Sunday, May 30, 2010

The staves of life...

Today, we are going to talk about staples; all of the basic ingredients, prepared foods, spices, seasonings, and condiments one should have in his or her well-stocked and equipped kitchen! I know some of you, who are vegans or vegetarians, or who have food allergies/aversions won't like or eat a few of these things. Feel free to omit the ones you don't like, and replace them with the proper substitutions for your personal diet choices. I will do my best to mention some proper substitutes, but bear with me, as I have no dietary limitations, nor do most people.

Let's begin with the most common things that many folks buy on a weekly basis:

Bread (wheat or gluten-free, if you have allergies)
Cow's milk (soy, rice, or nut milk for veggies, and the lactose-intolerant)
Butter or margarine
Eggs (or a vegan egg substitute, such as Ener-G Egg Replacer)
Cheese (soy cheese substitute, for others)

If you always have these five things in your larder, you will never go hungry!

Now, for things many people buy on a month-to-month basis:

All-purpose flour (or whole wheat, Jerusalem artichoke, or amaranth, or whatever else you may prefer)
Pasta (macaroni, spaghetti, ramen, soba, etc.)
Dried beans (pinto, navy, etc.)
Rice (white or brown)
Oatmeal (instant or long-cooking)
Peanut butter (or cashew, or any other nut butter)
White or demerara granulated sugar (or a sugar substitute you can use in baking)
Brown sugar (the moist kind)
Salt (iodized or natural sea salt)
Olive oil (the 'light' olive oil is most suited to most folks' palates, and is less delicate to keep, than extra virgin)
Cooking oil and/or white shortening (soybean, corn, peanut, safflower, etc.)
Baking soda
Baking powder

Honey (or agave nectar, or another proper substitute)
Jelly, jam, and/or marmalade
Tomato ketchup
Prepared mustard (salad, dijon, stone-ground, etc.)
Mayonnaise or salad dressing
Coffee or tea (or both)
Boullion or soup base (beef, chicken, fish, or vegetable)

Meats and meat substitutes

Now, we come to the things which are the baseis of main dishes and entrees; fresh meats, tofu, and such. Meats and tofu products can be purchased fresh, repackaged, and frozen, for later use. One can even buy most of these things already prepackaged and frozen.

Whole chicken and turkey (most folks only buy breasts or leg quarters, but it's most economical to buy an entire bird, as the leftovers from a roast chicken can be used for many subsequent meals)
Ground beef (best bought in "family packs," portioned out, and stored away for later use)
Whole boneless pork loin (you can have your butcher cut it into an assortment of chops and roasts; or you can do it yourself at home, portion it out, and freeze packages of chops and roasts for later use)
Fish and other seafoods (There are so many different types, it would take me forever to list all. Fish, shrimp, lobster, calamari, octopus, scallops, are all delicious)
Ham (whole hams are relatively inexpensive, and are perfect for creating many dishes from the leftovers)
Bacon (No larder is complete without it! Even if you don't eat pork, you can buy turkey and beef bacons)
Tofu, faux meats, etc. (these products also freeze quite well)

Fresh, dried, and tinned vegetables & fruits, and other perishables

Now, we come to our fruits and veggies. If you buy them fresh, they are perishable, and should be used within a reasonable amount of time; many of them can be blanched and frozen (I will blog about this, at a later date), or even canned, if you are handy. Lettuces cannot be preserved in any manner, so they must be eaten within a week of purchase. Many fruits and vegetables are available tinned or dried, and have a very long shelf life. Some people don't like them that way, but I think they are nice, because they keep for so long-- and they're good to keep around, for when you're in a pinch.

Swedes (rutabaga)
Fresh garlic
Green beans
Lima beans
Butter beans
Kidney beans
Chick peas
Sweet peas
Brussels sprouts
(There are many types of lettuces available at your grocer. Romaine, whole leaf spinach, and whole leaf lettuces keep the longest. You can buy pre-washed and chopped lettuces, but they don't keep as long)
Greens (mustard, collard, turnip)
Sprouted beans and grains (these are very delicate, and must be kept in a moisture-controlled compartment in your refrigerator)
Apples (and apple sauce)
Kiwi fruit

You get the idea. Buy the stuff you like (and will use within the week, unless it's canned), and don't bother with the stuff you don't. If I forgot any of your favourites, please forgive me!

A little bit of spice makes everything nice

Spices, herbs, and seasonings are what make your cooking uniquely 'yours.' Every cook has spices they prefer to use on a daily basis. Some prefer to incorporate whole spices into their recipes, and grind them right before use; others prefer to buy prepackaged spice mixtures. Some folks even use fresh herbs regularly, while most use dried. I'm going to mention the bare-bones basics here, for beginning a decent, all-purpose collection of spices and seasonings.

Garlic powder
Chili powder
Cajun seasoning
Curry powder
Old Bay seasoning
Bay leaves
Ground mustard
Black pepper

Worcestershire sauce
Hot sauce (such as Tabasco, La Cholula, or Frank's Red Hot)
Vinegar (There are many types of vinegar. I always keep red wine, white wine, balsamic, and cider vinegar handy)

Once again, please forgive me, if I have forgotten any of your favourites. I'm mostly going by the things I use most in my pantry, and are most often called for in recipes.

Well, I think I've made decent progress, listing basic household staples. This should give you a well-rounded idea of good foods and ingredients to stock your kitchen with! Don't be afraid to leave some feedback on this post, as I would love to find out what you keep in your own kitchens, as well as your own ideas! I think I've worked hard enough, for awhile...and I'm going to make some tea. I hope y'all are enjoying my blog, so far! Thanks again, for reading.

I'm still hemming and hawing, over what my next subject matter will be. Don't fear, I'll figure something out, and soon!

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