Conscious Cook: Settling into the season

“January is here, With eyes that keenly glow; A frost-mailed warrior striding A shadowy steed of snow.” — Edgar Fawcett

The holidays have ended, gone in a haze of twinkling lights, brightly colored paper, clinking cocktails and food … so much food. Festive occasions are well suited to indulgences, but the new year signals a time to dial back the decadence and refocus on consuming consciously.

A steady diet of excess sugar, alcohol, fat and salt is not only dehydrating, bloat inducing and exhausting, it can wear away at the immune system, leaving the body ill-prepared for the ravages of winter. Redirecting eating habits after all the tantalizing holiday treats will take an ingredient with plenty of pizazz.

Fresh ginger root is just the ticket! Sassy, spicy, ginger root has a seductive flavor that will add sweet heat to all manner of recipes. Add zesty ginger root to fruit or veggie smoothies, hot tea or lemonade, creamy carrot or sweet potato soup, or citrus based fruit salads. Bring new sparkle to Asian lettuce wraps or shrimp and mango summer rolls. Liven up salad dressings and stir fries, and bring a delectable layer of delicious flavor to desserts.

Fresh ginger root can be found year round in most supermarkets. Pale tan in color, knobby in appearance, ginger root can be easily peeled by using the back of spoon and just rubbing away at the skin, which will come off in small shards and not penetrate the root itself at all. Grate the ginger root, or slice it into recipe size portions, and store in the freezer if you purchased too large a piece. Unpeeled ginger root can be kept in a brown paper bag in the vegetable drawer, and should keep in that manner for several weeks.

Ginger warms the body and provides potent health benefits. Suffering from nausea, overeating, stomach cramps or morning sickness? A cup of ginger tea may provide soothing relief. A solid source of magnesium, potassium, copper, manganese and vitamin B6, ginger will not only enliven the body but will help cooks create mesmerizing meals.

Add the wonderful wellness of ginger to your kitchen, as you prepare your brand new delicious life!

Fresh Ginger Tea

Makes 1 large mug

Place 2-3 thick slices of fresh, peeled, ginger root in a mug of boiling water. Let steep for five to 10 minutes, then remove ginger. Add a little organic honey if desired and enjoy the soothing, calming effects.

Ginger Fried Rice

3-4 servings

2 tablespoons canola oil

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1 bunch of scallions, thinly sliced

2 ½ tablespoons peeled and minced fresh ginger root

2 large cloves of peeled garlic, minced

3 cups cold cooked rice

1 cup frozen petite peas

1 cup thinly sliced carrot

1 cup diced thin asparagus and/or broccoli

½ cup chopped water chestnuts

½ cup canned bean sprouts

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 teaspoon sesame oil

2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds or chopped toasted cashews

In a skillet or wok, heat canola oil over medium high heat until just starting to ripple, but not smoke. Add ginger, garlic and scallions. Cook, until garlic is just turning golden. Add carrots, asparagus and/or broccoli, stirring constantly for two-three minutes. Add rice, water chestnuts, bean sprouts and soy sauce, stirring until well mixed and warmed through. Add eggs and stir, until eggs are cooked and incorporated into rice. Remove from heat and drizzle with sesame oil, if desired, and sprinkle with sesame seeds or cashews. Serve immediately.