Kitchen for Dummies: 10 Things You Need in Your Pantry According to Leandra’s Mom

Because moms know the real deal, right? Organic or not, sometimes you just have to open up your pantry and go for the cereal.

07.14.16
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I spent, like, three weeks googling “what should I keep in my fridge and my pantry if I want to start making my own food,” before I finally conceded that the only way to get an answer that did not either completely disregard 2016’s favorite H-word — health! — or focus too intently on said word (hemp shakes? Really?) would be to ask my own seasoned (pun fiercely intended) mother, Laura Medine, whose womb served as a home-base for four separate embryos prior to separated life on earth. With her knowledge, I learned that sometimes, you’ve just got to throw rules out the window and give the damn kids some Cookie Crisp. Here’s what she told me.

Coarse, iodized sea salt:

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“Iodine is an important chemical element that the human body needs to produce hormones but it is not created naturally, so you get it from your diet. Salt has it, but more importantly, salt also adds flavor to every dish — I put it in all my dressings, meat dishes and rice.”

Chili flakes:

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“I used to buy black pepper but I don’t use that anymore because I read that it’s not good for you. The chili peppers add spice and tang to your dishes and sometimes I serve it on the dinner table as an add-on. It’s also great with avocado, in salad dressing, on chicken, in eggs. Sometimes I put it in my chocolate cake, too!”

Onion powder:

“I use it instead of fresh onion because chopping fresh onions is time-consuming and the pre-ground powder serves a similar purpose (even though it’s not as healthy for you, but this takes care of my mental health!). It’s good in lentil stew, minute steak, stuffed zucchinis (I stuff zucchinis with other vegetables, rice and ground beef for big family dinners) and in pasta sauce. I’m not brand partisan for the onion powder — I buy whatever is available.”

Garlic powder:

“Same story as onion powder, but it’s also not as strong, so you don’t stink like garlic for days after you’ve eaten the dish. It adds a bit of dimension to the food flavor. I use it on sautéed vegetables, particularly mushrooms, and schnitzel.”

Olive oil:

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“This is the only oil I use — for sauteeing, for baking cakes, for frying food, in dressings, for everything. And it is always cold-pressed. I prefer it to coconut oil because you don’t taste olive oil in the food the way you do with coconut oil.”

Cereal:

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“I keep the unhealthiest cereals you can keep: Cookie Crisp, Raisin Bran, Honey Nut Cheerios, Golden Grahams — these are for my sons. They eat it in the middle of the night, or for breakfast. They’re all grown but still act like kids.”

Flour:

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“I use flour for baking cake, coating meatballs, sautéing eggplant and other starchy vegetables and most importantly, for making challah bread. For the challah, I use all-purpose white flour. This is one thing I did not give up when my husband and I started to eat a little healthier a few years ago after a health scare. But for everything else (including my cakes!), I use organic whole wheat flour.”

Eggs:

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“My eggs are always pastured and cage-free. I use them to bake cakes, coat breaded dishes, in my cauliflower and spinach soufflés, to break on my husband’s head, and I hard boil a bunch and always keep them in my fridge.” [Editor note: The cauliflower soufflé is the best cauliflower soufflé on earth and the only ingredients are cauliflower, parsley, dill, allspice and eggs.]

Milk:

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“I keep dairy milk (solely for my sons and their cereal) and almond milk and use the almond milk in my coffee, for breakfast smoothies and when I bake.”

Almond butter: 

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“Great as a spread on toast for breakfast (always have bread, too! You can make great cinnamon toast with Ezekiel toast) or for raw vegetables like carrots and celery, or in smoothies.”

But wait, where’s sugar? “I don’t buy regular sugar anymore. I try to avoid it by using dates or maple as a sweetener.”

Contradictory given the aforementioned Golden Grahams? Maybe. But we do what we can.

Photographed by Krista Anna Lewis; creative direction by Emily Zirimis.

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