When I asked people on my support group, “What do you struggle with the most when it comes to your healthy eating goals?” I received a variety of answers. Several of them were similar in nature, in the fact that they all were struggling to find affordable, simple recipes:
“$ (Money) it’s hard to find things here and when you can it’s marked up double or triple what it was back in CA.”
“Money-it’s so much more expensive to eat healthy.”
“Finding good recipes that aren’t overwhelming.”
“Quick, easy recipes that don’t require 30 different specialty ingredients. I know I need to be better about prepping on the weekend, but we only have so many hours in the day to get things accomplished!”
This was certainly a struggle of mine as well, when I first started out eliminating so many foods and cooking from scratch. Things like coconut aminos and toasted sesame oil are amazing, but they are also hard on my budget if used too frequently! So why don’t I struggle with this anymore?
Along with starting freezer meal prep, these five things keep simple, delicious, healthy meals on our table (with a little time and effort):
- Fresh Herbs
- Fresh Spices
- Dried Herbs
- Fresh Spices
Learning to cook with herbs and spices has taken me from someone who used recipes every time I attempted to cook anything, to someone who can just throw “whatever” together! In fact, this is when I have created some of my tastiest dishes that so many people enjoy in my cooking classes and workshops. And as an added bonus, the ability to improvise using herbs and spices, can save you tons of time and money in the long run!
The most amazing thing about herbs and spices, is that they can make the EXACT same ingredients taste like completely different meals! Example, saute some chicken and veggies with:
- A Mexican Seasoning Mix
- A Thai Seasoning Mix
- An Italian Seasoning Mix
Even if you use the same vegetables for every dish, you will end up with 3 completely different tastes! This is why I feel the key to long-term diet change (for those who bore easily) is to know how to use herbs and spices. This does not even get into all of the health benefits of these amazing creations! (Which there are a TON!)
I am working on my first cookbook, which will have a more comprehensive guide for those who do not have the time to experiment in the kitchen. However, I don’t want to leave everyone hanging until then, so I thought I would type out a few herbs and spices to get you started on your journey!
Fresh Rosemary, Apples and Pork are always a winning combination. Also, be sure to try it out with some roasted lamb!
Cinnamon is most known for adding sweetness to your dish; however, it can also add a savory flavor that your dish is needing!
Fresh Basil is a useful herb to get to know as well. It is used to flavor things like sauces, soups and salads and goes particularly well with tomatoes.
Cumin can add a Middle Eastern, Mexican, Indian, North Africa or Southwestern US flavor to your dish; however, it is also used by some to sweeten their dish and even as a pickling spice. If you have never used this tasty spice, I highly encourage trying it out!
Fresh Parsley should be found in every refrigerator, since it can go into just about any dish you prepare! Flat leafed parsley is preferred for cooking since it holds up to heat the best, while curly parsley is used for decorative purposes most of the time.
Turmeric will add a yellowish color to your dish, as well as a mild woodsy flavor. It can be used in place of saffron for those on a budget and is great for making tea. Just be careful, as it can stain your dishes and clothes!
I prefer fresh herbs when possible, but here a great rule of thumb when they may be hard to find or if you are trying to use up what is in the cabinet:
1 teaspoon of the dried herb = 1 tablespoon of the fresh
Don’t be afraid to experiment and if you mess up, it isn’t the end of the world! I know it is hard to waste food, but it is all a learning experience! (And trust me, if you have to throw the food away, you will learn! I know. lol) Throw in some citrus fruits from time to time for that extra zest and you will be unstoppable! In the long run, it will save you money AND time, since you will be able to throw an amazing meal together from what you have on hand without all of the extras!