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Everyday inspiration: Cook with a new ingredient

Elaina is a Phoenix-based freelance writer, blogger and co-founder of the Kidlee baby book app. Check out her blog, Fun Finds For Mom, for product reviews, recipes and fun activities for moms and kids.

Spice it up

Tired of cooking the same dishes day after day? Kick things up a notch by trying a new ingredient or recipe.

Fruit and feta salad | Sheknows.com

Challenge: cook with a new ingredient

Why? Spice things up by adding a new ingredient to your cooking repertoire. Stepping out of your comfort zone in the kitchen is a simple way to open your mind (and mouth) to new possibilities.

Cream cheese spinach dip | Sheknows.com

Margaret: Out of all the challenges so far, this was a tough one for me. My husband does about 95 percent of the cooking in my house, and the little that I do is for my daughter who isn't the most adventurous eater. So after combing through Pinterest I came across a recipe for spinach and cheese dip that required cooking with cream cheese. I've never cooked with that before and it was challenging to say the least (that stuff is thick to mix with by hand), but in the end the dip was amazing. Even my daughter ate it. #Winning

Katie feta cheese | Sheknows.com

Katie: I don't do much cooking, so cooking with a new ingredient is both hard because I need to cook, and easy because there are so many new ingredients. This challenge made me turn to Pinterest, where I searched for the perfect potluck dinner party recipe. I chose a watermelon, blueberry, arugula and feta salad that appeared in many variations across the web, but was simple to customize. Although I use many herbs in cooking, I had never cooked with mint before and thought that it added a freshness to the sweet watermelon and salty feta that was perfect for a dewy spring day. Considering that it was all gone at the end of the party, I think it was a success.

Roaen: This past week, I noticed I had all (or nearly all) the ingredients for chicken cacciatore. I had seen the recipe online before, but couldn't recall ever making it. After searching for the recipe, I found one that called for pan-frying a flour-coated chicken and sautéing the vegetables separately, then braising. It looked delicious. So after work, I laid out everything and began cutting things to their proper sizes. As I reached the last step, I put my ingredient-filled cast iron pot in the 375-degree preheated oven. Not two minutes later, my husband and the kids came home. It was 6:30 p.m., and I didn't have the required 45 minutes the recipe called for — at least not if I wanted the kids to sleep at a decent hour. I immediately took the pot out, let it simmer on the stove top for the next 10 minutes, then served dinner. I remembered why I keep my recipes simple. I'm always out of time.

Deborah: One of the best desserts, if not my favorite in the world, is tiramisu. I love absolutely everything about it. In fact, I love it so much that I've even learned to make it myself and it is delicious. My preference is traditional tiramisu but occasionally, I like to switch it up and add variety like chocolate tiramisu or try something entirely new. For instance, swapping the 1/4 cup of strongly brewed coffee for 1/2 cup of Starbucks Discoveries Caramel Machhiato. It changes up the flavor just enough to make it interesting without changing the integrity of the dessert itself. It's awesome.

Our Everyday Inspiration series wants to inspire you with small ways to improve your life. We've asked 20 women to take on a variety of small challenges and share their results. See all of our Everyday Inspiration challenges here, and meet the women here.

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