Stocking Your Pantry

A kitchen wouldn’t be complete without a properly stocked pantry. If you are setting up your kitchen for the first time, you are in good hands. I’ve compiled a list of ingredients that you will cook with over and over again. For those who have been cooking for awhile, just use this as your checklist. You can take this opportunity to clear out some old stuff and add whatever you are missing into your pantry.

Spices

There are hundreds of different spices used in different parts of the world. Spices define a dish and give it character. When you think about it, most of the meats and vegetables are the same all over the world, however they can taste very different depending on how they were prepared and what spices were used. Did you know some spices like saffron can get more expensive than gold? Don’t worry, Gleeful Gourmets is not about cooking extravagant dishes with saffron. I will stick with comment spices you can find from your local grocery store.

When cooking it is always best to use fresh ingredients including herbs whenever you can. However, when it comes to spices fresh isn’t always available. So having the following spices in your pantry at all times will come in handy.

Sea salt
Table salt
Black pepper
Garlic powder
Basil
Thyme
Rosemary
Parsley flakes
Bay leaves
Oregano
Chili flakes
Ground cinnamon
Nutmeg
Cumin powder
Paprika
Fennel seeds
Five-spice powder
Garam masala
Curry powder
Turmeric


Oils


There are many types of oil out there and each has its own flavour and purpose. Vegetable oil usually gets a lot hotter than other types of oil, therefore it is best for stir-frying vegetables. Olive oil are best for marinating, making dressings and drizzling. Others are for adding extra flavour to your cooking.

Vegetable oil
Olive oil
Extra virgin olive oil
Sesame oil


Vinegars


Great for marinating, making dressings and general cooking.

White vinegar
Apple cider vinegar
Balsamic vinegar
Red wine vinegar
White wine vinegar


Flours & Dry stored foods


All purpose flour
Cornstarch
Bread crumbs


Sauces & Condiments


These are some of the last minute additions that will add zest to any meal.

French mustard
Dijon mustard
Mayonnaise
Ketchup
Soy sauce
Hoisin sauce
Fish sauce
Worcestershire sauce


Sugars & Honey


Brown sugar
Honey
Sugar


Pasta & Rice


These are key accompaniments and ingredients in a variety of meals.

Dried pasta
Chow mein noodles
Basmati rice
Risotto rice
White rice


Cans & Jars


Beans
Tuna
Olives
Coconut milk
Diced tomatoes
Tomatoes paste


Broth & Bouillon Cubes


These will speed up your cooking in no time. Organic is the tastiest and they have no added flavourings.

Chicken broth
Beef broth
Vegetable broth


Fridge


Butter
Eggs
Milk


Freezer


Fresh broth
Frozen shrimps
Frozen sweet corn
Frozen peas

Kitchen Tools

In addition to your knives, pots and pans.  You’ll want to acquire a few other simple tools that will help you prep for a great dinner.  Below is a list I recommend.

Tongs

These are really useful for handling food when it’s hot.  They are especially useful for BBQ and for serving things like vegetables and salads.  I recommend getting a long and a short one.

Graters

Grater are good for grating cheese, making lemon zest or grating fresh nutmeg.  I recommend a box grater and a microplane one.

Salad Spinner 

If you don’t dry your salad after you wash it, water will cling to the leaves and your dressing will be watery.  Spin your salad and you will notice the difference!

Mixing Bowls

The mixing bowls are really useful in the kitchen. You will need them from washing your vegetables, tossing your salad, mixing ingredients to simply using it to catch all your peels, stems and other things you want to discard while working on your prep work. This way you can save time from opening and closing your garbage again and again.

Chopping Boards

For hygienic purposes, I use separate chopping boards for my vegetables and meats. When I prepare vegetables, most of them are for fresh salads and usually there is very little or no cooking at all. Therefore I find it safer to have a wooden chopping board dedicated just for that. I like the plastic chopping board for meats because they are easier to clean.

Measuring Cup

Glass measuring is good for both hot and cold liquids. It also comes in handy for holding the cup of water for deglazing my pans after searing meats and stir-fries. I recommend a cup that holds up to 2 cups of liquid.

Measuring Spoons

I use these to add the exact amount of seasoning and spices. Any set out there with measurements of teaspoons and tablespoons is sufficient. If you like to bake, you might want to get an additional set with measurements of cups.

Strainer & Colander

These are essential for draining things like vegetables and pasta. Also for straining bits and pieces out of the gravy and sauce.

Cooking Utensils

PLASTIC SPATULA:
A spatula is very handy to get everything out of the mixing bowl with minimum waste.

WOODEN SPATULA:
I use the wooden spatula for most of my cooking; especially stir-fries. The other reason is because it is safe with any types of pots and pans.

WOODEN SPOONS:
The wooden spoons usually come in a set of 3 with different size handles. They are very useful in the kitchen. I use them to mix anything and everything from salad dressing to marinating meats. I also use them to stir pasta, soups and making sauces.

SLOTTED SPOON:
A slotted spoon have multi-use such as removing solid foods out of braising liquids, separating foods and liquid when making broth and it can also be used as a serving spoon for salads and things.

SILICONE TURNER:
I like the silicone ones it is heat resistant and you can flip your meats and omelets without scratching your pans.

LADLE:
This comes in very handy for scooping soups and stews.

WHISK:
You need a small whisk to whip up all the yummy sauces.

POTATOES MASHER:
This is not something you need every day. However, it will save you a lot of time when you want to do mash potatoes.

CAN OPENER/CORKSCREW:
These will come in handy for can food and opening wine.

Other Supplies:

These are good to have on hand.

  • Cling wrap
  • Aluminum foil
  • Parchment paper
  • Wax paper
  • Different sizes of ziplock bags
  • Paper towel

Vegetables

We all know that vegetables are good for us and we have to include them in our diet to stay healthy. However, many people don’t like to eat them. Part of that is due to the freshness and quality of the vegetables, as well as the way they were prepared. Believe it or not, freshness and quality speak volumes. No matter how good you are of a cook, if you don’t have good quality vegetables to start with, no cooking method or sauce of any type can make up for it.

Having said that you don’t need to buy expensive organic vegetables in order to cook a good meal. We just want you to buy what you can afford and pick the best out of the bunch. With good quality vegetables and proper preparation, you will love them as much as we do in our family!

Below is a list of tips of what to look for to pick veggies of maximum sweetness, richest texture, and most beautiful appearance. Good quality vegetables should either smell fresh and sweet or have no smell at all. Any vulgar smell is an indication of the vegetables going bad. Please avoid them.


Vegetable fruits


Aubergines, tomatoes and peppers, also known as vegetable fruits should have firm, smooth, and shiny skins. Avoid buying those that are pulpy or wrinkled.

Roots and tubers


These include carrots, potatoes, beetroot, celeriac and radishes. They should be firm, with thick flesh and wrinkle-free skin. They should not give when touched and have no discolouration or wilting.

Bulbs

When you buy onions, choose firm bulbs. They should be even-colored and have no signs of sprouting. Don’t buy damp or musty onions.

Leafy greens and brassicas


Look for crisp, fresh-looking leaves in Swiss chard and spinach.  Be sure to check for any signs of insect damage or wilting.  As for cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cabbage, the fresh ones have tight compact heads.

Fungi


The best mushrooms are firm and fresh-looking with no sign of damp smell. Check the stalk end which should be moist.

Pods and seeds


Bright green is the colour of the pods of peas and beans you want. They should be firm and plump. When picking sweet corn, look for the plump ones with tight green husks when you open them. They should be tightly packed with shiny kernels on the cob.

Stalks and shoots


The celery, globe artichokes, fennel, asparagus and chicory should have firm heads with no brown patches on the outer layers.

Garlic & Onions

Garlic and onions are the two most commonly used ingredients in the kitchen.  Not only are they good for your health, they provide a variety of flavours in many dishes and cuisines. There are many ways to prepare them for cooking different dishes which could be confusing. Below is a list of different ways garlic and onions are prepared.  Hopefully with this guide, you will have a better understanding so you can get the most flavour out of them.

Garlic

Small in size, big in flavour. It contains so much flavour that using it right will make a delicious difference in your cooking. I know it might sound silly, but garlic changes its flavour depending on how it is prepared.

CRUSHCED:This is the easiest and fastest way to prepare garlic. It will take less than a minute and when you roast or fry crushed garlic, you will get a subtle sweet flavour. This is perfect for your pot roasts and topping your braised vegetables.

SLICED: You can slice garlic into a few different forms: Vertically, Horizontally, or into triangles (by cutting on an angle horizontally and alternate). Sliced garlic is best when fried in beef noodles. Triangular ones are good for poking into your meat before roasting. Roasting meat in this way will gently infuse it with mouth-watering flavour.

DICED:  Diced garlic is the most commonly used form of garlic. It could be used for a marinade, stir-fry or cooking herb rice. The garlic is so small that the flavour could be absorbed and bring out the best of other ingredients.

Onions

The amazing onion provides layers of flavor, color, and texture to a wide variety of dishes and cuisines. There are three different types of onions: Yellow, Red and white. Yellow Onions are full-flavored and are a reliable standby for cooking almost anything. Yellow onions turn a rich, dark brown when cooked and give French Onion Soup its tangy sweet flavour. Red Onions, with their wonderful color, are a good choice for lots of fresh uses in salads or for grilling, charbroiling, and roasting. White Onions are often used in prepared salads, white sauces, and is the traditional onion for classic Mexican cuisine. They have a golden color and sweet flavor when sautéed. Below is a list of ways an onion can be prepared.

RINGS / HALF RINGS: The rings are good for making onion rings and salad. However, I prefer using half rings for salads because you can pick it up easier with a fork and it still has the nice ring shape to give the salad a little more texture making it more gourmet.

SLICED:When cooking stews and soups, the sliced onions are used as the base to give sweetness to the broth.

DICED: Diced onions are used in many sauce base because they are jam packed with flavours.

Pots & Pans

There are many different types of pots and pans out there. The choice can be overwhelming. The right set will make your cooking easier for many years.

When choosing your pots and pans, you want to get the ones with a thick bottom. I know the thickness adds to the weight making it not as easy to handle. However, the extra weight is well worth it. The thick bottom helps retain and distribute heat evenly. When you place your steaks or vegetables into the pan, there won’t be much variation in temperature so your dishes will come out evenly cooked. The other benefit of a thick bottomed pan is that they are less likely to warp while cooking in high heat.

As for choosing between non-stick, stainless steel and cast iron, I find that the stainless steel is best. Stainless steel is less likely to get damaged and easiest to maintain. With proper care they can last decades. The other good thing about stainless steel is that it is compatible with all types of stovetops, including the new induction ones.

Having said that, the non-stick and cast iron are good for certain things such as frying eggs, making rice and pancakes. So I would recommend having one or two in your kitchen. Again, you don’t need to go all out and get a huge set. Just get the few high quality pieces I recommend below and add to your set as you go.

Please note: The size range in each recommendation is for your guidance only. Just buy according to your needs. If you are cooking for 1 or 2 persons, stick with the smaller size range. If you are cooking for a family of 4 or 5 go with the bigger size range.

1.5-2qt Sauce Pan With Lid

This sauce pan is perfect for making sauces, steaming vegetables, cooking smaller quantities of pasta or potatoes. It can be used for reheating leftovers, canned soups or just about anything that needs to be reheated

4.5-6qt Non-Stick Sauce Pan With Lid

This non-stick sauce pan are good for making rice and chili, cooking pasta and vegetables.

7-10qt Pot With Lid

You might not need this everyday, but it can be used for soups, stocks, stews, pasta, big quantities of sauce, corn, lobsters and a whole lot more.

8-10in Cast Iron Pan

We use a cast iron pan for frying omelets, eggs and pancakes.  It is also good because you can put it in the oven for casserole and other things. Be sure to put on your oven mitts when handling it. The handle does get as hot as the pan.

10-12in Saute Pan With Lid

A heavy duty saute pan for sauteing steaks, chicken, fish, and vegetables. You can use it instead of a wok for stir-fry. It can even double as a fry pan.

Caring For Your Pots & Pans

Here are a few tips on how to take care of your pots and pans.

STAINLESS STEEL

  • All stainless steel pieces can go into the dishwasher.
  • Deglazing is a really good technique to get everything off your pan. You only need to do this when cooking on high heat. What you do is, when you are done cooking, keep your pans on high heat. Then pour a cup of cold water into the pan and just let it boil and use the wooden spatula to help scrape off everything into the boiling water. At this point, your pan is practically cleaned.
  • If you choose to clean the pots and pans by hand, just a bit of soap and water with a good scrub will do the trick.

NON-STICK

  • To protect the non-stick surface, avoid using stainless steel cooking utensils.
  • Non-stick pots and pans last the longest when used only on low-medium heat.
  • They usually come with plastic handles. To protect the handles, I don’t recommend washing it in the dishwasher as the dishwasher only uses hot water and high heat to dry.
  • Just wash them under warm water with a bit of soup and a sponge. Don’t use a scrub as it might scratch the non-stick surface.

CAST IRON

  • The trick to cast iron is seasoning it after each use.
  • When it is brand new, I recommend doing the following to give the pan a good seasoning from the get-go.
  • First time seasoning: Pre-heat the oven at 325 degrees. Wash your pan with soap and a scrub to take off any coating from the factory. Dry it with a towel and put into the oven for 2mins just to make sure it is completely dry. Put a lug of olive oil and use a paper towel to coat the surface of the pan. Put it upside down in the oven and bake for an hour. After doing this, your cast iron is considered seasoned and now has a nice black non-stick coat and ready to use.
  • When you are done using it, use the deglaze technique to get everything off.
  • To clean it, do not use soap because you want to keep your pan seasoned. Just run it under hot water with a sponge. Towel dry it and coat it with a layer of olive oil before putting it away.

Kitchen Knives

I used to think that the sharper the knife the more likely it would be that I would cut myself.  In fact, it is the opposite.  The sharper the knife the more precise your cuts and the less you have to compensate.  Usually that’s how most people cut themselves.  They slip because they are over-compensating for the dullness of the knife they are using.   Not only are dull knives dangerous to use, they actually slow you down.  Also your food won’t look as good if the edges aren’t pretty.  Knives are some of the most important tools in your kitchen.  High quality steel knives are awfully expensive but they’re an investment that will last a lifetime.  If you don’t have a set, you don’t need to go all out and buy a big expensive set.  It is better to get a small high quality set and add to it as you get more comfortable.  Before making the purchase though, I suggest you try holding each one to check for its fit, feel and balance. The following pieces are your must-haves.

Paring Knife



A small paring knife to do all kind of tasks, from paring an apple to carving a chicken.

Carving Knife



A carving knife to do all the carving jobs and cutting vegetables.

Chopping Knife



A chopping knife for mincing onions or herbs or for bigger carving jobs

Bread Knife



A bread knife with serrated edges that cuts bread or even tomatoes without mangling them.

Honing Piece



A steel honing piece, usually about 10-inches long that will keep your knife blades sharp.

Peeler



A simple peeler for peeling carrots, potatoes and making fancy ribbon salad as seen in elegant restaurant.

Caring for your knives

Here’s a few tips on how to clean and keep your knives sharp at all times:

  • Clean your knives by hand with cold water.  This will protect the metal and keeping the edge sharp.
  • Never soak your knives in a sink filled with soapy water because you might just put your hand in and get cut.
  • When drying each knife, make sure the blade is away from your hand.
  • To sharpen your knives, hold the steel honing piece on one hand and put your blade at a 30 degree angle on the steel and go from the base to the tip with a nice and even stroke. Then go back up from the tip to base again. Repeat.
  • To maintain sharp knives at all times, make a habit of sharpening with one or two strokes before and after each use. You will never have to worry about dull knives and spend time sharpening them again.