What to fix for dinner?
For many of us, that’s the question of the day – every day! Most people don’t have the time, energy or maybe even the skills to cook from scratch every day. So, what are your alternatives? For some, the solution is to swing by the pizza palace, the local burger joint, the Chinese takeout restaurant, or the frozen foods section in the local market.
But, what if you could make cooking easy and flavorful without hours in the kitchen? What if you could eat food from anywhere in the world any time? What if you could add extra nutrients to your family’s diet, and make it taste better at the same time? The secret is to use herbs and spices!
Herbs are generally any green, leafy part of a plant that isn’t used as the main ingredient. Basil, parsley, thyme, and dill are all examples of herbs. The term “spices” refers to any dried part of a plant other than the leaves. This can include dried bark (cinnamon), seeds (mustard), berries (allspice) or flower buds (cloves).
Let’s face it, food is always better when properly seasoned. For some that means adding salt and pepper, but it can be so much more. Cooking with herbs and spices doesn’t have to be confusing or difficult, either. Many spices are readily available at your local grocery store. You can also find fresh herbs in most produce sections or dried versions in the spice section. Herbs and spices can have health benefits as well. Many herbs and spices have been shown to enhance health. Cinnamon, for example, can help lower cholesterol, reduce arthritis pain and enhance memory. Just enter “health benefits of” and the herb or spice of interest into your web browser to get more information.
All you need to get started with herbs and spices are a few basics. Here are 7 tips that will have you cooking like a seasoned chef in no time:
#1: A little spice goes a long way. There’s a saying that chefs use – “you can always add more.” When adding herbs and spices to food, you can add more to increase the flavor, but you can’t easily remove them. So, be careful at first. Add just a little bit and then taste as sample. If you need to, add more.
#2: If you like the smell, chances are you’ll like the taste. While taste and smell aren’t the same thing, they are closely related. Studies show that smell is actually a significant part of what we consider a food’s taste. Pick up a bunch of fresh basil or a few stalks of rosemary and the aroma can be intoxicating.
But, not everyone likes every herb and spice. So, one way to see if you (and your family) will like an herb or spice is to smell it first. One caution – be careful smelling spices. Some, like cinnamon are very fine powders that can easily be pulled into your lungs through your nose. Just hold the spice under your nose and breath normally.
#3: Spices at the beginning, herbs at the end. When cooking, you normally want to add spices (and some dried herbs) early. This is because the full flavor of the spice is released during the cooking process. Spices can be mixed into ground meat applied as a dry rub, or added to soups before cooking.
Fresh herbs should usually be added at or near the end of cooking. Because herbs are green, leafy plants, they will wilt and lose their flavor when cooked. Herbs can be sprinkled over food just before serving or added at the very end of the cooking process. Fresh herbs are also great when tossed in salads.
#4: Start out simple. You can start with just one herb or spice and learn as you go. For example, try adding fresh basil or dill to your scrambled eggs at breakfast. If you’re making tacos for the family, add cilantro or chili powder to the ground beef as you cook it. It doesn’t have to be complicated, but as you learn and gain confidence, mixing several herbs and spices together can create fantastic flavors.
#5: With herbs, fresh is better. Unlike spices, which are normally dried, herbs are much more flavorful when they are fresh. If your local market doesn’t have the herbs you want, try growing them at home. Herbs are among the easiest plants to grow. If you don’t have outdoor space, you can even grow them in a flower pot on the windowsill. And, they grow fast too. Plant most herbs today and you’ll be enjoying them in your meals in just a few weeks.
#6: Decide where you want to go, and let herbs and spices take you there. It is easy to “travel the world” just by using different herbs and spices when you cook. Here’s a starter guide. You can find more information by reading recipes in books and magazines or searching the web:
- Italian: Oregano, basil, sage, rosemary
- Oriental: Red pepper, mint, cilantro, basil, allspice, ginger, garlic
- German: Chives, horseradish, marjoram, juniper berries
- Indian: Mustard, cumin, coriander, dill, turmeric
- Mexican: Chili powder, onion, cilantro, garlic
#7: Learn from the experts. If you want to know which herbs and spices to use with a given food, just look at cookbooks, food magazines and the web. Note which herbs and spices are included in which recipes. It won’t take long for you to notice patterns. For example, dill is great with eggs or fish, but not so much with pork or pasta. You don’t have to follow the recipe exactly, but when you’re first learning to use herbs and spices, use what the experts use.
Give herbs and spices a try. We think you’ll love the results!
Remember, healthy choices you make each day can transform your family for generations! What choices will you make today?
Do You Wish Your Kid’s Ate Better? Check out our FREE eBook at www.HealthFamilyFuture.com. Many of the strategies in this book can be used by both children and adults.
You may also want to read: Healthy Eating: What Does the Nose Know?, What You Eat First Matters, Spend Less and Eat Healthier