I have been participating in Bountiful Baskets for almost three years now. For my family it is not just a way to get our produce; it has become a lifestyle. We are more educated, healthier, and have more opportunities to serve because of this program. I have noticed that even my cabinets have made some changes. Processed, metal cans have been replaced by self-filled glass jars. A filled-to-the-brim fruit basket take the place of plastic-wrapped snacks. And the pantry now stays stocked with my arsenal of ingredients essential to successful BB cookery. That is probably one of the most valuable lessons I have learned. With a full spice cabinet and some fresh BB ingredients, I can whip up a quick meal the whole family can enjoy. Here are a few of my kitchen essentials:
Soy Sauce (in my house this is Gluten-Free Tamari)- Sesame Oil- Rice Wine Vinegar: These ingredients combine to make quick, healthful Asian dishes that are always a crowd pleaser.
- Any and all unused veggies can be tossed in the sesame oil and stir-fried with a little soy sauce for Friday night’s fridge clean out. (Got to prepare for Saturday morning’s goodness, right?) Wrap the stir-fried veggies in romaine lettuce or cabbage leaves and serve with rice.
- Whisk these ingredients together with some orange juice and corn starch, bring to a boil until it thickens, and you have a sauce for orange chicken and veggies. (We like it on the spicy side so I also add in a few drops of Frank’s hot sauce.)
- Mix to make a quick salad dressing great over a cabbage salad filled with a variety of chopped veggies, oranges, mango, nuts, etc.
Curry Powder- Don’t be scared off- it is only as spicy as you want it to be! Use less for the flavor more for the heat.
- Try a little mixed in mayonnaise, ranch dressing, or hummus for a different veggie dip.
- Veggies come alive with this great blend. Toss veggies in olive oil, sprinkle on the curry powder and bake, broil, or grill!
- Don’t even get me started on Cauliflower Curry sauce…OOOh yum!
Corn Starch- Essential for a gluten-free household like mine but these tricks could work for anyone!
- Obviously a key ingredient to soups and sauces, corn starch is great for using up extra fruit in quick pies, crisps, and cobblers. Also a great gluten-free way to coat meats and veggies. Picky about eggplant? Dice it up, toss in seasoned corn starch and shallow fry. Even hubby the eggplant hater ate it…and asked for more.
- My secret to really crispy, oven-baked, sweet potato fries is to mix chili powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and corn starch into a large baggie. Soak the peeled, sliced sweet potatoes in cold water for an hour or two. Be sure the potatoes are VERY dry and then toss them in the corn starch mix. Let all the kids shake the bag- they love this part! Put the coated fries on a foil lined sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Bake until crispy and enjoy!
Chicken, Beef, and Veggie Broth- “Better Than Bouillon” is my brand of choice. It comes in a variety of flavors including organic and low-sodium. It has no MSG, and is gluten-free.
- Soup and Stew- I LOVE making soup. It is one of those meals that feels healthy, looks pretty, and really opens up the opportunity for creativity. Having a healthy broth mix on hand means I can make a delicious meal quickly. Veggies are often tossed into whatever soup or stew is simmering away. My favorite BB inspired soup is potato, kale, mushroom, and sausage in a creamy chicken broth.
I could go on all day describing my favorite ingredients and I’m sure you could too. Whatever surprises we may get on Saturday mornings, we can be assured that quick, healthy meals and great inspiration will come from a well-stocked pantry and a basket full of produce. Happy Cooking!
Canned Coconut Milk (I like Lite)- This sweet, creamy ingredient is great for creating ethnic dishes like cauliflower curry or Brazilian chicken.
- When the baskets have sent a bounty of carrots I love making a warm, sweet, spicy dish like this coconut, curry, carrot soup.
- In my allergy-heavy household canned coconut milk works as a lactose-free, carrageenan-free option in baked goods. It was a major hit in our pumpkin pie last Thanksgiving. Use it in place of regular milk in your pancake recipe for a surprisingly fun flavor. Try it in place of milk in homemade butter-cream frosting or glazes to give your treats a hint of the tropics.