Three Healthy, Easy Ways to Create Flavor in Your Recipes

Curry-Roasted Kabocha Squash with Rosemary

This time of year is when I start to get spring fever. Not so much as it relates to warmer weather – I live in Texas, and it’s not like we have long, cold winters. I’m talking about the availability of local, fresh produce. I’m thankful I can maintain a winter garden, so I have access to the few things that can survive a few nights below freezing temperatures. But let’s be honest – we all know that even my little homegrown kale plus the grocery store variety can never be as good as a farmer’s market in June.

So, what do I do to keep that spring fever under control in the meantime? I boost the flavors in my favorite dishes. There are a lot of things you can do to completely change the flavor of a dish – and most require very little effort, and can still be healthy.

Here are three ways to change up your flavors and keep meals fresh and fun while you wait for the first produce of spring!

  1. Use Spices. A good spice cabinet is key. My spices adorn not only a wall in my kitchen, but also fill two small cabinets above my stove, and there is even overflow in my pantry. I love having all kinds of spices, from the basics (garlic powder, onion powder, Italian seasoning) to the more exotic (garam masala, curry powder, coriander, fenugreek) and everything in between. Try using a new spice on an otherwise traditional dish (such as this Curried Kabocha Squash, or even try adding ginger with chocolate desserts, such as these Chewy Ginger Chocolate Cookies) and you might find a new favorite way to enjoy it!
  2. Condiments Are Your Friend. A few key condiments and pickles can go a long way towards “perking up” a dish. Keep Dijon mustard on hand for an easy marinade or sauce (like in these Dijon Honey Pork Chops). Stock up on an array of fun pickles, olives, and sauerkraut for easy accompaniments, or even in stuffings such as this Pistachio-Olive Stuffing. Another wonderful condiment worth your time to make is Garlic Confit. It takes a bit of time, but it’s mostly hands-off, and the reward is a lovely, roasted, full-bodied garlic flavor that you can add to many dishes. Also, wine, while not exactly a condiment, can be a lovely contribution to a sauce, such as in this Drunken Garlic Chicken.
  3. Learn Flavor Combinations. Ever wonder what goes well with chicken? Black beans? Rosemary? Apples? While I’m sure everyone can name one or two things, often, we fall into the same routines when combining flavors, for fear of trying something new that will fall flat. This is where the pros can help us out. I personally adore this book – The Flavor Bible. It’s organized in alphabetical order by ingredient, and lists other ingredients that pair well with that ingredient, highlighting the best combinations. It’s a wonderful way to brainstorm new recipe ideas.

What are some of your favorite ways to boost flavors in your cooking?   Alta is the founder of the gluten-free, dairy-free blog, Tasty Eats At Home. Even without gluten and dairy, Alta can show you that meals can be simple and healthy, and treats such as cake, bread, and cookies can be mouth-watering! Her goal is to share with you delicious, gluten-free, dairy-free food that can bring your heart joy and nourish your body, one recipe at a time.

Read all of Alta’s posts here.

24 Responses to Three Healthy, Easy Ways to Create Flavor in Your Recipes

  • Kim says:

    Great ideas, Alta!

    [Reply]

    Alta Reply:

    @Kim, Thanks, Kim!

    [Reply]

  • Miriam says:

    I’m so glad you said how many spices you have because I have been embarrassed about my overly large spice collection – thinking I can’t really be using all of those, am I? But I do really.

    There is another book about flavour that I have just been introduced to – it’s called the Flavor Thesaurus and it’s a great read – also organized alphabetically with lots of suggestions for flavor combinations including the author’s experience with many of them.

    Thanks for your post. You’ve inspired me to make today’s dinner more flavorful.

    Miriam.

    [Reply]

    Alta Reply:

    @Miriam, Be proud of your spice collection! LOL Ooh, Miriam, I’m gonna have to check that book out! Sounds great.

    [Reply]

  • Ricki Heller says:

    I love spicing it up, too! Great suggestions, Alta. :)

    [Reply]

    Alta Reply:

    @Ricki Heller, Thanks Ricki!

    [Reply]

  • #1 is my favorite one to employ. :) Love these tips!

    [Reply]

    Alta Reply:

    @Hallie @ Daily Bites, I love your use of spices in your recipes too! ;-)

    [Reply]

  • Maggie says:

    I need The Flavor Bible! Thanks for some great tips Alta. I curse my spice cupboard every time I open it. I need a bigger and better solution :)

    [Reply]

    Alta Reply:

    @Maggie, I curse mine sometimes too, but that’s mostly because I have some little bags of spices that overflow and aren’t organized that well! LOL

    [Reply]

    Amy Green Reply:

    @Alta, I bought little glass jars for $1 each at Bed, Bath, & Beyond and labeled them with a label maker. Took some time but at least it’s (mostly) organized. I keep my spices in alphabetical order, too.

    [Reply]

    Alta Reply:

    @Amy Green, My trouble is, I have like 25 little glass jars I got from IKEA that are labeled, and that’s STILL not enough room for all the spices I have! LOL

  • The great chefs rely on these strategies all the time, so why not us home chefs? ;-) Terrific tips, Alta! Thanks for the reminders. Off to share …

    Shirley

    [Reply]

    Alta Reply:

    @Shirley @ gfe & All Gluten-Free Desserts, Thanks, Shirley! ;-)

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  • Alisa says:

    Great tips Alta! Some of it also involves knowing what spices and flavors to pair with what – you have a natural talent for that!

    [Reply]

    Alta Reply:

    @Alisa, Thanks Alisa! <3

    [Reply]

  • Donna says:

    Thanks for the tip on the Flavor Bible. I think I will look into it. I also know a big key to spices is to get good quality. Once you’ve tried a good cinnamon you will never go back to the cheap standard one. You will even use less because the flavor is so much better.

    [Reply]

    Alta Reply:

    @Donna, Definitely agree! I often buy good spices in bulk at Indian groceries because they are so much fresher. :)

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  • Love all of the ideas, here, Alta! I am so guilty into falling into the same flavor pairings all of the time. I always go to my staples when I am in a rush to get a dinner on the table. I need to get my hands on a copy of The Flavor Bible for sure!!

    [Reply]

    Alta Reply:

    @Kim – Cook It Allergy Free, I fall into ruts too, especially when in a rush. :) At least this way you can have a differently spiced variation of the “same ol’”!

    [Reply]

  • Carol says:

    Great tips every one! I have a tiny kitchen so I don’t keep as many spices on hand as I wish I could however my kids often comment that my fridge looks like a condiment store!

    [Reply]

    Alta Reply:

    @Carol, LOL at the condiment store! :)

    [Reply]

  • Cristina says:

    I use many different condiments depending on the food I want to prepare. Recently I prefer to add raw herbs better than only powder condiments, for health and for a much better taste. Coriander, celery, ginger are my favorites. Honey is really helpfull to make children eat almost anything. We live in Tokyo and people here ground radish and eat it like that alone or with soy sauce. I learned that it can also be eaten with a bit of honey, so now my daughter can eat raw radish (lots of vitamin C).

    Raw vegetables and herb, marine salt and honey. Everything alcaline and sometimes sweeeeet sometimes salty.

    [Reply]

  • Anne says:

    Thanks for some new ideas!

    [Reply]

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