Stocking your kitchen with tried and true ingredients insures that you are always ready to make a reliably tasty meal.
Now that we are going to the grocery store less often, it has become important to always make sure we are well stocked with our favourite ingredients so that we can throw a satisfying meal together more easily. Sarah and I were curious to know what others consider staples, so we asked a few friends to share their kitchen staples and what they do with them. We hope you enjoy taking a peek inside our kitchens, and feel as inspired as we did when learning about how our friends cook at home.
Sarah & Stephen
Coconut milk – we often make curries, so having a couple of cans of coconut milk stocked is essential.
Medium-firm tofu – one of our favourite “go-to” meals is a veggie bowl. We use whatever vegetables we have in the fridge, topped with crispy tofu. We then drizzle miso gravy, almond butter sauce or a hot sauce over the veggies and tofu.
Bag of almonds – I often use almond flour in baking. We keep a big bag of almonds in the freezer, and then grind them in the Blendtec when we need flour.
Red lentils – these can easily be made into a dahl, or added to a soup for additional protein.
Sweet potatoes – these are great to have stocked in the kitchen. We use them in veggie bowls, in egg scrambles, in tacos and in roasted vegetable medleys.
Frozen salmon – salmon is one of our favourite proteins. We keep a few fillets in the freezer, for those quick meals: salmon and grilled asparagus, red curry with salmon, salmon burgers.
Tea – we have a small selection of black and herbal teas, which include Barry’s tea (an Irish classic), Angel Water (from Silk Road) and Sleepy Time tea.
Coffee – running out of coffee in our household elicits panic. Coffee is an important part of our morning ritual, and something that has remained steadfast despite other changes in our morning routine.
Chelsea & Nathan
Coconut milk – We use this as a base for curries and soups, and as a replacement for water when cooking rice. I love the flavour, and the creaminess it imparts to dishes.
Chickpeas – We often roast chickpeas in olive oil and spices, and then use them in vegetable bowls.
Leafy greens – At least once daily, leafy greens are on the menu. We typically sauté sturdy greens like kale, Swiss chard, and collards and enjoy more fragile greens (spinach, arugula, lettuce) in salads.
Coffee – a morning ritual
Spices – I love having a wide variety of spices so I can make my own blends and be creative when flavouring food. I always try to have turmeric, cumin, coriander, cardamom, cinnamon, black pepper, and chili flakes on hand.
Plantain chips – Nathan introduced me to this tasty snack, and now plantain chips always find their way into our grocery cart.
Scotch bonnet sauce – This spicy condiment is an important part of Jamaican cuisine, and Nathan will use it in a wide variety of dishes to lend a very flavourful heat.
Oat milk – Nathan adds a splash to his coffee every morning.
Dark chocolate – We especially love dark chocolate with sea salt and slivered almonds, but really any dark chocolate will do.
Sweet potatoes – Roasted and seasoned sweet potatoes form the base of the veggie bowls we make.
Halloumi – Nathan loves halloumi! He often fries it up, squeezes a lemon over the golden pieces, and then tosses them in a salad or vegetable bowl.
Tahini – Almost weekly we blend up a tahini sauce to pour over vegetable bowls or salads.
Lemons – lemon zest and lemon juice are frequently used in our kitchen to flavour sauces or add a finishing touch to a dish.
Garlic – The process of peeling and mincing garlic cloves, adding them to hot oil, and then noticing the fragrance is how most of our meals start.
Parsley – I like to keep a bunch of parsley in a glass of water on the countertop so that I can pull off leaves to garnish a dish, blend it up with tahini and seasoning to make a sauce, or mince it with garlic and lemon juice to make gremolata.
Appleton Rum – This delicious Jamaican rum is something Nathan always has in his kitchen to enjoy on its own, with coconut water, or over desserts.
Carmelle & Parker
Plantains – we eat these with at least one meal a day sometimes more. Usually to make tostones with breakfast, or substituting them for grains in dough for waffles, flat bread/pizza crust and pastry.
Eggs – Warm breakfasts are important, and we like to bake.
Leafy greens – for salads, warm sides and green soups.
Full fat coconut milk in a can – we use this daily in coffee and cook with it several times a week for quick soups & curries.
Spice blends – having several different blends on hand for dishes is easier for us than stocking an entire spice cupboard. We usually buy blends from Island Afrikan Market, Damascus Market and Mexican House of Spice.
Dark chocolate – Carmelle’s vice. In bar form, but she also uses chocolate chips and cocoa powder for baking.
Popcorn kernels – Parkers vice, he makes popcorn almost everyday.
“Storm chips” – this is a new staple for us. Inspired by our East Coast friends who bulk buy chips when there’s a hurricane, we like to think of them for weathering the current proverbial storm.
Canned beans – I always have a can of chickpeas, kidney beans, or black beans in the pantry! I use them for bean salads (add beans to some roasted plantain, vinaigrette, herbs, and garlic), in curries, in rice dishes, or to make hummus or other bean dips.
Coconut milk – Coconut milk goes in almost everything in my kitchen: soups, curries, rice dishes, smoothies, and desserts. It’s so versatile and so tasty!!
Chicken thighs – my favourite cut of chicken. I use them for soup, bake them, pan fry them, stew them, curry them. They’re the juiciest part of the chicken.
Preserved lemon – if you can’t find preserved lemon in the store, cut a bunch of organic lemons into quarters, cover them in salt, mash it all together, and let it sit in a jar for a month. I like to blend the lemons up after a month of being preserved. I add a spoonful of this instead of salt to my stews, dressings, and dips. It adds a nice citrus flavour and is delicious!
Spices – smoked paprika is one of my favourites. I also love to have a few spice blends on hand. My favourites are za’atar and berbere; they’re both so complex and delicious. You can make your own, or buy berbere from the Island Afrikan Market and za’atar from the Quadra Village Butcher Shop. You can use these on meat, fish, potatoes, in stews, on vegetables. They’re great to have on hand!
Tomato paste – I love adding a spoonful of tomato paste to dishes that I’m making. It lends some serious depth of flavour to the dishes you’re cooking.
Scotch bonnet sauce – I love spicy food, but a good spicy dish needs to have big flavour too. Scotch bonnets are one of the few hot peppers that add heat AND flavour to a dish. I love them. I get it from Walmart and the African market (when I’m not bringing it straight in from Jamaica).
Fresh herbs – I always have thyme, green onion, and cilantro in my fridge. They go into almost every dish I make.
As a way to connect with others, and celebrate food, we decided to organize a recipe exchange of your favourite sweet treats.
COVID-19 has illuminated many of the existing problems in our society, including food insecurity. We wanted to learn more about who is most affected, and discuss why these conversations are necessary, especially in the health and wellness world.
Ariel and Jess Reyes Barton are the creators of Palenke Greens, which is a burlap sack gardening initiative aimed at assisting people of African descent facing food insecurity. Not only do they provide all of the supplies to create a burlap sack garden, they also help to install it, and have exciting ideas for the future.