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Cooking Outside the Box: Embrace Creativity in the Kitchen

Person stirring food in a pot on the stove.

Do you have a few favorite recipes that seem to pop up on your family’s menu often? Starting with these recipes is the perfect way to embrace your creativity in the kitchen and try something new. Sometimes starting with a comfortable food makes it easier to add new flavors or food groups. Check out some of these tips for taking a familiar food and switching it up!

  • Start with a recipe you may know well, like macaroni and cheese. What are the textures, tastes, and smells you associate with it? Once you have identified the flavors and textures, think about ingredients at home that could taste good with the meal. 
  • What can you add that affects the texture of macaroni and cheese? Consider breadcrumbs (to make a crumb follow the recipe below.), crispy bacon pieces, or minced vegetables like carrots, celery, bell peppers, butternut squash, and broccoli. 
  • What can you add that affects the taste of macaroni and cheese? Try different cheeses for a savory spin such as smoked gouda, blue cheese, or Swiss cheese. Add different seasonings and spices! If you like a little kick, add hot sauce or jalapeños. For a spice that is milder you can add garlic, Italian seasoning, or dill. You can also add protein like lean ground pork, chicken, or even cottage cheese. 
  • What can you add to increase the amount of food groups used in the meal? Think of the five food groups: vegetables, fruit, dairy, protein, and whole grains. Can you add one of those groups to your dish? Try draining your pasta over chopped spinach in the strainer to quickly cook the greens; throw some crushed nuts like almonds on top; substitute a scoop of cottage cheese with shredded mozzarella; or toss in a quarter cup of canned chickpeas.  

Looking for a quick way to add some crunch to the top of a casserole or macaroni and cheese? Check out the steps below to whip up a batch of homemade breadcrumbs. 

With a food processor:

  1. Cut stale bread into pieces.
  2. Add to a food processor and pulse until the stale bread is crumbled.

Without a food processor: 

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. 
  2. Cut stale bread into pieces and add to a baking sheet.
  3. Bake for about 15-25 minutes (bread that is thicker may need to bake longer). Check every so often to make sure it doesn’t burn. 
  4. Remove baking sheet from the oven and let cool.
  5. Once cooled, add to a large sandwich bag. (Make sure the bag is sealed.)
  6. Using a rolling pin or glass bottle, crush the toasted bread by rolling over the bag, until the bread becomes crumbly. 

Adding new foods to your usual recipes is a great way to try new flavors and textures in a comfortable way. Plus, new ingredients can add more variety and nutrients to your meals. Next time you're in the kitchen, get curious with your ingredients and see if a new addition to your recipe might become a new favorite!

January 8, 2024
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