Increasing food flavor
and staying healthy
Healthy Foods - The cheapest ways that you can
increase flavor in foods is by adding fats and salt. Both
flood the palette and cause wonderful sensations that help increase
the enjoyment that we get from eating.
However, other ingredients are far
better for people in general and especially for seniors as they do
not add to physical problems that often risk senior health.
Olive oil - Though a fat,
olive oil is actually helpful in reducing bad blood cholesterol and
raising good cholesterol. Common throughout many countries in
the world, olive oil is starting to make its benefits known and into
Olive oil comes in several
different varieties from a very light amber color which has a fairly
light flavor to extra virgin olive oil which is a relatively dark
green color. Extra virgin olive oil is that oil which is
obtained through the first press of the olives and is far greater in
Only personal preference will tell
you what kind of olive oil to use but it does grow on you over time,
adding much flavor to food. The trick is to make sure that the
kind of olive oil that you use will complement the food that you are
cooking, not replace its flavor.
Use it for pan frying, a pan
lubricant, or even as a baste for many foods to increase the flavor
as well as add functionality. I often use a bit of olive oil
on top of foods that I am cooking to help other toppings like spices
to adhere, keep them from burning and help release the flavors.
It's a fat, but a good fat and one
that you can use to help increase food flavor for seniors.
Garlic - We may be on a bit
of an Italian kick here but garlic is a far more versatile food
ingredient than often given credit for.
Most people think of garlic as
something that is primarily added to spaghetti, lasagna, or garlic
bread. Some only think of garlic in its raw form or as a minced
product that comes in a jar.
Those forms are great but
experiment with granulated or powdered garlic as well.
Personally, I have found that the dry powdered garlic is somewhat
more bitter and is likely to become airborne. So keeping a one
pound jar of the granulated in my spice cabinet has become a
requirement in my kitchen.
While good, you can add garlic to
meats, brown or white sauces, and salads. I even add it to
eggs. Despite adding garlic powder to eggs for hundreds of
people, there has never even been a comment about garlic.
adds to the flavor but does not take it over. The last church
function that I cooked them for saw more than twice the eggs
consumed and dozens of raves.
Garlic is also known to be
heart-healthy though there is question about the benefits of the dry
While garlic has its own flavor,
used correctly, you can use it in a variety of foods without it
becoming a garlic meal. Unlike other ingredients like
cinnamon, garlic changes and increases the flavor but takes on the
characteristics of the food itself.
Onion - Though similar to
garlic in some respects, onion probably isn't quite as
versatile. It can however make a very big difference in foods
both in the nose and on the taste buds. Used properly and
minced small enough, onion enhances food without taking over the
Use onion in almost any meat or
poultry dish, soufflés, white or brown sauces. Add it to soup
for additional flavor and to give the soup a bit of a bite.
Cinnamon - Other spices such
as allspice, nutmeg, cloves, mace, and such can also be grouped into
this category. They are often referred to as a nose spice
because even without many taste buds, people can still enjoy these
Primarily used for pastries and
desserts, these spices can also be added to hot cereals, pancakes,
waffles, applesauce or other cooked or minced fruit dish.
Experiment with it but avoid over-use. Over exposure can lead
to a dislike for the spices.
Smoke flavorings - Used in
very small portions, liquid smoke flavor is one of the cheapest and
most powerful food additives that you can find. Where bacon or
ham might be considered unhealthy, smoke flavoring helps to
replicate the strong taste without adding the animal fats, salt, or
Add liquid smoke to eggs, soups,
sauces, or anything else that you would like to flavor like a smoked
meat. There may be others available but the two that I've
found are hickory and mesquite flavors. Be careful which you
use where though because they are not always interchangeable.
White cheeses - Before
recommending these, I would suggest making sure that the senior that
you are cooking for does not suffer from any significant amount of
lactose intolerance. While most seniors can handle a small
portion of cheese, not all can and you don't want to cause any
One of the most widely used white
cheeses for adding flavor is parmesan cheese. If you
are not aware of it, it isn't always found in the little green can
and it is preferable that you get it in block form or freshly
shredded. The packaged green variety isn't as versatile
and isn't nearly as tasty.
Another great white cheese is Romano
cheese. Not quite as strong as parmesan cheese, Romano has
a distinctive flavor that you either like or don't and there isn't
any getting around it.
Feta cheese is often used in
Greek or Italian cooking, is quite strong and a wonderful
"nose" cheese. It smells as good as it tastes, which
is why it is so well liked.
Blue cheese is known as a
white cheese though also known for both its dark blue molds that
grow through it. Its wonderful strong flavor and terrific
smell excite the taste buds and can really change the flavor of most
foods. A bit more oily than feta cheese, it may not be as good
for cooking though like most things, it is a matter of taste.
Experiment with white
cheeses. They are far lower in fat, calories, and cholesterol
and in many cases, offer more taste. Most are drier than
yellow cheeses and you can keep them longer too.
Add white cheeses to salads, eggs, soufflés,
meats, and anything else that you can think of.
Vinegars - There are many
great vinegars though most people are most familiar with the
traditional white and cider versions. Other malt, balsamic,
and wine vinegars are also very popular and vary with their
application in foods.
All vinegars are made through a
fermentation process which leaves a mild pungent to wildly sour
flavor. Depending upon what it is that you want to accomplish,
vinegars can be added to foods to emphasize flavors without making
the dish taste vinegary.
As an example, I add a tablespoon of
white vinegar to a large pot of chicken or turkey soup, early in the
cooking process to add a bit of zip without the vinegar taste.
Practice and adding it slowly are the keys.
Soup stock pastes - I don't
know where else you get this stuff but it is available at both
Costco and Sam's Club.
You are probably familiar with the
use of bouillon cubes as a way of making a broth. If so, you
know that it basically doesn't work well, the flavor is severely
lacking, and if not for the food color and the salt, their addition
would be hardly noticeable.
Enter stock paste in either chicken
or beef flavor. It comes in a small tub and is about the
consistency of lard but is in fact concentrated stock with months of
shelf life (kept refrigerated) and has more meat flavor and far less
sodium per serving.
The salt level is still pretty high
and isn't recommended for making a straight broth soup for seniors
but when added to sauces, spaghetti, soups, gravy, meat dishes, and
even pork dishes, its concentrated flavor adds a tremendous richness
that you cannot duplicate any other way. Soup stocks can
actually make foods too strong for most people, but for seniors who don't
taste food as well, its quite a treat.
Cooking some of your meats in
a heavy broth is a great way to up the flavor of the meat,
especially chicken or turkey. Beef broth adds richness and
flavor to beef and lean pork without making it taste like a steak.
Caution: There is
still quite a bit of salt in soup stocks but far less salt and more
real flavor than with powdered or cubed bullion cubes. Be sure to
only add salt after all other ingredients are added.
There are quite a few different
ways of cooking foods and ingredients that can be added to increase
food flavor without adding health risks. Watch labels,
experiment, and become creative.