If you are anything like I am, then you probably don’t have the time, nor the inclination/energy to spend one hour, let alone two, in the kitchen making dinner every night. I have a 18 month old , so I’m lucky most days if I’m allowed 10 minutes in the kitchen without her screaming bloody murder. I’ve learned to make shortcuts work for many of our meals. The best way to do that in my experience is to start with time saving kitchen gadgets and excellent pantry staples. Below is a list of things that I am grateful that I don’t have to cook without. They all save me what I adore most…time, which also amounts to less time spent in the kitchen.
My pantry must haves:
On any given day my pantry is always stocked with legumes of several varieties! Lentils, kidney beans, butter beans, garbanzo beans, black beans, and pinto beans. The are all absolute staples in my house. I use them for a variety of purposes. One day I may put the black beans in the food processor, and make black bean tostadas. Another day I may use the garbanzo beans to make fresh hummus to go with lamb kabob’s and veggie sticks. Yet another day I make take three kinds of beans and make a quick, yet delicious Chili. Canned Beans lend way to endless dinner possibilities, that don’t involve meat thawing, or endless hours in the kitchen. I used to cook beans from scratch, soaking them over night, then rinsing them in the morning, and then cooking them for hours…not any more canned beans are the way to go people…free yourselves from slaving over a pot of beans!
Fresh is always best, but not always practical! Case in point canned tomato sauce. Not just any canned tomato sauce works though. Like anything in life, when cooking, you have to start with a good base! A good quality can of tomato sauce could mean the difference between a good dish and the best dish you’ve ever tasted in your life! Trust me on this people! My brand of choice is San Marzano. This particular brand is full of flavor, anything that I’ve ever cooked using this sauce turns out amazing! Pick a sauce that you love and stock your pantry full of it. Tomato sauce has so many uses, a simple tomato and basil soup, a pasta sauce for spaghetti or lasagna, a red curry base…the uses are endless.
Parboiled brown rice…need I say more? A bag of this stuff will save you 30 minutes in the kitchen. This quick-cook rice cooks up in 15 minutes! Anyone who has ever cooked brown rice on the stove or in a rice cooker knows that it takes at least 30 to 45 minutes. Save yourself some time and get the pre boiled bag of rice. This is also a great pantry staple… Rice goes great with almost everything.
Pasta is a great pantry staple. Boil it then toss with some spinach, garlic, fresh basil, some chopped tomatoes, and dinner is served in less time than it takes most people to boil rice on the stove.
My last pantry staple is vegetable, chicken, or beef stock. Any one of these stocks will add enough flavor to your dish to blur the line between someone thinking you spent an hour cook a meal and 20 minutes.
Lastly my life has been made easy with the invention of the magic bullet, food processor, pressure cooker, and the convection oven! Having cooking gadgets that work, and provide efficiency in the kitchen, saves you time! If you thought the magic bullet was only for making smoothies, think again. I used the magic bullet all the time as a private chef to make sauces, soups, garlic and onion pastes…you name it I did it! If you don’t have one get one, they’re easy to use and even easier to clean! Food processors are equally as efficient in the kitchen, they go a step further than the magic bullet, because you can make quick dough’s in them. The pressure cooker is an amazing invention. Talk about one pot perfection! You put every thing in one pot close the lid and leave it. What comes out at the end of your cook time is nothing short of AMAZING! Foods that would normally take hours on the stove, or in the oven, cook in less than one hour in the pressure cooker, but they taste like you spent all day cooking them. Not only that, but food cooked in a pressure cooker retains more nutrients. Finally my table top convection oven is my hero in the kitchen. I use it to make personal pizza’s, whole roast chicken, and a slew of other delicious things. In the summer it is especially helpful, because I don’t have to heat the entire house by turning on my stove. It’s small, it cooks evenly and more efficiently because its a convection oven.
What pantry staple or kitchen gadget could you not live without?