A Well-Stocked Pantry to the Rescue
What are the biggest obstacles to having a family dinner? For many, it is simply finding that window of time when everyone is home. For others, it is all about logistics. By the time you figure out what to make, you still need to make a run to the grocery store and come home and prepare it. That’s where a strategically stocked pantry and freezer come into play.
The following list of pantry essentials makes whipping up family dinner a breeze. While it might look like a long list, most of the items have a long shelf life. While no one store has everything, between Whole Foods, Costco, Acme, and June & Ho, I can keep my pantry stocked and my freezer filled with protein-packed meat, poultry, and fish. So, when everyone’s home, a home-cooked dinner is a snap.
2 cans of chickpeas/garbanzo beans
2 cans black beans
2 cans cannellini beans
Jarred anchovies in oil
Jarred hearts of palm (the Sun Pix brand from Costco is my favorite)
2 large cans crushed San Marzano tomatoes
1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
Peanut butter, smooth and chunky
Vinegars: champagne, balsamic, red wine, cider, rice
Good olive oil, extra virgin for salads and regular for cooking
Canola, vegetable oil, or avocado oil
Toasted sesame oil
Tahini (great in dips, sauces, stir fry)
Organic stock; chicken, beef, and vegetable
Real maple syrup
Coarse kosher salt
Different shaped pastas
Different grains; rice, quinoa, farro, Israeli couscous, lentils
Nut assortment; sliced almonds, walnuts, pine nuts
Bragg coconut aminos (soy-free soy sauce alternative)
Tamari soy sauce (gluten-free)
Applegate bacon (nitrate-free)
Thomas’ English muffins
Whole grain or 7 grain bread (look for low-sugar brands)
Plain organic Greek yogurt (try Siggi’s)
Hearts of romaine
Baby organic spinach
Lots of lemons
Baby organic cucumbers
Fresh grated Parmesan
Fresh shaved Parmesan
Follow Your Heart Vegenaise
Butter, both salted and unsalted
Red pepper flakes
2 dozen chicken breasts, pounded flat (butchers will shrink-wrap them, so they are freezer-ready)
2 lbs. ground chicken
Assorted beef: steaks, ground beef
Sausage: sweet, hot, breakfast links, and discs
Salmon filets (Whole Foods freezer)
Cod filets (Whole Foods freezer)
Dorot frozen garlic and ginger
1 bag frozen uncooked, cleaned, and tail-on shrimp (Costco)
1 bag frozen cooked shrimp (Costco)
1 bag frozen chopped spinach
Once you have a fully stocked pantry and freezer, you’ll have a lot more easy-cooking options on hand. Start the fall season with this delicious cauliflower and ricotta spaghetti, which kids like as much as adults. Don’t be put off by the anchovies; they disappear but elevate the dish.
Cauliflower and Ricotta Spaghetti
1 head cauliflower, cut into florets (8 cups)
¼ cup olive oil
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, chopped
6 anchovies, chopped
1 cup ricotta
¼ cup toasted pine nuts
Heat oven to 425°.
Cook spaghetti according to the package directions. Drain and return to the pot. Meanwhile, toss the cauliflower and 2 tablespoons of the oil on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast until tender, approximately 25 minutes.
Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the tomatoes (and their juices), garlic, anchovies, ¾ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper. Cook stirring occasionally, until thickened, 20 to 25 minutes.
Add the sauce and the cauliflower to the pasta and toss to coat.
Serve topped with ricotta and pine nuts.