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12 Ingredients you should use more often

Heather Barnett is a freelance writer and foodie whose work has been featured in blogs, websites, magazines, and TV and radio ads. She spends her free time relaxing with her soulmate, Keith; her dog, Mosby "The Fly Slayer;" and Felix th...

Get out of that food rut

Tired of buying the same old standbys for family dinners? Add these ingredients you should use more often to your grocery list this week.
1

Cotija cheese

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Cotija is a versatile Mexican cheese that packs enough flavor to keep you from needing too much. It has a salty flavor that's tasty atop your Mexican favorites but think outside the border with this one. It's delicious on veggies and in other cuisine, too.

2

Marinated artichokes

Marinated artichokes | Sheknows.com

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Keep these wunderkinds around to make a spinach and artichoke dip for unexpected guests. They can also be tossed in salads, used as French bread pizza toppings, tossed into an omelet with feta cheese that's topped with chopped green onions. Or just eat them straight out of the jar.

3

Herbs and spices

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Fresh or dry, herbs and spices can turn the ordinary extraordinary. But think creatively. Italian seasoning and garlic are great to have on hand but get some you've never tried before, too. Dill and a little black pepper stirred into your cottage cheese will give it extra zip. Add horseradish to your mayo or put a little tarragon, fennel seed or lemongrass on your grilled chicken. Make your own rubs and spice blends for meats, soups or even popcorn.

4

Artisan breads

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When shopping in the bread aisle, don’t forget about your store’s bakery section. A variety of baked goods are made fresh daily, giving you the chance to try something you think you can only get in restaurants. Crusty Tuscan breads are great for hearty sandwich ingredients (no more magically disintegrating bread!). Soft loaves are the perfect complement to a home-cooked meal of meat and veggies. They may even have less-expensive day-old deals or take-and-bake options to let you enjoy loaves fresh from your own oven.

5

Grits

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Grits are similar to polenta and just as versatile, but they're cheaper. This hominy-based porridge can even be purchased in instant versions to make cooking faster. In the South, it's most commonly served for breakfast made with milk or cream, butter and cheese, sometimes topped with egg and bacon or sausage. But it can also be served topped with meat and vegetables as a quick-and-easy dinner using last night's leftovers.

6

Tofu

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Just because you aren't a vegan doesn't mean you should skip tofu. When you start to think of it as its own ingredient instead of just a meat substitute for vegetarians, the sky's the limit. Tofu has no real flavor of its own, so it takes on the flavor of whatever ingredients you use with it. Use firm or extra-firm tofu for texture in your meals and silken tofu for shakes and desserts.

7

Chia or hemp seeds

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Chia and hemp seeds have loads of health benefits for your brain and heart. They're also mighty tasty in baked goods, shakes and smoothies or in a low-fat oil-based dressing for your salad.

8

Edamame

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Edamame are little green soybeans still in the shell. They're rich in lean protein and calcium in addition to healthy fats. Edamame makes a great snack by the handful and can be tossed into a quick stir-fry for dinner.

9

Raw coconut oil

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Coconut oil is great for cooking, but you can also use it for smoothies and to make homemade treats like granola or energy bars. Mix a tablespoon with a tablespoon of chia seeds for an all-natural, all-day energy booster. It has a higher smoke point than most vegetable oils, too. It also has healing and protective properties when not ingested, such as getting rid of cradle cap or healing sunburns.

10

Sauerkraut

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Sauerkraut is a slightly sour preparation of cabbage that makes it more digestible. It's also packed with good bacteria and antioxidants. Keep a jar on hand as a last-minute way to kick up your hot dogs or beef sandwich or whip it into a quick and mayo-free coleslaw with some grated carrot, olive oil, sugar and a bit of pepper.

11

Almond milk

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Almond milk is lower in fat than vitamin D milk and can be used as a substitute in almost all cooking. Even unsweetened almond milk has a slightly sweet flavor that people who dislike milk may prefer.

12

Sriracha sauce

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Sriracha sauce is a potent chili sauce you can use to give your meals a bit of zing and heat. It's great on eggs, in chilies and stews and on meats.

Although we think the nutrition labeling system is great, we were paid to mention Facts Up Front in this article.

Tip

Facts Up Front has created a label to make sure you're getting nutritional bang for your calorie buck. You can find it on the front of most packaged foods, outlining per-serving calories, fat, salt and more.

More on grocery shopping

Writing a shopping list that cuts your grocery bill
10 Reasons to shop at your local Asian grocer
How to shop for healthy foods at the grocery store

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