Monday 9 May 2011

8 Staples

Basically, to make a good meal and to make it healthy, you’ve got to have the foundation. Healthy food doesn’t just happen by boiling a chicken breast and serving it on some plain bland white rice. This is what makes people stay away from eating healthy in their own home. It has to taste good and you have to have things in your kitchen on hand to improve your meals and to have healthy utensils to make a good snack, lunch or dinner.

I’ve compiled a list of things that are in my cupboard (granted they are overflowing at the moment), that I use every week in my cooking. I’ve almost completely switched over to the ‘better for you’ option when it comes to certain products like, flour (whole wheat), sugar (sugar substitute for baking and cooking...), oil, etc... This is my list that I deem essential in Gina-land to get all her cooking done. Mind you I’m constantly collecting more and more things to design meals that I can cook faster and healthier so here are a few of my tricks that I’ve switched to.

  1. Olive oil – We all have olive oil in our cabinet but what do you really use it for? For the longest time it was just extra virgin for me and I’d use it to make dressing or fry in a pan. But I decided to get, in addition to, light or extra light olive oil. I moved to light because it meant I could nearly cut out any use for oils with higher saturated fats. (Which I’d use to fry an egg, or start a stir fry) I always felt so guilty using a lot of oils that might not have given me that extra boost of heart healthy incentive as olive oil does for me. There are also other ones good for you such as rapeseed oil (canola oil) and many others. But why not use that bottle you have every day.
  2. Spices – Anyone that goes to my house and sees the line-up of spices. I love spices! When I see a new spice I don’t have I pick it up and look at what it’s used for and think of ways to put it in something I already make. I have a list of essential spices that I use very regularly to give food flavour! More importantly, if you can spice up your food enough it helps with the need to use as much salt. Salt is an enemy to a lot of people, it makes you retain water, it’s not good for the blood or the heart etc… So my list is:
    1. Garlic powder (can’t stress this enough, it’s my #1)
    2. Onion powder
    3. Rosemary
    4. Basil
    5. Oregano
    6. Bay leaf
    7. Chilli powder
    8. Cumin
    9. Cinnamon
    10. Ginger powder
    11. Stock cubes beef and chicken (low sodium)
  3. Brown Starches – Brown rice, whole wheat and whole meal pasta. I have tried to push white starches aside whenever I can to add extra fibre to my diet. White starches are delicious and often lack any flavour so can be moulded easier to food but sometimes you have to be inventive to make it fit in with all your everyday dishes,
  4. Canned Fish – I know I know, who wants to stock up on canned fish! But there are a lot of good reasons to have it handy. Tuna is what I keep a big stock of, always in water to keep the sodium levels down. Tuna is good for sandwiches and salads and every day lunches. There are also others like salmon (either with bones or boneless and skinless), clams, sardines, mackerel, and many others. Some I use strictly for lunches, but others I make whole meals out of, such as creamed salmon and spinach, or clam sauce over linguini. Look out for these recipes in the future.
  5. Beans – Beans can be your best friend in the kitchen. They’re so much more versatile than anyone thinks. Beans can go into stews, stir-fry’s, vegetarian burgers, curries, sauces...etc. The bean is an underestimated thing in the food family. One of my favourite ways to jazz up a meal is to make a sauce out of any kind of white beans, which I will post a recipe for later. The types that I stock are white beans such as cannelloni and black, and chick peas. You could use any type of variety to dress up a plain bowl of rice even. Beans are good and good for you!
  6. Citrus – I keep citrus fruit like lemons, lime and sometimes oranges. Limes are good for my cocktails ;) and lemons are great for cooking, and brightening up sauces and meals to add extra flavour without adding extra fat or salt.
  7. Garlic – Essential ingredient to a cook that doesn’t want to settle for less, I always have this stocked.
  8. Onions – So, I get that most people dislike onions, and I can understand that, but onions are equally essential to any cooks development of food. Onions are versatile and can do a myriad of things for your food at each level of cooking. I suggest you give them a second try if they’re not already on your list of things you keep stocked up in!
If you want to cook my recipes, these are a list of ingredients that I find important to make most of my meals. It helps to keep things handy that you know you’re going to make and can make into something good. It always prevents me from going out and making a bad food choice. I hope that you have found this short list helpful, I sometimes can’t stop myself I could go on and on about spices, but this is the general rule most of my food ingredients. I can’t wait to post the recipes of things mentioned in this blog. Feel free to ask me anything you’re interested in!

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