Food is one of my love languages. I am fully convinced of this. It speaks to me, not in the actual audible way. Don't worry; I am not crazy, but it moves me. When I work with food, I am relaxed, and it truly is a way I can tangibly love those around me. Some may find that writing letters or quality time or gifts is how they love, but I...I love with food.
I find there is nothing more loving for me to do than to spend 3 days making one loaf of bread for a church family or baking a from-scratch cake. Food filled with time, love, and labor...goodness gracious that gets me fired up!
But, I have not always felt this way about being in the kitchen. Oh, contrary to popular belief, I have only recently really learned to cook and, only in the past 6 months, really become passionate about food and spending time working with it. You see, growing up, it was always my younger sister who helped my mom in the kitchen. I didn't resent that; I simply was not interested. Then I went off to college, moved in with some awesome girls, and they LOVED cooking. We would have whole Friday nights where we would spend an hour at the store buying ingredients to come back to our little house and cook dinner together while blaring music and having food fights. I truly believe living with these girls began to awaken a passion in me. Food could be fun, and it brings people together.
Fast forward a few years to the night my new husband and I found ourselves headed back home from our honeymoon...reality hit me like a brick...I had to cook now. Like not just once every now and then on a Friday night...I had to cook every single night, for TWO PEOPLE. I began to pour over cookbooks, Pinterest, food blogs, and cooking shows. I was desperate to learn, and I needed to learn quick.
Slowly, I began to learn the difference between sauteing and sweating. I learned how to cut an onion the right way so that all the pieces are the same size - how to deglaze a pan to pick up all the yummy delicious brown bits stuck to the bottom of a pan. I messed up a lot, but I learned (still am learning) a whole lot.
I am no expert when it comes to cooking, nor will I ever claim to be. BUT, I have learned valuable lessons from trial and error and want to share them with you. So welcome to the new Cooking Fundamentals blog series. I have been gathering information and post topics for a few weeks and cannot wait to share all this information with you all. It is going to be exciting!
Everything starts with the ingredients. Yes, tools and technique are so important, and we will get to those things...but if you have nothing to cook with, then we cannot really learn much. So today I wanted to share how to stock your pantry. This is simple and is a game changer when it comes to being confident and always prepared in the kitchen!
Every meal starts that same way - with ingredients. It is essential to have a stocked pantry. When your pantry is stocked, you are able to take basic techniques and skills and truly "throw together" a meal with ease. So let's get started on the essentials...
HOW TO STOCK YOUR PANTRY
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Vegetable Oil (I also have canola, corn, and coconut oil usually as well)
- Vinegar (a variety of types is good)
- Red/White Wine
- Apple Cider
- Kosher Salt & Whole Peppercorns (I prefer kosher salt because it is a bigger, flakier salt and, therefore, sticks to meats better and pulls out more flavor from veggies. Whole peppercorns can be milled in a hand grinder and produce a much stronger flavor than other pepper.)
- Rice & Grains
- White/Brown Rice
- Pasta (always a variety is better)
- Asian noodles (perfect for stir fry or cold Asian salads!)
- Beans (canned or dry) - I usually keep a variety of these, I will have dry beans of different varieties but also several kinds of canned beans for quick dinners and additions to soups and salads.
- Canned tomatoes
- Tomato Sauce
- Diced Tomatoes
- Whole Tomatoes
- Tomato Paste
- Spices - do not feel like you have to have every spice known to man. Spice blends are really great to add a lot of flavor in a pinch. Also, stand alone spices such as cumin, cinnamon, cayenne, chili powder, and crushed red pepper are always great to have on hand.
- Flour, Cornmeal, Baking Powder, Baking Soda - all essential ingredients for baking! Must haves!
- Honey, Molasses, Maple Syrup (perfect for sweet and even savory dishes)
- Yukon Gold
- Sweet Potatoes
- Butter - always buy unsalted so that you have the ability to add the salt as you desire it
- Eggs - for breakfast, or baking...eggs can be used in so many ways!
- Cream - I have heavy whipping cream on hand at all times!
- Fresh Herbs - do not fight this one...I know they cost more, but trust me...the flavor cannot be beat when using fresh herbs compared to dry herbs.
- Cheese - again, variety, variety, variety! I always keep good Parmesan, cheddar, and mozzarella in our fridge
- Dijon Mustard
- Whole Grain Mustard
- Hot Sauce
- Sour Cream
- Chicken/Veggie/Beef Stock - this can be made easily at home with things you have! We will cover that in the days ahead
This may seem like a lot, but, more than likely, over half of these ingredients are things you already have in your pantry. AND, if they are not, don't fret; you do not need to conquer the world all at once. Slowly begin working towards stocking your pantry on your next few trips to the store.
A stocked pantry may seem like a trivial thing, but it really is a step in the right direction if you want to become more confident in the kitchen and with food. So I challenge you this week, try to find 2-3 things on this list that you may not currently have at your house. Pick them up next time you go to the store, and try to find a way to use them this week when you cook. Let's get in our kitchens friends!
Make sure to come back by next week for for the next post in this series for all the essential tools you need to succeed in the kitchen! And if you have any topics you would like to see covered in this series, PLEASE comment below or shoot me an email in the contact tab above, and let me know what you want to hear about! This is all to share what I have learned with you, so please let me know what you want to hear about!
What topics do you want to know more about when it comes to cooking fundamentals?