Are you on autopilot when you grocery shop, habitually filling your cart with the same foods week after week? Sure, there is a comfortable security in doing it that way, knowing you and your family will like what you bring home, and it is an efficient way to get in and out of the store. But admit it: It’s also borrrring.
For an exhilarating change, break away from the foods you have been so loyally married to and have a spring fling with something different. You don’t need to go all-out exotic or even out of your way. There are exciting options right in your grocery store that you probably are overlooking as you make a beeline for the usual bag of baby carrots or box of brown rice. They have a similar appeal to foods you already enjoy but are just different enough to liven things up without forcing you too far out of your comfort zone. It’s a low-risk proposition, so in the seasonal spirit of new beginnings, why not give one, two or a few of these swaps a whirl? Chances are you will find them deliciously inspiring. And luckily, adoring them doesn’t mean you have to abandon your old favorites. When it comes to food, you can have many loves.
If you like baby carrots, try snap peas
They have the same sweet, crunchy, kid-friendly dip-ability and are equally great on the go. Served raw, they are a fine accompaniment for a sandwich, on a plate or in a lunch box, and they are lovely lightly steamed or sauteed, seasoned with salt and pepper and served as a side at dinnertime.
If you like salmon, try Arctic char
It is in the same family as salmon and, like its more popular cousin, is rich in healthful omega-3 fat, is light pink in color and is cooked the same way. But Arctic char has a somewhat more delicate texture and milder flavor, and gives a meal a certain elegance. Also, the Monterrey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch gives it high marks for sustainability.
If you like spinach, try Swiss chard
Swiss chard is nutrient-packed, tender and mild tasting and sautes up just like fresh spinach, with one main difference: When using chard, remove the vibrantly colored stems first, chop and saute them for a few minutes before you add the leaves to the pan. If you can get rainbow chard — with white, yellow and red stems — you are in for a colorful as well as tasty treat.
If you like celery , try fennel
Fennel bulbs have a fresh crunch like celery so fennel is ideal for dipping and for tossing into salads. Like celery, it can also be cooked with onion and carrot as a start for a stew or soup. But fennel has a distinctive, light anise flavor that adds a refreshingly different taste twist.
If you like oatmeal , try quinoa
Most people think of quinoa as a side dish, but it also makes for a delightful breakfast cereal. Fix it just like you would your regular hot cereal, topped with some fruit, nuts and a drizzle of maple syrup or honey.
If you like whole wheat sandwich bread, try whole wheat pita pockets
Instead of your usual sliced bread, pick up some pita pockets. They give an entirely new vibe to your sandwich, and are easily stuffed with lots of vegetables, so they inspire adding, say, sliced cucumber, radishes or carrot to the usual lettuce and tomato.
If you like broccoli, try broccolini
Broccolini, often called “baby broccoli,” is a hybrid of regular broccoli and Chinese broccoli. It has long, thin, tender stalks, small florets and a delicate flavor with a gentle peppery note. It gives an air of sophistication to a meal with no more effort than it takes to cook regular broccoli.
If you like raisins, try dried cherries
For a sweet-tart fruit twist, you can’t beat dried cherries. They are mouthwatering as a snack on their own or with nuts, terrific in granola or on cereal, and add a burst of chewy flavor to salads. They are also packed with anti-inflammatory antioxidants.
If you like yogurt, try kefir
Just like yogurt, kefir is a cultured milk product that has a pleasant tartness and plenty of probiotics, and is sold in plain and flavored varieties. But because kefir is more liquid-y than yogurt it is usually sold as a drink, so it doesn’t even require a spoon to enjoy this refreshing change of pace.
If you like brown rice, try black rice
Black rice, also called forbidden rice, has a real allure thanks to its enticing purple-black color and nutty flavor. Its inky pigment is also an indication of its wealth of antioxidants. While it has a mysterious appeal, cooking it is as simple as cooking regular brown rice, and it can be used in the same dishes.
If you like onions , try shallots
Shallots have a gentler flavor than regular onions and they have a hint of garlic, adding a unique essence to foods. The difference is especially noticeable in dishes with more subtle flavors like salads, egg dishes and vegetable soups. For those, it is well worth the extra dollar or two you will spend for a pound of them.