Cooking from your pantry

I think this week I will just talk to you about stocking your pantry with basic foods and spices. That will open the door to a variety of quick and simple dishes just by keeping the right ingredients on hand. We always keep salt, pepper and garlic but how about cumin, basil, oregano, dill, dried cilantro and parsley, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. We are all guilty of buying one of those cute spice racks with a huge selection of labels and never filling all of the jars-‘or maybe you do but never use them. It does look nice hanging on the wall. Another is those pretty tall glass corked jars to fill with oil or vinegar and add fresh herbs. Buy staples that will keep and are there when you want them. I know we all dread going to the store after work when all we want to do is go home, get that big baggy T-shirt on and fall into a chair. Then the thought of cooking dinner is like walking on hot coals. In the pantry, try to keep instant rice and pasta for a quick side dish and just add some chopped or canned vegetables or spices with a little olive oil. I always keep chicken and beef broth on hand, so cook your rice or pasta in broth rather than water which adds great flavor. Keep a variety of canned tomatoes and beans. Garlic, onions and potatoes are the starting place for many great recipes. Keep bottled salsa, pasta sauces and pesto sauce on hand for quick toppings. Mixed with cream cheese, they make a fun spread for crackers. Parmesan cheese and Velveeta keep well, too. In the freezer, try to keep some frozen breads, biscuits and rolls. Some of the frozen dinner rolls are really quite good, and you can thaw and roll them out and add a dollop of canned pie filling or preserves and bake a fruit pie. Sprinkle it with cinnamon and sugar when it comes out of the oven. You can make a supper appetizer by using mushrooms, cream cheese and frozen spinach as the filling for the roll or use your imagination. You can use the frozen French bread and make little pizzas, or if you need bread crumbs, just put some in the food processor with garlic powder, basil and oregano and coat some chicken. Bake it in the oven and it will taste great. When we were kids, my mom made us cinnamon toast at night for a treat. Just spread butter, cinnamon and sugar on your bread and pop it in the broiler for a couple of minutes. Keep frozen vegetables on hand to toss with that rice or pasta or stir fry with some meat you have left over. You can make a very easy soup with those canned tomatoes, chicken stock, vegetables and pasta…then get that frozen bread out and heat with some butter and garlic. We always keep eggs and butter on hand, too, and if you do not use a lot of milk, just buy the smaller sizes or canned for a quick sauce or gravy. You can melt butter, add a little flour and milk to make a basic white sauce and then add whatever seasoning you want to top meat or vegetables. Try to keep staples of quick cuts of meat like chicken breast, pork chops, frozen shrimp and hamburger for week night dinners as they cook faster. Save the big roast and ribs for the weekend. Buy the bigger packages and divide them in freezer bags. Sit down and relax over the weekend and make a grocery list. Then, go get the items on your list so you won’t have to think about it during the week. Just plan ahead and relax with your family and enjoy family time around the table. I may be rambling today, but when I start thinking of all the different things that can be added to basic food groups, I could go on for hours, but I am sure the newspaper staff would not like that’ Happy dining’Barbara.

Leave a Comment