Tag Archives: Kitchen

pantry essentials

10 Pantry Essentials Every Cook Should Have

You may have taken the first key step towards a month of great eating and ordered a ButcherBox, complete with high-quality grass-fed beef, heritage pork, and free-range, organic chicken.

But do you know what else completes a kitchen? Pantry staples, like high-quality oils, a few kinds of vinegar, dried herbs, and more.

This guide details the pantry essentials that make all the difference when preparing the delicious meals at home. The essentials that all cooks have a hands-length from their stoves include condiments like assorted vinegars, Dijon mustard, and soy sauce or their gluten-free variants. With a few of these, you can make everything from vinaigrettes and dressings to sauces, rubs, and much more.

Other necessary kitchen staples include canned tomatoes, which add richness to stews and soups, and dried herbs like oregano, rosemary, and thyme.

The best part? None of these staples are prohibitively expensive, and your individual purchase will probably last you quite a while.

1. High-Quality Oils

You can’t cook many meals without a cooking fat, and while grass-fed butter, ghee, or tallow might be an option, you should always keep a solid selection of healthy, high-quality cooking oils at hand.

These oils might include high heat friendly options filled with healthy fats, like avocado oil or coconut oil. For lower heat preparations, a solid bottle of olive oil should always be handy. You can even use good olive oil as a finishing touch, like a drizzle over salad or hummus.

Neutral oils like avocado oil or olive oil are also excellent bases for homemade salad dressings, and, if you’re really looking to up your pantry game, keep finishing oils like sesame oil or walnut oil on hand.

2. An Assortment of Vinegar

A good vinegar will take a good dish to great, and thankfully there are many options to choose from.

If you need to add acidic sweetness, reach for balsamic vinegar. In fact, dousing some caramelized red onions with balsamic vinegar and sugar is a sure-fire way to make a quick and delicious topping for burgers and steaks, while aged balsamic vinegar makes the perfect coating for grilled veggies.

Don’t stop at balsamic vinegar. Champagne vinegar adds a sweet note to homemade vinaigrettes, while apple cider vinegar boasts so many purported health benefits it’s hard to keep count. You can even throw it into homemade barbeque sauce for a unique bite.

Even plain old white vinegar has its place in a pantry. It’s as useful for making crispy pickles as making homemade kitchen cleanser.

3. Dijon Mustard

Yellow mustard has its place, but nothing heightens a dish more than a dollop of Dijon mustard. The traditional French mustard is made with brown mustard seeds, white wine, and a verjus made from unripe grapes. This verjus is what gives Dijon mustard its distinct, tart flavor.

Use Dijon mustard in a homemade vinaigrette for a crisp salad, or as part of a rub for various cuts of meat. These rosemary brined pork chops are a perfect example.

The best part about Dijon mustard? While it sounds fancy, it’s a pretty affordable condiment, with the store brand bottles rarely costing more than $3 and the fancy stuff only clocking in at $5 or less.

4. Soy Sauce/Tamari/Coconut Aminos

What’s the best way to build umami into your dishes? Soy sauce, a sauce made from fermented soybeans, roasted wheat, and cultures, is the ultimate, inexpensive umami condiment.

Of course, many people question the nutritional impact of soy sauce. If you’re gluten-free, a specific type of soy sauce, tamari, can be made without gluten.

If you avoid soy and grains entirely, coconut aminos, a sauce made from coconut tree sap and salt, is a great alternative. While a bit less pungent and a tad sweeter than traditional soy sauce, it still packs umami flavor into dishes.

Use soy sauce or any of its alternatives in Asian-inspired fare, like this ginger pork noodle soup.

5. A Solid Hot Sauce

While the hot sauce category is vast, your favorite hot sauce is a kitchen essential. Why? Because it can be doused on most anything and elevates the flavor of whatever you’re noshing on.

Do you prefer Asian flavor profiles? Reach for the less hot, slightly sweet Sriracha, or pack in the chili garlic flavor with sambal.

Mexican and Latin America hot sauces are another great category: The options are many, but most sauces feature some kind of vinegary heat and potentially a kick of citrus like lime.

Channel pure Americana with Tabasco or Louisiana hot sauce. There are, literally, thousands of hot sauces to choose from.

Use your favorite hot sauce to jazz up a simple breakfast of eggs and bacon, or incorporate it into vinaigrettes and sauces for a little kick.

6. Dried Herbs

Like hot sauce, the selection for dried herbs is vast. And while it’s great to build out your spice cabinet and experiment with various herbs, there are a few essentials we’d recommend always having on hand.

Dried oregano, basil, rosemary, and thyme — commonly sold together as an Italian seasoning blend — lend bright flavors to any dish you whip up and are much more convenient in a pinch than fresh herbs.

Other dried herbs we’d consider staples include dill, which is perfect in anything from pickles to salads, and dried bay leaves, which lend depth to soups and stews.

If you’d really like to pad out your spice cabinet, add dried marjoram, ground coriander, dried mint, dried sage, and dried tarragon.

7. Coconut Milk

Canned coconut milk is a treasure, and not just because it’s suitable for most diets. The silky, fatty substance lends richness to any dish it touches, and won’t spoil as quickly as refrigerated alternatives like heavy cream or milk.

Despite it including coconut meat, coconut milk is a fairly neutral, non-dairy way to add creaminess and heft. Use coconut milk to add creaminess to soup, braise meats, or add silky texture and flavor to rice.

Pro tip: Stock up on cans of coconut milk. Whichever ones you don’t use for savory dishes, use them to make dairy-free sweets like no-churn ice cream.

8. Nut and Seed Butters

What’s your favorite? Peanut butter, almond butter, cashew butter, tahini? Whichever nut or seed butter you prefer, it’s bound to serve many uses in your kitchen.

You can, of course, use nut butters to spread on toast, add protein to smoothies, and bake up some delicious cookies. But nut butters have serious culinary uses, too.

Peanut butter or almond butter both make excellent Asian-inspired sauces, like in this Thai almond soba noodle salad. Tahini tastes delicious in Mediterranean fare. Try it drizzled over these Mediterranean meatballs.

9. Canned Tomatoes

Whether you’re whipping up a sauce for pasta, throwing some chili in the crockpot, or cooking up beef stew or pot roast low and slow, canned tomatoes are so useful.

You can find canned tomatoes in many forms, from canned tomato paste to whole, peeled tomatoes in a can. It’s good to have a variety of these options on hand for whatever you may need. They’re inexpensive and can add flavor to nearly any dish, like this fennel and tomato Italian pork shoulder.

10. Good Salt and Black Pepper

It’s a bit of a given that you should have salt and pepper on hand. It’s rare to not add it to a dish in the kitchen. But not just any salt or pepper will do.

Iodized table salt is the most common option, but it’s not exactly the healthiest one. It’s bleached, devoid of trace elements, and often contains additives. Also, it just doesn’t taste as good as sea salt crystals.

Sea salt comes from the ocean, and is evaporated to separate the salt crystals from the water.

(Another option: ButcherBox Chef Yankel always recommends having Kosher salt on hand for seasoning steaks.)

For pepper, whole peppercorns that can be cracked in a pepper mill lend the best flavor.

Photo by James Harris on Unsplash

The ultimate brunch food with a unique history – Quiche

Check out one of our favorite breakfast recipes, our bacon and Swiss quiche from Head ButcherBox Chef Yankel Polak, below.

Quiche is the ideal brunch food. Yes, better than French toast, cinnamon rolls, and even any combination of fried eggs and cheeseburgers. 

It is a delicious, easy to make brunch dish that is a veritable opera of European appropriation. I mean, the word ‘quiche’ carries with it the assumption that it is a culinary dish derived from some famous French culinary experiment.

Quiche has a pretty extensive history, with recorded dishes going back to the 12th century. Although back then, it went under a different name.

A Continental brunch dish

Quiche, you see, is actually believed to have originated in Germany. According to foodreference.com, the savory breakfast food was first concocted in the medieval German kingdom of Lotharingia, which stretched across France, Germany, Luxembourg, Belgium, and the Netherlands. The area where the dish is believed to have derived was called Lothringen in German — it was a German kingdom at the time— but was later annexed by France and renamed Lorraine. The word ‘quiche’ itself comes from the German word for cake, ‘Kuchen.’

According to history, the original ‘quiche Lorraine’ — as it is called — was “an open pie with a filling consisting of an egg and cream custard with smoked bacon.” Over time, cheese was added to the dish that we now call quiche Lorraine.

According to Chef Yankel, it was “traditionally made in a more delicate version, similar to a tart.”

As a brunch food, the quiche, or breakfast pie, gained popularity in France over a long period of time; however, it really grew in esteem in the US during the 80’s and 90’s, as a way to prepare breakfast ahead of time. As an easy-to-make “breakfast casserole,” it became a suburban cuisine staple; sometimes.  Quiche even appeared at holidays — think back to whether or not you recall a quiche featured prominently at a past Easter brunch — as well as, strangely, cocktail parties and other gatherings.

Breakfast pies are popular in various forms

But we are most familiar with it as a brunch food in pie form. 

And, while both pie-like, a quiche is also not a frittata, just to set the record straight. A frittata is an Italian egg dish — this is also quite popular as a brunch dish — similar to an omelet. It is actually, more of a crustless quiche which combines scrambled eggs, a meat — like ham or bacon — and some vegetables. 

On the opposite side of the breakfast food equation is the dutch baby, which is a popover or bread pudding that can be filled with fruits or maple syrup. Bascially, like a frittata is a quiche with out a crust, a dutch baby is like a quiche without the egg filling.

A love it or hate, quiche is the perfect brunch food

Knowledge of the dish’s rich history is not where the story ends for ButcherBox’s Chef Yankel.

“Personally, I have a love/hate relationship with eggs,”Chef Yankel says.

“I was an egg cook for some time at Eastern Standard, working brunch two days a week. During each shift, I would cook at least 150 omelets to order — and we could not serve an omelet if it had even a tiny bit of brown on it. We also had to do 200 to 300 orders of scrambled and fried eggs as well,” he explains. “I’d end each shift covered in eggs.”

And for Yankel and his team, quiche became the balm. “Quiche became one of those pre-made items we could serve to take some of the heat off my station.”

“So while I’m really freaking good at cooking a ton of fried eggs at the same time, and I totally enjoy eating them with a nice cut or ham or some maple sausage, the combination of eggs and brunch is one of those nightmarish experiences anyone who’s put some time into the service industry is familiar with.”

But rest assured, our delicious quiche recipe, with our amazing heritage-breed pork bacon, pays the proper homage to the historical origins of the dish. 

Plus, it’s easy to make.

“Quiche is a set-it-and-forget-it kind of dish, really simple to put together, and easy to cook well,” said Chef Yankel. “It has a great shelf life in the fridge and is totally customizable in terms of what you want to flavor it with, it is really one of the best brunch ideas.” So you can put it together really quick in a casserole dish or pie pan and spend more time on the bloody mary mix, hash browns, and coffee cake.

So skip the homemade buttermilk pancakes, eggs benedict, or any other complicated and challenging to make breakfast foods. Give Quiche Lorraine or our own gluten-free recipe below. You won’t be disappointed by the amazing brunch dish, and you’ll likely have 

Chef Yankel’s quick “Bacon and Swiss Quiche” recipe:

The crust and the filling can be made the night before a brunch or cooked the night before and reheated. This is one of Chef Yankel’s favorite brunch recipes and serves six and takes 20 minutes to prepare and 60 minutes to cook. This version is healthy and gluten-free, with almond flour making a fabulously nutty crust.

  • Quiche Dough:
  • 2 c almond flour
  • ¼ tsp sea salt
  • 2 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 egg
  • Quiche Filling:
  • 6 slices ButcherBox bacon diced into ½ pieces
  • 3 Eggs1 ½ c heavy cream
  • 1 tsp chopped sage
  • ¼ tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg
  • ⅛ tsp salt
  • ¼ c grated swiss cheese


  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. In a food processor, pulse to combine salt and flour. Add coconut oil and egg and pulse to form a ball.
  3. Press dough into 9.5” pie dish and bake 8 to 12 min or until lightly browned, set aside.
  4. Sauté bacon until crispy, drain, pat dry and sprinkle on bottom of quiche crust. Sprinkle Swiss cheese on top of the bacon.
  5. Whisk together remaining ingredients and pour into quiche crust.
  6. Bake on middle rack of oven for 35 to 40 min or until golden brown and set.
  7. Let rest at room temperature for 20 more minutes before slicing and serving. Happy eating!


A chat with Cassy Joy Garcia, the force behind Fed and Fit

Cassy Joy Garcia is a truly inspirational entrepreneur. 

Talking with her recently, Cassy’s exuberance and passion for Fed and Fit —the healthy eating and mindset project she founded — and more importantly, life in general, was apparent within moments of starting our discussion.

Cassy has been blogging about living a happy, healthy life since 2011. In her early twenties, the Texas A&M University graduate dealt with consistent joint pain, fatigue, and anxiety. Figuring that a change in her diet, and the type of foods she was eating, might make a difference, she not only started learning about nutrition but began writing about her experiences as well. 

Shifting to a grain-free, dairy-free, artificial ingredient-free lifestyle, what she describes as “Paleo before I knew that Paleo was a thing,” Cassy felt better, lost weight, and had more energy. She started writing about her experiences to share what she had learned with family and friends. That has evolved into Fed and Fit, a company built around Cassy’s nutrition and lifestyle advice, recipes, a book, podcasts, and a massive community of like-minded souls.

I’m sure you will thoroughly enjoy our conversation (which happened in the last weeks of Cassy’s pregnancy) and I can only hope that the joy she has for Fed and Fit, and helping others comes through in our talk. 

ButcherBox: Cassy, great to chat. Can you tell our readers about how Fed and Fit came to be?

Cassy Joy Garcia: I’m a  certified nutrition consultant, but I started my blog before that happened. About eight or nine years ago. I started to try some sort of a Paleo-type diet. I had dieted for years before that with no real success and then started a “real-foods-type” of a protocol. This is kind of before Paleo is the thing it is today, so that’s not what I called it.I just thought that it made a lot of sense nutrition science-wise as far as being anti-inflammatory, and it worked.

After about nine months I wanted to figure out how to turn it from a diet into a real-life solution because I had felt so great for the first time in my life.

Prior to this breakthrough, in my early twenties, I had some joint pain that was pretty debilitating and was always kind of sleepy. But you know, when you live with these sort of chronic conditions you don’t realize that they’re optional. So when those started to clear up is when I really realized that I wanted to keep eating that way, so I started to get creative in the kitchen and came up with different recipes instead of just eating grilled chicken and steamed broccoli every night.

I guess a major milestone came about nine months later when I really realized how far I had come and after eating mostly real foods, eliminating grains, eliminating artificial sweeteners, eliminating all the unhealthy fats, and also incorporating a mixed fitness program that had a lot of strength training in it. I had gone down a grand total of five dress sizes, from about a 10-12 to about a 2-4, but I hadn’t lost really a lot of weight because I built a lot of muscle over that time. My joint pain was gone and I had more energy than ever; I was sleeping better, too. All that wonderful stuff! And I had friends and family who were asking me what I was doing, and what I was eating, and so, the easiest way for me to share that was on a website.

So I started a website and it just blossomed from there. I had folks who started to find the website and ask really great questions as time went on, and so, in order to answer their great questions, I went back to school to get better answers. That’s when I became a nutritional consultant through Bowman College.

From that point, I could work with folks one-on-one. When my docket of clients was full —you know my dance card was essentially too full to take on any more clients — I turned that into an online program, that I called the Fed and Fit project.

BB: Which led to a book, right?

CJG: Eventually, I took the program and combined with about almost 200 new recipes which turned into my first book. Published through Victory Belt, Fed & Fit came out in the fall of 2016. Its got a copy of the program in there, of course.

Things with Fed and Fit just kept growing. The online program is a bit more robust now. Also, I got involved in not just food, but in a larger education piece.

It’s not just about giving somebody a really great casserole recipe, it’s about educating them on why these ingredients are important and why it can really make a big difference to cook from home more often than not.

Now I operate from the standpoint that knowledge is power. I think that when we know better we do better, not only in relation world around us and how to make an impact on folks weight loss goals — because that’s usually what draws people in first — but also in terms of the impact we can have on just the health of the of the earth overall and our pocketbooks long-term when it comes to medical costs. There’s also the impacts we’re having long-term on the health of our family and our loved ones, so I’ve gotten into some more lifestyle coaching with Fed and Fit.

Now we talk about safer skincare ingredients and the sourcing of that. We dive into that a bit more in the podcast.  It’s just kind of taken off. We’ve been able to build a very nice small team of nutrition consultants and therapy practitioners at Fed and Fit, and we’re just working to bring good content out.

BB: What was the experience of writing the book like? Was that something you’d thought you’d do for a long time?

CJG: You know it was definitely a goal of mine. I feel like I’m an educator at heart, and I had a lot of things that I wanted to teach.

A book really just made a lot of sense. It was a really good and concise place to write my ideas in one spot. Writing a book definitely became a goal of mine when I realized professionally that Fed and Fit was my path. 

What I learned from the process was that it is best not to rush into it. I really took my time with that book, and I probably could have published a book years before, but I decided to wait until I really felt like I was answering a need. 

Also, writing a book is a lot of work and takes a lot of patience. But then again, there’s no substitute for really hard work and doing the research and taking your time. Additionally, it was important to make sure I was asking my audience for their thoughts throughout the process. Ask what would serve them well and what kind of information they were looking for.


BB: What has been surprising, looking back, on building a business around the blog posts, the book, the podcasts, and more?

CJG: I think one of the things that I like to tell folks who think that they want to become a full-time blogger is that there are no shortcuts. I think that especially when it comes to starting a program and writing a book and really figuring out how to serve people, you have to be out there. You have to listen to what questions are being asked, and there’s no shortcut for that.

There’s no shortcut for listening to questions that your readers are asking and doing the research, trying to bring them better content, and then, sometimes, going back to the drawing board. Also, when you write constantly, you are in an always in edit/draft/publish mode. I think that that’s really important to understand, that and knowing that you can’t just come out with a program, take an Instagram class, and in turn a blog into a business overnight.

You have to really be serving people and figure out what it is that they’re looking for.

BB: What’s next for you and Fed and Fit?

CJG: That’s a good question. You know, we’re chatting in January, so we have all these new folks enrolled in the Fed and Fit project in January. They’re just some of the most excited and engaged people, and so it’s a lot of fun to work with folks who understand that the point of the project is not to just be another diet.

It’s great to constantly be learning what works for your body and working with people to have those “A-ha” moments when they realize they don’t have to be shackled to a dieting program the rest of their lives. It is really rewarding. 

I also really love the lifestyle piece. I’m kind of moving my blog content in a direction that is not just some recipes and some nutrition science facts but more towards how to make good decisions in our everyday life. I like talking more about the products we’re using in our homes to clean, the products we’re using on our bodies, and how we’re making those decisions. We like to present that information in a way that it allows folks to make those decisions for themselves. It’s a really fun riddle to solve.

I’ve always loved getting into the lifestyle stuff in the podcast because that just jives really well with my personality.

BB: How has your pregnancy impacted some of the content and work you are doing with Fed and Fit?

CJG: On a personal note, the pregnancy definitely brings to mind that I’m not just eating these nutrients for me but that I’m eating them for the two of us. So the priority has been on, for example, pastured beef and making sure I’m getting in those organ meats. So that perspective has definitely shifted and solidified in a sense. Even though it’s always been a priority.

I definitely think that Fed and Fit is also going to continue to grow as our family grows in terms of content. It’s a balancing act between the decisions we’re making in the home, and then what we publish on the blog. It has been a pretty fun adventure, but yeah, we will have more baby and family columns coming out in the future.

BB: That’s fantastic, good luck. Shifting a bit, when and how did first learn about grass-fed beef?

CJG: Oh, man, it was so long ago. I really don’t remember where I first learned about it.

I try to tell folks considering where to invest their grocery dollars is that one of the best investments you can make on your grocery bill is in really high-quality proteins and high-quality fats. If you’re looking for a place to really splurge that it would be there because of the benefits of pastured proteins — truly grass-fed and grass-finished proteins.

It can have such a tremendous positive impact on our health when you think about the fats and the absence of hormones and antibiotics that conventional cattle and other livestock are fed. I really try to prioritize those healthy proteins above all.

BB: What differences do you notice between grass-fed v. grain-fed meat?

CJG: I think that as with any industry, someone is going to muddy the waters with marketing, so it’s on us as consumers have to be more and more diligent about making sure we’re getting exactly what we want. When we go to the grocery store, and we pick up something that says grass-fed beef, and it’s cheaper than the other grass-fed beef sitting next to it, you have to realize that there’s a chance that it’s not actually grass-fed, grass-finished. 

I think it is important for consumers to also be really vigilant about knowing and doing research on the companies that you are sourcing your products from.

I love ButcherBox because I trust the sourcing process that you guys go through. And I trust you to recommend the best to my readers.

We need to make sure that we’re going with companies that are going the extra mile for us. So while it’s okay to get some of those proteins from the grocery store, it’s better to go through a real-life cow share with somebody or a rancher that you know and trust or a company, like ButcherBox that has gone the extra mile to source those proteins.

BB: What else should we look for from Fed and Fit in 2018?

CJG: So we’ve got some big things coming out this year.

Number one will be a new podcast kind of unrelated to Fed and Fit. We’re going to call it “The Joy Report,” and we’re just going to share what it seems like people are really hungry for: Positivity and good news. We’re gonna share really fun stories that we get from around the world, so, we’ll probably have that coming out sometime this spring.

I am also working on some sort of a casserole business. We want to make it so that folks will be able to actually order a casserole and have it delivered to them.

Lastly, there may be the potential for another book in the works.

BB: Wow, that’s a lot! Cassy, it has been great meeting you and hearing about Fed and Fit. Most importantly, good luck with the soon-to-arrive baby! 

CJG: Thank you!

BB: To learn more about Fed and Fit, check out Cassy’s website. Also, you should definitely check out the podcast and the Fed & Fit book.