March is National Nutrition Month(NNM)!
Registered Dietitians (RDs) everywhere are celebrating and ready, willing and able to share what they know with the public. If you need to find a RD, don’t hesitate to use the referral service offered by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
During NNM there is also a lot of free information available through the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics on topics such as healthy snacking & healthy shopping to help you “Get Your Plate in Shape” this March, and even more hints, tips and recipes, etc. Why you can even find short to-the-point Videos in English and in Spanish! Be sure to check out their Smart Snacking for Adults and Teens, as well as 25 Healthy Snacks for Kids, as well as Shop Smart – Get the Facts on Food Labels.* Also check out the National Nutrition Month Recipes for 2012 and even the NNM recipes for 2011.
Often the total meal preparation time and some of the other suggestions might take longer than 10 minutes, however, so we thought why not focus on sharing some of our tips that work to develop flavor in 10-minutes-or-less?!
NNM “Widget” (aka image code) courtesy of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
1. Our first tip is based on some of our reading this year in a book on the topic of “Culinary Tea” and then some of our personal travels, most recently to a number of Caribbean islands.
Just brew as needed multiples of any desired 8 oz cup of tea–be it caffeine-free herb and/or spice or not (based on your personal preferences and needs) and then use that “brewed tea” in a recipe to add flavor. The “brewed tea” can substitute for a sodium-containing broth, for example, in making a simple chicken soup. You gain the added benefit of consuming less sodium from a commercial broth while adding in rich flavor to please any palate!
We did that just this week–we brewed up one of our favorite brands of “herb tea” sold in many places, which is a caffeine-free “Lemon Ginger Tea” (which is actually an herb blend made from ginger root, lemongrass, lemon flavor, safflower, hibiscus, and citric acid and may contain soy) and used it to make homemade chicken soup. The chicken breast tenderloin pieces for the soup were lightly poached in the “brewed tea” liquid and absorbed all the wonderful flavor as a result, then they were cut up into smaller, bite size pieces.
It only takes 3-5 minutes to steep such “herb tea” once the water has previously come to a rolling boil and is poured over the “herb tea” blend in a pre-heated pot. Other specific temperatures are best for actual tea leaf based teas, the premium varieties of which are typically the ones made from the top two leaves and the bud of the tea plant.
For more details about the subject of tea, check out one of our previous blog posts on the subject Tea: Lesser Known Facts, Customs & Sommeliers.
The resultant pleasing flavor that was achieved was delightful when the “herb tea” flavor blended in with the mirepoix of vegetables we use–Peruvian sweet onion, organic baby carrot, along with green celery, which leads us to our second tip.
2. Saute pan cook any mirepoix to release the vegetables’ full flavor BEFORE adding in any liquid. Think about how wonderful caramelized onions taste and you’ll better understand why you should bring out the full flavor of the vegetables ahead of adding any liquid to the recipe.
3. Our third tip is to be bolder in your use of good-for-you seasonings, since after all, when you fuel your body, it only makes sense to make the fuel have solid flavor appeal! In a previous blog post on Good-For-You Qualities of Spices and Herbs we’ve referenced some of the antioxidant health benefits of spices and herbs and encouraged you to familiarize yourself more with the ORAC** values of such seasonings. (Towards the end of our soup making, we made sure to add in a few of our favorite herbs as well.)
On the Caribbean island of St. Kitts, at least one of the former island plantation houses (now converted into a restaurant) offers island cooking demonstrations and mid-day luncheons for tourists that typically includes an element or two of tea, along with the liberal use of aromatic spices and herbs.
An island based chef (possibly of English origin) might prepare a meal featuring say Green Banana Escovitch (featuring miniature, unripe bananas or plaintains), Jerk Pork Loin, Creole Fish in a Tomato Broth (featuring grouper fish), Island Rice and Pidgeon Peas (flavored with allspice), and Coconut Bread Pudding with rum and brown sugar glaze for dessert (the secret is the rum soaked raisins) where the glaze is flambéed right before all the guests dine on it.
These are smaller, more intimate gatherings for those interested in learning more about the melding of flavors from the heritage of the West Indian islands combined with that brought in from African, Chinese and European origins (primarily Spanish & French, although also possibly some English). Such experiences are literally a melding of Old and New World food traditions.
Bold and savory spices predominate in jerked seasonings (which usually have a touch of thyme in them) for pork and chicken, along with various curry sauces (made with a blend of turmeric, cumin, coriander and fenugreek for starters) and chutney use, tomato-based preparations involving stewing or poaching for fish acknowledging creole traditions, dumplings, and now fresh salsas.
Although allspice use may have declined in the USA according to McCormick as reported in the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Spring 2012 issue of Food & Nutrition Magazine, it is still a favorite of Caribbean chefs and cooks. Bay leaves are another seasoning favorite used in island cooking (just remember to remove them before serving any dish). You might even find a hint of cloves in some Caribbean dishes. All sorts of alliums including various varieties of garlic and onions will show up in a number of recipes as well. Precious saffron threads soaked in water or milk will make a lesser appearance in Caribbean recipes as a rule. In Grenada and some of its neighboring islands, use of nutmeg and mace is much greater. Hints of ginger root or ground ginger are a nod back to influences from China and India.
At one of these island restaurants, a Ginger Lemonade is popular, as is a Kittian bush iced tea beverage. If you are curious about such island cooking excursions, you can check out a blog entry about St Kitts by Jennifer Molnar from Canada (who provides a great description with photos of her visit back in January 2012 to St Kitts). Her description was echoed by someone else who attended basically the same event during a port stop on another Caribbean cruise on a different cruise line which we also traveled on this past February 2012.
Back home now in the NorthEast of the USA, which has had snow on the ground once again, we were thinking about warm rather than cold beverages, thus our mention of chicken soup. Somehow chicken soup can be soothing to the throat as well as the soul!
We invite you to share some of your “develop flavor in 10-minutes-or-less” tips this NNM here in the comments section. If your tip is new-to-us, we’ll pass it along (giving you full credit) and besides sending you a personal thank you, we’ll enter your name into a contest being held in honor of NNM! You can also check out our Facebook page for the latest free gift information and additional details.
*This Spring 2012, look for the Facts Up Front promotions calling attention to nutrition information on the Front of Packages (whereas Nutrition Facts Labels are on the back of packages). For more information on labels, please see two previous blog posts from 30DEC2011 and 31DEC2011.
**Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity
3 thoughts on “NNM Tips: Develop Flavor in 10-Minutes-or-Less”
This is very simple but adds such a burst of flavor! I add about a 1/4 cup of natural, dried strawberries to my oatmeal, before cooking in the microwave. Stir in so all the strawberries are tossed into the water-oatmeal mixture. The berries hydrate as the oatmeal cooks. Yummy burst of flavor!
Thanks for sharing your quick tip, Kim, for adding flavor to non-instant oatmeal that is still so easy to cook in the microwave.
Freeze-dried strawberries with no-sugar-added to them in the drying process are a great shelf-stable item to keep in a pantry. They are similar in some cases to the form of strawberries found in some sugar-added cold cereals on the market, so the option of using freeze-dried strawberries with no-sugar-added to them in basic hot oatmeal you can cook yourself in the microwave in just minutes to jazz it up is great!
Last April 2011, some preliminary research by Tong Chen, MD, PhD, of Ohio State University and associates in China where the study work was conducted over a 6 month period of time with humans, suggests that possibly consuming ~2 oz (or 60 grams) of freeze dried strawberries daily may have the potential to decrease precancerous lesions in the esophagus. It was a Phase 1 study without a control group, and additional study work is thus needed to further explore if indeed this was due to just chance or something more actually contributed by the freeze dried strawberries. Esophageal cancer is the 3rd most common GI tract cancer and the 6th most common cause of cancer death in the world.
As for oatmeal choices, instant oatmeal products have added sugars, whereas if you add your own fruit and other flavorings to non-instant oatmeal you make yourself, you get to control what is in the oatmeal you prepare and it can take just seconds to add some flavor that way, too! Plus there is more fiber in non-instant oatmeal choices.
Rehydrating shelf-stable dried fruits with no sugar added to them (by using the liquid called for in the recipes) is indeed a great way to add a burst of flavor to all sorts of categories of recipes.
You can also explore alternative liquids to try using in a recipe, depending upon any dietary preferences, etc., an individual or family needs to keep in mind. Various “milk” options (be it from dairy, soy or almond or other nut sources, etc.) can substitute for part or all of the water when cooking oatmeal, for example.
Simple tips are often some of the best tips because many people can use them easily. Thanks again, Kim, for sharing your quick tip!
Thanks for mentioning (and linking to) my blog post about the Caribbean Cooks Tour in St. Kitts!