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Pantry Essentials

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My previous two blogs were all about useful tools for the kitchen. Now, let’s see what we can make with these fun gadgets. A list of items for your pantry will help assure that you have what you need for a wide variety of meals and snacks.

One staple I keep in my pantry is different types of dried beans such as kidney, black, Great Northern, and pintos, which I usually buy in bulk to save money. I also have a good stash of lentils as recommended by my doctor to help with low iron levels. Dried beans are far cheaper than the canned version and are easily prepared in a crockpot for use in chili, soups, dips, and Mexican favorites such as tacos, burritos, enchiladas, etc. Use a ratio of one cup of beans to four cups of water. Depending on the size of your slow cooker, you might be able to fit up to four cups of dried beans in at one time. One cup of dried beans will yield three cups of cooked beans or the equivalent of two 15 ounce cans (Source: http://beaninstitute.com/recipes/bean-yield-chart/). The cooked beans freeze well and thaw quickly so they can be readily available for those recipes mentioned above. Lentils cook up quickly enough that the crockpot isn’t necessary, but it is good to have a stash of them in the freezer as they can still take between 20 to 30 minutes to soften before they are ready to be used for a recipe.

Another item I buy in bulk is peanuts. Not only do they make a nice snack for my kids, but I can grind them into peanut butter. This can be done using the food processor or blender and takes less than 10 minutes. There is no need to add anything to help with the emulsifying even though it might be tempting to do so. As the peanuts are being blended, the food processor or blender will heat the peanuts just enough that they will eventually release their own oil which allows the final product to become extremely smooth and creamy. Make sure to keep this homemade version in the refrigerator or the oil will settle on top and you will have to stir it back in before using it.

A few other required staples are flour, oil, sugar, yeast, and seasonings/spices. I buy flour in a huge fifty-pound bag, light olive oil in a gallon jug, sugar and salt in twenty-five pound bags, and yeast in a two pound bulk twin-pack. While this list probably looks conspicuously like ingredients for bread, rolls, and hamburger buns, I also use these items to make cookies, muffins, pizza dough, crackers, tortillas, and pasta. The oil is used for cooking, but also for making fresh mayonnaise and dressings. I prefer the light olive oil since its flavor is not too strong, making it more conducive for baking, too. Light olive oil is one of the most versatile oils to have in the pantry, which is why I have listed it as an essential. I find that I actually save a lot of money since I only have one type of oil on hand rather than four or five.

Spices and seasonings can vary by personal preference, but staples in this area usually consist of salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, basil, oregano, and parsley. I also like to keep cumin, red pepper flakes, chili powder, cinnamon, and cayenne pepper for chili and popular Mexican dishes.

To round out our pantry staple list, I make sure to have a 25-pound bag of rolled oats on hand. My family loves oatmeal and granola so I buy a large bag of oats to make sure everyone starts their day happily. The beauty of having this large bag of oats is that I can whizz it around in the food processor and quickly have oat flour in a pinch. This makes really good pancakes and oat flour can be an alternative for some families who have a gluten sensitivity.

Drawing up a menu plan will be much easier with a well-stocked pantry and a small handful of recipes that can be rotated over the course of the month.

“You know good food when you taste it, but not wise words when you hear them.” Job 34:3

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