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STOCK UP: Create quick meals with a well-stocked pantry

Six Savvy Pantry Picks

Ever have one of those days that gets derailed? You don’t feel great, you have to be in two places at once, your car breaks down, or you simply look up from your computer, see it’s 4:00 p.m., and you are already late to pick up carpool.

These are the days that I cross the grocery store trip off the list, take a deep breath and confidently turn to my pantry, my freezer and my long lasting perishables to save dinner. Over the next few weeks I will be posting my standbys that let me create a quick meal when going to the store is the last thing you want to do.

Following are my pantry favorites, and combined with just a few other items you can make a dinner out of very little.

  • Rao’s Marinara Sauce – This is by far the best jarred marinara sauce ever made. The recipe comes from a famous Italian restaurant in NYC. Now we are all lucky enough to be able to find it in almost any grocery store. It does cost a little more but the taste is worth the price. There is nothing wrong with a box of pasta and a jar of this amazing sauce for a quick but comforting dinner. The sauce also adds great flavoring to roasted meats and is great drizzled over roasted eggplant and zucchini.
  • Cannelloni beans – I love the ones that are in boxes (no danger of the aluminum taste from the can). These beans can be whipped with lemon to make a hearty dip, added to marinara sauce for an oddly delicious pasta sauce, or added to crispy vegetables and vinaigrette for a protein rich salad.
  • San Marzano tomatoes – San Marzano are not a brand of canned tomatoes but a type. San Marzano tomatoes come from Italy. They have a deeper stronger flavor than others. These tomatoes can be roasted with olive oil, garlic and a little basil, and then blended to make an easy roasted tomato soup. They can also be made into a quick pasta sauce. Cook them with chicken thighs, capers and lemons for a delicious dinner.
  • Chicken Broth – I use chicken broth for so many things: instead of water to cook any kind of grain or small dense pasta, to pan sauté greens, and to make quick and easy soups out of cooked vegetables. Take leftover cooked vegetables (potatoes, broccoli, roasted peppers, carrots, cauliflower, etc.), puree the vegetables, add chicken broth and puree again. Heat up the mixture in a sauce pan and season generously. Eat as is, or add cream, half and half, or milk if you want a creamier base. Even if I am really low on groceries I usually can cobble together some sort of kicked up grilled cheese sandwich to go with these soups – it all makes a comforting meal.
  • All kinds of dry pasta and grains – These items are so incredibly versatile. Cook them up according to package directions, and add fresh greens, herbs, vegetables and top with a little cooked steak or roasted chicken and goat cheese for a hearty salad. You can also make quick and easy hot pasta dishes. Simply reheat your leftover vegetables and meat, add a little half and half and parmesan cheese, and toss in the pasta.
  • Canned coconut milk – I am a big fan of curries these days as they are high on flavor, quick to cook and you can incorporate a huge range of meat and vegetables into them. Coconut milk adds the creamy richness to curries. But can also be added to fruit for a delicious smoothie.


Watch for my Frozen Food Favorites and my Favorite Long Lasting Perishables in subsequent weeks.

What are your favorite ”go to” food items that you keep stocked?

Let me know, or just talk food to me at bobbie@goodlifefamilymag.com

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