The Stocked Kitchen

Do you hate grocery shopping?

I'm about to change your life.

I've always wanted to be the kind of person that cooks with whatever they already have at home. A person very much like my mom. I can't tell you how many times I have promised myself that I would keep inventory of all the food in my house, so that I could check at a glance whether we were out of ketchup or sugar or whatever. I always start a system, and then I lose interest.

I also hate the panic of not knowing what to make for dinner, not knowing what's in the fridge, and I can't even explain how much I hate writing and rewriting grocery lists.

Menu planning makes me cry, y'all.

Oh, and have I mentioned that I love cooking and real food? Prepackaged food makes me sad. Martha Stewart and Ina Garten are my idols. I'm just no good at the prep work.

So when I was offered a copy of The Stocked Kitchen I jumped at the chance, even if I was a little skeptical. Would the system ask me to stock my kitchen with branded junk and would the recipes be cutesy crap a la Sandra Lee?

I got the book and looked at the grocery list -- which is the basis of the system -- and I knew this would work. The whole system is based on this list, and if you keep your kitchen stocked with the items on this very reasonable list you will be able to make all the recipes in this book.

It's simply genius. All cookbooks should work like this.

The authors recommend going through your pantry and making sure you have everything on the list, and throwing out the stuff you haven't used in over a year. (Did you know I had a five year old container of blackstrap molasses hiding in my pantry? Neither did I!) I went to the grocery store and spent what I usually would spend on a week's groceries to fill out the rest of the list.

Then I opened the book at random, and made the easiest and most delicious skirt steak with gorgonzola you could ever hope for. The next day I made chili. I had all the fixings I needed for my lunch salad.

And as I ran out of things I just checked them off the list, so my next grocery list was always at the ready. I'm officially impressed and I highly, highly recommend The Stocked Kitchen as the basis for your everyday cooking.

What about your favorite recipes? We're always eating Austrian, Dominican and Colombian food, and as good as this book is, it just doesn't have our family recipes. Well, the master grocery list has come in handy for those obscure recipes as well: If you want to make something that isn't in the book, you simply look at your master list and see what ingredients you already have at home -- and you just write in the things you don't that aren't on the master list.

G.E.N.I.U.S.

(The book isn't out yet-- it's due in July-- but you can check it out on Amazon. I've asked the authors about an iPhone app and they are working on it!)