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  • Writer's pictureAnnamarie Stedjan

Cooking From Your Pantry: An Essential Guide to Stocking Your Kitchen for Cooking Success

It’s the beginning of October and this is the fourth week that the kids are back in school.  Despite having to dash for the bus in the pouring rain on the first day, our mornings have been running quite smoothly (lets hope that continues). With the new year comes a whole new set of schedules, after school activities and one more level up in grade, which inevitably means more homework.  My daughter started 5th grade this year and we have had multiple “you’ve got this” conversations.  I tried very diligently to explain how important preparedness and time management is to success in school (or really success in anything).  If you are well prepared and you manage your time appropriately, then you can knock it out of the park every single time!!  I found myself using a comparison of how I have everything I need in my kitchen and pantry to make a successful meal at the drop off hat.  If you have the right tools (or ingredients in the kitchen case) and know your timing, then you will be golden.  She looked at me and said, “well mom, you do have a stocked pantry! I guess that’s why your dinners are always a success.”  She is too kind, but I love that she supports me just the way I support her.  Thankfully, due to the fact that she is one smart cookie, and maybe a little due to my preparedness and time management speech, she is totally rocking it this year and I am so very proud!

Today happens to be one of those afternoon/evening schedules where we do not sit down as a family for dinner.  As much as I am not crazy about Wednesdays evenings… the rushing and the lack of togetherness, I still feel its important for them to have a wholesome, home cooked meal.  Don’t get me wrong, have there been nights we grab a pizza, or run into Panera for a soup and sandwich?….ABSOLUTELY!  But I try to make those pit stops few and far between.  The reality of it is, if you have a well stocked pantry you can pull off a dinner like I did tonight without even batting an eyelash.  I was out all morning and had to give some thought to what I could throw together for dinner that my daughter could eat at 4pm, my son and I could eat at 5:30-6pm and that my husband could eat at 8pm.  My thoughts immediately turn to what I have in my pantry and fridge.  I had fresh spinach in the refrigerator and sun-dried tomatoes, chicken stock, onions, garlic and pasta in

my pantry.  I just stopped off to get some chicken, and when I came home I sautéed up the chicken with onions and garlic, added some chopped sun-dried tomatoes and spinach, cooked the pasta in some salted boiling water and tossed them all together with a sauce made from the pan dripping, a little spat of butter, some white wine, chicken stock and a touch of light cream and dijion mustard.  I put the whole thing in a large baking dish.  Now everyone can take and heat what they want, when they are ready to chow down.

I find myself doing this type of “on the fly” cooking more often than not.  As I have been openly honest about, I am not a recipe follower, which is one of the reasons why I actually started this blog.  I wanted the things I make to be good more than once.  In order to do that, recipes need to be developed.  Developing recipes is fun, challenging and super rewarding when you make something phenomenal four times in a row and know you got every ingredient balanced just right.   However, there is still something about just being able to get into my kitchen and create with no boundaries and no measurements.  That’s my happy place!  My comfy, creative space in my humble homy-sized kitchen.

I have noticed over the past year that I have been blogging and cooking, how much I rely on my pantry staples.  They allow me to cook a wide array of dishes and different cuisines, from Italian to Chinese, from a hearty beef stew to a no-meat meal.  Your pantry is your cooking arsenal!  Stock it up right and you will have success every single time!

I felt like this would be an awesome thing to share with you all, because I totally understand what the week feels like and how the evenings can be a challenge to say the least some nights.  So I went through my pantry, my cabinets and my refrigerator to bring you the ultimate pantry cheat sheet!  Below is a quick run through of things you would find in my pantry/refrigerator at all points in times. It has everything from grain staples to nuts and seeds, from dried fruits to essential produce.  It helps me to cook successfully and yes….stress free!  I created it just for you!  Of course there may be spices or some fresh produce that you might fancy more than I do…go ahead and add it to your pantry list!  Make the perfect list that works for you and your family.  Use this as a jumping point to stock your pantry and have your own cooking success!

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