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Posts tagged ‘Vegetables’

Purées with Punch!

There are two commonly available things that really spike the flavor of food –  that give them a bright and inviting taste. Those two things are salt and acid. Any kind of salt will do and acids are products like vinegar, wine and the citric acid found in fruits like oranges, limes and lemons. You can add them to almost any recipe. Let’s take tomato soup for example. You have it all finished but it tastes bland. The flavor is not exciting or interesting. It’s just not coming out. This is where you can really see the impact of flavor enhancement. Add small amounts of salt  and keep tasting each time you add. Then add just a little lemon juice and keep tasting as you add more. You won’t believe your taste buds! These two things will make huge difference in the finished product.

Many people strive to avoid salt, so let’s concentrate on what citric acid can do. It can flavor your food without adding a lot of calories. It can give you a healthier option because you don’t have to add cream to enjoy your dish. The picture is an example of a really healthy, low calorie meal that is full of fresh taste and has elements that work well together. The peas are fresh and cooked just enough so they still have a little bite. By the way, peas are one vegetable where freshness makes a huge difference. There is no comparison between a fresh pea and even a frozen one. They are not always available, but when you can find them, buy them!

Here’s where the citric acid comes in. The squash is cooked in not quite enough orange juice to cover it and a sprinkle of white pepper. It should be cooked until very tender and easily mashed with a fork. Then it was pureéd. (If you don’t have a blender or food processor, just mash it.) During the cooking process, the orange juice reduced and added amazing flavor. Turning it into a purée makes it more interesting and helps you not miss the potatoes. Did you even notice there was no starch on this plate?

Vegetable purée is a wonderful substitute for sauce in dishes like tacos and also lasagna. Paired with fish, any kind of meat or even roasted vegetables, they can be an interesting and tasty alternative. If you want your purée thinner, just add a little more of the juice it was cooked in and of course, fresh herbs can enhance it even more, but are not necessary.

The juicy chicken is an example of fat used wisely. It was dipped in egg, then 2 Tablespoons of coarsely grated Parmesan cheese, then baked at 400 degrees F for about 20 minutes, until just tender and cooked through. The garnish is a piece of leftover grilled pepper. When I say the fat was used wisely, I mean that its taste is forward because it’s on the outside. The taste of the Parmesan is strong, pleasing and filling. You taste it with every bite of the chicken. The Parmesan also has an almost salty taste, which enhances your dish even more. This is a great diet meal. The plate has freshness, color, healthy vegetables, protein and only 550 calories!

Healthy Comfort Food

As rain drizzles on a cold day in Detroit, a girl’s fancy turns to comfort food. Mac and cheese is out of the question and the cupboard is devoid of chips. But that’s not really what I want. I want something healthy, warm and filling that will stick to my ribs and not send me reeling back looking for something else in an hour. To me, the answer is homemade soup. Added pluses are that it’s quick to make, you can easily make any amount and you can use any vegetable – even leftover already cooked ones! That’s exactly what I just whipped up for lunch. Butternut squash soup from leftover cooked squash. Here’s a recipe adapted from the Flavor Secrets cookbook, but if you have less vegetable than it indicates, just use a pan where the amount covers the bottom and barely cover the vegetables with broth. If you do that, you will get the great consistency of a thick, hot and hearty soup that is lovely to enjoy. This is just a general guideline! (Serves 6 or more. Keeps up to 7 days in the refrigerator and can be successfully frozen for up to 3 months.)

2 large onions, diced
1 jalapeño pepper
4 Tablespoons olive oil
4 stalks celery, peeled and diced
2 carrots, diced
2 pounds squash or other vegetable
1-1/2 quarts chicken stock (Approx.)
2 cups orange juice
Salt and white pepper
1 teaspoon turmeric (Optional)

In a large sauce pan, heat the olive oil and sauté the onion with the pepper until it’s soft. Add the celery, carrots and vegetable and continue to cook for 5 minutes. Add the stock and orange juice and cook until all vegetables are soft. Purée the mixture. Taste and season with the salt, pepper and turmeric. Crawl under an afghan in your favorite chair and savor it until it’s gone!

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