While “saucy” people can add some playful feistiness to any gathering or meal, we are going to discuss saucy foods here — what types, how much, recipes, sauces when eating out, and hidden culprits.
Gettin’ saucy with our food can work in many ways. When dining out or ordering in, the amount of sauce that comes with your dish can be overwhelming. Even if you make a healthy selection of tilapia, what comes on top of the fish can lead to excessive calories, fat and/or sodium. Maybe you want to shy away from being the customer that asks for sauce on the side. However, remember…you are looking out for you🌟. As you desire to eat as healthfully and joyfully as possible, whether dining out or ordering in, you do need to speak up😮! While you do not have to get every sauce on the side every time, be attentive to what you are putting in your body. Ordering sauce on the side, asking for less sauce or pushing it off to the side, can help you keep your dish the 300-400 calorie range, versus 600 calories or above, 10–15 grams of fat versus 20–30 grams, plus save you on the sodium content. From dips, to red sauce, to Asian sauces, gettin’ saucy is certainly tasty, but can be tricky as well.
There are all kinds of sauces out there that can keep us in the game, or those that make us feel like a benchwarmer. You should feel energized🏃🏿♀️after your meals, not immediately like a couch potato. Learning how to keep those saucy stats in line with the rest of your healthy choices, can enhance your food enjoyment.
Let’s dip in. Dipping sauces are delicious😋, but they can be high in added sugars, sodium, and fats. They can quickly spin a healthy meal or snack into a downward health spiral. However, let’s not discredit the unique flavors and taste these sauces can bring. Here are a few tips to keep the dips in line with your desire for a balanced meal or snack:
CREAMY TOMATILLO SAUCE
Spicy is always fun, but adding a creaminess to it can take the fun to another level. I love this sauce as it is filled with awesome flavors, along with a comforting creaminess, making any protein of choice absolutely delicious. The prep time is worth it!
1 pound tomatillos, husked and rinsed
2 jalapeño peppers, rinsed, sliced in half and seeded
2 shallots, peeled and sliced in half
1/4 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
4 garlic cloves
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
juice from 1 lime
1/2 t cumin
2 Tablespoons fresh cilantro
dash of salt
Preheat oven on high broil. Line rimmed baking sheet with nonstick foil. Place tomatillos, peppers and shallots on baking sheet. Broil on rack second from top, for about 5–10 minutes, checking frequently until skins are charred. Flip to broil second side, continuing to check frequently until skin is charred. Remove from heat and cool for about 10 minutes. Peel off all skins and discard.
Add tomatillos, peppers, shallots and garlic to blender, along with cilantro, vinegar, lime juice, cumin and salt. Puree until smooth. Add yogurt and blend one more time. Serve with baked or grilled chicken, seafood or tofu.
2 large, ripe avocado, halved and pitted
1 cup nonfat greek yogurt (or nonfat sour cream, if preferred)
1/4 cup packed cilantro leaves
2 cloves garlic, peeled
juice from two limes (about 3–4 Tablespoons)
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
In a food processor or blender, scoop out avocado and blend together with yogurt, cilantro, garlic, lime juice and salt. Pour into a bowl and season with black pepper to taste. Serve as dip or topping. If refrigerating, wrap tightly with plastic wrap. It will last up to 48 hours. Makes 6–8 servings.
BALSAMIC TOMATO SAUCE
Vinegars can be an exceptional ingredient when creating a lean yet tasty sauce or dish. There are quite a variety out there! Some of my favorites include balsamic, champagne and red wine vinegars. Experiment to see what flavors and brands you like best on salads, pasta dishes, as well as with this sauce. There is a fun thickening method I included here, of which you can opt in or out :). This sauce works great roasting with veggies, tofu, chicken and fish.
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 cup red wine vinegar
2 cups canned diced tomatoes, no sodium added
1/2 cup chicken or veggie stock or broth, low sodium
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Optional: Beurre manie= 1 Tablespoon flour + 1 Tablespoon butter, softened
Freshly ground pepper to taste
In small sauce pan, add olive oil through stock. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Once boiling, lower heat to a simmer. You can just let it simmer here for 10–15 minutes, until desired thickness. Or, for some additional luster to your sauce: while sauce is simmering, in a small bowl mix flour and butter with a fork to form a smooth paste. Then roll a teaspoon-size amounts of the paste into balls. Add one ball to sauce, increase heat and allow the mixture to return to a boil, and cook for at least 1 minute to thicken. If your sauce is not as thick as you’d like, add a bit more beurre manie. Serve over or roast with any veggie, protein, polenta, rice or pasta. It makes approximately 2–2 1/2 cups sauce; about 1/4 cup per serving.
Food is my lens, but people are my focus.
Shakirah Simley, Director, Office of Racial Equity, for the city and county of San Francisco, California
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Most of us were introduced to herbs and spices through a gift or purchase of the ultimate, spinning spice rack, containing at least 20 herbs and spices. We would measure these somewhat dusty powders and flakes with the precision of chemist, being sure the follow the recipe formula. We had no idea what these herbs actually looked or smelled like before they were dried, processed and packaged, into our perfect little jars.
The flavor of fresh herbs has little in common with what comes in a jar. Jars will always have their place, but the often mild and musty flavors truly do not compare to herbs that come straight from the garden. Fresh herbs present with a curious depth of flavor, along with their colorful appearance. They taste just a little different every time, depending on when and where they were planted, harvested and consumed. The flavors of herbs are intertwined with whatever food you are preparing, adding unique color, taste and excitement. Some herbs provide sharp, almost citrus-like flavors, others are mellow and sweet, while others are pungent and highly aromatic. Good news~ all are virtually calorie-free, so be generous!
On top of their unique flavorings, they can also add nutritional value to your creative dishes. Here are just a few that can easily be the start of your fresh herb garden🌿 or available at most markets.
🌱BASIL — is a culinary herb of the mint family and a native to tropical regions from central Africa to Southeast Asia, hence why it is often present in Indonesian, Thai, and Vietnamese cuisines. There are over 150 species of basil and may individual strains and hybrids. The most popular basil, is actually sweet basil, perhaps for the happiness it brings to your herb garden — as it loves the heat and grows in abundance. About 6 leaves or 2 chopped tablespoons provide 16 mg of potassium. Basil has been used in some cultures for medicinal purposes and its oils and extracts are said to have antioxidant and antibacterial properties, but you are consuming it for flavor and color more than anything else. It is hard to imagine summer without fresh basil, for its spicy, vibrant scent truly captures the season. Of course, its use in pesto is surely a favorite.
CILANTRO — Cilantro is the leaf of the coriander plant. The name coriander is derived from the Latin korris, which means bedbug😝…lol. Cilantro (Coriandrum sativum L) is part of the Apiaceae family, which contains 3,700 species, including carrots, celery, and parsley. It is mostly used in Mexican and Thai dishes, as well as Indian, Middle Eastern, and Asian meals like curries and masalas. Although touted to have antioxidant properties, it is flavor that makes this herb so essential. Cilantro adds a delicious zest to food. However, I am sure you have friends or family members who absolutely dislike cilantro. For the lovers of cilantro, this reaction is not relatable. But it is not the haters fault, it is simple genetics. Many people who do not like cilantro have the OR6A2 gene. This gene influences cell receptors to pick up the scent of aldehyde chemicals. Say what?? These aldehyde chemicals are found in cilantro… and soap. This is why many (unfortunate) people truly believe that cilantro tastes like soap. For those of us without the OR6A2 gene, bring on the cilantro!
PARSLEY- otherwise known as Petroselinum crispum, is also part of the family Apiaceae, native to Mediterranean region. Parsley leaves were actually used by the ancient Greeks and Romans as a flavoring and garnish for foods, very similar to how we use parsley today. It has also been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties due to its antioxidants, including flavonoids, carotenoids, and vitamin C. There are the two different types of the most common available parsley, curly versus the flat-leaf or Italian parsley. The difference in flavor is very subtle, although the flat-leaf parsley is considered to be stronger and better tasting. It must of been the curly parsley I was not a lover of (especially growing up and only eating it during the Passover seder, when you dip it in salt water😝), but as I have somewhat matured :) — I have discovered that it is a nutritional and colorful boost to many dishes.
COOKING WITH FRESH HERBS: *It is best to add these fresh herbs at the end of the cooking process, to maximize their flavor. *Separate the leaves from the stems and only use the leaves, unless a recipe states otherwise. *Use a sharp knife or herb scissors when chopping fresh herbs. *When using fresh instead of dried herbs in a recipe, add 3–4 times more fresh herbs than the recipe calls for. *When cooking with more robust herbs like rosemary and thyme, the more savory herbs, add these earlier in the cooking process to maximize flavor.
BASIL or CILANTRO PESTO
Pestos are such an awesome way to flavor anything from fish, chicken and veggies, to gnocchi and orzo. Both basil and cilantro can add an intense flavor, so choose what you are in the mood for, but just choose one at a time. I use a low sodium broth to decrease the amount of calories and fat from too much oil.
1 bunch basil or cilantro
4 cloves garlic
1 1/2 ounces pine nuts or walnuts
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons vegetable broth, low sodium
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/8 cup grated Parmesan
Salt and pepper to taste
Put the basil or cilantro in a food processor and pulse until chopped. Add the garlic and pine nuts and pulse to combine. Add about the olive oil and blend until a paste begins to form. Add the broth, lemon juice and Parmesan cheese.
Taste and season as desired with salt and pepper, and even more garlic😊 . Toss with your protein or pasta of choice. Makes about 2 cups.
GRILLED CAULIFLOWER STEAKS
Cauliflower is quite the versatile vegetable, as it can play the part of the rice, the steak or vegetable. In this recipe, it is the “steak,” but you could easily chop the cauliflower into florets instead and roast in the oven.
1 large head of cauliflower, trimmed and sliced into about 4–5 slabs
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 teaspoons cumin
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
zest of one lemon
1/2–1 cup fresh chopped Italian parsley (and/or cilantro)
pinch of chili flakes
Preheat grill to medium-high. If using a grill basket, place on the grill to preheat as well. Combine garlic, 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, cumin, salt and lemon zest in a small bowl. Rub all over cauliflower steaks. Combine 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil, parsley and chili flakes in a separate bowl.
Place cauliflower steaks directly on grill or in grill basket. Grill for 6–7 minutes, basting with olive oil, parsley and chili flakes mixture. Flip over and repeat basting and grilling for about 5–6 minutes. Both sides should appear slightly charred on both sides. Transfer to serving platter and drizzle remaining mixture on top. Sprinkle with extra chili flakes, if desired.
If roasting, roast at 450 degrees for about 20–25 minutes, basting and flipping about every 5 minutes.
CILANTRO LIME MARGARITAS
Herbs and alcohol can be one of the most refreshing combinations to indulge in during the summer. Although it is not ideal that we can not order straight up at a bar right now, we can create this interesting concoction at home with less sugar yet remarkable flavor. I adopted this from Cooking Light, with a little sweet and more alcohol ;). This pungent herb really amps up the tastebuds here!
1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped, including leaves and stems
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
2 Tablespoons honey
6 ounces tequila
lime slices and cilantro for garnish
Blend cilantro, water, lime juice and honey in blender until smooth. Skim and discard the foam on the top. This is your base. To assemble the margarita, fill shaker with ice. Add 1/4 cup cilantro mixture and 1 1/2 (2, if you like it stronger :)ounces tequila per margarita. Shake for 30 seconds. Strain into glass. Garnish with lime slice and cilantro. Repeat. Makes 4 servings.
Saving the herbs: There are almost always extra herbs sitting around, so storing them properly for a second or third use is key. Basil can be stored in a vase on your kitchen counter, adding color and scent to your kitchen. Cilantro and parsley will last longer in just a glass of water in your fridge. For the long haul (about 3 months) storage technique, you can chop them up and freeze with water in an ice cube tray — which definitely works well for future cocktails 🍹.
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The rebellious Rd
As a longtime promoter of healthy cooking and eating, Amy's focus is on plant-based eating, with a rebellious twist - that she and no one, needs to be perfect.