Grocery Pantry Essentials

These are items no pantry should be without. If you have these in the house, you can almost always come up with great meal solutions:

  • Extra virgin olive oil: Taste different oils from different countries to determine what you like the best.
  • Balsamic vinegar: Sweet and subtle and NOT just for salads. Try dipping strawberries in Balsamic and then in sugar for an amazing treat.
  • Sherry vinegar: A special treat from Spain. Sherry vinegar has a sophisticated sweetness balanced with a deep acidity. Great drizzled on roasted veggies, salads, and fish.
  • Capers: Actually the unopened flower from a shrub in the Mediterranean, these briny flavor bombs can spruce up simple a tuna salad. Or try tossed with diced tomatoes and pasta. They are also great sauteed with butter and poured over fish for a simple and elegant sauce.
  • Olives: Used much like capers, a little goes a long way. Serve alone, with cheese and bread, or tossed in pastas. Chop some up to add on sandwiches.
  • Anchovies: Yes, anchovies! A true secret ingredient that people don't even know they like. Most people who say they don't like anchovies have never even tasted them! They are truly what make Caesar salad special. "Melt" some in hot olive oil and toss with broccoli or spinach. Mash some up and rub onto a steak or a roast before grilling instead of salt. Or simply place on buttered bread for a decadent treat.
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano: The KING OF CHEESES, this sophisticated grating cheese has more uses than pasta. Grate or shave over salads, add to vegetable soups, beans, or just eat chunks with red wine after a great meal as a desert replacement.
  • Dry pasta: Choose whole wheat or "regular," Imported or domestic. This can always make a quick meal when all else fails.
  • Dry rice: Whether it's Arborio, Jasmine, Basmati, brown or white, you can always whip up a quick meal if rice is in your pantry.
  • Canned Tuna: Packed in water or olive oil, it's great tossed with pasta and capers. Of course on sandwiches.
  • Canned beans: A quick and easy protein source. Toss with salads, place between tortillas with some salsa and cheese, or just heat and serve.
  • Chicken broth: For a quick and easy soup, or use to cook veggies, potatoes, or beans. This great staple will add flavor and proteins to any dish with very few calories or fat.
  • Dijon mustard: Not just for sandwiches. Brush onto meats before roasting, add to breadcrumbs for a tasty topping, and add to meatloaf or crab cakes.
  • Kosher salt: A very pure salt, the large grains are very easy to control while seasoning.
  • Canned tomatoes: Obviously for sauces, but they are great added to soups and stews as well. Keep them on hand for last minute meals
  • Nuts: Not just for snacking. Keep them in the freezer for long life. Add to salads for healthy fiber and protein.
  • Honey: A great natural sweetener, honey can be added to BBQ sauces, salad dressings, mustards or used as a glaze for roasted meats (especially hams).
  • Maple syrup: Use like honey. Not just for pancakes!
  • Frozen veggies: Corn, spinach, and peas are all great to have on hand for quick soups, pasta dishes, rice or side dishes.
  • Corn and flour tortillas: Keep them in the freezer and "snap" them apart with the tip of a knife when ready to use (just be careful!) Defrost for 10 minutes on a paper towel and use for quick quesadillas or tacos at a moment's notice.
  • Bottled salsa: Great on chips, but this can also be used as an easy flavor enhancer for beans or even soups. Treat it like canned tomatoes with a kick!
  • Soy sauce: Of course a great condiment for Asian dishes, but it also makes a great addition to marinades, BBQ sauces, and adds a "rich salt" to any dish.