Kitchen Essentials

I am used to "roughing it" in the kitchen. I remember my college days cooking on a hot plate hoping the RA didn't catch us. LOL!  My first apartment wasn't much better equipped. But now that I've cooked for a while, I've learned a few things are essentials. Why make the job of cooking more difficult when quality tools will help you succeed.

If I had to start my kitchen all over again, here are the bare essentials I would purchase first.
  • A large 8 to 12 quart 18/10 stainless-steel clad stockpot. I am not a brand snob, just make sure it's heavy and well made. The stainless has to be clad around aluminum or copper for good heat conduction. (There are actually steel only pots being sold but I wouldn't recommend them.) This workhorse of a pot will cook stews, soups and steam seafood or dumplings. It will also boil pasta or potatoes for a crowd.
  • 2 and 3 quart stainless steel clad saucepans. These are for makings sauces, gravy, cooking rice or vegetables.
  • A 5 to 7 quart enameled cast iron dutch oven. Think about pot roast or braised short ribs slow cooking on the stove. Le Creuset and Staub are both French brands which make excellent ovens. Choose your color carefully because you will probably have this piece of cookware the rest of your life. 
  • A large non-stick skillet. Eggs are just so much harder to cook when the pan is not non-stick. Low heat and plastic/silicone utensils will help keep the coating on the pan and out of your food. Calphalon makes a great 12 inch round griddle pan, but there are many great brands. Since you have to replace non-stick when the coating begins to flake, I wouldn't spend too much on it.
  • A large stainless steel clad or cast iron skillet. This will be useful for searing and browning food. Lodge makes a range of nice cast iron skillets at very affordable prices.
  • Silicone potholders and utensils. This material is wonderful. The thinnest potholder is enough to protect your hands from a hot pot. I prefer the spatulas to have silicone or plastic handles so I can throw the whole thing in the dishwasher.
  • An 6 or 8 inch chef's knife. The brand is your preference, but I'd look for forged German steel. Avoid the lower models of the high end manufacturers as they tend to be disappointing.
  • A paring knife and a bread knife. 
  • Set of mixing bowls and an easy to clean whisk.
  • A bakeware set from Anchor Hocking. Made in the USA and great quality.

Crustless Pumpkin Pecan Pie

Our Thanksgiving Menu
Roasted Turkey with Sage Gravy
Wild Rice/Almond stuffing
Mashed Cauliflower
Steamed Green Beans
Crustless Pumpkin Pecan Pie
Getting everything together

Before it went in the oven
1 15 oz can pumpkin
1/2 cup agave syrup
2 eggs
1 can evaporated milk
1 cup pecans, roughly chopped
Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Allspice to taste. (I like a lot of spice flavor so I used a tablespoon of Cinnamon, a teaspoon of nutmeg and a half teaspoon of Allspice.)
Pinch of salt

Mix all ingredients together except the pecans. Pour mixture into a lightly buttered/oiled pie pan and sprinkle pecans on top. Bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes until the pie is set and starts to pull away from the side of the pan slightly. Serve with homemade whipped cream if desired or delicious all by itself!
I don't have an after picture. As it was cooling, someone snuck into the kitchen and stole a piece!  

What is Primal Eating?

Primal is a simple way of eating. No complex points, exchanges or food diarys. (Been there, done that, right?)  Just consider if a caveman would think this is food? If the answer is no, don't eat it! I enjoy:
  • All meats, seafood and chicken, cooked however I want.
  • All veggies with some limits on starchy tubers and beans
  • All fruits with some limits on very sugary ones like melons.  
  • Cheese and low carb dairy products
  • Healthy fats like coconut, olive and nut oils and tons of spices.

I avoid flour, grains, sugars, and processed food.

If you'd like more information, there is an excellent blog called Mark's Daily Apple which has a ton of details about eating Primal.

Why Primal?

Like many people, I have tried a few diets over my lifetime. I lost a few pounds but I was always hungry. Thoughts of what I would eat when I was off the diet preoccupied my mind and it was only a matter of time until my willpower broke.
My love of all things sugary or carby (is that even a word?) kept me from trying a low carb diet for a long time. When I finally jumped in, I had a hard time detoxing from my carb addiction for the first two or three days. But I stuck it out and something amazing happened. I was no longer hungry all the time! I could eat a small portion of good quality food and not be on the prowl for a snack an hour or two later. Before this diet, I couldn't remember ever forgetting that it was meal time!
After a week, I noticed I actually had extra energy. Instead of my usual tiredness after a day at work, I came home with the energy to actually get things done. The few pounds I lost seemed less important then this sense of well-being.
It is still an ongoing journey for us as we try to resist outside influences including heaping platters of bagels and cookies at the office. But if you have tasty, high quality food waiting for you, the cookie looks much less interesting. :-)

Shepherd's Pie

Introducing my husband to primal food was a bit of a challenge, but this recipe had no problems. When I first made it, I mixed one small potato about the size of my fist with the cauliflower to give it a potato taste. But I've since made it without any potato and it's just as good.

1 1/2 lbs ground beef or ground lamb, grass-fed if possible.
1 medium onion, chopped.
1 16 oz container pureed tomatoes or tomato sauce
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp rosemary
1 tsp garlic
1 head cauliflower
2 tbsp butter or olive oil
2 tbsp heavy cream, optional
2 tbsp grated cheese, optional
salt and pepper to taste.

Equipment needed: Multipurpose pan that can go from stovetop into oven or frying pan and casserole dish. Food processor or mixer to puree cauliflower.

Wash the cauliflower and break it into pieces. Without adding any extra water, steam it in the microwave until it's tender. Drain.

Brown the ground beef on the stovetop. Drain fat. Add onions and cook until translucent. Add tomato sauce and spices and let simmer on low to blend flavors.

Puree cauliflower with butter and cream. Add salt and pepper to taste. Smooth it on top of the ground beef mixture. Dot with butter or sprinkle cheese on top if desired. Bake at 375 degrees for approx 30 min.