Slice of blueberry lemon loaf and latte

My Kitchen Must-Haves, Part 3 – Ingredients

I’ve been working on this post (mostly in my head) for such a long time. I’ve jotted down a few words here and there, started working on a blog post, created a note in the Notes app, but never got around to finishing it. Here’s hoping! Truth is, there are many different ways of eating out there, as well as diets, nutrition goals, and of course budgets. This is what I have come to rely on, what my recipes call for, and what I consider a must-have in my pantry or refrigerator.

Freshly Ground Black Pepper

How many times have you seen my recipe mention it? 🙂 I’d guess about 50 – that’s about how many savory recipes I have. And all of them have freshly ground black pepper listed as an ingredient and/or a topping. The biggest difference between a pre-ground pepper and a freshly ground kind is that it has flavor. It’s not just dried-up stuff that makes you sneeze, it’s flavorful too. Not to mention, it’s very pretty coarsely ground on top of dishes.
After reading Thomas Keller’s “The French Laundry” I switched to Tellicherry pepper. I used to buy a large bag on Amazon but now our local Wegman’s carries this.

I also have these electric salt and pepper grinders from Williams Sonoma – they make grinding large amounts of pepper so easy. But the regular pepper mill works just as well!

Flaky Salt

While we’re in the spice cabinet, let’s cover flaky salt also. Also called finishing salt, it’s true to its name and comes in big, light, quick-to-melt flakes instead of granules. They add a gorgeous finishing touch to steaks and roasts. My husband loves topping up these Short ribs with it as well.

I have seen a couple of brands out there. I bought Maldon for the first time so long ago I can’t remember when. It lasted me a long time.

Redmond Real Salt

For the regular table salt, I use Redmond Real Salt. It is sold in the fancier grocery stores around us but also on their website. We made the switch to it for the health benefits and unparalleled mineral content. It is America’s only pink salt, mined in Utah since 1958.


Ghee is clarified butter. Supposedly, it’s very easy to make – cook butter slow and low while removing the milk solids – but I’ll be honest, I’ve never tried making it. Yet! 🙂

The reason I like it is that due to milk solids being removed, it has a higher smoke point and it allows you to heat it a lot more than you could olive oil or butter. Thus, less smoke and better sear.


The king of cheeses always has a place in my cheese drawer. I wrap it in foil and it lasts weeks (if not months). In my freezer, I have a zip lock bag filled with Parmigiano-Reggiano rinds that I use to make my Tomato soup. I bought a piece of Parmesan (domestically made and less expensive but similar in taste) recently to try and to compare to my trusty Parmigiano-Reggiano. It tasted very good and very similar. I would use it for Caesar Salad dressing and grated on top of the salad, but not for pasta or Parmigiano-Reggiano crisps.

*I used to have a Cheese of the month column on my blog and Parmigiano-Reggiano was in the spotlight at some point.

Heavy Cream

I love making sauces from scratch. After cooking very regularly for the past 6 years I have come to create my versions of it made with very, very few ingredients. As can be seen in my recipe for Pork Rinds nachos or Basil Alfredo. If made immediately before serving, it’s comprised of very few and very basic ingredients and tastes infinitely better. Thanks to heavy cream!

This is it for my Must-Haves. If you were to raid my kitchen this very moment, you would find all these ingredients. If not, it’s on my grocery shopping list 🙂

Kitchen Like-to-Haves

There are some foods and ingredients that I really like but probably don’t always stock. But if I were to need any of them, these are the ones I enjoy:

Herbs – a whole basil plant. It costs a little more, but watering it a little makes it last a while. It brightens up any kitchen and smells wonderful.

Bacon – I’ve talked about Peter Luger bacon before and it’s still wonderful. Truly thick-cut bacon for a very special brunch or as a protein topping in an Avocado Bacon Caesar Salad.

Cheddar – Tastiest one for us is a Tillamook cheddar. It’s pricey, but it’s worth it. I love topping my Breakfast Sausage Casserole with it.

Bone broth – Ridiculously healthy and satisfying “snack” by Kettle & Fire. Again, not inexpensive, but very tasty and very good for you.

And that is all for this post and the series of my Kitchen Must-Haves! I did plan to have another part for the cookware, but I am in the process of trying to learn to cook without the non-stick pans. As such, I can’t confidently recommend them to you since I am considering moving away from them, and I can’t recommend the stainless steel instead since I am not using them 100%. So, this feels like a good place to finish these series – for now, anyway! 🙂

If you’d like to look at my recommendations for kitchen equipment and tools, here are the first two posts in these series:

My Kitchen Must-Haves, Part 1 – Equipment

My Kitchen Must-Haves, Part 2 – Tools

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