Warming spices come together for this meal featuring a simple curry dish, apple-gingerbread cake and comforting chai. Karen Schneider / For The Forecaster

As it cools down and we pull out the winter woolens, let’s also check our pantry for the components needed for our favorite casseroles, soups, chili and pasta dishes. And as you make your shopping list, remember to include some warming spices that can be used to enhance your meals. Cinnamon, ginger, cloves cardamom, allspice and nutmeg are all beneficial ingredients to sustain you through many a dark, damp day, giving you a leg up to fight off unwelcome seasonal colds and flu.

Karen Schneider cooks and writes in the village of Cundy’s Harbor. You can reach her at [email protected]

If you’ve never made a curry at home, this simple main dish recipe is a good place to start. Coconut milk blended with spices from the East make plain chicken breast, pork or even shrimp a whole lot more interesting.

If you only have mild curry on hand for this dish, you can step up the heat with a bit of cayenne or a chopped hot pepper of your choosing. Preparing the curry ahead then reheating it later or even the next day gives these elegant spices and creamy sauce a chance to really make friends with one another, making this dish flavorful and satisfying in the best way possible.

For “afters,” Apple Gingerbread Upside-Down Cake is a throwback that tastes exactly like something grandma would make. This dense, old-fashioned cake is made rich and moist with the additions of flaxseed meal and applesauce in the thick molasses batter. It keeps very well in the refrigerator and is easy to reheat by the slice. Enjoy it warm with a dribble of cream poured across the top and pair it with homemade chai for a real culinary homestyle experience.

Coconut Chicken Curry

2 tablespoons canola oil
1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 (2-inch) piece garlic, minced
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken, cut into bite-size pieces
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon curry powder
2 (13.5-ounce) cans coconut milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 cups cooked basmati rice
Cilantro leaves for garnish (optional)

Heat oil in a large heavy skillet over medium-low heat. Add onion, garlic and ginger. Sauté for 5 minutes or until the onions are soft and translucent.

Raise the heat to medium and add chicken. Sauté for 7-10 minutes.

Add spices and cook for another minute, then stir in coconut milk. Reduce heat to low and cook for 10 more minutes, allowing sauce to thicken a bit. Stir in salt and add more spice to taste if needed.

To serve, spoon curry over rice in individual bowls and garnish with cilantro. Yield: 6-8 servings

Apple Gingerbread Upside-Down Cake

1/2 cup water, divided
4 large apples, peeled and sliced
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
2/3 cup molasses
2 tablespoons flaxseed meal mixed with 6 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 1 1/2-quart baking dish.

Place apples in a medium saucepan with 1/4 cup water. Cover and cook 3-4 minutes over medium heat, until soft. Stir in maple syrup and set aside.

Combine dry ingredients in a medium bowl. In a separate bowl, combine applesauce, molasses, flaxseed and water mixture, vanilla and 1/4 cup water. Add to dry ingredients and mix well with a spoon.

Spoon cooked apples evenly into baking dish. Spoon cake batter over apples. Bake for 40-50 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Allow to cool about 20 minutes on a cooling rack. Run a knife around the edge of the cake, then place a plate over the cake and carefully turn upside down onto the plate. Yield: 6-8 servings

Masala Chai

1 1/2 cups water
1 (2-inch) cinnamon stick
8 cardamom pods
8 whole cloves
2/3 cup milk
5 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoons loose black tea

Place water in large saucepan and add spices. Bring to a boil. Turn heat to low. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes.

Add milk and sugar and bring to a simmer again. Add tea and turn off heat. Cover and allow to steep for 3 minutes. Strain into cups. Yield: 2 servings

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