A Feast of Flavor

All this talk of New Year’s diets has made me hungry.


It would be easy to focus on what I can’t eat. I typically make January a “no sugar” month. It’s the only way I can detox my Southern girl taste buds that grew up on sweet tea and Cap’n Crunch. And yes, I did sneak spoonfuls of the white stuff from the sugar bowl when no one was looking. Um, when I was a kid, not this year.

Actually I’m looking forward to this yearly rehabilitation of my appetite. I can’t wait for fruit to taste sweeter and the hidden sweetness of caramelized onions and roasted carrots to emerge again.

So while I wait for my sugar cravings to quiet down, I want to focus on enjoying the foods that I can eat. And there are plenty of them to share.

First, here’s a list of typical substitutions I make during this month to add flavor without sugar or too much fat.

  1. Salsa becomes my favorite condiment, on everything from eggs to baked potatoes to sandwich spreads.
  2. Hummus replaces mayonnaise on a sandwich or with a hard boiled egg in my lunch.
  3. Sliced turkey can become the bread if you wrap it around some vegetables or a hard boiled egg. It adds salt and makes those snacks portable.
  4. Sliced fruit replaces jelly on breakfast toast or lunch peanut butter sandwiches. Apples are my favorites for this, but other fruits work, too.
  5. Sometimes I ditch the bread and put the nut butter directly on the fruit. This one is tricky to eat in the car though…
  6. Garlic, garlic, garlic. Why else did God make it except to delight our taste buds?
  7. Pasta sauce (homemade or store bought tomato based sauce) takes the place of butter & sour cream on a baked potato. It’s yummy and very filling.
  8. Pasta sauce also works as a substitute for ketchup if you happen to love ketchup like I do.
  9. Misting oil works on popcorn so the salt will stick. Flavor the salt with curry or cinnamon or dill or pepper for variety.
  10. Fresh basil, parsley or mint make a salad wild. I can go lighter on the dressing with that much flavor added.

Second, here’s my favorite condiment. Yes, it has sugar in it, but as long as you don’t eat it by the spoon, you’ll be fine. It is both sweet and spicy and will make everything taste great. We sometimes plan whole meals around it:

“Honey, I just made some more of my Dad’s mustard. What should I make to go with it?”

And yes, it was my Dad’s favorite sweet-hot mustard. His nickname was “Doc.” He would be happy for me to share it with you.


Doc’s Favorite Sweet Hot Mustard

Yield: Not nearly enough, you should probably double it
Preparation: overnight, then 15 minutes

First step:  Soak dry mustard and vinegar in a glass bowl overnight

4 oz Coleman’s mustard
8 oz malt vinegar

Second step:  Add sugar and eggs. Blend well

1 cup sugar
2 eggs

Third step: cook over, not in, boiling water (aka double boiler) about 15 minutes or until thickened. Stir the thick stuff off the sides and bottom occasionally.

Let cool, then refrigerate. Hide it from your neighbors.


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