The more diverse the food options you keep on hand, the more creative you can become without stepping foot outside your home. Having a well-stocked pantry can save you time and money while allowing you to come up with more creative meal selections that really get people excited about eating!
Managing change during a pandemic is not easy, but it is essential to sustain life. During these unsettling times, we must learn new ways of doing things. When it comes to cooking, more of us are cooking at home as we experience changes to our habits and routines. The pandemic has thrust upon us rapid and drastic changes, making life very different, complicated, and in many situations, unpleasant—without an easy escape. A famous line from the movie, Mrs. Doubtfire, which my family loves is, “Help is on the way!”
Although daunting for some, having a well-thought-out, well-stocked pantry can be the key ingredient to success in the kitchen.
When it comes to cooking, I can offer some help. Many people, now at home more, are finding themselves in the position to have to cover two to three meals a day. Although daunting for some, having a well-thought-out, well-stocked pantry can be the key ingredient to success in the kitchen. Most people think of their pantry as a set of kitchen cabinets or maybe even a room off their kitchen for food storage. Actually, your pantry encompasses all of your food inventory (dry stored items, refrigerated items, and frozen items). The more diverse the food options you keep on hand, the more creative you can become without stepping foot outside your home. Having a well-stocked pantry can save you time and money while allowing you to come up with more creative meal selections that really get people excited about eating!
Having a well-stocked pantry also helps to avoid what I call the “standardized menu syndrome.” I know many busy households that cook the same seven to 10 meals on repeat each week because they are easy and predictable. While the arguments for convenience cannot be denied, a standardized menu also lacks variety and prevents people from learning new and interesting ways to cook.
With times as uncertain as they are, it is also important to have enough products on hand to sustain you for weeks at a time for your own peace of mind.
A current trend an increasing number of people are trying, due to COVID-19, is restaurant-quality cooking at home. Cooking is a terrific skill that can be shared by the whole family. It can help children learn about nutrition, portion sizes, and volumetric units of measurement, fractions, following instructions, food/kitchen safety, and so much more. Having a well-stocked pantry positions you to be more spontaneous with meal preparation while promoting diversity in your menu and culinary skills. With times as uncertain as they are, it is also important to have enough products on hand to sustain you for weeks at a time for your own peace of mind.
When sourcing food, I always start with what I can find locally using local markets. In the seasonal months, I take advantage of offerings from all the local farmers. You can also get some ideas as to what to cook at home by following what some of the local chefs are doing in their restaurants, as many of them are sharing recipes with the local community.
The key to a great pantry is including versatile ingredients that can be used across many meals to provide variety, flavor, and texture. Remember, “Flavor is king!”
The chart below is an inventory of food I stock my pantry with. It covers a lot of ground, but it is not exhaustive. My pantry is the cornerstone of my kitchen, and it should be yours as well. It also helps me save time going to the supermarket, which also reduces risk. So I keep my pantry well-stocked; this, again, positions me for success at home. My pantry certainly changes with the seasons—and I am now in winter mode. If your family doesn’t eat the same items my family does, customize your pantry to your own needs and what people in your household like to eat. Double up on the items that you do eat regularly so you know you’ll have good food choices for the weeks ahead. Your pantry should be set up with foods you eat on a regular basis—every household is different.
The key to a great pantry is including versatile ingredients that can be used across many meals to provide variety, flavor, and texture. Remember, “Flavor is king!” While it is important to buy what your family eats, I would also encourage you to think of smaller items on this list that can be used in more creative ways to enhance the quality of your meals. For example, not many people think of buying cauliflower regularly. However, cauliflower is a very versatile food that can be cooked a variety of ways. It can be roasted and sautéed with Buffalo seasoning for a creative spin on Buffalo wings. It can be steamed and included in a stir-fry or salads. As you will see in the Cranberry Pot Roast recipe (shown in the Culinary Artists of the Valley article found here), it can also be used to augment mashed potatoes as a means of adding nutrition without sacrificing flavor. Having this item stocked in your pantry allows you to experiment and include new foods in ways you may not have previously tried. Additionally, it helps you to seek out new recipes that incorporate foods you may not be accustomed to buying.
To encourage you in the development of your pantry, I have included two recipes that are easy to make and require diversity in both ingredients and cooking techniques. I developed the recipe for Cranberry Pot Roast 40 years ago when I was a young chef at The New England Inn, and it remains a popular menu item there to this day. It is a great meal for a cold winter evening. It is great for entertaining, holiday dinners, and is gluten-free. I hope you enjoy these recipes and bring new life to your pantry. I have made videos of how to make both these recipes at www.BrianCoffeyCatering.com. I love to share my love and passion for cooking with others, so if you have any questions, send an email to me at Brian@BrianCoffeyCatering.com.
Thanks for reading—and stay safe!
Healthy Granola Recipe
Here is a great recipe that I developed when my oldest daughter was just a young girl. I have used it for breakfast on top of yogurt, added it to pancakes or oatmeal for delicious texture, and even packaged it to give away to family and friends at the holidays. It is also gluten-free, so it is great for those with restrictive diets or food allergies. Once you get the basic recipe down, you can add all kinds of different ingredients from your pantry to make it your own creation! I have all the items I need to make granola stocked in my pantry, especially in the winter months. This is an extremely popular recipe.
Prep Time: 15-20 min Cooking time: 25-30 min. Yield: 10-12 servings (6 cups).
Degree of difficulty: Easy
½ cup coconut oil
¼ cup honey
¼ cup maple syrup (100% pure)
½ tsp salt
½ tsp cinnamon
3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
½ cup chopped walnuts
½ cup shredded coconut
½ cup raisins
½ cup dried apricots
Preheat oven to 300oF; line a baking
sheet with parchment paper
In a stainless steel bowl, combine
coconut oil, honey, maple syrup, salt,
cinnamon, and whisk thoroughly
Add oats, nuts, and stir to coat
Spread mixture onto baking sheet evenly; press with spatula if necessary. Bake for 25-30 minutes; stir once at 15 minutes and turn pan. Remove from oven and add dried fruit; tip: press with spatula if you want clumps of granola. Allow to cool for 1 hour then place in an airtight container; tip: I store my granola is a large glass mason jar (64 oz) with lid, it tastes better stored in glass.