Sunday, February 15, 2009

Top 10 Smart Pantry Staples

Want to know what you should keep in your pantry at all times? Here are the top ten staple ingredients that you should stock up on. All of these are non-perishable, which means you can buy in bulk and keep them for months or even years.

1. Diced Tomatoes - These cans are great to keep handy. They can be used in tons of recipes from pastas to tacos. You can even use diced tomatoes as a base for soup. Just keep in mind that canned goods can have a lot of extra salt. So, look for low-sodium or no-salt-added varieties.

2. Chicken Broth - Chicken broth is great for soups, but it can also be used to create sauces for meaty dishes and stir-frys. Plus, broth is a standard ingredient in many casseroles. Just like the diced tomatoes, you should look for low-salt options. Oh, and don't be afraid to swap in vegetable broth for a recipe if you're a vegetarian.

3. Beans - There are so many varieties of beans, and each has its own unique taste and texture. Pick the ones you like the best (I love kidney beans) and keep a stock of them. You can use beans in salads, soups, stews, tacos, and much more. They are a great source of protein and fiber, too, which makes tem ideal for replacing meat or fish as your main course. Just remember to always rinse canned beans thoroughly. Not only does this keep them clean, it also removes a lot of the sodium.

4. Oatmeal - Quick-cooking oats (like the ones that come in the big canister) are cheap and versatile. You can use them for breakfast (with additions like cinnamon, fruit, milk, etc.) or bake cookies for company. You can even use oatmeal in recipes that call for breadcrumbs (like hamburgers and meatballs) as a healthy substitute.

5. Quick Cooking Brown Rice - Brown rice is much healthier than its white, processed counterpart. It's also a smarter choice than white pasta. Keep a box in your pantry for a quick side dish, and dress it up with seasonings to add a flavor kick. You can even make a meal out of it with some meat (this is a great way to reuse leftovers), beans, and veggies.

6. Canned Meat / Fish - Canned protein doesn't have to mean tuna and SPAM. You can find varieties of chicken, salmon, and even clams in shelf-stable form. These are great to keep on hand for casseroles, soups, stews, and even salads. Just be sure to check how much salt is used, and pick varieties packed in water instead of fattening oil.

7. Dried herbs / spices - Keeping these around can help you improve the taste of any dish. While there are literally hundreds of varieties available, a few staples to keep handy are basil, oregano, black pepper, cayenne pepper, ginger, and cinnamon.

8. Oil and Vinegar - These two staples are great for all sorts of cooking, marinading, and dressing. As for the specific varieties you keep on hand, the choice is yours. I recommend olive, canola, or flaxseed oils (these are the healthiest) and red wine or balsamic vinegar.

9. Canned Pumpkin - Okay, I'll admit this sounds a little weird, but don't knock it just yet. You can use canned pumpkin as an add-in for oatmeal or mix it with yogurt for some extra fiber at breakfast. Pumpkin is also a healthy addition to baked goods. In fact, you can mix 1 box brownie mix + 1 can pumpkin for a healthier dessert in less than 30 minutes (no eggs, oil, milk, etc. needed). There are even some awesome soup and stew recipes that use pumpkin.

10. Cereal - When all else fails, a bowl of a (healthy) cereal variety can substitute for any meal. You can even find some fun cereal recipes online!

No comments:

Post a Comment