Tammy’s Top Ten (t3 report) Things to Keep in the Pantry


I can make those who live spontaneously on the brink of the moment uncomfortable. I am a planner. I’m not sure if it’s a natural tendency or whether I’ve taken it on as a survival skill over the years. I’m a working mom and regardless of the help you have or the systems that are in place or how perfect your children might be, it’s a challenge.

The Larder

I’d like to do a full post on how I plan in the kitchen but today I want to talk about a few tricks that can eliminate the need for trip to the grocery store whether or not I have kids in tow. Your ally? A well stocked pantry and mine is.

I began thinking about this several years ago when Michele Scicolone wrote The Antipasto Table. Michelle began a list – some of which I agreed with and that I’ve added to. I set out to write my top ten and frankly, I keep coming up with more; spices, rice, sauce, stock – my list goes on. Regardless of what’s on the list, I’m hoping for a robust dialog since I recently learned that “grated beets” are on the list of The Only Cin.

  1. Beans – Black, red, white, green, small, round, large, local – you name it. Maybe just out of deference to the two years that I lived on nothing else, I keep an ample variety on hand. See how the pintos are growing on a Colorado Farm.
  2. Stock and Broth – Broth is such an easy thing to make from vegetable peelings and onion tops. Freeze it. Freeze it in ice cube trays if you only use a little at a time. If you eat poultry or other meat, boil the bones and make stock. By the way, that is the technical difference between those two terms even though they’re used interchangeably. Stock is from bones.
  3. Capers – They’re not local but I’m in love with them. Where do they come from? They are the unopened flower bud of a Caper bush. Each bud is picked by hand in the early morning hours before it can open.  After sun drying, they are pickled in a vinegar brine. Julia Child suggested replacing half of the brine with vermouth to improve flavor.
  4. Garlic – If you don’t use it up when it’s fresh, there are several ways to preserve it. Although it gets a bit mushy, frozen garlic retains all the flavor. Many people attempt to store it in oil, which again, is okay as long as you use it up. Otherwise freeze it in the oil also. For those with a dehydrator, garlic dries beautifully.
  5. Anchovy filets – I recognize I lose the vegans on this one but I adore these little creatures. They melt perfectly in olive oil and add such a salty rich flavor to sauces or just olive oil. So many people tell me that they don’t like them yet they have no idea how often they’ve consumed them in my kitchen.
  6. Parmesan – I wish I could remember who first suggested to me that I save the rinds and use them in soup but I’m going to credit Maggie at Whisked Away.
  7. Olive oil – Whenever I travel to the far Southeastern part of our metropolis, I dash by the olive place. We use so much of this fruity substance that it’s often on the shopping list.
  8. Olives – Same story, second verse. Although I have five olive trees and have put them up, I love that our local grocery has an olive bar. Chopped with pasta, rice, veggies, on bread. Mmmm.
  9. Frozen fruit – This is for smoothies and fun fruit drinks for the kids.
  10. Nuts – Pecans, pistachios, almonds and pine nuts are local for us but I do love most varieties. We’re fortunate not to have nut allergies in our home. I love nuts in salads, in rice, and on the off chance that I bake something, I put them there also.

What’s on your list that might be a key contributor to developing a dish or a meal that gets you through a crazy day?

Leave a comment

84 Comments

  1. Lisa H

     /  September 17, 2011

    What a beautiful list! I have a secret stash of anchovy paste that I sneak into sauces, too! Here’s my additions to your list:
    •Canned tomatoes, especially fire roasted, which adds a depth to dishes you can’t get otherwise. Tomatoes are a base for so many dishes and a quick spaghetti sauce is just a few herbs away.
    •Lemon rind peelings. Whenever I squeeze a lemon, I first grate a bit of the rind and freeze it. It’s great added to soups, hummus, baked goods or even tea.

    Reply
    • Great additions Lisa. I agree with both although haven’t frozen lemon rinds. Will do in the future!

      Reply
  2. Beans, broth, garlic, and nuts, oh my! Add a slow cooker, dehydrator, and VitaMix and almost anything becomes possible with our season veggies.

    Reply
  3. Renee

     /  September 17, 2011

    Love this list, Tammy! I love the tips about the capers and parmesan. Great suggestions! And I agree with Lisa–canned tomatoes are an essential pantry item for me, too.

    Reply
    • Thanks for reading Renee. The parmesan thing is a wonderful trick. I can’t believe I didn’t know it sooner.

      Reply
  4. Great list. I’m scared of anchovies, however.

    Hmmm… My top 10 might be: onions, garlic, pasta, tomatoes (canned/frozen), olive oil, beans (canned/dried), stock, parmesan (just discovered saving the rinds!), rice (or potatoes), and frozen fruit.

    Reply
    • Yes, rice and pasta are definitely part of my list – they just sort of blew my “top ten” theory.

      Reply
  5. Lisa H took my biggest staple – canned tomatoes ! I learned this from my mother-in-law – being she was half sicilian I learned quickly tomatoes,tomato paste/sauce were the staples my husband had grown up with! She taught me in a quick pinch you can take the cheapest of spaghetti sauces, add sweet basil; oregano; and canned diced tomatoes, add pasta to make a tasty meal.

    Spices are my other big staple and probably my favorite – A salad spice from McCormick – Salad Surpreme – great on pastas! – creole seasoning is a second favorite! Great post Tammy

    Reply
  6. Huh…I’ve never heard of capers! Just wiki-ed it, will have to keep an eye out for it now :)

    Thanks for the list! I can’t wait until I get my own place so I can plan things out like this, as well.

    Reply
  7. Love your list.

    I’m not a plan-ahead menu person (usually not, anyway) but I can always pull together a meal in a pinch. I keep most of the items included on your list in my pantry or freezer at all times. The only thing I don’t stock on a regular basis would be capers.

    I like to keep plenty of canned tomatoes on hand. My mom cans them from the garden (when we have enough) and I also buy commercially-canned tomatoes (organic, when I can find them on sale). I can always whip up a great meal from canned tomatoes, whatever frozen veggies, fish or meat I have on hand, garlic, onions, spices, and pasta.

    Reply
  8. Things that I am almost never without:

    Onions, garlic, celery, carrots, tomatoes, green or red peppers, olive oil, beans, veggie bouillon cubes, whole wheat pasta, brown rice, barley, lentils, potatoes, frozen veggies, tortillas, salsa, crusty bread, nuts, and . . . chocolate.

    Like you, I freeze parmeson rinds to toss into minestrone or vegetable soup.

    Reply
  9. iDella

     /  September 17, 2011

    Thank you Tammy. This is a perfect post for my nutrition class. Mind if I post your link in my class lounge?

    Reply
  10. Nooruddin Jalal

     /  September 17, 2011

    Thank you for the list Tammy :) God bless you.

    Reply
  11. I must buy a bottle of vermouth immediately

    Reply
  12. Perfect list, I always have all of them – but sometimes dip out on the frozen fruit :)

    Reply
  13. I definitely have all of these. My favorite unusual staple is ginger root which I keep in the freezer. I just cut off a chunk whenever a recipe calls for fresh ginger.

    Reply
  14. I’m way too embarrassed to list my top ten. But, you keep me inspired and learning and changing! Change is good, yes? :)

    Reply
  15. Great post, great list and even greater kitchen! What I love to have always at hand are tomatoes (canned, dried), ginger (frozen), herbs (fresh and then dried for Winter months), broth (meat, fish and veges), anchovy filets, mackerel and tuna tins, smoked trout filets, frozen veges (ready for a soup), beans and lentils, frozen fruits, pasta and rice(s) of course. Thanks for the tips of the lemon and parmesan rinds.

    Reply
  16. Rice and dried pasta are on my list of must haves. I am a planner too from way back, part of having been a project manager for years. Nice to know I am not along.

    Reply
  17. Must add frozen fruit to my list, Tammy. What a brilliant standby!

    Reply
  18. What a great post Tammy. I’m adding frozen fruits to mine and I always keep a bottle of mixed Italian herbs, fresh or dried and canned tomatoes handy. Oh and some fragrant rice too.

    Reply
  19. Great list! If I had to, I’d forgo capers, olives, and anchovies for mustard–like a coarse grain pommery—canned tomatoes, and a good vinegar

    Reply
  20. I agree with everything except the capers and frozen fruit. *Although I seem to ALWAYS have both.
    I’d replace the capers with canned tuna, salmon and/or clams. I can create quite a meal from those canned little fishies.
    As for the fruit, there is never, ever a time we are without fresh fruit in our house. That is, as fresh as the grocery store can supply (that’s sometime in question and makes you wonder if you’d be better off w/ frozen?! – kind of like the canned tomatoe discussion).
    Great post. i should make my own top ten in the pantry list.

    Reply
  21. I love how umami-rich your ingredients are! Definitely some big loves of mine there. I used to eat capers by the spoonful as a kid :P

    Reply
    • Well, I had to wiki that and just had a fascinating read. Thanks for the comment Hannah – really learned something from you today.

      Reply
  22. I have all of your top ten! What a great post :)

    Reply
  23. I always have all of those things in my pantry! I am a real squirrel when it comes to stocking up on food… ;-P

    Cheers,

    Rosa

    Reply
    • Being a squirrel really helps when you’re trying to put a meal together. I’ve recently added a lot of raw components also.

      Reply
  24. I’m a planner as well, and dried legumes, olive oil, nuts, and garlic an be found in my pantry as well! Apart from that, I always have frozen chicken, fish, and lots of vegetables in the freezer, and preferably fresh fruit and vegetables in the fridge. I also have rice protein powder now so I can make a green smoothie when I don’t have a lot of time and need nutrition ASAP.

    Reply
  25. I think the only thing missing from your list was grains… not a single one? I always have rice, in one form or another, and typically also cornmeal/polenta. Carrots are also essential to my pantry, perhaps even more so than onions! When in doubt, chop some garlic, a carrot, and an onion.

    I’m not really an anchovy fan, but dried mushrooms can make a pretty good sub for the umani-flavor.

    Reply
  26. I really need all of the things in your list except capers… I don’t really used them much :)

    Reply
  27. Great information. I usually only run out of the fresh items. Usually purposely, after tiring of a certain aroma, or taste. But, regardless of how hard I try, there is always either a new product debuting on the scene, or, I am tired of a certain taste, so don’t really plan to use something enough to keep it on a list…Then a few months later I want that flavor…So, off to the Market again.
    God Bless You
    paul

    Reply
    • Well, the list was meant more for the “old stand-bys”. Mine really isn’t limited to ten but that’s what I put down.

      Reply
  28. they can be a good beauty regimen too :-)

    Reply
  29. Got everything but the anchovy filets! And although I always have capers, I rarely use them.

    Reply
    • Fish in a tin are an easy add on to anything.

      Reply
      • Don’t forget canned chicken and turkey breast. Also an easy way to create a quick meal. I love the idea of capers. I’ve never bought them or seen them in the store. Do you buy them bulk, or in a jar or can?

        Reply
        • I have bought them in a jar and in bulk. I’d start with a small jar if you’re not sure about them.

          Reply
  30. Tammy, what do you do with capers that you keep them stocked?
    I have only bought them in the past when I needed for a specific recipe, then never to be heard from again!

    Reply
    • Add them to noodles. I eat fish so I love them with butter and lemon juice over fish. on a bagel with cream cheese. Cooked up with eggplant and raisins and made into a spread.

      Reply
  31. Ah yes, excellent list, Tammy! I’m with Cindy on the grated beetroot, so perhaps that a south African thing – although I’m squarely with you on the frozen fruit, especially berries :-D

    Reply
  32. I’ve recently gotten on a smoothie kick — and finally got my husband to eat more fruit this way. Now, if I could only convince my 6-year-old daughter that fruit is better than ice cream! :)

    Reply
  33. Wonderful! I have been trying to keep my pantry stocked especially since we live so far out. blessings,Kathleen

    Reply
  34. I’m with you on the beans & lentils they’re so versatile. One of my favourite quick emergency dinners is roasted vegetables with butterbean puree. I roast whatever veg I have with chilli flakes, garlic, thyme and olive oil. The bean puree is like a mix of mashed potato & hummus. You puree the beans with some roasted garlic cloves, add lemon juice, olive oil, basil & salt & pepper then heat it up. So much easier than potatoes and totally delish!!

    Reply
  35. I love this list! It sounds like my cupboard. And you have everything you need, except for fresh tomatoes, to make putanesca sauce!

    Reply
  36. i knew i liked you for a reason….anchovy lover!

    Reply
  37. I totally agree about keeping a well-stocked pantry. I always have a variety of lentils, rices, and vinegars on hand, in addition to many of the things on your list.

    Reply
  38. What a great idea ;-)

    Reply
  39. A well-thought out list… I always try to have a bottle of powdered dried spices and also a good stock of locally grown pulses (like Semolina, Sago grains, puffed rice etc)

    Reply
  40. Interesting list Tammy. My list:

    1. Low-sodium soy sauce
    2. Garlic
    3. Fresh ginger root
    4. Onion
    5. Sunflower or safflower oil
    6. Light dried Asian noodles (I no longer have white rice much at all.)
    7. Milk (must for my tea, for breakfast)
    8. Black tea (see 7)

    Other stuff is extra –that’s why I didn’t reach 10. On ingredients 1-5 alone, means tremendous variety in Asian dishes by using different techniques. There’s no logic for 7-8 and probably surprising to many people here.

    Reply
    • Yes, I have plenty of tea and coffee in the pantry too – everything that is on your list except the Asian noodles.

      Reply
  41. Tammy, would you like some of our beans we have grown? Please send me an email and let me know. I would be glad to mail you some. I mail beans all the time.

    Linda

    http://coloradofarmlife.wordpress.com

    Reply
  1. Tammy’s Top Ten (the t3 report) Tips to Get Dinner on the Table « Agrigirl's Blog

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