As promised!   And I will have more in the future!

You walk into your kitchen in the hopes of cooking something to satisfy your raging appetite only to find you are not in possession of the proper equipment.  It’s at this point where you slam the cabinet doors shut and whip out those take-out menus with reckless abandon.  Yet again, you are forced to choose between the fatty, sodium-laden Chinese and the greasy pizza. An hour later you hate yourself.  Sound familiar?  While in moderation, these foods aren’t so bad, but when you make them a regular part of your diet, well, you know the rest….Preparing home cooked meals should be a healthy, positive experience. You have total control over your portion sizes and the quality of ingredients going into each meal plus you will save a lot of money by cutting back on that take-out.  It brings families closer together, gives you a chance to be creative, and it’s a way for you single guys and gals to impress your dates.  Ever hear the saying “the way to a man’s (or woman’s) heart is through their stomach”?  There is actually truth to that!  Now here are some tips to get you started….

 

 I Build Your Pantry:

Always try to keep the basics on hand.  Stock up on your big shopping day so you won’t be running to the store every night after work for them. These items have a pretty good shelf life (in cabinet or fridge) and allow you create some quick “go-to” meals when you are tired, sick, or just thinking last-minute. 

Examples of basic items

Canned beans, fish, tomatoes
Canned veggies such as olives, artichokes, roasted red peppers
Pastas
Olive oil (regular and extra virgin)
Vinegar (red wine/balsamic/cider)
REAL grated parm and/or pecorino romano cheeses (the one in the green can is a NO-NO!)
Brown rice
Whole wheat couscous
Boxes of all natural stocks (chicken/beef/veggie, etc)


Spices (in addition to salt and pepper)

Red pepper flakes
Cumin
Chili powder
An all-purpose grill seasoning
Cinnamon
Nutmeg
Goya Adobo (great on meats and in soups)

Again, these are just examples.  You can stock your pantry with items that you like.  And this way when a recipe you want to make requires fresh ingredients, you only have to stop at the store to pick up those few items- the rest will be waiting for you at home!

 

II Meats Aplenty:

When the grocery store offers specials on your favorite meats, plan on buying a few packages.  When you get home, divide them up in smaller portions and freeze.  I tend to do this with the big packages of the boneless chicken thighs.  Like all less expensive cuts of meat, they always seem to be on sale so I buy two, divide them up into 4 counts, and freeze.  I’ve also done this with pork chops and sausage.  If the more expensive meats (think sirloin tips, pork loin, beef tenderloin, and boneless chicken breasts) are available this way, take advantage of them as well!

 

III Own the Proper Tools

None of the above would be possible without the proper tools.  Here is a list of basic equipment everyone should have in their kitchens.


Cookware

9 or 10-inch skillet or sauté pan
4 or 5-quart pot
Baking or roasting pan

You can also add an extra sauté pan, a 1 or 2-quart saucepan and even a larger 8 or 10-quart stockpot.

Choose stainless steel or thick aluminum as they conduct heat more evenly.  Teflon/non-stick cookware is usually necessary only for sautéing.


Knives
 
At least one good high-quality sharp knife.  My favorite brand is J.A. Henckels. 

Cutting Boards

One good wooden or bamboo board (never put these in dishwasher and always dry thoroughly to avoid warping)
Plastic/acrylic boards in assorted colors. Use each color for a specific food type so as to reduce the threat of cross contamination. (For example: Green-fruits/veggies, Red-meats)
Utensils

Spatula
Tongs
Vegetable peeler
Slotted spoon
Soup ladle
Assorted wooden spoons
Can opener 

Measuring

One 2-cup glass Pyrex measuring cup
A set of measuring spoons

 

Misc Tips:

 * Never burn your garlic.  If you do, it will become bitter, ruin your meal, and you’ll have to start over.  When cooking garlic alone, keep on low heat.  When combined with other ingredients, add it toward the end of the cooking process (if possible).

 * To extend the shelf life of nuts/seeds like pine nuts, almonds, walnuts, and sesame seeds, store in the freezer.  The natural oils in these products will turn rancid over time if kept in room-temperature storage.

 * Because brown rice can be a bit bland, try toasting it in a little butter for a few minutes on low heat, then add your liquid.

 * Boneless, skinless chicken tenders are cheaper than the breasts and are also much easier and quicker to chop into bit-sized pieces.  If you prefer darker meat, use the boneless thighs as mentioned above.  Can’t decide?  Use both!

 *Try to use fresh herbs whenever possible- especially basil, rosemary, thyme, flat leaf (Italian)parsley, sage, and mint.  It makes such a difference in flavor.   Storing them is easy.  When you get home from the store, wash and dry thoroughly then wrap in damp paper towels and place in ziploc bags.  They will stay fresh for several days.  You can also freeze herbs, whole or chopped without blanching.