Starting with a plate full of color is the first step in eating well. Roasting, steaming and sauteeing are preparation methods that highlight the natural colors and flavors of food. But all too often, we rely on salt, fat and sugary ingredients for additional taste. In fact, many of us are addicted to these common dietary culprits, which are key ingredients in so many prepared foods today. Spices and herbs offer alternative sources of flavor that can help you serve up a meal that is both colorful and tasty.
You’re eating the rainbow – now spice it up!
Cooking our own meals gives us the opportunity to choose what’s in the food we eat and enjoy meals that are healthy and flavorful. But where to start?
In my book THE 8 PRINCIPLES OF A HEART HEALTHY WOMAN, Making Better Choices for Life, I list 12 of my favorite heart-healthy spices and herbs, which can give any dish that extra punch of flavor.
I simply love it when people ask, “What’s that I’m tasting?”
Here are my heart-healthy favorites, in no particular order.
Mint – the secret ingredient that adds freshness to any salad, grain or green.
Smoked Paprika – the depth of flavor reminds me of my southern roots, especially in stews with fish or shellfish.
Garam Masala – a blend of the most aromatic spices of Northern India.
Curry – seems like a big mystery, but it’s the easiest spice to use to make your dish far from bland.
Nutmeg – not just for coffee drinks, a sprinkle gives a lift to anything with spinach.
Red Chili Flakes – sprinkling a little on green vegetables, such as broccoli, gives them a zip.
Cayenne – gives heat when salt won’t be used.
Cumin – behind salt, the most used spice in the world; gives heat but not hot.
Ginger – provides a lively warm flavor without harshness.
Garlic – begin any savory recipe with minced garlic and you’re on your way to a successful dish.
Cinnamon – add to baked goods, of course, but also to savory dishes and even your tea or coffee.
Turmeric – the main ingredient in Indian curries and American mustard; adds a little earthiness to any dish.
Easy to Remember
The ratio for fresh to dried herbs is 3 to 1. For example, when a recipe calls for 1 teaspoon dried herbs, you’ll use 3 teaspoons fresh.
I keep a closed jar in my herb drawer that contains leftovers from refilling the jars – such as basil, oregano, thyme, and rosemary. That blend becomes the daily go-to salad mix for the all- purpose house dressing.
I’ve even been known to bottle and label the mixture, then wrap the bottles for party favors.
What secret ingredients do you use to add interest and intrigue to your dishes? Pick one herb or spice you don’t often use, and plan a way to use it.
Here’s a great recipe from our library.
Don’t let curry intimidate you—this recipe is as simple as it is delicious. The nutritional value of the garbanzo beans (also known as chickpeas) allows this dish to stand alone or be served with fish or grilled chicken.
Remember, if I can do it, you can, too!
The Heart-Healthy Woman
Author, Speaker, Host