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Spice It Up! Creating + Roasting Your Own Seasonal Blends

Ayurveda describes the preventive and curative properties of hundreds of herbs and spices. Used correctly, spices not only add a myriad of wonderful flavors, but also promote balanced digestion. Roasting or toasting spices before adding them to a meal is one of the simplest ways to boost their taste and health-giving properties. Spices comprise two main oils—essential oils, which give the spice its aroma, and oleoresins, which are responsible for the flavor. Roasting releases both oils, enhancing the flavor and aroma of your food, and making the spice’s healing properties more accessible for the body. Once you’ve roasted your whole spices, a coffee grinder makes grinding them a snap. Or you can be more traditional and use a mortar and pestle. Always store your whole and ground spices in airtight glass jars. Whole spices have four times the shelf life of ground spices, so try to replace your ground spices every six months or so.

Turmeric, black pepper, chilies and ginger are digestive stimulants. Toasted cumin, fennel and mustard seeds help make foods lighter on the stomach. Cinnamon aids in the absorption of nutrients. Fragrant cardamom added to hot almond or coconut milk makes a nutritious, vitality-boosting drink. Spices can be combined in what is known as a masala, which refers to any number of spice, herb or seasoning combinations. These can range from two to 20 ingredients. Rather than purchasing blended spices, experiment with dry-roasting, blending and grinding your own spice blends.

 

Sweet Blend

¼ cup ground cinnamon

2 tbsp ground ginger

2 tbsp ground cardamom

Thoroughly mix all ingredients in a bowl. Pour into an airtight glass jar. Sprinkle on breakfast grains, pancakes, baked goods and cooked fruits.

Digestive Blend

This blend enhances the digestive fire, easing stomach issues. Chew about ¼ teaspoon of the mixture after meals.

1 cup fennel seeds

¼ cup ajwain seeds

Pinch of salt

Dry-roast the fennel and ajwain seeds in a pan or a griddle until light brown. Add a pinch of salt and pour mixture on a plate to cool. Store in an airtight container.

 

Ama (Toxin) Buster

1 tbsp ginger powder

1 tbsp cumin powder

1 tbsp coriander powder

2 tbsp ground mint leaves (ground in a coffee grinder or with a mortar and pestle)

2 tbsp ground fennel seeds (ground in a coffee grinder or with a mortar and pestle)

Stir 1 teaspoon of the mixture into ¼-½ cup of warm water and drink after meals.

 

How to Roast Spices

You can either dry-roast spices in a pan or roast them in oil. Whole spices work best for dry roasting, and ground spices are best for roasting in oil, as they won’t burn as quickly. Coconut oil is a good choice, as it has a high smoking point and won’t create harmful chemicals, such as free radicals, when cooked. The best way to roast spices is on the stovetop. Because spices burn easily, use a heavy-bottomed pan—a wok, cast iron pan or heavy frying pan—over gentle to medium heat. Add the spice or spices to the pan (you can toast more than one kind of spice at a time). Ground spices are ready in fewer than 10 seconds; whole spices take about two minutes. Shake the pan or stir the spices with a wooden spoon as they heat. Make sure to keep them moving. The spices are ready when they become highly aromatic and turn slightly dark, which usually takes just a couple of minutes or as long as five, depending on the spice, the heat and the pan. Do not allow the spices to smoke; when they’re getting close to done, you’ll hear tiny popping sounds. Once the spices are toasted, immediately pour them out of the pan and onto a plate. If you’re roasting whole spices, let them cool before you grind them.

 

Balancing Spice Blend for Fall and Winter

2 tbsp coriander seeds

2 tbsp cumin seeds

2 tbsp ground turmeric

1 tbsp ground ginger

¼ tsp Himalayan salt

Over medium-low heat, dry-roast the coriander and cumin seeds for two minutes or until they release their fragrance. Add the ground turmeric and ginger, and roast for 30 seconds more. Immediately place on a plate to cool. Once the spices have cooled, grind together in a coffee grinder or a mortar and pestle. Store spice blend in an airtight glass jar.

 

Balancing Spice Blend for Spring

2 tbsp cumin seeds

2 tbsp coriander seeds

5 whole black peppercorns

3 whole cloves

2 tbsp ground turmeric

2 tbsp ground ginger

Over medium-low heat, dry-roast the cumin seeds, coriander seeds, peppercorns and whole cloves for two minutes or until they release their fragrance. Add the ground turmeric and ground ginger, and roast for 30 seconds more. Immediately place on a plate to cool. Once spices have cooled, grind together in a coffee grinder or a mortar and pestle. Store spice blend in an airtight glass jar.

 

Balancing Spice Blend for Summer

3 tbsp cumin seeds

3 tbsp coriander seeds

2 tbsp fennel seeds

2 tbsp ground turmeric

Over medium-low heat, dry-roast the cumin, coriander and fennel seeds for two minutes or until they release their fragrance. Add the ground turmeric, and roast for 30 seconds more. Immediately place on a plate to cool. Once the spices have cooled, grind together in a coffee grinder or a mortar and pestle. Store spice blend in an airtight glass jar.

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