Tanorria Askew, author of “Staples +5,” prepares Apple Pie Dip and Cinnamon Sugar Chips at Bold Fork Books in the Mt. Pleasant neighborhood of D.C. on March 23. The culinary bookshop also gives cooking demonstrations. (Roy Lewis/The Washington Informer)
Tanorria Askew, author of “Staples +5,” prepares Apple Pie Dip and Cinnamon Sugar Chips at Bold Fork Books in the Mt. Pleasant neighborhood of D.C. on March 23. The culinary bookshop also gives cooking demonstrations. (Roy Lewis/The Washington Informer)

Staples +5 Cookbook

Tanorria Askew discussed her cookbook “Staples +5." An Indianapolis-based private chef and former contestant on "MasterChef," Askew desires to make cooking more accessible to all using fresh ingredients.

With busy lives, we have all tried shortcuts for our everyday needs. Now there are solutions to the “what’s for dinner” dilemma with the new cookbook “Staples +5: 100 Simple Recipes to Make the Most of Your Pantry” by Tanorria Askew.

A personal chef and former contestant on “Master Chef,” Askew delivers the basics for items in your pantry, plus five add-ons to ensure meals are prepared without fuss. If you grab this cookbook, calling for meal delivery slides downward.

Bold Fork Books in the District’s Mt. Pleasant neighborhood was the site on March 23 hear from Askew and see a cooking demonstration. Our delicious treat from the demo was a recipe from her cookbook “Staples +5,” Apple Pie Dip with Cinnamon Sugar Chips. Askew created this appetizer/snack recipe to satisfy her Dad’s love for apple pie, but with fewer carbs. Prep time was 15 minutes.

“I’m a firm believer in moderation with ingredients,” said Askew, whose consultancy is in Indianapolis, Ind. “This is a wonderful party treat in a nice light way when you’ve had a heavy meal.”

Down to the Basics

Following the cooking demo, we participated in a chat with Askew led by Aaron Hutcherson, food writer and recipe developer for “Voraciously” in The Washington Post. Askew shared her approach to basic accessible food staples by recognizing how difficult it can be to have a variety of fresh ingredients on hand.

The list of ingredients in the cookbook appears to be a lot because they add up to 35 staple items. “Staples +5” gives eight groups for organizing your pantry. The categories for staple ingredients include baking, cans and cartons, meats and dairy, oils and vinegars, produce, condiments and sauces, rice, beans and pasta and seasonings and spices. When I looked at Askew’s list, I realized I had all but three ingredients on her list. There may be items within categories you don’t like, but that’s okay. Once pantry basics are in order, you can add five additional ingredients depending on the recipe. Without the extra five, you will still have more than enough ingredients to prepare recipes in “Staples +5.”

Why Pantry Staples Matter

“This concept for the cookbook came out of me building my brand,” Askew said to Hutcherson about her southern and midwestern roots. “I grew up in a household where everything was made from scratch. There was not a can or boxed anything. What I had in my pantry was the stuff I grew up learning what to cook with, and they were ingredients that build.”

Askew is also committed to cooking accessibility for all, regardless of one’s background. She loves cooking the way she learned from her parents and grandparents but has figured out how to use other ingredients and not lose flavor.

“A lot of times, people assume that some cultural things are automatically bad. Like fried chicken, collard greens and sweet potatoes are bad,” Askew said about what some people perceive about certain foods. “Do I have to let go of my cultural foods to be able to eat healthily?”

Minor adjustments can make a difference when striving to change nutritional goals. Askew recommends experimenting with substitutions like honey, maple syrup, or coconut oil. She now has her parents using avocado oil.

To produce “Staples +5,” Askew drew upon her past life as a corporate Diversity and Inclusion practitioner.

“I was adamant that the team had to be women and/or women of color as much as possible,” Askew said. “All of the hands involved, from my food photographer to the chef on-site to the food stylist, makes me feel really good.”

Askew did leave us with a “can’t fail” recipe from “Staples +5” that has been a hit.

“It’s the Lemon Spaghetti with Garlicky Roasted Shrimp,” Askew said. “As impressive as it sounds, it is just as easy.”

“Black Girls Eating” is Askew’s podcast with co-host Candace Boyd where they celebrate sisterhood, food and Black culture. Askew has several demonstration videos on YouTube.

Brenda Siler is an award-winning journalist and public relations strategist. Her communications career began in college as an advertising copywriter, a news reporter, public affairs producer/host and a...

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