My Favorite Cupboard

In case you might have wondered what’s in my cupboards during this time, here’s a glimpse. It’s the place I turn to most often in my kitchen for inspiration and recipe testing. I’ve spent many hours pawing through this cabinet for the hand selected ingredients which ultimately go into Pat’s Granola. Warm spices like cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice and cloves are some of my favorites. 

Like bees to honey, I’m drawn to the spice racks and jars in out of the way small shops, local farmers markets, specialty food stores and online food sites. I’ve been known to get lost in these places, much to the frustration and impatience of family and friends who travel with me. Gratefully, I’ve also been the recipient of many a fine jar or pouch of herbs, spices and teas gifted from my people.

Growing up, my Mom cooked magic meals with salt, pepper and Accent seasoning. She relied on simple preparations slow cooked on the stove top, in the pressure cooker or in the oven. She somehow was able to make everything she cooked taste delicious. It helped having a large garden and those fruits and veggies didn’t need much seasoning. She‘d often sneak out to the garden with a salt shaker and pluck a warmed from the sun vine ripened tomato, bite into it like an apple, give it a shake of salt and enjoy this summertime delicacy.

Me? I love layering flavors and have come to appreciate that certain spices bring out and actually enhance the flavors of food. Meal prep for me is its own form of art creating as I go along, often reading through stacks of cookbooks or tips from friends beforehand, making notes, bookmarking things online or taking a whiff of a spice that may add depth or just the right flavor to a dish.

This apartment cupboard is usually arranged and rearranged whenever I pull something out. There’s always some hidden gem in there that I misplaced or was so far up in the top or back that I forgot about it. I need a step stool to reach these places! Should probably consider putting items on lazy susan style turntables for easier access. I always have a bottle of A1, Goya Adobo, baking powder, chocolate chips, olive oils, vinegars, gluten free oatmeal, vanilla extract and small jars of occasionally used spices like fennel, anise or Za’atar.

Teas and coffee are also coveted items in this cupboard. Can you spot the Storehouse Tea box and Troubadour Coffee Roaster bag? Loose teas and coffee beans have brought me comfort on many a day. Paula and Tony, owners of these respective businesses are dedicated to their food crafts and offer a variety of excellent products. These days I miss visiting Troubadour or its sister store, La Taza Rica in Cleveland for a cup of coffee or Tony’s special hot chocolate and conversation. :) 

Grateful for my Cleveland food family—many are small local businesses who are artisans, creators and purveyors of food. One of my new favorite stores is Local Flavors in Painesville, OH which sells a variety of foods from local businesses all under one roof and they ship! 

Back to my cupboard. The most basic food like a pot of rice or roast chicken can be jazzed up with items from this cupboard. My sister turned me on to Bragg Organic Sprinkle, which is a 24 herb and spice seasoning. She suggests mixing honey, Bragg seasoning, olive oil and rice wine vinegar to make a salad dressing or marinade for chicken. Don’t have Bragg seasoning? Mix salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and dried parsley to olive oil and vinegar or lemon juice. If you have mustard, add a teaspoon of that. Whisk together. Works beautifully.

Nuts are a staple in my diet and I usually have bags and jars of pecans, almonds, pistachios, walnuts and hazelnuts. Toast them, grind them into nut butters or into coatings for poultry, veggies, meat or seafood or added to baked good or salads, nuts are a must have. Those bags of Backattack Snacks almonds are an especially delicious treat in my cupboard. Pat’s Granola uses their pumpkin spice almonds in our Ginger Spiced Granola for an unusually tasty blend.

Backattack Snacks is the creation of an enterprising young couple, Lauren and Brian, who also make another yummy treat, Angus beef jerky, unlike anything else you’ve tasted. And their website has recipes--the crusted chicken is a winner. There’s also another local favorite on my shelf, Bertman Original Ballpark Mustard—not just great on hot dogs or burgers, it makes a wonderful addition to honey mustard sauce, in vinaigrette salad dressings or slathered on chicken or fish before baking.

As a small business, I’m glad to support other businesses. The aforementioned businesses also ship in case you’d like to check out their websites and purchase products. Shopping local never tasted so good as right now!

Tell me what’s in your cupboard these days—perhaps I can help you find a way to use some of these items. 

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