Posts Tagged ‘pantry’

What should I keep in my kitchen?

July 1, 2011 Leave a comment

So that first post was written about two years ago. I have finally taken the initiative to get this blog up and running. I’m still poor, tired of eating fast food, and trying to expand my cooking chops. I have made a lot of progress in those two years. I have a lot of the cooking basics down, and have started to experiment a little. I would like to share a few things I have learned along the way, and maybe record a few new endeavors.

Firsts things first, making a good home cooked meal is exponentially easier if you have a well provisioned kitchen. What you have in your pantry is directly related to how quickly and easily you are able to cook a good, nutritious dinner. One of the first excuses to pass my lips when I don’t want to cook is “We don’t have anything to make!” This tends to lead to an expensive and fatty dinner out. When you keep a few basics around at all times it’s much harder to make that excuse. What ingredients do I keep around the house? Since you asked…

Rice:  I go for the long grain brown rice in the bag. I’m talking the kind you have to cook for 45 minutes here. It sounds like a long time, but with a little planning you can cook larger batches less often. I must admit, I also keep a smaller box of minute rice around for those days that weren’t planned so well.

Beans:  I keep both dried and canned beans in my pantry. I have been making a serious effort to use more dry beans lately. As with the rice, some planning is needed for your dry beans endeavors. We will talk much more about beans later on.

Tuna:  Some people aren’t big fans of tuna, I love it. Its cheap, healthy, never spoils, and it works in many dishes.

Potatoes:  I keep a bag of red potatoes in the house all the time. They come in handy in a lot of dishes, and keep for a long time.

Onions:  I buy white onions by the bag. A few bucks for a bag gives you great flavor on sandwiches, salads, and just about anything you can fry in a pan, boil in a pot, or bake in an oven.

Other Vegetables:  This is where it gets a little tricky. I love to have fresh vegetables in the house. The problem is they don’t stay fresh very long. I don’t keep any one thing in the house all the time, but rotate depending on my mood. Most common are green leaf lettuce, tomatoes, and red bell peppers. I find putting a simple salad with bright green lettuce and the red tomatoes on the table with an otherwise dull dinner makes everything look more exciting. Broccoli, asparagus, brussel sprouts, and carrots are also semi regular guests in my refrigerator.

Oils and Fats:  There is always a big bottle of vegetable oil, and another of olive oil in my cupboard. There are many specialty oils available in most supermarkets, I usually buy these in smaller bottles and only use them from time to time. I also save grease from bacon, and the fat left over after I roast a chicken. These are kept in jars in the refrigerator. I normally have a few sticks of butter around as well.

Vinegar:  I keep a bottle of distilled white vinegar alongside a bottle of balsamic in my kitchen.

Herbs:  I like to have some fresh herbs in the refrigerator most of the time. Basil, thyme, rosemary, bay leaves, and oregano would be common in my house. As with the fresh veggies, I don’t always have these because they tend to spoil quickly. I do always keep dried basil, oregano, and parsley on hand.

Spices:  I always have a good variety of spices. Sometimes I pick something up at the store just because I have never used it. I suggest cumin, chili powder, paprika, season salt, and plain old salt and pepper as a starter kit. If you have none of these, pick up some salt and pepper, add the rest to your cabinet as you go. Your dried spices and herbs will last anywhere from one to three years on the shelf. If you open a container and can’t immediately smell the contents, its time to spring for a new bottle.

Flour: I like to have a bag of white all purpose flour, and a bag of whole wheat flour around. I have been working on my bread baking skills, so I also keep a bottle of active dry yeast in the refrigerator.

You might notice that I don’t have any meat on the list. I’m not a vegetarian, on the contrary, I really love a good pork chop, or roast chicken. We also do a fair amount of grilling at my house. Meat is not included on my list because it can be expensive and some types don’t keep for very long. I normally buy some type of meat once or twice a week, but don’t consider it one of the staples needed for a good pantry.

There you have it! This may look like a pretty overwhelming list. For anyone starting from scratch, I suggest you pick up two or three of these items each time you are in the store. You will have a well outfitted kitchen in no time. With these basics, there is nothing stopping you from becoming a great chef. With a little practice, you will be making the kind of dishes you wish you had been eating all along.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: , ,