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To really understand an ingredient’s potential, we have to think of what the purpose of the ingredient is.  This may sound elementary, but the more we cook, the more complex these connections will be, and this will expand the horizons of our abilities in the kitchen.

Let’s say you get a jar of high-quality dark Manuka honey as a gift from a friend who just got back from a trip to New Zealand.   Great gift, but, unless you regularly use honey in your every day cooking, this kind of quality ingredient–packed with natural immune system support and deep sweet flavor and texture–could be used simply for the occasional cup of tea, or perhaps to sweeten a randomly purchased pastry.  Unless you get into the habit of actually thinking through your ingredients, a terrific, and sometimes rare, ingredient can be left in the cupboard for months or even years before you remember it’s there.

So, let’s use the honey example.  You could use it as a glaze for your next baked ham, in place of sugar in baking pastries, in sauces, and to sweeten marmalades and shakes.  You can drizzle it on more than just pastry–ice cream, fruits, and cereals, for instance.  You can even make cereal bar snacks using honey as a healthy alternative sweetener.

Likewise, looking at a given recipe and spending a few seconds thinking about the potential use for each ingredient will help you to tweak the recipe to your liking as well as possibly kickstart new recipe ideas for future meals and parties.

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