In recent conversation, a friend (who considers herself a “newbie cook”), shared a kitchen frustration with me.
“I always want to try new recipes, but it seems I never have the right ingredients on hand! I hate going into the store and searching for products which I may never use again. I wish someone would put everything I need in a basket, wrap it up and put it at the front of the store. That way I could just grab it and check out.”
Of course, that got me thinking. If I had to make a list of the most necessary items to have on hand in my kitchen, what would it contain? So, obviously, I made said list. Since my husband also likes to cook, I had him write a list as well so I could compare the two. As I predicted, our lists were nearly the same. Therefore, here it is…the 20 Must Have Items for Every Cook, Newbie or Not.
- Sea Salt – contains more trace minerals than regular table salt
- Black Pepper – I prefer freshly cracked peppercorns, myself.
- Italian Seasoning – grow & dry your own or store bought; can pretty much be a sub for any Italian herb in a pinch
- Canned Tomatoes – can your own; buy organic or glass jarred to avoid BPA can lining
- Broth – boil bones to make & freeze your own to always have natural broth on hand; read labels to avoid MSG
- Worcestershire Sauce
- Soy Sauce
- Non-stick spray
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Red or White Wine Vinegar – whatever you prefer; a white vinegar of some sort is pretty versatile
- Balsamic Vinegar – way different than others
- Fresh Garlic – if you don’t use it often, minced jarred garlic is a sad substitute, but will keep longer for efficiency
- Panko or Breadcrumbs – prefer Panko (Japanese breadcrumbs) because they are crispier
- Baking Soda
- Unbleached Flour – avoid the chemicals in bleached flour
- Sugar – buy can sugar to avoid GMO
- Brown Sugar
- Baking Powder – I prefer aluminum-free
- Cornstarch – to thicken sauces or mix with flour to bread anything
***I would like to add that peanut butter, tomato paste and sriracha were close contenders for the list.
By having the majority of these items on hand, it cuts down on the frustration of never having the right ingredients to spontaneously whip up a culinary creation. During our conversation, another complaint was to have to buy an expensive bottle of spice only to use a teaspoon, with the possibility of not using it again. Yeah…that pretty much sucks. No one wants to do that. Although, the solution would be to find a store that sells spices in bulk, where you can purchase as little or as much as you need. Luckily, my local health food store sells spices and dried herbs by the ounce. Or, find several recipes that you would like to try that involves that particular spice and plan to make them all within a certain period of time. Have a friend looking for spices too? Split them up, both the product and the cost! Also, do a little research on the storage and shelf life of products. When stored correctly:
• Whole spices, herbs leaves and flowers will keep 1 – 2 years.
• Seeds will keep 2 – 3 years and roots will keep 3 years.
• Ground spices and herb leaves and seeds keep 1 year.
• Ground roots will keep for 2 years.
(That’s quite a long time, right?)
So, all of you newbie and seasoned cooks…how does your list compare to mine? What would you add or subtract?