How I Stock My kitchen
How we set up a kitchen is a very personal thing, just like how we arrange our closets or medicine cabinet. Yet there are certain staples and tools that enable a kitchen to function more smoothly. Everyone should have the basics needed to create a variety of dishes. With these, anything is possible (like how a little black dress provides the perfect foundation for a multitude of outfits). The essentials start with 1 small cutting board, a good knife, a bottle of good olive oil and some Himalayan salt. These are the foundation.
My base ingredients are:
- Raw Honey or Maple Syrup
- Crushed Red Chile Pepper Flakes
- Organic olive oil
- Salt is usually a Himalayan or Celtic
- Limes, Lemons or usually Apple Cider Vinegar
- Nama Shoyu – my kitchen is never with out it
Red Chile Pepper
These are just a handful of my favorite spices. I started to truly embrace Spices for the first time while living in India. I observed that the best Home Cooks and Chefs always keep a Spice box with a rainbow of colors and flavors on hand. When I lived in the South, I learned how and why to use each spice from a Landlady. She often did not even consider the taste. . . . Interesting concept! Instead, she considered the combinations and effects of the Spices just as a doctor might prescribe medication. For me, this opened up a world of possibilities in the Spice cabinet!
This Spice is a miracle worker in my eyes. It can speed up the metabolism and even suppress the appetite. It has anti-fungal properties, regulates blood flow, is good for circulation, improves digestion and can give you loads of energy. One of my favorite pick-me-ups is a little shot of Lemon Juice, Ginger and Cayenne Pepper – better than a Double Espresso!
Red Chile Pepper
I use this Spice in just about everything! It has a remarkable way of lifting the flavor out of even the blandest of foods. In terms of health, it has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and also speeds your metabolic rate.
I would categorize Cinnamon as another one of the “miracle” Spices. It is a natural food preservative, and has anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties. Hence, it can help with Arthritis and swelling, and can help prevent Yeast Infections! Cinnamon also helps to balance blood sugar. . . . And oh, it’s also super yummy in smoothies! I even put a pinch in my Tomato Sauce.
I love Turmeric. The taste is lovely and its medicinal properties are astounding. It is a fantastic antiseptic, helps speed up the metabolism, and has also been used as a natural pain reliever for its anti-inflammatory properties. This is reported to be healing to many diseased bodies.
I take a teaspoon in some water with Lemon every morning. It’s a great way to get my stomach going and begin the day. I love adding Turmeric to Omelets or any Egg Dish – the color is stunning and the flavor is so very different from your standard Omelet!
Cumin is not only delicious, adding depth and strength to a dish, but its nutritional benefits are also very interesting! It is said to increase breast size, promote lactation and decrease nausea in pregnancy. It is also fantastic for relieving gas and Colic, and acts as a mild Diuretic. It is used in many Indian and Moroccan dishes, but I often just add a pinch to Quinoa with Sweet Peas, or add a bit to my homemade Chocolate. I find it to be a greatly underappreciated Spice.
Crushed, toasted, raw, and chopped – I do love my Garlic! My favorite way to eat it is roasted for about an hour on high heat, wrapped in a small ceramic dish. After you cut the top off of the Garlic, you can spread it like butter . . . or even just eat it with a spoon! The healing benefits of Garlic are extraordinary. It is a natural anti-microbial and can help keep parasites and bugs at bay. Garlic’s anti-inflammatory properties will help with Arthritis and if you are have a cold or even an allergic reaction, you can reach for the Garlic! Some of the vitamins and minerals found in the Garlic bulb are Manganese, Vitamin C, Tryptophan, and protein.
Pepper fascinates me. It is found on almost everyone’s table and is offered as a fresh ingredient in most good restaurants. However, its health benefits are not widely publicized. Black Pepper actually stimulates the taste buds and stimulates secretion of the Hydrochloric Acid needed for the digestion of proteins and other food. Without this acid, food sits in the stomach, and in response, heartburn, indigestion, gas, and other stomach irritations can occur. Black Pepper is also an antioxidant and stimulates the breakdown of fat cells. I find it interesting that we often take Herbs and Spices for granted. Yet when we embrace them with a bit of knowledge, we can elevate our food to entirely new levels of nutrition.
The king of cures, Ginger is one spice that I cannot live without. Everyone remembers Ginger Ale as a childhood cure-all for nausea, and a go-to for flu or car sickness symptoms. Ginger can combat almost any bodily ailment. When my clients are sick, I instruct them to brew a strong tea with fresh Ginger Root and Lemon. When mixed with Cayenne and Lemon, Ginger also acts as an appetite suppressant. . . . Neat factoid: Ginger is served alongside sushi to act as an anti-bacterial agent against the raw fish. Interesting, right?
This is a love-or-hate kind of Spice. I love it. The smell brings me back to India and the overly sweet Sweets that they serve with milky Chai. My friend Vishal used to chew the pods to promote digestion – Cardamom is excellent for that. The Spice has many benefits to the digestive system. It reduces gas, counteracts acidity and can even help halitosis. In Ayruvedic Medicine, Cardamom is used to treat asthma and calm a fiery “Pita” personality. Sipping warm Nut Milk with Cardamom before bed is quite soothing –
try it some time!
This Herb would at first appear not to belong on this list of Spices, but I am mildly obsessed with it. And considering the Tarragon-digestion connection, it actually fits quite well. I went a little Tarragon-crazy last summer and started to put it on everything— including Halibut, which was surprisingly good. I embraced this delightful Herb after I found that it could be used as a Salt Substitute for my clients with high blood pressure. It also stimulates bile in the liver—so for my Cleansing Tea, I will make a tonic with Apple Cider Vinegar and steeped Tarragon. The Herb can help relieve stomach cramps and induce the appetite, making it a fantastic post-meal tea.
I discovered Vanilla in its purest form in Bali. The beans are huge and plentiful. Because it is so inexpensive in Asia, I had the opportunity to use it in copious amounts with unusual savory partners like Rice and Vegetables. I recently read of Vanilla’s aphrodisiac properties—apparently, the bean was recommended to men to maintain potency. Vanilla can also help with insomnia and soothe stomach ulcers. When I have trouble sleeping, I make Nut Milk with Cinnamon, Honey and lots of freshly ground Vanilla Powder, blended on high to warm it up. This usually calms me down and puts me to sleep pretty quickly.