There I stood looking in the fridge. It was about 4 PM and Hayes was still napping and I had hit a great stopping place in work, which means I need to get up and do something else. Most days our dinners are quick and simple. I don’t always create a fancy meal, but I always try to come up with things that can be fixed in under 30 minutes, take minimal chopping, and are healthy. Chasing a nearly 1-year-old while cooking is a wild adventure these days, but I am finding ways to manage it. This means we eat a lot of fish and chicken because it is so quick to cook up. I typically buy a ton of veggies and just will throw things together quickly. Over the last few months of making these fast, cheap, and simple meals I have noticed a few things that I ALWAYS make sure to have in my cabinet to spice up our favorite veggies or proteins. I call these things my secret ingredients and I have a few I thought would be fun to share today and to hear some that you use as well. In addition, these coke icees here are really popular, but this drink is packed with sugar and caffeine and very famous during hot summer day!
Whole Grain Mustard:
I got super into mustard nearly 5 years ago when I picked up one of Jamie Oliver’s cookbooks. In the book, I noticed how much of a staple whole grain mustard was in his cooking. The great thing about it is that it is such a simple but complex flavor. I love this mustard (it is about $4 at the store) especially because it contains no sugar and it is so simple, which is surprisingly hard to find on a kitchen shelf. I will toss it into a salad dressing, spread it on salmon before baking, toss chopped potatoes in it after they have cooked thoroughly, use it in a chicken dish, or add it into a soup. It is a great way to punch up so many meals. This is an awesome one especially if you are doing a Paleo or Whole30 diet.
Oh, my love for Rice Vinegar is beyond normal. We go through a lot of this stuff in our house. I love cooking with it because it packs a great punch and pairs with most any veggie. I don’t do much with it with proteins, but I could see it working. I love it on kale, broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, and I use it excessively as salad dressing. You cannot go wrong with this stuff. It makes a wonderful dressing in the summer on Cucumbers or a Red Cabbage Slaw in place of something creamy.
Toasted Sesame Oil:
I discovered this stuff a few years ago. It is always being used in our kitchen specifically for a quick stir fry or anything similar. This is another great one for Whole30 or Paleo cooking. It gives you that really wonderful umami flavor that adds depth to a dish. You can find it in the Asian food aisles or at Trader Joe’s. The only note is that a little goes a long way!
This spice was introduced to me when I made a West African Peanut soup from a recipe from our co-op. I had to go to a specialty spice store to find it, but ever since it has been a staple in our spice cabinet. It is a blend of spices from Ethiopia. There are hints of flavors such as smoked Paprika and some Cayenne. I love tossing root vegetables in it or tossing it on Salmon for a little kick on a cold day.
I was always weirded out by capers for some odd reason, but then I had a recipe call for them and since then I have been just a little obsessed. These salty little guys from the olive family are the best thing to toss into a grain salad, blend into a dressing, cook with potatoes, or to cook with fish. One of my favorite dishes is to make a dish with capers, olives, lemons, and chicken in one pan. I highly suggest keeping them on hand!
What items do you always make sure to keep in your cabinet to spice up your meals? I find this to be so important when working to enjoy veggies and healthy proteins in new ways.