All that being said I thought I'd make a quick list of the things I love when it comes to baking or cooking. To me these things are essential to have on hand to make almost any recipe.
- buttermilk: I never even knew what buttermilk was until about 10 years ago. I thought it was the name of a pancake or bread recipe. It is incredible because it is low in fat and high in protein and adds a wonderful tangy flavor to so many recipes. When you see something that uses milk or cream, do a quick google search and see if it can be replaced by buttermilk or if there is a buttermilk recipe version out there. It is creamy and thick and will vary your recipes in an awesome way. Check out my tab for the buttermilk lemon poppy seed muffins or buttermilk waffles recipes.
- lemons/lemon squeezer: again, growing up we always had lemon juice on hand but it was in that cute little squeeze bottle. Once a year we would typically buy lemons for our Thanksgiving pie called the Legend which called for fresh lemon juice. Now I always buy lemons like eggs, milk, butter or other staple items. There are so many baked goods that are amazing when lemon flavored or have a wonderful more complex and fresh flavor when lemon zest is added. If you decide to start purchasing lemons on a regular basis, I highly recommend purchasing a lemon squeezer. They are about $10 or even cheaper at discount stores (like Ross) and will become an essential part of your baking repertoire.
- Cilantro: it is sort of a joke in our household now that whenever I make a recipe that has cilantro in it that my husband asks if I just decided to add that ingredient. I tell him, "no, it calls for it in the recipe" although I typically add it fairly generously. In my experience, fresh cilantro really brings out the other flavors in a recipe and enhances them in a really complimentary way. Cilantro is almost always on my list like lemons and my other staples. Some of my favorite ways to use cilantro are:
- cilantro-lime chicken recipe (olive oil, lemon, honey, salt, pepper, cilantro and lime)
- on top of Tortilla soup or fresh black bean chile
- in chicken salad on whole wheat bread
- in tacos or pulled pork burritos with whole wheat tortillas and mozzerella cheese
- Plain yogurt: yet another item that has recently become a staple for me. It is very handy to add to some fresh fruit and milk in the blender with some protein powder for a delicious smoothie/shake. Low or no fat options again with lots of protein make this a wonderful choice for your breakfast or even afternoon snack. Top with toasted granola, nuts, cranberries or other fruit for breakfast as well. The other reason this has started to become a staple for me is because it is often in low-fat recipes for baking. It is often substituted in place of oils or butter in baking like in muffins. Sometimes you have to play with the recipe to get the right texture but it is nice to know (for those of us who are sweet tooths) that there are some things you can do to mitigate the effects of eating too many baked goods :)