3 Ways to Enhance the Flavor of Real Foods

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If you are new to eating real foods or are just trying to eat less processed foods, you may have initially thought that real food is bland. But I promise, eating real food doesn’t have to mean plain chicken breast and steamed broccoli.  There are plenty of great, easy ways to enhance the wonderful flavors of real, whole foods!  Below are 3 of my favorite ways!

Eating real food doesn't have to be boring! Check out 3 ways to add bold flavor. Click To Tweet

Vinegars!

vinegar

With vinegars, the options are pretty endless.   Not only are vinegars the main ingredient for vinaigrettes which can be used on salads, over cooked vegetables, as marinades, or even over whole grains, vinegar can also add flavor and a brightness to many dishes!  There is also a wide variety of vinegars out there now- everything from your usual apple cider vinegar, white wine vinegar or regular balsamic vinegar to specialty vinegars like fig balsamic or tarragon white balsamic. You can even make your own fruit infused vinegars!

One of my favorite ways to use vinegar is Balsamic Vinegar Roasted Veggies (especially broccoli or Brussels sprouts), like this recipe: Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts.

Vinegars I typically use the most include: apple cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar, and red wine vinegar.

Citrus!

citrus

Citrus fruits are another option for adding a note of acidity or brightness to your food. Besides the obvious lemons and limes, you’ll want to experiment with others citrus fruits like grapefruit.  Both the juice and the zest can add amazing flavor, but that zest is like gold!  The outermost, colored layer of the skin (not the white pith underneath) contains the citrus oils that make the fruit so fragrant. That white pith can be bitter, so avoid grating that far down.  Use a micro plane grater to remove the zest and toss it in everything from dressings and marinades to desserts, or even over fresh fruit!

figs-citrus-zest

I use the juice and zest from lemons and limes the most, like with this Pan Roasted Lemon Chicken recipe, but I also love using orange zest with seafood!

Quick tip: If you are using both the juice and the zest, zest it first!

Fresh Herbs!

herbs

Fresh herbs can add some powerful, bold flavor to foods. Most herbs are also really easy to grow yourself, even in a windowsill.  Heartier fresh herbs like rosemary hold up well to cooking while more delicate leaves like cilantro or fresh basil do better in cold applications or to finish a dish. Fresh herbs can be used in many ways from salads and marinades to dressings and soups.  They can add another layer of flavor or to brighten up the flavors of a dish.  I love adding fresh herbs to salads or using them to create simple, flavorful meals.

tomatoes-fresh-basil

Some of my favorite fresh herbs are thyme, flat leaf parsley, rosemary and fresh basil.

A favorite, super-fast weeknight dish around my house is this 5 Minute Brown Butter Chicken and Crispy Sage.
 

Sweet and Spicy Orange Salmon
Makes 4 Servings
Adapted from Oh, Sweet Basil

orange-salmon

Ingredients

orange-salmon-ingred
Zest from one orange
Juice from one orange (about ¼ cup)
¼ cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
¼ cup honey
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
3 tbsp sriracha, more or less to taste
4 – 4oz Salmon fillets

Directions

  1. Whisk together orange zest, orange juice, soy sauce, honey, sesame oil, and sriracha in a bowl. Reserve about ¼ cup of the sauce in a separate bowl for glazing later on.*
  2. Add remaining sauce to a shallow dish (or a plastic bag) and place the salmon in it to marinate for about 20 minutes, flipping the salmon over halfway through.
  3. As the salmon is marinating, preheat oven to 400⁰F. You'll want a rack to be situated in the middle of the oven, as well as one near the top.
  4. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray it with cooking spray. Once the salmon has finished marinating, place the salmon on the prepared sheet, skin side down, and bake on the middle rack for about 18 minutes.
  5. After 18 minutes, remove the sheet from the oven and brush the reserved ¼ cup of sauce over the salmon fillets.
  6. Increase oven temperature to 425⁰F and place sheet on the upper oven rack or broil for about 2 minutes, or until the edges of the salmon begin to crisp and brown. orange-salmon-cooked
  7. Enjoy!

*Optional: You can separate the reserved sauce into 2 bowls, one for brushing and one for drizzling over salmon once cooked.

orange-salmon-2

Nutrition Information per Serving (based on actual amount of marinade absorbed + using all ¼ cup reserved marinade): 230 calories, 9gm total fat, 1.5gm saturated fat, 430mg sodium, 10gm carbohydrates, 0gm fiber, 9gm sugar, 27gm protein

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About Author

Kelly LeSage, MS, RDN, LDN, IFNCP

Nutritionist

Kelly is a Nutritionist at the HCC at SAS Institute Inc. in Cary NC. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in Exercise Science from Arizona State University and her Master of Science degree in Nutrition from Bastyr University. She is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and an Integrative and Functional Nutrition Certified Practitioner. Her areas of expertise include functional nutrition, health and wellness education, prenatal nutrition, food allergies and intolerances and culinary nutrition. Follow @klesageRD on Twitter.

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