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Kitchen Keepers:
A Suggested List of Cooking Essentials

By Matthew Locricchio,
Author of Teen Cuisine

Ever have the urge to cook something delicious and find your cupboard bare just like poor Ms. Hubbard. Now what? Here is a list of basic ingredients that will get you in the kitchen with your kids and have the flexibility to put together an exciting selection of family recipes. Avoid anything with partially hydrogenated cooking oils and check the sodium levels to make sure they are not too high. Stock your kitchen with these four Kitchen Keepers that include versatile Dry Ingredients, Spices, Fresh, and Frozen ingredients.

#1 Dry Ingredients
Dry ingredients are the long term ingredients cooks find essential to keep on hand. You may be more familiar with dry ingredients like unbleached, whole wheat, rye, (and even the less familiar, spelt flours) for baking bread and pastries. Other dry kitchen keepers also include sugar (try using raw Turbinado sugar which is less processed and has a little less calories than white sugar), pure vanilla (avoid imitation which can leave an unpleasant taste in your recipe), almonds, walnuts, and raisins are essential for ready-to-go ingredients for baking.

Here are some ingredients you might not have thought about- canned beans like black, chickpeas, red kidney, or white are easy to use. Remember to rinse them in strainer with cold water first, then drain and your ready to go. Here are some other suggestions to keep on hand that can be tossed together in a quick meal:

  • Roasted Red Peppers (look for the ones in oil as opposed to canned in water. The peppers will have better flavor, texture, and color.)
  • Worcestershire Sauce (great for adding a dash of flavor and depth)
  • Dry Pasta: Spaghetti, ziti, and whole wheat pasta, elbow macaroni (Be creative!)
  • Quick-rise yeast (check expiration date)
  • Rice: basmati (long grain), arborio (short grain), and brown

#2 Spices
What's a well stocked kitchen without spices? Boring! Here are some suggestions to add dimension to your recipes to make the dish distinctive. Keep spices well-sealed, out of strong light and cool if possible.

  • Allspice
  • Chili powder
  • Cinnamon
  • Dry mustard
#3 Fridge Keepers
We all know butter, non-hydrogenated buttery spreads, milk, eggs, egg substitutes, and mayonnaise all need to be kept cold. Milk selections today include not only cow's milk, but rice, almond, and soy. Check the freshness date when purchasing, and choose the one farthest from the date you are buying it. The crisper drawers at the bottom of your fridge is ideal to store fresh fruit and vegetables. Here are some other ideas to round out your cold kitchen keepers:
  • Fresh basil (use in salads or pasta sauce)
  • Fresh fruit (a bowl of cut-up fruits is great for snacking)
  • Fresh salad greens (wash well before using even if the package says, "pre-washed")
#4 Freezer Keepers
A well stocked freezer is thing of beauty for a busy cook.  If you store left-overs in the freezer make sure to wrap them securely to prevent freezer burn, and name and date each package. Assorted frozen fruits and vegetables (without butter sauces) are definitely a cook's best friend and are ready. Consider these other suggestions to keep on frozen and on hand:
  • Frozen Vegetables
  • Ground Meats (like beef, chicken and turkey)
  • Tortillas (corn, flour, or multi-grain)
  • Skinless, boneless chicken breasts (preferably organic)
Once you get your kitchen keepers stocked, you are guaranteed to have an easier time getting a quick, but satisfying meal on your table. As you find the ingredients that best fit your needs, keep them stocked and ready to use. With a good supply of Kitchen Keepers, you'll be looking great and not cooking late.

Copyright © 2011 Matthew Locricchio, author of Teen Cuisine

Author Bio
Matthew Locricchio,
author of Teen Cuisine, was born into a restaurant and catering family and has worked in the food industry most of his life.  Included in his resume as a professional cook are stints at the well-known Gandy Dancer in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the West Coast Stock Exchange's private club in San Francisco, and the legendary Barbary Coast restaurant.

Matthew has taught culinary classes and given cooking demonstrations at culinary schools throughout the country as well as the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.

James Peterson, photographer for Teen Cuisine, is a renowned cookbook author and photographer, and a James Beard and International Association of Culinary Professionals award winner.

For more information please visit, and follow the author on Facebook and Twitter