Monday, August 10, 2009

Cooking at home: Getting started

Brianne is the winner of last week's teach-someone-to-cook contest. Drop me an email, Deborah at Antiquity Oaks dot com, with your mailing address and choice of fragrance for your sugar scrub, and I'll get it in the mail to you. Thanks to everyone who shared their comments and stories!

In response to my post about the KFC $10 challenge, my friend Coleen sent me an email with the advice she would give a beginning cook. As soon as I read it, I realized this was the KFC mom's problem. She obviously never cooked at home since she was looking for every little ingredient. And judging by the number of people on the Chowhound blog who agreed that you can't make dinner for less than $10, a lot of people suffer from this same problem -- they have no staples in their kitchen.

So, what are staples? They're the stuff we should all keep in our kitchen, all the time. The minute you run out of it, you should add it to your next shopping list. Here are the things that I make sure I always have in my kitchen: unbleached flour, whole wheat flour, sugar, honey, corn starch, powdered sugar, brown sugar, cocoa, baker's chocolate, soy sauce, oils (sunflower, unrefined sesame, unrefined peanut, olive), butter, rice, pasta, tomato sauce, and of course, a wide variety of spices. As long as I have all of these things in my pantry, I'm never standing around saying that we have nothing to eat. I'm sure I've left out some important items, so what are the things you can't live without in your pantry or refrigerator?


MaskedMan said...

Onions. I must have onions. I'll chop up a half dozen, and feeze them in small packets. They keep well for a couple weeks, and I go through them so fast that I never need worry about freezer burn. Fresh, or nearly-fresh, onions whenever I need them!

Fresh Garlic. I've always got a few fists to hand. Again, I go through it so fast that I never have spoilage problems. And there are some days when nothing will do but freshly roasted garlic cloves smeared over some nice crusty bread...

Kosher salt. Not just for seasoning, but because it's a [i]great[/i] scouring medium for my cast iron pans.

Corn Meal. Gotta have my cornbread! Cornmeal scattered over a pizza stone prevents sticking. Also, there are about a zillion treats that require cornbread.

Hrist said...

Gah! My ex-boyfriend did exactly that. I could never convince him that while yes, grocery shopping was more expensive *right now* than going out for chinese food, you can't eat from the same money-spending event for a week (or months, depending on the ingredient) with the latter option.

Mari said...

Virgin olive oil, different types of flours, pasta, rice, grains, nuts, vegetable stock cubes or powder without sodium glutamate, dozens of spices, a couple of salts, honey. Lentils, dried mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes. Preserves like canned tomatoes, peas, sweet corn, beans. In the freezer I've got meat and various vegetables. In the fridge - tahini, chutneys, various spice pastes, pickles, olives, butter. And I have always some kind of cheese, usually several types. We also have always milk, wine, pure unsweetend fruit juices and beer, which also can be used in cooking.

And nearly always we have onions, ginger root, garlic, stuff like that.

Claire said...

Adding balsamic vinegar to the list! I can't do without it!

Deborah said...

I knew I'd forgotten a lot of great things!

I didn't realize you could use salt to scour cast iron pans, so will have to remember that one, since we use our cast iron daily. Thanks, Masked Man!

And my daughters can't live without their balsamic vinegar, which they like to put on salads.

I've only tried using dried mushrooms once, and they were chewier than I like. Maybe I did something wrong? We always buy fresh mushrooms though.

MaskedMan said...

To scour the cast iron pans, toss a couple tablespoons of kosher salt in the pan, add a tablespoon or two of vegitable oil, and use a paper towel to scrub vigously at built-up spots that are causing sticking. Rinse with water, dry thoroughly, and reapply a thin coat of whatever oil you favor.

This doesn't wipe out your pan's seasoning, and gives a nice smooth surface. I don't dig deep into the cabonized coating - Just enough to get off sticky accumulation (like after I've made up a whole mess of bacon!).

DO NOT do this to cast iron with an enamel lining! It *will* score the enamel, and damage it.

clink said...

A couple of more things that I always keep on hand ... cheese. Lots of cheese as I know you do. And nothing pre-grated. A good cheese will freeze fairly well so sometimes a wheel is well-worth the investment.

Oatmeal is a staple at our house. As are capers, olives and cans of artichokes. I can make an ordinary meal pretty special with those.

I laughed when you talked about flour. I asked Honey to get some flour out of the freezer (I keep some of the whole wheat flours there) I had NINE different flours. I think I reached the dark side then!

Deborah said...

Nine different flours?! I am in awe! In addition to the ones that I always have on hand, I usually also have corn meal, corn flour, rye flour, and sometimes buckwheat -- but 9 is very impressive! What are they?

We also keep oatmeal on hand, as well as a seven-grain mix that I add to my bread most of the time. I love the crunchy texture that it adds!

Anonymous said...

Unrefined virgin coconut oil, coconut milk, apple cider vinegar, and blackstrap molasses, and stevia.


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