We all go through phases in life where we overuse a word or phrase until it gets to a point where people start pointing it out and making fun of you. Apparently, I used to repeatedly exclaim, “that’s so flavorful!” Whatever, I can think of worse things to say!
I love adding flavor to cooking without breaking the calorie budget. The goal is NOT to totally eliminate fat and calories. The idea is to use them smartly in ways that stress QUALITY over QUANTITY.
- Cook with your nose. Cook with AROMATIC ingredients like ginger, garlic, mint, and chiles in your healthy dishes.
- Understand flavor profiles of your favorite ethnic cuisines. For example, a few of the important flavors of Mexico are chile, avocado, chocolate, lime, oregano, cumin and cilantro. Experiment or reinvent a dish with these flavors.
- Start with FRESH fruits and vegetables. Produce from your local farmers’ market will not only be in season, but will most likely taste better.
- For best flavor, keep certain fruits out at room temp. Things like apples, pears, persimmons, peaches, nectarines and even tomatoes. Fridge temperatures will mute their sweet flavors.
- Organize your kitchen and keep that pantry stocked! If ingredients are at your fingertips, you are probably more likely to cook something healthy and tasty rather than go to a restaurant.
- Use high quality olive, nut, truffle and sesame oils for finishing dishes. Just a little bit will provide a burst of flavor.
- Use just a pinch of a finishing salt to season after cooking rather than dousing with salt during cooking if you need to reduce sodium. The tiniest pinch of a flaky sea salt such as Maldon salt will add an intense salty pop. Try truffle salt for an umami flavor!
- Herbs and spices are dense with potent antioxidants! Use tumeric, cinnamon, oregano, cloves and ginger.
- Use dry rubs or marinades prior to cooking.
- Add smoky flavor with smoked paprika, smoked finishing salt, smoked olive oil, or chipotle chile.
- Just a touch of alcohol during cooking can enhance flavor perception. Even just 1 tablespoon can work!
- Best salt-less enhancers: rosemary, oregano, garlic powder, chile and lemon juice
- Enhance flavor after cooking with fresh salsas. Mix it up with various chiles, cilantro, tomatoes, cucumbers, tomatillos, pineapple, mango or even strawberries.
- Best cooking techniques requiring the least amount of oil: poaching in a flavorful, aromatic liquid, steaming, en papillote, sauteeing with a non-stick pan, stove top smoking, grilling and baking.
And a few swaps….
- Swap out sour cream or creme fraiche with nonfat Greek yogurt.
- Baby spinach or arugula in place of iceberg lettuce.
- Use a whole grain such as quinoa in place of white rice for stuffing eggplant and peppers.
- Swap 1/2 of the potatoes in mashed potatoes with steamed cauliflower. Top with a little truffle salt for some special flavor.
- Crumbled feta cheese instead of cheddar.
- Replace part of the soy sauce in a stir fry with ponzu sauce to cut back on sodium.
- Use toasted pumpkin seeds on salads in place of croutons for extra crunch.
- Instead of bread, put crostini toppings on top of Belgian endive or Persian cucumber rounds.
- Canadian bacon or crispy prosciutto in place of regular bacon in a Cobb salad.
The possibilities are as endless as your imagination! Let your creativity shine!