Things Every Kitchen Should Have but Probably Doesn’t

On my little quest to green up and simplify my life, I’ve found several things that everyone should just have on hand because they are that useful.  Whether you want to detoxify your cleaning routine or amp up your food or have skin care products that actually work, these the the things that should be in your kitchen but probably aren’t.  Yet.

Vinegar

Vinegar is magic.  Vinegar is love.  Vinegar is fabulous for cleaning, deodorizing and softening fabrics.

Right now you are staring at this post and telling me “Vinegar reeks, I’m not going to use that!”  The thing is, vinegar might smell bad, but the smell goes away once the vinegar is dry and it takes any other odor away with it leaving fresh clean air.  I actually use it like I would use Frebreeze, spraying it on my upholstery to get rid of… umm… potty training accidents.

If you really, truly can’t stand the smell, save some citrus peels to infuse it (just soak them in a jar for a few days before straining them out.

Baking Soda

Baking soda is a baking staple.  It’s also another odor magnet, which is why if you do have it, it’s probably living in your fridge.

Baking soda can be used in homemade laundry detergents, chemical free soft scrub, oven cleaner, carpet powder, in place of shampoo and toothpaste, made into deodorant… I go through a ton of it.

It’s also really, really, really cheap.

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is great stuff.  Not only is it filled with good fats, it has a high smoke point, which makes it great for cooking instead of olive oil.  Apparently olive oil isn’t supposed to be heated.  It has a mild flavor that doesn’t disguise the natural flavors of foods and it’s not as oily as some other cooking oils.  Flat out, you should just replace all your shortening and vegetable oils and especially soybean oil with coconut oil.

Now, not only is this magical stuff good for cooking, it’s also a top of the line moisturizer.  It is great for frizzy fly away hair.  Mix it with baking soda and you have the best whitening and plaque control toothpaste you’ve ever seen, not to mention great for sensitive teeth.  It’s great for soap making, giving a nice fluffy lather.  It can be used as a natural spf 4 and tanning lotion.  It’s even good for your immune system.

Seriously, magical stuff.

Chia Seeds

Remember Chia Pets?  You spread those gooey seeds on pottery and they grow?

Well, those innocent little seeds are a super food.

You need more energy?  Need to feel fuller longer?  Need some hydration help?  Antioxidants?  Chia seeds are your answer.  These little bad boys are amazingly nutritious, filling and full of good things to give you a natural energy and immune boost.

Canning Jars

You see them in the grocery store, those unobtrusive little jars.  They come in packs of 12.  They come in lots of sizes.

These little bad boys are great.  I store my cleaning supplies and cosmetics in them.  I store leftovers in them.  I store everything in them.  I even use them for convenient toddler cups.  They’ve hit the floor many times without shattering.

Plastics are an invisible toxin that we don’t think about.  But more than that, plastic retains odors from foods, are easily stained and can be broken down by certain foods and cleaning supplies.  And dude, seriously, finding the matching lid for that tupperware is a nightmare.

I store my lids with my parchment paper, and they are easily bought if they do need replacing.

I also save every other jar that comes into my house.  I should probably admit that this might eventually become a problem.

A Container of Vegetable Scraps in your Freezer

Ok, this one is, admittedly, a little weirder than the rest.  Hear me out, especially the non-composters.

Each time you make a meal with fresh veggies, you cut off bits, peel them, and have scraps.  These scraps are nutrient dense, even if they won’t work in most foods.  There is one food you can make with them.

Broth.

I find recipes all the time that call for broth or stock.  That’s something I don’t buy because it’s salty.  If I can’t get away with using plain water, I’ve have those little stock cubes you add to water, but again, salty!

Did you know the broth is just flavor and nutrients boiled out of other foods?  Yeah.  Grab your stock pot (no aluminum!) and throw in those veggie scraps, then simmer them.  Boil the hell out of them.  Then you just strain it, put it in some of the canning jars or freezer jars or freeze them into ice cubes…

I’m currently trying to make a bone broth.  I’ll let you know how that goes…  yeah, you can freeze your scrap bones too.

Quinoa, a Rice Alternative

I just met a new grain.

Quinoa.

It’s this weird food you find in the health food area of your grocery store.  When you open the box, you find these weird little balls.

Turns out, it’s actually not a grain at all.  Something about grass.  It’s actually classed with beets and swiss chard.  Whatever that means.

When you look online, you see all these big words about what makes quinoa such a super food.  Words like lysine and isoleucine and phytonutrients.  It made my brain hurt, just a little bit.  You can find all that technical info here, if you care to.

Vegans and vegetarians and gluten-phobes rave about how healthy it is.

But what no one says is how versatile and tasty it is, not to mention, it’s easy to make!

Any time you would use rice (particularly white rice, since that’s just bad for you.) you can substitute quinoa.  It only takes about 10 minutes to make and you end up with fluffy perfect quinoa.  Even I didn’t manage to screw it up.

Like rice, it doesn’t have a very distinctive flavor of it’s own, which makes it perfect for just about anything.  It is a hidden protein, which means nice and filling, but still packed with nutrients which is good for little bellies.

As far as texture, I really enjoyed it.  Not firm, but not slimy or porridgey.  The grains are distinct, like rice, without being squishy.  I’m a real texture nut, there are plenty of things I won’t eat simply because of the texture.  (Evil mushrooms!)

I think it would be less likely to turn into confetti as well, which is always a good thing in my house.

A fall serving suggestion:

Cook up some acorn squash halves, make your quinoa (it’s easy, just 2:1 water to rinsed quinoa, simmer covered for 15 minutes), then toss your quinoa with some cranberries and cottage cheese or goat cheese.  Half a squash is more than enough for one person, since the quinoa is seriously filling.

Or toss it with some roasted fall veggies for a tasty treat as a side dish.

It’s good stuff.