Like many Chicagoans, I have been looking at crazy pictures on Facebook about the weather and checking on the status of our business district for Monday morning. I am willing to submit to the weather for another day or so, but honestly I am tired of being bullied by the extreme cold. So I have decided to prepare for it by warming my body from the inside out.
There are several foods that actually increase your body temperature and keep the body running on the ‘hotter’ side. They are called thermogenic foods. They basically increase internal heat. I’ll try not to get too caught up on explaining the scientific side of this (because I could) process. Thermogenic foods essentially produce a biochemical reaction, that impacts the metabolism that leads to generating thermo units or heat in the body. Because the body actually has to burn calories in order to utilize it or absorb the food, the body’s temperature increases and burns more calories in the process (BONUS!).
Here are some of the foods I suggest and a note on what I am cooking over the next couple days. I have included some tips on how to make these dishes as well.
Ginger (root) is a standard spice on most spice racks. It is touted as a super-healthy spice. I personally can’t eat ginger straight or pickled, like my husband, but I do like to cook with it. I prefer to buy the actual root for cooking. I regularly make a chicken, ginger and vegetable soup. It is actually a chicken and ginger broth. I make sure I cook the chicken with the ginger and other seasoning first and then add the vegetables at the end. This is a great way to add a healthy thermogenic food to your diet (since vegetables like onions, broccoli, sweet potato are also thermogenic foods). If you do not feel like making the soup broth from scratch (take an extra 90-120 minutes), buy a roasted chicken from the grocery store, cook it on low in a pot of water with ginger root (that you slice thin). The meat will still fall off the bone after about 45 minutes. Once you have removed the bones and skin, season the broth again and then begin adding your chopped vegetables. Serve when the vegetables are cooked the way you like it.
Coconut oil may not be low-fat (about 13 grams of fat in one tablespoon), but it will warm you up. I will be baking later today. Not because I need more sweets after this long holiday season, but because I have a lot of ingredients for baking that I will have to throw out next week. Substituting coconut oil for butter is a great way to make my vanilla cake warm more than my belly. The trick to using coconut oil is chilling it so that it is solid (unless the recipe requires melted butter). Then it is a 1:1 ratio.
Brown rices (quinoa and farro too) and other whole grains have a long digestive process, which increases the body’s temperature. I will be cooking shrimp for dinner tonight. I have frozen a bag of fresh shrimp left from the week of Christmas. So tonight we are having shrimp fried rice. I have not decided if I am using brown rice or farro. Besides the seasonings and eggs, I will also add chopped onions and broccoli (mostly because I have so much of it right now). I marinade the shrimp for about an hour and then cook it in a pan. I like browning it. I use the typical Asian spices. After the rice is cooked and vegetables are chopped, I mix it all together and add sesame seed oil and seeds. Then splash a little light soy, teriyaki & celery salt. Once it is all mixed together, I mix two eggs in at the end . This prevents the egg from becoming rubbery like a bad Chinese Restaurant.
Cayenne pepper, chili peppers, tumeric, nutmeg, cumin and fennel have a direct impact on body temperature. These spices affect the nervous system. Therefore, making you quickly feel hot. Even simple hot sauces made from these ingredients and Tabasco’s will do the trick. Now we all have our limits with the hotter spices. But you could always, sprinkle a little nutmeg in your morning coffee. If you are not doing Mexican anytime soon or making a spicey salsa, make your own fancy coffee in the morning. Brew an awesome pot of coffee, warm up your milk, soy, coconut milk and then sprinkle nutmeg on top. Everyone else is going to be late for work anyway. Take your time and save $4.85.