We have convection, induction, electric and dual fuel ranges. We have thousands of dollar’s worth of cabinetry and countertop material, hundreds of dollar’s worth of plumbing fixtures and hardware, yet, there isn’t a whole lot cooking in the kitchen. I’m pretty sure we had more home cooked meals when all we had were cauldrons hanging in the fireplace and a beehive oven.
We have more fresh ingredients on the super market shelves than ever before and four times as many farmers markets in the U.S. as there were 20 years ago, yet we’re not cooking and not cooking is a big mistake. Not only do we miss out on the sociability, comfort and pride of a home cooked meal, it’s costing us our health and wellbeing.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) 16% of men and 13% of women age 20-39 eat pizza every single day! The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates annual health care expenses related to obesity and its consequences at $150 billion in the U.S. and over 1 trillion worldwide according the World Health Organization. Time, I realize, is the biggest obstacle to cooking, but for the sake of our health, wellbeing, our palates and the environment, we have to make cooking a priority. It’s our best defense.
I’m not talking about elaborate dinner parties, Instagram posts or three day science projects. I’m talking about simple, easy, everyday meals made from real food not processed food-like substances, for people who are time and cash strapped.
Setting up the pantry and planning ahead is the first step to whipping together a spontaneous meal. I love to cook because I love to eat and I love to eat well, that meaning healthy with a little naughty, sweetness at the end. (I love dessert). I’m sharing my pantry staples with you. Start with the ones you like and build from there.
Spices and Herbs (Dried and Fresh in the Spring-Fall)
Salt and black pepper corns, basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary, red pepper flakes, curry powder, tumeric, coriander, chili powder
Oils and Condiments
Extra- Virgin olive oil, coconut oil, vegetable oil (non GMO), white vinegar, apple cider vinegar, rice vinegar, balsamic vinegar, mustard seeds and dijon mustard, mayonnaise, barbecue sauce
rice pasta, brown rice, arborio rice (for risotto), red and white quinoa, pancake mix, oatmeal, granola, kidney, cannellini and garbanzo beans, tuna, canned tomatoes, tomato paste, peanut butter, almond butter, nuts and seeds (trail mix), dark chocolate morsels, stocks, vegetable, beef and chicken, honey, real maple syrup, fresh bread from the bakery
Long Storing Dairy and Meat
Eggs, cream, butter, yogurt or kefir, parmesan cheese, goat cheese, feta cheese, ham slices
Long Storing Vegetables and Fruit
Onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, garlic, ginger root, squashes, apples, oranges, grapefruits, lemons, lime.
In my last newsletter, I talked about visiting the farmers markets so you know how much I love that! Having the pantry stocked with staples makes it easy to fill in with fresh offerings from the market when seasonal produce becomes available. On a busy, hot summer day when you really just want to get outside and enjoy the length of daylight this season brings, putting dinner on the table needs to be quick. Let’s take charge of this basic task of feeding ourselves, especially when outsourcing it is so harmful.
This would all be for naught if I didn’t share a favorite staple recipe of mine that is easy, delicious and dirties only one pan! Who doesn’t like an easy clean up!
Roasted Chicken with Root Vegetable
1 3-4lb. whole chicken
3tbsp. olive oil
salt and pepper
4 whole garlic heads
2 fresh sprigs of rosemary or 1tbsp. of dried
4 fresh sprigs of thyme (lemon thyme is even better)
2 lemons, halved
4 potatoes (sweet, red bliss or white)
2 yellow onions
1. Heat oven to 425 degrees F.
2. While waiting for the oven to heat up, peel and quarter vegetables.
3. Place chicken in a roasting pan, breast side up and coat with olive oil, salt and pepper. Add the fresh or dried herbs, slice garlic crosswise to trim off tips to reveal cloves and add to roasting pan. Tuck lemon halves close to chicken. Add quartered vegetables around chicken.
4. When oven is hot, put roasting pan in the middle of the oven on wired rack. Roast undisturbed for 60 minutes; the chicken is done when a quick read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh registers 155 -165 degrees F or when its juices run clear and there are no traces of pin in the meat.
5. Transfer chicken to a platter and let it rest for at least 5 minutes. Cut chicken into parts and serve with roasted vegetable and pan juices.
6. If there are any leftovers, take chicken off of the bone, and store it in the refrigerator in a sealed container for up to a week.
7. You can take the chicken carcass and place it in a pot of water, bring to a boil and then simmer for a couple of hours. This makes a nice broth that you can use to add to rice, soup broth or give to the dog. He/She will love you for this!