September 17, 2009
We wrapped up our "healthy staples to have on hand" series on the show this week by focusing on
Herbs, seasonings, dressings and marinades:
Mrs. Dash® or store brand salt free seasoning blends
Mrs. Dash® salt free marinade
I'd like to go into a little more detail on these.
In addition to canned and dry goods there are many pantry staples or "freezer staples" in the freezer section of the grocery store.
Frozen vegetables: Frozen vegetables are wonderful time savers, because most of the prep work has been done for you. They even cook faster than fresh because they are usually blanched prior to being frozen to preserve their wonderful color and texture. Try this for a great vegetable dish: 1 bag of frozen green beans + 1 can no salt added diced tomatoes + garlic or onion powder and pepper, bring to a boil and serve.
Frozen fish: Frozen fish can be even fresher than fish from the fish counter. Frozen fish is typically flash frozen on the fishing vessel soon after it is caught which helps to maintain a fresh quality. Keeping frozen fish on hand is a great start to quick healthy recipes anytime. Fish thaws out quickly and usually takes no more than 10 minutes to cook.
Frozen chicken (unbreaded): Similar to frozen fish, frozen chicken is a great lean meat to have on hand and it cooks up in a flash. However, surprisingly, the amount of salt or sodium varies greatly among frozen chicken. I have seen it range from 110mg of sodium to 320mg per 4 ounce portion. Be sure to look at the sodium on the food label and choose accordingly. Alternatively you can purchase raw fresh chicken and freeze it yourself. You still need to watch the sodium content, though, as some fresh chicken has added chicken broth, which contains sodium.
So now that we have a pantry and freezer full of food staples we need a way to season them. There are so many seasonings available it can definitely be overwhelming to choose. There are however some basics everyone should have on hand.
Garlic and onion powder: Note this is not garlic or onion salt. Getting the unsalted version of the seasoning allows you to control the amount of salt you use in any given recipe. These are my favorites because they will go with just about any vegetable, meat or starch.
Seasoning mixes: I love mixed herbs like Italian seasoning because you only have to pull out one bottle of herbs instead of 3 or 4 to achieve the same flavor. Also look for the unsalted seasoning blends. Mrs. Dash® or the store brands work well.
Marinades: Again it is the sodium that you need to watch out for. Currently I have only seen one brand that is low in sodium, and that is the Mrs. Dash® brand, but they have 4 flavors to choose from and work well on pork, chicken and fish. Try this: the next time boneless, skinless chicken goes on sale, buy 2 pounds and some marinade. Marinate one pound for now and put one pound of meat and marinade in a freezer bag. Squish it around to make sure the marinade is in contact with all surfaces of the meat, then freeze for later. Then when you want grilled chicken you just pull it out of the freezer, thaw it in the refrigerator and it is ready to grill.
Salad dressing: Salad dressings are made with oil which generally means they are low in saturated fat and high in unsaturated fat or healthier fat. So even though salad dressings are high in total fat and calories, you do not automatically have to go fat free. I let taste and sodium content be my guide here. Look for salad dressings with less than 200mg sodium per two tablespoons, and remember salad dressing is supposed to enhance your vegetables, not mask them. So use it sparingly--portion control will help limit calories. If you are someone who likes a lot of dressing on your salad, try using light salad dressing because it is lower in fat and calories. I keep a good vinaigrette in my refrigerator at all times.