By: Leanne Ely
When I’m looking at a big rack of dried herbs in the grocery store, I often think of dollar bills chopped up and put into bags. For many dried herbs, you might as well just chop up a few dollar bills and sprinkle them on your food for the amount of flavor they add to anything! (Dried parsley? I don’t think so!)
Fresh herbs are used very frequently in my home. I use them in my salads (chop some fresh dill into a bowl of greens and you may never want to eat it any other way ever again!), my soups, with my roast meats, chicken dishes, sauces and the list goes on and on and on.
Fresh herbs don’t only taste great, but many of these fantastic aromatic little green wonders are just packed with nutrition. Sage, rosemary and thyme are much more than just a Simon and Garfunkel hit! These herbs are extremely healthy for you.
Fresh herbs: the basics
Fresh herbs add a certain something to your dishes that you just can’t duplicate with the dried variety. Once you start you won’t want to go back!
Cooking with fresh herbs can be intimidating at first, but it’s really pretty simple. You figure out which herbs go best with your favorite dishes, and you go from there!
But where do you start?
How about by learning which herbs go with what foods! Here’s a cheat sheet for you:
Basil: Amazing on pizza! Basil is almost peppery in flavor, it’s very fragrant and has a wonderful spicy bite to it. Basil almost a must for any dish containing tomatoes. The little leaves at the top of the bunch will be the sweetest.
Dill: Your fish will never the the same again! This grassy herb with its feathery leaves is often paired with fish dishes and it’s amazing in a vinaigrette.
Mint: If you plant your own mint be VERY careful. It is a prolific plant that can easily overtake your entire garden. It’s wonderful in beverages, with lamb and with peas. It’s also nice to chew on to freshen your breath!
Oregano: This wonderful earthy herb is a must for pizza but it’s also fabulous on eggs! Oregano is the one herb that is actually just as good dried as it is fresh.
Parsley: Parsley is great for everything from freshening your breath to chopping into salads, hummus, guacamole, soup – pretty much anything, really! It lends a nice freshness to anything you put it on. But the dried version? A waste of money.
Thyme: This citrusy herb is wonderful with seafood, poultry and many Mediterranean dishes. Here’s a tip for you! It’s a pain to tear off the tiny little leaves from their woody stems so use fork tines to strip them!
Sage: Another easy one to grow at home, this aromatic herb is just wonderful with duck, turkey and sausage.
Rosemary: One of my favorites, rosemary has a flavor that’s almost like pine. It’s wonderful in meat, soups, stews and even breads.
Cilantro: This one seems to be loved or hated! Popular in Mexican, Asian and Indian cooking, cilantro looks like flat leaf parsley but it’s much different in flavor. Some describe it as tasting soapy!
When you bring your herbs home from the store, rinse them in cold water to remove any dirt or bugs (hey, when you buy organic, it happens!). Store them in water in the fridge, covered with a plastic bag and they should keep for a few days. This method does NOT work with basil. Instead, put it in water and leave it on your counter.
PS – The 21 Day Knock Out is happening!!! I’ll sneak you in, but you gotta come right now!!
By: Leanne Ely
Cooking with herbs and spices make all the difference in the world to the end product, your meal. But if you’ve never learned how to use the mountain of spices available, sometimes you need a little guidance. Never fear, the Dinner Diva is here! Do yourself a favor and copy this list and stick it to your fridge.
The Dinner Diva Spice Primer is guaranteed to get you cooking in no time!
1. Bay Leaf – Used in stews, soup and great with pot roast. Go easy. Bay leaves are strong, especially California bay leaves, which are the kind most grocery stores stock. I use 1/2 a leaf in my stews.
2. Basil – Ah, the taste of summer. Who can resist fresh basil and tomatoes from the garden tossed with olive oil and garlic on a plate full of pasta? Dried, it’s wonderful in soups, pasta dishes and chicken.
3. Dill – It’s not just for pickles. Try some dill sprinkled on fish, chicken or even in a light cream soup.
4. Garlic – Nectar of the gods, well, bulb of the gods anyway. Garlic has a way of making the most ordinary food gourmet. Try sprinkling garlic powder (not garlic salt) into a prepared box of white cheddar macaroni and cheese. Surprise! It’s pretty good. Fresh though, is best. Squeeze it from a garlic press into almost anything. Don’t use with chocolate though.
5. Ginger – Sprinkle it in your stir-fry, try it on baked chicken breasts with a little soy sauce and garlic. For fun, get it fresh (it’s that alien-looking root mass in the produce department) and freeze it. It will keep almost indefinitely when frozen. To use, hack off a piece, peel it and grate into your recipe.
6. Nutmeg – I love nutmeg. If you can find nutmeg nuts and the itty, bitty grater that comes with it, buy it. Once you’ve had freshly grated nutmeg, the powdered stuff in the jar is beneath you. Obviously an ingredient in baking, it’s also good grated on sauteed squash, green beans, and carrots.
7. Oregano – A staple in Italian cooking, it’s also good in stews and salad dressings.
8. Rosemary – This beautiful plant grows wild in my garden and provides an intoxicating aroma to meats, stews and root veggies. Try some crumbled in your carrots for a change of pace.
9. Tarragon – An almost licorice flavor, this delicate herb takes front and center in vinaigrettes, as a delicious sprinkle on the top of baked or poached poultry and fish.
10. Thyme – Make time for thyme! It’s strong and adds a hint of character to an otherwise pretty standard dish. Use it with chicken, soups and beef.
Even though I’m not numbering these last two, I need to give a shout out to plain old salt and pepper. But not just the stuff in the blue cylinder with the little girl on the label or the familiar pepper sitting in the red and white can; I’m talking about sea salt and freshly ground pepper. You can buy both ready to go with their own grinders anywhere. Once you’ve used this kind of salt and pepper, you’ll never go back to the old stuff. It’s that much better.
And while this is an abbreviated list of spices, it’s a good start. I’ve skipped a lot of them because they are used so infrequently or just take up room on the lazy susan. Feel free to add or subtract ones you know you won’t use or you know you need!
PS – The 21 Day Knock Out is happening!!! I’ll sneak you in, but you gotta come right now!!
By: Leanne Ely
Fresh mint is a common sight in the summertime and today you’re going to get a tip, a trick and a recipe featuring this pretty little leaf!
I have mint growing in my garden and let me tell you, when you plant mint, you have mint for life! Really. Mint can take over so you really have to be vigilant about keeping this plant in line.
But if you can manage a mint crop it’s well worth growing! (If you don’t have a green thumb, fresh mint is a relatively easily fresh herb to get your hands on.) Mint is quite high in Vitamin A and it also contains Vitamin C, iron and manganese.
There are many uses for mint leaves. While you see it most often used as a garnish, you can add mint leaves to your smoothies for a minty kick (can you say chocolate mint?!), make yourself a cup of peppermint tea, or even flavor your water with them!
Now, it’s time for your Trick
When you’re freezing a tray of ice cubes, try adding a mint leaf to each one for a pretty (and refreshing) way to keep your lemonade or cocktails cool!
If you wish to plant your own mint, I recommend planting it in a container. This is probably the best way to keep that mint under control.
And your Recipe
Mint Chip Smoothie
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1/2 to 3/4 cup water (or more coconut milk)
2 tablespoons mint leaves, chopped
1 tablespoon cacao nibs
1 scoop Perfect Paleo Protein Mix (chocolate preferred for this recipe)
2 teaspoons Saving Dinner Fibermender (optional)
1 tablespoon Just Juiced Greens (optional)
In a blender, place coconut milk, water, mint leaves, cacao nibs, Saving Dinner all-in-one smoothie mix, Saving Dinner Fibermender and Saving Dinner Just Juiced Greens (optional); blend until smooth and enjoy! It’s ok to add a tad more milk of your choice, if a thinner smoothie is preferred.
Speaking of smoothies…I LOVE Perfect Paleo Protein–dairy free, creamy yumminess and anti-inflammatory to the 10th degree! Highly recommended!
By: Leanne Ely
I don’t know about you, but I have a really hard time buying produce that I can easily grow myself. At my house, we eat a lot of salad. As many of you know, I serve a large green salad with almost every meal that goes on the table. All of those heads of lettuce can add up!
So, I recently started looking into some ways to grow my own lettuce indoors and I thought I would share what I’m learning with y’all.
All you need is:
• A large round pot, about 6 inches deep (or a container of some sort with roughly the same depth)
• Organic potting soil (look for the kind with perlite in it—thats those little round white balls)
• Mesclun mix seeds (or whatever lettuce you like best)
• A sunny window
You’ll need a window that gets at least 6 hours of sunlight per day. If your lettuce doesn’t get enough sun, it will get tall and spindly and that isn’t what you want.
To grow your lettuce:
1. Fill your container to the halfway mark with soil. You can sprinkle some fertilizer on there if you want to. Moisten the soil and sprinkle a couple pinches of seeds on top. Sprinkle a little more soil over the seeds and spritz the surface with more water.
2. Water daily and keep the pot in the sun or under a grow light. The seeds should sprout up in about seven days and your first harvest should be ready in about a month.
To harvest your lettuce:
After you cut your lettuce the first time (leave the growing crowns alone!), you’ll only have to wait another two weeks for a fresh crop.
And it’s pretty much just that easy!
Fresh lettuce greens are just the best, aren’t they?
PS – The 21 Day Knock Out starts TODAY!!! I’ll sneak you in, but you gotta come right now!!
By: Leanne Ely
Ladies, are you suffering from OCS? Old Condiment Syndrome? You know what I’m talking about. Crusty ketchup bottles, icky, old Ranch dressing and ancient mustard?
We all have as many condiments as we do cleaning supplies. FlyLady says she knows what’s lurking under your sinks (more cleaning supplies than a janitorial service needs). Well, I know what you have in your refrigerator doors. Fossilized condiments! And more than a busy hotdog stand in New York City needs, too!
Did you know the refrigerated shelf life for mayonnaise is two months? It is! So guess what? Today is the day you get to toss that stuff and get a new one. Listen, if you don’t use it often enough, buy a smaller jar. Even though it costs more money, it really is the cheaper way to go. You don’t need nasty old mayo in your fridge!
Here are some more items you probably have languishing in the doors of your fridge or way in the back:
1—Mustard. Not just the yellow kind, but Dijon, honey mustard, brown mustard and that teeny, tiny jar of gourmet mustard from the gift basket you received over the holidays with the funky taste. No one likes it, but instead of throwing it out, you put it in the fridge. Why? Toss it! Shelf life: 6-8 months in the fridge; 2 years unopened in a pantry.
2—Jams and Jellies. The other day, I pulled out a raspberry jam that had a “best used by” date of 4/5/12. YIKES! I bet you have some of those too! Time to chuck them as well! Shelf life: 1 year in the fridge; 1 year unopened in the pantry.
3—Salad Dressings. A lot of commercial salad dressings have enough preservatives in them to embalm you. However, nothing lasts forever. If they’ve been opened for more than 3 months in the fridge, they’ve gotta go too. Unopened, they’ll last a year in your pantry.
4—Pickles. I think I’ve had the same jar of pickles in my fridge since I’ve had the raspberry jam. The issue for pickles is they don’t last as long as jam in the fridge! Only 1-2 months opened and in the fridge. For the pantry shelf? One year unopened. Time to boogie your pickles!
5—Ketchup. I don’t even want to know how old my ketchup is. Let’s just say probably from the same era as the pickles and the raspberry jam. Truth is, it’s only good for about 2 months in the fridge. Unopened and on the pantry shelf, it can last a year before it needs tossing.
6—Salsa and Hot Sauce. Guess what? Once your hot sauce or salsa is opened, it’s good for just a month in the fridge! Don’t wait for it to mold; throw it OUT! Unopened, it’s good for a year on your pantry shelf.
7—Olives. Oh yes, I confess. My olives are refrigerator pals with the jam, ketchup and pickles! Out they go today…they only last a month opened in the fridge. They’ll last a year unopened in your pantry though!
Well, that’s quite a condemning list, isn’t it? The question is how to know how old everything is? One rule of thumb if there is no date on the jar or package and if you don’t remember when you opened it, it’s probably a good idea to toss it.
How can you avoid Old Condiment Syndrome? By marking your condiments on the label with a Sharpie (it will hold up to the refrigeration without smudging or smearing) with the date so you know. You might want to keep this list handy too in your Control Journal so you know how long to keep these items.
Last thoughts on this and then you can go cure the OCS in your fridge: unless you have a huge family or you’re an overly zealous condiment using family, it’s probably best to stick with supermarket sized condiments as opposed to the jumbo sized stuff that they sell in those warehouse stores. Bigger isn’t always better.
Have fun tossing!
Sometimes you feel like an expired condiment…tired and old. 🙁 But it doesn’t have to be that way–the 21 Day Knock Out begins MONDAY! The only thing missing is YOU!
By: Leanne Ely
The days are getting longer, y’all! And you know what that means? It’s just about time to get those gardens in, the patio furniture out, and to tackle that spring cleaning.
I like to keep a clean kitchen, but every few months I just love giving the kitchen a good scrub down and getting everything all freshened up organized. And now that spring is upon us, it’s time to get to work.
Kitchen cleaning tips.
Scrub the cast iron. A good cast iron pan will give you a lifetime worth of cooking so give it the TLC it deserves. Pour a good layer of coarse salt on the surface of the pan and a give it a good scrub with a soft sponge. The salt will lift away stuck on food and absorb oil without ruining the seasoning on the pan. If your pan needs another coat of seasoning, it will take better after a salt scrub.
Clean your oven. Self cleaning ovens are a God send. But if you have an old fashioned model, now’s the time to give it a good going over. For a (non-toxic) cleaning solution, make a paste out of water and baking soda. Coat the oven surfaces with that paste (not any heating elements or bare metal) and let that stand overnight. In the morning, put on some rubber gloves and scrub the paste off with a plastic spatula. A wet sponge should take off all remaining residue.
Clean cutting boards. If you use a wooden cutting board, every few weeks give it a good sprinkle of coarse salt and scrub with a sliced lemon. Rinse well with hot water and your board will be nice and fresh.
Clean the fridge. Take everything out of the fridge and wipe all interior surfaces down with some hot, soapy water. As you put everything back, toss out all outdated condiments and items you’re not going to use. Replace the box of baking soda!
Pantry purge. Take everything out and wipe down the shelves. Toss out anything that hasn’t been used and won’t be used. Spices lose their spiciness after a while! Treat yourself to some new staples. A good clean sweep in the pantry will perk it up like nothing else. Ditch the stuff you don’t use and donate it to a food bank if it’s worthy. Get that pantry magazine-photo worthy!
Meal planning. One essential tool that I think every home cook needs is a subscription to Dinner Answers! I swear this will change your life. This is the product that really put Saving Dinner on the map, and once you use our menu planning system you will have a hard time going back to anything else. You get access to our full database of recipes and weekly meal plans with shopping lists! Check it out here!
If you’re looking to get rid of the bloat and start feeling great, join us for our New 21 Day Knock Out now!