In last’s weeks blog post I talked about why I have no idea why I’m not eating meat, but I also talked about how I love (and miss) being in the kitchen creating tasty meals.

Like many of my mom friends, I’ve hit this part of parenting where you’re time no longer seems your own. It belongs to your vehicle. Or more specifically the kids contained in said vehicle. Enter soccer and Girl Scouts. And that’s just one child. Lord knows what will happen when the other 2 get a say.

Now, stay with me. Have you ever been asked to do a stress release visualization? Maybe one to break you out of “hot mess parenting”. Most of the examples of this technique start with “imagine you’re walking on the beach, the warm sand under your feet and you hear the lapping of the surf”. That’s nice and all but my nirvana is an uncluttered kitchen….alone. It’s Vivaldi playing in the background, apron on and a glass of wine in hand, my well worn wooden spatula in the other. A hot pan would be sizzling.

When you realize you aren’t doing the things you love and yet you’re the biggest reason why, you make time to do the things you love. Thus, the other night I made time to be in my kitchen. Certainly not with the uncluttered mess nor alone, but my pan was sizzling.

A few days ago I posted the picture above on my FB page of what I created. No recipe attached. This meal wasn’t created from a recipe book. It came from my head. And my heart.

Not to sound cheesy but the main staple to have in your kitchen when cooking, isn’t a good quality Olive Oil (although that is a given), it’s your heart. If you enjoy the process of nourishing your family and friends even with the simplest of ingredients, I promise you it will taste better than something that’s rushed and thrown together without thought. And certainly from a drive thru.

The above creation was prepared with simple, ingredient staples I keep on hand.

First up: Pasta.
Yep, I said the P word. Pasta gets such a bad rap but it doesn’t have to be bad. Or brown. (I can’t do the brown whole wheat thing). I personally like Barilla Protein Plus in the yellow box. It has additional protein and fiber than in traditional with the same white pasta taste. Score. Plus pasta goes with everything. Measure out a cup cooked. Load it with a ton o veggies. Sprinkle it with a few strips of protein ie meat or seafood and Voila, one box can easily feed a family of 4.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil. 

Don’t go cheap here. This primarily mono-unsaturated fat has a list of healthy benefits. You want Extra Virgin (avoid anything that says Light), First Cold Pressed in a dark colored glass bottle. The label should include a harvest date and the region or state where the olives where picked. Bonus if it has the polyphenol content on it. Specialty Olive Oil and Vinegar stores often include this information and let you taste it before hand. Don’t get the largest bottle unless you are prepared to consume it within 3-6 months. Unlike wine, Olive oil does NOT get better with age.

Garlic. Real garlic. 

Don’t buy something from a jar packed in oil. Don’t settle for powdered. Yes garlic powder has it’s purpose say in making homemade enchilada sauce, but real garlic that costs barely a dollar will make any dish that more enjoyable. And healthy too.

Same thing with Parmesan Cheese. 

I actually did NOT have any on hand for the above dish, but a real block or Parm or Reggiano that you can shave a thin or thick ribbon off of will sazzle any guest. Save the green topped canister for the kids. Why do you think Olive Garden became so popular. Who cares about the bread sticks. It was the cheese grated right on your dish!

And last, Sun-dried Tomatoes.

This is one of those ingredients that’s often forgotten about but when added to any dish you increase the WOW factor that much more. I think that’s why the above dish was such a huge hit. SDT are also amazing in omelettes and on pizza. That boring ol boneless, skinless chicken breast? Oh yeah, stuff if with sun dried tomatoes and some fresh basil.

As for the dish above, I sauteed fresh onions, garlic and Roma tomatoes in EVOO with a dab of butter until the tomatoes were cooked down and creating their own sauce. I then hit it with 1/3 jar of sun-dried tomatoes that were packed in oil. Added white wine, chicken stock and a tight squeeze of 1/2 fresh lemon then thickening it up at the end with a tablespoon of corn starch slurry. The shrimp were marinated separately in olive oil, the other half of that lemon, fresh minced garlic and heavy dash of dried parsley before being grilled 2 min on each side. Everything was tossed together and garnished with fresh basil. Darn I wish I would have had my parm block!!

What are your 5 kitchen staples?? Comment below or join me on my FB KimLeneghan page.

Hugs! Kim