Written by Cathy Taylor
I was once asked to write down some easy recipes for the husband of a woman who is a quadriplegic. He wanted dinner ideas that were quick and inexpensive, and easy enough for someone with little cooking experience.
After some thought, I decided that instead of writing down each individual recipe, I could share a list of pantry items that, if he kept on hand, could provide him with a variety of meal ideas. This list has since been shared with newly-weds, college students, and wonderfully enough, my own teenagers who are taking on more cooking responsibilities. (Woo hoo!)
1 – Canned chili
Chili can be eaten alone, or spiced up with toppings like shredded cheese, sour cream, onions, olives, and peppers. You can use it as a smother for chicken, on Navajo tacos, for chili dogs, in a baked potato bar, over French fries, or mix it into macaroni and cheese. It also makes a delicious dip when mixed with cream cheese. Trying to eat less meat? They make vegetarian chili too – and it tastes great!
2 – Canned refried beans
These can be used in all sorts of Mexican inspired dishes: tacos, tostadas, burritos, taco salads, nachos, quesadillas, etc. You can change up the flavor by mixing in other items as well, such as salsa, enchilada sauce, canned black beans, ground beef, diced chilies, taco seasoning, cumin, chili powder, rice, or corn.
Pastas like rigatoni, macaroni, fettucine, linguini, cheese stuffed tortellini, and penne are great to break up the monotony of regular old spaghetti noodles. And the toppings for pasta can be just as varied: marinara, Alfredo, meat sauce, sautéed vegetables, butter and seasonings, parmesan, salad dressings, olive and other flavored oils, or vinaigrettes.
4 – Potatoes
While these probably aren’t considered a pantry item, I love to include them because they are so versatile, and pair well with most anything. They can be fried with onion, grated into hash browns, boiled and mashed, used in soup, roasted with olive oil and a variety of seasonings, baked and topped with veggies, chili, cheese, cream soups, salsa, sour cream, etc. You can even bake them the night before and keep them in the fridge for later use.
5 – Bottled sauces, dressings and marinades
Slow cookers are a busy family’s best friend – and there are few things easier than putting a few frozen chicken breasts in the slow cooker, pouring in a bottle of sauce, and putting on the lid. (Don’t forget to turn it on too!) Salad dressings like Italian, Catalina, vinaigrettes, and honey mustard are great over chicken. You can also use BBQ sauces, salsas, spaghetti sauce, marinades, and Indian simmer sauces. Then serve with pasta, rice or potatoes and you’re good to go! Dressings can of course top your salads, but they can also add a delicious kick to sandwiches, wraps and pasta.
Now, these aren’t by any means gourmet meals.
What they are, is a solution for the reality of having a busy life. We love having the whole world of cuisine right at our fingertips, but usually don’t have time for those recipes every day.
So when you’re tired after a long day and the kids are asking what’s for dinner –
Have no fear…
Your pantry just might save the day.
What’s your favorite quick and easy recipe you grab from the pantry?