C’mon…get your minds outta the gutter! 😉 By fresh, I mean all those perishable items that need to be refrigerated, frozen, or stored in cool dry places! Today I’m moving on to the second post in the series CEBH…A Behind The Scenes Peek Into My Kitchen! Whether new to cooking, or a seasoned pro with many years of experience, every home cook has certain ingredients that they always like to keep on hand. The following lists are what I like to keep stocked in my kitchen. I’ve been cooking long enough to know that with a few basics always at the ready I’m guaranteed to be able to whip up a healthy and delicious meal whenever the mood strikes! Are these lists all inclusive? Heaven’s no! But they’re a great foundation upon which many healthy and delicious meals are built! In subsequent posts I’ll be talking about pantry staples and spices/herbs/seasonings, but today I’m going to focus on what I keep stocked in my fridge, freezer, and produce bin!
These are the things I keep stocked in my fridge at all times – the items that I consider basics that I automatically replace when I’m running low. I like knowing that I can make a recipe which calls for any of these ingredients and be confident that I’ve always got them at the ready!
- Almond Milk ~ Used for Smoothies, and preparing Oatmeal, Soups, sauces, etc.
- 1% Dairy Milk ~ I avoid most dairy, so this is for my family.
- Parmesean Cheese ~ The one little dairy indulgence I allow myself.
- Eggs ~ Excellent for a quick breakfast or lunch, and a great source of protein. Plus I really love them!
- Butter ~ Once again…mostly for my family. I have a hard time eating just a little, so I try to not eat any!
- Real Maple Syrup ~ A natural sweetener to use instead of sugar.
- Mayonnaise ~ I like to keep Homemade Mayo on hand as a base for sauces, dips, and dressings.
- Tahini ~ I’m addicted to homemade Hummus, so I always have tahini on hand to add to my hummus.
- Worcestershire Sauce ~ I keep this to add extra flavor to sauces and beef or bison dishes.
- Dijon Mustard ~ Because mustard is life! And it’s also good on sandwiches, and in dressings and marinades.
- Soy Sauce ~ A necessity for any Asian dish.
- Chia & Hemp Seeds ~ A little extra boost of protein, omega acids, and all sorts of good things…plus I really like the way they taste when added to a smoothie or my oatmeal!
It’s confession time…I’m pretty sure there are things in the bottom of our chest freezer that haven’t seen the light of day in many years. I love having the extra freezer storage space, especially around the holidays or when I binge shop for frozen vegetables and fruits at Sam’s Club. But the real problem with a chest freezer is that items just continue to get buried deeper and deeper until I forget what I’ve got down there! My freezer in the kitchen is much neater and the stock gets rotated much more frequently. The list of what I consider my Go-To Freezer Items are always in my kitchen’s freezer…along with dishes of leftovers that are perfect for work day lunches, cold packs for injuries, and usually leftover bananas which I freeze for smoothies or baking.
Go-To Freezer Items:
- Frozen Vegetables ~ Peas, Corn, and Broccoli…all perfect as a quick side dish or to add to recipes like Cashew Creamed Peas & Potatoes or Spicy Quinoa & Beans.
- Fish Fillets ~ typically I like to keep a mild white fish for recipes like Grilled Fish Taco Lettuce Wraps or for a quick dinner of baked or grilled fish.
- Chicken Breasts ~ My favorite meat, and the one I use most frequently in soups, casseroles, salads, and when the weather is nice my favorite dinner is grilled chicken and fresh vegetables!
- Fruit ~ I always keep sweet cherries, wild blueberries, and mixed berries in the freezer. I add them to smoothies, to oatmeal, and to the occasional baked goods like muffins when I don’t have or can’t find quality fresh fruit. We live in Iowa and quality fresh fruit can be hard to come by certain times of the year, but frozen is always a great option because it’s picked at it’s peak of freshness and maintains its flavor and nutritional benefits despite being frozen. Obviously the texture changes, but in things like oatmeal or baked goods I don’t find that to be an issue – at least not one that bothers me when the alternative means not having certain fruits available!
The final list in today’s post includes the produce items that I always keep on hand in my kitchen. As with the list of Refrigerator Basics and Go-To Freezer Must Haves, this list is far from all inclusive as I buy seasonal fruits and vegetables when available. Thankfully I’m able to stock my kitchen with the following list of fresh produce all year round! And for my style of cooking, as long as I’m stocked up on these few fresh produce items I consider myself well prepared!
Produce Bin Staples:
- Onions & Garlic ~ There are very few dishes I make that don’t include one or both of these items. In fact I love garlic so much that if a recipe calls for 2 cloves, you can bet I’ll use 4 – and probably even add one more for good luck! 😉
- Jalapeños ~ I use these in soups, stir fries, casseroles, sliced in wraps, in hummus…I just love the perfect level of heat these little beauties impart to my recipes!
- Bananas ~ Probably my favorite fruit, though I am very particular about the level of ripeness at which I’ll eat them. Once they get too ripe for me I peel them, cut them into 4th’s and freeze them for smoothies or to use in baking.
- Lemons & Limes ~ I use these daily for flavoring water and tea, and adding zip to marinades and dressings.
- Apples ~ Perfect for snacking, making applesauce, delicious salads…plus…an apple a day keeps the doctor away!
- Potatoes ~ I would write a love song for potatoes if I were musically gifted! This starchy little blob of deliciousness is so versatile, and only unhealthy if loaded with gobs of butter, sour cream, cheese, or gravy! There are plenty of ways to prepare potatoes that won’t bust your healthy eating plan!
- Sweet Potatoes ~ Packed with Vitamin C and fiber, these are so delicious and healthy that I have been known to make an entire meal out of just sweet potatoes! Try them curled, roasted, in a salad, or any way you prefer…just make them a regular on your dinner table!
- Celery, Carrots, & Bell Peppers ~ Much like onions and garlic these 3 veggies end up in most all my recipes! Plus – they’re all delicious eaten raw as well!
- Tomatoes ~ I always have cherry tomatoes on the counter. They are perfect for snacking, yummy on sandwiches, and even in the dead of winter in Iowa we manage to get tasty cherry tomatoes. Come farmers market season my preference switches to whatever variety is fresh. Is there anything more delicious than a fresh tomato just picked from the garden?!?
- Avocado ~ How do people (Mr. CEBH) not like avocado??? It’s creamy, buttery texture and delicious flavor makes me incredibly happy! I love it on toast, spread on a sandwich, sliced in a salad, added as a topping to soups and casseroles, and of course…guacamole! Yum!!!
- Mushrooms ~ I buy huge containers of mushrooms at Sam’s Club and put them in so many recipes! I prefer baby bellas because the flavor is slightly more intense and they hold up well to cooking. Earthy and delicious…mushrooms have a constant presence in my kitchen!
So there you have it…a fairly comprehensive list of fresh ingredients I like to keep stocked in my kitchen all year round! With these items, plus additional seasonal selections, I’m able to keep things “fresh” in the kitchen! What are your favorite items that you keep in your fridge, freezer, and produce bin?!?