We often find ourselves short on time, and standing at the refrigerator at 6 PM hoping there’s something to eat. Unless you are great with preparing meals in advance or planning your cooking for eat night, this probably sounds familiar to you. One thing that may help ease this issue is a well stocked pantry. Let’s look at the top items to consider no matter how small a space your pantry may be:
- Spices – Salt, Pepper, Cumin, Oregano, Basil – you may add others if your ethnic cooking has spices I missed here.
- Oils – Olive, Peanut, and Vegetable – all three are useful and not easily interchangeable.
- Sugar, both white and brown. Flour – make sure there’s butter in the fridge and you have the makings for cookies and brownies.
- Canned Tomatoes / Tomato Paste/ Jarred Sauce – You can go from can or jar to a decent meal on the table in 30 minutes or less starting with tomatoes of one sort or another.
- Stock/Broth – I prefer to make my own, nothing like a good chicken broth, even if made in advance and frozen, but in a pinch that package from Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods will save the day.
- Rice, Pasta, canned Beans – these will all last nearly indefinitely, so stock up when on sale.
This list isn’t comprehensive, just my top 10 or so items. What do you have in your pantry? Has it helped you create a fast meal?
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Often, you’ll find that ingredients go on sale at different times. The canned tomatoes on sale a different week than the pasta. Or, as in my case, peppers going on sale in the week the dish I’ll use them in is not on the menu. So today, we offer a bit of preparing ahead. We don’t see much change in onions, but those peppers go on sale when in season, and we can’t walk away.
So take two large onions, slice them up, and saute, low heat, stirring every five minutes or so. When they start to brown, add 4 red peppers, cut into strips and cook at low heat until they are soft. This bowl shows about 2 cups of these peppers and onions, and they freeze very well for a future dish, which is just where we’ll use them in out next recipe which we’ll post Monday. Have a great weekend!
Between the current economy, with incomes down and money tight, and people finding themselves with less time to cook during the week, I’ve been giving more thought to meals that can be made in larger quantities and frozen in portions to serve at a later time. The next few recipes posted will expand on this concept, and you will have a number of different dishes to choose from, cooking them all at once on a weekend afternoon, and free up some time when you need it most. Of course, this will also help you cut back on the number of take out or restaurant meals you’re buying. Enjoy the weekend, the first recipe in this series will post on Monday.