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Seasoning Secrets

Herbs, spices and seasonings can add magic to everyday dishes-from appetizers to desserts. Experiment with different flavors. Consider your family's taste preferences. Remember, it's better to be subtle with seasonings than to overdo it. Try some of these seasoning secrets provided by Miriam B. Looh, author of "Kitchen Hints":

  • Ground herbs and spices give "instant" flavoring, so add a small amount and taste as you go. Don't let the flavor dominate the food.

  • Use about 1 teaspoon dried herbs for 1 tablespoon fresh herbs. Crumble or crush to release flavor and aroma. Many flavors are less strong after freezing, so taste pre-frozen sauces and casseroles before serving and adjust seasonings as needed.

  • Whole herbs and spices take a while to impart their flavor, so use them in longer-cooking dishes. For easy removal, place them in a metal tea ball and hook the chain over the side of the pan.

  • Cut calories by using herbs and spices as seasonings instead of butter or sauces. Try a dash of lemon juice, hot pepper sauce or wine vinegar for extra flavor.

  • Spices and herbs get old. Store tightly covered containers in a cool, dark, dry place and check occasionally for flavor and freshness. Do not store spices close to the stove.

  • A "pinch" or "dash" means a scant 1/8 teaspoon.

  • Preserve some of your homegrown herbs for later use. Freeze rather than dry celery leaves, thyme, mint, parsley and chives. Just cut, clean if necessary, pat dry, spread on a baking sheet and freeze. Seal in plastic freezer bags, label and store where easily seen and reached. A microwave can also be used to dry herbs. Follow the manufacturer's directions.

  • Herbed and flavored butters are delicious added to a hot vegetable or as a quick spread on hot French bread.

  • Fresh parsley heightens the flavor of dried herbs. Mix equal amounts of minced parsley with crushed dried herbs such as dill, marjoram, basil or rosemary.

  • If your salt shaker clogs, add a few grains of rice.

  • Mix your own cinnamon-sugar and store in a shaker. A good proportion is 1 tablespoon cinnamon to 1/2 cup sugar.

  • In a hurry and need just a little minced parsley or chives? Use kitchen shears. Green onion tops are a good substitute for chives.

  • Fresh ginger root can be kept in the freezer. Grate what you need and return the rest to the freezer.

  • Make your own garlic pretzels, nuts or chips. Insert a toothpick into several peeled garlic cloves and place in an airtight container with the food you want to flavor. Let stand several hours, stir gently and remove garlic.

  • Make Curried Spice Mix for dips, chicken, lamb, poultry or fruit salad dressings. Combine 1 tablespoon each finely grated lemon rind, curry powder, ground allspice and toasted sesame seed. Combine 1 teaspoon each crushed marjoram, sage and thyme leaves. Spread on waxed paper and air-dry for 10 minutes. Mix with peel mixture and store in an airtight container. Makes 1/2 cup.

  • Toasted oats can add flavor and texture in place of nuts or coconut in cookies, cakes, salads, casseroles, ice cream toppings or sandwich fillings. Just spread the oats on a baking sheet; bake in a preheated 350 deg F (175 deg C) oven for 15 to 20 minutes. Cool and store in an airtight container in the freezer.

  • A teaspoon or two of wheat germ adds nutrition as well as flavor to salad greens, sandwich fillings or cheese stuffing for celery; add a little more to cookie dough.

  • Make your own seasoning salts without all the preservatives. Store in air- tight containers in a cool, dry place. Make small amounts to use within a month or so. For garlic salt, sprinkle salt on a cutting board, mince or mash garlic and mix with salt; allow to air-dry slightly. (Salt absorbs garlic juice.) For onion salt, cut a slice from an onion; sprinkle salt on onion and scrape with knife. Allow to dry before storing.

  • Fresh garlic can easily be stored in the refrigerator. To remove skins easily, place garlic clove on a cutting board and pound firmly with the side of a heavy knife. To keep garlic cloves from drying, peel and score lightly; place in a small jar, cover with vegetable oil, cap and refrigerate. The garlic is ready to add to dressings or to use in recipes; the oil can be used for dressings or in sautéing. Store peeled garlic cloves in olive oil for making Italian salad dressings. The same procedure can be used for minced garlic. 

Try some of these seasoning suggestions individually and then create your own flavor combinations.

Food Suggested Seasoning
Cooked broccoli Parmesan cheese, olive oil or hard-boiled eggs. 
Cooked Brussels sprouts Cheese, chicken bouillon or breadcrumbs sautéed in butter. 
Cooked cabbage Sour cream and bacon bits, poppy seed or toasted sunflower seed. 
Cooked carrots Thyme or honey and mint. 
Cooked cauliflower  Cheese, pimiento, mustard or nutmeg. 
Coked fish Dill, basil, onion, lemon, celery, dry white wine or mustard. 
Cooked green beans Bacon, summer savory or sesame oil and soy sauce. 
Cooked mixed vegetables Chives, parsley or chili powder. 
Cooked peas Basil, thyme, horseradish, mint or onion. 
Cooked pork and beans Mustard and onion
Cooked potatoes  Dill, onion or cheese.
Cooked spinach  Nutmeg, hard-cooked egg, vinegar or lemon juice. 
Cooked or raw tomatoes  Basil, sour cream, chives or oregano. 
Cooked winter squash  Orange juice, allspice, pecans or dates. 
Cooked or raw zucchini  Onion, Parmesan cheese or Italian herbs. 
Chili and beans Shavings of unsweetened chocolate. 
Chicken Cinnamon, sage or tarragon. 
Chocolate sauce or frostings A pinch (1/8 tsp.) of salt, vanilla or almond extract. 
Cottage cheese Chopped, fresh or dried ginger or freshly ground pepper. 
Eggs Oregano, mustard or chives.
Fruit salad dressing Ginger, honey, poppy seed (or other toasted seeds) or paprika. 
Ground meat Thyme, garlic, basil or soy sauce.
Tomato sauces and tomato dishes  A bit of sugar to taste.

 Source: Miriam B. Loo's Kitchen Hints

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