5 Super Ingredients: Are You Missing Out?

Do you tend to stick with ingredients you know well when cooking? There’s often a tendency to avoid new recipes, however this can result in mealtimes becoming stagnant and lacking in variety.

Having recently got my hands on a couple of delightful cookbooks, I’ve been pouring over them ever since.

Just flicking through recipe books can give you tons of inspiration. If you don’t want to buy new cookbooks, why not borrow them from the library? Most library’s have a great selection of cuisine from all over the world that are sure to give you new ideas!

Here are a few of the charming ingredients I’ve re-discovered recently:

#1 Pears


Photo source

Pears actually have one of the highest fibre contents (around 4-5g) of all the fruits, they also contain a source of potassium and magnesium, have very few calories, and no fat.

If you have a food intolerance, pears are the least allergenic of all the fruits, and along with lamb and soy milk, they form part of the strictest exclusion diet for allergy sufferers. They also make an ideal first food for babies.

Kitchen uses:

Pears can be eaten fresh, canned, as juice, and also dried. They can also be used in a main course meals, such as served with pork or chicken, or try adding along with other vegetables for roasting.

Roasted Pear and Squash Soup with Croutons

Servings: 6


  • 2 pounds delicata squash or butternut squash, cut in half lengthwise and seeded
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 firm but ripe Anjou or Bartlett pears, cut in half lengthwise and cored
  • 4 cups canned low-sodium chicken broth
  • ½ cup heavy whipping cream
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

Parmesan Croûtons:

  • 2 cups ½-inch cubes of French or rustic white bread, crusts removed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese


  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Brush the flesh of the squash and pears with olive oil and place, cut side down, on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast until tender when pierced with a fork, about 30 to 35 minutes.
  2. Use a spoon to scrape out the flesh of the squash and pears, and put in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Discard the skins. Puree until smooth.
  3. Add 1 to 2 cups of the chicken broth and continue processing until smooth. Put this mixture in a 3 ½-to 4-quart saucepan, add the remaining chicken broth, the cream, nutmeg, and sugar. Bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  4. To make the croûtons – place the bread cubes in a large mixing bowl. Drizzle the olive oil over, add the Parmesan, and toss the bread cubes until thoroughly coated. Spread in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until toasty brown, about 10 to 12 minutes. Set aside until ready to serve.
  5. When ready to serve, ladle the soup into individual soup bowls, garnish with the croûtons, and serve immediately.

Recipe source

#2 Buckwheat

Buckwheat isn’t actually a true cereal being one of the very few plants, used for their starchy seed, which is processed as a meal or flour. It can be used in similar ways to bulgur wheat, or wheat flour, although it is unsuitable for making bread.

It is a good source of protein, and the B vitamins thiamin and niacin, as well as magnesium, manganese, and iron. It is gluten free, and has a low glycemic index. It’s also contains flavonoids, which helps protect the body against disease.

Kitchen uses:

Buckwheat can be eaten as a cooked grain as an alternative to rice, as porridge, baked into pancakes, or try out the recipe below.

Poppy Seed and Walnut Bread

Servings: 4 small, or 2 large loaves


  • 1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/4 cups whole buckwheat flour
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1-1/2 cups vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1-1/2 cups milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 jar (10 oz.) prepared poppy seed filling
  • 2 cups finely chopped apples
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts


  1. Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F). Sift first five ingredients into large mixing bowl. Beat in oil, eggs, milk and vanilla. Stir in poppy seed filling, apples and walnuts.
  2. Divide batter evenly among 4 mini loaf pans, or 2 large pans (5- x 9-inch).
  3. Bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean (small pans, about 35 minutes; large, about 50 minutes).
  4. Cool in pans about 5 minutes, then remove. Delicious warm or at room temperature.

Recipe source

#3 Cannelline Beans

Cannelline beans are sometimes referred to as white kidney beans, and are also related to navy and great northern beans. Like other legumes they are high in fibre, vitamin B1, and low in fat. They are also a good source of magnesium, iron, and folate.

The carbohydrate in cannelline beans is slow releasing, and therefore they have a low glycemic index, which is great for keeping you feeling fuller for longer.

Kitchen uses:

Their high-quality protein content makes them a perfect substitute for meat. Use them in soups, salads, curries, and in place of other beans in recipes.

Cannellini Beans with Wilted Greens

Servings: 8


  • 1/4 cups dried cannellini beans, picked over and rinsed, soaked overnight and drained, or use canned beans
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 4 cloves garlic, 1 left whole and 3 minced
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 2 anchovy fillets, rinsed and finely chopped (optional)
  • 1 head escarole, about 1/2 pound, stemmed and leaves coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese


  1. In a large saucepan over high heat, combine the beans, water, bay leaf, oregano and whole garlic clove. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover partially and simmer until the beans are tender, 60 to 75 minutes. Drain and discard the bay leaf and garlic.
  2. In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and saute until soft and lightly golden, about 6 minutes. Add the tomatoes, minced garlic and anchovies, if using.
  3. Saute until the tomatoes are softened, about 4 minutes. Stir in the escarole and cooked beans and cook until the greens are wilted and the beans are heated through, about 3 minutes. Season with the salt and pepper and sprinkle with the Parmesan. Serve immediately.

Recipe source

#4 Choy Sum

Choy sum

Photo source

Like other Asian greens, choy sum (also called the Chinese flowering cabbage) is rich in beta-carotene, fibre, vitamin C and folate, as well as being an important source of calcium and iron.

Asian greens also have a lower level of oxalic acid (a compound that interferes with mineral absorption), and therefore the iron and calcium in Asian greens is more readily absorbed than from more traditional Western leafy greens, such as spinach and silver beet.

Kitchen ideas:

In recipes choy sum can be substituted for common broccoli stems. The flowering shoots and younger leaves may also be used in salads, or stir-fried, lightly boiled or steamed and added to tofu, or meat.

Stir Fried Choy Sum

Servings: 6 as part of a meal


  • 2 tablespoon peanut or sunflower oil
  • 500-600g choy sum, trimmed, washed and cut into two
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil


  • 1 teaspoon corn flour
  • 3 tablespoon water
  • 2 tablespoon oyster sauce
  • 2 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon caster sugar


  1. Heat the oil in a wok over a moderate-high heat. Add the garlic and choy sum and stir until it is just wilted.
  2. Mix all the sauce ingredients together in a container. Stir the sauce in with the choy sum. Cook for 1-2 minutes stirring as sauce thickens. Add the sesame oil and toss so that it coats the choy sum.
  3. To serve remove the choy sum from the wok and lay it out on serving dish. Drizzle the remaining sauce over the choy sum. Serve with steamed rice and accompanying dishes.

Recipe source

#5 Avocado

Avocado is a very unusual fruit, with around 23% fat content, however this is largely of the healthy monounsaturated kind. They are rich in B vitamins, vitamin E, vitamin C, and potassium (actually containing 60% more than bananas), they are also a good source of protein.

Contrary to what was previously believed, avocados contain no cholesterol. Research actually shows that a diet rich in avocados is quite effective in lowering blood cholesterol – more effective, in fact, than a standard low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet.

Kitchen uses:

Avocados make an excellent substitute for meats in sandwiches and salads, they can also be used as a filling for several kinds of sushi, served with chicken, spread on toast. In Brazil and Vietnam they are frequently used for milkshakes, and occasionally added to ice cream and other desserts.

Quesadillas with Spinach and Goats’ Cheese

Servings: 4


  • 250g/8¾oz spinach leaves
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 250g/8¾oz fresh young goats’ cheese
  • 8 flour tortillas
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 small lime, juice only
  • 2 tablespoon fresh coriander leaves, roughly chopped


  1. Cook the spinach very quickly in simmering, salted water until wilted. Drain well and squeeze dry.
  2. Thinly slice the goats’ cheese.
  3. Place a flour tortilla in a dry, non-stick frying pan and scatter with one quarter of the goats’ cheese. Then add one quarter of the wilted spinach, and season to taste.
  4. Place another tortilla on top to form a sandwich. Cook over a medium heat until lightly browned.
  5. Turn once and cook the other side until the tortilla is lightly browned and the cheese has melted. Repeat with the remaining tortillas, goats’ cheese and spinach.
  6. Meanwhile, peel, stone and roughly chop the avocado. Toss with the lime juice, coriander, sea salt and pepper.
  7. Serve the quesadillas on a plate cut in half or quarters with the avocado.

Recipe source

What are your favourite super ingredients?

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About Melanie
Melanie is a Registered Dietitian who started Dietriffic in March 2007. Her aim is to make good health attainable and sustainable, without guilt and torture, making her approach popular with those who desire a level-headed approach to good health. Have you got your copy of her free book yet?

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Tom March 12, 2008 at 1:20 pm

Thanks for the recipes. I am always looking for something new. Right now I’m really enjoying different soups, so i’m glad you posted the pear and squash soup. The stir fried choy sum also looks great, I’ll have to give it a try.


Family Nutritionist March 13, 2008 at 12:43 am

Not all traditional Western greens are related to spinach and chard/silverbeet. Some close relatives to Choy Sum are collards, kale, mustard greens, turnip greens, and broccoli raab (rapini) .

The young leaves can indeed be sauteed in a minute or 2. The “medium” leaves usually found in the grocery store can be cut into ribbons and cooked for 10 minutes. Really mature leaves may need 15 or 20 minutes to get tender.

Kale can have a sweet flavor. Collards are sometimes a bit bitter. Young mustard greens have a really bright snappy mustard flavor, but lose it if you cook them too much. The same goes for turnip greens and their snappy horseradish flavor.

I like to cook them with onions, a little bit of smoke seasoning (or even some smoked turkey, ham, or bacon), and finish with a bit of vinegar (a Southern classic dish) or lime (as they do in the Caribbean).


Melanie March 13, 2008 at 10:26 pm

Hi Tom,

Yeah, I thought the recipe sounded interesting too, I wouldn’t have thought of putting pear and squash together!! I hope they go well for you.

Hi Family nutritionist,

These are food I do need to include more in my diet, thanks for your suggestions. I love the idea of greens with onions and a dash of lime, sounds delicious.


Family Nutritionist March 14, 2008 at 4:11 am

A big pot of greens is a traditional food in the Southern US and in the Caribbean. I just read an article (http://whatscookingamerica.net/Vegetables/CollardGreens.htm) that seems to imply that this comes from the intersection of African and Lowland Scots culinary traditions during slavery times in North America. Vinegar, lemon, or lime can substitute for salt. You can also slice the greens into ribbons, and add them to soup or a plate of fettucini. I’ve even heard of people adding mild-flavored cool-weather collards to fruit smoothies (Can you imagine the color?). My sister married a Southerner, and now puts collards in Lasagna!

From a nutrient count, collards and kale seem to be even better than broccoli. They taste good, can be prepared quickly, and are fairly inexpensive here in the US Midatlantic region. Maybe some of their Asian relatives are more common where you live.


Melanie March 15, 2008 at 10:26 pm

Family Nutritionist,

Thanks again for your comments.

BTW check out FN’s latest post Greens – An Introduction for more great info on this often forgotten group of veg!


Rebecca March 18, 2008 at 1:34 pm

Pears! we sort of fell into a very cool dessert using pears the other day!


Melanie March 21, 2008 at 7:41 am

Hi Rebecca,

I checked out your pear dessert, it sounds absolutely delicious!


Jaanus147 April 3, 2008 at 6:35 pm

It sounds good, I love the simplicity. Your posts are easy as a pie and really attractive at the same time.


Melanie April 11, 2008 at 3:56 pm

Hi Jaanus,

Thanks for commenting, glad you enjoy my posting!


Ellen July 24, 2011 at 3:15 am

There’s a terrific amount of knowledge in this acrtile!


Melanie July 27, 2011 at 10:25 am

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