Inspired by the new flavored butters on the market, here are some fresh and versatile oil alternatives that can liven up your menu while keeping saturated fat in check. Use flavored oils to spruce up marinades, salad dressings and vinaigrettes, pasta and rice dishes, and use the oils to sauté, stir-fry and sear your favorite vegetables, meats, fish and poultry.
Remember, all oils have about 120 calories and 14 grams of fat per tablespoon, so always measure your oil to keep the calories in check. Olive, canola, safflower and nut oils are higher in monounsaturated fat, vegetable and sesame oils are evenly split between monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat and corn and grapeseed oils are higher in polyunsaturated fat. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are both heart-healthy; they help lower cholesterol and they dish up powerful antioxidants that protect against cell damage. That said, it’s good to mix things up and use a variety of oils when cooking and creating meals.
To make your own flavored oils:
Place oil in a saucepan and add desired flavorings. Great choices include:
Fresh or dried oregano
Fresh garlic cloves
Fresh or dried thyme
Red pepper flakes
Chili powder or chipotle chilies in adobo sauce
Set the pan over medium heat and steep for 3 to 5 minutes, until the flavoring ingredients are fragrant.
Cool the oil, strain out the flavoring ingredients and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. (Oils made with fresh garlic and herbs can grow dangerous bacteria so store all flavored oils in the refrigerator and use within 2 weeks).