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Just like a carpenter is only as good as his toolbox, a home chef is only as good as his pantry. While there are days when everything is made from special ingredients gotten fresh that day, those are usually limited to special occasions and what we consider the "norm" is more likely something whipped up at the last minute using ingredients we have on hand. Therefore, it's important to make sure that your pantry is well-stocked and has a wide variety of ingredients that are sure to aid in your culinary adventures ... even if they need to be limited to five ingredients and twenty minutes!!!
Rather than talk vaguely about what a good pantry should include, I'm going to give you a tour of my own. You may choose to avoid some of the staples that I have and add some that are missing. However, the mix of things should give you a good foundation to build on in your own home. So, without further ado, welcome to my pantry:
Jams and Jellies: Makes excellent AM spreads, sauce additions and even fillings for desserts and the like.
low sugar orange marmalade
black raspberry all fruit
four fruit preserves
Vegetables & Beans: Handy for adding to soups, casseroles and other dishes needing some healthy touches.
roasted red peppers
red kidney beans
Canned Seafood: Anyone who appreciates the comfort food that is tuna casserole knows this category is a must.
tuna in spring water
tuna in vaccum pouches
Canned Fruits & "Sauces": I like having a variety of canned fruits on hand for everything from sauces to eating out of the can!
pineapple in unsweetened juice -- crushed and chunks
mandarin orange segments
peaches in light syrup
whole berry cranberry sauce
apple pie filling
peach pie filling
Soups and Broths: Whether or not you are making soup, condensed canned soups and broths are a must. I use them almost daily.
low sodium, fat free chicken broth
low sodium, fat free beef broth
mushroom soup base
vegetable soup base
fat free condensed cream of mushroom soup
fat free condensed cream of chicken soup
evaporated skim milk -- I know, not really a soup or broth, but my choice for reducing the fat in cream soups
Dried Beans and Fruits: These items are great for adding flavor and fiber to a wide range of meals.
sweetened dried cranberries
pitted whole dates
apricots and plums
Grains: Variety is key here -- and I don't think having mixes on hand is a sin either!
rice -- white, brown and wild
pasta -- a variety of shapes
flaxseed and thick-rolled oatmeal
cajun gumbo mix
Staples: These are those things that don't necessarily fit into any one category, but you'd be lost without them.