Sunday, November 14, 2010

From Scratch

First things first, you cannot cook if you don't keep staples on hand.  It's a little known fact.  So today we'll be talking about stocking a pantry.  Not just dry goods, but everything that I think you should have on hand at all times.  You can disagree, you can add your own favorites in the comments, but we gotta start somewhere!

Let me say this right off the bat, if you don't keep flour and sugar on hand, I'm shaking my head at you.  Yes, you.  How on earth do you plan to bake or make gravies or put out a kitchen fire without these two basic ingredients?  If you're reading this and think "How does she know?" stop reading, save your place for later and book it to the grocery store.  I'll wait.


Okay, so now we all have flour and sugar, yes?  Good.  But that's not all you'll need.  I'm doing this off the top of my head, not looking in my pantry, so bear with me.  My must have at all times list of ingredients:

Dry Goods
* Flour:  I get both unbleached white and whole wheat
* Sugar
* Brown sugar (and later I will be showing you how to make your own at home if you're out!)
* Molasses
* Honey:  excellent substitute for sugar if you're running low, as well as just great in and of itself.
* Cornmeal
* Baking Soda
* Baking Powder
* Cornstarch
* Vanilla (see bottom of post)
* Salt, both a regular one like kosher or iodized (and there is a difference even between those two when cooking) and a good finishing sea salt. 
* Whole peppercorns in a grinder as well as your pre-ground pepper (really, it simplifies cooking so much sometimes!)
* Oils:  A good extra virgin olive oil for dipping, and either a cheap olive oil or canola oil for cooking.
* Vinegar: Plain white, red wine, and balsamic.
* Beans: dried and canned.  Dried are fantastic and I highly recommend them, but canned are good for ease and quickness.
* Dried pasta, all shapes, all sizes, have a variety and you will always have something to cook.
* Rice
* Couscous: if I introduce you to one new thing in your pantry, let it be this.  Good cooked as a side to chicken with herbs, or cold with goat's cheese, tomatoes, and cucumbers as a salad.
* Tomato paste
* Canned tomatoes:  whole and diced 
* Canned broths:  chicken at least, it's the most used.  If you get the boxed kind you can refrigerate it if you need to.
* Dried fruit:  raisins, apricots, apples, etc.  Good to throw in baked goods or eat alone.  Also can be used in things like roast pork loin.
* Jams, good ones made with sugar not high fructose corn syrup.
* Cocoa powder
* Maple syrup:  the real kind, not the pancake syrup.  Yes, it's more expensive, but you'll use less of it.  
* Canned tuna in oil.  It's delicious, splurge on a more expensive brand and you'll never go back. (Our favorite kind is less than $2 a can and when you think about it, for 2 people that isn't bad at all.)
* Canned salmon.  Some turn their noses up, but you can make excellent salmon croquettes (patties) and salmon mousse with the canned variety.
* Roots: Garlic, Onions, Potatoes, etc.
* Dried herbs and spices:  only you know what you'll use, but I highly recommend things such as cumin, basil, oregano, garlic powder, cayenne, cinnamon....the list goes on and on but that's a good start.
* Crackers:  saltines, butter, and water. 
* Breadcrumbs
* Fresh bread

Cold Items (a.k.a. your refrigerator and freezer)
* Milk
* Eggs
* Butter: the real stuff, not margarine.
* Cream
* Half and half
* Cheese:  a wedge of parmesan, a chunk of gruyere, a ball of mozzarella, a log of goat's.  Make sure you have some cheese on hand all the time because it can be nearly a meal in itself.
* Cottage cheese
* Yogurt:  both a plain unflavoured kind and a vanilla.
* Condiments:  ketchup, mustard, pickles, mayonnaise, horseradish.
* Veggies:  Carrots and celery are my must have at all times vegetables in my fridge.
* Bags of frozen veggies:  corn, peas, broccoli, peppers, asparagus.  Choose a variety.
* Bags of frozen fruit:  strawberries, peaches, raspberries, blueberries.  
* Ice cream, good quality, the kind that makes you want to savor it at home.

This is not a perfect list, and I would love to hear what you would add!  

**And, just so you know, the next item added into the box of goodies for the giveaway is a 4 oz. bottle of Nielsen-Massey Vanilla Extract.  It's my favorite brand of vanilla and I always buy in bulk to make sure I never run out! **

To enter the giveaway, go to this post HERE!


  1. Oh gosh, this is great, I could talk about food til the cows come home. I too have a list of staples... you are going to have to convert me to tuna in oil... that just sounds icky (I do water) and I will have to convert you to homemade chicken stock!
    Thanks for your comment about my garden expansion... those were broccoli stems I had yanked out of the garden.

  2. Parisienne Farmgirl: Love your comment! I will convert you to tuna in oil....the good brands aren't really oily at all once drained, just more flavorful! And I make homemade chicken and beef stock, and usually freeze enough, but I like to keep a good free range organic on hand for impromptu things.

    Oh, and you can cook broccoli leaves as well! I use them when I make Indian!

  3. Having a great pantry and plenty of food on hand makes it so much easier to cook on demand. That is one of the advantages of how we shop versus how the French shop.
    p.s. I love tuna in oli. It is brilliant on pasta. I add capers, chopped onions, and some lemon. Delicious.

  4. This is SUCH a helpful list! I have some (but not all) of these items in my kitchen. I'll add the rest to my grocery list!

  5. Love a good shopping list. Maybe I didn't see it, but i would add "nuts and nut butters".

  6. La Belette, I would say this is till a fairly French way of doing it, as they have a well stocked pantry, they just buy their fresh items as they need them. I used to go as far as only buying the carrots as need be, when I could always find them fresh with their greens. But in the bagged form here I figure why not just keep them on hand, since they're not all that "fresh" anyways.

    Missris, so glad I could help!

    Bodeci body, I was going to put peanut butter and almond butter on the dried goods list but realized it wasn't accurate with my refrigerated kind and then forgot about it by the time I got to that section! And we can't keep nuts in the house too often as I love them enough I have to hide them from myself.

  7. Great list! I'm pretty obsessed with having my pantry stocked with essentials so if I come across a recipe, I can usually cook it without a problem (especially since I'm thirty minutes from a grocery store!)

  8. This is a great list, Kalee! I would add brown and white rice:)

  9. Kalee,

    This is handy list and I can see that you put a lot of thought into creating it for us. Thank you. I will use it as a reference for my own kitchen.

    I am a new covert to tuna in olive oil. I was in Paris last month and had a couple of tuna sandwiches on baguettes and couldn't figure out what made them so yummy (besides the world famous bread and the ambiance of Paris). It was the tuna. It was the pink kind (not white albacore) and it was in olive oil instead of smothered in gross mayo. Deeelicious!