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Do you want to cook healthy meals but find yourself at a loss when it comes to flavor?
I think one of the absolute most important tools for a healthy eater is knowing how to pack in flavor without lots of salt and sugar.
Sure, its easy to cook tasty food with a pound of butter and five cups of sugar! And there is a time and place for that too! But in the day to day I like to stretch my culinary skills and try to draw out the natural flavors that God put into these fabulous foods just for us.
Everything that lives and moves about will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything. – Genesis 9:3
That is why I love my herb garden. It allows me to be spontaneous, creative, and frankly a better cook. But don’t worry, you can get these herbs at your grocery store too. I encourage you, however, to try your hand at growing a few of your own. Herbs are very forgiving and pretty easy to grow. You can have some big pots outside the doorstep like I do, or some little tin cans in the windowsill.
You can also use dried herbs and spices and these are ideal in certain situations. Often I use a combination of dry and fresh.
So how do you know which herbs go with what foods?
Well…that’s where your good friend Ashley comes in. Here to help and at your service!
There are some traditional ways to combine herbs and that is what I want to focus on here. Nothing too out of the ordinary. Just “Herbs 101”.
- Traditionally, herbs like basil, oregano, thyme, and parsley, along with garlic, are used in Italian cooking. So if you have a tomato sauce to make or chicken to add to a dish and you want it to taste Italian, use these. Try my Quick Service Veggie Noodles with Chicken and Red Sauce to give these flavors a spin.
- Tweak the Italian herbs a little and you have traditional Cajun spices. If you want a Louisiana vibe, use thyme, oregano, garlic, paprika, and cayenne pepper. These go great on chicken or shrimp. Vegetables to use include tomatoes, celery, onion, squash, zucchini, or bell pepper. Try this jambalaya dish for a great herby flavor that is not too spicy.
- For a French flair, or what I call a basic savory seasoning, combine thyme, rosemary, oregano, and parsley. Another option is sage with thyme. These are usually great on pork, chicken, and steak. They are also scrumptious on potatoes! Other veggies to try include yellow, spaghetti, acorn, and butternut squash. For fish with a crisp, bright flavor, use dill with parsley. My how-to post on roasting a chicken uses some of these basic savory herbs.
- Mexican dishes usually contain cumin, paprika, oregano, cilantro, garlic, chilis (or chili powder) or jalapeno. So if you have a ground beef or chicken taco bake or steak fajitas to make, incorporate these! They also go well on fish such as tilapia, mahi mahi, and flounder. Want a secret little tip? If you truly want an authentic Mexican flavor, use just a tiny pinch of cinnamon! Use bell pepper, onion, and any kind of beans in dishes like this. To make a prepared taco seasoning that is ready to go in a flash, take a look at my spice mixtures post!
- For an Asian twist, combine ginger, garlic, cinnamon, cloves, fennel, and peppercorns. This tastes great on beef or chicken and especially with broccoli, bell pepper, and onion in stir fry. Also try this on salmon, yummy!
- In Indian cooking, use turmeric along with cumin, cardamom seed, coriander seed, mustard, and cayenne pepper. Also add some cilantro for a fresh herb taste. This is tasty with chicken. A good veggie to use is cauliflower.
Once you have a good grasp on these basic flavor combinations, the sky’s the limit!
Pin this handy little infographic I made to your Pinterest board, and you’ll always have a guide! Or print out the PDF to stick on your refrigerator!
Click Below to Print
Comment below and let me know how your dishes with these herb and spice combinations turn out! I’d love to hear from you! If you like this post, give it a Pin, a like, or a share on Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram or Twitter using the social media buttons below.