Eat Well, Spend Less: Simple Ways to Create Memorable Meals

A look at easy cooking techniques with salt, herbs, and garlic (and a bit of love) that will easily create memorable meals out of the simplest of ingredients so you eat well and spend less.
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It’s February. This is the point in the winter months that I really start longing for summer days and farmers market trips and shopping lists that are filled with more fresh produce from my very own backyard garden. Alas, it snowed last night, and I woke this morning to a winter wonderland. Timely, I suppose.

With my garden plans still just plans and many more weeks before the last frost date gives us the go-ahead to start putting plants in the ground, there are a few things that happen in our house for dinner to give us a bit of variety and to make our food taste like more than just boiled potatoes.


Fresh Herbs

Fresh herbs can transform the most simple ingredients into a gorgeous dish. Ingredients that have become dull in the mid-winter months like winter squash and potatoes can be rethought into a dish that whispers sweet nothings of spring days to come.

Growing Herbs Indoors

  • Place herbs in front of a south-facing window that gets six to eight hours of light. You could also buy special lights to help if you don’t have such a window.
  • Place small potted herbs in a tray of rocks with water poured in them. This will evaporate and ceate some humidity in the dry winter air.
  • Choose herbs you’d use often, as trimming them frequently will help the plant to fill out and flourish, much like a good trim of your hair will help it grow.

[Photo by Katie]

Salt

Properly seasoning with salt I think is a skill that requires a bit of trial and error. First, get rid of the table salt, and try using a pinch or two of these instead. Taste often and look for the salt to bring the flavors out, not cover them up.

  • Kosher Salt: This type comes from underground or saltwater, but it contains no preservatives, and it has a coarser grain than table salt. This is the salt that I keep next to the stove at all times for salting dishes as they’re finishing. It’s great for pinching, too.
  • Sea Salt: Evaporated from seawater, sea salt comes in several different varieties. It retains the minerals from the water it was harvested from, and so it also carries a certain taste with it. These distinct taste differences are lost during cooking, however, so it is best used at the end of cooking.

[Photo by Aimee]

Citrus

While berries, zucchini, and tomatoes may not be in season, winter citrus is, and it makes a great seasoning agent. A bit of lemon zest in a pasta dish, orange to a baked good can brighten up the winter dishes with nothing more than a microplane.


These are just a few ways to make simple dishes turn into multi-course feasts at the dinner table, and, of course, never forget the power of love wrapped into a dish. A meal served with love is better than none at all, fresh herbs, bountiful produce or not.

As always, you can check out what others are writing in the Eat Well, Spend Less series on easy ways to make food more fun and enjoyable on a budget:

Comments

  1. I’ve got fresh basil and parsley in the fridge right now, as well as a drawer of citrus. You are absolutely right about these flavors adding a punch; I’m relying on them to get me through the February food blahs!

  2. Handy post! I started growing all my own herbs a couple years ago and it is the reason I look forward to spring most – having a selection of nearly any herb I want waiting for me in the backyard, yum! In fact many of them have started popping up this week.

  3. It sounds like a great dinner..I like eating is the asparagus boil only and put some soyo paste its taste delicious..

  4. great post Shaina!! I’d love more tips on growing my own herbs. I’ve tried it in the past with little luck.

  5. Great photos! Thanks for the tips on growing herbs – I’m planning on trying out my green thumb pretty soon here!

  6. Totally forgot about that serving dish. You sure do make it look beautiful! :)

  7. I’m all about using fresh herbs and good quality salt in my cooking, it makes such a difference.

  8. All wonderful idea to ramp up the flavour in our food, Shaina!

  9. I’d throw pepper in there as well – I have several different blends of peppercorns that I have in grinders next to the stove to swap things out now and then!

  10. I love using fresh herbs and citrus to brighten up dishes. I’ve never tried growing herbs indoors during the wintertime, so thanks for the tips.

  11. I live in Tennessee and am lucky enough to be able to leave my sage and rosemary out in the original planter throughout the winter. It still continues to grow and will take a few hard frosts and still be okay. Great addition to soups, stews and casseroles.

  12. Finally planted my first (successful) herb garden last summer – looking forward to doing that again in a few months. I also enjoy using vinegars to brighten up dishes.

  13. Great tips, Shaina. I am so looking forward to another herb garden this year.

  14. These suggest are not only cheap but healthy thanks!

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