Sunday, November 21, 2010

Six On Sunday - Kitchen Staples

I've recently grown a bit self-conscious over my deep and abiding love for food. I think about food all of the time. My Facebook status updates are 90% food related. I'm starting to see that this isn't normal and that, perhaps, it's not even healthy.

My dad used to have a saying. (You know dads, always with their sayings.) He would say, "I don't live to eat, I eat to live!"

Well, it's high time I fessed up, Pops. Your girl lives to eat.

I'm not an over-eater. And I'm not really an emotional eater. I'm more of the "It's 10 PM, why isn't there cereal in my mouth?" eater.

I eat late, ya'lls. Don't tell Oprah.

I hold in my heart this truth: Cooking is cheaper than therapy.

And this one: To love someone is to cook for them.

And this one: To love me is to cook for me.

If I were a different kind of girl, I might stain my lips with beet juice and perfume my wrists alternately with garlic and ginger. I might carry a vial of salsa on a thin chain around my neck.

Alas, I'm not her.

Yet.

But, in lieu of the above, I will share with you the six ingredients that find their way into my shopping cart almost every single week.

1. Lemons

I am a lemon aficionado. It took me years to understand and accept this. During those dark years, I would find myself, time and time again, in need of a lemon. Now that my zestiness is fully self-actualized, I buy them by the bag. I squeeze lemon into pasta, chicken salad, salad dressing, brown rice. I slice them up and put them under chicken skin or over fish. I zest the rind and bake it into pie crust and muffins. I brew them with slices of fresh ginger and honey for tea. I love everything about lemons. I can't quit the junk. (I am also quite fond of limes, but you didn't come to hear about limes.)

2. Fresh garlic

Lemon and garlic should totally win the "Best Couple" award. As it stands, there are very few savory dishes that are not improved upon with a clove or two or five of garlic. I am here to confess: I am an over-garlicker. If the recipe says one, I say two. Two minimum. I may actually be at risk for carrying the perpetual scent of garlic, but I won't apologize, because it is totally worth it. For years I bought the big jar of ready-minced garlic, but this is an entirely different beast. It is cheaper and to compare the taste really wouldn't even be fair. Fresh garlic has a hint of sweetness that deepens as it is cooked. It is utterly fresh and alive. If you have never bought a bulb of your own, take an extra quarter to the supermarket and change your life.

To use your new bulb, peel off an individual clove and rest the broad side of your knife on top of it. Now, use the heel of your hand to press down on the knife, thereby smashing the clove. Once smashed, the skin will slip off easily and you are ready to chop it up. You may find, two days later, probably in the shower, that your fingertips still smell faintly of garlic. But who said that was a bad thing?

3. Green onions

My love affair with green onions sort of snuck up on me. I find that they add a perfectly delicate hint of onion to loads of dishes. I'm also a big fan of attractive food, and they provide a nice hit of color. I use these in salads, stir-frys, chicken and tuna salad, soups and pasta dishes, although the options are endless.

4. Sour Cream

I love sour cream. Do not ever attempt to feed me a taco or a baked potato without it. I wouldn't hear of it. My kids have followed in my footsteps and would happily eat it as a side-dish, if I allowed it, and perhaps I have, but that information is simply not up for public release at this time. Aside from the obvious Mexican-genre foods, I use sour cream in mashed potatoes, some cream-based soups and several baking recipes. But mostly? We just eat a whole heck of a lot of quesadillas and tacos.

5. This exact kind of yogurt

My kiddos could eat yogurt like sour cream. They dig it. At times, I still spring for the individual cups, but this option is cheaper and eliminates the risk of "No, I wanted the lime!" It is especially good with fresh berries of any kind or a sprinkling of homemade granola, preferably with coconut. My small peeps are under the impression that this qualifies as full-on dessert, so I would be ever so grateful if you could keep any opposing opinions to yourselves.

6. Cereal

You know how some people are sports people? Or theater people? Well, we're cereal people. My romance with cold cereal dates back to my early youth. I used to eat a bowl for breakfast and another bowl as an after-school-snack, while watching Woody Woodpecker or Today's Special on PBS. (What was up with Today's Special, anyway? Why am I only now realizing the creepy factor?) As the years passed, I graduated to Geraldo Rivera and Guiding Light (shhh!), but the after-school-snack remained unchanged. Now, it is my breakfast of choice and my late-night snack of choice. And I'm just going to come right out with it - We eat sugar cereal. I try to limit the sugar to 10 mg. or less. That's reasonable, right? It used to wig me out a little when the kids wanted Cinnamon Toast Crunch all the time, but then I discovered this little gem:
Cinnamon Toast Crunch = 10 g.
Basic Four (my ex-beloved) = 14 g.
Post Raisin Bran = 19 g.

Sure, there's fiber to consider and such, but who really wants to consider fiber at crack of dawn? There's a whole day left for fiber.

Honorable Mentions:

1. Reduced Fat Cream Cheese
(I usually buy the store brand)

I am a sucker for anything made with cream cheese. I am also a self-proclaimed sucker for seersucker, but I'll save that story for another day.

2. Spaghetti Sauce

As you can see, spaghetti sauce has a very short shelf-life up in this hood. Even when spaghetti isn't on the menu, it comforts me to know that it's waiting in the wings. We all love spaghetti. We all love sauce from a jar. When I'm feeling extra special, I might throw in some extra veggies or some browned ground beef and onion. Or all of the above. But more often than not, we take it straight-up. I am very partial to Prego - Tomato, Onion and Garlic, but this new variety from Aldi is also quite delicious, in that canned-sauce sort of way.

3. Duh