Expand Your Palate: Explore New Foods!

If your menu seems to always have the same rotating list of meal options, maybe it’s time to expand your palate. But how? Here are some more unusual foods that maybe haven’t made it to your grocery list yet and some suggestions on how to prepare them.

Quinoa – Quinoa is a seed although it is often referred to as a grain. It was first cultivated in the harsh conditions of the Andes Mountains where it remains a staple of Peruvian and Bolivian cuisine. Quinoa is a nutritional powerhouse, packing high-quality plant protein, B vitamins, essential minerals and antioxidants like vitamin E that combat “free radicals” or the environmental and dietary pollutants that cause cell damage. Add a handful or two of rinsed quinoa to brothy soups in the last 20 minutes of cooking to add nutty texture.  Quinoa also makes a hearty and delicious breakfast cereal when cooked in coconut milk and topped with dried fruit and other seeds, like chia, hemp and sesame. Try it in this Bolivian Quinoa Stew or Quinoa, Squash and Cheddar Casserole.

Pomegranates – Pomegranates are a very good source of potassium and vitamins C and K. They also provide dietary fiber, folate and polyphenols (an antioxidant). Seeding a pomegranate is fun. One easy method is to cut off the crown, then cut the fruit into sections. Place the sections in a bowl of water, then roll out the juice sacs with your fingers. (The juice stains, so you may want to don an apron in case some of the seeds burst.) The glistening red arils—hundreds of them—are ready for eating. Leave the white, bitter membrane behind and enjoy the seeds as is, or use them to add color, texture and flavor to appetizers, beverages, breakfasts and entrees.  Add pomegranate to your menu by making this Quinoa Salad with Oranges, Beets & Pomegranate.

Persimmons – Persimmons are an excellent source of fiber. They’re rich in B complex vitamins and vitamins A and C. They also contain phytochemicals and healthy amounts of potassium, manganese, copper and phosphorus. When shopping for persimmons, though, you’re more likely to come across one of two kinds of Asian persimmons (Diospyros kaki). One of these categories is called “sweet” or “non-astringent” persimmon, and the other is called “astringent” persimmon—a bit of a misnomer, because once fully ripe, it, too, is deliciously sweet. Take this fruit for a spin in this Persimmon Salsa or this Roasted Persimmons with Mushrooms and Kale dish.

Kimchi – A pungent, flavorful and spicy fermented cabbage blend, kimchi can be used as a condiment or served as a side dish. Fermented and pickled foods are loved for their tangy flavors, as well as their health benefits. Make your own Spicy Kimchi or buy some ready made and add it to this Kimchi Brussels Sprouts side dish.

Chard – Chard is in the same vegetable family as beets—which explains the lovely color—and spinach, too. Rich in dietary fiber, chard is also very high in vitamins A and K. It’s also a good source of vitamins C and E as well as magnesium, manganese, potassium and iron. It provides some calcium, phosphorus and B vitamins. Looking to boost your antioxidants? Chard contains more than a dozen. Ready to add chard to your shopping list? Give it a go in Sweet Potato and Greens Gratin or Penne with Braised Squash & Greens.

Tempeh – This vegetarian meat substitute is made from soybeans, but is different from tofu because it is fermented. Tempeh has a mildly nutty flavor, which makes it an excellent candidate for being marinated. It is a good source of iron (at 12% RDI) and delivers a decent amount of protein at about 15 grams per 3-ounce serving. Try tempeh in these Tempeh Fajitas with Avocado or spice it up in this Jerk-Style Tempeh Stew.