Now that we’ve gone over the staples, we can get into some cooking! Let’s start with a stir-fry. Stir-fries are great because they have pretty balanced nutrition, and they can be one pot meals if you don’t add a side. I cook for three different people with three different eating habits, so I try to make it as easy as possible for myself. I am a vegetarian, my husband is not, and my toddler eats almost anything...but only has a few teeth. This "recipe" came about because I kept getting mangoes from Misfits Market. I'm not a fan of raw mango, but I'm also not a fan of wasting food so I decided to experiment. A few months later, we hope we get mangoes from Misfits Market every week because we love these stir-fry dishes. (In this stir-fry, the mangoes, celery, peppers, limes, and onion came from Misfits Market.)
Here’s your stir-fry checklist (* next to my staples):
Ok, now let’s get into it. Like I’ve said before, I don’t measure. First, I peel the mango and chop all the fruit and veggies. Usually, I’ll do it over the course of the day or the night before because I rarely have a chunk of uninterrupted time to get it all done at once. Lots of containers in the fridge! I keep everything in separate containers. For this meal, I cooked my rice ahead of time then reheated it for the meal. You can also cook the rice in a separate pot right before you cook your stir-fries. The stir-fries cook relatively quickly so you can cook your rice, and cover the finished rice to keep it warm while you cook your stir-fries. ( I try to use organic basmati rice from California because I've read it has the lowest arsenic levels.)
Next, I get the marinade ready. Canola oil, then sesame oil, then low sodium tamari sauce, then rice wine vinegar. I also add in the chopped garlic and ginger powder. I mix all this with a fork in a glass container. The one here holds three cups. (You can add the agave and lime juice to the marinade or add it when you are cooking.)
This is how it looks once it's mixed.
Then, I get the chicken ready. (Not my favorite thing to do since I’m vegetarian, but I do it anyway.) I always chop the veggies first so I can use the same cutting board for the raw chicken. I cut the chicken into bite sized chunks and put them in a glass container with the marinade. If everything else is ready to go, you can cook it right away. I usually like to let the chicken sit in the marinade for at least an hour, but overnight is probably the best. (Again, I’m going by what other people say because I’ve never eaten this chicken.)
Time to cook! I have two different pans going at once so each section below is one pan or wok.
Time to eat! Serve the stir-fry over the rice. Yum! If you make this at home, let me know how it goes!
Herbs and spices today. Woo hoo! Trying to avoid the grocery store has forced me to get creative with our food shopping. Thrive Market and Savory Spice Shop have been great places to order spices online. Savory Spice Shop is a small Colorado based business. Coincidentally, I’ve been to one of their Colorado locations. One of my best childhood friends now lives in Colorado, and she brought me to Savory Spice Shop when I visited her a few years ago. So, I’ve been ordering spices from there and Thrive Market.
What are my staples? Most are pretty common, but there are a few surprises. In the spice cabinet, you will find garlic powder, onion powder, table salt, coarse sea salt, black pepper, white pepper, paprika, smoked paprika, ginger powder, oregano, thyme, and bay leaves. (There are others, but I don’t use them often.) Although they are not herbs or spices, you will also find vanilla extract and raw blue agave in the spice cabinet. Did you find a few surprises in there? Let’s discuss.
The garlic powder, onion powder, table salt, black pepper, paprika, oregano, vanilla extract, and thyme are pretty well known. If you have any questions about where to find them or what they can be used for, ask me!
What are your spice and herb staples? I’m always looking for more ideas.
Having some staple non-perishables (and long lasting fridge items) really makes cooking a lot easier. I’m a big fan of stir fries and meals I can bake. Oils, vinegars, sauces, and spices are my friends. Meal planning is something I aim for, but in reality, it NEVER happens. (Meal planning tips are welcomed!!) I have my go to staple combinations, and that system works much better for me. I’ve become pretty good at creating something from nothing. So what are these staples I keep referring to? Here’s a peek inside my fridge and my pantry cabinet:
Some of my go to long term fridge items are organic chopped garlic in a jar, rice vinegar, and low sodium tamari sauce. They sound fancy, but you can find them at most grocery stores. The organic chopped garlic shown here is from Shoprite. The rice vinegar and low sodium tamari sauce are from Thrivemarket.com, but you can also get them at most grocery stores. Why these specifically? I like the chopped garlic because peeling and chopping garlic myself is annoying. I don’t use this in raw dishes, but it’s fine in cooked dishes. I like the organic one because the only ingredients are garlic, water, and citric acid. The conventional chopped garlic has chemically sounding preservatives that I’m not a fan of. I’m not picky about my rice vinegar. This one happens to be organic because there wasn’t much of a price difference between organic and conventional. If you’ve never heard of tamari sauce, it’s gluten-free soy sauce. I’m not gluten-free, but this just feels like a healthier option. I buy the low-sodium tamari sauce whenever possible because the regular is SO salty. I try not to eat too much salt, plus I think the low-sodium version tastes better. This one is from Thrive Market, but again, most stores have it. If low-sodium tamari sauce isn’t available, then low-sodium soy sauce is my go to. Not pictured, ketchup is always in my fridge.
Next up is the oil and vinegar shelf. I have a lot of oils and vinegars for someone who does not consider herself a cook. I’m sharing the ones I use most often. Oils first because I have a nice variety. Olive oil, extra virgin olive oil, canola oil, and sesame oil are the oils I use most frequently. There are others, but those are my staples. I also always try to have balsamic vinegar and white cooking wine on hand. Olive oil and canola oil are good for cooking at higher heat like stiry fries and baking, and extra virgin olive oil is perfect for dressings. Sesame oil is in most of my stir fries and is super tasty. White wine and balsamic vinegar are great ingredients for marinades. All of these oils and vinegars are really versatile which is what makes them staples.
Now onto the baking ingredients shelf. I’m a fan of whole wheat flour, buckwheat flour, baking soda, baking powder, turbinado sugar, and whole wheat bread crumbs. Most of these things are pretty common ingredients that don’t really need an explanation. I try to use whole wheat flour, whole wheat bread crumbs, and turbinado sugar because they are less processed than their white counterparts. Buckwheat flour gets added in almost any time I use regular flour because buckwheat is very nutritious.
Next post will be about my commonly used herbs and spices. They are pretty basic, but with a few wild cards.
Any questions about my staples? What are your staples?
Have you ever noticed how gorgeous produce is? Mother Nature really is an amazing artist! I’ve been vegetarian for over 20 years so I’ve eaten a lot of vegetables, but it wasn’t until this spring that I was really forced to be more creative with my cooking. I will try almost any vegetarian food at a restaurant or cooked by someone else, but I really just cooked within my comfort zone until recently.
I live in New Jersey, so Covid-19 hit my state really hard. I’m one of the very lucky people who was inconvenienced, but I did not experience anything near what other people did. That being said, my family and I have been incredibly careful. We are now over 5 months in, and last night was the first time we didn’t wipe down our groceries. It was also only about the 8th time I’ve been to a grocery store in the last 5 and a half months. I haven’t been to Target since the first week in March, which is CRAZY. I've barely seen any of my friends in person, and I’ve had very limited visits with immediate family. My 15 month old son hasn’t been to a playground (or almost anywhere) in 6 months, and he hasn’t been around other children either. Why does this matter? We had to get very creative with our food shopping.
How did we do it?
We used Instacart a few times, but it gets expensive and the food is still being touched by all the people at the grocery store and the shopper. In addition to all the food being a little pricier, we also gave really good tips because we were very grateful to the person shopping. It adds up quickly.
We also did curbside pickup from a local butcher shop/ market. That was one one my favorite solutions because we were supporting a local business. We called in with our shopping list, then they texted us when it was ready. It was a really low tech system, but that business got creative and did what it had to do to stay in business and protect its employees and customers.
We have shipped non-perishables like olive oil, peanut butter, and a few other items from Target.
We also signed up for ThriveMarket.com and MisfitsMarket.com. I really liked those solutions as well. Misfits Market forced me to get creative with my cooking, and I could get some more obscure non-perishables from Thrive Market. If you aren’t familiar with Misfits Market, they get “unsellable” produce from local farms. Unsellable doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with it. Maybe the produce was the wrong size or shape for the grocery store. Maybe the crop wasn’t abundant enough to sell at the grocery store. Maybe the crop overproduced and the grocery stores didn’t need it all. Maybe the produce was a little under ripe or overripe. Because of the nature of the business, I never knew what I’d be getting in my weekly delivery of produce. Sometimes I’d get common foods like tomatoes, but other times I’d get things I wouldn’t normally buy like jicama, mango, whole beets, and red cabbage. It forced me to do new things with my cooking. All the photos you've been seeing as you read are of my Misfits Market produce. Gorgeous, right?
I’ll start by saying my family has been very lucky, and I am so incredibly thankful for that. Life has been far from normal the last few months, but I truly cannot complain when I think about the state of the country and of the world. So what have I been up to? Well, my last post was about 2 years ago so...a lot!
In the last two years I’ve gotten married, had a baby, had an amazing maternity leave, gone in a bit of a new direction with my business, and done a lot of cooking!
I won’t say I’m an amazing cook, or that I even enjoy cooking, but I will say that cooking is art and baking is science. With the exception of pancakes, banana bread, and chocolate chip cookies, I rarely follow recipes. Nope. Scratch that. I find recipes for those foods, then I change them. I blame (thank?) my mom for that. She always cuts the sugar in half, substitutes some healthier ingredient for sour cream, and bakes instead of fries. She also doesn’t like cooking or baking. My dad loves cooking, and he’s also a really great cook. No recipes necessary. So somehow, even though I don’t like cooking or baking, I have found myself doing both of those activities quite often and surprisingly well. I do change recipes to make them healthier when I bake or make pancakes. I also don’t use recipes when I cook. I just really don’t like measuring. I seem to have picked up cooking habits of both my mom and dad...even though those habits are very different from each other.
One thing I will give myself credit for, is being creative in the kitchen and being able to make something from nothing. I guess that’s actually two things. Anyway, my point is that this blog may transform into a cooking/art overlap blog. We shall see. It’s actually already kind of like that if you scroll through. You’ll find the pancake recipe I modified a few years ago. I’ve actually modified it again to make it even easier. I’ll post it soon.
So does that sound interesting to you? If you follow me on Instagram I do post about what I’m cooking in my feed and in my stories relatively often. A blog is a better place to share my recipes (ingredient lists?) though so that’s why I’m starting up this blog again!
Let me know your thoughts! Interested in my cooking? How has your cooking changed over the last few months?
I’m Rachel, an art teacher by day and a freelance artist and pretend chef by night. You can find my art locally and online, and my cooking adventures in my blog.