With Staples, You Can Do Anything!

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With Staples, You Can Do Anything!
30 March 2014

How weird is this. Yesterday I thought “I should really write a post about staples, and how it makes life so easy when your pantry is stocked with them, hmmm… Kate that is a BRILLIANT idea!”. Then I received an email from a lovely lady called Julie asking me to help her with tips for stocking her pantry with, STAPLES! How spooky and convenient all in one!

Firstly, I know everyone has different ideas about this. And I want to make it clear that at no point do I claim to be cooking health food. I love butter and sugar too much to replace them with ‘healthier options’. And the only sugar my girls eat is the sugar I put in to my baking. Which isn’t much when you look at their daily diet.

The thing I am all about is making your kid’s and family’s food from scratch. Putting your heart and soul in to the meal as well as the physical ingredients. How good does a jar of jam taste from a school fete over a jar from the supermarket? Or a home baked cake with a friend over a cup of tea? The whole experience makes the taste and the memory. The sheer pleasure I gain from seeing them eating what I have cooked can’t be beat. But we all know this. I just wanted to establish the point of where my staples are coming from.

One of the things people get freaked out about (well I know I did when I first started to bake) is the list of ingredients in a recipe. You look at it and think “argh… I have to buy flour, bicarb soda, baking powder… blah blah blah…”.  So much stuff to buy! BUT, if you make yourself a spot in the cupboard, pantry or utilities room for giant bags of these common ingredients (staples), you will always have on hand what you need to whip something up. I have bags and jars of stuff stashed everywhere. My butter stash in the fridge drives Ro insane, but I never run out, and it is never there long enough to go bad, just a constant cycle of butter. Seriously, how good does a content cycle of butter sound.

I am not sure if you guys have this where you are, but we have bulk food places where you can buy GIANT bags of things you need for your kitchen. It works out cheaper, means you don’t have to keep going back and forth to the shops and you always have on hand the basic ingredients to whip up something simple and delicious. It is also great to have these larger quantities on board for when you want to make bigger batches of stuff for the freezer.

I have built my staples up over time and now have a huge shelf of spices, dried herbs and cheeky little additions for baking, like shredded coconut (the organic non preservative kind), choc chips, flaked almonds and other stuff that makes that make baked goodies that little bit extra special.

Once you have got yourself in a rhythm of buying your staples you will do it without thinking. It will take time, but like anything, the more you do it, the better you get at it and the easier it becomes.

Ok, Kate, enough. What ARE your staples.

(Oh, and these are my baking staples, I also have a HUGE stash of lentils, chickpeas, pasta, rice, parmesan, passata and fruit I have preserved over summer.)

  • Plain flour
  • Farina flour (I use this for pizza, pasta and scrolls)
  • Bicarbonate soda
  • Baking powder
  • Butter salted
  • Butter unsalted
  • Brown sugar
  • White sugar
  • Icing sugar (I don’t often ice my cakes, but I do find that dusting cakes with icing sugar that have not worked out so well or look a little ugly helps them out greatly, it gives them that café vibe)
  • Salt
  • Golden syrup
  • Vanilla extract
  • Rolled oats
  • Cocoa
  • Cinnamon
  • Eggs (not something you can keep forever, but something that is good to make sure you always have on hand)
  • Yeast
  • Sunflower oil (or canola or vegetable, I use sunflower)

If you have a good stock of this stuff in your kitchen, you will always be able to pull some kind of deliciousness out of the oven. Promise.

Here is my basic muffin recipe I use whenever I can’t think or don’t want to think of something else to make. It is a ‘go to’ in my kitchen and can pretty much utilise anything you have lying around, like fruit, jam, coconut or an old tin of peaches from 1982 in the back of the pantry. Today I have a huge bowl of pears to do something with, so I chopped some of those up and chucked them in the mix with a few choc chips. Now I have recess covered for tomorrow (hopefully, if they make it through today).

This is an awesome recipe to get older kids to make themselves. I have this written down for the big girls and they take so much pleasure in making up their very own batch. (I always put stuff in the oven and take stuff out). The little kids have fun mixing the ingredients together with me and in no time will be expert muffin bakers themselves.

Basic Muffin Recipe

What you need (all staples)

  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 big egg
  • 1/4 cup sunflower oil
  • add some fruit or whatever you have around the kitchen you might think would be yummy, I added 3 pears chopped up and a handful of choc chips

What you need to do

  1. Pop the oven on 180˚ and line your muffin try with those paper muffin cases (I got soooo tired of cleaning my muffin tins that I never bake without these now, they have changed my life).
  2. Mix the dry ingredients, in a medium sized bowl, together. You can sift them together or do my lazy sifting with a whisk.
  3. Beat the wet ingredients together with the eggs in a separate bowl.
  4. Place your yummy additions to the dry mixture, if dry, and to the wet mixture, if wet (like jam or bananas).
  5. Make a well in the middle of your dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients in.
  6. Mix until JUST combined. The worst thing you can do to a muffin is over mix. It is meant to look lumpy and still with bit of dry flour.
  7. Plop the mixture in to the muffin cases evenly (or as close to evenly as possible, I always end up with a few giant muffins
  8. Put the muffin tray in the oven for approx 25 mins. My oven is a piece of crap and it takes forever, so just check every now and then.
  9. Take them out and eat them.