One thing that’s often a challenge when you’re cooking budget recipes is getting enough flavor. While I’ve been making vegetarian and vegan dishes I’ve learned that there are easy and inexpensive ways you can make plant based foods more tasty, and I think you can apply these techniques to budget friendly dishes too-
Search the Spice Aisle
Sometimes my favorite aisle in the supermarket is the one housing the spices. It seems like there are new ones added each week. And with so much interest in world cuisines right now, stores are offering ones that were once hard to find. Check out all types of chilis that are perfect for soups and stews. Some give cheaper dishes a more gourmet taste and for just a few pennies. One thing I love and won’t be without is smoked paprika and a chipotle chili powder. They cost more but a little goes a long way and they’re so good nothing goes to waste. One way to save even more money on spices is to shop the bulk bins. I keep the container from ones I’ve purchased in the spice aisle and just refill them. One thing I’m also considering is getting a spice grinder and buying the spices whole which people have told me not only saves money but tastes so much better too.
Salts and Peppers
And speaking of spices, gone are the days when you just had to add regular salt and pepper to a dish. I’ve been using this chili salt for years for things like baked potatoes. Someone recently told me about smoked salts which add lots of flavor so I’m going to give them a try. And there are even flavored peppers. McCormick makes a couple of them, one’s a Worcestershire flavor and the other a smokehouse. They’re both great in veggie burgers.
Mushrooms and Soy Sauce
A few years ago I interviewed the author of a vegan cookbook and she told me about something known as umami or our fifth taste. It’s especially important in vegetarian cooking because it adds more depth of flavor but any dish can benefit from it. Lots of foods have it including some inexpensive ones like mushrooms and soy sauce. After I’d interviewed this author I went online to find out more and found this informative site. Here’s a link to one of its pages that lists foods rich in umami http://www.umamiinfo.com/umami-rich-food/
Stocks for Soups
Every week I make a batch of homemade vegetable stock and each week it turns out different because of the ingredients I use. I have a container in the fridge and during the week I put all the vegetable trimmings and tops of carrots and onions in there and whatever’s in there at the weekend is added to a pot along with enough water to cover it, a handful of peppercorns, a bay leaf and a few dashes of salt and I let it come to the boil and them simmer it for about an hour. I not only use it for soups but I also sauté vegetables in it too. I start with oil but then when I don’t want to add more, I ladle in stock which I find intensifies the flavor of the vegetables. And if you want a real burst of flavor try reducing it down and adding it to soups and stews, even gravy.
Garlic, Onion Powder and a Dash of Parmesan Cheese
One of my goals is to create the ultimate veggie burger…and let’s just say I’m getting closer. Three things I’ve found balance out and give flavor to just about any vegetable or bean based dish are three ingredients, garlic, onion powder and Parmesan cheese. And if you’ve never tried them as a trio before start by using them on oven roasted potatoes which pair great with just about everything. Peel and dice about four medium-size potatoes and put them into a baking pan, add about three tablespoons of oil, a tablespoon each of the powders, and the cheese and toss everything together and bake in a 375 degree oven for about twenty minutes or until golden brown. There also great on their own with some salsa or ranch dressing as a dip.