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From bland to bam!

March 7, 2016
Amanda Bohlen , MOV Parent

Did you know that March is National Nutrition Month? The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics created the campaign to focus on the importance of eating healthy and being physically active. This year the theme is "Savor the Flavor of Eating Right." This would be a great time to experiment with a combination of different herbs and spices so you can "Savor the Flavor."

People tend to associate healthy cooking with bland food and that really is not the case. While healthy cooking does have you trim back the fat, sodium and sugar, it doesn't mean your food will taste like cardboard. Herbs and spices can add a lot of flavor to your dish without packing on the calories.

There is a difference between herbs and spices. Herbs are the fragrant leaves of the plant like basil, oregano and parsley. Spices come from the bark, buds, seeds and stems of plants and trees. Two common spices are cumin and paprika. Using fresh herbs and spices will give your dish a major flavor advantage. Not sure where to start with experimenting? Below is a list of the top ten different cultures and the flavors that are associated with them created by Libby Mills, registered dietitian nutritionist and Academy Spokesperson.

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Keep in mind that dried herbs are stronger than fresh. 1/4 teaspoon of ground dried herb is equal to 2 teaspoons of fresh. The flavor of fresh herbs also gets lost with extended cooking so be conscience of when you are adding them to your dish.

Maybe you have picky child and you know that trying a new flavor combination would only backfire on you. Have no fear! I am here with a flavor booster that is simple and effective. This past summer I had attended a pizza on the grill class at our local cooking shop and they had us use spicy garlic oil on the pizza crust. The next week I wanted to recreate my meal at home. I had leftover oil and decided to use it the next day to saute my vegetables. The results were astounding! My husband, who only likes yellow squash sliced thin, breaded and pan-fried, commented on how good the squash turned out! I knew then that I had a winner considering he had been trying my many failed attempts at making the dish healthier. Since then I have made it my mission to keep a large batch of the oil on hand. My recipe below is kid friendly so it's not really spicy at all. If you and your family like more heat than add more red pepper flakes.



2 cups extra virgin olive oil

1 1/2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes

24 cloves garlic (roughly 2 bulbs)


Pour extra virgin olive oil into a small saute pan and use a garlic press or knife to crush garlic cloves directly into the oil. Add crushed red pepper flakes and gently warm oil over medium low heat. You want the cloves to infuse into the oil and turn slightly brown, about 3-5 minutes. If the heat is up too high or you cook for too long you can burn the garlic and the oil becomes bitter. DON'T WALK AWAY. The oil can be stored in an airtight container/oil bottle, refrigerated, for up to 1 month.

You can strain the oil to remove the garlic and red pepper flakes so then it can be stored at room temperature without there being a food safety issue.

I like to save the garlic cloves with a little oil in another container that I keep in the fridge to add to other dishes when I'm cooking.

Options: Try other spices besides red pepper flakes like cumin or dried oregano. Use the oil to make dressings, garlic bread, drizzle over meats and veggies, or toss it with pasta like a sauce. My children love it on pizza crust with cheese on top of it for garlic cheese sticks.


Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. (2016, February 9). New and Exciting Tastes: For National Nutrition Month, Experiment with Herbs and Spices to Savor the Flavor of Eating Right. Retrieved from

Drake, B. H. (2010, February 25). Selecting, Storing, and Using Fresh Herbs. Retrieved from

Amanda Bohlen is the new family and consumer science educator for The Ohio State University Extension in Washington County. She received her bachelor's in family and consumer science education from Ohio University and her master's in curriculum and instruction from Ohio Valley University. For the last seven years she has been in the classroom teaching high school students' financial education, child development, nutrition and culinary skills.



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