May 192010

Continuing my Favorite Things series…

1) Rice. I always keep brown, white, and a wild & brown rice blend on hand. We typically eat brown rice, but we prefer white rice for certain types of dishes, and also for rice pudding. I have several great recipes that include wild rice, and we love its rich, hearty flavor.

2) Pasta. I stock spaghetti, elbow macaroni, orzo, and a “curly” shape for pasta salads and “everyday lasagne” (typically rotini, radiatore, or mafalda). Nearly everyone loves pasta, especially kids, and it’s inexpensive and filling. It’s also quick and simple to prepare.

3) Canned tomato products. Diced, stewed, crushed, sauce and paste. You can do so much with tomato products. Toss some diced tomatoes in with rice, add some chili powder and spices, and you have spanish rice as a side with tacos or enchiladas. Mix crushed tomatoes and tomato paste, and season it up to make your own spaghetti sauce. Tomato sauce and paste can be combined with water and spices to make enchilada sauce. Crushed tomatoes are an excellent base for chili or vegetable soups. The possibilities are endless!

4) Canned tuna. I turn to tuna whenever I’ve forgotten, or haven’t had time to defrost meat for supper. It’s not just for that old standby, tuna casserole. I make tuna cakes, tuna burgers, tuna cheddar chowder, and tuna pasta salads. It’s also great for adding protein to a box of mac-n-cheese for a quick lunch.

5) Canned beans. Beans are an inexpensive, and very filling source of fiber and protein, and they’re also quick to prepare. Dried beans are even cheaper, but I prefer canned because they’re easy and simple, and I can often buy them for a pittance (3 cans for $1 during the fall chili season! I usually buy an entire flat). I stock black beans for Mexican dishes, and also kidney, pinto, and white beans for recipes like chili, calico beans, or bean soup.

6) Eggs. OK, so you don’t keep these in the pantry, but you should always have them around. Eggs are nutrient dense and high in protein, and they’re another quick and easy meal staple. When pressed for time, we often eat scrambled eggs or omelets with pancakes for supper. Quiche is also a filling and yummy dinner option.

7) Dried lentils. The fast food of the legume family, lentils are tasty and filling, and hold up well in soups without becoming mushy. Also, they’re an excellent meat substitute when combined with…

8) Bulgur wheat. Bulgur is a quick-cooking form of whole wheat, with a nutty flavor. When cooked with lentils, it can be made into patties, or used as a ground beef substitute in enchiladas. It’s also very good in pilafs and salads, such as tabbouleh.

9) Flour tortillas. Tortillas are very versatile. I use them for soft tacos and enchiladas, and also for sandwich wraps and breakfast burritos.

10) Stove Top stuffing mix. My husband loves Stove Top as a side dish with chicken or turkey, but it can also be used as a coating for oven fried chicken, in meat loaves and salmon or tuna patties, or as a topping for casseroles, such as Swiss Chicken. Last Christmas, when Stove Top was on sale for 70 cents a box, I bought 24 boxes!

For a complete list of what’s in my pantry, fridge and freezer, please see “How I Shop and Plan Our Meals.” Also, please share your favorite pantry staples in the comments 🙂