Kitchen Staples

Over the past year of cooking for hubster and I, I have started my own list of kitchen staples.  Trial and error is a large part of learning how to cook as well as finding what works depending on the foods you like to eat and the cooking style you prefer.  Here are the items I couldn’t live without: DSC_0381-Peanut Butter

-Mayo—low fat, any brand, I prefer the kind with olive oil

-Sugar free syrup—I cannot tell the difference, but husband does

-Worcestershire sauce

-Low sodium soy sauce—same taste, less saltDSC_0386-Light ranch—I prefer light over fat free, close enough taste to the real thing, any brand

-Newman’s Own Parmesan and Roasted Garlic—great in pasta salad

-Newman’s Own Low Fat Sesame Ginger—I love Asian food and have tried many different stir fry, teriyaki, and marinade sauces.  This is hands down my favorite.  I like that it is sweet and not as soy sauce-ish as many others are.

-Balsamic Vinaigrette—lowest cal salad dressing, check label, some are creamy and NOT low cal

-Light Italian—another low cal dressing, again check label, great for marinating DSC_0389-Wyler’s Light—or Crystal Light, sugar free flavored water

-Sobe drinks/water—zero calorie and low calorie.  Some drink diet soda, I prefer flavored water.  Good flavor. 

-Coffee-mate low fat (dairy free)—Hungry Girl uses this in a lot of recipes like milkshakes and desserts.  Lots of flavor without the calories.  Powder and creamer form.  I sometimes use the creamer in recipes that call for heavy cream. 

-Almond Breeze Vanilla—40 calories a cup.  Lowest calorie version of milk like products out there.  I use it in many sweet recipes that call for milk.  I use plain soy milk for things that don’t do well with vanilla flavor (I am lactose intolerant).  I tried making fettuccini sauce once with vanilla almond milk.  It was very sweet!  Won’t do that ever again!DSC_0391-Dorot garlic, cilantro, and basil—found at Trader Joe’s, the flavor of fresh herbs without the prep.  They store in the freezer and you just pop a cube into your food. 

-Turkey pepperoni—delicious!  I can tell they don’t quite taste like the real thing but my husband is convinced it is close to the same…and he loves pepperoni pizzas.  Guilt free pizza.  I will chop some up for calzones and put them in the freezer for my husband to microwave for lunch. 

-Trader Joe’s artichoke pasta sauce—I also love their pesto.  When there is just two of us, I use half the bottle and put the rest straight into the freezer in the glass bottle.  I don’t have any desire to make things like pesto sauce….we just don’t eat pasta that much.  I will dress up our pasta with one of these sauces with some chopped chicken and broccoli or spinach.  When I don’t have sauce I throw in those garlic cubes, olive oil, parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper—probably one of my favorite fast dishes.  DSC_0399-Sugar free Torani syrups—another Hungry Girl staple.  I put a couple of pumps into my protein shake to add some flavor.  Find the pumps here.  

My favorite and most used cookbooks:DSC_0400-America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook—(can find at Costco near Christmas time) this is the go-to cook book for any American dish as well as how to cook everything in a very simple and detailed way.  Lots of pictures, directions (like how to carve a turkey), tips, and shortcuts.  I would highly recommend this to anyone who is learning how to cook.  DSC_0406 It also gives you their recommendations for top store brand items…like what is the best canned tomatoes:DSC_0407Deceptively Delicious—written by Jerry Seinfeld’s wife, her book is all about fruit and vegetable purees.  She gives recipes ranging from baked goods to dinner using purees to add nutrients to everyday cooked foods.  DSC_0408Geared towards sneaking veggies into your kids foods but I have found the recipes are delicious and have served many of her baked goods for brunches.  She also gives great tips and strategies on how to get your kids to eat healthy.   DSC_0410 -Everyday Italian—delicious and relatively easy Italian cooking.  Has a more authentic spin on things like marinara sauce and lasagna.  My favorite?  Her turkey meatballs.  I like to write in my cookbooks to remember what I thought of it and any variations I made.  For example I exchanged almond milk for whole milk and parmesan cheese for romano.  Came out great!DSC_0411Sandra Lee’s Semi-homemade Desserts—she has some amazing dessert recipes that are super easy.  My all time favorite is this ice cream cake.  I posted the recipe here.  I also love her other cookbooks.  DSC_0412In case you didn’t believe me, here is proof:  DSC_0415-Hungry Girl Cookbooks—lots of great low cal recipes.  I find that some recipes are absolutely AMAZING while others taste like diet food.  If you are not crazy about forcing down diet food like I am, you might want to check out the recipes first before buying.  My favorites are her recipes using Fiber One cereal for bread crumbs and all of her delicious milkshakes.  She uses a lot of artificial sweeteners so if you aren’t into that, you probably will want to pass.  But above all else, I love seeing how she uses items you wouldn’t normally think of (like the coffee-mate creamer).  I have learned to apply this to my own recipes as well.  You can also sign up for her email newsletter full of recipes and resources.  DSC_0413In the pantry:  DSC_0422-Sprinkles


-Chocolate chips

-Ranch packets—great in soups

-All sorts of seasonings—my favorites are chicken seasoning, cajun, garlic powder, italian and taco DSC_0424-Instant jell-o and pudding

-Whole wheat pasta


-Soy protein powder—Whole Foods brand (I didn’t mean to have the labels facing back, it’s just how it ended up getting put away!)DSC_0432–Lots of water—I bought our Brita pitcher at the thrift store.  A good wash and as good as new.  The filters I buy new.  But those pitchers are expensive!  I got mine for under $2!DSC_0435We do not buy bottled water.  Instead, I fill up my Nalgene bottles with filtered water and put in the refrigerator so that we always have cold water to grab as we run out the house. 

What are your kitchen staples?