How to use spices to add flavor to healthy foods
Bored with the same ol’ chicken and bland fish? If so, bid farewell to your ‘butter-salt-pepper’ routine and try the following natural flavor enhancers to spice up your meals and wake up your taste buds.
Become a spice guru
Cinnamon: Use cinnamon for extra flavor and to bring out the sweetness of a food. This versatile spice can be sprinkled on smoothies, oatmeal, or toasts and added to baked pears or apples. And why not make some whole grain salad with whole wheat couscous, barley or quinoa, some dried apricots and a dash of cinnamon?
Cloves: Use ground cloves wherever you’d add cinnamon or ginger — in applesauce, stewed pears, oatmeal, baked products and pancakes.
Ginger: Add ginger to smoothies, cereals, yogurt, marinades, salad dressing and sautéed vegetables. You can also sprinkle some ground ginger on olive bread to make an easy gingerbread toast.
Oregano: Use this herb to enliven not only your whole-grain pasta and pizzas but also your sandwiches, casseroles, salad dressings and scrambled eggs.
Paprika: Instead of adding salt to your chili or pasta, use paprika.
Turmeric: Add turmeric to any vegetable or fish dish for a nice little curry flavour.
Jazz up your main ingredients
BEEF: Perk up your meat with garlic-ginger marinades or herbs and spices — bay leaf, chilli powder, dry mustard, green and black peppercorns, sage, marjoram, onion, oregano, horseradish, or thyme.
POULTRY: Basil, cranberry sauce, ginger, paprika, parsley, sage, thyme, lemon or lime juice will greatly uplift the taste of your chicken and turkey. And if you’re broiling some chicken breasts, why not top your chicken with some salsa before cooking?
FISH: Next time you’re cooking fish, enhance its taste with herbs like basil, dill, marjoram, tarragon, parsley, oregano or thyme; or curry powder, mustard, ginger, garlic, lemon or lime juice.
Having poached fish for dinner? Add any of these herbs to the water before cooking.
VEGETABLES: Veggies have their own distinctive tastes and it may need some experimentation to determine exactly which herbs or spices entice your family. But whatever you do, don’t overcook: soggy veggies look nasty and taste awful!
Beans — Adding some lemon juice or zest, nutmeg, marjoram, onion, chives or garlic can give a nice kick to your beans. Or try French cut green beans with black olive tapenade.
Broccoli — This little green ‘tree’ is even more yummy with a dose of lemon juice, sesame seeds, minced garlic or sundried tomato pesto.
Cauliflower — Boost cauliflower’s flavor with thyme, parsley, garlic, onions or nutmeg.
Peas —Next time you sauté some peas, try adding some mint leaves, chervil, chives, lemon juice, onion, or parsley.
Red cabbage — Caraway seeds or oregano can uplift the taste of red cabbage. Or you can mix it with some apple slices, grated carrots and chopped bell pepper for a fulfilling salad.
Spinach — Add some roasted red pepper pesto.
Squash — Squash tastes way better when you cook it with some chopped parsley, thyme and sautéed onions. This is yummy in a sliced boiled egg salad. Some people like squash with ginger, cinnamon and lemongrass.
Sweet potatoes — To enhance the sweetness of your potatoes, add a dash of cinnamon, nutmeg or paprika next time you bake them.
Tomato — Any tomato-based dish will taste way better with a little bit of basil, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sautéed onions, or garlic.
Whip your own sauce
Cilantro-lime vinaigrette: Blend together ¼ cup fresh lime juice, ¼ cup rice vinegar, 5 garlic cloves, and 1 teaspoon shallot. Then, slowly add in 1 cup cold pressed olive oil in a steady stream with the blender still running. Add ½ cup cilantro and blend — the cilantro should maintain some of its texture.
Ginger sauce: Mix 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, a splash of fresh citrus juice, 1 tablespoon chopped scallions, 1 teaspoon each of minced garlic and fresh grated ginger and a dash of crushed red pepper.
This concoction will add a nice kick to your Asian medley or sautéed cabbage, broccoli, peppers, onions, mushrooms and asparagus.
Make your own infused oil
Use some grape seed oil and spike it with:
Basil and parsley— The ‘bomb’ for grilled meats, salad dressing or mashed potatoes.
Cilantro, mint and lime zest — For enticing mojitos.
Curry powder — Amazing in soups and wild rice.
Lemon and chervil — Great for crab meat and seared scallops.
Tomato and basil — For lasagnas, brochettes or in a marinade for grilled chicken.
Rosemary and garlic — Ideal for a roast.
Use these as finishing oils — intense heat of cooking would ruin their essence.
Health bonus: These herbs and spices won’t only add some zing to your dishes; they’ll also provide you with a big bang of antioxidants.