Wednesday, November 13, 2013

In the Pantry Part 3

Herbs - A must for any healthy focused cook and kitchen.  Herbs are the basis for many new cooking ideas in reducing fats, sodium and the amount of processed foods in our diets.  The mild to powerful flavors of herbs offer unlimited potential to alter and enhance any dish.  Start your own garden or planter, as herbs are very hardy and you will have no trouble growing an abundant quality and variety.  (Herbs are something I can't live without.  Unfortunately I buy them, use them but due to the size of their container I end up having to throw them away before I've used the whole container due to their expiration date.  Fresh are better but again I never use the whole package.  So I've started freezing my fresh bought and even some of my seldom used dried.  Don't know if I'm supposed to do this but it seems to work.)

Honey - is a great substitute for white sugar.  although honey has only trace amounts of vitamins and minerals, because of the potent sweetness of honey, you can often times use less.  Store in a covered container, in a cool, dry location.  If honey crystallizes, place container in hot water for 5-10 minutes.  (I'm not one who uses that much honey but might give it a try as a substitute in my tea.)

Lecithin - Combine liquid lecithin with olive oil and use to lightly oil your bread, cake or casserole dishes.  lecithin is also found in commercial salad dressings to hold emulsified products together and prevent separation.  (Never tried this one.  I normally use non-stick spray on my baking and casserole dishes.  I did look this one up on the internet and it has its ups and downs.  It apparently is good for the body yet can have some side effects.)

Molasses - can be used in place of sugar or honey.  Although black strap molasses is rich in minerals, you must use it cautiously, as the potent, almost overpowering taste can drastically change your recipe's overall flavor.  Can be found in most supermarkets and health food stores.  Store in a cool, dry place.  (This is something that I found out the hard way that you DO have to be careful with due to its flavor.)

Mustard - Used whole, ground or mixed with other ingredients to form a paste, mustard is the second most common spice used in America.  Only pepper is more used.  Mustard uses are broad and limited only by your creativity.  Used in salads, with meats, pickled brine and in many main entrees, you can find it in many dishes created in America.  Mustard has been used since before Roman times and had many culinary and medicinal properties.  The vast variety of prepared mustards allows you to experiment with different flavors and textures.  Prepared mustards should be stored in the refrigerator.  Dry and mustard seeds should be stored in a cool, dry location.  (I love cooking with mustards of all kinds.  I especially enjoy whole grain mustards.  One of my favorite ways to cook pork is to rub it down with mustard before cooking.)
Nuts - Choose unsalted, dry roasted nuts versus ones that have been deep fried and salted.  by using a variety of nuts you can achieve different textures and flavors while creating healthy, exciting dishes.  All nuts contain some form of fat, so use in moderation.  Most nuts stay freshest when frozen.  (I freeze all of my nuts.  I'll buy them whenever possible on sale and stick them into the freezer.  They taste just as fresh as if they just came off the tree.)
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