Thursday, December 22, 2011

Must Haves and Go-To's: The Essentials

As you saw in my Pantry Raid post, I am usually well-stocked in the food department.  The same goes with my freezer and fridge, too.  There are some things I always have on hand, and if you combine 2, 3, or 4, of these ingredients together, you can usually make a meal.  It's all about testing out different flavors and mix and matching.  Have fun with it!  Here's some of my favorite standbys.


  • Eggs.  I LOOOOOVE eggs.  They're great for breakfast, for stir fried rice, for baking, and for use in the breaded [whatever] conveyor belt.  Other options: egg salad, hard boiled eggs, "French" burgers (inspired by The Met Bar & Grill), breakfast for dinner.  A great protein substitute if you're bored with beef or chicken.
  • Cheese.  I always have at least 3 kinds of cheese on hand: One sliced variety fresh from the deli, any variety of shredded cheese (usually Mozz or Mexican blend), and American slices (they're the best melting cheese).
  • Salsa.  Use it in omelets, on baked potatoes, or for unexpected guests (everyone loves chips & salsa!)
  • Milk.  I hate drinking milk but I use it for cooking occasionally, and for the ever-necessary late-night bowl of cereal.
  • Sour Cream.  It's just great on everything.  Baked potatoes, pierogies, and Taco Tuesdays....bam. 
  • Butter.  Duh.
  • Condiments. My fridge is basically 70% condiments.  I ALWAYS have the following on hand:  ketchup, Dijon mustard, Italian dressing, Siriacha, Red Hot, mayo, marinara sauce (yes I consider this a condiment), Worcestershire sauce, and relish.
  • Ground Turkey.  Since I don't eat a lot of red meat, I use turkey in everything.  I always have at least 2 packages ready to go.  Uses (just a few):  tacos, burgers, stuffed peppers, meatballs/sauce.  We also have a ton of turkey bacon, too.
  • Chicken Breast.  So versatile.  We stock up on the big pack when it goes on sale!
  • Edamame.  I stock up on the shelled edamame whenever I go to Trader Joe's.  It's so versatile and takes 3 minutes to defrost.  Great for Asian-inspired dinners and cold in a salad.
  • Chopped Onions. The frozen bag of chopped onions is such a time-saver and super cheap.  
  • Frozen Veggies.  I love using these for omelets, pasta dishes, and fried rice.  We usually have the "fiesta" blend on hand, and a mix of the peas/corn or broccoli/cauliflower.  The possibilities are really endless with these.
  • Pierogies.  I love Mrs T's pierogies because they come in a variety of flavors and they're a great meal alone or as a side with my next go to...
  • Kielbasa.  We eat a TON of this stuff (probably not the healthiest...but most of the time it's the turkey or chicken variety).  Use in stir-frys, as the Polish do (see above go-to), or grill for a super-quick meal.  Great for BBQs.
  • Hot Dogs.  Sometimes you just don't feel like cooking.
  • Pasta.  Whether it's orzo, cavatappi, spaghetti, or farfalle, I always have at least 2 boxes of pasta. It's like a blank canvass.  Go cray.
  • Canned Veggies.  Corn and artichoke hearts are my favorite.  Add to everything.
  • Beans.  Garbanzo (chickpeas), black, and  kidney are the most common in my pantry.
  • Baking essentials.  Flour, baking soda, and baking powder, vanilla extract.  More recently, chocolate chips.  You never know when the mood will hit ya!
  • Breadcrumbs.  I use these to make home made burgers, and anything, well, breaded.  Just a great item for your arsenal.  You should keep regular and Panko on hand.
  • Marinades.  Always have an Asian, BBQ, and lemony one on hand.  So easy. 
  • EVOO.  Probably the most essential item in my whole kitchen.  Self explanatory.
What do YOU always have around the kitchen?  SHARE your pantry must-haves below!

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