Thursday, January 29, 2009

Tips for a Well-Stocked Pantry

Kerns Juice and NectarsOn Wednesdays I plan out my menu for the week and on Thursdays I do my shopping—the goal is to make only one trip to the grocery store each week and generally I’m able to stick to this. Of course that doesn’t mean that every once in a while I don’t find myself struggling to come up with a last minute idea which is why I keep a supply of extras on hand.

Here’s the stuff I always try to keep on hand and why—if you’ve got your own suggestions please leave them in the comments because you never know what you’ll find in someone else’s fridge.

1. Canned pineapple. I buy canned chunks because of all the canned fruits pineapple is the most versatile. Use it in stir fry or sweet and sour pork, use it for pineapple upside down cake or to puree for pineapple sorbet. Use it as a salsa for seafood or chicken or in a salad. It goes well with pork and chicken and fish, even ham, in fact it pretty much works for any meal of the day in sweet or savory dishes hot or cold and Costco sells convenient pop top cans in nice sizes.

Canned peaches are also a good stocking item because in a pinch you can substitute peaches for mangoes in a lot of recipes such as salsas and purees.

2. Bouillon. You can keep canned broth on hand but it’s bulky, especially if you’re stocking up on beef, chicken and vegetable broths. Instead just keep the bouillon cubes—or better yet the granules—in their little jars. A teaspoon of granules equals a cup of broth which is also nice when you don’t need a whole can. Good for soups, sauces and salad dressings you’re always going to need broth.

3. Kern’s juice. Kern’s is a brand that makes canned fruit juices in all their lovely assorted goodness—usually the kinds of juice that are a little more difficult to come up with. Guava, apricot, peach, mango, strawberry, the cans sell for about $1.29 here and a can or two on the shelf is great for using in desserts or bread or sometimes in sweet and sour sauces. I never know when I’m going to need one but when I do I’m really glad I’ve got them. I also keep coconut milk and cream of coconut on hand for the same reasons--they're great for Thai and Asian recipes along with desserts.

The Gourmet Garden Minced Spices4. Minced ginger, cilantro. You’re probably familiar with bottles of minced garlic which are so helpful in the kitchen but besides these I like to keep tubes of minced ginger and cilantro as well. So many recipes call for fresh ginger or cilantro and it’s not something I usually carry unless there’s a specific recipe I’m planning.

The tubes keep for weeks and weeks unopened and a tablespoon is usually all you’ll ever need at a time. While they’re not as fresh as the produce (obviously) they taste very good in a pinch and can be used for so many dishes. The brand name is The Gourmet Garden and they have all kinds of herbs and spice varieties.

5. Canned beans. Specifically I keep canned garbanzos (chick peas), black beans and kidney beans. I keep the dry ones of course too but the dry ones take so long to cook that sometimes you need the convenience of the canned and ready to eat variety.

They’re good for everything from hummus and falafel to chili and soup and salad. You can add them to tacos and enchiladas and meatloaf or mash them for vegetarian dishes as well as a great side dish with some cumin and green pepper sautéed in for spice. I rarely have tons of meat on hand--unless maybe it's some salmon or halibut filets--and having beans really beefs up a last-minute meal.

6. Frozen berries. I’ve always got one of those big Costco bags of berries around because they’re always good for something. I can throw a handful in the microwave and make a quick syrup for pancakes or crepes, I can make a great cobbler or pie, but they’re the best for smoothies when you can throw a cup of them into the blender with some of that Kern’s juice I mentioned and you’ve got an instant smoothie treat. If you want to get really wild use them in a sauce with pork or even chicken and they add beautiful color and vitamins and punch.

7. Canned pesto. This one is so obvious but a can of pesto with a bit of pasta makes an instant meal—throw in some chopped tomatoes and pine nuts if you want to add some extra color and crunch. I use it in soups and sauces and marinade plus straight from the jar for salads or kabobs. Just a can can give you the answer to “What am I going to do for dinner?” A jar of capers or sundried tomatoes isn't a bad idea either, they're nearly as helpful.

8. Mustards. This one is pretty obvious but having a good selection of condiments is a must. Keep Dijon on hand at all times plus Worcestershire, soy and all kinds of vinegars. I keep rice vinegar, regular ol’ white, apple cider vinegar, red and white wine vinegars and balsamic at all times and I’m always using them. I also keep Thai fish sauce, curry paste, lime and lemon juice around too—they’re always needed.

Kretschmer Wheat Germ9. Toasted wheat germ. I like to use this stuff when a recipe calls for bread crumbs because it’s healthy and keeps well in jars in the refrigerator. A cup in your meatloaf or in your breading makes your meal that much friendlier to your colon.

10. Crab apple jelly. This one is a little funny but I find that my yearly supply that I make is great for lots of sauces that need a bit of sweetness. I use it in marinades for pot roasts and even things like the sauce for Monte Cristo sandwiches when I pair it up with mustard. A little egg and a little sweet and sour sauce and you can dress up a plain old toasted cheese sandwich in no time. If you don't have crab apple jelly a good substitue is currant jelly which is easily found at most grocery stores.

11. Anchovy paste. Useful in salads particularly—there’s really no substitute for the kick you get from a tablespoon in the sauce. I know it sounds suspicious but you’re just going to have to trust me on this. Plus it keeps forever in the fridge.

12. Mixed greens. I buy the big container of mixed spring greens from Costco nearly every week because they’re washed and ready to go whenever I need a salad or some greens for hamburgers, sandwiches or wraps. They’ll keep a week or so and with this crew we’ll make our way through a tub of the stuff in about the same time.

13. Frozen shrimp. I like, once again, the bags I can get at Costco with the peeled and deveined tail-off shrimp. It’s so handy to be able to throw some in a bowl of water for a quick defrost before throwing them into the pot of chowder or pasta, on a salad or even as a filling for crepes. They’re the quick and easy way to make a meal feel more filling and substantial without adding lots of calories or fat or work. And if you consider the benefits, a bag for $13 isn’t too bad, that will make several meals for us easily.

Andrew doesn't care for shrimp that much but he does like scallops so I will also keep a bag of frozen scallops in the freezer because shrimp and scallops can often be used interchangeably in a recipe.

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Technorati tags: food, cooking, recipes

50 comments:

Kelley said...

Thanks for the idea about using wheat germ instead of bread crumbs. The last three containers of bread crumbs I've bought from the commissary has had bugs YUCK!! But such is life here. We always have wheat germ b/c we add it to the kids' instant oatmeal- and have since they were toddlers. A great way to add extra goodness!

branda50 said...

I too like having a stocked pantry and freezer...Thanks for some great ideas..I recently read about tomato paste in a tube and then found it at the my grocery store...I buy "red things" for my daughters for VD...Wait until they see tomato paste this year in their gift bag...

MoziEsmé said...

Never thought of using Kern's juice in sauces - I'll have to try this and see the magic it works (while in the US, of course :)

Michemily said...

I loooooove Kern's. My grandpa always has those in his fridge and every time I visit, I take one (after drinking a glass of his homemade grape juice, yum!).

Sage said...

Do you mind if I borrowed your idea for a post?

I will have to try and find some wheatgerm over here, sounds like it might be an interesting addition to some recipes..

Many thanks for the inspiration, ps there is an award for you on my blog, pop over and see it.

Alison Kerr said...

I like to have:

- Italian herbs (great in home-made biscuits)
- powdered garlic (use it in rice and to make garlic bread)
- Lea and Perrin's sauce (does contain anchovies)
- Powdered Ginger (good for both savory and sweet)
- canned sardines in tomato sauce and smoked kippers
- frozen, skinned and boneless chicken breast (so versatile)

I keep a lot of other stuff but these are the ones I use most often.

Janel said...

I try to keep my pantry well-stocked and you've given me a few ideas for some more things to keep on hand.

At a Middle-Eastern market I found fire-roasted sun dried tomatoes. Those were excellent, almost meaty because of the smokiness. I'll have to get some more of those soon. They were great in rice and bulgur salads.

Mom24 said...

I've always wondered about the tubes of basil and cilantro. I'll have to give them a try, thanks. I love to have my basics on hand. Drives me crazy if I run out and don't have back up.

shokufeh said...

My trick for keeping ginger on hand is to keep a hunk in the freezer. It keeps really well. When I want to use some, I use a vegetable peeler to take off a bit of skin, then use the peeler or a grater to get the amount of ginger I need. Then back into the freezer.

Alice Wills Gold said...

Love the Kerns...my mom always had apricot on hand growing up...have never thought of doing anything more with it than drinking. How do you substitute?

You have gourmet items on hand....about all I have in common is boullion and pineapple. :)

Scribbit said...

Tomato paste in a tube--that's interesting, I suppose it's a lot easier than opening a whole can of it.

I end up usually freezing the remainder and the it gets lost in the freezer behind the hamburger.

Sage-wheat germ is usually in the breakfast cereal aisle near things like grits and steel cut oats. And thanks for the award! I'll go take a peek.

Great idea for ginger Shokufeh, and Janel--those fire roasted tomatoes have me drooling even early in the morning.

lifemoreabundant said...

I have most of these on hand at all times - except anchovy paste, because my husband would revolt if I put it in anything.

But on the canned bean issue, here's what I do: I always have canned chili beans, but the rest, I buy 2 bags of dry. I cook the entire bag, and freeze it 1 2/3 cups to a freezer bag. That equals a can of beans. Then when I have a recipe that calls for a can of beans, I just pull them out of the freezer. It's about 1/3 of the price that way.

Also, I mix wheat germ and flax seed. We just like the taste and the health benefits.

Headless Mom said...

I always keep canned, diced tomatoes. I can put a can in soup or add to a crock pot meal, I drain and blend them to use in meatloaf, and of course use when making spaghetti sauce. I also keep blocks of cheddar and jalapeno jack cheese-quesadillas and grilled cheese are obvious but add to quiches, scrambled eggs, sprinkle on salads, casseroles, I even have a crockpot veggie recipe that uses cheese.

Pmom@ChocolateandGarlic.com said...

I am curious about your use of cream of coconut. I keep it on hand for making coconut macaroons. I understand it is usually used for fancy drinks. What do you use it for?

CountessLaurie said...

My husband, the executive chef and chief shopper of the house always has Kern's mango and pineapple on hand. But he only ever puts them in the blender with some top shelf liquid for when mommy's had a hard day :-) MMmmm MMMM.

Janet said...

We like to buy canned pineapple chunks and throw them in the freezer. They're great little popsicles all by themselves.
We like to add wheat germ to oatmeal and things too.

Heather said...

Wheat germ instead of bread crumbs! Genius I tell you.

We always have canned pineapple on hand because my son loves it.

I tagged you for a meme. I'd love to see your version with the Alaskan slant: http://www.coolzebras.com/2009/01/where-im-from.html

Melanie J said...

I am such a fan of minced herbs now, especially ginger. I cook with it often but not often enough to keep a fresh root from going bad before I use it next, so the tube stuff is awesome. For cilantro too because I hate chopping it, but I still tend to stick with fresh basil.

MommySecrets said...

Canned pesto? I've never seen that before! Where do you find it?

Scribbit said...

Cream of coconut is an ingredient in some of my pies, also in a couple Asian style dishes.

Good for smoothies and sorbets too.

jars of pesto are usually found around the aisle where they keep bottled spaghetti sauce or jars of sun dried tomatoes, parmesan, that kind of thing.

An Ordinary Mom said...

Wait ... weren't you ditching your Costco membership ;) ?!?

Thanks for the fabulous tips! Some of those I already do, but knowing someone else also does them makes it that much more special :) !!

And where do you find the tubes? Do most grocery stores carry them?

Trixie said...

Hi Michelle,

I loved reading your list of "must haves". It is totally different than mine-- for some odd reason I was thinking only the stuff on my list were must have items. How great to see this list for another family!

Thanks for sharing,

Trixie
http://farmhomelife.blogspot.com/

Maddy said...

Hmm we appear to have a lot of common ground although no Costco connection as I simply don't have the storage space for those kind of purchases.

There again, since they don't sell Marmite, I wouldn't dare darken their door.
Cheers

Erin said...

I have wheat germ in my fridge, but I had never thought of putting it in meatloaf. Thanks for the idea!

(Oh and I gave you a little plug on my blog today.)

Flea said...

I'm going to have to add a couple of these to my list. I used to keep wheat germ, but never used it. Time to buy it again.

Some of yours are the same, like the pineapple, beans and bouillon cubes. I keep old fashioned oatmeal on hand. Noodles of all kinds. A box of brownie mix for emergencies. Cans of diced and crushed tomatoes. Bags of shredded cheese in the freezer, as well as boxes of real butter. Cans of evaporated milk.

Anonymous said...

Great post and super ideas from your pantry! Would you post a week's meal plan for us sometime? I love to see what other people cook -- it gives me inspiration for different meals! Thanks.

Kristina

Kathryn said...

The wheat germ sounds interesting. I'll try it in my next meatloaf. I was also wondering how your Costco thing is going. I thought about not shopping there anymore and I couldn't bring myself to even try it. But I have been more dedicated to using up the produce before it goes bad - something I'm guilty of.

Organizing Mommy said...

YOu always have such great ideas.

* TONYA * said...

Your pantry list sounds so very much like mine.

I love Thai food so we always have stock of sauces, coconut milk, coconut cream, etc.

I also always have lots of canned and frozen fruit and the frozen nectar on hand in case we run out of fresh and I don't have time to run to the store.

The only thing I hadn't thought of was using is the herb tubes. Fantastic idea. I'll have to get some of those.

Daisy said...

Keeping the pantry stocked saves money and time. Great list!

Scribbit said...

Ah, you actually read my posts! Yes, I'm giving up Costco but my membership runs out the end of February so for now I'm just cutting back with the 12-step program :)

Michele said...

As an alternative to tubed herbs, try frozen ones if you can find them. The brand is Dorot, and they come from Israel. Here is a link: http://www.dorot.co.il/Eng/Index.asp?CategoryID=27

I buy them at Trader Joe's, and they're also available at Whole Foods. They are in little cubes and each cube equals a teaspoon. Just pop out a cube when you want it. I have chopped basil and chopped garlic at the moment, but there is ginger and others as well.

I also keep Kirkland's brand four cheese frozen ravioli from Costco on hand. They boil in 5 minutes and are simply the best.

Marie said...

Great idea for a post. I might copy it!

I have bought basil in frozen cubes at Trader Joe's, but I didn't know you could buy tubed oregano and cilantro! Yay!

One thought I would add about the bouillon: I've been cooking for 35+ years, but what I didn't know until recently is that bouillon is WAY SALTIER than broth! I found myself without any broth one day when making soup, and used bouillon cubes instead...this resulted in a very salty lentil soup. So use with caution!

anneglamore said...

I'm glad you put a picture of the herbs in a tube. I put a recipe for larb on my blog (like the lettuce cups you get at PF Changs) and it can be hard to find fresh lemongrass but it comes in this kind of tube. We do lots of Thai cooking so it's nice to have on hand. ALso the anchovy paste.

Is everyone else saying yuck yet?

Pamela said...

I love coconut milk. We love it in curry, but even better than that is a dessert I had at a Thai place in Cleveland years ago. Coconut ice cream, carmelized banana, coconut milk and chocolate sauce. If you needed it sweeter, you could use cream of coconut...either way, it's amazing.

Pamela said...

Also, I received a pressure cooker for Christmas. You can cook dry beans in 15-20 minutes without soaking. I think this is my new favorite pot.

Not that this is a stocked pantry tip....

charrette said...

I have every single one of these -- even the anchovy paste! Except the wheat germ. That's a good idea. I'll have to try it.

Kate said...

I really enjoy your blog. Great ideas. I too like the idea about wheat germ.

melinda said...

great idea for the wheat germ! gotta try that! thanks

JENNIFER said...

Grocery store once a week!!???

Imagine that :)

What a good idea:)

Jenna Consolo said...

Well, goodness, I wonder what I eat because I don't keep any of those things! Well, the berries. Sometimes wheat germ. You are one versatile and eclectic cook up there, whipping up the Asian dishes and falafel. Look at you go! I just might show up unannounced!

Lynn said...

Anchovy paste -- now that sounds like a winner! I do love my anchovies, and I know when I've chopped them up and put them in spaghetti sauce, no one's the wiser. But I'll bet with the paste, it'd be even easier to sneak it in when no one's looking ;) Thanks for the idea.

page2 said...

I too like to shop only once a week if I possibly can--early Saturday mornings when the rest of my family is still asleep. Anything to avoid taking 3 or 4 little kids to the store.
I want to try the anchovie paste. I hope I can find it at our WalMart.

page2 said...

I like to keep bags of shredded cheese in the freezer. We eat a lot of cheese and it's always nice to have it available. It doesn't get moldy in the freezer, and I can't tell any difference in the quality of cheddar, mozzarella, or parmesan that's been frozen (but I wouldn't freeze a block of cheese).

Sheila said...

Thanks for that interesting list.

I'd love to see a sample list of the meals you made in a week. Future blog post idea. :) Thanks!

SarahHub said...

I had no idea about those tubes of herbs! I'll have to get a few of those!

Damselfly said...

I love the idea of using wheat germ instead of bread crumbs. Thanks for the idea.

Sarah said...

I always have tons of canned tomatoes, black beans and dried fruit on hand! Thanks for your suggestions!

Stephanie said...

I have to admit I starting reading this post primarily because of the pictured Kerns can. I love Kerns' Apricot Nectar.

Canned pineapple, Canned peaches, Canned beans, and Frozen berries are also on my "staples" list. Frozen veggies (green beans, in particular) and vanilla yogurt are also on my list.

I'm intrigued by the minced garlic product that you mentioned because I don't always have fresh garlic on-hand, but so many recipes call for it. I'll have to look into it...

Anchovy paste, on the other hand...I don't think I'll look for that at my local grocery store. ;)

luckyzmom said...

Thanks for your, and everyone else's great ideas. Here's one of mine.

Crab apple, apple, guava, chokecherry, elderberry, grape jelly + soy sauce + chili flakes combined in ratios to your individual taste makes a fabulouse sauce for pot stickers, egg rolls, fried won tons, etc.