By the time I walk in the door after work, gym and commute, I’m tired enough and hungry enough that I wonder how I will possible fashion myself a nutritious meal when I could just as easily order from down the block. The reality is that there are much better ways to have a quick meal that actually nourishes the body. In Chef Richard Ruben’s Fast Flavor class, I learned a myriad of dishes that were not only quick to prepare, but were full of flavor derived from fresh, seasonal ingredients.  With spring just around the corner, seasonal produce options are only increasing, so now is the time to get in the fresh-foods habit! Here are some helpful hints to make the most of it:

*Never Too Much of a Good Thing: With the exception of rosemary and tarragon, herbs generally aren’t potent enough to really overpower a dish. Herbs have no calories and tons of flavor, so you can always err on the side of using more of an herb rather than less.

*Cream or the Crop: When making soups that call for heavy cream you can often substitute blanched almonds instead. The only difference is that they should stew with the other vegetables so they will soften, whereas the cream is usually added at the end. This will provide the thick, creaminess but will be much more heart-healthy.

*A Truly Seasonal Bouquet: When storing fresh herbs, the best way to keep them from decomposing is to store them like flowers — in a glass, in the refrigerator. This prevents condensation, which aides in decomposition.

*They Make Everyone Cry: The sweeter-the-onion, the less sulfur is in the soil (i.e. the onions of Vidalia, GA are considered sweet). It’s the high sulfur content in most onions that puts them on the banned-foods list for nursing moms, as the high sulfur content encourages colic in babies.

Here’s hoping that as the days get longer, my dinner plans get fresher! Check out ICE’s recreational class list for all the market-to-table classes that are coming up as the snow finally melts!

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