There are a number of items in my kitchen that I aim to never be out of. When these items are at hand, putting together a real food meal does not have to be difficult or necessarily even demand that much time.
1. Bone broths in my freezer – There is a reason this is listed as number one on my list. Traditionally prepared bone broths are extremely nutritious and in particular provide an easily digestible and excellent source of minerals such as calcium, magnesium and potassium. However you don’t need to know the nutritional science behind bone broths to feel its wonders. Drinking a bowl of warm chicken broth always puts me in a better mood and calms my nerves. I use broths regularly in making soups, stews, rice, curries and sauces as they provide not only nutrition but also a lot of flavor to my meals. Once I have the broth ready and waiting in my freezer it can be as little as 15 minutes to make a nourishing soup. I tend to always have chicken, fish and beef broth frozen in small portions in my freezer. The beef broth I freeze as ice cubes.
2. Quality fats - This could also easily be listed as number one on the list, as having quality fats in the diet is essentially to good health. And by quality fats I mean animal fats like butter, lard, beef tallow and so on, ideally from healthy animals raised on pasture. I find that the more fat I use in my cooking the better I feel and the better my body tends to “work.” The primary fats I use are butter, ghee, lard, beef tallow, extra virgin coconut oil, sesame oil, and extra virgin olive oil, with emphasis on the first 4 on the list in cooking. I make the ghee myself, and I render my own lard and beef tallow. The beef fat I get for free direct from local organic farms.
3. Spices - I have lots of spices in my cupboard, especially since I like making Indian food. If you are new to cooking, then consider stocking up on spices and getting an Indian cookbook. I find many Indian dishes are quite easy to make, and if you are following a recipe then it’s hard to mess up on the flavors. Lately my favorite Indian cookbook is An Indian Housewife’s Recipe Book by Laxmi Khurana.
4. Quality salt - Not all salt is created equal, folks. The modern day salt found in the store is a highly refined product, much like our modern day flours, sugars and vegetable oils are highly refined and in general quite harmful to our health. Salt in its natural form provides important minerals and also acts as an activator to enzymes. It also makes food taste good! There is a reason you have a taste for salt. It’s not there to torture you while you force yourself to eat a low-salt diet! Our bodies need salt. The Weston A. Price Foundation has an excellent article on this topic called The Salt of the Earth. I always salt to taste. Jyväskylä does not have the best salt selection, but these days I am using a pink Himalayan salt. Robin from Thank Your Body has a great post with more advice and explanation on why salt is essential to health.
5. Raw apple cider vinegar – Years ago I started using a splash of raw apple cider vinegar (with the mother) in a glassful of water to combat digestive discomfort and to add good bacteria to my gut. While not a panacea, raw apple cider vinegar can do wonders. I keep it at hand for salad dressings and also to add some acid when soaking beans or rice to break down the phytic acid. I have only found one source of raw apple cider vinegar (with the mother) here in Jyväskylä, and that is from the Ekolo shop.
6. Whey - I’m not talking about those awful whey protein powders you can buy at the health food store. I’m talking about the whey that can be strained out from live-culture yogurt (or kefir) using cheesecloth. The whey is then used in turn as a starter for many fermented foods and drinks I make, for example homemade ginger ale or fermented condiments like ketchup and mayonnaise. The whey provides the lactic-acid bacteria that facilitates the fermentation. I also often use a splash of whey when soaking grains or beans to neutralize phytic acid.
7. Natural sweeteners AND refined sugar - While I think our modern society has an extremely unhealthy obsession with eating sweets, I also think there is a danger in going too extreme and avoiding sweets altogether. I have on hand honey and unrefined sugar as my main sweeteners for adding to tea, coffee and homemade nourishing treats. In their natural form sweeteners also add nutrients to our diet, but I also always have on hand the white refined sugar because I use it for making kombucha!
8. Eggs - An egg is practically a perfect food. Sally Fallon writes in Nourishing Traditions that “properly prepared eggs are rich in just about every nutrient we have yet discovered, especially fat-soluble vitamins A and D.” I love eggs not only because they are full of nutrients that we need but also because they are delicious and super versatile. Whether making a quick breakfast of scrambled eggs, yummy condiments like mayonnaise or tasty baked goods, it’s nice to always have eggs on hand. This is one food that I always buy organic. Ideally you can get your eggs from your own backyard chickens, but for me that isn’t an option right now so I make do with the organic eggs at the store.
9. Basmati rice – I love rice and especially basmati rice. It is quick and easy to prepare and makes a great addition to many meals. It can also provide an easy way to prepare a real food lunch to take to work. Once I have the rice I can make a quick fried rice with some egg for example. I usually soak my rice overnight and cook it in bone broth along with a spoonful of ghee and a generous pinch of salt.
10. Milk – Ok I could probably live without milk if I had to, but really I love the stuff and these days it helps provide a steady source of a live-culture food in my diet. I use the milk for making kefir all week long. With the kefir I make smoothies, salad dressings, sweets and so on. I also enjoy milk in my tea and coffee as well as occasionally a mugful of hot spiced milk at night before I go to bed. Since the milk I get is always full-fat it provides one of my sources of quality fat in my diet.
What are the main staples in your real food kitchen? Tell me in the comments!