My favorite cooking staples

This is the third in a series of blog posts I'm be doing about what it means to me to eat well.  Read my first post about how I buy meat that is good for me and the world.  I'm really interested in your opinions and how you try to eat well, so please email me or comment below!  Also, sign up at the bottom of the page to make sure you never miss a post.

Last week I wrote about my relationship with food and how I balance all the voices in my head.  You know what I mean.  Don't act like you don't have them.  Some people asked me about meal prep and leftovers and so I thought I'd give you some information on the things I try to always have in my kitchen.

1) Eggs 

Ya'll I'm not even exaggerating when I tell you my house of three women goes through AT LEAST 18 eggs a week.  I love a fried egg on avocado toast for breakfast.  I will eat an omelet with spinach and cheese and tomatoes for any meal of the day.  Sometimes, I'll make black bean and sweet potato breakfast taco and throw a little spicy sausage in there.  Eggs are the go-to food item when I don't know what I want to eat (or for if I haven't been grocery shopping in far too long.)  I like to buy eggs from Latta's Egg Ranch, because it is a local business with values I agree with and morals I trust.  I also like Nellie's organic eggs, which are sold a nationally at Harris Teeter.  Again, I'm willing to pay a little more for better nutrition, better treatment of animals, and better treatment of the environment.

2) Frozen spinach

A lot of this list is insurance against freaking out and not being able to find anything to eat. Frozen spinach is great for feeding one person because it basically never goes bad, so if you're in a tight spot, you know you've always got a vegetable that you can feed yourself.  It is challenging (for me) to buy the right amount of spinach to put in omelets and salads and pasta dishes all week, so I only buy fresh spinach if I know I'm going to eat a salad and then everything else comes from the frozen.  Frankly, though, I never finish a box of spinach before at least some of it goes bad and I really hate to throw away food.

3) white beans

White beans can mean cannellini beans, navy beans or Great Northern beans.  I buy whatever is cheapest canned at the grocery store.  I don't buy them dried because that would require a level of foresight that is outside of what I allow my emergency foods to need.  You can eat a can of beans in a week before they go bad and they're ready when you open the can.  Dried beans seem good but have no place in this list.  White beans are an added source of protein, and are creamy and add texture.  Skillet beans is one of my go-to meal.  Here's the simplest form: cook some frozen spinach and white beans in a skillet until hot - season however you want and serve with toast and a fried egg.  That's a damn good meal and it took you no more than 10 minutes.

Are you starting to see how all this fits together?

4) kale

At my neighborhood Harris Teeter, you can buy a pound of kale for 99 cents.  Y'ALL.  It is great.  Kale is delicious and doesn't need to make you roll your eyes.  Here are my best kale tips:

  1. Wash the whole leaves, then slice down the middle, removing the thick stems.  Those are nasty, especially if you're going to make a salad.  They're tolerable if you're going to cook the kale.
  2. If you're making a kale salad, the first thing you should do is make the dressing and then use your hands to rub it into the kale.  Let it sit as long as possible.  Kale is thick and therefore needs time to absorb the dressing while you cut up everything else.
  3. If you're going to cook the kale, braise it.  Heat up a pan with garlic and olive oil and add the kale.  Cook for a few minutes, then add about 1/4 cup of chicken broth.  Cover and cook for about 10 minutes until the liquid has dried up.  You can also use water or vegetable broth.

5) tough vegetables

When I say strong, I mean things that are generally too tough to eat raw - broccoli, sweet potatoes, carrots, squash, brussel sprouts.  Fall is a good time for this. I roast the crap out of the vegetables and then let them cool completely before putting them in the fridge.  This way, they don't get too soggy. Too reheat, I like to stick them under the broiler for a few minutes.  Yum.

6) Farro

Farro is similar to a wheat berry.  Boil it for about 15 minutes and the possibilities are endless.  I like to add it to salads to make them a little more hefty - this summer steak & farro salad is a great jumping off point for other salads - throw whatever vegetables you've got on some farro and that's a darn good meal.

7) Trader Joe's everyday seasoning

This seasoning is my absolute favorite.  I put it on avocado toast, eggs, pasta, and anything else I can think of.  I love it.  Go get some.

8) Jeni's ice cream

This ice cream costs $10 a pint and is only available at Fresh Market.  Check the website for your local listing.  Don't roll your eyes.  It is so delicious that it hurts my soul.  I keep it in my freezer (only sometimes when I really need it.)  It is the best ice cream in the whole world.  Get the brown butter almond brittle flavor so that you don't think I'm a weirdo.

9) Parmesan cheese

I always keep parmesan cheese in my fridge because it goes on top of every single thing in this list except (maybe) the ice cream. If you buy pre-grated you're not living your best life.  You deserve better.