My Kitchen Must-Haves

Like many of you, I keep a grocery list (I use Grocery IQ, by the way, to keep it on my phone).  But probably also like many of you, I always find myself buying the same things over and over.

Don’t get me wrong – I love to cook, and I try lots of new recipes and combinations of food, often buying new things (hemp seeds, tahini, short ribs, asafoetida spice) to make them happen.  But there are certain things I keep in stock every single day of the week, no matter what – and I consider them the “cornerstones” of my meals and snacks.  

Bananas.  Not only do I keep a ripe bunch on hand for quick snacks for Nick and me, I also keep an unripe few on the ready so we are never without a constant flow of delicious bananas.  They get thrown into oatmeal if they start to brown or tossed into a smoothie at their bitter end.

spinachSpinach.  The base for all my green smoothies, I still prefer spinach to kale (sorry if that makes me “uncool” in the health world) and I find that it not only blends easily with its compatriots (which in my juice is usually zucchini, apple, ginger, and cucumber) but can be wilted into an omelette or side dish with relative ease.

Egg Whites.  These are my favorite protein-packed healthy snack because I can make ’em in the microwave, throw ’em in smoothies, make and refrigerate a serving to pack into pitas for a little breakfast sammich, or even just cook them up scrambled and put them over a bed of spinach.  I am too lazy to separate my own eggs so yes – this is an expensive “staple” – but to me they’re worth it.

PBPeanut Butter.  Natural only (duh); extra chunky; Ralph’s brand preferred.  I envision that one day I will make my own peanut butter so that I am never out of it (this is a red-alert situation in my house), but for now 

Quinoa.  Though not always quinoa – this is a stand-in for some sort of quick-cooking whole grain, which also includes bulgur, farro, and the occasional teff.  This always makes a simple vegetarian saute feel like more of a meal, and it’s a way to make leftovers “last” a big longer.

Lemons.  I am addicted to fresh lemon juice in all things.  It finishes almost all of my dishes.  It has a prominent place in my green smoothies.  It makes guacamole taste more amazing, and allows fresh berries to sing.  You will never see my crispers free of a solid bag o’ lemons inside.

Coconut Milk.  Both the can and the carton.  Because I love cooking Indian food so much, I always keep a can on hand to turn any vegetable or meat I have on hand into a curry, and the carton kind is great to add some creaminess to oatmeal, top off a cup of coffee, or sub out for heavy cream in a recipe (since it still has all that thick, creamy lusciousness).  

There were a lot of runner-ups on my personal list (apples, chicken breast, garbanzo beans, mint, and cinnamon, to name a few) but these are the ones that I absolutely feel helpless without.

What are your “must-haves” in the kitchen and pantry?  What do you always have on hand?

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