Today, I wanted to talk about cooking basics. The more I learn about cooking, the more excited I become and want to share everything with you. I’m far from being a professional chef. The reason I wanted to become a better cook was for health and financial reasons. I realized how much money I was spending on take out and it made me sick to my stomach. So, a couple of years ago, I really buckled down and binge watched tutortials on Youtube. I also really got into cooking and shows like Street Food Japan.
I’m still learning when it comes to cooking. Money is tight right now and so, I’m not able to experiment with more expensive foods like roasts, or even sushi. Right now, I’m focusing on foods that are healthy, easy on the pocket, and easy to make.
Something I learned early on is that stocking up your kitchen with a good variety of oils, herbs and spices is important. Having these staple ingredients on hand will help improve the quality of your dishes – regardless of what you’re cooking. I spent way too much money a couple of years ago on spice mixes. But the good thing about these, is they last a long time.
Here are my kitchen staples that I keep on hand at all times.
- Black pepper
- Salt, sea salt
- Red chili flakes
- Ground Ginger
- Garlic powder
- Bay leaves
Now that list might seem like a long one to beginner cooks. I didn’t buy these all at once. I mean, you can do that if you have the money. Or you can invest in a really good spice rack that comes with pre-filled spice bottles. For spices like garlic powder, basil, and pepper – things I use in every dish – I spent a little more money and picked up large McCormick bottles.
For the rest, I invested in canning jars and picked the spices up when they on sale. I switched to shopping at Superstore because their prices are cheaper than most. For spices I use on occasion, I either went with No Name brands or Suraj spice packs. I can get these on sale for $0.98 for 100 grams.
The key is to shop around your local area. You can find some amazing deals on Amazon, but I prefer to buy food and kitchen products locally. In the summer months, I will hit farmer’s markets and open markets to see what kind of deals I can find.
When it comes to oils, I try not to use too many heavy oils that are high in fat. My go-to for cooking is Olive oil not only because it’s delicious, but also because there are a lot of health benefits that comes with it.
Olive oil is the natural oil which is extracted from olives. According to multiple sources online, the oil is approximately 14% saturated fat, but about 11% is polyunsaturated. Studies have shown that oleic acid which is found in olive oil, can reduce inflammation. It’s also great on the skin – I’ve tried skin masks with olive oil and tea tree oil and it made a difference.
I try to keep use of vegetable oil to a minimum and use it mainly in baking. Some popular brands for vegetable oil are Mazola, Crisco and Rooster. Prices will vary depending on brand and size of bottle you purchase. My go-to for veggie oil is Crisco. It’s what my mom used in her kitchen.
Vegetable oils are considered to be heart healthy because of the polyunsaturated fat – the good kind of fat that you want to include in your diet. Polyunsaturated fats have been linked to reducing the risk of heart problems.
While vegetable oils do have some health benefits, it is wise to use in moderation.
You can make your own stock and cooking oils – I’ll link some resources for you in a separate post.
Other key ingredients
When it comes to cooking dishes like casseroles, soups, stews and main courses, I find that these key ingredients come up in most recipes. I try to have these staple ingredients on hand at all times. In winter months, I opt for frozen veggies and fruit because they are cheaper and last longer.
PRO TIP: wait for items to go on sale and stock up. Freeze fresh vegetables to make them last longer.
- Base ingredients: garlic cloves, minced garlic, olive oil, spices
- Vegetables: mushrooms, carrots and celery, broccoli and cauliflower
- Leafy greens: kale or spinach
- Fruits: bananas, frozen berries, apples
- Onions: yellow onions, green onions (you can grow these at home!)
- Dairy: eggs, milk, butter or margarine
- Beans: cans of red, kidney and black beans for chili’s and dips
- Pantry: flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and cocoa powder, breadcrumbs
Basic tools every aspiring cook should own
I’ll write a separate post to go into further detail on tools that you’ll need to get started with in the kitchen. I remember hauling my butt over to London Drugs to pick up a few key tools when I first moved into this condo. I’m lucky that I inherited a lot of items from my mother’s kitchen like a very expensive Kitchen Aid mixer and some pots and pans. But like everything else, even kitchen tools have a shelf life and I’ve had to replace some items over the years.
- Cutting board
- A good knife for cutting vegetables
- Metal whisk
- Heavy wooden spoons
- Skillet or large frying pan with lid
- Hand mixer
Hope you enjoyed this short post on key ingredients and tools to keep in your kitchen to learn how to cook. What staples do you have in your kitchen? What are your favorite recipes? Let me know in the comments!
- Winter Cooking
- Chicken and Vegetable Casserole
- Ukrainian Sausage
- Homemade barley and leafy greens soup
- Homemade barley and vegetable soup
- Three course (almost) vegetarian meal
- What’s Cooking?
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