Cooking has become my therapy.
I make simple dishes like omelets or twice-baked potatoes when I need to mull over something important. I cook a tedious recipe when I need to be distracted.
But cooking can get mundane if I don’t switch it up a bit and try new ingredients.
I’ve been playing around with some new-to-me food items and jazzing up my meals. These are my three favorite ingredients that I’ve recently discovered:
1. Golden raisins
I used golden raisins for the first time when I made honey-carrot-raisin muffins. I was initially pissed that I had to buy a new kind of raisin (I keep a box of regular raisins on hand for impromptu oatmeal-raisin cookie making), but there is a noticeable difference between the light and dark varieties of dried fruit. Golden raisins are more tart and tangy than the dark raisins and work well in many recipes:
- Waffles. Prepare mix according to the directions on the box. Throw in a mashed banana, a handful of chopped walnuts and a handful of golden raisins. Cook according to instructions.
- Peanut butter and banana sandwich. Toast your favorite type of bread (white, wheat, English muffin, sandwich thin, etc.). Spread a hearty scoop of peanut butter on one side. Top with sliced banana. Sprinkle with golden raisins.
- Trail mix. Mix golden raisins with walnuts, almonds, peanuts and chocolate chips.
2. Sesame oil. I’ve held up on buying sesame oil because I thought I would never use it. But it turns out that many Asian recipes call for this ingredient. I cooked this recipe for sesame chicken from Food Network Magazine as my inaugural run with sesame oil, and it was a success. The rich, pungent oil gave an authentic Asian flavor to the dish. If you prepare this recipe, however, be prepared to stand in front of the stove for a long time and be willing to wash a large stack of dishes.
3. Freshly ground mixed peppercorns. I bought a handy little pepper grinder a few weeks ago at Kroger for just $1.99 (a manager’s special). This has been the best two bucks I’ve spent in a while. Adding pepper seems very basic, but freshly ground pepper can make a dish sing with flavor. I use my pepper grinder on everything, including eggs, potatoes and broccoli. Unfortunately, the pepper in my cute shaker has sat on the stove unused for days. Sorry, little guy.