Archive for the ‘pantry meals’ Category

I made this yesterday for company and everyone went back for seconds and thirds, so I would say it was a hit.  My mother made this recipe all through my childhood and I make it pretty much as she instructed me when I asked for the recipe in college.  I don’t know where she got the original recipe or idea – I think she may have just created it on her own.  It is not like other Sloppy Joe recipes I have tasted – it is much milder.  Yesterday, this recipe served 6 with enough leftovers for a couple lunches.  When I make it for my family of 4, we usually have enough leftover to freeze for another dinner.  Yesterday, I made this with a pack of Ground Turkey from Sam’s club, but my mother always made it with ground beef.  I also use any color sweet pepper I have handy, but my mom always used green peppers.  Works great no matter what I do differently.

Veronica’s Sloppy Joes

2.5 pounds ground beef or ground turkey

1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)

1 green pepper, chopped (or use red, yellow, or orange sweet peppers if that’s what you have)

3 small cans of tomato sauce, 8 ounces each

3 T. sweet relish

3-4 T. prepared yellow mustard

Hamburger or deli buns

Heat large skill over medium heat and begin browning ground meat.  When meat is about half cooked, stir in chopped onion and chopped sweet pepper.  Continue to cook until meat is no longer pink.  Drain if desired.  Stir in tomato sauce, sweet relish, and mustard.  I don’t actually measure the mustard, just squirt in about what I think is right.  For measuring the sweet relish, I actually use a tablespoon from my flatware set rather than a measuring spoon.   Simmer the mix for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, and then serve.  You can let it simmer longer if you like.  Either put a lid on it, or add a little bit of water as it simmers if it gets too thick.

Best regards,



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Here is an adaptation of a recipe from Desperation Dinners by Beverly Mills and Alicia Ross.  A very good idea book, by the way, for quick dinners.    Like Rachel Ray, they are big fans of using pre-prepped ingredients like frozen chopped onions.  I don’t mind chopping onions and am not even sure my stores carry such a thing as frozen onions, so I have modified their recipe a bit to fit my tastes and procedures.  The chicken in this recipe can be anything from leftovers to quick thawed frozen chicken breasts to canned chicken.  I have used all 3.  In fact, yesterday, I used one leftover grilled chicken breast and added a can of canned chicken.  Sam’s Club sells a stack of 5 large cans of chicken for about 10 bucks.  I forgot to put them on my pantry list, but I keep them on hand for soup and casseroles.

Tortilla Soup

1-2 T. Olive oil (I just squirt a coating in the bottom of my pan – I keep olive oil in a squeeze bottle for this purpose)

1 C. Diced Onions

2 cloves garlic, minced

Roughly 2 C. diced, cooked chicken – use leftovers or canned chicken or boil some frozen breasts

½ t. chili powder

¼ t. ground cumin

2 cans (14 ½ oz each) chicken broth or bouillon and water to make 4 c. stock

1 c. salsa (from a jar – I keep plenty in the pantry – opened jars go  in fridge)

Store bought tortilla chips

Shredded cheese – cheddar, jack, etc.

Frozen corn, if desired

Sliced avocado, if desired

Heat a large (at least 4 qt) sauce pan over medium heat and add oil, then add in diced onions and garlic.  Cook for at least 5 minutes to soften onions, then add chicken and cook for another 5 minutes or so.  Add spices and cook for 1-2 minutes more.  Dump in chicken broth and salsa, stir well, and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.  Cook at least 10 minutes more, but can simmer for longer.  Cover if you will be letting it simmer for a while so it doesn’t thicken up too much.

To serve, dish soup into bowls, crack some tortilla chips by hand and dump on top along with a bit of cheese.  We usually dish soup up at the stove and then garnish at the table.

I am the only one in my house who likes corn and avocado in my soup, so while the soup is cooking, I toss a handful of frozen corn in my bowl and slice up about 1/3 of an avocado into the bowl.  Pouring the hot soup on top heats up the corn and avocado.  You could add the corn directly to the soup with the broth and salsa if everyone in your house will eat it.

This is fast and tasty.  Yesterday my daughter also made corn bread to go with it, but the soup and a salad are usually plenty filling.

Best regards,


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Your pantry items are more than just non-perishables.  They also include staples in your fridge and freezer.  Below is a list of what I consider critical to have around.  Your list may be similar or far different, depending on how you like to cook and eat and who you have to feed.  Naturally I have a lot of other things in my fridges and freezers.  By the way, I have a side by side indoor freezer, a chest freezer, and our former kitchen fridge now lives in the garage.  It is not an old junker and is not used simply as a “beer and bait” refrigerator, but as an extension of our pantry.  Honestly, I don’t know what I would do without it, and it is always full.  If you use it regularly, I think a second fridge is justifiable, but if it is only very lightly and irregularly used or is an old energy hog (I bought a device called a Kill-A-Watt for about 20 bucks to monitor energy usage – you can easily buy one many places online if you have doubts about your appliance), you might consider shutting it down.  But if you get as much use out of your second fridge as I do, go ahead and use it and don’t feel guilty!

My Fridge Staples:

  • Milk (only organic in our house and the dates are always far off, so I stock the garage fridge with about 8 half gallons every time I shop so that we don’t run out)
  • Half and half (I like it for my coffee, but it is also useful for many recipes and I often sub it in for heavy cream if thickness is not critical to a recipe)
  • Sherry, white vermouth, and red (sweet) vermouth – they keep a while in the fridge.  I use the sherry mostly for cooking (but please don’t buy disgusting cooking sherry or cooking wine – buy a moderately priced bottle of real stuff instead unless you have concerns about someone drinking it who shouldn’t).  Vermouths are for cocktails mostly, but a shot of white vermouth can replace white wine in many recipes.
  • Yeast, keep a small jar in the fridge and freeze the rest
  • Ketchup
  • Regular yellow mustard
  • Other mustards for cooking and sandwiches – we like Dijon, spicey brown, and/or a nice grainy mustard.  I try a different brand every time I go to the store.
  • Mayo if you use it regularly for sandwiches.  Otherwise, only buy some when you need it for a recipe
  • Pickle relish (critical to my mom’s Sloppy Joe recipe, which I will post one of these days)
  • Capers (I love these and use them in enough dishes to want them on hand)
  • Soy Sauce
  • Bottled Lemon and Lime Juices
  • Paprika (keep in fridge so it stays fresh)
  • Worcestershire Sauce (we call it W Sauce at our house)
  • Various hot sauces for those who enjoy them.  At least some Tabasco for zip to many dishes
  • Eggs
  • Iceberg Lettuce (always – a nightly green salad is such a good habit)
  • Salad add-ins in season – we can usually get hot house cukes and colored peppers at Sam’s Club for a decent price most of the year and a big bag of colored sweet peppers is handy for so many dishes.
  • Apples keep well, so we almost always have a bag in the crisper, especially in the cooler months
  • Fresh lemons and limes – I only keep a few at a time since limes in particular seem to spoil too fast on me to buy a whole bag.
  • Fresh Carrots keep really well.  I used to buy the “baby” peeled ones, but they kept getting slimy on me so I’ve switched back to keeping a bag of regular carrots in the crisper.  When you peel them, save the peels and ends in a baggie and throw in the freezer to make soup broth later.  Same with celery trimmings
  • Fresh celery – lately I keep this on hand for my husband to snack on.  If it gets flimsy, chop and freeze for quick tosses into soups and stews
  • Flour Tortillas keep very well in the fridge as well as whole grain tortillas.  Use for lunch wraps and for meals like quesadillas and enchiladas
  • Cheeses – American singles, parmesan for grating, a variety of cheeses in blocks for snacking
  • Shredded packages of cheddar and mozzarella for cooking and pizza

In My Freezers:

  • IQF (Individually Quick Frozen) boneless skinless chicken breasts.  Thaw these super fast by setting them out on an aluminum baking pan.  They thaw almost completely within an hour or so unless they are really huge.
  • Hamburger divided up into 1, 1.5, and 2 lb. packs.  I buy a huge package at Sam’s Club and weigh and divide it up myself.  These are sizes I typically use.  You should buy or bag the sizes most of your recipes call for.
  • When pork loins are on sale at Kroger or another store under $2 a pound, I usually buy a big pack which they usually have precut into chops (ask your butcher or you can do this pretty easily yourself also) and bag into individual meal portions (4 chops per pack for us)
  • Several packs of butter.  I only keep a stick or two thawed at a time.
  • Garden hot peppers can be frozen in a Ziploc bag and pulled out and cut as needed.  Just rinse and cut frozen.  Be aware that the heat does seem to intensify with freezing.  I always cut out the ribs and seeds
  • Trimmings and peels from carrots and celery to toss in soup broth
  • A variety of nuts – walnuts, pecans, almonds, and pine nuts, usually
  • Shredded coconut for making granola
  • Wheat Germ for Granola
  • A few frozen veggies
  • Frozen meatballs for in a pinch
  • Frozen cooked shrimp
  • Snacks, ice cream, etc.
  • Frozen leftovers and investment cooking meals as well as packaged items
  • Pizza sauce – I get a huge can at Sam’s club and package a pizza’s worth into a bunch of baggies and “file” them in a container in the freezer.  With cheese in the fridge and sauce in the freezer, homemade pizza is only a Bread Machine quick cycle away.

That gives you an idea of some of the basics.  Yours may be different than mine, but once you start to realize what your “must have” items are, you are less likely to run out.  If you are stocking a kitchen for the first time, many of these items can be bought as you need them.  If your household has been around awhile, you probably have most of them.  Just keep in mind what you can’t stand to run out of – for me, that is lettuce and milk!  Everything else, when it gets low, gets put on a list to be replenished.  But I always keep up with the lettuce and milk and everything else follows.

Let me know what your freezer and fridge must have items are.  And what are your thoughts on having a second refrigerator or a chest freezer?  Let me know what you think!

Best regards,


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Today’s list contains items that I consider to be essentially non-perishable.  Most won’t keep indefinitely but they won’t spoil in a week either.  There are many sites on the internet that will give specific shelf life information.  On another day, I will post a list of my refrigerator and freezer staples.

Baking (as well as general cooking):

  • All purpose flour
  • Granulated sugar
  • Bread flour if you have a bread machine or like to bake bread
  • Bisquick (I use regularly for Cheesy Biscuits – good also for quick pancakes, etc.)
  • Spices – build these up as you actually need them
  • Powdered Sugar
  • Brown Sugar
  • Corn Syrup
  • Honey
  • Semi-sweet chocolate chips for cookies on a whim
  • Cocoa Powder (mixed with oil you can use this for brownies on the fly – see can for instructions)
  • Semi Sweet or Bittersweet Chocolate bars for baking (Brownies, etc.)
  • Cornstarch
  • Cornmeal
  • Baking Powder
  • Baking Soda

General Cooking:

  • Herbs and Spices (see above)
  • Dry potato flakes or potato buds
  • Dry gravy mix – pork, brown gravy, chicken and/or turkey gravy
  • Dry bouillon – chicken and beef or vegetable for vegetarian cooking
  • Apple cider vinegar (I let this stand in for regular vinegar also)
  • Balsamic Vinegar (does not have to be fancy)
  • Olive Oil
  • Canola or Vegetable Oil
  • Corn Oil
  • Shortening (I buy small cans since the only thing I use it for is pie crust)
  • Dry Spaghetti
  • Dry Macaroni
  • Rice
  • Other pastas for side dishes and soup
  • Egg Noodles
  • Chicken Broth in cans or cartons (I try for low salt versions)
  • Tomato Sauce
  • Diced Tomatoes
  • Tomato paste
  • Canned Beans – Kidney, White Beans, Black Beans
  • Small bottles of red and white wine for cooking (I buy the 4 packs of single serve bottles just for cooking)

General Eating/snacking:

  • Cold Breakfast Cereals
  • Three kinds of Chex Cereal for Chex mix on a whim
  • Nuts (snacking and Chex mix on a whim)
  • Pretzels (snacking and chex mix on a whim)
  • Micro Popcorn (my son, the pit, could not live without this)
  • Saltines
  • Snack crackers like water crackers and Ritz for snacking and with cheese
  • Graham Crackers
  • Peanut Butter (both for sandwiches and cooking)
  • Salsa (for snacking and cooking)
  • Taco shells

Food Storage and Paper Goods:

  • Tin Foil
  • 2 gallon zip bags for large items and marinating (I get these cheap at Aldi’s)
  • Gallon zipper bags (I only by freezer bags – they cost a little more but are thicker)
  • Quart zipper freezer bags
  • Pleated sandwich bags (cheap for lunches and quick storage – use a clip)
  • Zipper sandwich bags (for when pleated is too flimsy or you need a zipper)
  • Wax paper
  • Glad Press n Seal (love this stuff for a lot of applications)
  • Plastic wrap such as Saran Wrap (I have a huge roll of food service wrap from Sam’s that may outlast me!)

In the Veggie Bin (I have a stand-alone bin with 3 compartments):

  • 2-3 lb bag yellow or white onions
  • 5-10 lb bag potatoes (usually Idaho or Yukon Gold)
  • Several heads of fresh garlic

I have a lot more in my pantry than this, but to me, these are the basics.   If you are setting up house for the first time, you might want to print this list or another and determine the best items you absolutely need to get you started, and then add things as you actually need them.  Below is a page I put together of some links to pantry sites:


Tomorrow I will post some tips on how I store and keep track of these items as well as good places to buy them.

Best Regards,


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In the past I have posted “Pantry Meals” or referred to ingredients that “you probably have in your pantry.”    It got me thinking that what I consider a pantry staple and what you consider a pantry staple may be different.  So I wanted to open up a discussion about the “must have” contents of a pantry.

But today, I thought I’d discuss the pantry itself.  Oh boy, would I love a big butler pantry off my kitchen, but I don’t have one.    Instead I have a standard closet type pantry with wire shelving.  It holds most of our boxed goods, some canned goods, pasta, baggies, tin foil, and waxed paper, liquor, and countertop appliances that are not used much, like the mixer and food processor sit on the floor.

Regular cabinets, pull out cabinets, and a corner lazy susan hold my herbs and spices and most of the baking goods.

In addition, one long shelf in the garage holds excess canned goods, pop, and some paper goods (Kleenex, paper towels, etc., which I usually buy in bulk at Sam’s club or on sale elsewhere.)

Lastly, there are some metal storage shelves in my basement storage area that hold backup items (I always like to have at least one bag of each kind of sugar and flour ready for when I run out upstairs), stocked up items that are not canned goods (pasta, cereal, etc.) that I wouldn’t want out in the garage, and buckets of whole grains from my foray into preparedness 10 years ago – a 50 lb bag of whole wheat lasts a REALLY long time when you only use a little bit each time you bake!

I keep things like garbage bags, cleaning rags, and bathroom staples in linen closets on the main and second floors but don’t consider them part of my pantry system.

So my “pantry” actually covers two other areas of the house besides the kitchen.  What do you use as a pantry – particularly if you don’t have an actual closet for one in your kitchen?  Do you have trouble keeping track of stuff?

I made chili with my daughter earlier this week and we needed two cans of kidney beans.  I only found one can in either the garage or the pullout cabinet where I keep canned beans.  So we mixed in a can of white beans instead.  The next day I went down to the basement and found 2 more cans of kidney beans on the shelf!  Oh well.  Need to get a little better organized!

Let me know where you like to set up your pantry and how it is working for you.  In general, mine works pretty good and I have been working on consolidating more so all like items are in one place.  I used to keep a couple of cans of tomato products in the kitchen pantry and the rest in the garage but that made it harder to know what I have, so now they are all out in the garage.

Tomorrow I will put together a list of what I consider my top pantry staples.  I’d love to hear your thoughts on this as well.

Best regards,


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Another score on a tasty and fast meal using pantry staples, courtesy of an old issue of Cooking Light.  This recipe served my family of 4 with a small amount of leftovers, though I also served a large green salad (served with every dinner at our house) and homemade French bread with butter.  I have a tried and true French Bread recipe that is very easy using the bread machine – the hardest part is having enough time before dinner to get it made – usually a weekend or vacation day activity.  I will include the recipe after the main dish.

Easy Gnocchi with Marinara Sauce

For Sauce:

1 T. olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped (about 1.5-2 cups)

2 garlic cloves, minced (about 2 t.)

1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes

1 8 oz. can tomato sauce

1 t. sugar

½ t. dried oregano

¼ t. salt

For Gnocchi:

1 c. warm water

1 t. salt

1 large egg

1 c. all purpose flour

2 c. instant potato flakes

1 T. chopped fresh basil

1/8 t. ground pepper

Make sauce first.  Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add onions and garlic and sauté for 5-10 minutes until tender.  Stir in remaining ingredients for sauce.  Bring to gentle boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes until slightly thickened.

Meanwhile, prepare gnocchi.   Bring a large pot of water for cooking the gnocchi to boil on the stovetop. Combine the 1 cup warm water, salt, and egg in food processor bowl fitted with blade and give it a couple quick pulses to mix.  Add remaining ingredients and pulse again to mix.  When first mixed, it will be a little soupy.  Let it sit for about a minute and then run the food processor again until dough begins to form a ball. Either coat a baking sheet with cooking spray or lay a couple pieces of wax paper on the counter to hold your gnocchi pieces as you cut them.   Very lightly flour a work surface and divide dough into 4 equal portions.  I set 3 balls back into the food processor bowl while I work with the first one.  On floured surface, roll ball into a rope about 18 inches long.  Using a bench knife or table knife, cut each rope into pieces about 3/4-1 inch long and place on cookie sheet or wax paper.  Continue to do the same with the remaining 3 balls of dough.    Depending on the size of your pot, cook about 1/3 of the gnocchi at a time.  Add the gnocchi to the boiling water and let cook for about 3 minutes.  They will float after about 2 minutes, but let them cook for 3 minutes.  Fish out of the water with a slotted spoon and put cooked gnocchi in a strainer over a bowl.  Continue with the next two batches.

Serve gnocchi with the marinara sauce, parmesan cheese if desired, and a nice crusty loaf of bread.  See my recipe below for bread machine French loaves.

Easy Bread Machine French Bread (makes 2 loaves)

1 1/3 c. warm water

1.5 t. salt

4 c. bread flour

1.5 t. dry yeast (SAF brand is my favorite)

Mix all of the above ingredients in your bread machine in the recommended order and run on the dough cycle.  Your dough should pull together nicely into a ball that is neither too wet nor too dry.  When bread cycle is over, divide dough into two portions and roll each out into a baguette shape – I try to make my loaves almost as long as a cookie sheet, though they shrink a little after rolling.  I place my loaves on a cookie sheet with a piece of parchment paper on it for easy cleanup.  You may also simply place them on a lightly greased cookie sheet.  Cover with a lint free towel to rise for about 45 minutes.  About 30 minutes into the rise (15 minutes before baking), preheat your oven to 450 F.  This recipe also works well in a convection oven – bake at the equivalent of 450 per your oven’s convection instructions.  When the loaves have risen nicely (about 45 minutes total rise time), slash the tops either diagonally or with one long slash along the entire top, and bake for about 20-25 minutes.  Loaves should be nicely brown when done.  Cool on a rack and serve. Note that your parchment paper will get brown and crispy at this temperature.  Many people bake with parchment at high temps, but keep an eye on it in case your oven is running hot.  You can also bake this recipe on a preheated pizza stone with a pan of water on the bottom shelf (see instructions for Artisan bread in one of my other posts) for an extra crispy crust.



Best regards,


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