Pantry Staples

DSC_0541 - Copy

Pantry Staples….and Fridge and Freezer Too!

Happy anniversary to us!  And to our readers that have been with us from the beginning (aka our moms)!  It’s hard to believe that we’ve had the blog for 2 years already.  With well over 200 recipes under our belt, it has certainly been a delicious marriage so far.  Of course we’re celebrating the only way two foodies know how – with a few days across the cheddar curtain in Madison, WI.  As I type I’m sitting in an adorable independent tea shop while John works out at the UW gym (way to make a girl feel bad about herself, jerk!).  So far we’ve enjoyed 2 delicious meals (though our chili this morning had the unfortunate title of Green Bay chili…football season is near…anger is setting in…), and we’ve got quite a few more on the docket before we head back to Chicago tomorrow afternoon.  If all goes as planned, we may even be able to sneak in a trip to a local farm or two in search of some goodies for the HMK.

Once we get back home we have a busy week ahead of us, but we’re determined to do a little cooking, if not just to use up our CSA haul that’s patiently awaiting us in the crisper.  People often ask us how we find the time to cook on busy days and weeks, and the answer really comes down to a number of things.  First off, we can’t deny that we simply LIKE cooking.  It’s our way of relaxing from the day, so to us it’s not really a chore.  Plus we’re both pretty skilled in the kitchen, so sometimes one of us bears the brunt of the meal, which is a nice option to have.  But love it or not, some days time is simply short.  That’s where a stocked pantry comes in.  With the following list of strategically selected non-perishables at our disposal, hundreds of quick recipes can be cobbled together without a trip to the store.  When we use up one of these staples we simply add it to a list in my phone, and then whenever we grocery shop next, we replace them.  It’s a great space-saving method, because we never have to keep many duplicates on hand, as long as we’re diligent about recording what we’ve used up, or what is very low.  We’ve had quite a few people ask us to recommend staple items for them, so we thought perhaps it would make a great anniversary post.  Do you have everything in our list??  Anything you can’t live without that didn’t make it??  We’d love to hear about your must-haves, after all, our pantry is ever-evolving!

Pantry Pics

Canned Goods

  • chicken stock (Swanson brand, unsalted)
  • vegetable broth (Pacific Natural Foods brand)
  • San Marzano whole peeled tomatoes
  • San Marzano crushed tomatoes
  • San Marzano diced tomatoes
  • tomato paste
  • tomato sauce
  • corn (not creamed, just straight corn)
  • baby corn (great in stir-frys)
  • artichoke hearts
  • water chestnuts (great in stir-frys)
  • black olives (whole and sliced)
  • mild green chiles
  • chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
  • pureed pumpkin
  • enchilada sauce
  • coconut milk (Goya brand)
  • beans (black, chick pea, pinto, kidney, any others you like)
  • tuna (we keep a few cans packed in oil and a few no-drain foil packets)


  • extra virgin olive oil
  • virgin coconut oil
  • peanut oil
  • vegetable oil
  • sesame oil
  • cooking spray (we use Pam Organic Olive Oil variety)


  • white
  • apple cider
  • balsamic
  • red wine
  • white wine
  • champagne

Nuts & Seeds
(all nuts and seeds should be purchased unsalted)

  • whole dry-roasted almonds
  • slivered almonds
  • walnut halves
  • pecan halves
  • peanuts
  • sesame seeds
  • sunflower seeds
  • pumpkin seeds
  • shredded coconut (unsweetened)
  • flaked coconut (unsweetened)

Ground Herbs and Spices

  • basil
  • oregano
  • parsley
  • sage
  • thyme
  • cayenne pepper
  • chili powder
  • cinnamon
  • coriander
  • crushed red pepper
  • cumin
  • garlic powder
  • ginger
  • mustard powder
  • onion powder
  • sweet Hungarian paprika
  • smoked paprika
  • turmeric
  • Madras curry powder
  • Garam masala
  • saffron threads
  • lemon pepper
  • celery salt
  • coarse salt (sea salt)
  • finely ground salt (Kosher)

Whole Spices
Whole spices have a much longer shelf life, and can be grated with a microplane, crushed with a mortar and pestle or ground in a coffee grinder.

  • allspice
  • cardamom
  • cinnamon
  • cumin
  • fennel
  • mustard seeds
  • nutmeg
  • peppercorns (keep some in a grinder, and some separate for recipes that call for whole)


  • baking powder
  • baking soda
  • unsweetened cocoa powder (Scharffen Berger brand is awesome)
  • dark chocolate, 70% or more cacao (I like to buy it in bar or block form and chop it up with a serrated knife as needed)
  • milk chocolate (also best if bought in bar or block form)
  • real vanilla extract (I highly recommend getting a Mexican variety)
  • real almond extract
  • espresso powder
  • dried fruit (we always keep raisins)

Dry Goods

  • unbleached white flour (King Arthur is the BEST)
  • whole wheat flour (again, King Arthur is my fave)
  • rolled oats
  • quick oats
  • corn meal (I like finely ground, but not the stuff labeled “quick”)
  • grits
  • a small noodle shape (we keep Hodgson Mill whole wheat rotini)
  • a long noodle shape (we keep Hodgson Mill whole wheat angle hair)
  • brown rice (we like basmati)
  • Arborio rice (for risotto)
  • white granulated sugar
  • light brown sugar
  • powdered sugar
  • popcorn kernels

Cooking Alcohol

  • dry white wine (we keep a box of Bota Box Pinot Grigio in our fridge at all times, for drinking and cooking!)
  • marsala wine
  • mirin
  • saki

Other Items – Pantry

  • clover honey
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Louisiana-style hot sauce (we use Louisiana)
  • buffalo hot sauce (we use Franks)
  • Mexican hot sauce (we use Cholula)
  • Asian hot sauce (we use Sriracha)
  • molasses
  • jar of marinara (we LOVE Rao’s)
  • jar of pesto (or freeze the homemade stuff in ice cube trays)
  • corn starch

Other Items – Fridge

  • yellow mustard
  • Dijon mustard
  • mayonnaise (I am a HUGE fan of the Trader Joe’s organic mayo, which has a very short and real list of ingredients compared to other big brands)
  • ketchup (must be Heinz according to John)
  • BBQ sauce (almost every BBQ place sells their own bottled sauce now, so if you’re out and like it then buy it)
  • maple syrup (we adore the Trader Joe’s grade B syrup,  but regardless always buy 100% pure, real maple syrup)
  • Sambal Oelek (an Asian chili pepper sauce)
  • soy sauce
  • fish sauce
  • peanut butter (the only ingredients should be peanuts and salt – yes, this kind separates, but stir it together once and then keep it in the fridge and you’re good to go forever)
  • almond butter (the only ingredients should be almonds and salt)
  • tahini (sesame seed paste – you can find it jarred and canned)
  • wasabi paste (it comes in a tube like toothpaste)
  • anchovy paste (also comes in a tube like toothpaste)
  • jar of oil-packed anchovies (this version allows you to use one or two at a time, rather than opening a whole tin and having to toss a bunch of them)
  • salt-packed capers
  • giardiniera
  • pickled peppers (one or more of sport peppers, banana peppers, peperoncini or nacho style jalapenos)
  • horseradish (the pure stuff, not the sauce)
  • minced garlic
  • curry paste (we keep red and green, but one would probably suffice)
  • lemon juice
  • lime juice


  • bread crumbs (whenever we have whole wheat bread that’s about to go stale we pop it in the food processor and then freeze the crumbs in a ziplock baggie)
  • pine nuts (they keep WAY longer in the freezer, and considering the price, you definitely don’t want them to go bad)
  • lemongrass (these long, fragrant stems can be hard to find in the store, so we always buy a bunch when we see them and freeze them in 2-inch segments)
  • ginger (peel it first, then store it in 2-inch segments – it lasts a long time and is way easier to grate or chop when cold)
  • instant yeast (yeast freezes like a dream – stays “alive” way longer and can be used directly from the freezer – check out this awesome set we got from King Arthur)