You guys know by now, we do a lot of cooking here at Casa Brummer.
We love food. Even as vegetarians we cooked a lot.
As parents and Paleo eaters, we cook even more.
Personally, I often find it easier to cook meals at home than to load the family in the car, drive to a restaurant, wait for a table, agonize over the menu (what to eat?!), give in to Luke’s requests for pancakes… Blah, blah… You get it. Sometimes it’s more trouble than it’s worth.
But cooking at home is only as easy as you make it, and in order for us to make it work, there are certain essential pieces of equipment and ingredients we have on hand at all times.
1. Pressure cooker
This is one of the best tools we have in our kitchen. It makes everything much faster, including meats, vegetables, stocks and more. We use it all the time. You can find a good one at any kitchen store, Target or Wal-Mart.
2. Dutch oven
You don’t need to invest a lot in a good Dutch oven. A Le Creuset is nice, but our Chef’s Mate is just as good, it’s lasted for years, and it was only $50 at Target. We use it nearly every day. Score!
3. Sharp chef’s knife
This is where you spend the money. A good chef’s knife is worth it. The blade should be forged, the balance good, and it should fit your hand. It’s worth going to a fancy kitchen store and having the staff pull out all of the different brands so you can test them. You don’t have to spend a fortune, but don’t go cheap. We have a Wustof Classic and a sharpening steel, which is a must for honing the blade. We have a knife sharpener too, but once or twice a year I take our knives to the knife store and have them sharpen them.
Chicken stock or veggie stock — it can be used in soups, stews, as flavoring for greens, braising veggies… you name it.
5. Coconut milk
I use coconut milk instead of heavy cream in just about every recipe that calls for it. It’s also amazing as an addition to greens with a little lime or braising meats on the stovetop.
6. Canned (or jarred) tomatoes
I would say that 50% of the recipes we make call for a can of tomatoes. We were fortunate to be able to jar our own at the beginning of the summer, but we’ve gone through most of the jars by now. Thank goodness there are many choices of canned tomatoes at the store.
It’s the building block of nearly every recipe. And if a recipe doesn’t call for onion, I usually add it.
8. Bag o’ chicken (or some kind of frozen convenience meat)
When I’m in a bind or need a quick dinner solution, bagged chicken thighs have saved me on more than one occasion. They’re quick and easy and can be used in tons of different recipes instead of split chicken breasts.
9. Well-stocked spice/dried herb rack
You gotta have flavor, right? Spices and herbs can be expensive if you buy in jars, so I go a la carte in the bulk section and buy only what I need. That way the herbs and spices don’t lose their flavor before I get a chance to use up the package.
I keep almonds and walnuts on hand at all times. They’re awesome for snacking, sprinkled on salads or used in recipes. I buy other nuts depending on the need for a recipe or the price in the bulk section. We’ve been buying cashews, pistachios and hazelnuts lately. Pecans and macadamia nuts are my favorite, but they have been SUPER expensive, so I’ve gone without.
This is an absolute MUST! The Paleo kitchen is built on a solid foundation of vegetables. (Who says we don’t eat carbs?!)
We get a CSA box every week and supplement with trips to the grocery store and farmers’ market. What we eat all depends on the season. Today was grocery day and right now in our fridge we’ve got chard, mustard greens, collards, kale, beets, turnips, carrots, salad greens, peppers, cauliflower, cucumber, summer squash and okra. On the counter there are sweet potatoes, acorn squash, and avocados. We’ll eat through almost all of that before the week is up.
Andy’s really been working hard on our garden, and fall is the BEST time to garden in Central Texas. Our garden is full of seeds and seedlings, and we hope much of it will sustain us through the winter. Andy’s goal is to grow more than we can eat so we can share with others.
There you have it — the kitchen essentials. We use a lot of other tools and ingredients, too, but these are the ones we use nearly every day of every week. Hopefully it will help you stock your own kitchen and inspire you to cook at home, too.