Most herbs, spices, and table wines do not contain sodium, nor cholesterol and fat; they can be used in place of salt as seasonings. You will find that flavoring substances such as black pepper, onion, green pepper, garlic, lemon juice, and vinegar complement and enhance the natural goodness of food. When using herbs and spices, use them sparingly because a little goes a long way. However, if you use fresh rather than dried herbs, use twice the amount.
To keep a ready supply of seasonings on hand, try using a combination of herbs instead of salt in your saltshaker. You can make your own herb shaker by combining:
½ Tsp cayenne pepper
1 Tbsp garlic powder
1 tsp basil
1 tsp marjoram
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp parsley
1 tsp mace
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp sage
1 tsp savory
This will enhance the flavors of meats and vegetables in the kitchen or on the table.
Table wines are fine to use in cooking, but avoid flavoring your meats with “cooking wines” as they contain added salt. As with herbs, a little wine goes a long way. You can devise your own flavorful marinades by using wine, vinegar, and oil or unsalted salad dressings. Lemon juice, vinegar, Tabasco sauce or unsalted liquid smoke are also great for adding flavor to meats, soups and vegetables.
Use onion or garlic powder, celery seed or flakes as indicated in a recipe instead of flavored salts such as onion salt, celery salt and garlic salt.
As flavor enhancers to heighten the taste of the foods, I would recommend the following low sodium alternatives:
Beef: Bay leaf, dry mustard powder, green pepper, marjoram, fresh mushrooms, nutmeg, onion, pepper, sage, thyme.
Chicken: Green pepper, lemon juice, marjoram, fresh mushrooms, paprika, parsley, poultry seasoning, sage, thyme.
Fish: Bay leaf, curry powder, dry mustard powder, green pepper, lemon juice, marjoram, fresh mushrooms, paprika.
Lamb: Curry powder, garlic, mint, pineapple, rosemary.
Pork: Apple, applesauce, garlic, onion, sage.
Veal: Apricot, bay leaf, curry powder, ginger, marjoram, rosemary.
Asparagus: Garlic, lemon juice, onion, vinegar.
Corn: green pepper, pimiento, fresh tomato.
Cucumbers: chives, dill, garlic, vinegar.
Green beans: dill, limon juice, marjoram, nutmeg, pilmiento.
Greens: onion pepper, vinegar.
Peas: green pepper, mace, onion, paprika, parsley.
Rice: chives, green pepper, onion, mushrooms, saffron.
Squash: Cinnamon, ginger, mace, nutmeg, onion.
Tomatoes: Basil, marjoram, onion, oregano.
Soups: A pinch of dry mustard powder in bean soup; a small amount of vinegar or allspice in vegetable soup; peppercorns in skin milk chowders; bay leaf and parsley in pea soup.
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Herbs that are not readily available fresh, can be dried and bottled for your later convenience. While not as fresh tasting in this form, if properly prepared, the flavor and aroma can be satisfactorily retained. The potency is much greater in the dried form.
As a general guide for interchanging fresh and dried herbs allow 1/3 to ½ teaspoon of dried herbs to replace 1 tablespoon of fresh.
This dried leaf is a natural companion for tomatoes. Use it in tomato sauces, vegetable casseroles, and fresh tomato salads.
While the leaf itself is not eaten it imparts flavor and aroma to soups and tomato dishes and pickling liquors. Also recommended in fish chowders. Add one leaf to the pot when you begin cooking, remove before serving.
The French are particularly fond of chervil, and it is one of the traditional components of “fines herbs.” It is much less common in American kitchens but is found to be one of the best flavoring ingredients for salad dressing. Use it just as you would parsley.
When fresh chives are unavailable, freeze-dried chives are the best substitute. In this form the herb retains a maximum of flavor and when added to a liquid medium dehydrates readily. Use them in any way that you would the fresh.
The traditional way of using marjoram is in lamb dishes. It is also good on string beans and limas and for a unique taste you might try adding some to poultry stuffing.
The essential ingredient in all Italian dishes, so any time you want to impart Italian flavor be sure to include this herb. Also used in Greek and Mexican food.
Rosemary is a sweetest herb that is sold dried and resembles small spikes. Add it along with basil, oregano and marjoram to Italian dishes. It can be used in soups and stews, lamb and chicken dishes and it is great in gin drinks too.
Again, a valuable stuffing enhancer particularly favored with pork products. Steeped in hot water it is supposedly an excellent medicinal beverage for alleviating colds.
Of “parsley sage, rosemary and” fame, this herb is associated most often with poultry.
Caring for herbs
All dried herbs should be stored in airtight containers away from heat. Most cooks keep their herb (and spice) shelf within easy reach of the stove, a handy place except that heat dissipates the flavor and quality of your seasonings. Try to have a permanent storage place in a cooler part of your kitchen.
Always buy the form of dried herb closest to the whole-leaf state, avoiding finely crushed leaves whenever possible. The crumbling of the leaves releases the essential flavoring oils; therefore it is best to crush the leaves between your fingers just before introducing them to the pot.
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Herbs are nothing more complicated than aromatic leaves and sometimes flowers that are both edible and flavorful. To preserve the flavor and aroma they are frequently dried, but many of them are just as popular in the fresh form and far richer this way.
The fresh leafy tops of celery are excellent for perking up soups and an essential ingredient in homemade chicken broth. If you have more leaves than you can use, you’ll find home drying a great money saving trick.
Soak the leaves in cold water to clean and pat dry with absorbent paper. Spread on paper (wax, parchment) and let dry slowly, exposed t o the air at room temperature until crumbly. Do not dry in direct sunlight. Store these and all of your home dried herbs in a tightly covered jar for future use.
Chives are sold as a growing plant. The plant is usually jammed into a tiny container and dies because the roots are too plentiful for the pot. You can have a long-lasing source of this herb in your kitchen if you replant it in a larger pot and continually cut the tops so your chive shoots remain upright. Chives are a member of the onion family. Although much milder, and can be used uncooked to flavor cheese dips, sauces, and spreads. Try adding chives to cottage cheese, sour cream and mayonnaise to accentuate the taste.
Fresh dill makes everything taste like spring. You probably know dill in the taste of dill pickles. Its use extends to soup (particularly potato and white bean) and salads as well. Add fresh dill and lemon to fish salads or combine the chopped herb with sour cream for a fish sauce.
Mint may be sold fresh or dried in your market. Add the leaves to yogurt for a refreshing salad. Also good in fruit mixtures and steeped in boiling water for a Mid-Eastern tea. For an instant breath refresher, chew a few mint leaves.
Fresh parsley, often used as a garnish only to be pushed to the side of the plate, is actually a fine source of vitamin A and C and vegetable protein. It is also rich in chlorophyll to make your breath rich and sweet-both cheaper and healthier than mouthwash. Use fresh parsley to season soups, salads, stuffing’s, breadcrumb coatings and thousands of other meat and vegetable dishes. To store this herb, wash, chop and keep in a plastic bag in the freezer. When you need a spoonful, dip into the freezer stock; it thaws almost instantaneously. The dried form doesn’t compare in flavor or nutrition.
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Spices are the dried flavoring elements produced from the buds, flower, fruit, bark and the root of the plant. Many are sold already blended as curry powder, chili powder, pumpkin pie spice, etc. Although sometimes sold in the whole form, most of them are preground before they reach the market. Unless you use a particular spice in huge quantities, buy the smallest jars available; the flavor diminishes whit age and exposure to the air. Store tightly covered in a cool, dry place as you do herbs.
When the characteristic odor of your spices and herbs is no longer pungent it is time to replace them. Most spices are unadulterated (although they may be sprayed with fumigants to prevent bug habitation at he processing plant.) any tampering should be on the label.
Some of the more common spices are discussed below. Included are seeds as well. Seeds come from the dried fruit or seed of the plant and differ from spices in that the seeds usually refer to the aromatic product of plants of temperate zones, while spices come from plants of tropical origin.
Allspice is the product of one plant only, although its name might imply that it is a mixture of more than one spice. The flavor resembles a blend of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. The whole form is used in pickling; when ground it adds flavor to baked goods and puddings. Try placing the powdered form in stored clothing as a moth preventive.
This is the flavor so many of us associate with rye bread. These seed are delicious in sauerkraut, cooked cabbage dishes, and on potatoes. We add them to cottage cheese for flavoring dips and are also wonderful in scrambled eggs.
Cardamom is sold both whole and ground and is often quite costly. It is a common ingredient in Indian dishes and the Danish add the ground seeds to pastry. Chewing cardamom seeds is a good cover-up for liquor on the breath.
This fiery red powder from small red peppers can be used to spark anything. A pinch even helps sweet dishes. Use sparingly though, it’s very hot.
Use just as you would celery leaves. When stuffing vegetables with cream cheese, mix in some celery seeds and you’ll have a more flavorful spread. A teaspoon can be added to salad dressing for a fresh flavor, particularly fruit dressings.
This spice is made from chili peppers blended with other spices and can be either mild or hot. Use it in Mexican dishes and bean stew.
The best way to buy cinnamon is in stick form. A 1-inch stick of cinnamon equals 1 teaspoon of ground. Use with whole sticks as stirrers or straws in hot-spiced punch, tea, coffee, and milk. Ground cinnamon, of course, goes into cakes, pies, and puddings. You needn’t save it for sweet dishes though. Add some to rice to give it an arousing aroma.
Cloves are highly fragrant nail-shaped buds, which again are used in pickling (mostly fruits). Meat is often studded with cloves t o add flavor in roasting. Ground, it is frequently used in baking. We find cloves go especially well in dishes that include lentils.
Curry powder is another spice blend and can be added to white sauce in flavor leftover meat, vegetables and eggs. Curry, however, is more than just curry powder and for most effective use of curry spices consult an Indian cookbook. Improper use of curry powder is one sure way to turn people off to Indian food, which is delicious.
Although this spice is not among the most popular, it is mentioned because it an add variety to some of your favorite dishes by imparting a licorice-like flavor. It’s quite interesting in apple pie. Also in boiled fish dishes. Highly recommended for those who like licorice, to be brewed like tea and served as a hot drink.
In addition to the fresh root, ginger is available dried and ground. This is a spice with a real bite, so taste your dish as you proceed. Use ground ginger in baking (for gingerbread), particularly in combination with fruit fillings.
Dried mustard powder is the base for prepared mustards, gradually beat water into the powder to creamy consistency and you’ve made your own hot mustard. It is a favorite flavoring ingredient in salad dressing. Add ¼ teaspoon along with the other seasonings for a sharp (but favorably so) taste. Add to cheese dishes as well.
When Columbus set sail for the East Indies, nutmeg was one of the spies he was searching for. Nutmeg should always be used in the ground form, alone on vegetables like cauliflower, spinach and broccoli, combined with cinnamon and berries, banana, eggnog and custard.
Sweet red peppers are the source of this popular spice, famed more for its use in coloring rather than flavoring flood. It’s mild flavor recommends it for use in egg salad, cream cheese, and sweet corn for color contrast. Also makes tomatoes sauces redder. If fresh, paprika is an excellent source of vitamin C.
Pepper goes with everything-in small amounts. Too much (and this is true of all “hot” spices) an damage the stomach lining, invest in a pepper mil and season meat, fish, poultry, egg and vegetable dishes with the freshly ground peppercorns before serving. Pepper that is purchased ready-ground is flat and lifeless. By the way, a lavish sprinkling of ground pepper is another moth repellent used throughout the world.
The best way to judge the right amount of seasoning is by taste. By all means, taste as you go along. A pot that has not been sampled during cooking reflects this neglect.
Discover more about Seasonings Here!
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Fresh seasoning not only enhances the taste but they also add nutrients to your food. Because they are derived from plant sources, any of them are rich in vitamins and minerals. Use fresh seasonings and incorporate them into your recipes.
Garlic and Onion
The two most widely used flavoring agents are garlic and onion. Both are sold fresh and in the form of ground, dried, powder and salt. Stick with the fresh. Nothing approaches the taste of these vegetables in their original form. Chop, mince, grate or press as needed for enhancing your food: 1 clove of garlic and 1 Tablespoon of chopped or grated onion can substitute for ¼ teaspoon of the powder in a recipe.
Fresh ginger root is being offered in many supermarkets these days and is wonderful for making pungent dishes, especially for Chinese and Indian specialties. For every ¼ teaspoon of ground ginger called for in a recipe use a 1-inch piece of the fresh ginger root chopped finely or grated. Ginger can get quite fiery, so start with a little and add more to taste. Fresh ginger grated into the dressing really perks up a fruit or vegetable salad.
In certain parts of the country hot (chili) peppers are a common supermarket commodity. Be careful when you use them. Not only are they hot to taste, but fresh chili pulp will burn the skin too. To prepare chilies for cooking:
Wash and dry the pods, skewer on a long-handled fork and toast on top of the stove, turning so they blister on all sides. When the skin is evenly blistered and puffed away from the pulp you can lay the pods on a cloth, sprinkle them lightly with water and cover them with another cloth so they steam. The skins can then be pulled away easily and the seeds and veins removed. Use all the pulp, but only a few of the seeds.
The seeds and veins are the hottest part, so take it easy. Don’t be a show-off when it comes to chili. If you put one of the seeds on your lips or tongue, be assured you will never be tempted to try it again.
Lemon juice is added to many sauces, soups, salads dressings, meat, fruit and vegetable dishes to enliven their flavor. Half of fresh lemon will serve you far better than bottled lemon juice which is rather flat tasting and preserved with chemicals.
Learn how to grow these wonderful seasonings in your own garden!
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