A little over a year ago, my decision to lose weight segued into a focus on healthy eating. Not the Euell Gibbons back-to-nature healthy that insists Grape Nuts cereal tastes like “wild hickory nuts,” but healthy as in lean meats, vegetables, and fruits, supplemented by reasonable amounts of whatever the heck I like to eat.
The challenge for me was to find the tastiest way to prepare those meats, fruits, and vegetables so that I wouldn’t want to gorge on all the other not-so-healthy things. Spices, herbs, and condiments helped me meet that challenge.
Let me admit right up front, I’m no expert in this field. Not by a long shot. Unlike my friend Cheryl, I can’t taste a spoonful of creamy carrot soup, smack my lips, ponder a minute, and say, “I think I detect some nutmeg with a dash of mace.” So here are my tips for those who, like me, are novices in the practice of savory seasoning.
|I keep my chart taped inside|
the door of my spice cabinet
for quick reference.
Get a chart...or an app. A few years ago, I found a spice chart in a Woman’s Day magazine which I refer to a lot. Although an experienced cook might find it rather basic, it serves my needs. It tells me which herbs and spices go well with what foods. On the reverse side, it gives some special blends, a couple of which I keep on hand and use often. I looked for a similar chart as a give-away for this post, but couldn’t find one. So, instead, I’ll tell you there’s a free app called Spices (has a pic of a red chili) that’s very good.
Pay attention. Start developing a curiosity about what’s flavoring the food you eat. Take the time to determine what it is you’re tasting...rosemary, basil, bay leaf? Train yourself to know the flavors of various herbs and spices. And if you can’t identify them yourself, ask if possible. You’ll be surprised at how quickly you can start identifying the distinct flavors.
Organize your spices. Whether you have a rack or an entire cabinet for spices, organize it (alphabetically) so that you can grab the one you want quickly and so that you’ll know what you have on hand. Keep it updated. Yeah, I know spices are expensive and you hate to throw them out, but that jar of anise you’ve had ever since you got married probably no longer packs much of a punch.
Grow an herb garden. I talked about this in an earlier post. I don’t have a place to grow herbs year-round, but in the summer I love having small pots of rosemary, sage, basil, chives, and thyme growing on my patio. Nothing fancy, but with just a step out the door, I can have fresh herbs to cook with all summer. (I know they can be harvested and frozen, but I’ve yet to attempt that.) And the scent! Even if I’m not cooking, I love to grind a few leaves between my thumb and finger and inhale deeply.
Experiment. As far as condiments, we all know the old standbys: mustard, ketchup, and mayonnaise. But to enhance your flavoring pleasure, experiment. I recently discovered I LOVE hot sauce with cayenne pepper. Who knew? Now I sprinkle it on almost everything but fruit or dessert. And I might just try it on fruit one day. There’s a wonderful tea shop near our house, which also offers specialty olive oils and vinegars. I’ve developed a fondness for their balsamic vinegar, and in the summer for a tangy/ sweet combo, I sprinkle it on...don’t laugh (or gag)...ice cream. And speaking of that good ol’ standby, mayonnaise, try making your own. I’ll admit I’ve never done it myself, but it’s on my “to do” list. Once again, Cheryl, the gourmet, flavors ready-made mayonnaise with fresh herbs to give it a special kick.
|Just a few of my favorite condiments. Are relishes|
considered condiments? I don't know. But I had to
recommend those little peppadew peppers. If you
like sweet and tangy, try them!
Many months ago, I vowed to be more “helpful” in my blogging. While I’ve been a little lax with that, this past month I’ve tried to ratchet it up a notch. Here’s hoping you enjoyed it because, not being a domestic diva, I’ve just about exhausted my supply of homemaking helpfulness.
What about you? Any favorites you'd like to share?