I'm in the process of creating a FAQ page for the website, and recently sent out request for questions on Instagram. My music friend, Haley, asked the most marvelous question that I think deserves an entire blog post. Here is the inquiry -
"What are your kitchen staples for ingredients and equipment?"
After thinking about this for a few seconds, I realized I had a lot to talk (or write) about, so this is the resulting post. Ingredients and gadgets that are eternally useful in the Heartland Lady kitchen.
Butter. Because... butter.
Fresh fruit. We always keep apples, oranges and bananas in a big bowl on the kitchen island. And a greater variety in summer, of course. Most of the fruit is eaten on its own, but it's just as useful in baking (i.e. Banana Apple Bread)
Aluminum-free baking powder. Even though aluminum hasn't been definitively identified as harmful, I just don't think it sounds great to eat something with aluminum in it. (Iron, on the other hand, is pretty important.) Perhaps the more obvious reason for using aluminum-free baking powder is taste-related. I'm convinced that it's the difference between my homemade desserts and store bought baked goods. Call me crazy, but the metallic taste is perceptible, and some other foodies think so too. See articles by David Lebovitz and this Epicurious writer.
Aaaaaaalll the spices. Keep the spice cupboard fully stocked. Spices can be expensive, but most will last practically forever. In cooking, they have a transformative power, turning the most normal dish into something truly special. It's hard to put a price tag on an explosion of flavor. :) Off the top of my head, here's what we keep handy at all times: salt (sea or table), black pepper, white pepper, red pepper flakes, garlic and onion powders, bay leaves, oregano, basil, thyme, sage, parsley, dill, fennel, mustard, celery seed, paprika, rosemary, cilantro, cumin, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, star anise. Bonus points if you grow herbs yourself. See my recent post on Uses for Herbs!
Kitchenaid mixer. We've had this simple Kitchenaid stand mixer for at least ten years. It is well loved and still does its job. While I could mix things by hand (sometimes I like to, not always), the Kitchenaid is more than helpful for heavy doughs like biscotti. My dream mixer would be the copper-finish Kitchenaid ProLine 7-quart, but as ever, the cost exceeds my willingness to spend. Expensive taste is a real illness, I tell you!
Cast iron pans. Our family uses cast iron pans for most all of the frying we do. The pans are kept seasoned with bacon fat and cleaned with the occasional wipe of a paper towel. It takes a long time to build up a good season, and you don't want to ruin that by regularly washing with water.
Parchment paper. It makes removing anything from a pan an absolute dream, instead of a nightmarish episode of spatula scraping (and breaking said spatula.. don't ask me how I know this.) A folded square of parchment paper makes a lovely cupcake liner as well, if you're tired of the average rippled ones.
'Til next time,
P.S. Please keep the questions coming!! What would you like to know about me, the Heartland Lady "mission," or other such things? Ask away in the comments below or shoot me an email! Thanks, friends. :)