Once we leave Mothers arms, we can say bye-bye to free flowing dinners, 24-hour fridge access and an unlimited amount of good ol home cooking and this transition can leave some of us completely lost. I dont know how to cook, and Dude isnt my Hungry Jack Frozen meal fine? are common excuses we use to get by. It seems as if Home Ec was long gone by 1999 and we have lost touch with food, cooking and the brilliance of a wholesome home cooked meal.
For those of us who are lucky as sin, our mothers (or fathers… good for ya Dads!) cooked for us every day and night, passing on these culinary traditions, tricks, tips and recipes. For some others, we had working moms and dads who were unfortunately not able to share that experience with us one on one.
So with life after Mom, (unless you have what I call Theo Huckstable Syndrome, originated by the classic fridge raider and TP thief!) you should learn to keep a few basics in your pantry, fridge and around for everyday cooking or a great date.
Just FYI, I am a bit of a food snob, I will admit to that, but these are all basic, inexpensive ingredients everyone should utilize in their kitchen. I have opened up a few refrigerators in my day and was repulsed by the ranch dressing (evil, creamy fat in a bottle), fatty mayo delight, whole milk, ketchup, grape jelly, Jiff, sour cream, SunnyD, Carl Buddig, El Scorcho deluxe sauce, generic bad margarine, frozen franken nuggets, frozen Hungry Man (yuckkk!), okay, Ill stop. But I just have to say that this stuff all freaks me out and I run in the other direction. So keep these few health-conscious basics below on hand Ill teach you how to create kitchen magic later
- High quality extra virgin olive oil
- Sea salt (iodized salt, now that’s gross dude!)
- Balsamic vinegar
- Rice wine vinegar
- Dijon mustard or spicy brown mustard
- Peanut butter, organic, natural, no sugar
- Sesame oil
- Chicken stock
- Worcestershire sauce
- Soy sauce (b/c I’m 1/2 Japanese)
- Tomato paste this is the ladykiller, so useful!
- Canned tomatoes, whole, peeled
- Canned garbanzo beans (yeah, chickpeas are the same sweetie!)
- Ground ginger
- Garlic powder
- Dried basil
- Dried oregano
- Chili flakes
- Smoked paprika
- Cocoa powder, unsweetened
- Raw almonds
- Raw walnuts
P.S- Throw away your old, nasty, rotting herbs from 1997. They are as old and rancid as that lipstick from prom 1996 and the blue eyeshadow you cant let go of from Vegas 1992. Throw away old flour, rice, grains and baking soda/powders; after six months to one year, the quality and shelf life are donzo!
- Parmesan cheese
- Gruyere cheese
- Feta cheese
- Low-fat yogurt, soy and coconut great options!
- Fresh, organic eggs
- Unsweetened almond milk…40 calories a dreamy cup!
- Orange juice
- Soy sauce (yeah, I’m Asian!)
- Fresh garlic
- Fresh onions
- Fresh spinach
- Fresh arugula
- Fresh romaine
- Fresh Roma tomatoes
- Frozen berries
- Frozen fish
- Tons of fresh veggies and fruits, yeah, tons!
BONUS: SCORE DUDE- (not a must, but a plus!)
- 0% Greek yogurt
- Fresh basil
- White truffle oil (heaven in a bottle)
- White vino for cooking
- High quality red vino to drink
- Smoked paprika
- Roasted red peppers
- Blue stilton cheese
Okay, here are two of my basic recipes to hold you down on your next hot date! Go to it dude, you only live once! (We can go over a million marinades, sauces and dressings right from the pantry (another day my friend.)
Sweet Grilled Peach and Spinach Salad:
Feta cheese, fresh blueberries and a classic champagne vinaigrette
FOR THE DRESSING (to keep for up to a week)
1 C Champagne vinegar
C Pulp-free orange juice
2 T Dijon mustard
2 T Ex virgin olive oil
Sea salt to taste
FOR THE SALAD
1 Large bag of organic spinach, pre-washed and dried or your choice of greens
4 Large peaches, grilled with a brush of ex virgin olive oil and sea salt
Feta cheese- to tasteminimal to keep it skinny adds salt and fat
1 C Fresh blueberries
Walnuts if desired
TOSS ME UP!
In a plastic squeeze bottle, pour in the 1 C champagne vinegar, the C orange juice, the 2 T dijon and the sea salt to taste. Shake up and save!
Toss the spinach with the blueberries, grilled peaches (cooled) and top with the feta as well as the walnuts. Serve in a large salad bowl with wooden tongs.
Caramelized Pear and Gorgonzola Cheese Flatbread With Walnuts and Caramelized Onions
4 flatbreads, like Lavash, Pita, Naan
1 Med sweet onion thinly sliced
2 Pears, thinly sliced
– Cup chopped walnuts, raw preferred
– C Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled to top breads
1 Bunch fresh basil, chiffonade
Thinly slice the pears, remove the core out. Place in a saute pan on medium heat with a small amount of ex virg olive oil, add thinly sliced onions. Cook slow, stirring until they start to turn golden brown and the natural sugars are released. Remember, low and slow.
Note: Grill the flatbreads in grill pans, crisp up the bottom with nice grill marks. Remove flatbreads from pan. Brush with a little ex virg olive oil and sprinkle a bit of sea salt. Top with caramelized pears and onions. Add the gorgonzola, walnuts and basil. Cut into halves or quarters and serve warm. Makes a great complement to a luscious green salad, and a perfect appetizer for parties!
From this, I dont want you to think that your conventional food is bad… its awful! Think outside the box of cake mix, sugary dream cereal, fatty chips, sodas, nasty margarine, full fatty dairy and food with no substance. Get the basics down and we will work together from here. Cooking is the only form of art where you use all five senses. Sight. Hearing. Touch. Smell. Taste. What an amazing thing. xxx ? ck
After viewers fell in love with her on Season One of Bravos Top Chef, Candice Kumai became the co-host of Lifetimes hit series, “Cook Yourself Thin” and helped create the shows NY Times #1 Best-selling companion cookbook. With a culinary education from Le Cordon Bleu in California and as a former fit and print model, Candice is dedicated to making healthful, waist-conscious food that is as delicious as it is appealing. Now, Candice is a chef contributor on Cooking Channels Unique Eats and TLCs Home Made Simple. Rodale will publish Pretty Delicious, her first solo cookbook, in January 2011. Tweet her @StilettoChef and check out www.StilettoChef.com for more exclusive recipes and healthy eating tips.