Thursday, October 02, 2014

31 Days - What's in Your Pantry Version

Every place I've ever lived has had a pantry. Well, that's if you count the metal cabinet we stored foodstuff in when I lived in a duplex my senior year of college. It should count, since it was almost bigger than the kitchen itself.

Pantries are great for storing all sorts of things, most notably dishes and/or glassware, and food. (I also had a junk drawer and a "tool" drawer in my pantry at the flat, as well as a place to store the bucket and car washing stuff in the cabinet under the counter in there, but that most likely isn't the norm for pantry items).

Today I'd like to run down the things I normally keep in stock in the pantry for cooking - the food portion, not the plastic and glass storage containers, baking supplies, casserole carriers and other stuff I also have crammed in my current closet sized pantry.

More than that, I'd love to hear in the comments what you consider a "must have" in your own pantry.

Here we go:

Canned tomatoes - diced, stewed, whole, crushed, salt free, seasoned, made into paste or sauce, canned tomatoes are incredibly versatile. I get down to three cans and I panic.

Canned mushrooms - this is a matter of personal taste. There are some (strange) people out there who do not like mushrooms. For certain recipes, and when fresh ones aren't available (translation: I don't want to go to the store) canned mushrooms are a necessity.

Canned fruit - pineapple and mandarin oranges, generally speaking. The pineapple goes in my lunch on those days I've run out of apples. The oranges are used in a number of recipes and on salads, as well as for the lunch box.

Canned beans - I've never successfully used dry beans. That's in part due to forgetting to start them soaking until it is too late, but honestly, I don't mind the canned. Kidney and pinto beans are sitting there ready to go into chili. Cannelloni beans joined the line up, as a new minestrone recipe became a favorite. Considering I'm really, really picky about eating beans, this is a pretty good stock pile.

Pasta, glorious pasta - Spaghetti, angel hair, elbows, mostacioli, ditalini, all sorts of other shapes. It's not just a matter of liking cute food (that may be part of it), as the different shapes hold different sorts of sauce more efficiently. You wouldn't use angel hair pasta with a heavy meat sauce, for instance, though you would use it with just butter and Parmesan cheese as a side dish.

Rice and other grains - brown rice and basmati rice are staples at my place. Whole wheat couscous is incredibly quick cooking and can substitute for rice under stir fries and other things. I adore barley, especially in the winter months. Wild rice is great in soups.

Kashi or Fiber One - cereal is not something I eat, but these are excellent toppers for yogurt.

Graham crackers, etc. - Wheat Thins, Triscuits and sometimes saltines round out the cracker bin. The grahams are great covered in peanut butter for a snack or as part of breakfast. The others most often find themselves under a slice of cheese. When I'm feeling fancy and have a lot of soup in the freezer, oyster crackers may make a brief appearance.

Dry milk - I hate to admit it, but I simply do not drink milk. It took about ten years and many wasted half gallons to figure that out. On the other hand, I do use it in cooking quite a bit. With dry milk, I can make only as much as I need, whether it is the three tablespoons I needed the other night, or two or three cups for a white sauce.

100% apple juice boxes - again, I don't drink it (I'm diabetic; the sugar in a cup of apple juice will quickly bring my blood sugar up when I need it fast, but on a regular basis, I'd rather just eat an apple). It's nice to have on hand, though for things like Maple Brined Pork Chops.

Pretzels - these are the go-to carb item in my lunches. It's incredibly rare not to see a bag - or two - in the pantry.

Oatmeal - both quick and traditional.

Instant potato flakes - while I love to cook potatoes several different ways, I hate making mashed potatoes.

That's the regular, always-on-hand list. There are always a few oddities that were purchased for particular recipes.

Then there are all the other things - not really foods in themselves, but things that help transform basic supplies into something sublime:

Vinegars - at the moment, I think I've at least five varieties hanging out.
Oils - good quality EVOO, plus regular cooking oil and a bottle of canola oil.
Worcestershire sauce
Cocoa powder
Non-stick spray - well, not for the taste, but to help with the dishes
Bouillon cubes and/or soup base - chicken, beef, vegetable
Anchovy paste and a can of anchovies - this is certainly personal taste
Boxes of stock - not always, but if there is a good sale I'll stock (heh) up.
Real bacon bits

Hmm. Without actually looking at the cupboards, I'd say that's about it for the absolute basics, at least for me.

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