As I finished my first book of the summer (a re-read), I got to looking through my collection of books for what to read next. I came across one that I scored at Target (I think) quite by accident one day. It looked cute, and it was cheap. I read it a couple years ago, and haven't looked at it since, but I was reminded of what a fun summer read it was. The book is city chic by Nina Willdorf, and it is a perfect reading choice for any chic chef.
As the cover proclaims, it is the "modern girl's guide to livin' large on less." This book has so many great ideas on how to live glamorously (don't we all want that?) while saving your budget from utter ruin. From home decorating, fitness, entertaining, cooking, and shopping tips, a girl can have a little luxury, and not feel remorse about breaking the bank.
One thing in particular that this book did for me, was lay the groundwork for my eventual love of cooking. Now that I cook frequently, I of course find lots of pantry lists in my cookbooks. But before that, I never knew just how vital it was to have a well-stocked pantry. This cute pink book actually showed me my first pantry staples list, and I became determined to have these things on hand. Since I used to be one of those people that never cooked, I know that when you actually do look at a recipe, it can be overwhelming to see that you need 25 items. I can honestly say, that with a well-stocked pantry, my husband and I are still surprised to this day when we look at a challenging recipe, and we only need 3 or 4 items. It gives the home cook a great feeling of ease and confidence to know that you are ahead of the game. It gives you so much flexibility and versatility in what you can make, even if you're trying to throw together a last-minute meal. Of all that I have learned in cooking over the years, the concept of a powerhouse pantry is still the greatest piece of knowledge I have attained.
And just for fun, here are some of my most-used pantry staples:
- Olive Oil (I use this almost everyday in some capacity)
- Some other kind of oil (we like Vegetable)
- Balsamic Vinegar
- Soy Sauce
- Worcestershire Sauce
- Chicken and/or Beef Stock
- Canned Crushed Tomatoes (I found a grocery store that sells the San Marzano brand!)
- Onions (I like yellow, and sometimes I'll keep 1 or 2 small red onions, but I don't use them as much)
- GARLIC (Well, you know how I feel about this one. Honestly, I would bathe in garlic if I could. Sorry. Too much?)
- Black Peppercorns for fresh grinding, and two kinds of salt: Kosher, and some type of coarse sea salt (I keep two sea salts on hand: Maldon and Fleur de Sel)
- Cheese (All different kinds, but especially Parmigiano Reggiano for grating)
- Lemons (Never realized how important it was to have lemons on hand! Great flavor brightener!)
- Tortillas (So versatile)
- Butter (My husband laughs at me because I have to have "stick butter" and "tub butter.")
- Dijon Mustard (Nice tang to it, and used by me frequently in salad dressings. Great for marinades too!)
- Fresh Herbs (Love them! Especially Basil!!)
- Truffle Butter (a new one for me, but adds a touch of elegance and decadence to many dishes.)