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A Dozen Useful Recipe Ingredients Beyond the Basics

Updated on November 1, 2017
Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle spends as much time in the kitchen as she does at a keyboard. It's no surprise that cooking and food are favorite article subjects.

The Pantry Staples are Basic

Anyone who likes to cook keeps staples and basic ingredients on hand.

As much as possible, I like to cook with fresh raw ingredients, but a few canned ingredients like diced tomatoes and green beans are often useful

Most pantries have pasta and rice, fresh potatoes and onions, flour, sugar and seasonings but there are a dozen or more items which might be a little "beyond the basics" that I hate to be without.

The "Beyond" LIST

1. Chicken Broth, or other broth.

Making your own is great but, the convenience of broth in a can or carton is wonderful. Broth with last night's leftover vegetables plus the leftover rice, pasta or potato can make a nice quick pot of soup for tomorrow's lunch.

2. Fresh Red Bell Pepper

Despite the intense color, a Red Bell is mild-tasting, even sweet. Chopped up or cut in slivers, it is a great addition to many recipes because it is high in nutrients and antioxidants. Another good thing about it is that it adds beautiful color and looks especially delicious with green vegetables or neutral color things like rice, pasta or mushrooms

Add a Surprise Flavor

Stock your pantry with a few special flavors.
Stock your pantry with a few special flavors. | Source

3. Italian Seasoning

If you have fresh herbs, by all means, use them. When that is inconvenient, a blend of Italian herbs that includes Oregano, Basil, chives and perhaps a few other herbs goes well with many ingredients.

A few sprinkles of this blend adds a great boost of flavor to soups, sauces, marinades, homemade salad dressings and more. These are usually freeze-dried and come in a glass jar.

4. Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Grape Seed Oil

These are the two oils I like most, EV cold-pressed olive oil for dressings, and the grape seed oil for sauté or stir fry.

Grape seed oil is very light and has almost no taste of its own. It has a high smoking point, making it perfect for something you want to cook quickly in a hot pan without making threatening smoke signals or setting off the fire alarm. It is also very healthful and rates above olive oil in most of its nutritional components.

Grape seed oil used to be quite cheap compared to other oils, because it was a by product of the wine making industry, and also because people were unfamiliar with it. The seeds used to be tossed out after the winemakers were finished with the grapes -- then someone figured out how to extract oil from the seed. Now that its advantages are becoming better known, the price is rising a bit, but it still is less expensive than most cooking oils.

I save the more expensive extra virgin olive oil for fresh green salads or a drizzle over steamed vegetables. Personally, I think cooking with it is wasteful.

5. Blood Orange Vinegar

This is a specialty item, which might be hard to find. It is also a bit on the expensive side, but it makes a great salad dressing with a little olive oil. Its slightly sweet tang, perhaps mixed with a little honey, is also good on fruit salads.

Oil and vinegar dressing.

6. Asagio Cheese, Tillamook Extra Sharp Cheddar and Feta Cheese

These are my favorIte kinds of cheese to use in recipes. I used to use that dried up "parmesan"-- but a little shredded Asagio goes a long way and has tons of flavor compared to that saw-dust tasting stuff.

Sprinkle a little on steamed vegetables (especially summer squash), baked potatoes, garlic bread and other things.

Feta cheese can be used similarly, or crumbled onto salads.

For anything that wants to have cheese melted on it, I love Tillamook extra sharp cheddar (or another extra sharp cheddar) Again, I find the extra sharp has more flavor, so you can use a little less.

7. Corn-flakes.

You can eat them for breakfast, but I find crushed corn flakes are great for sautéing anything you want to bread with an egg wash and crumbs. Great for chicken, fish and anything else you want to bread and fry.

8. Dry Potato Flakes, Buds, Or Crumbles

Most good cooks wouldn't think of using this instead of real potatoes-- but in a pinch it is passable as a mashed potato-like substance. What I like it for most, is to thicken soups and gravies. It gives a nice thick, creamy texture without adding extra fat-- a great extender for soups and stews.

9. Baking Mix.

Though I 'd rather do most things from scratch, this mix that has been around for decades is just too convenient to not have on hand for biscuits, dumplings, pancakes, shortcake, and even quiche. It's versatility make it a staple.

10. Dry Vermouth

No, I don't make martini cocktails, but when cooking many chicken recipes that ask for white wine, I find the vermouth, with it's herbal overtones, adds an especially nice flavor to certain recipes. It can also make a nice aperitif when served Ice cold with hearty and seasoned appetizers. The cheap brands can taste really dreadful, so get a moderately pricey one and use it sparingly.

11. Worcestershire Sauce

The "real thing", not a knock off imitation worcestershire, adds a pleasant taste, and helps the meat brown nicely. Again, the cheaper ones just don't seem to do right for your steaks, roasts and chops.

12. Chinese Five Spice

This spice is a blend used in Asian cuisine for soups, stir fry, even Chinese chicken salad. With this seasoning and a little soy sauce-- you can skip those expensive little packets of seasoning mix that have a lot of questionable additives.

What are your favorite basics ?


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    • Rochelle Frank profile image

      Rochelle Frank 2 years ago from California Gold Country

      Thank you. peachpurple. That's something I'll probably never cook, but I do like it with pork dishes.

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 2 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      I love chinese five spice powder, makes my pork belly crisp and tasty

    • Rochelle Frank profile image

      Rochelle Frank 8 years ago from California Gold Country

      Thanks. Tonight?-- Making burritos out of the leftover Mexican casserole.

    • marisuewrites profile image

      marisuewrites 8 years ago from USA

      A great list and description of some wonderful ingredients. I'd love to be in your kitchen when you're cooking! What's for dinner?

    • Rochelle Frank profile image

      Rochelle Frank 9 years ago from California Gold Country

      Me too!

    • RGraf profile image

      Rebecca Graf 9 years ago from Wisconsin

      I've learned to keep many of these on hand and I really use them.

    • Rochelle Frank profile image

      Rochelle Frank 9 years ago from California Gold Country

      Never used Cheerios or oatmeal in those ways--but why not? I'll bet the Cheerios give a finer textured "flour".

    • KT pdx profile image

      KT pdx 9 years ago from Vancouver, WA, USA

      Most of these I use as well! You can use Cheerios instead of corn flakes for a lot of things: fish breading, for example. I use oatmeal for thickening. It is my dad's "secret ingredient" for stews.

    • Rochelle Frank profile image

      Rochelle Frank 9 years ago from California Gold Country

      You can crush the cornflakes in a plastic or paper bag, using a rolling pin-- or in some places you can find an already crushed corn flake crumbs for breading, in a box. Thanks for reading.

    • mhei profile image

      mhei 9 years ago from Philippines

      I love cooking and you just gave me additional tips. Im using 5 out of the 12 tips. I didn't know that I can also use corn flakes!! Hey! thanks for sharing :)

    • Rochelle Frank profile image

      Rochelle Frank 9 years ago from California Gold Country

      Thanks for the additional tips and comments.

      For those of you looking for Blood Orange Vinegar , one brand is Perel. It is available in too few stores, but it can be found online.

    • Christoph Reilly profile image

      Christoph Reilly 9 years ago from St. Louis

      Thanks for the tips, Rochelle. I do a lot of cooking and have many of the items you list, but some I don't and will add them. Lots of good ideas here!

    • profile image

      RUTHIE17 9 years ago

      Great Hub....I use so many of the things everyone has listed already. Since ErikC mentioned freezing roasted peppers reminded me that in this season of bounty, I chop and freeze all 3 colors of peppers for later use. I've found there's less ice in the bag after a couple of weeks if you spread the chopped peppers out on a cookie sheet or cake pan (whichever fits in your freezer) and freeze and then bag.

    • ErikC profile image

      ErikC 9 years ago from Langley, BC

      Your list and mine match almost exactly, with the exception of the blood orange vinegar, as I have never heard of it before.

      If we can add frozen stuff to the list, then I never like to be without frozen peas as they lend themselves so well to so many dishes as an additive or even main ingredient (frozen pea soup is fast, easy and tasty!).

      And my step mother takes your red pepper idea one step further and roasts a bunch of them and stores them in little sandwich baggies in the freezer; major flavor and color boostage for lots of dishes!

    • lenwood profile image

      lenwood 9 years ago from Austin

      This is very cool. Now I'm not only hungry, I want to cook something. I had never even heard of grape seed oil or blood orange vinegar. Time to head to the grocery store...

    • Rochelle Frank profile image

      Rochelle Frank 9 years ago from California Gold Country

      You can actually get the crumbs packaged-- but it isn't hard to put the flakes in a plastic bag and crush them with a rolling pin.

      Thanks for commenting.

      Duck noodle soup? I wonder if my husband would notice of one of his ducks was missing.

    • Om Paramapoonya profile image

      Om Paramapoonya 9 years ago

      Rochelle, thanks for your nice little tips. I usually use Chinese five spice for duck noodle soup. It's really good. I've never used crushed corn flakes for breading, but I think I'll try it. :-)

    • Rochelle Frank profile image

      Rochelle Frank 9 years ago from California Gold Country

      Thanks everyone!

      Bob Ewing-- Glad to find your cooking hubs-- an inspiration.

      Chef Jeff-- Yes, i have to check yours out as well.

      Thanks, Veronica-- we all get hungry, don't we.

      Denise-- today I had some leftover boiled potatoes-- (sometimes I say "planned over") and some peas. I put them together with some broth, green onion, tumeric and pepper with chicken broth-- pureed the whole thing , cooked and added potato buds to thicken-- a litle asagio on top made a "Beautiful soup".

      Pam-- I do keep some of the boxed mixes on hand and I think the wholegrain rice-a-roni mixes are really good tasting. (they are also good in your leftover-inspired soup). I like the one with the barley in it, and it has inspired me to use more real barley in salads and soups.

      I also agree that there are lots of other great ingredients that can be used in different ways. Garlic is basic for me, as well. I had a hard time getting it down to a dozen-- but I thought there might be a few that people hadn't considered.

      I was going to add lemons or lemon juice.-- This is one ingredient I miss using as much as I used to. When I lived in Southern California we could hardly give away our excess lemons-- Now I find they are over a dollar apiece for small ones where I live now.

      I have recently started using cracked wheat as an ingredient-- it has a lot of possabilities --in another hub. :-)

      Thanks everyone.

    • Pam Pounds profile image

      Pam Pounds 9 years ago from So Cal Girl in the Midwest!

      Hi Rochelle - I keep about half of the items you mention in my pantry. I haven't yet added the Chinese 5 Spice, but I've been thinking about it....your hub just pushed me over the edge to get it!

      I also keep on hand Rice A Roni (the whole grain version), and canned black beans. Quick, easy and healthy side dishes. Balsamic vinegar for a quick salad dressing. Fresh garlic, and garlic powder. I could go on and on.

      I agree with Donna...we should meet somewhere for a potluck!!

    • DeniseClarke profile image

      DeniseClarke 9 years ago from Florida

      Great information ... I never thought about using dried potato flakes for thickening!


    • Chef Jeff profile image

      Chef Jeff 9 years ago from Universe, Milky Way, Outer Arm, Sol, Earth, Western Hemisphere, North America, Illinois, Chicago.

      Yep, ditto the above comments. I like to have a few things on hand for whenI cook, which is often enough that my lovely wife has come to enjoy my "culinary creation of the day."

    • profile image

      Veronica Bright 9 years ago

      Excellent Hub. Now, I'm hungry!

    • Bob Ewing profile image

      Bob Ewing 9 years ago from New Brunswick

      Nice list many good meals are possible if you have these handy.

    • Rochelle Frank profile image

      Rochelle Frank 9 years ago from California Gold Country

      Maybe we could meet in Independence MO or something... :-)

      You'll have to bring the crabcakes and fried green tomatoes.

      I'm going to do another cooking hub soon, I hope.


    • DonnaCSmith profile image

      Donna Campbell Smith 9 years ago from Central North Carolina

      I wish you lived close by and we coul have a pot luck dinner - I would like to taste some of your creations!