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Homemade Valentine's meals loaded with spices

February 13, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
Instead of flowers or jewelry, if you want to warm someone's heart, how about cooking up a little love in the kitchen?If you want to warm someone's heart, how about cooking up a little love in the kitchen?

"Valentine's is definitely a day to do that. Make it special, but this is something you should be doing like all year long," said chef Jeffrey Saad.

Saad says getting creative with herbs and spices is a tasty way to show you care.

"Here's the story with herbs. First of all, we eat with our eyes, but also your nose confirms to your brain that 'yes, this is going to e good,'" said Saad.

Chopped salad with cilantro, shrimp with toasted cumin and oregano, salmon with dill, lobster pot pie infused with tarragon - if meals got medals, this one's a winner.

"Then when the herb releases its perfume and you smell it, you shut your eyes for just a moment, It's like 'wow,'" Saad described.

If you're new to the spice world, begin with basil. It's the king of spices.

"It is like the vanilla of herbs. Everybody loves it, and you don't know why. It almost has a creamy mouth feel, as well as a brilliant slightly sweet anise scent," explained Saad.

Tarragon and cilantro also share the licorice note, while cumin and tumeric offer heat, and like cocoa , quickens the pulse and releases endorphins, too.

We eat with all five of our senses, but smell and taste of course are the most predominant. But the beauty of making a meal with herbs and spices is that you do far more than just please your nose and palette.

"They've been used for nausea, for energy, for fatigue, as anti-inflammatories, antioxidants," lists Dr. Jonny Bowden, author of "The Most Effective Ways to Live Longer."

"They contain things like flavonoids which have tremendous healing properties. Spices are tremendous. They're great medicinal foods," said Bowden. Bowden also said that spices in a roundabout way can offer a bit of sex appeal.

"To the extent that you have energy and that your cells are protected and that your circulation is going, your brain is working, I think all of that's pretty sexy. Spices really help you to do all of those things," sad Bowden.