You know how it is: You start a new diet, get the urge to try a new recipe, or just make a commitment to eating more healthy, and with that, you usually have to purchase new food items. You take a trip to the grocery store or health food store and you buy these new-to-you ingredients that you may have never tried or even heard of before, and after your diet or your new recipe has passed, they sit in the pantry or fridge and collect dust, never to be used again. Two years later, in a cleaning frenzy, you throw out the interesting health food item and shake your head that you wasted your money. I've been there, and it stinks. While I love being adventurous and trying new things, I also hate wasting money and food. So when I got Gwyneth's new cookbook and saw that I would have to buy a whole slew of new ingredients, I was a bit hesitant, but wanted to give it a try. While I've wasted my money on a few items, that I know I'll never use again (gluten free breadcrumbs!), there have been several items that have now become staples in our home, and I'll use for years to come. Here's five of them.
1. Raw Honey
While I've been a fan of local, organic honey for a few years now, I had never ever considered trying raw honey. It's expensive, but so, so good, and is so thick and rich you can actually scoop it out with a spoon. I use it in my tea now, but Gwyneth had me buy it for several of her recipes, including as a simple syrup base instead of granulated sugar. The simple syrup is used in her collection of agua frescas, and she also uses it in several of her baking recipes. I bought this jar just 3 weeks ago and it's almost gone!
Gwyneth uses the vegan mayo substitute all throughout her book, as the base for homemade salad dressings, as a liquid coating for fish sticks, and spread on plain toast. I use it almost every day for a favorite snack now, which is toasted sprouted grain bread, with a layer of Vegenaise and sliced avocado. I expected the taste to be awful, but it's downright good and hard to tell the difference between the real, dairy stuff. You can get it at the grocery store too, and is always kept in the refrigerated section.
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So I've actually been buying and cooking with quinoa for a couple of years now, but I've never stepped outside the box of using it as more than an actual side dish replacement for rice. Now I use it all the time, at least 3 times a week, even at breakfast time! Gwyneth has a trick up her sleeve that will definitely yield the perfect batch of quinoa, which is to place a paper towel between the lid and pot after cooking, letting it set for a few minutes -- making it so light and fluffy, even your husband will notice. I pretty much always have a cooked batch on-hand now, and eat it with sauteed spinach and a fried egg, or even warmed with almond milk and topped with a bit of maple syrup and fresh fruit, for a warm oatmeal substitute.
4. Quinoa Flakes
At $6 a box, I was skeptical to buy this item, but it really does make some fantastic homemade granola, and uses almost the entire box so there's minimal waste. You can also eat it as a hot cereal for breakfast, making it a great alternative to those allergic to oats but who like a warm breakfast cereal. I've even tried it mixed in with some warmed baby puree, and fed it to my 10 month old! I've already ended up buying 2 boxes of the stuff, and here I thought it would just sit there.
5. Real Maple Syrup
At about $13 a jug, it's hard to swallow spending so much on syrup when you know you can buy the fake stuff for just $3-$4 a jug. But real maple syrup is all natural, truly tastes better, it's super sweet so you only have to use a fraction of what you normally would use of the fake stuff, and it's easier to digest and absorb. And it turns out, you can make a ton of stuff with maple syrup, so you don't just have to use it for your pancakes! You can dab it on bacon and bake, making a jerky type of snack; use it as a sugar substitute in baking; use it to make homemade granola; and top it on some warmed quinoa for a filling breakfast treat. You'll get your money's worth here indeed.
-By Andrea Howe
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