The Pantry is Your Friend
Weeknight meals, or meals in general, can really be tough for some to think about and prepare, night after night, after night, after night… You get me. Having the right food on hand for a go-to meal is essential for a weeknight “win” without a trip to the grocery store.
Here are some tips of things to always have on hand.
Rice: I like to have different varieties in my pantry. Wild rice, Jasmine rice, red and black rice. They all have different flavors and different textures, so having them available and not always the same is helpful. I also like to have a couple of pastas always stocked in the pantry. I cook gluten-free, so I will have a red lentil, black bean, or quinoa pasta, for example. Beans are in the cupboard as well, and again a variety is what I am after. If I want to make chili, I will have Northern and kidney available. I make my own hummus, so I always grab a can or two of garbanzo beans, and black beans are probably my favorite go-to. I like black beans with fish tacos, or in a Ropa Vieja stew.
Oils are vital to any cooks kitchen. I usually have about 4–5 different infused olive oils that I buy from the local merchant here in Tucson. The oils are spectacular and each add to the dish I might be preparing. (They have butter, chile, herbed… many different flavors). Finishing something simple like scrambled eggs with a splash of Herb de Provence olive oil turns simple to spectacular! Also avocado and coconut oils are staples. I will also have a sesame oil on hand for the times I want that deep, nutty flavor, especially in Asian inspired dishes. (Warning! If you have vegetable oil in the cabinet, throw it out. It is processed and not good for you!)
The next items would be foods such as artichoke hearts, olives, roasted red bell peppers, coconut milk, wild-caught tuna, sardines, clams and clam juice. (If I get the hankering to make a clam chowder, I am half way there). Nut butters, raw honey, chia seeds and good cocoa powder as well. By having these ingredients, if I want to make a pasta dish, for example, I can use artichoke hearts, roasted red bell peppers and some Italian sausage, and I am home free.
Use this tip to make your pasta dish. Boil the noodles as directed on the package. In a frying pan, while the pasta is cooking, heat some olive oil and saute some onions. Add some chopped fennel, Italian sausage and let that cook together. Add artichoke hearts, roasted bell peppers and a handful of olives. Add a splash of white wine. Drain the pasta and pour the mixture on top. Top with a splash of good olive oil and a glass of wine. I will be right there!