Building Flavours


Make boring veggies burst with flavour by keeping a few key ingredients on hand


If you find it challenging to squeeze in all those servings of veggies that you need to be getting every day, the trick is to make them easy to prepare, and make them tasty. Here are a few tips that take care of both.

Start simple. Keep prep and cooking to as few steps as possible and do them in batches. Pick a day where you have some time and get a bunch of different veg, chop them up and either roast them all or steam them in batches, allow them to cool and then pop them in the fridge for easy meal prep throughout the week. Some of the suggestions below call for adding flavour before in some cases but it often works fine to add after as well. Then you can switch up the flavour each day so you'll never get bored.

Umami

There are a few easy ways to add serious savouriness to certain foods. If you love the Everything bagel over plain then you are an umami lover. The stars of this show are two spice powders: garlic and onion. From there you can add classic 'everything' flavours like caraway and poppy seeds, but they really do stand well on their own, so some less flavourful but nutrient dense toppings could include chia seeds, sesame seeds and hemp hearts along with a dash of Himalayan pink salt or sea salt. Sprinkle this on avocado toast, coat tofu or tempeh with it and bake, or sprinkle it on roasted or steamed veggies.


Another way to import umami is with soy sauce. The deep, rich fermented flavour pairs nicely with garlic for a hearty flavour or ginger to add a brighter note. Toss cruciferous veg like broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts or kale with soy sauce, garlic or ginger - or both - and a little fresh ground pepper, roast for 20 minutes or until slightly fork tender but still firm and a little browned.

One more way to get that umami going is with miso. This is much easier to find in regular grocery stores these days, or your local Asian market, and failing that you can always buy it on Amazon. There are so many ways to use miso that I can't even start, but aside from making soup you can make marinades, dressings, sauces, dips, or you can straight up spread it on toast - but be warned it can be quite strong and salty on its own so be sure to mix it with a little oil, butter/ghee or coconut oil. Bonus! It's also a probiotic food so while you feed yourself you feed your healthy gut bacteria too.


And one final suggestion for umami love: mushrooms. These gems are loaded with savoury flavour all on their own, just add a little heat and it pops out. Then add a little flavour, like garlic, onion and pepper, and they transform into something even a carnivore will drool over. Add some butter or miso paste to the mix and top it on toast or rice and you have a meal. Dried mushrooms do amazing things in sauces and marinades too. You can buy them by the bag, toss them in your blender for a few pulses then mix with dried garlic, onion, salt and pepper and sprinkle on avocado toast, roasted veggies or sprinkle over a caesar salad for a nice twist.

Smoky


An easy way to impart the feeling of barbecue to just about anything is a little bit of smoked paprika. Not particularly hot, it works well as an addition to the umami mix above for a real outdoor-grill kind of flavour, or mixed with cayenne or chilli flakes for a real tex-mex vibe. Also good on tofu or tempeh, and roasted or grilled veggies.

Thai Spice

Any lover of Thai food is going to have a new go-to option because this one is the easiest. All you have to do is hit the spice aisle or, if your local grocery store has it, the Asian foods aisle. There you can find pre-made Thai curry paste, often with the option of red, green, and maybe other flavours, in a little tiny jar of goodness. The tiniest amount adds a big hit of flavour and the more you add the hotter it gets. Mix with broth, coconut milk and throw in your favourite veggies for a Thai coconut soup, or mix with oil and toss your veggies in it then bake or grill.

Cilantro

If you like cilantro you'll love this. If you're part of the population that thinks it tastes like soap, you can ignore this one. For the lovers, cilantro and lime are a timeless mix that can take you anywhere from Mexico to India depending on what it's mixed with. The base sauce keeps well in the fridge and can be used hot or cold. Pull out your blender or food processor and add the following:


- 1 bunch cilantro, stems on, freshly washed, still wet

- Juice and zest of 1 lime

- 1-2 garlic cloves (to taste)

- 1 teaspoon dried cumin

- 1/4 teaspoon salt

- 1/4 cup olive oil or avocado oil

Add all the ingredients to the blender or processor, leaving the oil for last. Drizzle this in as you blend and add less if you prefer a thick paste or more if you prefer a runnier dressing. This packs a punch of flavour and a little goes a long way.

You can use this as a salad dressing or a marinade, slather on top of avocado toast (or just toast), toss veggies in it and roast or dip them in it raw, toss in roasted potatoes, the list goes on. This is about veggies but, really, this is a great meat marinade or topping as well, very similar to chimichurri, just add a little mint and pepper.

Now you know that it's really easy to make veggies tasty. So make a batch, keep them in your fridge, and see how long they last. You'll be amazed that you like vegetables this much.

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