Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Well Stocked Diva ...

I'm always curious about how people find my blog. By far the most popular search item that leads people here is: "South Beach Turkey Chili." Second behind that is some variation of "cats and cabbage" or "can cats eat cabbage?" No one knows why and I don't know if they can.

Yesterday someone arrived here after searching the phrase: "how to deepen your pantry." I'm sorry to say, unknown searcher, that you are one day late (make that *early*! Thanks, Dana!). Though I do hope you'll return and find today's post useful. (Unless of course you mean physically ... in which case maybe you need the DIY Network!)

Indeed, we have been discussing pantry staples a bit here lately, so I thought it might be time to open the cupboards - and offer my own primer on pantry essentials. I'm not trying to compete with Mark Bittman, or even offer a rebuttal. The following is simply a list of items that are always on hand chez Diva.

Pantry Staples:

  • Brown Rice - (actually, I keep it in the fridge)
  • Pearl Barley
  • Whole Wheat Orzo
  • French Green Lentils
  • Garlic
  • A variety of oats: steel-cut oats, rolled oats and instant oatmeal
  • A variety of pasta shapes, both whole wheat and white
  • A variety of canned tomatoes: petite diced, crushed, sugar-free tomato sauce, tomato paste
  • A variety of oils: extra-virgin olive oil, canola oil, vegetable oil, walnut oil, sesame oil, some flavored oils
  • A variety of vinegar: red wine, white wine, sherry, balsamic, etc.
  • Canned beans: black beans, chickpeas, kidney beans and fat-free refried beans
  • Nuts: walnuts, pecans, roasted pumpkin seeds and roasted almonds
  • Several kinds of broth a/o stocks: Chicken, Vegetable, Beef - all low-sodium and fat-free, and the scrumptious new College Inn Bold Stock pictured above.
  • Baking Supplies: whole wheat flour, white flour, corn meal, chickpea flour and various extracts and powders

Fridge Staples:

  • Eggs
  • Butter
  • Canadian Bacon
  • Non-fat Greek Yogurt
  • Non-fat plain Yogurt
  • Non-fat Milk
  • Unsweetened Soy Milk
  • Low-fat Cottage Cheese
  • A variety of olives
  • A variety of cheeses, always to include a chunk of good quality aged Parmesan
  • A variety of fresh veggies: onions, carrots, celery, red, yellow and orange peppers, radishes, shallots, etc.
  • Fruit: lemons, limes, grapefruit, Granny Smith apples
  • Fresh Herbs: parsley, thyme, rosemary, dill and cilantro are all pretty standard
And, lastly, I consider a well stocked spice cabinet to be truly essential. Here's what mine looks like:

... and no, I didn't clean it for you. Doesn't matter, *I* know where everything is and that's all that counts. This is my arsenal and I use it daily. A pinch of this, a dash of that and - zoom - I'm on my way to delicious. As we discussed last week, if you don't use your herbs and spices regularly you do need to check them for freshness. Many will lose their flavor after 6 months or so ... personally, I wouldn't know, mine never last that long!

Keep your pantry well stocked and you'll be half-way towards getting dinner on the table in a hurry. Come back tomorrow and I'll tell you all about what I did with that Bold Stock pictured above ... and a few other items from the list of essentials.

So, what's in your pantry? Curious Diva wants to know.


Anonymous said...

You good girl Diva, I see you have Lea & perrins Worcester sauce in your pantry...


The Diva on a Diet said...

Always, Argentum, always! :)

pixelgal said...

Bless me Diva for I have sinned. I have spices from the Truman administration and several types of flour in hopes that I will bake/cook something interesting again. Alas, sometimes they have flying things coming out of them after which, of course, I throw them away! Many of the things you've listed are usually on my shelves, but since I've been lame (at least that's my excuse) I've been depending on the kindness of care givers to cook simpler meals so things like garlic are getting dry and ugly. I promise to make amends by cleaning out the food and spice cabinets one of these days. And as for fresh spices, love 'em but lately haven't used 'em so the crisper also has strange looking things in it--which may inspire Jackson Pollack-type artists to copy them on canvas. But never fear...we painted the kitchen and now I'm REALLY getting organized!

Tracy said...

Diva, I wish I kept a well stocked pantry. We grocery shop once a week and on day 6, our refrigerator and pantry are b-a-r-e! However, I do seem to have a lot of odds-and-ends spices such as dry mustard -- do you or your readers have any suggestions as to how I can use it before its 6 months are up?

Dana McCauley said...

Actually, I think the pantry deepeners were one day early but, that's splitting hairs now isn't it?

I'm a big fan of a well organized pantry myself. Nice work Diva!

Astra Libris said...

I love the photo of your spice rack!! Such a beautifully extensive collection! Thank you for reminding me, too, that I need to get lentils... :-)

Hmmm, we absolutely have to keep a giant, 5 lb jar of Cajun seasoning and an even bigger, 25 lb sack of brown rice in the pantry at all times... :-)

Deb said...

Many of the things on yur essential list are on mine. I also like to have a good supply of frozen veggies on hand to supplement the fresh and just in case something ends up like Pixiegal's science experiment and unusable. The frozen can stand in for fresh if needed.

I also have to admit to being a bit of a spice junkie - I just love to have them and use them but sometimes the more obscure ones are a bit hard to use up - that is where the ehtnic section of my grocer comes in handy - they have smaller packet size servings of many spices and at much better prices than the Mccormacks and Durkees of the world.


Juliet said...

Hi! Do you want me to send you some tortillas? I don't know what I'd do without them. :)

The Duo Dishes said...

Why that pantry is very neat. It's impressive. We've got stuff from rice wine vinegar, sesame oil and crystallized ginger to saffron threads, Bailey's and agave nectar. It's all over the place. But makes for fun dishes when you need to just grab something.

The Diva on a Diet said...

Pixelgal - no real need to confess ... its not like I don't know the state of your spice cabinet! LOL and kidding ... sort of. ~wink~

Tracy - I think dry mustard tends to last a bit longer than 6 months ... but it seems that I always have a ton left-over as well. I typically use it in sauces, like BBQ, and really you don't end up needing much. My grandma Mary always used it to make her own mustard. I'll have to find out how she does it and report back!

Dana - Doh! Silly error and thanks for the catch. I *really* need an editor! :)

Astra - aw, thanks, extensive it is. I just love herbs and spices! I go through a lot of brown rice too. Don't know where I'd be without it.

Deb - how great about the smaller spice packets. That's such a good thing. I love spice markets where they sell in bulk and you can buy just what you need. Such fun!

Juliet - aren't you sweet?! I'll check my Whole Food first and let you know. If not, I might take you up on your kind offer. :)

Duo - funny, I think the cabinet is a mess! LOL I do have a 3 tiered shelf in there which allows me easy access to the jars in the back. I love it!