The most functional kitchens are always stocked with the necessities.
I try to keep my cabinets consistently well-maintained with the food items I use daily so I can always create recipes and meals. As long as you have the essentials on hand and have access to the internet, there are endless possibilities with what you can create.
My cooking style is healthy and balanced with a Mediterranean flair.
I believe everything is good in moderation, so I like to live by the 80/20 rule. This means that most of the time, we eat food that has nutritional value but, once in a while, this old bag ain’t afraid to throw down a Chicago style dog and fries with a side of cheese.
I use olive oil and butter in all of my dishes. My cabinets are busting at the seems with pasta, rice, and grains and I always have stock/broth and a variety of canned tomatoes and beans on hand. I put garlic in almost everything and, when it doubt, add hot sauce.
I had a good teacher when it came to “making things up” with what you’ve got on hand. I have taken that knowledge and upped it to the next level in my own kitchen because I find that it not only reduces waste but it is also sort of a sport for me.
Sometimes the meals I create are great and, once in a while, we end up tossing a frozen pizza in because well, like real sports, you win some and you lose some.
My purpose, as always, is to inspire. In this case, in your kitchen. This is how I roll in mine. I hope it helps.
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Here is a list of food items I always try to have on hand in my pantry:
Pasta, Rice, and Grains: One of the shelves in my cupboard (I like that word better than pantry for some reason) is dedicated entirely to this food group. I am partial to Barilla when it comes to pasta so when you open my cabinet door, it is a sea of blue. I always have a box of Trader Joe’s organic brown rice in my freezer and farro is my favorite grain of them all.
Stocks and Broths: Chicken and vegetable broths are my go-to’s. I go to Trader Joe’s for all of my carton broth needs. This staple can be used in soups, stews, to flavor dishes, make gravy, and lots more. I also always have some bouillon on hand as well, just in case I don’t have broth and the dish I am making needs some flavor.
Beans and Canned Vegetables: Canned beans and dried beans are both solid pantry items. I prefer dried beans (i.e. navy or black) for when I make soups, but a well-stocked pantry always has an array of beans on hand. That goes for canned vegetables too. Canned corn, peas, and artichokes are my mainstays, though my most coveted canned staple is tomatoes. There are so many options–crushed, whole, diced, roasted, San Marzano, paste, sauce…did I miss any?
Cured Meats: These salty and savory food items are a must, a treasure, and a kitchen MUST HAVE! Items like pancetta, bacon, and a big ole hunk of ham can be that wonderful addition that ties a meal together and adds the “mmmm” flavor.
Eggs: It boils down to this…see what I did there? Eggs are a must. They are about the most versatile item in the kitchen and can be cooked in 900 different ways and can be added to just about anything.
Frozen Fruit & Vegetables: These items can be used in everything from smoothies to soups and stews. We freeze bananas that have ripened as well as wild blueberries and mangos. Peas and corn are my frozen veggie staples as well as homegrown tomatoes from the summer.
Peanut and Nut Butters: A kitchen pantry is incomplete without these jars of creamy goodness. They are a good source of protein, can be used in smoothies, used for dressings and spread on everything from bread and crackers to fruit and vegetables. And, you can bake with these items too!
Parmesan Cheese: Full disclosure here, I am a cheese snob and believe everyone should have a hunk of Parmesan in their fridge. This nutty, yummy cheese can last a while in the fridge and be used to add flavor to everything from eggs and salads to pasta and soup. Kitchen hack: When you get down to the rind, toss in a freezer-safe baggie and save for the next time you are making some simple sauce. Add the rind to the pot and let those flavors combine.
Olive Oil & Butter: If there are two kinds of fat that all kitchens need to make delicious food, these are them.
Nuts & Dried Fruit: These items are a healthy snack, can be used in cooking and baking and last a while. Trader Joe’s is the only place I go for these items. They have the best variety and quality, IMO.
Flour, Sugar, & Yeast: These are the building blocks to all baked food items. You will need yeast if you are going to get fancy and bake things (like the best focaccia bread on the planet).
Garlic & Onions: I use these items in just about every dish I make. Yellow and red onions are my preference and when a recipe calls for 3 cloves of garlic, I double it!
Root Vegetables: Potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, and ginger are on regular rotation around here. They are hearty little buggers and last a while in the produce drawer.
Spices: I prefer fresh spices as much as possible, but dried are handy and add flavor to everything. I use oregano, turmeric, cumin, bay leaf, Italian spice mix, thyme, and cinnamon the most.
Dairy & Nut Milks: A good full-fat yogurt on hand is going to be useful when you are making sauce or wanting to thicken things up. We also add this to our smoothies or enjoy with some honey, nuts, and fruit. I always have a small container of Organic, full fat cow’s milk on hand. We don’t drink it but use it to bake and make pancakes. If we are drinking milk it is in some sort of a nut/oat form and usually put in a smoothie. My favorite oat milk is made by Oatley.