Yes- I was a Girl Scout. And the daughter of a highly organized mother which means I like lists, plans, backup plans, and when things happen as I plan. When it comes to cooking I like to have a plan but have made the best discoveries when I allow a little flexibility in the kitchen.
If you came into our house on any normal day you would not find much in our fridge. Cooking for two doesn’t take much planning especially when the hubby passes by the grocery store on his way home for work. I try my best to plan out our meals for the week but life gets in the way and sometimes an unplanned meal is the best (a.k.a. only option).
The following is my list of what I like to have on hand at any time to quickly throw together a meal or to doctor up our leftovers for lunch or dinner the next night. A little bit of planning now will save you time during the week. Real advice from a real Girl Scout.
Eggs: We often eat “breakfast for dinner” in the form of omelets filled with veggies when nothing else is available or sounds good. I also like to have eggs on hand to hard boil to put on salads or for emergencies (like chocolate chip cookies).
Beans: While not vegetarian, I don’t care much for meat. In fact, when the hubby is gone on business I rarely will eat meat. I have found beans to be a very versatile and healthy substitute. I usually have a supply of chickpeas, black beans, kidney beans, and one other type on hand at all times. Perfect to throw into soups, salads, roast with spices, or make into “patties” for burgers. One of my “go to” meals is beans with a whole grain (brown rice, quinoa, couscous) and greens (spinach, kale, chard).
Whole Grains: Like beans, whole grains are a staple to build upon. Throw into a soup, use as a side dish, or add to for a main entree. I always have a supply of brown rice, quinoa, couscous, and barley on hand. When the hubby brews I will also save and reuse the spent grains!
Stock: Besides having stock on hand for soup in the fall and winter I love using stock for flavor. I always buy the lowest sodium stock I can find or make my own if we roast a whole chicken. Cooking whole grains in half stock/half water will give a great flavor. Using stock when sauteing veggies or meat can cut the amount of oil used and also build the beginning of a quick sauce. I prefer chicken stock and veggie stock for their lighter flavors and also don’t cook much beef.
Frozen Veggies: Living in Illinois we do not have the option to have fresh veggies from our garden or farmer’s market year round. I have read many books and articles touting the benefits of frozen veggies as they are cooked and frozen during their peak freshness. I like to stock up on organic veggies and use as a side dish with some seasoning or as part of the dish. Favorites I always have on hand include spinach, broccoli, and peas. I like to supplement this with green beans, brussel sprouts, and other greens (kale, chard) when I can find them.
Tomatoes: I love nothing more than fresh tomatoes from the garden. But…we live here. This is the one area where I will budge and buy a canned product. Only low or no sodium. I always have diced, fire roasted, sauce, and paste on hand. These are great foundations for soups, sauces, and salads.
Garlic and Onion: Nothing smells as comforting as onions and garlic cooking in a bit of olive oil. I try to have fresh garlic and onions on hand to add good base flavoring to about everything I make.
Carrots and Celery: Same argument as above only these also double as snacks. And organic celery tastes the best- all environment and health arguments aside- it just tastes better!
Masa Flour– I got a tortilla press and warmer for Christmas and it has been my new favorite kitchen gadget. Homemade corn tortillas are quick, easy, and amazingly yummy.
With these simple ingredients on hand you will be well on your way to planning delicious and healthy home cooked meals.