Growing up with a mother who is an amazing cook was both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, I was fed VERY well my whole life. On the other, however, once I moved out (particularly when I was living on the other side of the country), there was something seriously lacking in my life, and that was delicious home cookin’! Thankfully, she was sure to send me off with plenty of tips, tricks, and a handful of her best recipes to keep me satiated, but somehow I could just never seem to make them as good as she did (although maybe that’s because EVERYTHING tastes better when it’s prepared FOR you, not BY you!).
Now that I am living back in my home town, my mom and I are able to share recipes and cooking tips (albeit mostly from her to me) in person again. I am able to raid her pantry for ideas for things to keep on hand and recipes to make.
Over the years I have developed a pretty good sense of what I like to make for various meals, and what I like to keep on hand to make these things. I have noticed that a lot of the items I keep are used in not just one, but several recipes of mine, and I find myself always ensuring that I have them in stock in my pantry so that I never run out! I have listed 8 of them here for you, along with some of the various ways in which I use them! Oh, and as a bonus, they’re all VEGAN-friendly! 😀
1. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Pretty much the jack of all trades in my kitchen. I use “EVOO” in just about everything, from salad dressings, to pastas (see below), to using it as a base to fry/sauté things, instead of butter. You can also use olive oil for plenty of beauty related DIY hacks as well, such as in scrubs, moisturizers, balms, masks, and you can even use it to dry your nail polish faster!
Just make sure you are getting quality virgin or extra virgin olive oil, not the cheap stuff! It’s about umpteen times healthier, and better tasting!
2. Dried Pasta
Yes, I am Italian on my mother’s side…. but okay, even if I weren’t, I think pasta dishes would STILL be my go to for quick lunches and dinners! There are only about a million and one recipes for different pasta dishes out there, ranging from healthy and delicious all the way to not so healthy and delicious. It’s SUPER cheap, easy to make, and you can almost never go wrong whipping up a quick pot of spaghetti, fettuccine alfredo, or even mac and cheese for dinner! One of my favourites is (any kind of) pasta with some fresh basil, tomatoes, bocconcini and a little bit of olive oil.. YUM!
3. Canned Diced Tomatoes
Another Italian staple… ha ha, but seriously, SUPER cheap and great to have around to use in sauces (home-made tomato sauce is seriously the ONLY way to go!), soups, chilis, and more! I tend to pick up at least 2-3 cans every time I go grocery shopping (unless they’re on sale, then it’s more like 4-5!), even if I still have more at home, I just stockpile them, because they’re cheap and I KNOW I will use them.
4. Vegetable Stock
I don’t like to eat meat or meat products, so I opt for veggie stock instead of the chicken or beef varieties! Stock is extremely cheap and comes in handy for making soup, chili, and so many other recipes! It has a long shelf life, but I also freeze it to last even longer once opened! You can also make your own by simmering leftover veggies and herbs in some water for just under an hour!
5. Fresh & Frozen Fruit and Vegetables
I think it goes without dispute that fresh fruits and veggies are the healthiest thing to keep around! I like to keep frozen ones around too, since they last a lot longer. If you didn’t already know, I’m a big fan of juicing, so fresh produce is worth its weight in gold in my kitchen! I use fresh fruits and vegetables for juicing, or snacking on, and frozen to put in my smoothies!
I tend to just buy whatever is in season, but some of my favourites to keep around are apples, bananas, lemons, tomatoes, cucumber, celery, potatoes, sweet potatoes, lettuce, grapes, watermelon, peaches, avocado, mango, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and more!
Garlic is truly a powerful food, and not just because of its strong odour! It’s also widely renowned for its anti-bacterial and immune-boosting properties. Sometimes, when I feel a cold coming on, I will chop a clove of garlic into pieces and pop them like pills! It really helps to nip that cold in the bud before it gets really bad!
Cooking wise, however, I use garlic in just about everything! I buy it already peeled and then store the cloves in a mason jar in my fridge, then chop it, or mince it, and add it to soups, pastas, roasted veggies, sauces, salad dressings, and just about anything else you can think of!
7. Fresh & Dried Herbs
The easiest way to take your meals from good to AMAZING, is to add fresh herbs and spices! I like to keep several dried herbs in my pantry, such as basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme, and even several seasoning blends! You can buy them for cheap in your grocery store, or even cheaper in bulk at a bulk food store (just pick up some small air tight jars to store them in so they don’t lose their flavour). As for fresh herbs, they don’t have as long of a shelf life, but depending on climate and the season, you can even grow your own herbs to always have on hand! Fresh basil is one of my FAVOURITE things! Anybody else craving a fresh caprese salad after reading this?
8. Balsamic Vinegar
My favourite salad dressing is just a simple balsamic vinaigrette, with a little bit of EVOO, some balsamic vinegar, maybe a hint of Dijon mustard if I’m feeling spicy, and a dash of salt and pepper! It’s super tasty, easy to make, and tastes WAY better than any bottled dressing you will find in the store. Of course, balsamic comes in handy for many recipes, apart from just salads. Sometimes I even drizzle it over fresh veggies and eat them as a quick snack! Also, doesn’t this Onion Tomato Bruschetta with Balsamic Glaze (from Cook with Manali) look AMAZING?
What are your kitchen staple items? I’d LOVE to hear! Leave a comment below letting me know!