Once you steer your cart out of the international foods aisle and into the grains, pasta and bread aisles, look for a couple substitutes:
- Couscous: if you usually buy rice, try buying couscous this week. Extremely quick-cooking, couscous is a North African staple that makes a perfect bed for many a stew. Also check out Israeli couscous, which are a bit larger in size and work perfectly with thicker meat stews.
- Lentils: If your family loves beans, lentils are a great way to change things up a little. This healthy legume is perfect for soups, warm salads or side dishes. Make a big batch of lentils on Sunday and use throughout the week, spicing as you go.
- Pita: Instead of your usual loaf of bread, try buying a package of pita, which come both white and whole wheat. Pita is soft and chewy and makes for a great sandwich vehicle, as well as a soup or stew dipper. Even better, cut pitas into small triangles, toss in olive oil, salt, pepper and cumin and toast for healthy baked chips. Try dipping in a Greek yogurt dip.
- Instead of stocking up on spaghetti this week, try some of the various Asian noodles that are available. From udon to ramen to soba to vermicelli to pad thai-style rice noodles, these are all great alternatives to pasta. Try making Asian-style chicken noodle soup with buckwheat soba noodles; or instead of a spaghetti and shrimp dish, try making pad thai with shrimp and peanuts.
Move on to your proteins aisle. Now, it is very easy to fall into a chicken breast, ground beef and salmon routine, but this week, step outside your comfort zone without straying too far:
- Ground lamb: Who doesn’t love meatballs? If you love to make beef or turkey meatballs for your family, whether with pasta or on a sandwich, try using lamb instead this week. Lamb is a bit gamier, but a classic in Middle Eastern cuisine. With just a touch of cumin, coriander and cinnamon, your meatball takes on a whole new meaning. Serve with couscous, top with a little crumbled feta cheese and chopped mint.
- Whole chicken: A roast chicken makes for such a simple, elegant dinner, not to mention great sandwich leftovers. Instead of the classic roast with lemons and herbs, try roasting the bird with salty, juicy olives and plump, sweet dried fruit for a Mediterranean twist.
- Tuna: Instead of salmon, try tuna this week. Marinate with a little soy sauce, hoisin and cilantro or scallions and toss on the grill for just a few minutes per side. Buy sustainable, sushi-grade tuna and you can cook this fish rare if you’d like. Serve alongside some sautéed bok choy and seasoned rice, and you have an elevated fish dinner with an Asian flare.