Spice up your meals with fresh herbs

Fresh herbs are a budget friendly way to add flavor to your meal

I know when you are on a budget sometimes food can get very bland. I mean there is only so much you can do with pasta and red sauce, right? But being on a budget doesn't mean you have to sacrifice taste, especially in the summer.

Thankfully, fresh herbs to the rescue! Even if you don't have a garden just a few herbs planted in a flower pot can make a world of difference to what you serve at the dinner table. You don't need a huge variety, just a few plants will do, and you might be surprised at how a handful of fresh herbs can change and enhance the flavor of whatever it is you are cooking.

Basil – We like the larger leafed Basil. Chop and add to red sauce right before serving or add to pasta along with olive oil, garlic, chopped up tomatoes, some bacon crumbles and shaved Parmesan cheese.

Grilled cheese sandwiches? Add thin slices of tomatoes and basil leaves. Of course, basil and a little salt and olive oil on tomato slices straight from a garden couldn't be easier, healthier or more delicious. The ordinary now becomes extraordinary.

Oregano – These spicy little leaves will brighten up a red sauce, but try adding a coating of lemon, oil, and oregano to grilled chicken. Also try adding oregano to summer squashes like zucchini for a bolder, fresher take.

Mint – One of my favorites and one we find already growing all over our yard. Of course you can always add mint to pitchers of iced tea, but I also like to make a cold rice, pecan, green apple and mint salad (just a dash of olive oil to keep things from sticking). It’s great for picnics and the fresh taste will be a welcome dish on a hot summer night. Add mint to olive oil with cut up citrus and you have a marinade for fish or chicken.

Chives – They don't just go on potatoes. Chives were practically made to be put on scrambled eggs (along with sprinkles of a good hard cheese.) You can also add chives to butter and make a “not-garlic-but-chive” bread side dish.

In addition, almost all herbs can also be sprinkled on salads, on top of soups, mixed in butters and oils, and of course, served on pasta (maybe I'll even try making a cold pasta, pecan, green apple, and mint salad.)

At the end of the growing season, you can dry any remaining herbs, freeze them either alone or chopped up in cubes of ice that you can then add to dishes, or preserve them in oil. Whatever you do, don't throw them out; keep them so you can take full advantage of that fresh herb taste throughout the cold months.

Wendy Thomas lives in Merrimack with her husband and six children, and has been published in various regional magazines and newspapers. Check out her blog Simple Thrift-Creative Living on Less, at http://simplethrift.wordpress.com. Contact her at wethomas@gmail.com.

Categories: Family Finances, Food news