Chimichurri in a Hurry

Flavor. We definitely consider it an essential part of the diet around here, but it’s not often that we talk about its direct relevance to nutrition. After reading a great article by Mark Schatzker last week, I was inspired to take a moment to highlight this underappreciated piece of the human nutrition puzzle.

Shatzker describes flavor as an “ancient chemical language,” which is such a beautifully fitting depiction of the science. “Flavor is the body’s way of identifying important nutrients and remembering what foods they come from.” We have evolved to seek out our favorite flavors, but we’re facing a problem because this synergy between us and our diet has been disrupted by our modern food supply. Factory farming and other questionable contemporary food production techniques yield lackluster products, in both nutrition and flavor. On top of that, a highly profitable industry of food scientists and flavor chemists have stepped in to fill the flavor void, adulterating products with enticing extracts and additives that tempt our senses but that provide none of the benefits that our bodies are craving. Shatzker’s new book, The Dorito Effect, is definitely going on my reading list. The message, which is very consistent with the way we do things around here, is to get your flavor from real food, because it’s what your body really wants.

So how can we put this theory into practice? Today, let’s remember that it doesn’t have to be complicated to craft big flavors from natural ingredients. Serving as a prime example: Chimichurri in a Hurry. Just a handful of the highly flavorful and nutritious compounds in this classic Argentine condiment include antioxidant myristicin from parsley, antimicrobial allicin from garlic, and anti-inflammatory capsaicin from chili peppers. And we get to enjoy all of those whole-food benefits in just a matter of moments thanks to my favorite blender-hack.

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Simple DIY Vinaigrette

Hey people! Are you feeling the warm approach of summertime? I’ve had a taste, and I am fully on board to embrace the breezy summer mindset. I’m currently still coasting on good vibes from an incredible Memorial Day weekend that involved an excess of many of the best things life has to offer: good friends, beach lounging, city exploring, burgers, beers and breakfast burritos. It was beautiful, but in the interest of balance I’ve been consequently feeling the need to stuff my face with salad.

And what better time to get excited about salad?? The warm weather simultaneously decreases our desire to turn on the oven and brings markets bursting with fresh produce so flawless that all they need is a quick chop and toss with vinaigrette. Store-bought dressings are convenient, but it’s not easy to find products without unnecessary preservatives and excess sodium. See where this is going?

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Dark Chocolate Almond Spread

Let’s see if I’m totally out of line with this opinion, or if some of you can relate… I like the idea of Nutella, but in practice it’s just too over-the-top unhealthy most of the time. The stuff is overwhelmingly sweet, slick with excess oil, and frankly… not real food. I’m not above a little candy here and there, but the problem is that a nutty chocolate spread doesn’t need to be such a dietary disaster.

I had been wanting to experiment with a superior spread for a while, but I don’t have a food processor and I was wary of grinding up nuts in my blender. Luckily, Jeanine from Love and Lemons is smarter than me and recently shared a spread that circumvents this issue entirely by starting the recipe with almond butter. Duh!! I’m so thankful for the internet.

As a bonus, this is the kind of recipe I can even pass along to friends who aren’t into cooking. It’s extremely simple: Almond butter. Dark chocolate. Coconut oil. I took creative liberty and added an extra tablespoon of high-quality cocoa powder to really push the flavor, and you guys… it’s so much better than Nutella.

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Banana Jam

You’re looking at a luxurious breakfast, fragrant with flavors of the tropics. If you want to close your eyes and feel transported to a sunny veranda, I recommend this recipe as a starting point. You can almost feel the ocean breeze, and while it’s distinctly tropical, I can’t tell you if you’re in the Caribbean, southeast Asia, or on a Pacific island… that’s up to your imagination, and the flavors you choose to pair with it.

In addition to offering a vacation in a jar, this is also a recipe for those times when your bananas are browning faster than you can handle. I didn’t know that banana jam was even a thing until a friend from my RD program enlightened me, and I am so glad she did. If I end up with overripe bananas, I don’t often muster up the enthusiasm to bake banana bread. I usually just toss the neglected fruits in a freezer bag for smoothies, but I love having this easy option for a little something special.

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