Spice it Up!

National Nutrition Month is almost coming to an end. During this month if you made a commitment to add more fruits and vegetables to your meals, increase intake of lean heart healthy protein sources or switch at least half your grains to whole you are on the right track. Keep it up. When experimenting with new foods don’t hesitate to try some some spice combinations too.

Whether it is same old chicken or a combination of veggies or a plain white filet of fish spices can add flavor and variety to make your meals more appetizing and palatable. There are some basic spices combinations that go with particular cuisines. Give it a try.

  1. Italian: Fresh or dried, basil and oregano make any food become Italian. During Spring and Summer fresh basil adds incredible flavor, color and texture to your pizza, tomato salad or even spaghetti and marinara sauce. Combining basil and oregano adds the peculiar Italian flavor. Add it to sautéed zucchini and summer squash or mix with some olive oil and vinegar and drizzle over the chicken breast/fish filet as a marinade.Herb Basket
  2. Mexican: Cilantro (or Coriander), Cumin and Jalapeño are the essential flavors to turn a dish into Mexican. Add ground cumin and a sliced (seeded if you don’t want it to be too spicy) jalapeño to heated oil and sauté onions, peppers, mushrooms to make a great side dish. Adding ground cumin, lime juice and fresh chopped cilantro will make any of your salsas instantly flavorful.
  3. Oriental: Ginger, garlic, red chili peppers and soy sauce of course. Adding sliced garlic  and dried red chili peppers to your hot oil for sautéing vegetables or chicken or tofu adds flavor as well as taste. Choose low sodium soy sauce to keep the sodium content in check. Grated fresh ginger in your dish will also brighten the flavors.
  4. Indian: Cumin powder, chili powder, curry powder, turmeric as well as whole spices such as cloves, cinnamon sticks and cumin and mustard seeds are the hallmark of everything Indian. Indian SpicesAlmost all Indian dishes start with popping cumin or mustard seeds in heated oil. The popping disperses their flavor through the oil. Turmeric adds the yellow coloring and many health benefits. Try using curry powder to coat your seafood before grilling or pan frying. Add whole cloves and cinnamon sticks to a little heated oil and sauté your brown rice before adding the water. It will flavor the rice aromatically. You can take the whole spices out before serving. Adding fresh cilantro as a garnish is also an Indian tradition.

Give it a try. What cuisine would you like to try tonight? Make dinner international and spice things up. There are many health benefits to using a variety of these herbs and spices too. More on that next week.