Healthy Kitchen Must-Haves

Eating well requires meal preparation. That means I need to have quality foods in my pantry and the ability to prepare them. There is a list of food and kitchen items that are essential in my kitchen and I wanted to share. If you are new to the cooking world or maybe are wondering what a healthy kitchen could have to offer, here are some of my favorites.

Food Must-Haves (besides the typical foods on a grocery list…)

  1. Fats and oils. This is number one because they get a bad rap but these are essential for healthy living. From canola and olive oil to organic butter and vegan butter spreads these are a staple in my kitchen. The best oils include canola and olive but also include grape seed, avocado, and walnut oils. I like canola oil for its mild taste, high omega-3 content, high cooking point, and price tag. Grape seed oil is a close second but the price tag makes me shiver a little. It’s great for a special occasion or recipe. Olive oil is a power house in the heart health world packed with mono-unsaturated fatty acids. Great for finishing dishes like salads and pastas, not so great for cooking at high heat. Organic butter (or pasture raised/free range if I can find it) is an essential in my house. It works great at higher heats, wonderful for adding a pop of flavor to dishes, and doesn’t have the additives that some butter-like spreads have. Vegan butter spreads are also a staple in my house but mostly for buttering breads and throwing a little in steamed veggies.
  2. Herbs and spices. I cook with herbs and spices daily whether it goes into eggs for breakfast, salad dressing for my lunch, or any number of them flavoring dinners these are a staple. The top herbs I use are parsley, cilantro, chives, oregano, and basil. My spices of choice are black pepper, turmeric, paprika, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ground ginger.
  3. Variety of vinegars. I. Love. Vinegar. Balsamic, white balsamic, red wine, white wine, apple cider, rice, champagne, the list can go on! I haven’t met a vinegar I didn’t like! I use vinegar daily. Mostly in salad dressings, marinades, and pops of flavor in sauces. There are specific vinegars I use depending on my mood and the dish. Apple cider is my most used. This is so versatile and so good for your body! Balsamic is more for sweet/savory dishes. Red wine is used a lot in Greek and Italian cuisine. Rice is a sweet vinegar that I like to add to salads and various Asian dishes. For a fancy vinaigrette dressing I’ll pull out the white balsamic, white wine, or champagne vinegar and add some fresh herbs!

Kitchen Must-Haves

  1. Sharp Knives. A good set (3) of sharp knives can be the difference between quick preparation and keeping all of your fingers and tedious cooking and stitches. For real you just need 3…a chefs knife, paring knife, serrated knife. They must be sharp, if not buy yourself a sharpener. Hand wash to keep sharp. You’ll thank me, I promise!
  2. Stainless steel pots and pans. Get rid of your non-stick stuff. As soon as it scratches the non-stick companies do not promise that it is safe anymore…take a look. Is it scratched? Then it’s probably not safe. Replace one pot at a time unless you have a budget for a new set of pots and pans. I have a variety of different brands of stainless steel pots/pans and I like them all for different reasons! It may not look fancy but I’m a simple kind of girl 🙂 Use healthy oils to cook with and if the pot gets burnt on the bottom (which it shouldn’t if you are paying attention while you cook) just use a bristled brush or a scour pad to clean.
  3. Wooden cutting board(s). Instead of the plastic stuff or the glass cutting boards that can make your sharp knives dull invest in some good wooden cutting boards. These do not dull knives and they stay a lot longer than plastic. Sure you can’t wash them in a dishwasher but a little soap and brush will get them clean quick. Side note: I do not cut meat. If you do just have 2 cutting boards an animal protein one and a plant one.

Those are the six items that I truly cannot live without in my kitchen. I build my healthy meals around these items every day!

Final thoughts: make sure you have some staples in your pantry and basic kitchen tools so that you have the ability to cook a variety of healthy meals for you and your family. Shop for discounts, head to a thrift store or yard sales for kitchen tools…I have found some great deals! I have a can opener that I got before graduate school at a yard sale and she’s still opening cans of beans for me 10 years later!

Challenge: think about the staples that you have in your pantry. Are they beneficial for your health?

Garlic Lemon Green Bean Almandine

My aunt has huge gardens. She’s on vacation this week so my mom and I harvested tons of cucumbers and green beans. Thank you Aunt Nancy! In any regard we’ve been having a lot of cooked green beans and my daughter’s favorite, creamy cucumbers. Tonight for dinner I decided to try out something else.

Who doesn’t like a good green bean almandine? It reminds me of a fancy dinner but you know me, simple is the way to go! So here it is:

Garlic Lemon Green Bean Almandine

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound fresh green beans
  • 3 tablespoons organic butter
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup diced onion
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds (I buy whole almonds and just cut them with a knife – its cheaper)
  • salt to taste

Directions:

  1. Steam green beans until slightly crunchy
  2. While green beans are steaming, melt butter over medium high heat in a large skillet
  3. Cook garlic and onions until onions are transparent
  4. Add the slivered almonds to the skillet
  5. Place green beans over the butter, garlic, onions, and almonds
  6. Cook beans until desired texture and then season with salt to taste

NOTES:

  • If you don’t have fresh green beans, frozen works just fine
  • You can use canola oil or olive oil blend for cooking instead of butter

They came out fantastically! Crunchy yet tender. The almonds gave it a nutty flavor without being too over powering and the lemon and garlic gave it a zesty undertone. Refreshing!

Crunch, zesty, flavorful
Crunch, zesty, flavorful

Final thoughts: I love taking typical foods and putting a twist on them. Sometimes my recipes are trial and error. I dream of a delicious BBQ sauce recipe that I don’t have to dump. It’s been a few years in the making. These green beans came out delicious in the first try and sometimes that’s the luck! Once you get the hang of cooking, making up recipes gets easier because you can go with the flow! My wonderful friend and dietitian side-kick Heather once said “baking is a science but cooking is an art” and it is so true! Cooking doesn’t require the exact amounts of anything for it to turn out delicious!

Challenge: make up your own recipe!