Friday, May 8, 2009

Building a Basic Pantry

Whether you're a college student, just got married or are moving into your first apartment, cooking for yourself can be overwhelming—especially if you're starting from scratch. While the Food Network may seem like the obvious place to start, the trick is to begin with simple recipes and work your way up to more complicated dishes.

Before getting started, make a list of all the ingredients you'll need to create a well-stocked pantry. The following items are just suggestions, so don't run to the grocery store and buy everything on the list. However, most of the ingredients are basic enough that they can be used to make a variety of meals.

Various Oils: Olive Oil, Sesame Oil, Peanut Oil, Vegetable Oil

Spices: Oregano, Basil, Rosemary, Parsley, Tarragon, Cumin, Crushed Red Pepper, Thyme, Bay Leaves, Paprika, Cayenne, Ginger, Mustard Powder, Marjoram, Allspice, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Salt, Pepper, Whole Black Peppercorns

Extracts: Vanilla (a must), Lemon, Peppermint, Butter, Almond, Maple

Basic Staples:

 Baking Soda
 Baking Powder
 Corn Starch
 Flour
 Sugar (Powdered, Granulated and Brown)
 Yeast
 Stock (Chicken, Beef, Vegetable)
 Maple Syrup
 Cooking Wine
 Milk
 Butter
 Eggs
 Mustard
 Lemons (or Lemon Juice)
 Mayonnaise
 Garlic
 Hot Sauce
 Onions
 Parmesan cheese

Check your basic staples periodically for expiration dates. Believe it or not, even baking soda has an expiration date. Replace them as needed so they are always fresh and available for when you need them. Buy perishable items like milk, eggs, fresh vegetables, cheese and meat in small quantities so you have a chance to use them before they expire.

Other Handy Pantry Items:

 Dried Beans
 Pastas
 Spaghetti Sauce
 Canned Soup (Cream of Chicken or Mushroom)
 Various Cheeses
 Sour Cream
 Cream Cheese
 Canned or Frozen Vegetables (usually frozen taste better)
 Potatoes
 Celery
 Carrots

With just a little time and effort, you can learn how to make simple dishes that are much more satisfying than microwave dinners, not to mention much cheaper and healthier. Try adding cooked ground beef and frozen vegetables to your favorite spaghetti sauce and pour over pasta for an inexpensive Italian meal. For an easy casserole, mix cream of chicken soup with cooked rice, leftover chicken and frozen broccoli, top with cheddar cheese and bake until bubbly. Another option is to top salad greens with a variety of ingredients, such as chicken, ham, tuna, chopped egg, carrots, green peppers, diced fruit, raisins and nuts for a healthy, easy meal.

Once you get comfortable making a few basic dishes, try substituting different meats, vegetables and spices to add variety—the possibilities are endless. To find other simple recipes, ask friends and family for suggestions or go online to search the countless recipe and food sites.
Good luck cooking!

List provided by the good folks over at Kraft

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