Ideas For Using Fresh Herbs In Cooking

Fresh herbs are a wonderfully easy way to add extra flavor and dimension to a variety of meals. They can jazz up a basic dish or highlight specific ingredients.

Fresh herbs should also be a kitchen staple because of their health benefits. Instead of using heavy dressings or sauces to spice up foods, you can use herbs to add flavor without the extra calories. Individual herbs also have their own unique benefits. For example, basil may help ward off osteoarthritis and has anti-inflammatory properties, according to Wellness Mama. Dill weed aids the digestion of food, and many herbs like oregano, mint and rosemary contain very high levels of antioxidants, making them an important part of any diet.

Ready to use more herbs in your dishes? Try these ideas:

Sprinkle them on roasted vegetables

A simple sprinkle of fresh herbs on roasted vegetables can make a plain side dish into something special. Try this Pioneer Woman recipe, which according to the blog Feel Great in 8 “turns carrots in candy” – without the sugar, of course! All you have to do is drizzle carrots sliced the long way with olive oil, fresh thyme leaves and a little salt and pepper and bake in the oven at 400 degrees for 35-45 minutes.

Fresh herbs add a new dimension to your favorite foods.

Lighten up dip and spreads

Having a party or just can’t get enough of pita chips? Skip the heavy dips made with mayo or cream cheese and instead make a lighter version with sour cream and fresh herbs. All you have to do is mix sour cream with minced parsley, chives or dill and dig in!

Don’t stop with dips, though – you can use herb-infused sour cream as a lighter swap for sandwich and bagel spreads.

Create special salts

Skip plain old table salt and go gourmet by mixing up delicious herbed salts. Just toss sea salt with ground herbs and use to flavor everything from steaks to eggs. The Nourishing Gourmet shows you how to create herbed garlic salt here – it contains a mix of sage, thyme and rosemary.

Season your smoothies 

An easy way to reap the benefits of herbs is by tossing some sprigs in your smoothie. They’re great for detoxing, helping to cleanse the body, according to Prevention magazine. Try tossing some basil in a strawberry and kiwi smoothie, or adding mint to one made with green veggies.

MORE: 4 Smoothie Recipes That Are Great For Your Skin>

Marinate cheeses

A small serving of cheese is a delicious way to get the calcium you need, and even one small morsel of the creamy stuff feels totally indulgent. You can boost that feeling of getting away with something – without guilt – by marinating your favorite cheeses in fresh herbs. Kalyn’s Kitchen recommends tossing mozzarella balls in a mixture of olive oil, chopped basil and oregano, black pepper, salt and fresh red pepper flakes.

You can enjoy herb-marinated cheeses as a luxe snack, add them to salads and sandwiches or serve as hors d’oeuvres.

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“You can enjoy herb-marinated cheeses as a luxe snack.”

Tips on storing fresh herbs

There are a few smart strategies for making fresh herbs last as long as possible. First, wash herbs as soon as you get them home from the store, since bacteria and debris on the herbs can cause them to wilt more quickly, Serious Eats noted.

Next, you should consider the characteristics of the herbs you’re using – most herbs can be divided into to categories: tender and hardy. Tender herbs are more fragile and thus more susceptible to damage, and include mint and basil. Hardy herbs are a bit more resilient, and include cilantro and parsley. To best store tender herbs, Serious Eats advised add an inch of water at the bottom of a container and then positioning the herbs vertically before securing the lid. For hardy herbs, it recommended wrapping them in a dry paper towel before storing.

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