Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Basics: Part the Second Part

AKA: The Tool Box

Right off the bat, let me admit to something. I am a kitchen gadget JUNKIE. I have more nifty doodads in my kitchen tool drawer than anyone probably should. That being said, I can, and have lived with the very bare bones in my kitchen. So tonight's list will include only the things that are absolutely necessary. This list also assumes that you have things to eat off of and with dishes, flatware, etc.

The Basic Kitchen Tool List:

Large-ish pot. Somewhere around the vicinity of 6 quart (about 6L) capacity. Indispensable for making soup, boiling pasta, cooking rice, making oatmeal, boiling potatoes...etc.

Skillet/Frying Pan: By no means does it have to be the monstrosity I have which is about 17 inches (about 44 cm) in diameter, but a good 10 or 12 inch (25-30 cm) with a heavy or double bottom is an excellent investment. I can tell you from experience, thin bottomed pans are a disaster waiting to happen!

Colander/Spaghetti Strainer: Speaks for itself. Most of those things you cooked in the large pot need to be drained. I got mine at an antique shoppe for next to nothing. They come in plastic, aluminium, copper, enameled steel, whatever you get will be fine.

Knives: I can't live without my Chef's knife. It's heavy, wide-bladed and cost me about $15 USD at a discount SuperMegaMart Which Shall Remain Unnamed. It does MANY more things than it is designed to for me. I may own about 30,000 blades, but all in all, I can get by with exactly 3 blades in my kitchen.
As Follows:
Chef's Knife: Oh, the possibilities. Slice, mince, dice, julienne, smash garlic.
Utility Knife: For all the things too small for the bigguns, but too big for the paring knife.
Paring knife: Peeling apples and melons and squash, opening bell peppers, scoring citrus peels.

Peeler: Scraping carrots and parsnips, turnips, potatoes. You can do these tasks with a paring knife, but the peeler makes it SO much easier.

Mixing Bowls: In a few different sizes. Make sure you have a fairly big one if you plan to do any baking, though.

Measuring Cups and Spoons: I like to have a set of dry measure cups and a 2-4 cup liquid measure too. Saves me from dirtying a mixing bowl to prepare the liquid ingredients to be added to the dry.

Wooden Spoons: To stir batter, crush sugar and salt, stir stir-fry, spank your husband when he invades your kitchen with (wait...that's just me). If you get the super-cheap ones, rub them with olive oil before you use them, it'll extend their useful life and cut down on "cheap spoon splinter syndrome."

Whisk: There are many things a whisk is good for, most of which you can use a fork for. The whisk simply makes it easier on your wrists!

Cookie Sheet: Not just cookies, but biscuits, pizza, bread, rolls, baked "fries" can all be made on a cookie sheet. Sides are nice, but not necessary.

Casserole/Baking Dish: Now, I have these in 3 sizes, but can get away with just 1, so long as it is a squarish, sturdy ceramic or glass baking dish about 10x10 or 12x12. Baking dishes can be used for casserole, pot pie, brownies, apple pie, bar cookies, roasting vegetables, you name it!

Blender: I could add this in the "nice, but not necessary" list, but if you are an herbivore like me you will use it every day. Doesn't need to be fancy, but should have a glass jar/pitcher part. Bought mine at a thrift shop for about $10.

This is the very barebones, basic, list. You can add gadgets and geegaws as you see fit, but with the implements on this list and nothing else you can make everything from humble oatmeal to a gourmet meal.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Basics: Stuff you should have on hand anyway

Most of my recipes are built on some staples that I always keep on hand. The foundation ingredients that I can't cook without. None of them are exotic, and chances are if you've got here, you have them, or their equivalent anyhow.

Stuff Like:

Flour: whatever kind you like, really. Personally I use 1/2 whole wheat and 1/2 all purpose.

Corn Meal: another one of my favorite "nutritious and versatile" items

Milk: again, whatever you like. Ricemilk, Soymilk, Almond Milk, Cow Milk, Goat Milk. tend to keep regular whole milk in the house for coffee (COFFEE!!) and tea, and a big box of powdered milk for cooking and baking.

Eggs: Or your favorite egg replacer. has a pretty good article on egg replacers.

Onions: Tasty, versatile, nutritious onions.

Carrots: Also tasty, also nutritious, also very versatile.

Garlic: In cloves, in jars or just powder, garlic can liven up almost anything!

Rice: Any kind. But real rice, not instant, minute, or boil-in-the-bag.

Noodles/Pasta/Macaroni: Whatever you call them, they can complement, round out or stretch a meal with ease.

Butter: Or margarine, as long as it's the stuff you can cook with. I say that because some of the new fancy shmancy "buttery spread" type stuff says right on it "not recommended for cooking or baking". Believe them.

Baking Powder: Too many uses for it!

Baking Soda: If for no other reason that to put out grease fires in the kitchen!

Sugar: I don't use much, because I can't, but a little bit in the right places makes a BIG difference.

Salt: See sugar.

Oil: Here there be monsters. Oil comes in several different "flavors" according to what it's squeezed out of. Olive oil, canola (rapeseed) oil, corn oil, peanut oil, and the ubiquitous "vegetable oil," which is usually soybean oil. All I can honestly say is READ. THE. LABEL. One or two of these are always in my kitchen, usually some extra-virgin olive oil and vegetable or corn oil.

Shortening: Again, flavors. I prefer to use vegetable shortening, but if commodities/food pantry trips/whatever hand me lard, I'll use it.

Pepper: Black pepper, like garlic, can save almost any bland dish.

Cocoa Powder: Unsweetened cocoa powder is one thing I definitely can NOT love without. For making beverages, baked goods, stews and chili, it's another one of my go-to items.

CONDIMENTS: The ones I can't live without:

Soy Sauce or Tamari
Worcestershire Sauce
Parmesan Cheese
Peanut Butter (heh)
Syrup (pancake/maple)
Honey or Agave Nectar

YMMV, but this is my list. I'm sure there are things I forgot, but if you start with that list, you have several meals on hand. I can think of at least 3 breakfasts, a lunch or two, and with the addition of some different proteins, a few suppers.

Next up: The ToolBox!

Here there be Noms!

I have decided that it isn't yet economically feasible for me to publish my cookbook. So, At the behest of several of my friends, I shall blog my recipes for you!