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Published on April 14, 2020

woman looking in kitchen cabinet

Pantry Essentials to Keep on Hand – and What to Make With Them

What you have in the pantry may be more important now than ever.

Kat Thomsen, MS, RDN, a clinical dietitian with Avera Queen of Peace Hospital Nutrition Services, puts these items high on the pantry must-have list:

  • Canned beans, especially black beans, garbanzo and northern
  • Starches such as rice, pasta, rice noodles
  • Flour
  • Eggs
  • Canned tomatoes. There are many options; she recommends experimenting with ones you like and ones you might not know
  • Vegetables such carrots, onions, celery garlic and ginger are fantastic flavor bases to any meal
  • Lemons and any citrus fruit
  • Chicken with bones
  • Flavor boosters such as anchovies, soy sauce, vinegar, chili sauce, fresh herbs or dried spices
  • Other intriguing items, such as coconut milk or artichoke hearts in a can

“Now is a good time to try those things that seems interesting – many people have plenty of time to investigate flavors and approaches they may have not explored before,” Thomsen said. “When you have most of the items in the list on hand, you can easily mix and match vegetables to create unique meals.”

You can use canned tomatoes as a base for many “mixture” dishes and stews, such as the Middle Eastern shakshuka, or try your hand at “Eggs in Purgatory.”

“Both of these dishes have eggs poached in a tomato sauce, but each has its unique taste, Middle Eastern and Italian,” she said. “Since we’re all spending more evenings at home, you can use the time to try these dishes.”

Another step to take is roasted chicken.

“I like to get a whole fryer and bake it at 400 degrees on a bed of rosemary, lemons and an oil,” Thomsen said. “Salt the skin, add russet potatoes and carrots either with the chicken or in a foil packet, and you have a complete meal.”

Season the side-dish veggies with lemon zest, oil and garlic for more flavor from the oven. Afterwards, you can make use of what’s left.

“Again, since we all have more time, it’s a good opportunity to make homemade stocks,” said Thomsen. “With the roasted chicken recipe, you can put the chicken bones, skins from vegetables such as onion and carrot and wilted celery in a pot and let it bubble for a few hours.”

Homemade chicken stock is healthier and tastier, just avoid overdoing the salt. Once it has cooked, you can use it in a wide range of dishes.

“It can be frozen for later, too and it tastes so much better than boxed or canned stock,” she said. “Take this time to try cooking something new and you won’t regret it.” 

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