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Chef Tim Says....

In Your Pantry: Baking

What should I have in my kitchen?

For the last several weeks I have been writing about the healthiest choices for you to make at the grocery store. So far I have discussed different ideas for protein like meat, poultry and fish. While these are not strictly items for you to keep in your pantry the columns have focused on those ingredients that are the healthiest for you to buy.

When I started this series I wanted to discuss those items that you might keep in your pantry or fridge that would help you cook healthier because you have the right ingredients on hand. Now that the proteins are out of the way we can get on to that idea.

By focusing on baking items you'll stock your pantry with a lot of the raw ingredients for cooking healthy. Here's a list of items to have on hand. It's best to go out and buy what you don't have in a single shopping trip so that you have things on hand but you can add items as you need them if you prefer.

Whole Wheat Flour - Look for the words 100% Whole Wheat on the label.

All-purpose Flour

Baking Soda and Baking Powder

Quick Acting Yeast - Keep this in the fridge.

Wheat Germ - Best to buy “toasted” wheat germ. Keep it in the fridge after you open it.

Yellow Cornmeal - great to have on hand for cornbread but also making whole grain pancakes.

Splenda® or Stevia - For Splenda I purchase the large bag instead of using the single-serving packets.

Granulated Sugar

Light Brown Sugar

Confectioners Sugar

Dutch Process Cocoa - Like Hershey's®.

Egg Substitute - If you have a couple of the small cartons in the freezer, you'll always be ready.

Large Eggs

Light Spread such as Promise Light, Smart Balance Light or Take Control Light.

Non-fat Yogurt - If you like yogurt and are going to eat it for breakfast, it's economical to buy the quart size. Otherwise, buy it as you need it.

Buttermilk - This is the best stuff in your fridge. It really helps make baking easy. Because it is slightly acidic it reacts with the Baking Powder and Baking Soda to give the right lift to your muffins and quickbreads. It's the best choice for pancakes by far.

Applesauce - This doesn't work in every recipe but in some it can really help reduce the need for added fat. I buy the small single serving sizes so that I don't have to open too much.

Canned Pumpkin - This is so versatile and so good for you that I always have a couple of 15 ounce cans on hand.

Ground cinnamon
Ground nutmeg
Ground cloves
Ground ginger
Ground allspice
Pure vanilla extract

Pecan halves
Slivered almonds
Sliced almonds
Dried pumpkin seeds

Seedless Golden Raisins

There are a lot of other ingredients used in recipes like dried dates, fruits and other nuts, but if you have these basic ingredients on hand you can make hundreds of healthy baked goods. At the same time, most of these are ingredients you might use to make main course recipes. For instance, having the flours on hand along with the yeast will mean you'll always be able to make your own pizza dough.

Eat well, eat healthy, enjoy life!

Timothy S. Harlan, M.D.
Dr. Gourmet