In continuing with our search for flavor in the new year, I have been exploring all available possibilities. I realized that even though our household does use herbs and spices more than most, our spice drawer has several ‘relics’ that have slowly solidified. These include several blends of seasonings that seemed to have drawn moisture. The result is a clump of (what used to be) goodness that will not come out of the container. As an aspiring herbalist, I know that most leafy herbs lose their potency after about 6 months and should be replaced. Roots, stems and spices can still taste good for a while after that but will also gradually lose their potency. So in our house, it is time to clean out the spice drawer and replace the fossilized flavors. When was the last time you really looked at the contents of your spice cabinet (or drawer)? That long, huh? It is not too late to make a change. Join me as we clean out our spices and herbs together and discover what awaits inside.
You might be asking yourself what is the point of all of this? The answer is simple. If you really want to learn how to savor your dishes and enjoy your food more, flavor is the answer. And as discussed in my previous blog, I believe flavor is one of the keys to achieving (and maintaining) permanent weight loss and health. In addition, studies have shown that herbs and spices can help heal the body as well as provide flavor. Take for example cinnamon. Studies suggest that this common household spice can help to control blood sugar levels or calm an upset stomach. As it also acts as a stimulant in the body, these are just a couple of the benefits of using cinnamon. (I, personally, add a 1/2 teaspoon or more to my morning oatmeal to help stimulate my metabolism and add flavor.) Garlic is another common seasoning whose benefits have astounded scientists. Did you know that garlic can help reduce blood pressure and cholesterol? All of this and it can also help to make a spectacular pasta dish. Amazing! (For more information about the benefits of using herbs and spices to improve your health, search the internet, the local library or talk to your health care professional.)
Garlic is a unique flavor that can help add just the perfect touch to so many dishes. Besides pasta dishes, garlic can help to flavor soups, vinegar, meat dishes, veggies, even bread. It can be used as dried slices, fresh, powdered or even added to salt. A favorite recipe utilizes fresh garlic to add flavor to oven-roasted potatoes. This particular recipe is a perfect example of using seasonings to create a flavorful dish that is low in fat and calories.
Combine 2 small baking potatoes (cut into wedges lengthwise), 1 medium green or red bell pepper (cut into 3/4-inch wide strips), and 3/4 cup onion strips with 1 1/2 tsp. olive oil, 1 teaspoon minced garlic, 1/4 tsp. paprika, 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes, 1/8 tsp. sea salt and black pepper (to taste) in a medium mixing bowl. Toss until potatoes are evenly seasoned, then transfer to a large non-stick baking sheet in a single layer. Bake for 12-15 minutes at 400 degrees. Flip and bake for another 12-15 minutes until the potatoes are tender. Serve immediately.
How about using garlic powder to create a dry seasoning that can be used on just about everything? The following all-purpose seasoning blend could even take the place of salt and help add flavor to salt-restricted diet.
Blend 2 Tbl. each (ground) marjoram, coriander, parsley and paprika. Add 1/8 tsp. dry mustard, 1/8 tsp. lemon pepper and 1/8 tsp. garlic powder. Mix thoroughly and store in a shaker bottle.
Use your imagination and explore the possibilities in your spice drawer or refrigerator. Or purchase a new herb or spice to try. You could even try your hand at growing and blending your own herbs or seasonings. Stay tuned to this blog or check out The Simple Heart of Life herb shop, 1486 Turkey Farm Road, Bluffs, Illinois for additional inspiration and ideas for adding flavor to your life. Flavor–another of life’s simple pleasures!