Spice it up!

Hello friends of fitness,

I’ve just returned home from my 3-day workshop to become a Certified Personal Trainer (cPT), delivered through the American College of Sports Medicine.  And what an incredible, knowledge-packed 3 days it was.  I have learned so much about what it takes to be a cPT, and now I’m fully energized to charge into the next phase!  The course (and the instructor in particular) were inspiring and ultimately, I know this experience will be life-changing.  Since I need a few days to assimilate what I learned, I’m going to wait and use the next blog to share some practical pointers with you.

Meanwhile, this blog, as the title suggests, is about using spices instead of salt and fat to season food and veggies. It features a home recipe for “herbes de provence” (AIRB duh proh-VAHNS), an all-purpose seasoning that can turn ordinary vegetables into savory cuisine.

As anyone who, like me, grew up south of the Mason-Dixon Line knows, the vegetables we had as kids often were plucked limp from languid baths of bacon-soaked water, then dusted with salt & pepper to add flavor.  It seemed the goal was to drown out the vegetable taste rather than enhance it.  Another common prep was to slather vegetables with butter once they emerged from boiling water, then douse them with salt and butter.  This cultural custom attuned our taste buds to expect, even demand,  high-calorie fat and unhealthy amounts of salt on leafy greens, hearty stems, or root crops, so that vegetables in their purer state seemed to be tasteless, missing something, or just plain boring.

I’m here to tell you, veggies don’t have to be bland to be healthy.  Freed from the hot-water bath and grilled or lightly steamed instead, vegetables come alive with herbs and spices, elevating them from side-dish status to main event.  As a pescetarian (the only meat I eat is fish), I rely on vegetables for the bulk of my food, and spices and herbs have assumed a place of prominence in my cupboard.

Here are some basics that are good to have on hand:

  • fresh ground pepper—you can buy pepper corns in a grinder instead of pre-ground pepper, which loses its taste with time
  • garlic powder
  • herbs de provence—see recipe to do it yourself, or you can buy it in prepared form
  • soy sauce-low sodium
  • mustard
  • lemon pepper—make sure it’s lemon and pepper, no added salt.  You can also use lemon juice and fresh ground pepper.
  • balsamic vinegar and a mister for olive oil, to spray and sprinkle

I certainly do not mean to imply that all oil is bad for you. On the contrary: good oil is good for your hair and skin and overall health. Choose the healthy kinds, like the virgin olive and canola oils, and use a spritzer to control the amount.

For the spicier of heart:

  • Chinese 5 spice
  • sriracha (shree-rA-CHa) sauce (prepared from hot red peppers)
  • chili powder
  • crushed red peppers
  • paprika (get smoked Spanish or Hungarian, not the bland stuff with no zest)

Here’s some examples for how to use these basics to spice up your food and enhance your healthy-eating pleasure (all done “to taste”, of course):

On steamed broccoli (while it’s still steamy), sprinkle some lemon pepper and herbes de provence.  Before grilling asparagus (3 minutes a side) spritz the spears with olive oil (and a bit of lemon juice if you want), plus lemon pepper.  On any kind of fish, live it up with a “rub” of your making.  My husband and I like it spicy, so in addition to herbes de provence and black pepper, we add green chile powder, paprika, even crushed red pepper (that’s only when I dress the fish).  In tuna salad, mix in a tiny bit of mayo with black pepper, paprika, and herbes de provence.  On eggs, sprinkle herbes de provence and a little sriracha sauce.

It’s fun, like mixing paint, so experiment, be bold–your taste buds will thank you.  Here’s my husband’s recipe for a good blend of herbs for all occasions:

 

To our family: Don’t bother making a batch–you’re all getting a container for Christmas!

Herbes de Provence recipe:
2 Tbsp dried basil leaves
2 Tbsp dried marjoram leaves
2 Tbsp dried parsley leaves
2 Tbsp rosemary leaves
2 Tbsp dried thyme leaves
1 Tbsp dried chervil leaves
1 Tbsp dried lavender
1 Tbsp summer savory leaves
1 Tbsp tarragon
1 tsp fennel seeds
2 powdered/ground bay leaves (1 tsp ground)

Keep moving,
Jen Katt


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