The Medieval Roots of Ginger (and our Gingerbread Cookies)

Spicy ginger deserves a warm welcome for the holidays as the chill of winter sets in. The root has been grown in Asia for millennia and is used fresh, sliced or minced, in all kinds of savory dishes. Its health-boosting phytochemicals and possible ability to quell an upset stomach also make it popular around the world as a tea, candy and dried and as a ground spice in baked sweets.Candied fresh and ground ginger on rustic table

Historians have traced European use of gingerbread back to the Crusades in the 11th century. Medieval folk would mix together ground almonds, stale breadcrumbs, rosewater, sugar and ginger them press it into molds sometimes carved in the likeness of royal family members or religious symbols. Shakespeare referred to gingerbread in his play “Love’s Labor’s Lost,” and gingerbread was reputedly a favorite food of Queen Elizabeth.

ginger-lemon-cookies croppedToday we have the luxury of flour to use in making fragrant gingerbread loaves and cookies to spice up the winter holidays. Molasses and brown sugar give gingerbread the characteristic taste and chewiness we enjoy today.

AICR’s Health-e-Recipe for Ginger Snaps are crisp outside and soft inside, using less fat as well as some whole-wheat flour to make them better for your healthy, plus cinnamon and a dash of black pepper for extra zing. At 75 calories and only 3 grams of fat per cookie, they’re less unhealthy than some other holiday treats and one or two will satisfy the gingerbread fan in you.

Controlling the Crispness

If you like crisper cookies, use a non-dairy stick shortening that is a blend of oils. Or, for a softer texture, use a soft tub spread instead for cookies that have a crisp outer layer then turn chewy overnight. The softer cookies’ batter can be dropped from a spoon onto your baking sheet.

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For more yummy AICR recipes using ginger, try Carrot Soup with Orange and Ginger, Ginger Carrot Salad with Cranberries and Asian Chicken with Honey and Ginger.


New England Gingerbread Pudding, A Classic Holiday Dessert

As someone who considers herself handy in the kitchen, this has been one of the most interesting (unusual?) recipes I’ve ever followed. Mostly because until yesterday I had never heard of cornmeal pudding. In fact, when I was approached by the moderators of this blog to see if I would be interested in evaluating the recipe, my first response after glancing at the ingredient list was “Oh no, they wrote cornmeal, not corn starch!” As you can imagine, I was initially apprehensive about the success of this dish.

But I’m willing to be proven wrong, and I consider myself a bit of a savant when it comes to homemade puddings, thanks in large part to the wisdom of Maya Angelou’s cookbook, The Welcome Kitchen. There are few things more comforting than a nice, warm pudding on a rainy afternoon, so I set to work.

image001I  first preheated the oven to 300 degrees, and then began the pudding by scalding 5 cups of milk in a medium saucepan, a step designed to help to milk mix smoothly with the cornmeal. Because I don’t have a double boiler, I worked over a low heat to avoid burning the pudding. Continue reading


Giving the Gift of Flavor

I love giving food-related gifts during the holiday season. They are fun for everyone, from food connoisseurs to your friend whose idea of cooking is boiling water for pasta. I try to give gifts that are tasty, healthy and encourage the recipient to try something new. While everyone indulges a bit over the holidays, it’s great to help others prevent cancer through healthier food and fitness-related gifts.

One of my favorite ways to flavor and season vegetables is also turning into one of my favorite gifts to give. Working with individuals trying to lose weight, I often hear people talk about how much they dislike vegetables. Flavored balsamic vinegar and olive oil can change that.

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Why olive oil? It’s rich in antioxidants and heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, and including it in your diet can help lower your LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. However, since olive oil is also high in calories, highly flavorful oils – like lemon or walnut – can boost the taste of your food with small amounts. Continue reading