After many requests for a roundup of things to always have in your kitchen, we’re happy to bring you a rundown of those things we always have on hand here at Chez Humiston. When I originally started writing this article, I had intended it to be a Top 10 List of things to always have in the kitch. However, I realized that I was avoiding this article altogether because it seemed so daunting to pick a mere few items from my filled kitchen. Whenever I’d sit down to work on it, I’d realize that I had all of these other tasks to distract me - the bathroom needed cleaning or bills needed to be paid (even though that’s Shaun’s job) and you know that battery in my Crest spinbrush wasn’t going to change itself. So when toilet duty sounded more appealing than whittling down my kitchen picks, I knew that Houston, we had a problem.
And then I took a peak inside my pantry cabinet and realized that we really have a problem. But that mess is a problem for another time (just don't tell my mom that my cabinet looks like this:)) So I changed it up a bit and today am starting with Our Go-To Pantry Staples and down the line we’ll round up Our Go-To Fridge Staples and beyond. Does that work for you? Ok good, because I’m not sure how much more stovetop cleaning I could bare. Ready?
Our Go-To Pantry Staples
1. Tomato sauce/Diced tomatoes/Crushed tomatoes
Usually one big can of each and some small tomato sauce cans always grace our pantry shelves. I can always find something to whip up using these, be it tomato sauce atop pizza dip, diced tomatoes thrown into whole wheat pasta or crushed tomatoes included in a ground beef/pasta or rice casserole. And I’ve also been known to make a quick skillet chicken parm or two with it.
I always, always, always have dried pasta in the house. I’m not sure if it’s my Italian upbringing or my pure and simple love for carbs, but whole wheat spaghetti, whole wheat penne and at least two boxes of orzo can always been found here. And on a side note, I could eat orzo with butter and parmesean everyday for the rest of my life and be happy. Just sayin’.
They’re a quick and easy side dish to any meal, not to mention a great base for dips. We also love them in a quick casserole with rice, green chiles and cheese. Yum! I like black beans, red kidney and cannelini.
4. Chicken Broth
Oh chicken broth. It’s so versatile and a must every time I grocery shop. We will often cook brown rice in chicken broth rather than in water to add some extra flavor. It’s also a great base for gravy and other sauces. I always get the low-sodium variety so that I can control the salt content. Oh and recently I tried making my own turkey stock from my leftover turkey breast carcass, despite those ‘she’s crazy’ looks from Shaun.
5. Brown Rice/Quinoa/Couscous
We always have at least one, if not all of these things in the pantry. They are always solid options as side dishes for proteins, like curried shrimp, pineapple chicken, a Mexican casserole, or even a quick breakfast!
I love honey. It’s a great sweetener in tea, Greek yogurt or oatmeal and an easy peasy way to snazz up a giant wedge of cheese. I also use it in my balsamic chicken and added to some Dijon mustard for a quick honey mustard dip!
7. Granulated Sugar, Confectioners Sugar, Flour
I’m a baker at heart, so I’m never without these baking staples (along with baking powder, baking soda and vanilla extract, but more on that when we get to Our Go-To Spice Cabinet Staples)...that is unless you count Saturday morning when I was mid-holiday cookie baking and ran out of flour. But aside from that, I have 4 giant Tupperware storage containers that my mom gave to me at my Bridal Shower.
That baking gene doesn’t come from nowhere! And if you don’t bake? I still recommend having flour on hand for thickening soups and gravies or making the perfect Bechamel for a decadent macaroni & cheese. And sugar? Yup, still recommend this too for tomato sauces or morning coffee. Or for guests who take it in their coffee.
8. Coffee & Tea
This might seem obvious, but we are always armed with coffee and tea. I store my coffee in a sweet mason jar, Red Rose tea bags in a big glass canister from Ikea and my specialty loose tea in Teavana canisters.
9. Splenda brown sugar blend
I love this stuff! It might seem like a splurge (and it is), but it lasts a very long time and is a great substitute for real brown sugar or even real sugar. I use it in my pumpkin spice coffee syrup and in my oatmeal each morning. I have also used it as a substitute in my roasted pears with sweet ricotta cream - you can’t tell the difference!
10. Bread crumbs
I like 4C seasoned bread crumbs. My mom always used this kind in her chicken parm and it saves from having to season it yourself. Though I occasionally dabble in the homemade kind since it’s super easy in the food processor, these are fantastic! I use them to bread and bake chicken or in my spinach & ground turkey meatloaf. 4C recently started making the whole wheat kind which just had me doing the happy dance when I came across them!
I buy the canned kind. It’s great for a quick pineapple chicken dinner or even as a quick snack.
Also canned. I love having these on hand to toss into pasta with a can of diced tomatoes or to whip up a low fat dip. They are also great atop chicken breast with a lemon sauce (also where the chicken broth and flour come in handy). Mmmm.
13. Fat free Cream of Chicken & Cream of Mushroom Soup
I know this probably sounds very unglam. However, these are great flavor boosters in lean (read: unflavorful) dishes. I added this to a ground turkey sheppard’s pie (stay tuned for that coming up) as well as a ground beef mash up packed with pasta and veggies. I also think these would be great atop a simple chicken dish on a weeknight for a quick meal.
14. Quaker Quick Oats
This is my favorite weekday breakfast. Prepared with some unsweetened vanilla almond milk, a tiny scoop of Splenda brown sugar blend, a handful of sliced almonds and a dash of cinnamon, quick oats are a great, protein-packed, filling breakfast. Especially on those cold winter morns.
15. Libby’s Pumpkin
This probably isn’t a shock to you, but around this time of year my cabinet is fully stocked with canned pumpkin. You know, in case I’m in dire need of pumpkin pie at a moment’s notice. Last year there was a shortage of pumpkin, so as soon as I found it in the grocery store this year, I loaded up the cart. In fact, I once ditched Shaun while he waited in line for cold cuts so I could seek out the baking aisle and get my pumpkin fix. Not like I was fooling him since he tracked me down and caught me red handed...Anyhoo, I love it in pies and cakes or mixed with Greek yogurt, honey and pumpkin pie spice, or even as a low fat baking substitute.
16. Balsamic Vinegar
We always have this in our avid kitchen. It’s always great over salad and I use it for my balsamic chicken and mushrooms, one of my favorite quickie weeknight dishes.
17. Olive Oil
Olive oil is such a staple that I almost overlooked it. This is a must in our kitchen. We sautee and roast just about everything in olive oil. I use it drizzled over asparagus or sweet potatoes, which are then roasted (along with kosher salt and pepper) for the most flavorful, carmelized veggies. I also sautee all chicken in it, or use it to lightly grease the bottom of a baking dish. I don’t really use cooking spray, so olive oil is a great substitute.
So there you have it. A roundup of our go-to pantry staples that we tend to never be without. I should also mention that I’m certainly not telling you to run out at this moment and purchase all of these items (!!). These are the things that work for us and our kitchen and become the basis (along with our fridge & spice staples) for some delicious meals here at the Humiston house. So what I want to know is: what are your pantry staples? What items always grace your shopping list? What can you just not live without?