I loved the response on last month’s “staples” post, and hearing about what you all consider must-haves in your pantry!
Today we’re tackling the fridge – specifically, what I almost always have on-hand to help me stay at-the-ready for most cooking and baking needs!
As a baker, butter is an essential ingredient – and one I always have plenty of. But I use butter beyond cakes and cookies. It lends a silky finish to most of my sauces. And I wouldn’t dream of making a grilled cheese sandwich without my trusty skillet – well buttered, of course (now make these scallops and these caramels!)
Of course I use them for soft tacos and fajitas. But my kids pair them with shredded cheese and salsa for quesadillas. I’ll roll them up with some cream cheese and jelly, cut the whole thing cross wise, and serve these “spirals” for a quick and easy snack. And have you ever made your own tortilla chips? Game changer.
Obvious, right? But look beyond the breakfast and the baked goods! Put a fried egg atop a ho-hum grain salad. Or a burger. Or some roasted asparagus. Or…….
Leftover take out rice and veggies get an upgrade with some soy sauce and beaten eggs stirred into the frying pan. And hard-boiled? Eggs become a quick, portable lunch, or a yummy mix-in for your green salad (now make this quiche!)
No more than a day or two goes by without my reaching for my trusty wedge of parmesan. I grate it over almost everything, and its sharp, pungent flavor brightens up pretty much any dish you can think of! I like it finely grated on the microplane for pastas, shredded on the large holes of a box grater for a salad topping, and turned into long shards with a vegetable peeler for a pretty and tasty garnish. And don’t throw out the rind! Pop it in the freezer and use it to boost your next batch of soup or homemade sauce (now make this delicious salad!).
I use Dijon mustard almost as frequently as I do salt and pepper. It makes a star appearance in pretty much all of my vinaigrettes and marinades, and I always toss a dollop in with the mayo when making a tuna salad (now make your own honey mustard!).
If there was ever a multi-tasker in the veggie world, for me it would be carrots. We go through bags of them at rapid pace, for all manner of good things. Grated for carrot bread or a quick slaw/salad mix-in/tuna salad garnish. Cut into sticks for late afternoon snacking. Tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper, then roasted till sweet and lightly caramelized. And sliced for (yet another) batch of homemade stew all winter long (click here to make the best roasted chicken and vegetables ever!).
Lemons and Limes
Whenever I read an article about how professional chefs cook in their own kitchens, the answers vary with one exception. Almost without fail they will mention that “squeeze of lemon” that finishes almost every dish. And I couldn’t agree more. I go through bags of lemons and limes every month, and love the versatility of these citrus fruits. Slice them to lay over a bed of roasted asparagus or salmon. Grate the zest to sprinkle over salads, fish tacos or a fruit bowl. Squeeze a half into a glass of water to naturally kickstart your morning. And whatever you do, DON’T store them in a bowl on the counter! As pretty as it looks, the fruit won’t last nearly as long at room temperature as it will in the fridge – preferably in a sealed bag or container (now make this easy, delicious side dish!).
With one kid vegan and another with a peanut allergy, natural almond butter and tahini are the backbones of much of my baking and cooking. Hummus, breakfast bars and dressings all get livened up with these two and they must be refrigerated to keep the oils from going rancid (now make this twist on traditional hummus!).
I always have a knob of ginger in the fridge, and use it as liberally as any spice or fresh herb. Its sweet heat elevates rice, stir fries and fish dishes and is incredibly soothing when steeped with boiling water, lemon and honey my go-to cold-coming-on remedy (now make your own candied ginger!).
I am a huge fan of buttermilk in baked goods it lends such a subtle tang and flavor, and I tend to gravitate toward any recipe with “buttermilk” in the title. After too many instances of going to make a recipe and realizing I didn’t have any buttermilk on hand, I was thrilled to discover this powder. I also love that you can measure out exactly what you need minimizing the inevitable waste that would occur when I needed only a small amount for my recipe (now make these doughnut pops!).