Monday, May 18, 2009

A Well-Stocked Pantry

I really enjoyed the previous post on pursuing hospitality. I have been thinking a lot about the Well-Stocked Pantry, and thought this concept dovetailed nicely with the idea of being hospitable and having a kitchen that is equipped for (almost) all situations. In the last few years I have fallen more in love with cooking and recently started thinking about the ingredients I go to over and over again, which is the inspiration for this post. I tried to narrow it down to something like the 10 ingredients...but I just couldn't! I also tried thinking about these ingredients in terms of what to have on hand in case you have unexpected dinner guests and need to whip something up quickly, but how often does that happen? And keeping a kitchen that is always stocked "just in case" seems way too stressful.

Instead, I have approached this post with the idea of what I always try to have on hand so I can take meat out of the freezer and not have to worry about what ingredients I have to make a meal with - I can just always assume I have them. Now, if you are someone who plans out menus each week or cooks your family's dinners for an entire month and freezes them, this might not be that helpful. For my household, I feel like dinner always comes together that night and I have found that we use the same ingredients again and again.

So, without further ado, here is my list of ingredients that I always like to have around, in the event I want to bake a sweet surprise for my husband and won't have to worry about if I have any flour, or making dinner each night. Also, I realize this list has a lot of ingredients, some you may use more than others, which can get expensive, but a lot of times I buy this stuff on sale when it's buy one-get one and that way I always have enough. I have divided the list between sweet and savory, and almost all of the ingredients are things that will keep for awhile on a pantry shelf or in the door of the refridgerator. I have included some fresh ingredients at the end.

Flour (which can double as savory because I use it when breading chicken)
Vanilla extract
Baking powder
Baking soda
Powered sugar
Brown sugar
Chocolate chips - lately I have been getting the chocolate chunks by Nestle and have been very pleased with them in my chocolate chip cookies

Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Bread crumbs - I always buy Italian bread crumbs, just for the extra seasoning
Vinegar (White, Apple Cider, Balsamic, etc.) - all great for marinades or making vinegarettes
Chicken/Vegetable stock (on sale a lot during the winter) - great for cooking rice or making soup
Nuts - great for tossing into salads, also could go under "Sweet" in making desserts
Dry seasonings
Salad dressings
Dijon mustard - I use it to make salad dressings
Honey - again, great for dressings
Cooking wine - I buy a big bottle of white wine and use it in usually only need a cup or so at a time, so it will keep a long time

Fresh ingredients
Garlic - We use garlic a lot; we don't like onions so I typically will sub in garlic instead
Lemons - I use the juice in vinegarettes and the zest/juice in a delicious shrimp scampi recipe, and sometimes we just throw it into random side dishes to give it some freshness and that extra "something special"
Unsalted butter - I use this in baking and also sauteeing

I realize that buying bread crumbs or stock may be taboo for some and kudos if you make either from scratch...I'm just not there yet. Any ingredients I have forgotten that you find yourself going to over and over again and would consider "essential" to the Well-Stocked Pantry?


  1. KM-

    Love this! I never cook without first putting out my grocery list so I can add whatever essential I use up. It's disastrous to be mid-meal and realize you are out of these.

    I also always keep diced tomatoes (canned) to add to soups or sauces to give flavor and texture as well as frozen diced bell peppers, onions and mushrooms and a jar of minced garlic. These are all things I like better fresh but are life savers in a bind!

  2. great list, this is exactly what my pantry looks like (throw in some cereal, baby food and a lot of disorganization)...

    I think since my cooking tends to often have some asian flair, I use soy sauce and ginger in a lot of things (marinades, dressings, etc.). fresh ginger will keep for up to three months in the freezer and I just grab it and a microplane any time I need to add a little.