If you've spent any amount of time reading recipes, watching food television or cooking (and odds are, you have), then you're likely very familiar with the phrase "secret ingredient." Secret ingredients aren't just mysterious herbs and spices in fast-food fried chicken; they're those key components that will take a recipe from ordinary to extraordinary, the things that make you cock your head, lick your lips and say "Wow, that's delicious."
Kelly Senyei, the woman behind Just a Taste, knows the power of the so-called secret ingredient. In fact, she's so passionate about ingredient swaps and recipes with a twist that she's turned the concept into a cookbook, fittingly titled "The Secret Ingredient Cookbook."
Each dish in this collection of 125 recipes has an unexpected element: a chocolate chip cookie that uses cream cheese, carnitas with cocoa powder or chicken meatballs made with cinnamon applesauce.
The purposes of these secret ingredients vary depending on the recipe. They range from adding nutrition to changing the flavors or textures of a dish to using food that may otherwise end up in the trash can.
One clever recipe in the cookbook, the Ice Cream Pie, makes use of the much-dreaded crushed ice cream cones at the bottom of the box. Instead of throwing out those cracked cones or shamelessly snacking on them, Senyei repurposes them as a pie crust, tossing the crumbs with butter and sugar. It's thrifty, creative and kid-friendly. Little ones will delight in further crumbling the cones and picking out the flavors and toppings for this frozen dessert, which is great for summer birthdays.
Other recipes, like a Pan-Fried Feta With Lemon-Honey Dressing, play on classic combinations. This one takes a charcuterie board combo — cheese and grapes — and turns it on its head by frying the feta and blistering the grapes, creating a creamy, salty, savory and sweet snack for parties or a date night at home.
Whether you’re looking to shake up your weeknight dinners, use up ingredients in your pantry or have some fun in the kitchen, there’s likely something for you in “The Secret Ingredient Cookbook.” Don’t believe us? Check out these four recipes from Senyei:
Confetti Corn Succotash
This summertime succotash has a few fun ingredients (we'll never say no to bacon and soy sauce for salt and umami), but edamame is the key here. This superfood adds protein and a nutty flavor that plain lima beans don't.
Pan-Fried Feta With Lemon-Honey Dressing
This twist on grapes and cheese is a fabulous party-friendly appetizer. This hot feta recipe will have you forgetting all about that viral TikTok recipe.
Seared Scallops With Basil Risotto
If you've ever made traditional risotto, you know that white wine is a key ingredient, adding acidity and a touch of sweetness to the rich rice dish. In her risotto, Senyei uses pineapple juice. It's a non-alcoholic, acidic and sweet alternative and the perfect swap if you have leftover pineapple juice after marinating meat or making pina coladas.
Ice Cream Pie
This ice cream pie template is a childhood dream come true. The crust is made with crushed cones, and from there, you can build your own pie using your favorite ice cream flavor(s) and toppings. It's way better than your average sundae.