Fast Flavors: Herbs, Spices and Other Speedy Taste Boosters
I've had lots of experience cooking in the trenches. On a typical weeknight
at my house, everyone is hungry after a busy day, so I'm scrambling to prepare
a healthy, low-calorie, tasty dinner at lightening speed. As I rummage through
the refrigerator, chop vegetables and flip on the stove, I'm simultaneously
fielding homework questions from my children and trying to pay attention as my
husband tells me about his day.
If you find that you are often preparing dinner on the run, there are some
quick ways to add a little zing and variety to those last-minute meals. Herbs
and spices, as well as sauces, marinades, flavored sprays, and other
ingredients can instantly transform a humdrum meal into a delectable one.
Next time you go to your grocery store, give yourself a little extra time to
stock up on herbs and spices and other ingredients, so you'll have them on hand
whenever you need to give your cooking a tasty boost. Here are 17 ingredients
that will add fast flavor to your meals:
1. Freshly ground pepper. Buy a colorful and flavorful assortment of
peppercorns and fill a battery-operated peppermill for fast (one-handed)
2. Bottled salsa. Salsa adds quick flavor to chicken, quesadillas, egg
dishes, and more. In some supermarkets, you can even find flavors like tequila
lime, roasted garlic salsa, or mango peach salsa. Two tablespoons of salsa add
a lot of flavor for only about 15 calories.
3. Mrs. Dash salt-free seasoning blends. With a flip of the wrist, you
can add an assortment of herbs and spices to all sorts of dishes (stir-frys,
veggie sautes, egg dishes, casseroles, meat, pasta, potatoes, and more). There
are many blends to choose from: garlic and herb, southwest chipotle, onion and
herb, and spicy, just to name a few. One-fourth teaspoon contains 0 calories
and 0 mg sodium.
4. Taco seasoning packets. These are a fast way to add flavor to beef,
chicken, or refried beans for use in Mexican dishes or dips. Check the label;
some brands are higher in sodium than others. Two teaspoons contain about 15
calories and 330-430 mg sodium, depending on the brand.
5. Grill Mates Marinade packets (McCormick). Available in several
flavors, ranging from black peppercorn to garlic, herb and wine, these packets
turn into a marinade when blended with water, oil, and vinegar. Keep in mind
that salt is the primary ingredient in some flavors. Also, remember you don't
have to use the entire 4 tablespoons of oil the package calls for; you can
probably get by with half that amount. Just increase the water by 2
tablespoons. Other brands, like Durkee, also make these packets.
6. Grill Mates rubs. These seasonings are designed to go straight on the
meat, no mixing or blending required. They come in different flavors for
chicken, pork, and steak. Two teaspoons of the chicken flavor adds 260 mg
sodium and only 15 calories.
7. Bottled 30-minute marinades. Open the bottle and pour the marinade
over the meat or vegetable of your choice, then bake or grill. What could be
easier? One tablespoon of Lawry's brand contains 15-30 calories, 0 gram fat,
and around 400 mg sodium, depending on the flavor.