Thursday, February 14, 2013

PANTRY STAPLES: A look at what I always have on hand.

I've been asked several times to write this post and had every intention of getting around to it but I'm just now finding the time! 

I think it's important to figure out what you use most often and always keep a stock of those items. It will mean that on any given day, you're able to whip up dinner without tons of forethought or special shopping trips to pick up one or two things.

I decided to take a peek in my refrigerator first.  

You will always find low sodium soy sauce in my fridge, and several extra bottles in my pantry. I use it all the time in every season. I only buy low sodium - I prefer to be in control of the amount of salt I put in my dishes.
Here are some recipes that I love that have soy sauce in them:

Sriracha! I'm posting this one with a picture because I've received several questions about it. I LOVE SRIRACHA! It adds an awesome kick to whatever you're making. It's a Thai style hot sauce made from chili peppers. I throw this in lots of things - including some of the recipes I linked to above like the Kung POW! Chicken and Soy Flank Steak. I also throw it into my Beef Stir Fry.

 I know what you're thinking...Dijon? Really? Yes, really. I love anything that stays good for a long time and adds a punch of flavor. Its also in my Soy Flank Steak marinade and sometimes I'll add it to random dishes, like Chicken Parmesan. I'll mix it in with my eggs and water (usually about 1T).

Well, this should come as a surprise. Not! I LOVE low-fat cream cheese. I even keep extras in my freezer so that I am never without it. I use this all the time! I like to use it instead of heavy cream in pasta dishes and to bump up the creaminess in desserts.

{Lighter} Cajun Chicken Pasta
Oreo Balls
Chicken & Artichoke Pasta
White Chicken Chili
Creamy Tomato Soup
Baked Chicken Taquitos
Creamy Mexican Chicken
Buffalo Chicken Bites

Vanilla!!! I love vanilla. I love good vanilla. Do you watch Barefoot Contessa? She cracks me up. She's constantly saying, "Be sure you buy good {fill in the blank with your ingredient}." Good peanut butter, good butter, good milk for crying out loud. 

One ingredient that I heartily agree with her on is buying good vanilla. I buy mine at Williams-Sonoma.  Make sure that whatever you buy it pure vanilla extract - it really makes a huge difference. I also buy whole vanilla beans and sometimes I'll strip the seeds out of them add add it to whatever I'm making for extra flavor, as is the case with my Sugar Cookie Bars.  If you click the Desserts tab at the top of this page, you'll see that pretty much everything I bake gets vanilla in it. I just love the stuff!

From sweet to tart...I keep vinegar on hand at all times. I love it in marinades because it helps break down the connective tissues of the meat making it easier to cut and chew. The apple cider vinegar is for Chris - he is a BBQ and meat smoking fanatic. The white vinegar is mine, and it's used in several dishes you'll find here, but I also use it for cleaning!

I mix a little vinegar with baking soda to clean my washing machine, take the smell out of mildewy towels and get stuck on grime off the side of my sink. It's very multi-purpose!

Spices galore! this a very small sampling of what's in my spice cabinet. Here is a list of what I would consider "Spice Staples:"

Onion powder
Garlic powder
Chili powder
Cayenne pepper
Chili flakes
Cajun seasoning

Pastas & Beans...of course. I bet you didn't see this one coming. ;-) I keep a variety of pastas on hand all the time. Angel hair, fettucini, rotini...I like different shapes and sizes. I usually keep pinto beans on hand too.

Canned goods...this drawer is ONLY tomato products. I keep tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, fire roasted, rotel, tomato paste, San Marzano tomatoes...and you know what's funny? I don't EAT tomatoes. Give me a slice of tomato on a sandwich and I will pick it off. Make me tomato soup and I'm a happy girl. Go figure. Check out my Creamy Tomato Soup and my Spicy Tomato Soup in 30 minutes.

I also have a drawer dedicated to beans...I keep black beans, kidney beans, garbanzo beans and great northern beans on hand all the time, as well as green beans and (not a bean) corn. It's great for chili (check out Sara's Turkey Chili and my White Chicken Chili).

Stock! Lots and lots of stock! I keep chicken and beef broth in my panty all the time. I need to replenish my beef broth supply...I'm down to 2 boxes!

Lots of my soups and stews and even pasta dishes use stock or broth. To name a few...

Other regular staples include:

Wheat flour
Baking soda
Baking powder
Brown sugar
Powdered sugar
Chocolate chip
William's Chili Seasoning
Buttermilk ranch seasoning
Fresh fruits and veggies
A stocked freezer - chicken, chunk roasts, steaks, flank steak, pork tenderloins, frozen corn, frozen fruit (for smoothies), extra cream cheese etc.
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