Building a Kitchen: Pantry Staples

I don’t know if anyone else feels stuck at home, but I personally have been leaning on my non-perishables. I feel like it’s the first thing people buy when they move into a place. Here are some things I think you always need to have. I am only including non-pershibles or with an expiration date of a year + (no produce). 

  1. Flour (All-Purpose) – I think flour is just a great thing to have on hand, whether you are baking, breading, or thickening
  2. Granulated Sugar – I use possibly too much sugar everyday sweetening my coffee but also for baking and general cooking. 
  3. Neutral Oil – One thing I learned pretty quickly is that you need some sort of cooking oil to saute, fry, roast, etc. but you have to be careful about the type of oil. Some like avocado oil have their own flavor that they add to the food. Get neutral oil like canola or vegetable. 
  4. Vinegar – There are a thousand and one types of vinegar but you really should have at least one in your kitchen. Vinegar is essential for cooking things like meat or making salad dressings and other sauces. Also good for cleaning. I, personally, prefer apple cider vinegar for cooking and white vinegar just for cleaning. 
  5. Soy Sauce – This might just be cause I like salt and rice dishes. It’s also has a lovely depth of flavor and savor that just salt does have. 
  6. Lemon Juice – Essential for cooking, baking, and mixing drinks. It is a great add-in to sauces or to top off dishes like salad and pasta. 
  7. Tomato Paste – This is a really condensed flavor of tomato in a smooth paste. It is a great base for stew, sauces, curries, etc. It’s a great way to start building flavor up, even to add to a basic rice or pasta dish. 
  8. Pasta – For pasta. I personally really like the farfalle (like bowtie) and my partner really like linguine which is really easy to cook. 
  9. Rice – Obviously. I don’t really have anything else to say for this. 
  10. Baking Soda – Good for baking yes. But also cleaning, clearing unpleasant scents, and for helping with pain when it comes to bee stings and bug bites. 

On Sleep or lack thereof

So I have always had a pretty bad relationship with sleep. When I was young (3-7) I had terrible night terrors. Night Terrors are essentially nightmares except your brain won’t wake you up. I also had bad sleep apnea for many years, to the point where my tonsils were taken out at the age of 6 so I didn’t stop breathing for too long in my sleep. So basically sleep time was a cause of emotional and physical distress for years.

I remember for a couple years in the middle I had worry dolls, which, I hid before sleep and then I was supposed to think about where I hid them instead of worrying. As I got older this was replaced with books and YouTube. I remember in high school when I was stressed and couldn’t sleep I would watch the same Netflix show over and over, so no one could tell how much I had been watching.

Now over my many years of sucking at sleeping. There have been many nights sleepless, weeks running on 10 hours or less, times where even on hardcore medication where I felt awake all night. I have learned an incredibly important thing from this. Humans are endurance creatures. If you need to get through something, you can. Our bodies will stretch themselves to the limits to get us where we need to go.

During this pandemic, I have definitely noticed this getting worse and worse. I am lucky enough that I don’t have to leave home and panic that I wouldn’t be rested enough to drive to work. (DO NOT DRIVE TIRED!). I can work from home, that is nice. But in additional to the million of other factors that go into sleep, my work space and my relax space have now been combined; which I have found to have a big influence on my ability to get to a point of rest.

Anyways, sleep is really hard to catch-up on. It seems like there is not a complete reset button. It’s not like when you finally get a good night of sleep you feel refreshed you body just switches out of survival mode and into “I-need-more-rest” mode. When taking sleeping medication it feels so much like you are just gonna be tired but alive the next day.

I feel like naps may be the great detractor of sleep long-term and I hate when people recommend naps when I tell them that I have struggles sleeping. First, I work all day. I do not currently have a schedule that lets me nap. Secondly, napping when sleep deprived doesn’t not give the boost of energy I wish it would by itself. (I will say having a cup of coffee and then a 10 minute nap is the most awake you will ever feel). Thirdly, my sleeping sucks regularly and I don’t want to shift my sleep cycle even more than I have to.

Wish me luck getting a good night of rest.

 

Building a Kitchen: Essential Herbs and Spices

So I think the most important thing is making simple foods taste really good is seasoning. However, spices and herbs are expensive. For me, and the cooking that I know here is a basic starter kit for any new kitchen.

  1. Salt: Obviously – everything and everyone needs this. Also, technically a mineral but still.
  2. Black Pepper: Again most things need a little pepper. If you can get one with a grinder, you will be better off.
  3. Cinnamon: This is my partner’s favorite flavor but it is very versatile and hard to replicate with other spices.  It’s a sweet and warm spice. Useful in everything from French Toast to curries.
  4. Cilantro: This has a really fresh and citrus-y flavor (if it doesn’t taste like soap to you). It’s great with rice, on top of tacos and burritos, with salad. It’s a really quick and tasty addition to many dishes.
  5. Basil: It is a sweeter herb with a more neutral flavor. Great for all Italian food. It is easy to use and pull in more flavor anywhere.
  6. Rosemary: The definition of herbaceous. It is delightful and woodsy. I love added this to any roast or soup. Also rosemary-lemon cookies are the best thing to be invented.
  7. Mint: Mint should be a requirement. There is no substitute. It is perfect for drinks (alcoholic and non) and desserts. Also to through on top of dishes and fresh into salads.
  8. Oregano: Oregano is featured in a lot of food (Mexican, Italian, Mediterranean) for a reason. It is just a little bitter but really accentuates savory and sweet flavors. Oregano is almost impossible to overuse.
  9. Dill: This might be my most controversial pick but I just think that there is nothing that can replicate this taste. It is earthy and tangy. Great for dips, soups, and sauces.
  10. Cayenne: Really any chili or pepper powder works but I like Cayenne. I think it is really easy for beginners to add layers of heat and spice without a lot of skill.