Cucina Essentials

Darlings.

You asked for it...

What do you keep on hand to whip up sexy, healthy feasts at a moment's notice? What should be lounging in your cupboards at all times to keep you on track? Starting up is expensive, so where do you begin? What seasonings will give you the most bang for your hard-earned cash? How about a "basics" shopping list?

You got it.

May I present...How To Stock Your Kitchen, Vixen-style:

Clockwise from top left: Garam masala, curry, cinnamon, vanilla powder, turmeric, Celtic salt, cumin seeds, red pepper flakes.

Clockwise from top left: Garam masala, curry, cinnamon, vanilla powder, turmeric, Celtic salt, cumin seeds, red pepper flakes.

Spices:

  • Vanilla
  • Cinnamon
  • Garam Masala
  • Turmeric
  • Cayenne
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Cumin
  • Curry blend
  • High quality salts

I know. It seems like a lot at once, but you can gather things as you go along. I like to buy small amounts  of high quality organic spices in bulk, then transfer them to pretty jars or tins that I find at flea markets,  or in odd places I happen upon. Keep them out, where you can see them and be inspired by their colors and scents. Many of you have told me that you would like to be more experimental with flavors, but find it all a bit daunting. This, Loves, is where you begin your culinary magic. All your gorgeous spices are out where you can begin to connect with them. The entire cast of magical performers I've listed above just naturally work together. They layer beautifully, spicy and sweet...always a pinch of salt at the end to bring it all center stage. The next time you have a basic vegetable dish, listen. See what they have to say. See what calls to you. Then, all of a sudden...a pinch here, a dash there...and you're concocting! It's wonderful and creative. And I know you're super-talented at it. 

The same idea applies to fresh herbs. If you can grow them year round, bravo! I can't, so I like to pick up a few bunches every week. See what organics look good. I usually gravitate toward mint, sage, cilantro, and parsley, and then buy a specific herb, like rosemary, for a particular dish I may have in mind. I actually prefer a dried oregano to fresh, believe it or not.  NOT the commercial kind, mind you, but for some reason the oregano I find in my health food store in the large jars is just sublime.

Listen to me, Babes, you really cannot make mistakes here. If a flavor is too dense, balance with its' opposite. Try things. Experiment with whole seeds and ground, fresh and dried, exotic and common.

Trust your senses...

Clockwise from left: black quinoa, oat groats, quinoa linguine, gluten free oats, cacao powder, raw pumpkin seeds.

Clockwise from left: black quinoa, oat groats, quinoa linguine, gluten free oats, cacao powder, raw pumpkin seeds.

Pantry staples:

Here's where the real go-to goodies live. The hearty heart and soul of your pantry. The grains, seeds, and nutritional yeast can be found in the organic bulk section of your health food store for pennies, while the nuts can also be found there, and purchased more  sparingly. (Keep in mind most main dishes require only one cup of grains, so you really can stock up.) The oilve oil and cacao will last, the cider vinegar is inexpensive, and the coconut oil can be used for absolutely everything.

I'm getting hungry.

Clockwise from left: Dinosaur kale, cucumber, zucchini, avocados, oranges, bananas, apples, grapefruit, lemon,garlic, baby kale, radishes, almond milk.

Clockwise from left: Dinosaur kale, cucumber, zucchini, avocados, oranges, bananas, apples, grapefruit, lemon,garlic, baby kale, radishes, almond milk.

Fresh:

  • Fruit (citrus and banana always, others in season)
  • Salad/snack veggies (radishes, cucumbers, celery)
  • Avocados
  • Almond/coconut milk
  • Garlic

Here's where the fun is. Prowling your local markets for the freshest, most dazzlingly gorgeous produce around on any particular day. Bright colors beckon. Choose freely, like a child drawn to the prettiest flower in the garden. And relax. You've got everything you need back home to write the purrfect music to accompany this poetry...

And last, but never least,

I always keep some of these beauties around...

Left to right: Frozen organic blackberries, strawberries, blueberries.

Left to right: Frozen organic blackberries, strawberries, blueberries.

Aren't they pretty?!

Frozen fruit is amazing. You can make the most delightful elixirs in minutes...one for your every whim!

The thing is, organic frozen fruits are price-ey. Crazy so. And eating non-organic is simply out of the question. Best bet? First, check around at your bigger supermarkets. You'd be surprised - many of them carry organics, and at decent prices. It goes without saying that supporting smaller shops is the way to go, but in some instances, realistically, you've gotta have options. The good thing about buying from a larger store is that by purchasing organics there, you are telling the big guys that people want them. Now, they restock. And healthy choices are available to more people, many of whom would not have sought them out, but now have an option, and one they can afford. I'm all for healthy, clean food being available everywhere, to everyone, not simply a small group of people in the know. 

The other smart cookie plan is to stock up when all this lusciousness is in season, and freeze different fruits in individual ziploc bags or containers. Keep an eye on sales, and GRAB THEM!

Middle of Winter and you're craving a mango blueberry shake? Easy. You're a Kitchen Witch.


Alright, my Tasty Ones, now you have all the basics needed to indulge your everyday kitchen witchery. This will keep you stocked for breakfast, lunch, snacks...you can whip up shakes, drinks, salads, cooked dishes...all you need now are a few special somethings to bring together a specific recipe, as you like!

Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got to shop.

I'm all out of vanilla, and that will never do...

xxx Alise

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