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Spice Up Your Life: Italian

posted May 6, 2016, 12:03 PM by Unknown user   [ updated May 20, 2016, 6:54 AM ]
This month our Wellness Theme, Spice Up Your Life: Seasoning Food Without Salt, is all about finding simple, healthy ways to enliven the flavor of the foods that you enjoy!

One of the best ways to ditch the salt and still have delicious food is to add spices and herbs. But if you don’t have much experience in the kitchen or find yourself in a flavor rut, how do you know what flavors work well together?

To start making sense of herbs and spices and how they go with other foods, we don’t have to reinvent the wheel! We can get inspiration from different dishes from around the world that combine ingredients in the most delicious ways possible. This month, we will highlight 4 popular types of cuisine to give you a taste of flavor combinations they use and tips on using them in your own kitchen. The easiest way to start is by looking at pre-packaged spice blends you can find in the grocery store. Look at the ingredient lists on those blends and try to pick out the herbs and spices. These will be any ingredients that aren’t salt, anti-caking agents, monosodium glutamate, or “fillers” such as modified food starch. Once you have your list of herbs and spices, see what’s already in your pantry before you go and buy all new seasonings. You will probably find that you will only need 1 or 2 new herbs or spices to round out a new flavor.

Let’s start with a dinnertime staple: Italian 

Italian seasoning is ubiquitous to American kitchens- so what’s in that bottle? Usually you’ll find:
  • Oregano 
  • Basil 
  • Marjoram 
  • Tarragon 
  • Parsley 
  • Or some combination of those herbs 
These herbs complement each other and work well in Italian dishes like those with tomato sauce, pasta, beef, lamb, and more. Think about the other ingredients in those Italian dishes. How about garlic and onion, olive oil, maybe Parmesan or mozzarella cheese, and mushrooms? Those foods coordinate perfectly with these herbs too, so keep that in mind when you’re trying to throw together a last minute dinner with some fun flavors!

Try this!
Make a savory frittata! These egg-based dishes are fantastic for throwing together ingredients like tomatoes, onions, Italian herbs and spices, and cheese! Or try roasting chicken and vegetables with these herbs and a squeeze of lemon to add acidity (like the tomatoes provide in the pasta dishes) to brighten the flavors of the other ingredients. Just a touch of a sour flavor can make the flavors in your dishes pop. Lemon or lime juice, vinegar (balsamic, apple cider, or white/red wine vinegar), and tomatoes are great ways to balance out the flavors in a recipe that needs a little something else. Try it with our Fresh Spring Pasta with Asparagus and Spinach Pesto.

Fun Fact:
Basil has tons of great nutrients like vitamins A and K for healthy blood, bones, eyes and skin!

All four posts for this month were written by dietetic intern Andrea Goergen