paprika
  • Garlic Powder
  • Minced Onion
  • Dill Weed
  • Vanilla Extract
  • Oregano
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme
  • Ground Ginger

Perfect Pairings

Even if you are not on the Dukan diet, and unless you are a vegetarian or vegan, you are likely eating meat and trying to stay healthy.

There are many spices that go together so perfectly with some types of meat that we hardly can think of preparing these dishes without them. Beef and lamb stews generally make use of savory herbs such as sage, rosemary, and thyme. Chicken, which takes on almost any flavor that is added to it, is particularly good with rosemary. Here are some other ideas to spice up your dinner entrees without adding calories or salt:

  • Add garlic, rosemary, black pepper, onions, and a dash of dry white wine to sauteed chicken - it smells as heavenly as it tastes.
  • Cook ahead for the week- try red chili powder, black pepper, garlic, and onion in equal parts ground beef and turkey for taco/tostada filling.
  • You've got to try white BBQ sauce! Use ground white pepper, garlic, onion, and cumin in a vinegar based (not tomato) BBQ sauce for St. Louis style ribs or chicken.
  • Got stale bread (you can also use Dukan bread)? Cube it and add freshly ground nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice and cloves with eggs and milk for a spicy and not too sweet bread pudding.
  • Spice up your eggs (a good source of protein) with thyme, sage and pepper - no salt!
  • You can bring plain soups like tomato to life with basil, oregano and red chili pepper.

Part II coming soon - Spices as Aromatics and Mood Lifters


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