March is National Nutrition Month, which was created and sponsored by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, formerly the American Dietetic Association. This is the world’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals. It was initiated as a week-long campaign in 1973 but became a month-long observance in 1980 in response to a growing public interest in nutrition. The focus is always to stress the importance of making informed food choices and developing both sound eating and physical activity habits. This theme of the campaign this year is “Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right.”
Consumer research indicates that “taste” is the main reason consumers select one food over another. The foods people tend to eat most frequently are the ones they enjoy the most. Good taste must be a priority when preparing nutritious meals. When making recipes healthier by reducing the salt, sugar and fat it is important to keep the recipe flavorful. There are many ways to add flavor to foods.
Experimenting with a variety of spices and herbs is a great way to add flavor without increasing the amount of sodium and fat in the recipe. Dried ground herbs and spices are used in small quantities so use them in small amounts. Replace them annually as they are apt to lose potency starting at six months on the shelf. Check the sell-by dates when purchasing them. Store dried herbs and spices in tightly covered containers that are made from glass, metal or tin. They should be stored in in a dark and cool area of the kitchen.
Every culture has its favorite herbs and spices but a good assortment to keep for a variety of many recipes includes the following: bay leaf, black pepper, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, chili powder, curry powder, garlic powder, Italian seasoning blend, nutmeg, onion powder, oregano, paprika, thyme and turmeric. Others can be added as one finds the need.
This curried chicken recipe includes garlic, curry powder, cumin, pepper and ginger, which are often used in Indian cuisine. It is served over whole grain brown rice, which provides a serving of a whole grain. Most Americans don’t eat enough whole grains. The recipe is cooked in a slow cooker and is simple to make.
Fresh minced garlic can be used or the ready to use minced garlic in a jar can be used. This is available without added salt, oil or preservatives and is a great time saver. After opening the container it does need to be refrigerated. If you want to use fresh garlic, choose bulbs that are plump and compact with taut and unbroken skin. Avoid those with soft or damp spots. A firm heavy bulb indicates a fresh and flavorful garlic bulb. Light-weight bulbs may be dried out. Bulbs vary in the number of cloves contained. To peel garlic cloves, place them on a cutting board and lay the flat side of a metal spatula on top of the garlic. Lightly hit the spatula with your fist and the peel should split without smashing the garlic clove. Cut the garlic clove in half lengthwise with a sharp knife. Make several cuts the length of the garlic clove and then chop by cutting crosswise.
Ground cumin seeds have a distinctive earthy and slightly bitter and pungent flavor with a strong warm aroma. They are often a component of chili powder and curry powder.
Black pepper is pungent and flavorful. It is available ground to a powder, as cracked peppercorn or as whole peppercorns and can spice up almost any bland food.
Curry powder is a mixture of spices. The exact blend of spices varies widely in different cultures. Common spices found in curry powder are turmeric, cardamom, coriander, cumin, fenugreek, cinnamon, white, black and/or cayenne pepper. It is a great convenience and time saver for busy cooks.
Whole fresh ginger should have a smooth skin and be a uniform buff color. If it is wrinkled or cracked, it will not be as flavorful or pungent. Choose firm heavy pieces. Ginger should be stored in the refrigerator. If the skin is thin it does not need to be peeled prior to grating, mincing or slicing. But if the skin is thick it is better to peel it.
Curried Chicken In A Slow Cooker
Recipe makes 4 servings
1/2 cup tomato paste
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
1 1/4 cups water
2 cups chopped yellow onion
1 pound skinned boneless chicken breast, cut in 1/2-inch squares
2 cups uncooked instant whole grain brown rice (regular rice instead of instant can be used)
1/2 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt
1/4 cup chopped green onion
• Combine tomato paste, garlic, curry powder, cumin, salt, pepper, ginger and water in a 4 to 6 quart slow cooker. Stir to thoroughly mix ingredients.
• Add onion and chicken. Cover slow cooker with lid.
• Cook on high for 3 to 4 hours or on low for 7 to 8 hours until chicken is done. Cooking time can vary according to the slow cooker.
• Prepare rice according to package directions to be ready to serve with the meal.
• When chicken is done turn off the slow cooker. Remove the lid and allow it to cool a minute or two. Stir the yogurt into the curried chicken. Be sure the chicken is no longer simmering when adding the yogurt.
• Place cooked rice in serving dish and ladle curried chicken on top.
• Sprinkle with chopped green onion.
Nutrition Information: This recipe makes 4 servings. Each serving contains approximately 340 calories and 4.5 grams fat.