How to add big flavor without added fat: 5 easy ideas

January 7, 2014

5 ways to add flavor without added fat | One Hungry Mama

Happy new year, hungry mamas and papas! I’m back to it after a bit of a break and feeling great about what’s ahead in 2014. Exciting updates and changes will be happening here, though you can bet I’ll still be serving up healthy family favorite recipes like nobody’s business. I’m also working on new ways that we can work together in person because there is nothing I love more than helping busy parents like you figure out how to take what you read here—the tips, recipes, ideas—and make it work in your home on your schedule, your budget, your taste. Be sure to sign up for my newsletter (there, on the right!) so that you can learn more and stay in the loop. And you can always email me if you have questions about how I work with clients.

Even with all of my excitement for the new year ahead, I’m still a resolutions skeptic. The renewed energy that this time of year brings is the kind that tends to get us to take on too much, too fast and then fades too quickly. Far be it from me to poo poo anyone’s desire to eat well, exercise more, and generally be a better, healthier person, I just like to think that we’re always taking small steps in that direction.

That said, I must admit that I took a little break from my healthier eating and exercise over the holidays and I’m ready to get back to it. It’s not a resolution, though, as much as a small step towards getting back on the horse. If you’re also ready to make a small adjustment back towards balanced eating, try starting with a small and easy shift like adding big flavor without more added fat. Here are my five favorite ways to do just that:

1. Feelin’ Zesty
Citrus zest is one of my favorite ingredients: I add it to practically everything! The oil in the rind of citrus fruit is a concentrated essence of flavor that perks up everything from salad dressing to cooked veggies, rubs for roasted meat to pasta or rice. Use just a little to brighten up flavors or more if you also want a true hint of lemon, lime, orange or grapefruit to come through in your dish.

2. Spice it Up
Get to know your spice rack and move beyond salt, pepper, and oregano. Dried spices are easy to use and low maintenance. (FYI: Ground spices keep in a dark, cool place for about 6 months before losing potency, whereas whole spices last for closer to 12 months). Have you ever used ground coriander? Mix some with mashed garlic, ground cumin, salt, and pepper to make a rub for pork loin. How about turmeric? It works great with fresh ginger and lends a warm, peppery flavor and gorgeous yellow hue often seen in Moroccan, Indian, and South East Asian cooking. Go to your favorite food sites (ahem!), type in a spice you’ve never used before, and get cooking!

3. Lovin’ in the Oven
Use your oven to prepare food simply with minimal added fat. I love cooking chicken cutlets or fish en papillote (wrapped in pouch made of parchment or aluminum foil) or roasting practically anything! Food cooked en papillote steams, getting a hint of flavor from the cooking liquid which can be anything from wine to broth to citrus juice. Roasting concentrates foods’ natural flavors. All you need is a drizzle of olive oil, spices, and zest to make anything from roasted veggies to roasted meat.

4. Get Tarty
Finish your cooking with vinegar. Like with citrus zest, the acidity of vinegar balances and brightens flavor. I add a splash of red wine vinegar to soups, use sherry vinegar to deglaze my roasting or sauté pan, and drizzle balsamic on simply steamed or roasted vegetables. You can cook vinegar down to create a flavorful reduction with a wonderful sweet and tart flavor that can be used to make vinaigrettes or finishing sauces for meat and bean dishes. If you want to get fancy, experiment with flavored vinegars!

5. Let it Marinate
I’ve been told that marinating takes too long for a lot of family cooks, so the key here is to begin soaking your meat the night before or first thing in the morning. Then, when it’s time to cook dinner, all you have to account for is cooking time. Making marinades is simple: combine an acid, a little bit of oil (then you can use a little less oil when cooking), and flavoring from mashed garlic to spices, hot sauce to miso paste, vinegar to Worcestershire sauce. Whisk together ingredients that create the flavor combo your want, taste (keeping in mind that the straight marinade will have a much more intense flavor than your cooked meat) and submerge meat until you’re ready to cook. Done!

Photo: iStockPhoto/nkzs

7 Responses

  1. Yashica says:

    Great post! I’ve been wondering how to spice up my flavor palette

  2. Marinating takes long but it makes the food soo tasty! And healthy!

  3. Sheila says:

    Thanks–will try vinegar. I love using spices, but need ways to tart things up a bit sometimes. good tip!

  4. Sheila says:

    the only thing with spices though is at least based on how my mom cooks (she’s indian) you need a lot of oil to make the spices stick to the food. No?

  5. great tips. looking forward to spicing up my life (heh-heh)!

  6. One Hungry Mama says:

    Not necessarily, @Sheila – it really depends on the preparation. For example, You can do a dry rub (mix ground spices and rub them on meat without oil) and then roast or pan fry in a “normal” or modest amount of oil with great results!

  7. One Hungry Mama says:

    It definitely helps to plan from the night before if you’re going to marinate!

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