Lately I've felt very...how to say this...well, "eh" about food. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say I've been feeling pretty lukewarm on the whole traditional dinner front. You know, chicken - vegetables - sauces. Maybe just meat in general. I go through phases like this, you see. I will be intense and unrelenting in my need for pasta with a meat sauce and then BAM the next week the very thought of such a dish will launch me down a sickly yellow sea of nausea. Bottom line? I'm pretty much like a pregnant woman nixing that whole womb-invasion thing. Thank God. Still, salvation remains. I have in my posession a solid list of Gluten Free go-to ingredients to punch up, dish out and tuck in to almost any dish - whether you're feeling culinarily lethargic or ready to take on a round of Chopped.
Simple Cupboard Ingredients to Spike Up Any Dish
If you're just starting to fill out your own kitchen hopefully this list will help you sift through the plethora of grocery aisle choices. On the other hand, if you have a well established kitchen and are struggling to climb out of a rut maybe you'll find some things to tickle your fancy. In any case, these are some things I have on hand just about all the time to add some jazz when I'm in a pinch.
|Meet a few of my closest GF Friends: Jazzy Ingredients|
White Balsamic Vinegar: White Balsamic is pretty much the holy grail of my kitchen. You know on all those chef challenge shows how they use citrus or some other 'acid' to "brighten up" the dish? That's where this little baby comes in. I'm not a huge fan of traditional balsamic so this bottle is very special. It has a very light, bright flavor that adds some sparkling top notes to almost anything you throw at it. We use it in dressings, sauces, soups, potato or pasta salads, in ground meat dishes like hamburgers, on chicken, balsamic reductions for meats...you name it.
Dressings: I had pretty much given up on finding a delicious salad dressing that was Gluten Free and Dairy Free. Sadly, I resigned myself to oil and vinegar dressings (definitely NOT my favorite). Then I took a leap and tried one that looked promising. And promising it is. Follow Your Heart makes a line of AMAZING dressings, most of which are dairy and gluten free. They are thick when they need to be, creamy all the way through and don't have that gloopy soy aftertaste. Note: they do contain soy oil. My favorite dressing is the Italian Vinaigrette which is impossibly creamy and had me checking the bottle every few bites just to make sure it was Dairy Free. You can find this dressing at Whole Foods - usually in the produce section but sometimes with the other salad dressings. We don't just use this dressing for salads, we pour it on chicken and bundle it up in foil packets to bake in the oven, we use it in sauces, on hamburgers, add it in shots to casseroles and the like, punch up rice dishes and make amazing Italian chicken rice wraps. If you don't have to be Dairy Free or have a dressing you like, by all means, pour away.
|It was actually quite helpful. I recommend it.|
Lime: How can we be without lime? Cut it up and squeeze it over rice or quinoa, into drinks, (wink wink) over chicken, veggies, into tangy sauces. It's a low cost, must have ingredient that will add some special dimension to almost any dish. Plus, they last a very long time in the fridge. Win! There's not too much else to say about this wonder-fruit; it will probably zazz up just about any meal. Experiment!
Soy Sauce: Yes, yes. I've already spread the word of my love for soy sauce. But it's for more than just stir fry! Again, we use it to punch up ground beef dishes, marinades for steak, chicken teriyaki, wings, rice dishes, epic burgers and we often use it in place of of molasses for flavoring. Because really, who has molasses kicking around? Don't answer that.
Seasonings! Of course, you can't be without salt and pepper. We also can't cook without a shaker of basil and powdered garlic - because sometimes you just don't have the fresh. We've also really gotten into spice mixes because they take meats and sauces to the next level with very little hassle. Our favorite is called Santa Maria and is indeed excellent for tri-tips, steaks, roasts, chicken, seafood...potatos, green beans...etc. We buy ours at Whole Foods, but you could also try it straight from the source, Scott himself. Another to try is Baron's Tequila Lime (also found at Whole Foods). It's more subtle than we thought but it gives a nice smokey edge to poultry. Check it out here. Other medleys to stock up on would be basic Italian and, a new favorite of ours, Greek!
Breadcrumbs: As you've seen, I use these little babies in stir fry and on yummy veggies, and I've already discussed how much I love this product. But it can be used for so much more! No matter what kind you use, you can whip up awesome crispy chicken, coat steaks for an extra little somethin somethin, add it to casseroles, mac and cheese, mix it up with butter, herbs and jelly for a great poultry topping - anything that needs a little texture. Get crazy!
Rice: There is a firm belief that I hold. You can be at the very end of your monthly food budget, your fridge could be bare, you could be at a total loss for dinner. But as long as you have rice - you're going to be okay. Brown, white, risotto, you name it. Brown is my personal favorite (until I get into quinoa, of course) and I try to never, ever, ever be without it in the cupboard. It has saved me many a time from a midday slump. Rice is wonderful because you can make it into a meal with some veggies, lighten it up with some white balsamic vinegar, chop in some onion, season it simply, cook it in broth or tomato sauce, or drench it in a soy/jelly/honey mix. Add some chicken or steak and it's a feast. Or I suppose tofu, for you tofu folks. If I had the room I would buy it in 10 pound sacks.
So there you have it, take it or leave it. These are the ingredients that make up a lot of my recipes. Do you have any jars or bottles hiding in your cupboards that you couldn't cook without? Simple or extravagant, let's hear about it!