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What's in my kitchen?

2004-03-02 - 9:29 a.m.

Ok, this is in response to Mo’s request for staples for her pantry. At first I was intimidated by the extravagantly delicious list of Weetabix’s, then I took another look at the blog and noticed Mo had “a pot of some type” listed among things to buy so I felt safer giving some basic stuff. I started to write and then it got too big for the comments section so I figured I’d post here.

First of all, if you’re going to get “a pot of some type”, get a large dutch-oven style pot with a heavy base that can do double-duty on your stovetop and in your oven (i.e. no plastic handles). You can brown things on the bottom, you can do a stir-fry without overflowing a frying pan, you can sauté the basic stuff in the bottom and then add tons of stock and have soup simmering on a back burner, you can throw roasts and casseroles into it in the oven in a pinch, etc. It’s easily the most versatile type of pot to have.

In terms of food, I’m not sure how useful this will be to anyone else but there are a number of things my kitchen is never without:

Onions – If you don’t know why this is a staple, there is no hope for you, heathen!

Garlic – Ditto.

Cheese – This is the last ditto, I promise. But man, if you don’t like cheese you live in a completely different world than I, and there is no point in even comparing our kitchens so you might as well stop reading now.

Lemons – I make my own salad dressing with spices, lemon juice and a smidge of either mayonnaise or oil. I know someone that doesn’t bother with anything but the spices and lemon juice. If I’m grilling a white meat like fish or maybe chicken for fajitas, a squeeze of lemon (or lime) and with salt, pepper and a bit of garlic is my marinade of choice.

Oil – for cooking. Olive is good but so are other types with less flavour as you might want to bake and not buy a separate oil. While I do buy butter and go through it slowly, under no circumstances does margarine pass my threshold.

A large sweet potato – I love me some sweet potatoes and they’re very good for you. I bake them when I happen to have the oven on for something else but most often I dice them and add them to soup.

Regular potatoes – In case I feel like having them mashed, boiled, roasted, etc. or in soup.

Milk, yogurt and cereal – All self-explanatory.

Spices – Basil (for salad dressing and for adding to spaghetti sauce), dried garlic (for when I run out of the fresh), salt, pepper. I also have recipe-type-specific stuff like chili powder for, well, chili (and fajitas), and curry powder for, you guessed it, curry. Paprika I use in paprikash; rosemary is great for a number of meats but also good on potatoes, etc.

Fresh ginger – This I keep in a Ziploc in the freezer and grate or mince frozen as I need it. It’s essential for some of my soups, as well as stirfries.

Frozen veggies – In soup, in stirfries, as a side dish, I need to have these babies on hand. I always have corn, peas (I even add peas to ramen when I’ve got a hankering for noodles but want a bit more nutrition) and the mixed broccoli/cauliflower spears. I used to have carrots but now keep a bag of the pre-washed “baby shaped” ones in the crisper since they last a long time and have a better texture when cooked.

Peppers, green or red – This gets its own category because, if you haven’t guessed it already, we like fajitas and it’s something that I will throw into a lot of other stuff such as stirfries, chili, and spaghetti sauce. I watch for these to go on sale then buy a whack of them, core them and cut them into strips and stuff them in baggies in the freezer. I can always cut the frozen strips up if I want to use them for the latter two purposes.

Pre-washed mixed salad greens – I hate washing lettuce and iceberg has very little nutritional value anyway.

A tomato – For salads, yes, but also for sandwiches, etc.

Chicken breasts – We use these in all kinds of things from soup, to fajitas, to sandwiches, to curries, to stirfries and back again. Other meats may come and go in phases but we are never without our beloved chicken in the freezer.

Eggs – It’s been awhile since I’ve used them as much as I used to because my husband isn’t a big fan, but eggs are versatile, cheap, and quick. No time for anything fancy? Omelettes. Out of meat but want more protein in your stirfry or fried rice? Add an egg. They keep for a pretty long time too and if the whim to bake something strikes most of my recipes use at least one egg.

Bread – I like cubing toast to throw into my salad but it’s good to have bread on hand for sandwiches as well. Atkins be damned. Fajita wrappers are always in our fridge as well.

Hot sauce and salsa (plus other assorted condiments) – No explanation needed I think.

I am also rarely without either chili or spaghetti sauce in the freezer or at least the fixings to make a batch.

And while this isn’t necessary, it’s a nice thing to have green onions in a jar of water in your fridge. Believe it or not, they will continue to send up shoots and I harvest the green part of the onion (which is the good part), outer bits first, so that new shoots will come up in the middle. They’re nice to add to things like salads, stirfries, omelettes, etc.

There are some other things I’m never without (like coconut milk) but that I won’t bother to list as they are peculiar to certain recipes I use.

Oh and in case you think I’m completely neglecting fruit, there are always bananas and sometimes various other type in the bowl on our counter. Additionally, there are always frozen blueberries in our freezer because every August I get a big basket and freeze them for the winter. I never make pancakes without adding some sort of fruit and it’s blueberries until we run out and sometimes grated apple or strawberries.

I hope that someone finds this useful. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m inexplicably hungry...

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