Why Stock your Pantry
– and what the heck does that mean anyway?
Moving into your first home, whether a house or an apartment, shared or alone, it can be terribly intimidating. You move your clothes, your personal belongings and whatever furniture you’ve accumulated and miscellaneous pieces that generous friends or parents have been willing to part with. Then it comes to the kitchen, again maybe you’ve collected a few pots and pans, some utensils, dishes and silverware but what about that cupboard called the pantry? What goes in there and why? Don’t have a clue; well my new book, ‘What’s In Your Pantry’, can help you from learning to stock your pantry to actually collecting the necessary items to create your own delicious dishes.
A well-stocked pantry will save you money, help you to create quick easy dishes, keep you healthy and away from those fast food stops on you’re way home from work or school. If you have roommates a communal pantry works great. Keep your pantry items fresh by purchasing items in small amounts unless you think you really can use a 20-pound bag of all-purpose flour. In my book, ‘What’s In Your Pantry’, I’ve listed items by grocery aisle to make it easy to purchase what you need from your local store.
So let’s begin. Here are some basics that I recommend for your first home or apartment.
- Sea Salt and Pepper
- Olive Oil
- Vinegar, red wine, balsamic and plain white
- Chicken or Vegetable stock
- A variety of pasta and a jar of your preferred pasta sauce
- Jasmine rice
- Dried mushrooms
- Canned plum tomatoes
- Canned meat (chicken, beef), fish (tuna, salmon, anchovies, sardines)
- Canned fruit, beans, canned or jarred vegetables, artichoke hearts, hearts of palm, olives, green beans, corn, sun-dried tomatoes and the list could go on and on.
Sea salt and pepper are a must, of course; not table salt. A good sea salt without any preservatives can be purchased for a reasonable cost, no need to get one of the extravagant sea salts from the cookware store. The reason for the no preservative salt is purely for flavor. Many salts have additives to keep it from clumping together and help make it free flowing. This can give the salt an aftertaste and therefore affect the flavor of your food. Using a small amount of sea salt can add a nice fresh taste to your food. Freshly ground pepper is so much more flavorful than ‘pre-ground’ pepper. Luckily for all of us, many of the spice companies now offer a jar of peppercorns with a grinder attached at the top. These can conveniently be purchased at your local market. Be sure to season your food as you cook, not just at the end of the preparation. In order to determine how much seasoning you need, you’ll need to taste your dish as you prepare it. Simple. Taste again before serving to make sure that the seasonings are adjusted to your taste.
Choosing olive oil can be a daunting task; if you’re lucky you’ll be able to taste a few varieties before you purchase one. Choose one in your price range that has a nice, clean flavor. Use a pure olive oil for cooking and save your more expensive extra-virgin oil for special salad dressings or to toss with your cooked vegetables.
Red wine or balsamic vinegar to create salad dressings and more are a must. A plain white vinegar is great for cleaning things like coffee makers, floors, windows and the like. A little white vinegar added to your boiling water for poached eggs would help keep them from spreading out in the pan.
Chicken or vegetable stock should be free of preservatives, MSG and high fructose corn syrup. Sometimes the ‘low salt’ versions have these added to punch up the flavor.
You can ‘doctor’ your jarred pasta sauce with a little red wine, some Italian herbs, mushrooms, olives or whatever you can imagine for a great little dinner in no time!
Jasmine rice has a nice aromatic aroma, add some leftover roast chicken, cooked veggies and dinner is served.
Dried mushrooms reconstituted in wine, chicken stock or warm water, add a considerable amount of flavor to any dish.
Canned meat can be added not only to salads and soups but stews and casserole type dishes. They’re great for sandwiches as well. Anchovies can add depth to a salad dressing or a pasta sauce.
Canned tomatoes with some chicken stock added, a can of vegetables, some mushrooms, canned beans (rinsed and drained, of course), some leftover cooked pasta, a little Parmesan cheese and voila, you’ve created a healthy satisfying soup! Add a loaf of good bread and a bottle of wine and mangia (eat)!
So be creative in your kitchen and don’t be afraid to make mistakes; that’s how great dishes are created!
- 4 pounds mixed apples, choose a variety of sweet apples, wash, peel, core chopped into chunks.
- Apple Juice, real apple juice not concentrate or white grape juice (read the label)
- Sugar (only if your apples aren’t very sweet)
- Place the chopped apples into a large saucepan and add about 1” of apple juice. Cook until the apples are soft and tender. If there is excess liquid after cooking the apples you can drain this off and save to drink as ‘juice’, that’s exactly what it is.
- Mash the apples with a potato masher or put through a food mill. You could also use a food processor or blender. Add cinnamon to taste and sugar if needed. Keep hot or cool and store in refrigerator for a week. That’s it!
- 1 ½ cups flour (I recommend King Arthur flour)
- ½ teaspoon sea salt, or Kosher
- ½ tablespoon sugar, optional
- 6 tablespoons frozen unsalted butter
- 2 ½ tablespoons cold shortening such as Smart Balance
- 3 tablespoons ice water
- 4 pounds mixed apples
- 1 Deep Dish Uncooked Pie Crust
- 1 tablespoon Cinnamon,
- 3 teaspoons apple pie spice
- ½ cup flour
- 5 tablespoons corn starch
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- Place the flour, salt and sugar if using into the bowl of a food processor, pulse to blend. Add the butter and shortening and pulse until they are about the size of peas.
- Pour out the mixture into a bowl and add the ice water a tablespoon at a time. Toss until the dough comes together in a ball. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 30 min. or until cold.
- On a rolpat or well-floured board, roll the dough into a circle large enough to fit the pie pan. Keep moving the dough around as you roll so that it doesn’t stick to the board or counter. Gently roll the dough onto the rolling pin and lay into the pie pan, lifting and securing snuggly into the pan.
- Preheat the oven to 425°.
- Combine the cinnamon, apple pie spice, flour, cornstarch and sugar in a bowl and mix them well.
- Wash the apples in cool water, peel, core and slice the apples. Toss the apples with a little of the dry mixture and layer them into the pie crust and sprinkle with the remaining dry mixture.
- Bake for 10 minutes, turn heat down to 375° and continue baking for about 45 minutes or until you can pierce the apples with a knife.
- Let cool before slicing.
Jan. Demo Class
Temecula Olive Oil Company’s
Seal Beach Tasting Room
148 Main Street, Seal Beach
Pre-paid reservations only, please call
MenuBlood Orange ‘Punch’
Fresh Jam & Granola Yogurt
Roasted Tomato & Mixed Cheese Quiche on Pomegranate and Tangerine Micro Green Salad
with Herb Roasted Dutch Yellow Potatoes
Orange Olive Oil Streusal Cake Chocolate Espresso Waffles with Fresh Fruit
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1 Pinch sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons rice vinegar
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 ounces blue cheese — crumbled
4 cups baby mix lettuce
1 pomegranate — seeded
1 tart apple — cored and diced
In a small bowl, whisk together mustard, large pinch of salt, large pinch
of pepper, and the sugar. Add vinegar, and whisk to combine. While
whisking, drizzle in oil. Continue whisking until emulsified. Add blue
cheese, and stir gently to combine.
In a large bowl toss lettuce with dressing and plate. Top with apple and
pomegranate seeds. Serve immediately.
- 1 cup flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking spice (nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves etc.)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup dried cranberries or other dried fruit (Optional)
- 2 eggs
- ¾ cups sugar
- ½ cup canola oil
- 1 cup pumpkin puree
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
- 1 tablespoon milk
- Preheat oven to 350 °. Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, baking spice and salt. Stir in cranberries; set aside.
- Using an electric mixer beat together eggs, sugar and oil; add pumpkin puree and mix until just blended.
- Add dry ingredients and mix until combined.
- Spread mixture into a 9 x 11” pan and bake for 15 to 20 minutes.
- In a small bowl, add powdered sugar and vanilla. Drizzle in milk, stirring until you have a smooth mixture.
- Cut the bars and place them on a cooling rack over a piece of parchment paper. Drizzle with the powdered sugar frosting and let set for a few minutes.
As summer begins to fade away and the feel of fall comes creeping in so does some wonderful fruit, pomegranates, all kinds of citrus, apples and eventually pears. Have you ever been apple picking? With the smell of apples lightly scenting the air, it’s intoxicating. So too is the smell of apples being prepared in a myriad of recipes for the fall. Do you know which apples are best for cooking, how to choose and store them?
Here are a few guidelines and some recipe suggestions. An apple a day keeps the doctor away may be just another saying but there is some truth behind that. Apples are the ultimate fruit, low in calories with no fat, sodium or cholesterol. The pectin in apples actually helps to dissolve the cholesterol in ones blood stream. High in fiber, anti-oxidants, potassium, niacin and a variety of vitamins, apples are a near perfect fruit.
Choose organic apples as apples have topped the Environmental Working Groups ‘Dirty Dozen’ list, which identifies the most pest laden fruit and vegetables. You’ll want to eat the skin of the apple as disease-fighting pectin (fiber) lies directly under the skin.
- Select firm fruit with no bruises or scars and treat them gently.
- Don’t wash your apples until you’re ready to use them.
- Keep them in a cool place, your fruit drawer of the refrigerator is fine but don’t store with other fruit. Apples give off a gas, which will ripen you’re other fruit faster. Some apples will keep weeks in the refrigerator. They will keep a few days on the counter.
Apple Variety Guide
- Golden Delicious
- Pink Lady
- Red Delicious
For more information on apples or to order some types not available in your regular market check Melissa’s Produce here (click).
I usually freeze my tomatoes until I have time later to make sauce, ketchup or just can some chopped tomatoes for later use. (I freeze them by washing and drying them, placing them on a baking sheet and freezing until solid. No, I do not peel or seed them as the skin comes off easily when they are defrosted. Once frozen, I place into an airtight freezer bag and return to the freezer. This allows me to defrost one or ten, however many I need at the time.)
I like to do ‘small batch’ canning, which means I can do a few jars at a time. Of course when my tomatoes come in all at once, I haul out the big canner and fill it up. The basic procedure for canning small or large batches is the same only the equipment varies slightly. If I’m canning a small batch instead of the big canner, I can usually use a large stockpot, deep enough for the water to cover the jars by 2″. I use a cake rack for the bottom of the stockpot so the jars don’t sit on the bottom of the pot where they could possibly break. That’s it!
Tomatoes-I do not peel or seed my tomatoes, just pack them raw
Tomato juice (you could also use hot water)
Fresh herbs, optional
- A stockpot or regular canner (tall enough so the jars are submerged by 2″ while processing)
- A rack for the bottom of the stockpot or canner
- Canning lifters (for jars & for lids), wide mouth funnel
- Canning jars, lids and screw bands
- Several clean tea towels
- Baking sheet
Place the rack in the bottom of your stockpot. Make sure to choose a deep enough pot so that the jars will be covered 2″ of water.
Fill the pot with water and begin to bring to a boil. Line a baking sheet with a clean tea towel.
Wash and dry the jars, lids and screw bands. Place lids into a small saucepan with hot water.
Prepare tomatoes by washing and lying out on a towel to air dry (they don’t have to be totally dry). If desired, cut tomatoes into quarters and set aside. I don’t peel or seed my tomatoes before packing as the skin comes right off when I take them out of the jar. If I don’t want to use the seeds, I simply strain them out.
Heat jars by placing them into the stockpot while you bring the water to a boil. Remove them to the cloth lined baking sheet when you are ready to fill with tomatoes. (The water in the stockpot should be boiling or very close to it).
Place one or two slices of lemon on the bottom of your jar.
Fill your jars with tomatoes, really squish them in there, and use a wooden spoon to smash them down. Add a sprinkle of sea salt and a tablespoon of lemon juice (from a real lemon). You can also add herbs such as basil, thyme or parsley. Using a plastic knife or chopstick, slide it down the side of the jar removing any air bubbles. Add tomato juice to cover the tomatoes and a slice of lemon at the top of the jar before sealing. Leave a 1/2″ headspace.
Wipe the top of the jar, removing any debris from the screw area and the top of the jar. Place the lid and the screw top on the jar, closing only finger tight, and place on the rack in the canner or stockpot. Make sure the jars are covered by 2″ water, bring to a boil and time for 40 minutes (for pints) or 45 (for qts). The water must be boiling the entire 40 minutes or you’ll need to restart the timer from the beginning. Remove to a cloth lined baking sheet and let cool for 24 hours before moving.
After 24 hours, if the center of the lid still moves up and down the jar has not sealed properly. You can reprocess this jar once or just put it in the refrigerator and use within a few days.
A Little Glimpse Into Fall 2013 Tour
Sorry we missed you. Check back for upcoming Tours
October 11 -13, 2013
Fall Harvest Tour
Cambria & Paso Robles
California’s Beautiful Central Coast
Accommodations at Cambria Pines Lodge
Did you know October is Scarecrow Harvest Festival in Cambria, don’t miss them!
Friday Evening Events
Incredible Cambria Fall Farmers Market
Self-Guided Tour, Optional
Italian Style Dinner Party Cooking Class
Learn to make your own mozzarella cheese
Your own handmade grilled pizza
Italian Salads, Local Wine & Fun!
10:00 – 3:00 (approximately)
Tour with Wine Wrangler
Vineyard Wine Tour and Tasting
Private ‘Vineyard’ Lunch and Tasting at Croad Winery
10 – 2 (approximately)
Biodynamic Farm Tour & Lunch
Join Bill & Barbara Spencer for a unique farm tour and learn all about Biodynamic Farming and why it should be important to you and your food supply. Spend a few hours on a real working family farm then relax under the huge oak tree with a seasonal farm to table lunch prepared with ingredients that are found on the farm that day. Well, maybe a few extra treats thrown in! It’s a day you soon won’t forget
Summer is the time that I am refilling my pantry with my own canned goods, jams, brandied fruit, pickle relish, and all kinds of pickled fruit and vegetables. Some purchased items round out the summer pantry. Here’s what you’ll find in mine, ‘What’s In Your Pantry?’©
Anchovy paste – for great salad dressings and more
Artichoke Hearts – Salads, antipasto platter, or mix in pasta
BBQ sauce – for quick grilled meals
Canned or dried beans – I keep some refrigerated for tossing in salads
Canned Tomatoes and Pasta sauce – indispensible for all sorts of dishes
Chicken Stock – canned or homemade
Chili sauce – Ketchup – Horseradish – Worcestershire sauce
Crackers – Mixed
Dried Pasta – Great for cold salads and fast meals
Dried Italian sausage – for hot, hot nights, a cold platter of cheese, sausage, some pickled veggies and a hunk of fresh bread, but don’t forget the wine!
Hearts of Palm – antipasto platter or salads
Italian Tuna in olive oil –
Potatoes – Small fingerling type for salads, frittatas and roasting
Rice – Bomba (for paella), Carnaroli or Arborio (for risotto) and Jasmine for everything else
Tapenades – unexpected company? easy appetizers
Nuts – almonds, pine nuts (fresh pesto anyone?), walnuts
Oats – for yummy cobblers, muffins and fruit crisps
Olives – Can you tell I love antipasto platters?
Cheese – cheddar, jack, mozzarella, fontina, Swiss and blue
Pizza dough (in the freezer, of course), quick to defrost and throw on a grill topped with anything!
Frozen fruit – from the garden or the farmers market. Freeze individually then place in a quart-sized bag, for fruit tart, crisp or pie
Don’t forget your pantry basics either:
Flour, Sugars, Baking Powder/Soda, Baking mix, Cocoa powder, Cornstarch, Honey, Molasses, Vanilla, Vinegars, Yeast, Olive Oil………………
For more pantry stocking ideas, check my book ‘What’s In Your Pantry?’©