6 Everyday Ingredients That Make Meals More Exciting

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Tired of the same-old dinners? With just a few affordable ingredients from your neighborhood supermarket, you can turn any meal into a culinary adventure!

Not this again! It's a familiar yet dreaded lament at the dinner table. No one wants to waste food or time, which are both precious commodities. Let us help you make over your meals with everyday ingredients that can lend an exotic flare.

Trying new cuisines from around the world doesn't have to be complicated. After all, while these dishes might be new to you, it's the food that people in other countries eat every day, so it can't be time consuming or expensive.

Today we're sharing five not-so-exotic types of ingredients that can help turn even your usual fare into something different and delicious.

Herbs are one of the fastest ways to transform a dish. Fresh herbs seem like a luxury item, but they're affordable and versatile. Buy a bunch each week, store in a glass filled with water on the counter, and wash and chop a handful or two at mealtime. Three to keep on hand are cilantro, basil, and parsley. Basil's sweet taste is perfect in Italian and Thai dishes. Parsley adds a fresh finish to any meal. Cilantro's fresh, citrusy flavor brightens up any meal, so sprinkle it on Mexican, Thai and Indian dishes. (Watch this video to see one of our favorite ways to use it!)

Spices are herbs' BFF. While herbs are the flavorful leaves of plants, herbs are seeds, roots, bark or fruits of a plant. Like herbs, they add flavor and intensity without calories or fat. Curry powder is one of our favorites--and we believe it's underappreciated. (Try this Basmati Chicken Rice Pilaf, which uses a mild curry powder.) Not all curries are the same, as they are a blend of spices, including turmeric, cumin and coriander, which is the seed that grows into cilantro. Experiment with different varieties, and shop the bulk bins at your supermarket so you only have to buy a bit at a time.

Salty condiments: Salt adds flavor, but unfortunately sodium is something we should limit in a healthy diet. Rather than shaking on table salt, we prefer to choose salty condiments that do double duty and add depth or richness in addition to saltiness. Miso paste and soy sauce are two of our favorites. Add a spoonful of miso just before serving or a dash of soy sauce any meal for Asian flare and an extra layer of flavor. (This Beef and Broccoli Stir-Fry with Jasmine Rice is an easy, flavorful meal.)
Flavorful fats: Just as table salt is a one-hit wonder, so are most oils and fats. Fats add richness to a dish, but they are a dense, caloric food, so make every calorie count. To add Thai or Indian flare to any meal, stir in a spoonful of full-fat coconut milk. Not only will your dish have a tropical undertone, but it will also have incredible creaminess.

Acids: In food and in life, contrast makes things more interesting. A splash of vinegar livens up your salad. A squeeze of lime juice makes fish taste fresher. A wedge of orange highlights the spiciness of cinnamon. Citrus is a widely available (and cheap) way to add tang and contrast to any dish. In sweet or heavy dishes, use the juice and the zest to lighten things up and cut through the richness. (This
Cinnamon-Orange Basmati Rice Pudding
use both orange juice and zest.)
Rice: Beyond brown and white, there's a whole world of varieties on the supermarket shelves these days. To make your dinner a little more exciting, reach for jasmine or basmati rice. Basmati rice is a long-grain, fine-textured, aromatic rice that comes in brown and white varieties. A staple in Indian cuisine, it's perfect in savory or sweet dishes. Jasmine rice has a tender, sticky texture with a distinct aroma. It cooks quickly and is the perfect addition to your dinner table.
Get creative with ingredients you know and love already, and you'll soon feel like a world traveler in the kitchen--while still sticking to your healthy eating plan.

These recipes were provided by our sponsor, UNCLE BEN’S®.

Click here to to redeem your SparkPoints
  You will earn 5 SparkPoints
See more:


There is an error in the first sentence under Spices.
"Spices are herbs' BFF. While herbs are the flavorful leaves of plants, herbs are seeds, roots, bark or fruits of a plant. Like herbs.....

It would not be caught by a Spell checker, it needs to be read by a human. Report
I use sesame oil in stir fries, it adds an oriental touch. . My favourite spice with leftovers is smoked paprika. Report
Sesame oil for a flavorful fat! Just a little bit can add depth to stir fries, rice, soups or even roast veggies. Add garlic, sesame & ginger = life is good! :-)
If you want "exotic" rice, try some of the interesting colors. I've had purple and green rice, and though a bit pricier, both were delicious! Give them a try if you want to change things up. :) Report
I use Cajun Seasoning. It gives a great flavor without much salt. I don't cook much with herbs or spices. I prefer the "Holy Trinity + one" (onions, celery, bell pepper and garlic). Report
Thanks for sharing Report
Thanks... I needed tips to liven/change up meals. I am use to adding season salt ,pepper, garlic and onion on everything. Its is hard to know what to use and on what. I just stated putting rosemary in my chicken dishes. Thats a nice change. Report
They're not promoting Uncle Ben's. Uncle Ben's sponsored the article. This site is free because of advertising on the pages. Report
Make a savoury rice or quinoa dish. Sauté a chopped up onion, toss into a rice cooker with the rice or quinoa. replace water with a beef or chicken broth. For a bonus fry up a couple of slices of bacon, chop them up and toss them in too. Delicious. Report
Quinoa is a wonderful alternative to rice and it is packed with protein! I always opt for quinoa instead of rice, in any traditional rice dish I prepare. I even substitute it for the rice in stuffed peppers and the like. Just be sure to get it prewashed or be sure to wash it 2 to 3 times before preparing it. Otherwise it will have a bitter almost soapy taste to it. I NEVER have that problem with it when I buy it prewashed. It is easy to make. It is prepared just like rice would be. Report
Why are you promoting PROCESSED RICE? I will never eat Uncle Bens, it tastes awful! Report