In the kitchen of Tieghan Gerard of Half Baked Harvest, she works with classic ingredients and encourages readers of her blog to do the same. Be it butter, bread, sugar, or pasta, the kitchen staples she relies on have been central to the cuisine of humans for centuries. “My goal is to create a recipe that is delicious, colorful, and healthy-ish,” she tells Brit + Co. If you’re looking for *realistic* cooking tips that fit into your busy life, Gerard shares her go-tos with us that you can so recreate.

Always, always keep a well-stocked pantry.

While Gerard won’t turn her nose up at a paleo recipe (there are plenty on the blog), she firmly believes in balance to cultivate happiness at the dinner table. As she put it, when it comes to bread, butter, and cheese, “if you need it for your sanity, just do it.” Her unbiased love of ingredients has taught her the value of variety and a well-stocked pantry. In fact, she says the only hack you need in the kitchen is a thoughtfully curated stock of staples. “It’s going to save you,” she insists.

Furthermore, Gerard explains that an ample pantry allows you to master the art of semi-homemade. “You can get good products at Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, or places like that,” she explains. “There are good products out there that can help you with the base of your meal.” Gerard recommends keeping a store of roasted red peppers, oil-packed artichokes, high-quality pastas, and other quality marinated vegetables. She shares that a few key additions from your pantry plus a good sauce is the secret to your success, because it adds layers of flavor. “I’m really big on adding layers of flavor. I hate boring food; it’s no fun,” she says.

Prepare ahead of time for simple cooking.

Naturally, as a professional recipe developer she has more time in the kitchen than most of us. However, Gerard views it as her job to do the experimentation and deliver tested recipes that are “simple, basic recipes that have some sort of specialness to them.” Having just that little something extra is what will make you want to cook in the evening instead of ordering out. To get that little extra somthin’ somethin’, don’t underestimate the importance of preparation. If you have everything thought out for the week by Sunday night, then you’ll only have to go through the motions. Besides, the Colorado-based blogger points out, “If you enjoy cooking especially or you just want to be conscious of what you’re putting in your body, I think it’s important to know at least how to cook the basics or at least put a really simple meal together, because it’s cheaper. It’s healthier.”

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(Photos via Half Baked Harvest)