It’s easy to fall into a recipe rut. Most nights we’re happy to get dinner on the table at a reasonable time…forget testing new recipes or ingredients. The shifs toward healthier lifestyles is only growing stronger this year (hell, even Pantone chose “greenery” as the 2017 color of the year!) as we continue to empower ourselves in the kitchen with high quality foods over high quantities of crap.
Granted none of these 7 ingredients are “new,” (yet my spellcheck still doesn’t recognize half of them), but you will see them popping up more often on your Pinterest boards and restaurant menus. A few simple ingredient switches, or additions) can bring new life to your weekly recipes.
- Farro: although farro is not a complete protein (containing all 9 essential amino acids) like quinoa, it’s pretty close. But, unlike quinoa, it tastes heartier like risotto. Nutritionally, farro is closer to quinoa and is a good source of fiber, protein, and carbohydrates (yes, your body needs quality carbs!). It only takes about 10 minutes to cook (2 cups water/vegetable stock to 1 cup farro) and it’s good hot or cold.
My daughter added her own twist to last night’s chicken, farro, and salad dinner by creating a mini-burrito bowl with ranch and Tabasco.
Farro is a whole grain, so it’s not gluten-free if that is a dietary necessity for you.
- Turmeric: if you missed the hype about turmeric last year, don’t let 2017 go by without incorporating this spice. Similar to ginger, turmeric is a root that can be stored in the fridge (about 1 month) and grated, or it can be used as a ground powder spice and stored in a cool dark area for about a year.
Why has it been used for centuries? Its health benefits: anti-inflammatory (especially for joint pain), relives menstrual cramps, decreases digestive disorders, reduces bruising, lowers LDL (the bad one) cholesterol, and curcumin (the yellow pigment in turmeric) has shown to reduce cancerous tumor growth and is now studied for possibly slowing the progression of dementia and Alzheimer’s.
What have you been waiting for, right? You’ll commonly find turmeric in Indian curries and Mexican recipes, but you can use it for an antioxidant boost on plain chicken or egg salad (you only need to use about 1/2 -1 tsp).
A word of caution…that gorgeous yellow pigment will STAIN! So, watch your clothes and counter tops. Yes, it will eventually come off counters with soap and water. *check with your medical adviser before adding turmeric to your diet if you are diabetic or have gall bladder disease.
- Jackfruit: definitely not pretty, but one of the more versatile ingredients around. It’s also packed with potassium, iron, protein and calcium. Jackfruit– as the name implies- is a fruit. When ripe, ii is similar to mango and can be added to yogurts, smoothies, or eaten on its own. Unripened jackfruit leans more toward savory and the flavor adapts to the other ingredients. You can roast it, add it to soups, or…try the vegan route and shred it into a “pulled pork.”
Now, you aren’t going to trick anyone into thinking that they’re actually eating pork- but if you look at the dish as a teriyaki sandwich you may not get as much family resistance.
Jackfruit is also the largest tree-fruit in the world and can grow to over 20 pounds…that’s a lot of jackfruit. While you won’t need one that big, go for fresh over canned.
- Chickpeas: Ok, these were big in 2016 also: roasted, spicy, sweet, pureed…but here’s another interesting use. Since most of us purchase chickpeas (garbanzo beans) in a can, save the liquid.
Whether you’re a vegan or just ran out of eggs and don’t feel like going to the grocery store, the liquid (aquafaba) can be whipped into meringue or frothed with a little sugar for your coffee (whip it a little longer for marshmallow fluff!).
Essentially, any recipe that uses egg whites can be substituted with aquafaba.
- Rooibos Tea: honestly I prefer coffee to tea, but I still enjoy iced green tea daily and I’m incorporating more rooibos too. During the lingering winter months, a cup of hot tea on a cold night can be not only comforting but healthy too. Rooibos is technically an herb derived from the Aspalathus linearis plant in South Africa, and it is completely caffeine-free. It’s also low in tannins and doesn’t contain oxalic acid so, unlike many teas, it’s safe for those with kidney stones.
Additionally, rooibos is packed with polyphenols which boost immunity, as well as calcium, manganese, and fluoride for stronger teeth and bones. Colicky kid? It’s eases digestive discomfort or colic and is safe for young kids.
Quick list of symptoms that benefit from rooibos tea: reduces inflammation, balances blood sugar, eases stomach cramps, decreases allergies and asthma symptoms, increases immunity, and reduces risk of cancer and heart disease. (*click here for my favorite, on the go convenient rooibos tea fix)
- Bean Pasta: kick up “pasta night” with one of the many bean pastas available. These are actually more palatable than whole wheat pastas and not as texture funky as quinoa pastas. First timer? Try a penne (I like the red lentil penne) or rotini, a pasta that’s normally eaten a little more al dente, and you won’t miss the texture of a traditional semolina spaghetti or capellini.
Top with marinara, veggies and shrimp, or just olive oil and Parmesan. Regardless of what you put on top, you’re already benefiting from a boost in fiber and protein with a bean pasta. Need a smaller baby step between “traditional” and bean pasta? Try the brown rice noodles with seaweed (no, you can’t taste it) in my favorite chicken pad Thai recipe.
- Pea Protein: While I do believe they can have their place, I’m not a huge proponent of protein supplements for everyday life. For the first time, though, pea protein (yes, made from peas; no, it doesn’t taste like peas) is used in a non-dairy beverage…Ripple. A while ago I wrote a post on the taste difference of various nut-based beverages, this was before we’d tried Ripple…which is, in many ways, the best of them all.
If you’re trying to replicate the taste of cow’s milk, Ripple is the closest in creaminess, yet it’s higher in calcium, potassium, and vitamin D. It also has less fat, less sugar, yet equal in protein. Ripple won’t separate in coffee (like hemp milk) and it foams well for lattes (unlike almond or cashew milk). It’s also allergy-friendly and gluten-free.
But, there’s another reason why you may want to add Ripple to your grocery cart…it’s environmentally friendly. Remember, it takes a gallon of water to grow ONE almond (which equals appox. 20 gallons of water to make one 8oz cup!)….it takes 1000 gallons of water to make one gallon of dairy milk (equates to about 60 gallons per glass), but only 1/2 gallon to make a glass of Ripple. Why? Peas require very little water to grow…and they leave a much smaller carbon footprint.
- Leftovers: Ok, this one I’m sort of making up except it definitely fits into the zero-waste lifestyle (I don’t want to say trend, because zero-waste is too important). Americans throw away over 70 BILLION pounds of food annually.
Rethinking leftovers as “prepped ingredients” is one way to help cut down on waste. Top today’s salad with last night’s roasted vegetables. Too little cereal for one last bowl…crush it and use in place of bread crumbs to “bread” chicken or fish. Find more zero food waste ideas here or here.
Even if cooking isn’t your favorite chore, or you tend to stick with your tried and true recipes, adding (or swapping) any of these ingredients will bust you out of a meal rut and give you a nutritional boost…without adding extra time to your routine.
*As with introducing any new foods to your diet, check with your medical adviser/dietitian if you have specific medical or health conditions.
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