Whether you are a novice cook or budding international chef, there are some items that can be very beneficial to keep in stock.
1. Extra virgin olive oil: great for sauteing and frying, olive oil’s unique properties allow you to fry food at 350 degrees while minimizing the amount of oil that the food actually absorbs.
2. Flavor-infused oil: My current favorite is sesame oil because it brings a deeper and more genuine flavor to my Asian cuisine.
3. Balsamic vinegar: I have a good bottle of aged balsamic as well as the standard. It can be can be used for salad dressings, marinades and reductions.
4. Sea salt (coarse or fine): Sea salt really kicks it up a notch, it is natural, and you need less of it. When doing dry rubs for meat or preparing a salsa, you must not forget the pinch of sea salt.
5. 21 seasoning: 21 seasoning or any of the Mrs. Dash seasonings are a salt replacement.
6. Pasta: Never allow your pasta supply to run low! Always have 3 or 4 pasta types handy to use as a main dish or a side dish. It is a fantastic option for leftover veggies or meat and helps to transform food into a new dish.
7. Spaghetti sauce: Many make their own spaghetti sauce and more power to them! I am strongly against making eating out a regular habit, so on a day when you are too tired to cook, grab your favorite pasta sauce and whip something up! Resist the urge to buy the $1 common named sauces. My favorite is Vodka sauce by Classico which can be found at any grocery store. I repeat: do not skimp on spaghetti sauce!
8. Canned beans: I always have garbanzo and black beans in stock. They can become part of a salad, cool pasta dish, burrito filling, or soup. Dry beans are useful, but if you do not have time to soak and cook them a can of beans can shave an hour off of your cooking and prep time.
9. Nuts: Nuts in addition to being a snack can be a part of a meal any time of day. As you well know, pesto is made from pine nuts (or walnuts), but also can be toasted and added to a pasta. Hit your local farmer’s market for better prices by the pound of almonds, pecans, pistachios, etc. Store nuts in the refrigerator for longer shelf life.
10. Oatmeal: I shared with you one of my favorite breakfast dishes, but oatmeal has other purposes too. It takes only 15 minutes to prepare delicious granola from oatmeal and it can also be a part of many desserts. It is simply the best come-to-the-rescue food that you can rely upon when you open the fridge and realize that the milk is expired!
There are many other items that also have a long shelf life that are wonderful keep in stock. The items mentioned on my list have helped me to whip up last-minute meals and to also easily follow the recipes that others have written. Feel free to shop around for these items and see where you can find the best price. Markets like Trader Joe’s and World Market often have very affordable prices since they privately label some of these items. I recently purchased a large extra virgin olive oil bottle for just $5.99. Do not let anyone tell you olive oil is too expensive. Its health benefits and flavor outweigh any the low price of any corn or vegetable oil that can be found at the grocery store.