Hello there home cooks!

 

Is everyone still enjoying summer? If you’re like me and live in the Bay Area summer feels like it is just (finally) starting and that means a bounty of awesome produce!

 

I believe it was the renowned food journalist Mark Bittman who said you should go the store and buy the best looking ingredients and then go home and decide what to make. I LOVED when I heard this remark, because this is exactly what I do. I absolutely relish the freedom this allows. Nothing against those of you who live to make lists, but I am not a list person. I don’t like the task nor do I like being bound by a list. For some reason, when I leave for the store with a list in hand I feel like I already forgot something – and who needs extra stress when going to the grocery store?! If you don’t like doing something, let’s face it, you’re not going to do it, or you’re at least going to burn up a lot of energy procrastinating it before you do! This is why it’s important to make grocery shopping an activity you look forward to. Think of it as an opportunity to explore and be creative. Grab an ingredient you’ve never had and have no idea how to prepare – I promise when you get home and google how cook that odd-shaped root vegetable or spikey tropical fruit, you will find countless, easy-to-follow recipes.

 

If you’re going to a big box grocery store, the options can be overwhelming and the aisle countless. My first tip is to start at the produce section, think about how many nights you’re going to be home that week and then use that number to determine how many “main” ingredients you should pick up. Since I cook vegetarian, I consider a main ingredient to be the vegetable I am going to build the meal around, for example: cauliflower, broccoli, squash, or eggplant. If you’re a meat eater, stay with me here, this method is going to be good for you too – pack your cart up with veggies first then you can pick up your favorite protein to cook alongside it. The beauty of having vegetables as your main ingredient is that you get to be creative and make bright and nutritious meals that far surpass meat and potatoes.

 

After you’ve grabbed your main ingredients, stock up on your staples. For me the staples are: yellow onions (at least 2), a couple carrots, greens (of your preference, I prefer romaine hearts and arugula), fresh garlic (at least two bulbs), citrus (a couple limes and lemons), a piece of fresh ginger, and fresh herbs. Okay, how does the cart look? Ready to tackle the aisles?

 

Now if you stock your pantry with the following items, you won’t need to buy them often and you will have the ingredient base to tackle most recipes. This means you can knock out weekly grocery shopping at the farmers market or a local produce store and keep costs down (and let’s face it, if you start seeing how much you can save by making food at home, you’re bound to do it more often, and that is the goal here!). I am going to break this down into categories for you, and depending on dietary restrictions you may have to tweak certain items to suit your needs:

 

  • Dairy: eggs, almond milk, Greek yogurt, and cheese (parmesan, goat cheese, and mozzarella are my most used).

 

  • Oils and vinegars: olive oil (get the big bottle, it’s more cost effective and trust me – you’ll go through it!), coconut oil, and vegetable oil (for pan frying and baking). All of the vinegars! They are cheap and they come in handy for making dressings/sauces: rice wine, red wine, balsamic, and apple cider.

 

  • Condiments: Soy sauce (make sure it says “brewed”), hot sauce of choice (make mine Sriracha please!), chili paste (sambal and/or harissa), and stone ground mustard (a MUST for making homemade salad dressing).

 

  • Dry goods: Canned tomatoes (diced and San Marzano are my personal favorites for making sauce, stew, and curry!), canned beans (black beans and cannellini beans), rice (Jasmine, Basmati, and brown are great options), quinoa, farro, and soba noodles (these are so versatile, quick, healthy and delicious).

 

  • Spices: Salt, pepper (make sure it has a grinder!), cumin (powdered and seeds), curry powder, dried oregano, cinnamon, paprika, chili flakes, and turmeric.

 

Wow! I think that the kitchen is just about stocked now!  One thing to note: I probably left some things out (remember I am not a list girl), but the items that come to mind first and definitely the ones I use the most! Also, these are the must haves for cooking, not for baking…we may get into that later, but my adventures in healthy baking are still in the beginning stages.

 

Are you excited to get cooking yet? The options from here are endless. The phrase “I can’t cook” will soon be eliminated from your lexicon. Next time you visit the blog I will be taking you through my daily cooking process and highlighting a simple, tasty (and yes healthy!) meal.  Go hit the market and get ready to rock in the kitchen!

 

Please leave any questions or comments (or suggestions) you may have! Did I leave out one of your essential ingredients?! Let me know!