From Chelsea Rinnig. Email her at chelsea[AT}borderstan.com
Staples hold our lives together. And I’m not just talking about the office supply. Staples come in many forms — the white collared shirt, the little black dress. We keep our lives filled with staple relationships too. They are the friends you call every Sunday for a run or to go for a drink after a taxing day.
When it comes to cooking, the staples are essential. Whether you’re a chef or brand new to cooking for yourself, a healthy kitchen needs at least these five basics before splurging at the grocery store on saffron or capers. It’s easy to walk into a large grocery store and feel entirely overwhelmed before you’ve even reached the cooking part. Avoid exhausting trips back to the store over and over again by keeping your cupboards well-stocked with these items:
- The grains – whole-wheat pasta, brown rice, quinoa and whole wheat bread. When purchasing pasta and bread, whole-wheat packs more nutrients than bleached, white-flour products, which have undergone more processing.
- Condiments and spices –soy sauce, red wine vinegar, extra-virgin olive oil, pepper, salt, Dijon mustard, red pepper flakes, cumin and basil. Dijon mustard, olive oil and red wine vinegar whisked together makes an excellent, low-cal and dairy-free salad dressing. Cumin is a great spice for roasting vegetables and a basis for building out your spice cabinet later to flavors like coriander, turmeric and oregano.
- Proteins – Eggs, garbanzo beans, lentils, almonds, and your favorite nut-butter. A handful of almonds or any nut-butter (I like almond butter) on toast makes a great breakfast alongside fruit. And runny, fried eggs make for a lovely sauce on top of brown rice with sautéed vegetables.
- Dairy – Greek yogurt, coconut milk, almond milk and a low-calorie cheese (feta, Parmesan, or goat cheese). Greek yogurt tastes great in smoothies and coconut milk can be used with curry or soy sauce for a hearty, Asian infused meal. Cheese is a special treat every once in a while!
- Fresh Produce – garlic, shallots, onions and lemons. These are critical in boosting flavors in your dishes, and can be used in place of high calorie sauces.
Keeping these cabinet staples on hand and replenishing them as needed is essential, and all of these ingredients can be found at local grocery and specialty stores in the neighborhood. The Hana Japanese market on 17th and U Streets NW is a great place for cheaper prices on soy sauce, brown rice, vinegars, and coconut milk, in addition to other specialty items like Sriracha sauce and curry pastes that add unique, authentic flavors to traditional recipes.
Dupont Market at 18th and S Streets NW has a wonderful selection of pastas and cheeses and Yes! Organic on Columbia Road is well stocked with fresh produce items and health-nut friendly items such as nut butters and quinoa. And check out Smucker Farms of Lancaster Co. — a farm to table grocery store that opened late last year on 14th and W Streets NW. So stock up and make the cooking process a whole lot easier.