The Key Is The Sauce
Good, healthy, natural food does not have to taste bland. I'm here to tell you the secret: the sauce.
What are your family's favorite flavors? Italian? Spicy? Dill? Ginger? Cumin? Honey-mustard? Sweet and Sour?
That's where you start. The flavors your families love are the flavors you want to add to whole grains, beans, meats, salads, snacks, etc.
A stew can take on a chili flavor with just a few seasonings: sea salt, pepper, garlic, cumin and paprika.
A salad can taste deliciously lemony-dill if you will add dried or fresh dill and lemon juice, along with sea salt, pepper and extra virgin olive oil.
My family eats skillet dishes practically every day. There's an endless variety and we hardly ever get bored. We never feel let down by bland food.
What I do is follow my simple Skillet Dish Method. What is a Skillet Dish? A Skillet Dish is a one-dish meal (usually) that incorporates healthy sources of protein, starches/grains, sauce (for flavor and moisture) and other add-ins. It doesn’t have to be made in a skillet, though. You could use a crockpot or a stew pot. But the idea is that you’re making one dish that satisfies all the dietary needs of a given meal, while enjoying endlessly satisfying variety.
You'll want to read Healthy Skillet Dishes for more information on the protein, starch and add-in components. Let's just talk sauce now.
The sauce will wrap up the whole dish and make it all taste good. But that's not all the sauce does. It adds moisture and texture to a skillet dish.
Basically, any sauce needs: 1) liquid base, 2) seasonings for more flavor, and optionally, 3) a thickener.
Some ingredients that can be used for the liquid base are: tomato paste/water mixture; tomato sauce; diced tomatoes; coconut milk; broth; a homemade and healthy sauce such as teriyaki, sweet and sour, or barbeque; or water.
For the seasonings, you have almost no limits, but consider these: seasoning blends, such as Italian or chili; herbs and spices, such as basil, parsley, oregano, thyme, rosemary, sage, dill, cumin, paprika, curry, cayenne, or ginger; garlic and onion; sea salt and pepper; soy sauce; or nutritional yeast.
Finally, you can thicken any sauce with arrowroot powder, cornstarch or flour; tomato paste; or using a reduction technique.
Now don't be overwhelmed. Let's say you have ground beef, pinto beans, and brown rice all cooked up, ready to make a skillet dish. You can skip the thickening altogether. Start with picking a liquid base -- tomato paste with water and diced tomatoes would be good. Now pick some seasonings: sea salt, pepper, garlic, sauteed onions, basil and parsley. See how easy that was? Now you're ready to cook it, which is even more simple.
The process to put this meal together is: saute the onions and garlic, add the tomato products and water, add the rice, beans and ground beef, and then season it all to taste with sea salt, pepper, and the herbs.
This is the same process you can follow day after day, dinner after dinner. Pick your components, decide on sauce ingredients and put it together.
You'll not be bored, I promise, because you have an endless variety of flavors to use. You'll be extremely satisfied because focusing on making a great sauce will make any meal taste great. You'll successfully feed your family very healthy food that they enjoy very much.
For further reading: Healthy Skillet Dishes and My Style of Flexible Meal Planning and Planning Ahead for Hassle-Free Healthy Cooking.
About the Author: Wardeh Harmon loves to cook and sew, and she dabbles in web development, too. She keeps a personal blog called Such Treasures and she teaches on many topics of healthy food at GNOWFGLINS™ (God's Natural, Organic, Whole Foods, Grown Locally, In Season).