Natural Foods Guides

Miso: What It Is and How to Use It

Miso soup

A ubiquitous staple in Japanese and Chinese cookery, miso, or fermented soybean paste, is a powerhouse of concentrated flavor and nutrition. Three types of miso are commonly available in the Western natural-food market: soybean miso, rice miso, and barley miso (rice and barley misos actually combine soybeans with the grain). Within each category of miso exists a range of earthy hues and subtle flavor variations, all more or less in the realm of a pungent saltiness. The texture resembles that of peanut butter. Miso is best known as the base for simple, broth-type soups, although it is equally useful as a basis for sauces, dressings, and dips. more→

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Common Culinary Herbs and Spices

Spice jars with various spices

As the popularity of healthy, ethnic cooking home grows, our spice rack should expand to accommodate the seasonings give vegan dishes their unique characters. Volumes can be written on the healing aspect of herbs (in fact see our review of the terrific book, Healing Spices), the focus here is culinary. This section will give a brief overview of those seasonings most commonly used to flavor global whole food recipes. more→

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Ginger: Fresh and Flavorful

Ginger - fresh and powdered

In recent years, this knobby root has made its way from being a specialty item in Oriental groceries to becoming a fixture in supermarkets and produce stands. Its fresh, biting, and slightly sweet flavor and aroma are essential to many Asian cuisines, and it is one of the most characteristic flavorings in Indian cookery. In its powdered-spice form it is useful for baking, but aficionados agree that dried ginger should not be used when fresh is called for. more→

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Carob: Not Quite Chocolate, But Still Good!

This naturally sweet powder is ground from the pods of the evergreen carob tree. In the past, carob was once known as locust bean or Saint-John’s-Bread. Saint John the Baptist is said to have survived in the wilderness by eating carob pods and wild honey. Carob is most commonly used as a substitute for cocoa due to the similarity of color, texture, and cooking properties. Does it really taste like chocolate? Opinions vary, but it’s hard to deny that it is at least similar. more→

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How to Buy and Use Wasabi

Wasabi

Wasabi is sometimes known as Japanese horseradish, an apt description, since its flavor is so reminiscent of the horseradish we know. The word wasabi is translated from the Japanese as “mountain hollyhock,” and it is from the ground, dried root of this plant that the hot spice is derived. Its fresh, pungent taste has made it a traditional condiment to serve alongside sushi and other Japanese dishes. more→

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Kañiwa: A “new” ancient supergrain

kaniwa salad

Recently, I was introduced to kañiwa, and was surprised that another South American quinoa-like superfood is making its way to the market. Kañiwa is a relative of quinoa, and like the latter, grows in Peru and Bolivia. It’s an excellent source of protein and amino acids, is exceptionally high in iron, and is gluten-free. Dark reddish-brown in color and about half the size of a tiny quinoa seed, kañiwa cooks up quickly to resemble a smaller version of red quinoa.

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Baking with Whole Grain Flours

Whole Grain flour

Few sensory experiences offer more pleasure than the wonderful flavors and aromas of homemade baked goods. Or better yet, the hearty, nutty-flavored whole grain baked goods.  Whole wheat flour is just one of several players in this healthful field that includes barley, oat, rye, and spelt flour, among others. Even if you don’t have the time to make your own yeasted bread, quick baked goods can be equally rewarding. more→

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Go Nuts for Goodness Sake!

Almonds on table

How often I’ve heard friends respond to my offer of nuts by saying, “Oh, no thank you, they’re too fattening.” In other instances, people who simply cannot stop eating them tell me, “I know nuts are bad for me, but I just love ‘em.” Many people are convinced that nuts are unhealthful because they are high in fat. What they fail to realize is the fats contained in nuts are actually beneficial. more→

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