The recent closures and quarantines brought about by the pandemic has created a new normal for many. Working from home taught many people that they could balance their work and home lives seamlessly with the added bonus of being able to explore new hobbies. With time on their hands, more and more Americans chose cooking as their new focus, seeking out new recipes, cooking shows, and cooking advice online. Experts believe this new interest in cooking from home is a trend that is here to stay. As the threat of new variants, continued lockdowns, and inclement winter weather loom before us, it is important to know how to stock your pantry so you can continue to enjoy the elevated champagne lifestyle that cooking great food lets you experience.
Some lucky home cooks boast large walk-in pantries or dedicated basement storage areas where stocking whatever they want is not a problem. Most, however, have very limited pantry space, while apartment dwellers have none at all beyond their kitchen cabinets. So it is important to have a focused larder of things most necessary to becoming a confident and creative cook.
Start with Olive Oil
An extra virgin olive oil is a must for the flavor it adds to food. It is also a healthy oil which studies link to good heart health. It works very well for low and medium-heat cooking which is what most of us do. However, if you want to fry, then you need a high smoke point oil such as peanut or sunflower. You will also want to keep a great bottle of vinegar on hand as it provides that necessary acidity needed to balance so many dishes especially if you have run out of the usual citrus sources of acidity (lemons and limes) in your refrigerator. Balsamic vinegar provides a tart-sweet taste that elevates your cooking beyond the ordinary. A few cans of whole tomatoes and tomato paste can round out many dishes when fresh is not available.
Get to Know These Spices
As you think about spices, remember, nothing beats kosher salt (any specialty salt or iodine salt will work) and black pepper. Both seasonings make food pop without changing the flavor, and they take up little space, most often occupying a place at the dining table. Other spices should be geared towards personal tastes. Think about what you like to cook. Turmeric, garlic powder, cumin, dill, oregano, coriander, cinnamon, and ginger are amongst the most popular. If you are a fan of spicy foods, a large bottle of sriracha sauce is a must to keep on the shelf. Be sure to stock up on bags of legumes and rice which are less expensive and easier to store than the canned variety. Long narrow packages of spaghetti or fettuccine occupy less space than other shaped pasta which come in large boxes. Bouillon cubes are great to have on hand to make quick stocks. Though large pantries can include airtight containers of flour and sugar for baking enthusiasts, this is not always possible in limited spaces.
Learn About Versatile Staples
A beloved item that deserves a place of honor on the well-stocked pantry shelf is the pancake mix. Who knew?
It turns out that pancake mix is a powerhouse among your kitchen staples and truly the most versatile product to have on hand in your kitchen. Most pancake mixes consist of flour, some sort of leavening (baking powder, baking powder), a bit of sugar, and salt. Some pancake mixes are gluten-free as well. Since the mix has done the measuring for you, you can be assured of perfection every time. All you need to do is add the liquid components and before you know it, you are creating stacks of fluffy goodness. If you are lucky enough to own a waffle maker, pancake mixes will give you perfect results. Pressed for time? Make up extra batches of pancakes and waffles and freeze them. Your frozen treats are guaranteed to be far superior to the ones you buy.
What many don’t know is that pancake mixes do so much more, going beyond the expected to the unexpected. You can use your pancake mix to make biscuits, or create pizza crust. If you are trying to elevate your cooking, your pancake mix can be used to fashion delicate savory dishes such as mushroom or chicken crepes, or turned into light and fluffy dumplings to top off your soups and stews. For dessert, you can flambé some peaches or cherries to pour on top of a crepe. Just fold the crepe over your mixture and top off with a dollop of whipped cream. Pancake mix can be turned into the perfect topper for a homemade berry cobbler or it can be used as the dry ingredients in your favorite cookie recipe. You will discover the uses for pancake mix go on and on.
So with winter upon us and a pandemic still raging, it’s time to stock up. With these staples on your pantry shelves, you won’t get caught short and can continue to enjoy cooking the way you want.