Cooking with Alison

Versatile Ingredients – Introduction and Staples

In Grocery Budget Challenge, How-To, Mind Your Cents, Versatile Ingredients on June 21, 2016 at am

This is the first post in the series, Versatile Ingredients.

I’ve been working on using up old ingredients in my pantry. To do this efficiently, I choose a single ingredient and give myself up to one month to use all of it. In order to make this challenge enjoyable (i.e. not having to eat the same dish every day), I’ve been experimenting with new ways to use familiar ingredients. I’ve learned so much and discovered so many new favourite recipes that I decided to start a new series, Versatile Ingredients. Each post will feature a different ingredient. To start, I’ve shared my versatile grocery staples below. See also, creative uses for avocados here.

Versatile Grocery Staples

These are my top 3 basic grocery staples. I purchase them almost every week, because of their versatility and nutritional value.

  1. Citrus Fruit
    • I almost always have lemons, limes, and/or oranges in the fridge, because the juice and zest can be used to do a number of things:
      • flavour water and make drinks
      • make dressings and salads
        • recipes: avocado orange salad here, kale salad here, orzo salad with feta and olives here, egg yolk vinaigrette here, caesar dressing here, Thai mango salad here, mango quinoa salad here, parsley salad here
      • make substitutions
        • buttermilk, healthy sour cream substitute here
      • make sauces and dips
        • recipes: creamy dill sauce here, hummus here, here, and here, hollandaise sauce here, Malaysian cincalok dip here, guacamole here, aioli or mayonnaise here
      • flavour soups and stews
        • recipes: red lentil soup here, Indian lentil soup here
      • make pasta and noodle dishes
        • recipes: Penang style noodles here, Thai-inspired noodle salad here, anchovy pesto pasta here, pad thai here, Vietnamese pho here, salmon and asparagus penne here
      • add flavour to meat and seafood
        • recipes: smoked salmon and mascarpone crostini here, slow cooker fish curry here, tandoori chicken here, tuna ceviche or tartare here, calamari here, pork souvlaki here, fish en papillote here
        • Meyer lemons can also be stir fried with chicken
      • add flavour to roasted vegetables
      • make dessert
        • recipes: orange scented olive oil cake recipe here, lemon layer cake here, lemon tart here, cream cheese pound cake here, lemon ricotta muffins and lemon curd here, cornmeal cookies here, apple tart here, sweet potato pie here, peaches and cream cheesecake cupcakes here
  2. Whole Carrots
  3. Eggs
    • Eggs are a cheap, healthy, and versatile source of protein. They’re also quick and easy to cook.
    • Eat them as a standalone meal or add them on top of fried rice (see kimchi fried rice recipe here) or noodle soup dishes (see ramen recipes here and here).
    • They are versatile enough to be used in many different types of recipes. For example:
      • breakfasts
        • recipes: egg and cheese muffins here, poached eggs with hollandaise here, pancakes here and here, waffles here, one skillet breakfast here
      • Chinese dishes
        • recipes: stir fried shrimp and eggs here, salted eggs here, vinegar trotters here, braised eggs here, steamed egg dish here, stir fried tomato eggs here
      • dressings
        • recipes: egg yolk vinaigrette here, caesar dressing here
      • breads and pastas
      • burgers, meatballs, and loaves as a binding agent
        • recipe: carrot, corn and chickpea loaf here
      • batter/coating for fried foods
        • recipes: onion rings here, crispy cornflake baked chicken here, potato pancakes here, chicken parmigiana here
      • desserts or egg wash
    • They also make a great vehicle for using up leftover ingredients (i.e. omelettes)
    • I also love that eggs can be eaten at any meal.
    • Don’t forget that you can experiment with chicken, duck, goose, and/or quail eggs.

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