Kitchen Focus

Pantries are for more than storing flour and coffee beans. In times of hardship, they can be a windfall. Shelf stable items at hand for times when cash and time are both in short supply. No need to run to the grocery store ... just turn to your pantry and toss together everything from inspired pasta dishes to creative legume dishes to fluffy rice dishes. Even dessert can be at your fingertips.

The key to being ready to put your pantry to work is creating and maintaining a good pantry. Having a wide variety of canned goods, dry pasta, rice, oatmeal, pudding mixes, cake mixes, jams and jellies, and other such items means having a lot of flexibility. Add to that some staples like a variety of oils, flour, sugars, and seasonings and you've got the base for some creative kitchen magic.

To give you an idea of some of the variety available to you, here are a few recipes to try and enjoy. They cover everything from a last minute pasta dish to a super creative dessert idea. With the addition of a few refrigerator items, these meals come together simply and without breaking the bank. Enjoy!

Nicoise Pasta

  • ½ pound penne pasta
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 - 10.5 oz jar of imported tuna packed in olive oil
  • 1 – 14 oz. can of artichoke hearts packed in water, cut into quarters
  • 10 or 12 Kalamata olives, pitted and cut in half or quarters
  • Salt & pepper, to taste
  • Parmesan cheese, optional

Prepare the pasta as directed on the package.

While the pasta is cooking, sauté the garlic in some of the oil the tuna is packed in. When the garlic begins to lightly brown, add the artichoke hearts, tuna (along with the rest of the oil it is packed in), olives and seasonings.

While the sauce is heating up, the artichoke hearts and tuna will breakup into smaller pieces. This is fine.

Once the pasta is cooked, drain it and plate it. Add the sauce and serve. Sprinkle the top with Parmesan cheese, if desired.

  • Yields: 3-4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 15 minutes

Spicy Chicken and Rice

  • 3 cups diced cooked chicken
  • 2 cans (10 3/4 ounces each) cream of chicken soup
  • 8 ounces sour cream
  • 1 can (4 ounces) chopped green chile peppers
  • 3 cups cooked rice
  • 2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
  • 2 cups nacho cheese chips, crushed (Doritos)

Mix the chicken, soups, sour cream and green chiles together; set aside. Put the cooked rice into the bottom of a greased baking dish. Pour the chicken and soup mixture over the rice. Top the casserole with shredded cheese. Bake at 350° F for about 35 minutes, or until it is hot and has started bubbling. Add the crushed tortilla chips to the top and bake for an additional 5 minutes longer. Be careful not to burn chips. Serve hot.

  • Yields: 4-6 servings
  • Preparation Time: 45 minutes

Peach Cobbler Dump Cake

  • 2 (16 ounce) cans peaches in heavy syrup
  • 1 (18.25 ounce) package yellow cake mix
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, or to taste

Preheat the oven to 375° F (190° C).

Empty the peaches (with syrup) into the bottom of one 9x13 inch pan. Cover the fruit with the dry cake mix and press down firmly. Cut the butter into small pieces and place it on top of the cake mix. Sprinkle the top with the cinnamon.

Bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes.

  • Yields: 1 - 9x13 inch cake
  • Preparation Time: 50 minutes