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It’s time to start discussing the actual cooking part of the cooking experience. But before we do this, let’s make sure that we have the right pantry staples in our kitchen at all times so that we can guarantee a fun and stress free cooking environment. The following list of must have pantry staples are absolute basic requirements that everybody should carry regardless of culinary preference. You will notice that this list focuses on building Roundness of Flavor, not on building aromatic quality. To build aromatic quality in your dishes, you will have to purchase herbs and spices to fill out your culinary repertoire.
The reason I have selected these basic pantry staples is because almost any dish can be made and improved using these ingredients. You can truly develop the 5 flavors of salty, savory, spicy, sour, and sweet using the following ingredients. The final 5 ingredients are absolute must haves that are used in the cooking process. They do not specifically build the 5 flavors, but you can’t make a cake without flour. And, you cannot sauté without fat.
Pantry Staples You Need for Flavor
|kosher salt or sea salt (coarse ground)||salty||A very versatile salt, can be used to season a dish or as a marinade. The flakes are made especially for dissolving quickly and easily.|
|soy sauce||salty and savory||Fermented sauce made from wheat and soy. Buy a high quality soy sauce, as low quality and store brand soy sauce has an inferior flavor and tends to be bitter. I personally use the brand Kikkoman.|
|MSG||savory||Perfect savory amendment to any dish. It adds pizzazz to any dish or sauce. I recommend picking up a container or package of it at your local Asian market. It tends to be more reasonably priced. The two most common brands are Accent and Aji-No-Moto.|
|black pepper (fine ground)||spicy||Most common of all peppers. Great in anything. Most commonly used as table pepper.|
|red pepper||spicy||Available as ground or flakes. A spicy pepper that adds a nice kick to dishes.|
|cayenne pepper||spicy||Normally sold as ground cayenne pepper. Hot but subtle. Note: Unlike other flavors that mellow or temper with longer cooking, cayenne pepper is unique in that the longer you cook it, the spicier it becomes.|
|red wine vinegar||sour||Great vinegar for most anything. Adds a nice clean taste to dishes.|
|rice vinegar||sour||Traditionally used in Asian cooking. It is sweeter than its western counterpart.|
|lemon juice||sour||Acidic juice from lemons. Great on seafood and Mediterranean dishes.|
|lime juice||sour||Acidic juice from limes. Full of vitamin C. Great for tropical, Caribbean, and Central American dishes.|
|granulated sugar||sweet||Regular old sugar. Extremely versatile. Can be used for sweetening, baking, mixing into coffee, really whatever you need sugar for!|
|pure olive oil||N/A||Great healthy oil with a low smoke point. This is good for healthy low temperature sautéing.|
|vegetable oil||N/A||Usually made from soy beans. It has a high smoke point making it ideal for frying or sautéing.|
|butter||N/A||You will notice my recipes always call for butter over margarine. Butter is natural, contains calcium, and makes everything taste amazing. If desired, you may substitute margarine for butter in equal amounts.|
|wheat flour||N/A||Great for baking or thickening sauces.|
|corn starch||N/A||Perfect for thickening sauces or creating crispy crusts on deep fried items.|