You probably think of a heart healthy diet as food that’s bland and has no taste. Well, thankfully, that is not true! Heart healthy food can be very flavorful and delicious! In fact, I have found the 10 best heart healthy flavor tips to show you how you can enjoy eating the foods in your heart healthy diet.
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1. Use fresh herbs whenever you can. Try not to use prepackaged seasoning mixes since they often contain a lot of salt. If you grind herbs with a mortar and pestle, you will get the freshest and fullest flavor. You can buy fresh herbs from the store, or you can even grow them yourself. I’ve grown parsley before and my dad is growing dill. He shared some with us recently and it really added to the flavor of our fish and vegetables.
2. Use dried herbs sparingly. Dried herbs add a more pungent flavor to your dishes, but use them sparingly since they’re so powerful. If the recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of fresh herbs, you can substitute 1 teaspoon of dried herbs. I like to use dried thyme, dill, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, ground ginger, basil, and oregano, to name a few. I also like Mrs. Dash seasoning blends because they’re sodium free.
3. Gingerroot and fresh horseradish provide extra flavor. Peel the gingerroot and grate it with a ginger grater or a flat, sheet-type grater. I had never used gingerroot before, but I had a recipe that called for it, so I decided to try it. It’s inexpensive and pretty easy to use. After peeling horseradish, use a food processor to grate it. My dad really loves horseradish!
4. Vinegar and citrus juice are wonderful flavor enhancers. It’s recommended that you add them at the last minute; although I have some recipes where I add them at the beginning. I have a slow cooker recipe for sweet n’sour ribs that uses apple cider vinegar, and a couple of fish recipes that use lemon and lime juice. However, I do have a rice recipe that uses lemon juice, that’s added at the end. Vinegar is also good to use on vegetables, such as greens; it’s a good substitute for high – calorie salad dressings. Citrus juice is good on fruits and melons, and also works on salads in place of dressing.
5. Citrus zest adds nice flavor. Zest is the colored part of the peel and doesn’t include the bitter white pith. You can grate it with a rasp zester, regular zester or vegetable peeler. I haven’t tried this yet, because I don’t like pulp, and don’t think I would like this texture in my food, but I know a lot of other people really like it.
6. Use dry mustard. It adds a nice zesty flavor in cooking. I use it in several recipes, like the sweet n’ sour sausage slow cooker recipe we just had for dinner this week. You can also mix the dry mustard with water to make a sharp condiment.
7. Add hot peppers for a bite in your dishes. You should remove the membranes and seeds first, and then chop the peppers, so that it’s not too hot. Make sure you wear disposable gloves while you’re doing this or at least wash your hands very thoroughly when you’re done. Never touch your eyes while cutting hot peppers because the oil from the peppers will really irritate your eyes. Remember you don’t need a lot of peppers either because a little bit goes a long way.
8. Use some dried fruits and vegetables. Cherries, cranberries, currants, mushrooms, tomatoes, and chile peppers have a more intense flavor when they’re dried. You can add them when you want a burst of flavor. You can even use the flavored water that they’re soaked in, for cooking. There’s a nice roasted pepper hummus recipe in the New American Heart Association Cookbook.
9. You should dry-roast seeds, nuts, and whole/ground spices in order to bring out their full flavor. You can do this by cooking them in a dry skillet or by baking them on a baking sheet. I have a rice recipe that uses slivered almonds cooked this way. I also have a broccoli recipe that uses roasted sliced almonds. They taste really good, especially when you stop them from cooking when they’re nice and brown.
10. Roasted vegetables are very flavorful. If you roast vegetables in a hot oven, their natural sugars will carmelize and the vegetables will have a nice full flavor. I tried this once with a variety of vegetables and my husband and I really liked it, but the kids didn’t because they wanted their vegetables more “mushy” rather than nice and crisp.
I hope all of these flavor tips help you learn how to prepare more flavorful heart healthy meals. You and your family will find out you actually really enjoy eating food cooked this way. I also wrote a post about The Best 10 Heart Healthy Cooking Tips that will give you more ideas about how to cook heart healthy. I learned a lot of what I know from The New American Heart Association Cookbook.
What is one of your favorite flavor tips? Also, if you like reading my posts and learn from them, please share them. I would really appreciate it. I would love for more people to learn how to live heart healthy.