Secret Ingredients: 4 Foods Great For Grubbing

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We all have our tried-and-true kitchen staples. There are certain items we never leave the grocery store without: eggs, greens, family-size bag of Hint Of Lime Tostitos (what?). Little did you know there are hundreds of supermarket items that you've likely overlooked. Maybe you've never really delved into the International Foods section or discovered the wonder that lies in the canned-goods aisle. But, many of these "secret ingredients" could help you take your kitchen to the next level of culinary adventure (not to mention healthy cooking).
We chose four such wunderkinds that we think you're about to become hooked on. Each one is healthy, versatile, and easy to work with. Check out our picks and then let us know some of your favorite hidden gems.
Noodles
Shirataki Noodles
What they are:
A fiber-based noodle made from the root of the Amorphophallus Konjac plant (otherwise known as konjaku or “elephant yam”). Most brands sold in the U.S. also include a certain amount of tofu in the noodles, which provides a better texture and adds protein. These are the noodles you’ll likely find in your local market.
Why You Should Eat Them:
Aside from the aforementioned fiber and protein, these noodles have basically nothing else in them. There’s no starch, no fat, no gluten, and almost no calories. Additionally, shirataki noodles contain glucomannan, which can help lower cholesterol.
What You Can Make With Them:
Any pasta dish you can think of! Shirataki noodles take on the flavor of whatever you put on them. Plus, you can find them in several varieties of noodle shapes. Simply drain and rinse them, then cut into manageable pieces (for some reason these are sold in incredibly long noodles).
Pumpkin
Canned Pumpkin
What It Is:
The same stuff you stock up every November to make pumpkin pies.
Why You Should Eat It:
This ingredient is fiber-rich, contains powerful antioxidants, and is packed with vitamin C and A and potassium. Not to mention it’s one of the most flexible foods out there, and since it’s a canned good, it will last for ages. Just be sure you don’t buy canned pumpkin-pie mix!
What You Can Make With It:
The beauty of this healthy ingredient is in its plethora of uses, both sweet and savory. You can use this as an egg/oil substitute in baking, to thicken a pasta sauce, or as a complementary addition to a spicy recipe (put it in curry).
DandelionGreens
Dandelion Greens
What They Are:
Those giant weeds you normally find messing up your front yard — or rocking your green smoothie.
Why You Should Eat Them:
First, they’re as cheap a green as you can get (as well they should be for a pesky lawn weed). A few bucks will get you enough greens to last you an entire week, and thanks to their hearty nature, they will keep in the fridge without wilting. More importantly, these greens are one of the healthiest you can find. Rich in calcium, protein, minerals, and a wealth of antioxidants, these greens are basically nature’s own multivitamin.
What You Can Make With Them:
Dandelion greens have a wonderfully rich flavor and need very little to dress them up. Sautee them with garlic, use them as a salad base, or throw ‘em into your favorite juice or smoothie combo for a little healthy oomph.
Panko
Panko
What It Is:
The Japanese version of breadcrumbs used in frying and baking recipes. These airy flakes are lighter, grease-free, and stay crisp much longer. But there’s so much more to it than that…
Why You Should Try It:
You know all those amazing fried foods that no responsible adult eats without feeling like a cholesterol criminal? Panko helps solve that problem. Containing about half the calories (and additives) of traditional breadcrumbs, Panko also sticks well to foods without adding extra oil or egg. Whether you’re baking or frying, Panko is your friend.
What You Can Make With It:
Dredge chicken breasts in it, sprinkle on casseroles, or use as an addition to meatballs or burgers. Anywhere you’d use breadcrumbs, give Panko a shot.

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