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7 Surprisingly Simple Ways to Make Healthy Food Taste Gourmet + The Only Sauce Recipe You’ll Ever Need

by Marissa on June 28, 2012

Most people don’t believe me when I tell them that until 6 years ago, I had never set foot in a kitchen. Mac and cheese and slice and bake chocolate chip cookies were my staples but mostly I would make do with a deli salad for lunch and settle on a cringe-worthy dinner of pizza, cheese and crackers or canned soup.

I was too busy with work and social events to cook and besides, I had no idea where to start. But when I decided to change my eating habits, it became very clear, very fast, that I needed to figure out the whole cooking thing. At the time I was convinced healthy food had no flavor so I just steamed and grilled and microwaved (eek!) sans seasonings and ate a lot of plain-tasting foods.

But I love food and before long, I was craving flavor. Somewhere between then and now I taught myself how to make healthy food taste impressively gourmet. Listen, if I can do it, anyone can and you’ll be surprised to know that it doesn’t take hours in the kitchen to make it happen, just a little know-how.

1. Keep it simple: It sounds cliche but the truth is that the simplest cooking methods like steaming, poaching, boiling and en papillote (in parchment paper) are the best. They bring out the food’s natural flavor and retain most of the nutrients. Learn these basic techniques and a delicious-tasting meal can be yours in minutes.

2. Herbs are the icing on the cake: So you’re steaming your heart out — did you know can sprinkle some sea salt and pepper and drizzle some extra virgin olive oil on your meal and be good as gold?

Clearly I learned this the long way around so I’ll save you some time:  If you want to make your taste buds sing, really sing, add some fresh herbs — dill, thyme, rosemary, mint, cilantro — the possibilities are endless. Chop them up, sprinkle them on your fish, add them to your stir fry and blend them in your sauces. It works and it’s impressive. That’s all. 

3. Sauce is where it’s at: We all crave comfort food and heartier flavors once in awhile so I hope you’re paying attention because I’m about to give you a recipe for the only sauce you’ll ever need. I pour this on anything but mostly veggies and with the flick of a wrist instantly transform boring-ness into awesome-ness.

One of my clients named this Awesome Sauce and I have to agree that it is (p.s. — men will swoon and kids love it).

  • 1 inch peeled and diced ginger
  • 2 garlic cloves (peeled and diced)
  • 2 tablespoons of tamari or soy sauce
  • 4 tablespoons of tahini
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure maple syrup
  • the juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • dash of cayenne pepper

Throw ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend. If it’s too thick add a little water and blend again.

4. Once you’ve mastered seasonings, eat with the seasons: This is so important. Basically, it means don’t eat watermelon in December and butternut squash soup in August. Fruit and veggies taste better in season because they are fresh and haven’t traveled around the world to get to you.

5. Presentation is more than half of it: The eye informs the brain. Mario Batali wouldn’t serve his pasta on paper plates and neither should you. Even if you’re just starting out, be proud of your creations, use your best stuff and arrange your food artfully on your plate. And if you’ve made something you’re not crazy about, plate it up impressively and serve it with confidence. There. You just made it taste a whole lot better! Now smile and graciously accept those compliments!

6. Color and Texture Count: This one’s a little more advanced but think about it like you would fashion. Mixing colors and textures like topping cooked food with raw garnish or crunchy veggies with creamy sauce adds depth of flavor and makes food more interesting. Nobody wants to eat a plate of food that is all one color or texture.

7. No matter what you do, do it with love: I’m not gonna lie. I love dining out but nine times out of ten, I like eating my own food a whole lot better. I’m no Rachel Ray but when I’m creating recipes or making dinner at home with my boyfriend a lot of love and passion go into it. That’s something you usually don’t get in a restaurant. Even better, because cooking is so fulfilling to me, I find that I eat less and I don’t feel bloated post-meal. I also get great leftovers for lunch the next day.

Even when I was new to cooking, burning my rice sucked but I approached the learning process with an open mind and willingness to learn so once I mastered the perfect rice, I felt an incredible sense of accomplishment. That same feeling — when I perfect a recipe or make something delicious — is what keeps me coming back to the kitchen. I still make mistakes but I learn and move on.

Whether you’re just starting out in the kitchen and want to get more practice or already love to cook and want to add more recipes to your repertoire, check out the Total Reset Plan. With four weeks of done-for-you meal plans, you’ll step outside your comfort zone and practice simple cooking techniques. Seasoned cooks will get an armful of healthy, new recipes that taste gourmet for when you want to press the reset button. The Summer edition launches July 9.

Now I want to know what are your tried and true techniques for making healthy food taste gourmet? Tell me in the comments section below. And if you loved this article or felt inspired by it, share it using the social media buttons at the bottom.

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erin @WELLinLA
erin @WELLinLA

Anything with garlic, ginger and tamari is certainly awesome sauce. Thanks for sharing, doll!


That is seriously one of the best sauces ever!

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