5 Foods a Traditional Kitchen Shouldn’t Be Without

The following post is from Kate of Modern Alternative Mama:

source: bokchoi-snowpea

One of the most frustrating things about cooking in a traditional kitchen is the need to prepare my ingredients before I can even begin cooking a meal.  When I’m tired and I just want something fast, it’s not so easy.  (Hello, Annie’s Mac ‘n Cheese….)  Sourcing ingredients is no picnic, either, since certain high-quality foods can’t be purchased from a regular grocery store.

Luckily, many staples of a traditional kitchen can be prepared in advance and frozen or canned so that when it’s time to cook, the meal can come together pretty quickly.  Buying harder-to-find ingredients in bulk and keeping them frozen can also help.

Are you curious what my must-haves are?

1. Stock

I cannot possibly emphasize this enough.  My family probably goes through more than a gallon of stock per week.  In the winter, we might go through nearly a quart a day.  I use it for soups, to cook rice or veggies, to make gravy, and more.  Stock is so rich in vitamins and minerals and can be healing and soothing during times of illness (hence the increased winter use).  It takes a minimum of 4 hours to make stock, and 24+ hours to make really good stock, especially if you are using larger beef bones.  By the time you realize you need it, it’s too late.  Instead, stock can be frozen in jars or other containers for large uses (like soup), or in ice cube trays for smaller uses.  Make a lot – you can even use your crock pot – and keep it on hand.  Learn to make both chicken stock and beef stock so you can make a variety of dishes.

2. Healthy Fats

Traditional cooking uses a lot of fat (which is not bad for you!).  I always keep real butter, coconut oil, lard, and extra virgin olive oil on hand.  Sometimes I have beef tallow or palm shortening, but I don’t use those as often.  Your choices may differ.  Some people really like ghee (clarified butter), but that’s not my favorite.  Healthy fat contains vitamin K2, lauric acid, and other essential nutrients — and most of these are found in saturated fats!  Check out which fats are healthy and why.

3. Sourdough Starter OR Sprouted/Soaked Whole Grains

One cornerstone of traditional cooking is grains that have been soured, sprouted, or soaked.  Preparing grains in this way reduces the phytic acid content.  Phytic acid is sometimes called an “anti-nutrient” because it binds with several important nutrients, like magnesium, zinc, folate, and others – which your body really needs.  Soaking the grains sharply reduces the phytic acid, meaning your body can absorb the nutrients, and it also increases the bioavailability of the nutrients!  I never cook whole grains (with the exception of rice, which is low in phytic acid) without first soaking or sprouting.  We’ll talk more about that later.

4. Fermented Beverages

Probiotics…they’re such a common buzzword these days.  We all know we need more of them, right?  (We do.)  This has led to a huge supplement market.  But probiotic supplements are really expensive, costing $30 – $50 for a month’s supply, in many cases-  for one person.  That’s really not so affordable for most families.  Instead, making your own probiotic foods and beverages at home is much cheaper and usually more potent.  My favorite happens to be kombucha (see my video on how to make it), but you can choose water kefir, milk kefir, or even the familiar yogurt.  Any way that you get probiotics into your family is great.  And if your kids are finicky like one of mine, yogurt popsicles might just do the trick.

5. Pastured Meats

You’ve probably heard of grass-fed beef by now.  Most people have.  I love it.  It just plain tastes better, in my opinion.  It’s also worlds healthier than conventionally-raised beef – higher in omega-3s, CLA, and other nutrients.  There are also pastured chickens, lamb, and pork.  “Pastured” means they live on pastured, outdoors, the vast majority of the time, and they eat grass, bugs, worms, etc. (whatever’s appropriate for that animal), and they get sun and fresh water.  This produces the healthiest meat.  This type of meat is usually purchased locally, from a farmer that you trust, so that you’re sure what you’re getting is high-quality.  Try your local farmer’s market if you’re not sure where to start.  

Traditional cooks make a lot of meat dishes, including organ meats (for real – organs are prized in traditional cooking).  Having high-quality meat is so important!  Don’t forget about pastured eggs too…although that’s really #6. Plus, by buying local and/or pastured, you’re supporting sustainable agriculture instead of the current not-so-great CAFO system.

What five foods are most important in your kitchen?

Kate is a wife and mommy to 3 and is passionate about God, health and food. She has written 7 cookbooks and is planning to release more in 2012. When she’s not blogging, she’s in the kitchen, sewing, or home schooling her children. You can find her at Modern Alternative Mama or contributing to Keeper of the Home.