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LiveBest: Taking food from yawn to yum

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It’s not price. It’s not nutrition. It’s all about taste.

Taste is why we choose one food over another.

But sometimes we struggle to make things taste good.

Let’s pull open some cabinet doors to see if we can find some ways to take food from yawn to yum. Start in your spice cabinet. Pull out a jar and take a sniff. Does it smell like the spice or herb on the label? If not, it’s likely old. Old dried spices are not flavor boosters so it may be time to replace them.

Head outside to see if there are plants and herbs you can use.

Do you have chives? The purple blossoms are more than a pretty face. These edible flowers can be sprinkled over eggs, pasta, rice, or fish. It’s best to add them toward the end of cooking to retain flavor. I’ve got some chive vinegar steeping.

How to make Chive vinegar

1 cup chive blossoms

1½ cups white wine vinegar

Fill a bowl with cool water and drop the chive blossoms in. Swirl around to remove dust and debris. Drain. Put blossoms in a clean glass jar; pour vinegar over chive blossoms to cover. Wrap jar opening with plastic wrap and secure with a rubber band. Label the jar with the date. Store in a dark cupboard. Allow the chive blossoms to steep in the vinegar for 10 days. Remove the blossoms and strain into a clear glass jar so you can admire your pretty vinegar. Use it as you would other vinegars. Label with the date and store in refrigerator for up to 6 months. If signs of molds appear, it’s time to toss it.

While you’re looking around the yard, pick some dandelion flowers and make Dandelion Vinegar. Same process as above. Better to send the kids on a flower hunt rather than blowing the puff balls all around!

If you find herbs or edible flowers, grab some of those. Lavender, chive blossoms, dandelions, roses, calendula, nasturtiums, geraniums, pansies, and Johnny-jump-ups are just a few that are safe and edible to use in cooking.

Use plants with either no pesticides or only pesticides labeled for edible crops and without the application of animal manure to the surrounding soil in the past four months. Edible flowers may be found in the produce section at some grocery stored, but don’t use those found in the floral department because they likely have been sprayed with some sort of life extender.

Herb yogurt dip

Back in the kitchen, spread 1 cup plain Greek-style yogurt over a plate, sprinkle those rinsed, chopped herbs and flowers over the yogurt and then a pinch of coarse salt for an easy dip to scoop with sliced cucumbers, pepper strips, or carrot sticks.

Flavored honey

Another flavor boost? Flavored honey. Infuse honey with dried chiles, rosemary, thyme, or lavender to flavor lemonade, fruit, roasted carrots, marinades and salad dressings. Or drizzle over cheese, yogurt, or biscuits. About a tablespoon per cup of honey. Label the jar and let it sit for 5 days. Strain the honey if you’d like. This keeps for months. But the caution is to use dried herbs and flowers. The moisture in fresh herbs can create a food safety concern, with Clostridium botulinum.

Here’s how to make lavender honey syrup to use in coffee, lemonade, or blend in a cocktail in place of a simple syrup.

Lavender Honey Syrup

½ cup water

1 tablespoon dried lavender

½ cup honey

Heat water in a small saucepan just to a simmer. Reduce heat and stir in honey and dried lavender. Remove from heat and let steep for an hour. Strain the syrup through a fine mesh sieve. Discard lavender. Store in refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.

Judy Barbe is a registered dietitian, speaker and author.


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