in the pantry

Your cupboard is your arsenal, your raw materials, your resources on which to draw daily inspiration – so besides being fully-loaded, why not make it varied and versatile while you’re at it. When you have what you need in your cupboard, life in your kitchen will really be just another day in paradise! Keep it stocked, keep it organized so you can keep cookin’!

pantry basics

Getting your organizational act together is your first challenge in the kitchen – way before you crack a can, crush a clove or sprinkle some seasoning. Check out the links below and see how the pros and us regular folk do it – like items together, tall stuff in the back, short stuff in the front, least used somewhere else, most used right here, blah, blah, blah – you’ve heard it all before – so let this be the moment you heed the advice. If you know what you have, where it is and how to use it – you’ve completed step 1 in pantry excellence 101. Congratulations! Now that your pantry is ready for its’ close-up – turn your attention to what the heck you are going to do with all these fabulous ingredients and I dare say there are truckloads of suggestions right here courtesy of the crazed cook.

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all about baking

First, baking is not my forte, when I do do it, I can do it, and I take great pains to do it right, but frankly I’d much rather feed my waistline from the savory side. Second, hear me loud and clear – baking is a science I tell you, an honest to goodness measure-it-right-or-be-damned science! Did you hear me? A nod is fine. So much can go so wrong with so little that when it’s done right, we are all in awe – think buttery croissants, flaky pie crusts, rustic breads, cakes that fly, cookies that melt and buns that are buoyant – stay with me now.

With that said, just as much leeway can be enjoyed in baking as in cooking, but only in terms of flavors, not proportions. The relationship between flours, liquids, leavening agents, eggs and fat is critical. It’s the difference between pucks and perfection, sawdust and “please, sir, may I have some more?”.

It is in the measuring is where most baking goes off the rails, as the links below will attest. If you measure with accuracy your chances of adding a Betty to your Crocker are vastly improved. Pay attention to these seemingly unimportant details as well as temperature and handling and you will be well on your way to mastering what our grandmothers pulled off in their sleep. Most great baking memories are shrouded in mystery – what is it that we don’t know that our grandmothers did – like what velcro did to our kids ability to tie their shoes. Frozen pie crust is the velcro, the shoelaces are in the bowl – now what? Read on and you will see how you too can tie your own shoes, even in the presence of velcro.

baking basics

Here you will find the inside scoop, the stuff the pros know that make them the pros, and us looking in from the outside with our cheeks pressed up against the glass. So check here for loads of tips & tricks to create all sorts of treats, as well as all the ins & outs grouped by ingredient to lead you straight to the promised land – bakersville, anytown, anywhere, anytime, planet earth. I have a little rolling caddy in my kitchen where I keep it all – the flours, the sugars, chocolate in its many forms, and all the supporting players to help me be the baking rock star I long to be every time I belly up to the bar, I mean the mixer. Boogie on and happy baking!

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baking ingredients

This includes all the little things (besides salt, sugar & flour) that make it all work – the chemicals and such – baking powder, baking soda, cream of tartar, corn starch, gelatin and last but not least – yeast. Without them, it would be a sad state indeed. And a side note, yeast is included here for clarity but please keep yeast in the fridge – it will reward you with leavening beyond your wildest leavening dreams! And check out lighter bake, a blend of apples and prunes which is a healthy stand-in to help cut the fat, now who doesn’t think that’s a good idea! Thought so.

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chocolate

Bitter, sweet, sorta sweet and not sweet at all – sounds like a slew of ex-lovers rather than an earthly creation that tastes like heaven – you guessed it – chocolate. And if overheard describing its characteristics, one would swear you’re talking about Tom or Dick or Harry or Sally or Susie – surely not a luxurious slab of chocolate. Let’s start with rich, how about smooth & spicy or warm & comforting and when you’re working with chocolate in the kitchen – temperamental, fickle, moody and sensitive most definitely come to mind, as does ornery, headstrong and volatile. And when it works out it’s like the best love affair you’ve ever had – sigh … now that I’ve got that off my chest – suffice it to say, chocolate needs to be invited to the party – used and exploited way, way, way beyond the secret stash in your desk.

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flavor extracts

Where would we be without flavor, or should I say, flaaaayyyyyvaaaahhhhhhhhh! It really is crack for the tastebuds. The flavors humans have managed to extract (pun intended) from 1000’s of things from the land and the sea is really quite remarkable. I won’t start listing, but flavor goes way beyond the obvious – and if you don’t believe me check out these frightening flavors that have found their way into ice cream. Whatever is on the menu – think about upping the flavour – especially simple things we make on a regular basis – pancakes, french toast, muffins, cookies & cakes, icings, frostings – but how about in sauces, dressings, marinades, soups &  stews or start with your own line of flavored yogurt – and just a little dab’ll do ya! So start slow – add a little, taste, add a little more, taste, maybe a little sweetener, taste  – and that’s how it’s done.

extracts

So carry on and discover the world of flavor extracts and let the hoarding begin – lemon, lime, orange, rum, maple, coconut, coffee, mint, anise, blackberry, strawberry, cinnamon, green tea, chocolate, hazelnut, root beer –  a varied selection of extracts is as indispensable to your cooking as a healthy array of herbs, spices, vinegars & oils. The folks at your house may ask many  questions, but one I guarantee they’ll never ask again – “where’s the flayva?!”

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flours

Welcome to baking construction 101 – flours are the plaster to which all baked goods descend. Keep a healthy inventory of various flours and a-baking you will go. And these days – for the sake of our waistlines & seat covers, it’s easy to side step the all purpose white for whole grain pastry (or at least let them roll together). If I can sneak in added fibre, I will and no crepe, pancake or scone is safe. So with that in mind (and a little knowledge), check out all the different flours out there and like anything in the crazed kitchen, experiment – mix and match and before you know it, all those glorious baked pleasures will not be so heavily iced with guilt!

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salt

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that salt is right up there with heat and water when it comes to the board of directors in the kitchen. Salt is quiet and humble, doesn’t demand much attention, is happy to stand alone or join in the fun when invited. Salt aims to please – you may not be quite sure why a sweet concoction is over the top – salt. And why an even sweeter concoction like caramel sauce is to die for – a sprinkle of salt. So if you think I’m exaggerating, I’m not the only one campaigning for the salt & sweets duo.

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sugars

Talk about multi–talented – sugar dances, sugar sings, hell, sugar writes the songs! For goodness sake, sugar acts, directs, designs, has a line of jewellery and perfume and is working on world peace – are you gettin’ a sugar rush yet? It starts solo – and with the addition of a little to alot of water coupled with a little to alot of heat, sugar owns it all, from runny sweet syrup to rock hard candy and everything in between. On the savory side, sugar is the secret ingredient that turns that A into an A+. Where would sweet and sour anything be without added sweetness? Want serious color on grilled meats or oven roasts? Add a dash of sugar. So head on over to sugar 101 and get familiar with sugar, sugar!

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bottles & jars

This is where you will find the magic. These are the real stars, the building blocks to sensational sauces, marinades, gravies and dips – supporting players in all culinary home runs. You can’t make great flavors happen without stimulating all the senses – sweet, sour, salty, bitter, heat (pungent) and acid (astringent). And I’m not the only one who thinks so, just see what the guru himself has to say about the power of hitting on all these sensations in one fell swoop. Not only does it make culinary sense it is a hole in one for your health.

So I hope the point has been made – stock up that cupboard and begin to discover the never-ending ways a few simple ingredients can be combined to create completely different flavor experiences. And as Winston Churchill so aptly put it “never was so much owed (accolades, kudos & applause) by so many (your family and friends) to so few (the bottles & jars in your cupboard).” So depending on which element (sweet, sour, salty, bitter, heat or acid) you choose to lead the dance, with just slight adjustments, you’ll be dancing a whole new twist! So take your taste buds for a spin on the dance floor and even if it takes a try or two, I promise the moonwalk is just around the corner!

bottle & jar basics

When you open the cupboard in your kitchen, you’ll want to see sweeteners (beyond refined sugar), you’ll want them in a concentrated form as in a jam or jelly, you’ll want to see nut butters (beyond peanut), oils & vinegars are a given and I could get lost for days in a well-worked out sauce section of any specialty shop on the planet. You will be amazed at how little it takes to push that sauce, marinade or vinaigrette over the top – stir in a tablespoon or 2 of ginger marmalade into your next sauce or marinade, how about a spoonful of nut butter into a vinaigrette not to mention the myriad of bottled sauces like soy & worcestershire that will turn out to be the secret ingredient every single time. And when all is said and done, every kitchen cupboard needs to pack a serious offering of heat. Happy experimenting.

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honey, syrups & sweet seasonings

Refined sugars have their time and place and you can’t make a killer caramel sauce or rock hard candy without it – but, there are a whole lot of sugar stand-ins that have been through a heck of a lot less to get to your pantry. I’m talking about natural sweeteners, like what you see below.

blue agave syrup & nectar

honey

maple syrup

mirin & rice cooking wine

jams, jellies, marmalades & compotes

In case you haven’t heard, this small group of bottled magic has so moved on from breakfast. By any other name – a little dollop of concentrated heaven ready to transform a dish whether savory or sweet. Marmalade and soy sauce over anything headed for the grill, any fruit preserve to deglaze a pan or a spoonful of any of it to sweeten a vinaigrette. It’s not nearly as radical as it sounds. It is the sweet, saucy sous chef you’ve been praying for. Your welcome.

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nut & seed butters

Are you nuts for nut butters and the butters of their tiny little seedy cousins? Well, if you aren’t, you should be. Those of you who would have to trade their life to enter a room with a nut in it (don’t start!) are off the hook. As for the rest of you, head to the nearest nut house (I said, don’t start) or aisle you can find and discover the world of nut & seed butters. Depending on where you shop, the selection could be dismal or it could be delightful. If the former is the case, check your nut & seed supply in the fridge and get grinding, and if it’s the latter, carry on, lucky you! And finally, the nut puns, jokes and innuendos are never ending, I won’t even go there – so I’ll start and stop with this one.

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oils & vinegars

Thank god for oil – especially olive. My consumption of 4-legged fats would have killed me by now if it weren’t for the oil from the olive tree and many of its vegetable cousins. There’s a basic rule of fats in the kitchen (let’s not go there) – if it’s liquid at room temperature, grab it – if it’s not, keep your relationship brief. By all means have a relationship, but this would be of the occasional fling variety. I will be the first to shout “butter is better” – but over time I have realized that a little dollop of butter added to a heart healthy oil is a marriage made in cooking oil heaven. With a little knowledge about your options, you will be enjoying a variety of oils in just as many ways. Pay attention to temperature, think about flavor and where said oil is headed, to maximize the health benefits and preserve the flavor qualities and you’ll be cooking like … .

oil basics

oils 101

oils for flavour

Vinegars need to make a run for it – right past the salad bowl and straight into stir-fries, braises, stews and roasts. It is simple science – when an acidic solution like vinegar tap dances its way into the finale of heavier braises, gravies & sauces – the pearly gates magically appear! And all it takes is a splash – so dive into the world of vinegars and give your one pot wonders wings. Vinegars lighten and brighten, bring the sour to the sweet or can finish a dish on that high note you never thought you could hit – so bring on the vinegar and hit it! And with a little knowledge thanks to the links below, you will be splishing and splashing like a pro. You’ll soon realize you are indeed the lone ranger in your kitchen as you add another zinger (pun intended) to your hash slingin’ holster – hi-ho silver!

vinegar basics

vinegars 101

flavored vinegar

sauces

Sauces is one of many addictions when it comes to where to lay down my dollars. When I come face to face with shelf after shelf, row upon row of nothing but gourmet sauce masterpieces, I can get as excited as if I were 13 and Justin Bieber is at the front door. And these days there are no shortage of choices. Entire companies have built their business on nothing but 1000’s of little glass bottles of glorious combinations of the quints, give or take – sweet, sour, salty, bitter, heat and acid. So there you have it – go forth, get sauces, get saucy, hell, get sauced!

hot sauces

soy sauces

worcestershire sauce

wasabi

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breads

Little wonder a slang for money is dough! Bread is the backdrop, the heart and soul of many meals in just as many cultures. What is more diverse than bread – the ingredients are few – ground grain, water, a leavening agent (or not), and salt (or not) – and depending on the ratio of what to what, you can end up with foccacia, breadsticks, naan, a loaf of whole wheat or tortillas.

So what is more comforting, warm and fuzzy than fresh baked bread – don’t answer that! Every place on earth has their “bread” – you know I’m going there, so let’s go –bagels, brown bread, english muffins, chapati, ciabbata, cornbread,damper, flatbread, foccacia, french bread, irish soda bread, italian bread, matzah bread, how to make naan, paratha, phulka, papadam, pita, pizza dough, pumpernickel, puran poli, roti, rye, sourdough, tortilla, whole grain – I could go on, but I won’t. Whether it supports, surrounds, covers, immerses or never makes it that far – my point? Bring on the bread!

bread basics

bagels

flatbreads

flatbread basics

foccacia

naan

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pita bread

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tortillas

popovers

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pretzels & crispbreads

rustic breads

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sourdough

whole grain breads

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cans & cartons

A few key items in the cans & cartons department and you will be armed and dangerous. With the right cans in the kitchen, a delicious meal is around the corner, or should I say, in the can. Sorry, I couldn’t resist. Anyway, below represents what I keep on hand and of course, there are certain things one would never buy in a can – off the top of my head – most fruits & vegetables (there are a few exceptions) and meats. I’m sure there are others which  escape me right now. Let’s face it – were talking planet earth and things that have made there way into a can at the hands of a wacky human. It is probably quite stunning, and on that note, look what I found – unusual (to say the least) canned foods from around the world, or weird canned foods or, I think not, I’ve seen enough, how ’bout you? – bon appetit!.

beans in a can

If seasoned food writers can rethink canned beans, so can you! Check out the info below under “dried beans & legumes” for the dried bean approach. The same ideas apply once you have the cooked bean in hand. Whether out of a can or a pot on your stove, once cooked – a bean, is a bean, is a bean. Purists may disagree, but us commoners would have a hard time telling the difference. Aside from the myriad of ideas here and int he dried bean section – here’s something a little different to get you going!

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fish in a can

Canned fish is another must in the pantry – if not for the convenience and ease on the bottom line then for the over-the-top health benefits. There is a surprising variety of fish available in a can, which is a victory for those who don’t live near bodies of water – rivers, lakes, seas or oceans, where fresh is hard to come by. Of course nothing can substitute for the real deal, fresh out of water, star of all things clean – but when that’s simply not an option, they’re countless recipes where the canned variety is a very respectable stand-in and in some cases, preferable.

In the canned fish aisle – tuna and salmon fight for top spot, with sardines keeping it a competition. But you can find fish packed in water (most preferable) or if you buy tuna in an Italian deli it will be packed in glorious olive oil, and for me, that’s the way to go – you can also find all kinds of canned fish, smoked, pickled or sauced – there’s lots to choose from.

Canned seafood (see below) is a whole other matter and can be used successfully, if it is used where appropriate. I’ll leave you with that. In the meantime, crack a can of fish and many-a meal is not far behind – think casseroles, sandwiches, pizzas, quesadillas, stuffed potatoes, cakes, patties, dips and sauces – all quick and easy to get on the table on those busy weeknights that never seem to end!

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milk in a can/carton

A few cans of milk in the pantry can save you. Especially evaporated. Turn a pan full of sautéed tomatoes, onions and garlic into a smooth creamy pot of decadence and all it took was a can of evaporated milk. Add half a can to a smoothie for a richness that regular milk simply can’t provide. And the best news is it doesn’t add extra fat or calories. Coconut milk is the same story but be sure to read the labels carefully, when it comes to coconut milk the range is vast when it comes to content. And all bakers know the putter in the canned milk pantry bag is sweetened condensed. Simply boiled in the can for a couple of hours becomes dulce de lece by dessert. Anywho, suffice it to say, a few cans of milk stocked in the pantry will be your big guns when it comes time to up the richness. And if you are looking for dairy-free options, there are loads of them in the form of rice milk, soy milk, almond milk – head to the canned/carton milk aisle in your local grocer and check out the options. They are all perfect stand-ins for the dairy variety.

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seafood in a can

When fresh is simply not an option, canned seafood can quite respectably stand-in for fresh in a variety of recipes – crab cakes, seafood casseroles, stuffed anything, dips, salads, soups – you get the idea. And when it comes to delicious, there’s nothing better than something smoked (yeah, yeah, yeah), as in mussels & oysters and anything kippered like herring, and all these come in a can. Any canned seafood mixed with a little mayo, diced up crunch (celery, peppers, scallions) is an instant meal. Slathered between a couple of slices of crusty artisan bread, or smeared on a tortilla and rolled or folded or tossed with pasta. If I don’t stop myself, I won’t stop … really … I won’t – so peruse your canned seafood section and I think you will be quite surprised what has joined canned fish since the 70′s.

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canned shrimp

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canned mussels/oysters
canned shrimp

stocks & broths in a can/carton

When it comes to store-bought stocks and broths, sodium is the enemy. Just make sure you read the labels and go for the healthiest brand. Now, stocks and broths are nothing more than fantastically souped-up water … really,  souped-up water. Think about, it all starts with plain ‘ole h2o and after a long hot bath with meat, chicken or fish and their bones, vegetables, herbs and seasonings, throw in a little heat and voilà, a  broth is born. You can make it yourself or you can head to the soup aisle of your grocer. Technically speaking, broth is a thinner, lighter version of a stock, whereas stock usually involves straining after the long bath and going back in to the pot for further doctoring to create gloriously rich deeply flavored soups or sauces. And to further confuse, many broths are sold as stocks and vice versa, so don’t get caught up in the lingo, just start using them. Where you ask? Well for starters, never make another pot of rice (unless its for sushi) with just water.  A base for a simple dipping sauce is a of cup stock/broth away. So let’s just call it brock or stoth,  I vote for brock – but whatever you call it, you will be thrilled to have this little secret in your arsenal. You’re ahead of the game before the game even begins. So starting today, think of water as a means to sneak in flavor, not just the clear stuff that simply cooks the food. Seriously? Seriously.

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tomatoes in a can

If I’m a fan of anything, it is canned tomatoes, in any way, shape or form. Well, that’s not quite true. I don’t buy whole tomatoes, because you can buy them diced, stewed, crushed, puréed and sauced, which is what most recipes tell you to do with that can of whole tomatoes, so I save myself the trouble. I also could not live without tomato paste. I use it in too many ways to mention which is why if you look below, I’ve taken care of that. It really is the little engine that could. And if you knew the insane health benefits of processed tomatoes you would already be out the door, you’d be gone. There are groups dedicated to the promotion of tomato products and they’re not blowing smoke, they’re preachin’ the gospel – tomato wellness 101. So just go get some canned tomatoes and do your health a big fat favor in the process. (I’m not sure if that pun was intended or not).

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fruits in a can

There are only a few fruits I would ever buy in a can – peaches, pears, pineapple and, of course, apple sauce. The most important thing is to read the label. I cannot stress this enough. Frankly if it’s in a can, read that label! Do not buy canned fruit that has loads of (or even a little of) added sugar, syrup or any of the ose’s – fructose, sucrose, sucralose – yuk! Choose a brand where the fruit is packed in its own juices or a natural juice blend. You’re the chef, you add the sugar.

And wherever your canned fruit is headed, toss it in a hot skillet with a little butter even if you plan on enjoying it cold. The searing adds a whole new flavor dimension and you will be congratulated for your cleverness.

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vegetables in a can

chips, crackers & cookies

Every pantry needs a flavorful selection of gourmet chips, crackers and cookies to turn to for instant alternatives to breadings, crunchy toppings and whereever else you want to bump up the zing factor. I’ve sussed out a few recipes where chips, crackers and cookies are used as springboards rather than the main event. Break ‘em, crumble ‘em, crush ‘em, pulverize ‘em and soon you’ll be finding your own way where even you will exclaim, “I thought of that?” Oh yes, you did!

And when that little culinary light goes on in your head, as in – you realize the endless flavors available in the form of the humble chip, cracker and cookie, you will unleash more flavor and crunch than you ever thought possible. So check out the ideas below for your key to crunch city – you’re welcome!

chips

crackers

cracker basics

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recipes using crackers

cookies

coffee & tea

If one was to master any life skill, the ability to create a robust, flavorful satisfying cup of coffee has to be right up there with knowing how to read and write! The history of coffee is vast and torrid spanning 1000’s of years which has something to say about its’ staying power. Coffee’s appeal goes far beyond simply fueling the human race – second only to oil in the fuel department, coffee is also the world’s most popular beverage, talk about staying power.

Over time, coffee has been loved, hated, worshiped, revered, longed for, condemned, banned and appreciated with great gusto – much like many heads of state – Henry the VIII anyone? I could go on, I mean, I want to go on, but I won’t so let’s just leave it in the 16th century! Back to you and coffee – gets some beans, grind ’em yourself, master a cuppa joe and discover the world of coffee way beyond the cup – it’s as vast as is its history – so whatever you call it, get cookin’ with coffee. How about freshly ground exotic coffee beans sprinkled over ice cream? Divine!

coffee 101

Tea has given coffee a run for its money – often without the buzz, but you can get it if you want it. Tea is as vast and varied subject as is coffee whose time has finally come. Tea’s reputation has far surpassed that of an afternoon indulgence for the elderly or a vague herbal stand-in for its darker cousin. Tea houses have shot up everywhere packed with hundreds of varieties for just as many moods to enjoy on the spot or take a stash home for round the clock indulgence.

tea 101

dried beans & legumes

If you choose to stockpile anything in your kitchen, let it be beans. The versatility of beans (& legumes) are what legends are made of – sprinkled over a salad or pizza, puréed to a glorious smoothness in a spread or dip, baked long and slow in a savory soup or stew. And talk about synergy when paired with rice – a perfect protein is born. Little wonder that this particular combo sustains life in many cultures not to mention what a protein punch this is for the non-carnivore. If not for the versatility of the simple little bean, then stock it for the health benefits. If cooking them from scratch is more than you’re willing to do, then by all means used canned. Check out the ideas for beans above under “cans & cartons” – and whether you cook them yourself or leave that up to the pros – once cooked you will wonder how you ever got by without them.

dried bean basics

black beans

black-eyed peas

cannellini beans

chick peas

kidney beans

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lentils

pinto beans

split peas

dried herbs & spices, mixtures, blends & rubs

These are the accessories that will turn passersby into cooks, and smitten ones into chefs. Hear me when I say – seasoning is the single most important thing you can do to any animal, vegetable or mineral! Like gloss on the lips, rings on the fingers and bells on the toes – yah, yah, yah, you will have flavor wherever you go!

Make it your business to learn about all the various herbs & spices out there – part of mixing and matching flavors is of course, preference and the other part is science. Some flavors simply do not go together and chemically clash, like Charlie Sheen and well, lately, just about anyone. Unlock the door to the herb & spice prison of your usual routine of reaching for the same 2-3 flavors. Blends are a great way to go – so check out some of the combos below – like the not-so-familiar berbere, ras el hanout or zhoug – African, Arabian & Yemen combos, respectively – to the usual suspects. Flavor blends can be used anywhere you need a zing – meat mains, veggie sides, pastas, salads, dressings, I could go on, but I won’t. And in case you need reminding – add what you like and leave what you don’t. If there is an ingredient you can’t find, carry on – make it your own! You’re more clever than you think!

rubs, mixtures & blends

dried herbs

What would we do without dehydration – and I ain’t referring to a skin condition or whether you got your daily 6-8 of H2O! Thanks to dehydration of all things edible, we are able to intensify flavors, bottle them and enjoy them at our leisure. Herbs would be at the top of that list of edible items us humans love to suck the moisture out of and save for later. Whether you grow your own and proceed to dry them yourself, or buy them ready to go, herbs, especially dried, are the backdrop to many a culinary home run. If they’re not invited to the party, they’re sadly missed (like our dearest friends) – and when they show up – hallelujah! Finally a little interest and depth have arrived. Keep your dried herbs well-stocked and you will always have a little ammo in the barrel to load up and fire in whatever direction you’re headed.

dried herb basics

basil to curry leaves

dill weed to oregano

rosemary to thyme

dried spices

Understand the power of spice and you will have wrapped your head around a culinary fundamental. Spices bring all things destined for the palate to life. Set out a few, figure out what you like – when you know what they taste like you will know how to use them. There are sweet spices – cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, ginger, cardamom – and there are savory ones – chili, cumin, curry, turmeric. To take it over the top, the secret is to realize that in the land of spice, sweet and savory can hang at the same party – sweet and savory can meet at the dance and actually leave together – who knew? Well now you do and may you take your spicy wings and fly … and take your taste buds with you. Amen.

spice basics

allspice to celery seed

chili powder to curry powder

fennel seed to nutmeg

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paprika to turmeric

salt & pepper

garlic

Garlic is one of the few things that you should never be caught without, like toilet paper on a camping trip. Yes, it’s right up there with the necessities of life, especially in your kitchen. There’s a reason garlic has reached epic notoriety – it has magical powers – in cooking,for your health and for warding off those pesky nocturnal annoyances. How about garlic for painting? In fact, garlic has reached celebrity status, so much so that garlic landed the lead role in the 1980 documentary “Garlic is as Good as Ten Mothers” – quite the claim, 10 mothers? Really? Really!

garlic cookbooks

garlic accessories

garlic basics

garlic recipes

garlic tips

read it – get yourself some serious know-how

  1. When you need to peel several heads or cloves of garlic at a time, wear a pair of rubber gloves. The skins will come right off and the gloves will protect your hands from the garlic’s odour and stickiness. And to finely mince the garlic, use a fine cheese grater or rasp which is much easier to clean than a garlic press.
  2. The smaller you cut garlic, the more potent the flavour because more surface area is exposed to the air which causes a chemical reaction which results in that strong garlic aroma and flavour.
  3. Store unpeeled garlic in an open container in a cool, dry place away from other foods – never in the refrigerator or the freezer. Properly stored garlic can keep up to 3 months.
  4. If you but garlic already minced in olive or vegetable oil – it must be stored in the refrigerator.
  5. If you only have 1 clove to break down, the back of a fork works well. Press the tines on the clove, starting at the edge and work your way through the clove. Instant mashed garlic.

watch it – class is in session – videos await

whole grains & cereals

My take on whole grains & cereals coming soon … so in the meantime, feast on what’s already out there!

whole grain basics

amaranth to bulgur wheat

cornmeal to oats

polenta to spelt

rices

rye to whole wheat

pasta, noodles & rice paper

A good selection of these is like having an ace up your sleeve – even when there’s nothing for dinner – there’s something for dinner. Nothing can be turned into a meal faster than pastas, noodles & couscous, and rice paper can get it all together.

pastas

couscous

If couscous is not a staple in your kitchen – it should be. It could not be easier to cook and is the perfect backdrop to 1000’s of add-ins. It is delish hot, cold, on the side, in the middle, as a filling, and can be a light side dish or loaded up as the main event – anytime! It works for breakfast (think dried fruits, nuts, maple syrup, honey, cinnamon), it works for lunch (think chopped vegetables, canned beans, cooked chicken, beef, fish, shrimp finished with a vinaigrette) or as a hot dish for dinner (think anything in your pantry!) Couscous is a license to lose your mind – talk about crazed!

read it – get yourself some serious know-how

watch it – class is in session – videos await

noodles

What’s not to love about noodles – it’s one of the first foods kids fall in love with and it’s probably one of the last foods we can slurp up when we’ve forgotten where we’ve put our teeth – I’m not there yet, but I’ll be ready when I am!

read it – get yourself some serious know-how

watch it – class is in session – videos await

basic noodle recipes

rice paper

I discovered rice paper many years ago and haven’t been caught without them since. They’re a staple in my kitchen, right up there with S&P. After a quick pass through tepid water, (either in a shallow dish or under the tap) they soften up in no time and the filling combinations are endless. Just roll them with the edges folded in and keep rolling – and the magic is in the dipping sauce, and I mean any dipping sauce– potsticker dipping sauces, barbecue dipping sauces, curry dipping sauces, fondue dipping sauces, or whatever dipping sauce works for you – see? I really did mean any dipping sauce. And the real payoff – you’ll be getting the fussier feeders at your house eating things you thought they never would, especially when they can’t get enough of the dipping sauces. The secret – keep your mouth shut and just see what happens – if they don’t know what’s under wraps, they’ll just ask for a straw for that dipping sauce!

read it – get yourself some serious know-how

watch it – class is in session – videos await