the flavor of things

I live in a house with 9 other people and we alternate cooking meals 5 nights a week. A lot of people living in the house have dietary restrictions–dairy, meat, gluten, etc. Yet we manage to make it all work. We’ve found that looking to ethnic cuisines for inspiration is the perfect way to spice up vegetables and alternative protein, keeping it flavorful and fresh. For example, this past week we made dishes inspired by Indian, Israeli, Asian, and Mexican cuisine.

Flavor plays a big role in food, and yet people overlook it, thinking that oil, butter, and salt are the only seasonings you need. I am constantly reminded of how necessary a good (or at least a base) supply of spices is. So far my four key ones are: paprika, nutmeg, cinnamon, and curry powder, but I want to expand and buy ginger, cumin, garlic powder, and chili powder, among others. I made a simple stir-fry this summer for my sister that wasn’t much more than vegetables, sauteed onions, and careful attention to seasoning. She exclaimed it was one of the tastiest things she had eaten recently; what was in it? Vegetables and spices, I told her.

Spices will keep you from getting bored of healthy and important foods such as vegetables, beans, lentils, etc. They also boost your immune system and go to show you that you don’t need to substitute flavor when you take out sodium and fat.

Keep changing up your dishes so your food doesn’t fall into a routine. Here are some things I tried recently:

–Cupcakes flavored with herbs–I made a lavender glaze. Refreshingly different from plain chocolate or vanilla.

–Oatmeal with pomegranate seeds sprinkled in. They add a new texture (crunch) and a fruity flavor.

–Tacos sans meat filling–try black beans with butternut squash, lentils, and slaw. Spice your slaw–avoid falling back on mayonnaise!