Always have good ingredients on hand.
Sometimes I need a meal at the last minute – in case of a surprise visitor or unpleasant weather when you don’t want to go out. I like to have some staples in my pantry that allow me to whip up a simple, delicious meal on the spur of the moment. I am assuming we all have various oils and seasonings on hand, as well as some chicken breasts, beef, and pork chops or tenderloin in your freezer so I am not including those in this recommended list.
Almond or cashew butter – This makes a great snack on crackers or spread on sliced apples. You can also whisk with tahini and water (equal parts) and drizzle over roasted vegetables.
Almond or rice flour – So many people are gluten-free that I’ve gotten used to using alternative flours to dredge chicken or fish before I sauté or roast.
Canned fish like tuna, salmon or anchovies – Easy to mash with a fork and make into a quick pate to serve on crackers or sliced cucumber. They can also turn into a pasta sauce with butter and lemon juice added.
Dried pasta – Pasta is always a crowd pleaser. Cipriani Pappardelle, Tagliolini and Rigatoni egg pastas get high marks.
Sun-dried tomatoes can be added to many things including pasta and chicken dishes. They can also be mixed with goat cheese for dips.
San Marzano Tomatoes have a fresh tomato taste. Cook them with chicken, or add broth and cream to make tomato soup
Dijon mustard is great whisked into a vinaigrette or as a marinade or sauce for fish or chicken or pork tenderloins.
Pesto sauce – Buitoni Pesto Sauce With Basil is great with chicken and pasta. $9.99.
Good chicken broth – Always a useful staple to have on hand. I like Swanson Organic Free Range Chicken Broth.
Olives – Great for an hors d’oeuvres or as an ingredient in many delicious dishes. Roland Kalamata olives are my pick. 4 lbs 6 oz. for $19.00.
Good roasted nuts – add to salads, chicken dishes or eat plain.
Artichoke hearts add a special flair to salads and chicken dishes. Cook’s Illustrated suggests that we avoid the marinated choices and add our own seasoning. Other disqualifiers are tough outer leaves or water-logged hearts. Their favorites are packed in brine with a lemony flavor. Pastene Baby Artichokes, $4.09 for a ten ounce jar.
Capers add a tangy flavor burst to pasta, chicken, fish and meat. They are actually very small pickles made from unopened flower buds. Premium capers come packed in salt, not brine. Il Mongetto Salted Capers, 7 oz. for $12.95.
White beans (Cannellini beans) have a creamy texture which goes well in soups, salads, casseroles and pasta dishes. They provide protein and are handy when serving a surprise vegetarian. They can be mashed and seasoned for dips. Goya Cannellini Beans, 15.5 oz. can, $11.99.
- Note: Don’t do what I do and let staples linger in your pantry. Here are some guidelines for keeping items fresh:
- Get rid of items you will never use.
- Get rid of items whose ‘best by’ date is long gone.
- Nuts & seeds are fresh for 3 months. Freeze them if you won’t use them up by that time.
- Get rid of oils after 3 months or if they smell rancid or taste bitter. Nut and seed oils spoil faster than others so maybe store them in the fridge.
- Herbs & spices are at their peak of taste for 6 months, after that they lose flavor and color.
- Whole grain flours & grains are good for 6 months, white flours are good for a year.
Here are some recipes with the above ingredients: