Hosted by Monica H
Group active since Thu, Aug 25, 2011

A place to discuss the use of ingredients that are new to you, or of a different cuisine that you aren't familiar with, or just interesting ones that you have heard of and can't wait to experiment with...

Constantly, I find myself buying the strangest ingredients...just to try them. From exotic fruits and vegetables, to various spices and rices and sauces, all of which I get really excited over trying out. This is a place where we can all share our stories, give and get suggestions and share our passion for the uncommon and the "unknown"!

Danielle White
Feb 19, 2012

Fig Newton Cookies

I was given three 1lb bags of 'fig pieces' and I would like to find a recipe that is as close as possible to real Fig Newtons.
Does anyone have one they would be willing to share? My husband and kids would love it (so would I) Thanks

Linda Mitchell
Feb 11, 2012

Ginger Sea Bass

New recipe a friend gave me so delish, healthy, and EASY. Let me know
what you all think. Spring is right around the corner and altough, i like it all i need a little balance therefore, i incorporate, healthy recipes also.

Monica H
Feb 5, 2012

SUMAC .. the "zippy" spice

Found a great post about the spice SUMAC, from Alton Brown's website. It is a tart, sharp spice that apparently adds a great "zip" to dishes. I'm excited about it and hope to soon try it!


Monica H
Jan 16, 2012

GINGER... not just for Asian dishes!

Do you use ginger? It seems to me to not be a common, widely used ingredient. Personally, I love to grate it into marinades, but I really haven't ventured to do other things with it.

Here's a great article which provides a nice reminder of using ginger in other ways... and gives a link to a recipe for a Ginger Lemon Drop Spritzer, which sounds delish!


Monica H
Dec 22, 2011

Christmas Cuisine and Traditions - All Around the World

Think about the traditions of your holiday table... there are probably dishes that you wouldn't dream of leaving out for the holidays, right?! Our Polish Christmas wouldn't be the same without pierogi, white zurek sour soup, mushroom sauce, kasza with plums, and kolaczki cookies for desert.

What are the traditions of your table? This year I am adding new dishes as surprises for my family which include things like Pad Thai and Irish "chips" with malt vinegar and curry! They will be surprised (and pleased, I hope!)

Here is a great link to explore holiday cuisine traditions of different countries all over the world.

Here's a sampling of the info I found using the links at the bottom of this post:


Möndlugrautur - a Christmas rice pudding with an almond hidden inside (the same as the Swedish Julgröt)
Caramelised potatoes, Icelandic. Brúnaðar kartöflur (same as in Danish cuisine).
Pickled red cabbage

United Kingdom:

Sausages are essential accompaniments for a roast turkey dinner. Wrap chipolatas or fresh, breakfast-style link sausages, in streaky bacon (Brit-speak for American bacon), place on a baking sheet and cook in a 375-degree oven until golden, about 30 minutes. — Johnny Acton, Nick Sandler, "Duchy Originals Cookbook."

Denmark: æbleskiver - traditional Danish spherical pancakes (a type of doughnut with no hole), sprinkled with powdered sugar and served with raspberry or strawberry jam
andesteg - roast duck with apple and prune stuffing


Thirteen desserts representing Jesus and the 12 disciples are a holiday tradition in Provence. The first four desserts represent monastic orders that rely on charity: Raisins (Dominicans), dried figs (Franciscans), almonds (Carmelites) and hazelnuts (Augustinians). These are followed by walnuts and another dried fruit, usually dates or prunes. Candied fruits or guava paste figure next, followed by seasonal fruits: Apples and pears, then either melons, grapes or oranges. Toward the end, there's nougat and calisson, a French candy. The 13th dessert is the pompe de Noel or pompe a l'huile, a sweetened bread flavored with orange or lemon zest. — "Culinaria France."


hallaca - rectangle-shaped meal made of maize, filled with beef, pork, olives, raisins and caper, and wrapped in plantain leaves
pan de jamón - ham-filled bread with olives and raisins
dulce de lechosa - dessert made of cooked sliced unripe papaya in sugar syrup
ensalada de gallina - salad made of potato, carrot, apple and shredded chicken


After 40 days of fasting, the Christmas feast is looked forward to with great anticipation by adults and children alike. Pigs are slaughtered and on almost every table are loaves of christopsomo or "Christ Bread". This bread is made in large sweet loaves of various shapes and the crusts are engraved and decorated in some way that reflects the family's profession.

Dominican Republic:

Moro de guandules con coco - rice with pigeon peas and coconut milk
Cheese and guava platter - a platter with squared white cheese, yellow potato cheese, soda crackers, and guava paste chunks
majarete - corn pudding made with coconut milk, fresh corn, cornstarch, milk, water, vanilla, cinnamon and sugar


In the Christian homes an unusual ceremony is held in the courtyard of the home on Christmas Eve. One of the children in the family reads the story of the Nativity from an Arabic Bible. The other members of the family hold lighted candles, and as soon as the story has been read a bonfire is lit in one corner of the courtyard. The fire is made of dried thorns and the future of the house for the coming year depends upon the way the fire burns. If the thorns burn to ashes, the family will have good fortune. While the fire is burning, a psalm is sung. When the fire is reduced to ashes, everyone jumps over the ashes three times and makes a wish.

On Christmas day a similar bonfire is built in the church. While the fire burns the men of the congregation chant a hymn. Then there is a procession in which the officials of the church march behind the bishop, who carries an image of the infant Jesus upon a scarlet cushion. The long Christmas service always ends with the blessing of the people. The bishop reaches forth and touches a member of the congregation with his hand, putting his blessing upon him. That person touches the one next him, and so on, until all have received "the Touch of Peace."


On Christmas Eve the Christians would attend a midnight Mass. After Church people would return to their homes for the most important meal the Christmas supper. The dinner usually consisted of chicken soup, and wealthier people ate turkey and Christmas Pudding.


They have a Buddhist monk called Hotei-osho who acts like Santa Claus. He brings presents to each house and leaves them for the children. Some think he has eyes in the back of his head, so children try to behave like he is nearby.

Among the Christian Japanese Christmas is not a day for the family. They do not have turkey or plum pudding, rather than that the day is spent doing nice things for others especially those who are sick in hospitals.




Jeremy Martin
Dec 22, 2011

Hello from Jeremy.

Hi, everyone. Jeremy, here. Just got an account here. I like to experiment with exotic and/or strange food recipes here and come up with my own version of them. Here's my twist on thom ka gai. Hope you like it, it came out very well. Cheers.

Thom ka

Monica H
Nov 4, 2011

Cuisine of The Congo

Congolese cuisine is peppered with variety, and their common ingredients are difference from our common ingredients here in the States.

Congo, situated in Central Africa, has been largely free of culinary influences of the outsider world, until the 19th century.

Peanut and chilli pepper plants arrived along with the slave trade during the early 1500s. These foods which taste gross ingredients have had a huge influence on the local cuisine. The Congo cuisine has remained mostly traditional and presents an array of exotic dishes. The Congo cuisine reflects indigenous traditions, as well as influences from the Arabs, the Europeans and the Asians. The continent of Africa is the second largest landmass on the planet and is home to thousands of tribes, ethnic and social groups. This diversity is reflected in the Congo cuisine, in making the use of basic ingredients as well as in the manner of preparation and cooking techniques. Most of the restaurants in Congo provide mishmash of its traditional cuisine as well as a bit of the French cuisine.

The River Congo is utilized well for its varieties of fish. Fish are enjoyed baked, fried, smoked, salted, boiled; if baked, it is popular to bake fish in banana leaves!

As for meat, it is not as widely available, but the most common meat is goat.

Another popular dish is "fufu". This is a paste made from corn flour and cassava (a yuca root); it is rolled into a small ball, an indentation is made with your thumb, and you then dip it into a stew. Stews and sauces made in the Congo are very complex, usually spicy and fragrant containing lots of herbs, spicy peppers and sweet green peppers. Peanut sauce is also commonly made.

Corn, rice, sweet potato, yam, tomato, pumpkins, peas, okra, beans, nuts and mushrooms are other common ingredients. Vegetarianism is an unknown practice or concept; however, many people of the Congo eat what we consider "vegetarian" meals, often. Mushrooms are very prized as they are used as meat substitutes during times of shortage.

Information obtained from Wikipedia and from:

Monica H
Nov 2, 2011

Spices ... watch your expiration dates....!

Cleaning out your spice cabinet... when was the last time YOU did that??

Here's a great article that helps deal with this (horrifying?!) thought!

"Not too long ago I helped my Granny pack for a move to her new house. I packed up her spices and joked about how some of her spices were as old as me. I laughed too soon, because my turn was coming.

It had been a while since I checked the expiration dates on all the spice bottles. They were lined up four layers deep. As I prepared for my move, I wondered how old they were.

As I looked into the cabinet, I found:
1.Basil from 1998
2.Ground mustard from 1999 (it smelled a bit dusty)
3.Garlic salt expired in 2002
4.Parsley expired in 2003

I didn’t know it had been that long since I checked them!

The frugal side of me has a hard time tossing spices, but the practical side convinced me it’s necessary.

Practical Reason #1: No one should eat something that is ten years old.

Practical Reason #2: Spices should have a scent.

Practical Reason #3: Green herbs should not be beige.

Practical Reason #4: Expired spices don’t need to be replaced. I obviously wasn’t using them anyways.

So what’s reasonable? McCormick shares these guidelines for how long spices can be expected to last.
•Seasoning blends: 1-2 years
•Herbs: 1-3 years
•Ground spices: 2-3 years
•Whole spices (such as cinnamon sticks and peppercorns): 3-4 years
•Extracts: 4 years (except for pure vanilla, which lasts indefinitely)

Ground spices quickly lose flavor, which is why whole peppercorns last longer than ground pepper. To keep your spices fresh longer, store them away from heat, light, and moisture. That will help to preserve flavor and color, and prevent clumping.

If your spice bottle is missing an expiration date, you can check it online:"
(go to link to get these hyperlinks to check your spices freshness dates)