key ingredient to cooking success is knowing a
little something about the ingredients themselves.
Here is some useful information on what to look for,
how to buy, where to store, and how to prepare meals
All-purpose flour is milled from the inner part of
the wheat kernel. It's a combination of hard
(high-protein, like bread) and soft (low-protein,
like cake and pastry) flours, and is suitable for
most uses. For best results, avoid bleached flour.
This dried seed pod comes from evergreen trees and
has the flavors of cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg.
This spice is also known as Jamaican pepper for its
peppercorn-like appearance, and its growth on the
island of Jamaica.
Almond extract is made from bitter-almond oil and is
usually combined with ethyl alcohol. If stored in a
cool, dark place, it will keep indefinitely.
Also called Green Chiles. Mildly hot.
Angel hair pasta
Spaghetti made in very fine strands.
Artichokes can be purchased fresh or canned. Use a
scissors to trim the top fourth of the outer leaves
and the stem. Soak to clean thoroughly. With a
stainless steel knife, slice off the top quarter of
the pale green cone. Rub all cut surfaces with lemon
to maintain color. Cook by steaming, or simmer in
boiling water with additional lemon juice, covered,
for 40 minutes, or until tender. Scoop out the fuzzy
choke with a spoon and discard. The artichoke heart
is below the choke.
An Italian cheese with a rich nutty flavor.
A derivative of baking soda. Baking powder is a
double action leavener that is activated when mixed
with a liquid.
Use this leavener with pastries that contain acid to
make them rise. Instead of baking soda, use baking
powder with recipes that contain little to no acid
(baking powder already contains acid).
A sweet but pungent vinegar. A bottle of
medium-quality balsamic vinegar will cost around
$10, and is well worth the price.
This leaf comes from the evergreen bay laurel tree
in the Mediterranean. If used whole, remove bay
leaves from a dish before serving.
Small, tight leaves that have a crunchy sweetness.
Black peppercorns are the strongest of all
peppercorns. You can buy black pepper as cracked or
finely ground, but freshly ground pepper is always
Tender, pale green leaves.
Brown sugar is white sugar mixed with molasses. To
create, add two tablespoons molasses to one cup
Butter can be purchased salted or sweet. For cooking
purposes, sweet butter can be purchased, since salt
can be added as needed to any recipe. For great
results, replace butter with Crisco butter flavored
Buttermilk is made by adding a culture to whole or
skim milk, giving it a thicker texture and a
slightly tangy flavor.
A neutral oil that is great for cooking, because it
is low in saturated fats and doesn't detract from
the flavor of the foods being cooked. For best
results, use Crisco Canola Oil.
Pickled small buds of the caper bush, known for
their pungent flavor.
An aromatic spice native to India.
A very hot pepper. Red when fully matured. Long and
Also known as garbanzo beans, chickpeas are often
used in salads.
There is a wide variety of chile peppers that vary
in hotness. Chiles can be purchased fresh, dried, or
in jars. To prepare: Remove seeds and membranes (or
leave seeds in to increase intensity), but be
careful not to touch your eyes after handling the
Chives belong to the onion family and can be snipped
to add flavor to salads or other dishes. The chive
plant is also an easy-to-grow perennial with purple
Chocolate can be bought as unsweetened, bittersweet,
semi-sweet, extra-bittersweet, and sweet. While some
of these chocolates can often be interchanged in
recipes, it is best to bake with whichever chocolate
is called for in your recipe.
An Indian condiment made of spices and fruits or
vegetables. Chutney can be purchased ready-made or
prepared using one of the many available recipes.
Somewhat similar in appearance to parsley, but its
distinctive, sharp flavor is used to make salsa.
A sweet-hot spice that comes from the inner bark of
a tropical evergreen tree, which curls into rolls
when dried. These rolls can be made into sticks, or
ground for powdered cinnamon.
A pungent and sweet spice, sold whole or ground.
Available sweetened or unsweetened, shredded or
flaked, moist or frozen.
A powdered sugar that is best for recipes that will
not be cooked. Best used in frostings or sprinkled
on top of baked goods.
Unlike other cooking sprays, Crisco Cooking Spray
contains no alcohol. It has a light taste and a
buttery aroma. Compared to the leading cooking
spray, Crisco Cooking Spray scorches less and has
over 120 more uses.
Crisco Canola Corn Oil has 25% less saturated fat
than corn oil, and like corn oil, has 14 grams of
fat per serving.
One of the most useful thickening agents in the
kitchen. Mix with a small amount of water before
adding to other foods.
Often mistaken for rice, couscous is actually a
pasta product. To cook, add equal amounts of
couscous and boiling water to a bowl. Cover and let
sit for about 15 minutes. Stir frequently to fluff.
Cream of tartar
An acidic, white powder that can be used to make
Adds a bitter taste to many curries, soups, stews,
and vegetable dishes.
Similar to raisins, but not as sweet.
A smooth, creamy French table mustard that is often
made with white wine. A delicious alternative to
plain yellow mustard.
A feathery annual herb, available fresh or dried at
the grocery store. Try growing your own by
sprinkling some seeds on the ground in the spring.
A relative of the tomato that is mild in taste, and
great grilled, broiled, sautéed, or roasted. Buy
eggplants that are long in shape. Keep refrigerated.
Mild licorice flavor. The feathery tops can be used
as an herb to flavor soups and stews. The broad base
is chopped for use in salads or other recipes.
Salty, soft white cheese that is often crumbled over
Available in the bagged salad section, field greens
offer convenience and variety.
One of the most important seasonings and a wonderful
cooked vegetable. Buy garlic loose and store at room
temperature in a dark and dry spot.
A thickening agent that, when dissolved in hot
water, thickens whatever food it's been added to.
Gingerroot can be purchased fresh in most grocery
stores. Simply break off the amount you need or a
small chunk. Prepare by peeling and finely chopping.
Store leftover gingerroot in a plastic bag in the
The white sugar used in everyday baking.
Also known as Scotch Bonnet. The hottest
commercially grown pepper. Generally green, red,
orange, or yellow in color.
Rich, sweet nuts that are often ground or roasted in
pastries, cookies, and other desserts.
An all-natural sweetener.
Fresh horseradish is known for its pungent, spicy
flavor. To prepare fresh: Scrub root thoroughly,
scrape brown peel, and grate as a condiment or as an
ingredient in marinades.
The traditional salad green. Try combining it with
other greens to add variety to your salads.
Italian-seasoned bread crumbs
Italian-seasoned bread crumbs typically combine
cheese and spices, such as oregano and parsley. If
you're out of bread crumbs, try this handy trick.
Usually green, but sometimes red. Moderately hot,
with an immediate bite.
Also known as a Mexican potato, jicama is a tuber
from Central America and Mexico. To prepare: Simply
peel immediately before serving for a crisp and
juicy snack. It can also be lightly cooked.
A member of the cabbage family. Prepare by removing
tough stems. If cooking, boil about 1 minute in
Pasta in wide, flat strips.
Mild and fresh flavor. Curly edged leaves often have
Leeks are members of the onion family that have a
milder taste and look like large green onions. To
prepare: Cut off base and tough dark green stems.
Slice remainder in half, and swish in water to
remove grit. Pull apart layers to be sure that all
dirt is removed.
Pasta in the form of tubes or in various other
shapes, often baked with cheese, ground meat, etc.
Although most people think of the mango as an exotic
fruit, it is actually one of the most commonly eaten
fruits in the world. Mangos usually range in color
from green to red, and the taste is described as a
combination of peach and pineapple or peach and
Mascarpone is thought of as cheese, but it is
actually pasteurized cow's cream that is fresh
tasting and spreadable. It is used in Italian
desserts, like Tiramisu, but it is also excellent as
a topping for green salads and fruit salads.
A perennial herb that is available fresh or dried.
Try it in tabouli salad. Mint is easy to grow, but
don't let it take over your garden.
Portobello mushrooms are often available fresh in
the grocery store. They have a meaty texture and are
versatile. Try them marinated and grilled as
interesting additions to salads.
Available fresh or dried. Very rich flavor is
excellent in dressings and marinades. To prepare
dried mushrooms: soak in very hot water for 20-30
minutes. Be sure to add some of the soaking water to
dressing or marinade recipes.
A nutty spice used mostly in baking. Use sparingly.
An all-purpose oil that comes in two different
varieties: "extra-virgin" olive oil, which comes
from the first cold pressing of olives; and "pure"
olive oil, which may be extra-virgin oils that
didn't make the grade.
Kalamata olives are dark purple/brown olives that
are imported from Greece. Their meaty, salty texture
is a great addition to salads.
Niçoise olives originated in France; they are
purple/black or green and milder than kalamata
A member of the mint family, used largely in Italian
Pasta that is shaped like rice, and can be used in
place of rice. Excellent in salads and main dishes.
Papayas are semitropical fruits that are sweet and
Ground dried red peppers.
Parsley is an herb. Use fresh Italian flat leaf or
curly parsley in salad recipes. Chopped, it makes a
pleasing addition to salads, both in appearance and
Parsnips are root vegetables that look like white
carrots. They have a sweet, nutty flavor. Try
cooking them just until they are tender and
sprinkling them with some fresh herbs for a simple
A cylindrical pasta.
There are a number of mild to hot peppers to choose
from when preparing a variety of dishes. Here are a
few of the more popular ones listed in order of mild
Anaheim (also called a Green Chile)—Mildly hot.
Jalapeño—Usually green but sometimes red. Moderately
hot, with an immediate bite.
Serrano—Red or green. Moderate to very hot, with an
Cayenne—Very hot. Red when fully matured. Long and
Habañero (Scotch Bonnet)—The hottest commercially
grown pepper. Green, red, orange, or yellow.
Basil, pine nuts, garlic, olive oil, and
Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Great with pasta.
Pine nuts are the edible seeds of pine trees and are
excellent additions to green salads.
Tiny black seeds from the poppy flower that add a
crunch and sweetness to muffins and other baked
Pomegranate seeds are attractive additions to green
or fruit salads. To prepare: Cut fruit in half and
Quinoa (keen-wah) is one of the oldest grains. It is
gaining popularity because of its nutritional
profile. It's considered a complete protein because
it contains all eight essential amino acids. To
prepare: Rinse quinoa to remove coating. Boil 1 cup
quinoa with 2 cups of water, and simmer for 15-20
minutes. When cooked, the quinoa will become
corkscrew-shaped. Add cooked quinoa to salad recipes
or use in place of bulgur wheat in tabouli.
A red miniature leaf with a slightly bitter flavor.
Gaining in popularity as a replacement for iceberg,
romaine lettuce has dark green leaves and a crunchy
An Italian hard cheese that is often used in
place of Parmesan cheese.
Corkscrew pasta that is often used in pasta salads.
Mild onions that can be trimmed and chopped for use
in salads. Green onions can also be grilled with
other vegetables. After the root end is trimmed,
almost all of the green and white part can be used.
Red or green. Moderatly to very hot, with an intense
A cross between onion and garlic that is subtle in
Crisco shortening contains 50% less saturated fat
than butter, blends more easily, and does not
require refrigeration. For easier use, try Crisco
Pasta in the form of long, thin strings, cooked by
boiling or steaming and served with a sauce.
A vegetable with deep green leaves that are suitable
for mixing with other greens or as the only salad
Often found as pre-bagged greens in the supermarket
section. Composed of the earliest greens, or baby
greens, for the most tender selections.
A licorice-flavored herb that is used in French
cooking, mostly with chicken or shellfish. Use
Sun-dried tomatoes add concentrated flavor. They are
either packed in oil or dry. To use the oil-packed
tomatoes, simply chop and add to your recipe, or use
in salads. Dried tomatoes should be soaked in hot
water for 15 to 30 minutes, and then chopped.
Vanilla comes in two forms: vanilla beans and
vanilla extract. In most cases, good quality vanilla
extract will be sufficient in a recipe.
Crisco Vegetable Oil is all-natural, and its light
taste makes it good for all of your cooking and
Spaghetti-like pasta, but in thinner strings.
Whole wheat flour
Whole wheat flour contains the germ and the bran
that has been removed from white flour. It is better
for you, but not everyone likes its stronger