Six Kitchen Essentials (with more uses than one)

Amanda Blake

Applesauce – A cup of unsweetened applesauce makes a great portable snack, but applesauce can add a dollop of nutrition to baked goods as well. Replace a cup of sugar with one cup of applesauce, while reducing other liquids by a ¼ cup. You may also substitute oil with applesauce, but I recommend leaving half the oil for the sake of texture. Applesauce will naturally sweeten your recipe while lowering the calorie count. And try substituting half the flour with a whole wheat variety to include even more fiber with your treat.

Black Beans – A source of fiber and vegetarian protein, black beans are a versatile food that’s easy on the budget. Whether you use them as an appetizer, the main dish, or on the side, black beans liven up any meal, even dessert. Strip a brownie recipe of flour and substitute an equal amount of black beans. Take it a step further to please the vegan in your life and and substitute the egg with ground flax seeds and the butter with coconut oil.

Greek Yogurt – Ah, the siren call of Greek yogurt. Try this trendy yogurt option with some blueberries and granola for a nutrient-packed breakfast. Or mix with spicy mustard and tuna and toss in a whole wheat pita. Take advantage of the taste that mimics sour cream and try Greek yogurt in your taco or burrito. Add ranch seasoning to dip your veggies or unsweetened cocoa powder to dip your fruit.

Rice Cooker – Want perfect rice? Buy a rice cooker and let the machine do all the cooking for you. Rice cookers are inexpensive (prices start around $15) and actually have multiple uses. Use a rice cooker to heat up soup, cook an egg every which way, as a stand-in for a fondue pot, or even cook a roast. A rice cooker cooks faster than a crock-pot, uses very little electricity, is lightweight, and surprisingly easy to clean. Buy one with a nonstick liner that you can throw in the dishwasher and a steam tray so you can steam veggies and a piece of salmon while cooking a cup of whole grain brown rice. Voila! Dinner made simple.

Soda Water – Last month, soda water made the Facebook rounds with the Business Insider headline, “Is drinking carbonated water the same as drinking regular water?” The short answer? Yes. And it does so much more than just hydrate. Use soda water to give your pancakes an added rise, remove stains from clothing, and give your plants a dose of minerals. Ask your bartender to substitute soda water for tonic water, which contrary to popular belief, is not the same thing. Tonic water is sweetened and soda water is calorie-free. Finally, flavor your soda water with fruit for a refreshing carbonated beverage. Add crushed raspberries, sliced strawberries, or chunks of lemon or lime. Or try it with a tart juice, like pomegranate or cranberry, and be ready to pucker.

Sweet Potato – The vitamin and mineral powerhouse. Bake it in the microwave, roast it with parsnips and squash, mash it in pie with vanilla and cinnamon, or add it to the soup warming in your rice cooker along with a dash of curry. Like kale, sweet potatoes make a healthy baked chip. And have you tried sweet potato macaroni and cheese? Need I say more?

Amanda Blake is a Peer Nutrition Counselor on campus. Peer nutrition counseling is a complimentary service available to students. To make a confidential appointment, contact the Klotz Student Health Center at (818) 677-3666.