Growing up it was a requirement that I learned how to cook. It started off simple, like packing my own lunch with a turkey and ham sandwich. But as I got older, my mother made sure I was well equipped when I came to making my way around a kitchen.
Now that I’m living on my own, I’ve tried my best to remember all those tips and tricks my mom taught me and make meals on my own. Let’s be honest, take-out Chinese is cool, but a homemade stir fry is ten times better.
Sometimes I get a little crazy and try experimenting with new foods and dish ideas but here are some of my go to ingredients you’ll always find in my kitchen.
Rice and Beans
My “I-don’t-want-to-cook-but-I’ve-got-to-eat-something” meal is rice and beans.
Being half Puerto Rican, it’s basically a rite of passage to successfully make a meal of rice and beans. “Goya” is a word just as common as “milk” is in my kitchen. I can make beans from scratch using Spanish style tomato paste, a can of beans and sofrito, but I love how Goya offers the precooked beans now too. It speeds up the process a little on those especially draining days. Usually I’ll cut up some peppers and onions and let them simmer with the beans to give it a fresh flavor.
Another go to meal of mine is pancakes. There are times when I may not have a single grape to my name but you’ll always be hard pressed to not see a box of Aunt Jemima Pancake Mix somewhere in my kitchen.
I love making pancakes. I have a pretty fail proof recipe for making the perfect pancakes every time too. Sometimes I’ll have them for a midnight snack or I’ll make them for my friends and family as a comfort food (some argue I make the best pancakes around). Some people can’t live without bacon, others have their morning cup of coffee, but my morning meal is usually a round, golden brown pancake.
I try to be relatively healthy when cooking, I don’t add salt to anything usually and only small amounts of seasoning. I find that if you buy food fresh and cook it quick, the natural flavors are better than store-bought seasonings and mixes. I love to switch up my cooking oils. Usually I have an array of oils from vegetable and canola to coconut and sesame. Each serves a niche market of foods and each offers a slightly different flavor or look to the food so over the years I’ve had a lot of trial and error with burnt pots and pans from my overly abundant oil use.
I love using coconut oil to make popcorn with. I don’t mind that super buttery microwaveable stuff every once in a while but usually I’ll just make popcorn over the stove. All you need is a tablespoon of oil and some loose kernels. Coconut oil takes longer to heat than a vegetable oil does so it doesn’t burn the popcorn. It also gives the popcorn a crunchier not so oily feel so less salt can be added in the end too.
Another snack I can’t live without is Welch’s Fruit Snacks. This was undoubtedly the snack that defined my childhood and I’m still buying them in bulk today. I’m not really big on sweets or candy but I can demolish a box of fruit snacks pretty quick.
While these are the staples in my kitchen, I’m always looking for new recipes and ingredients to buy (when my cash flow allows for it). I’ve been working on perfecting my seasoning mix for friend boneless pork chops and just the other day I think I’ve made my best set to date. To me cooking is more of a hobby than it is just something I need to do to eat. It sounds cheesy (food pun intended) but I feel pretty accomplished when I’ve mastered a new meal.