What are your must-haves in the kitchen?

This is last night's meal, Chorizo Seitan Soft Tacos, not what I whipped together with limited time today ... but also not that all that different. The seitan is from Upton's Naturals.

I’m meeting a friend for a bite to eat and a few glasses of happy at Spill the Wine for a late-night catch-up, so I don’t have grand plans in the kitchen tonight. But here’s the thing: I’m hungry now. What’s a guy to do?

You’re familiar with Second Breakfast, right? You grab some yogurt and fresh fruit and chow down in the morning, you’re oh-so-proud, and suddenly you’re at work checking to see when it’s time for lunch. And it’s 9 a.m. It’s time for Second Breakfast. Plan wisely, and you’ll have granola, nuts or oatmeal in your desk. Plan poorly, and you fall victim to scrounging for office doughnuts.*

So what do I do tonight? Have Dinner Round 1 immediately upon getting home from work, then Dinner Round 2 four hours later? This got me thinking about the staples in my kitchen. The absolutely-must-haves. There are the cooking essentials, of course — olive oil, balsamic, spices — but I really thought about my I-get-sad-when-I-run-out-of-them items, and was surprised how short the list was.

For the last few months, my must-haves have been:

  • black beans
  • tortillas
  • quinoa
  • dried cherries and cranberries
  • plain yogurt
  • eggs
  • spinach
  • tomatoes

If I have those on hand, I can whip together breakfast, lunch and dinner. Of course, I generally have a few other ingredients handy as co-stars, but these are the foundation for many whipped-together, running-late meals for me.

So how did I solve my dinner dilemma? Black beans, mashed into a paste, spread on a tortilla, with a sliced Roma tomato. And, as the just-happened-to-have-it, cilantro. A heavy snack, or a light meal … perfect for Dinner Round 1. Which brings me to last night’s meal, the Chorizo Seitan Soft Tacos pictured above, as well as the fact that I really have no problem having reruns in the kitchen.

OK, friends — I want to get to know you, too. What are your must-haves in the kitchen? What staples do you go to when you need to make a meal quickly? Tell me! It’s OK if it’s cereal. Or caviar. But if it’s caviar cereal, I think you might be a little weird.

*Confession: I hate doughnuts. I hate them so much. It’s OK if you like them. We can still be friends. But please don’t bring them to any dinner parties. It will get awkward.

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11 thoughts on “What are your must-haves in the kitchen?

  1. Second breakfast? I am the queen of second breakfast. Although this morning it was pretty slim pickins’ as our loot is dwindling. So, carrot sticks it was. 🙂

    As for kitchen staples, I always have whole wheat pasta, pesto, whole wheat flour tortillas and cheese. Of course, not necessarily all together, but if I have these things on hand I can definitely whip something together!

  2. I love canned chickpeas. I can make chickpea patties; hummus; put them on lettuce salads; or throw together a chickpea-based salad with whatever leftover veggies, oil, vinegar and spices.
    Tortillas are always good for wraps from breakfast to late-night snack.

  3. Interesting. These days, my staples are much different than a year ago. Then: tortillas, refried beans, sharp cheddar, cilantro, refried beans, onions, eggs, Rotel. Now: applesauce, bananas, black beans, corn, Yo Baby. I ate yo baby. My baby, Yo Baby.

    Love, Boo Boos

  4. My culinary prowess is non existant, but I hope that will change with the help of your blog / videos. But… as far as necessary kitchen foods, my Wooby and I would say cheese makes it high on our list. We also try to incorporate leafy something like spinach and some kind of protein, be it meat or beans (thanks to Cavan, I now eat black beans) Maybe canned soup for last minute caserole attempts…(?) Again, cooking is not my area of expertise.

  5. Hmmm, I can’t help but think I’m in a slightly different category when it comes to food. Our staples are usually shredded cheese, black beans, black olives, various frozen vegetables, rice, potatoes, onions, fresh garlic, and assorted cans of cream soups to use as sauces and bases. A quick meal for me is usually rice with frozen veggies in it, and if we have some leftover protein of some kind lying around, that too.

  6. Our staple food is cottage cheese, cheese,green olives, black olives, lettuce, vegetables, fruit, pasta, bread, rice, potatoes, onions and canned soups. For quick meals like to do frozen burritos, chicken patties, fish patties, hot dogs and mac and cheese. Most of the time we have troubles coming up with meals that are different. We sometime get stuck in a routine.

  7. Given my recent move to a much smaller (and now shared) kitchen, I have learned what is apparently critical for me to have at my disposal whenever I make it home from work. Given my cooking incompetence, it’s a short list.

    shredded cheese
    organic spinach
    lime juice (I use it as salad dressing, it just doesn’t have calories or fat)
    black beans
    flour tortillas
    sunflower seeds
    canned refried beans, because I am lazy
    beer

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