Having trouble keeping your kitchen stocked while trying to limit your grocery store trips? Here is a list of essentials to keep in mind so you can make sure you always have enough on hand. Adjust according to meal preferences and dietary restrictions. This will be an underwhelming list for foodies, but it is great for those who are trying to figure out the basics.
Oils: Olive oil (extra virgin for more prominent flavor) and a neutral cooking oil (canola and grapeseed being the most popular).
Vinegars: Red-wine vinegar and white or white-wine vinegar.
Canned foods: Diced tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato sauce, beans (black, kidney, cannellini and/or pinto) and tuna. Use dried beans if you prefer them over canned.
Flours: All-purpose white for everyday needs and white or whole wheat bread flours for those who like to bake.
Stocks: Chicken, vegetable or both.
Spices and dried herbs: Salt and pepper (peppercorns preferably, especially if you make soups), bay leaf, cayenne, cinnamon, cumin, garlic powder, oregano, paprika, red-pepper flakes and thyme.
Sweeteners: Granulated sugar, honey and maple syrup.
Grains: Rice, pasta (choose the one or two you use most), couscous, oats, quinoa and breadcrumbs.
Produce: Lemon, garlic, onions, bananas and all-purpose potatoes like Yukon Gold.
Nuts, nut butters and dried fruit: Pecans, walnuts, almonds, raisins (use golden if you prefer), peanut butter (or almond butter if you prefer), dates, sun-dried tomatoes.
Condiments: Mustard, mayonnaise, ketchup, barbecue sauce, soy sauce, salsa, hot sauce.
Produce: Carrots and celery (especially if you like to make soups) and one or two snacking fruits (like oranges, apples, grapes).
Pickled goods: Pickles, kimchi, sauerkraut and olives are great for quick sides or snacks.
Stock scraps: Carrot ends or shreds, celery ends, meat trimmings and bones, onion and garlic skins and ends. If you want cheap and fresh stock, accumulate these items every time you cook and just throw them in a soup pot filled with water, a few peppercorns and a bay leaf. Boil for at least 20-30 minutes, strain and you have a stock. Extra stock freezes well in plastic gallon freezer bags.
Fruit: Strawberries, berry or tropical mixtures and overripe bananas. Great for smoothies and baking.
Vegetables: Broccoli, corn, peas and spinach.
Meats: Cuts, ground meat (or meatless crumbles), sausages and a seafood item like your go-to fish or shrimp.
Bread: Keep fresh breads for sandwiches, but use frozen bread for an extra stock or for bread that was about to go stale and use that for toast.
Test your knowledge with today’s trivia question
Which kitchen technique uses a circulating water bath to evenly cook food?
- Sous vide
Wednesday’s answer: Mars
Here are some well-known and easy cocktails but with some spring twists using minimal and common ingredients.
To begin, make sure you know this easy-to-make, home bar staple: simple syrup.
Simple syrup is equal parts water and sugar. Stir while you bring it to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Stop stirring once sugar is dissolved. Simmer for five minutes and then let cool. Make a batch and store your leftovers in the refrigerator for next time.
Another hint. If anything calls for a shaker and you don’t own one, just shake it in a mason jar and strain with a tightly woven mesh strainer.
Rosemary Greyhound: Soak six sprigs of rosemary in three cups of freshly made or reheated simple sugar for one hour or longer. Combine 1/2 ounces of rosemary simple syrup with 4 ounces of grapefruit juice and 2 ounces of vodka or gin. Garnish with a sprig of rosemary.
Strawberry Lemon Mimosa: Puree strawberries with a food processor or blender. If you don’t have either, muddle thoroughly. Mix 3 ounces of lemon juice with 1 ounce simple syrup, or three-to-two if you prefer it sweeter. Add that mixture to 5 ounces of champagne and 2 teaspoons of strawberry puree. Add mint or basil for an herbal touch. Garnish with lemon.
Blackberry Pineapple Smash: Muddle 1 cup fresh (or thawed from frozen) blackberries and one or two sprigs of fresh mint in one ounce of lime juice. Shake with four ounces blanco tequila or clear rum and six ounces of pineapple juice. Pour and top with a spritz of soda. Garnish with mint.
Lavender Whiskey Sour: Add 2 tablespoons dried lavender per two cups of simple syrup. Add lavender during the cooking process, or soak lavender in reheated simple syrup for at least one hour. Strain lavender when finished. Shake two ounces of bourbon with 3/4 ounces of lemon juice and 3/4 ounce of lavender syrup until frothy. Add a dash of aromatic bitters if you have them and garnish with lemon and lavender sprigs.
Create the perfect pallet of spring colors for your baking and frosting.
Pastel colors like blush, lemon, honeydew, seafoam can be made by simply reducing the amount of coloring in your usual coloring to frosting ratio.
Here are a few colors that require combinations of primary colors.
Aquamarine: One drop of green, two drops of blue.
Dark green: One drop of red, one drop of yellow, four drops of blue.
Dusty rose: One drop of blue, three drops of red.
Lilac: Two drops of blue, three drops of red.
Lime green: One drop of green, three drops of yellow.
Marigold: One drop of red, four drops of yellow.
Peach: One drop of red, two drops of yellow.
Once you have the perfect color mixed, whip up a quick and tasty mug cake using seven ingredients and a microwave (recipe makes one cake).
Ingredients: 2 Tbsp butter, 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, 1 large egg yolk, 2 Tbsp sugar, 1 Tbsp milk, 1 tsp vanilla extract and 1/4 tsp baking powder.
Directions: Place butter into coffee mug and microwave until melted (30 seconds). Mix in remaining ingredients with a fork and microwave for 45-60 more seconds. Let cool and frost before devouring.
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