The value of a stocked PANTRY

I love to cook. Always have. Both of my grandmothers cooked. Different styles, different flavor combinations, different personalities. I adapted to both and often find myself combining their styles into one for family dinners.

Complex spice combinations paired with lean meats and sophistication to honor my Nannie. Comfort food and fun in the kitchen with roaster pans and some kind of gravy to honor my Grandmommie.

My Nannie loved to plan the meal down to the last detail. That was her joy.

My Grandmommie loved to feed us. That was her joy.

My mother always cooked, too. Big meals for a big family. We were always taught to try new things as she tried new recipes.

While my Nannie used a skillet and oven, and my Grandmommie used her roaster, my Mom used every pan in the house. Skillet, crockpot, stockpot, steamer pot, wok…

She likes to cook, but entertaining is her joy. Matching dishes to holiday platters, fancy napkins and seasonal decor. Jars of holiday candies and sweets, cake plates and vintage bowls full of goodies.

I incorporate that into my family dinners, too. After planning a meal, food shopping, prepping, cooking, and serving… it’s nice to have a sweetly set table to honor that.

While I agree that fresh is best when cooking, there is value in a well stocked pantry. There is also value in knowing how to pull supplies from the pantry together quickly before dinner. In the minutes you would spend sitting in a drive thru or waiting for pizza delivery, you could have a good meal from home.

Dried herbs and spices, onion and garlic, a potato or three in the pantry, rice or pasta noodles plus some chicken breasts in the freezer can be so handy for a good meal.

Today, here in my kitchen, I’m using up some pantry and freezer stock to make a good meal to build our immune systems as we head into flu season. Good old chicken stock and veggies with some chicken breasts will feed us over the next couple of days.

I’m using my trusty oversized crockpot to help me out, as I have the baby to tend to as well as some overdue projects to do while he is napping.

It really is as simple as adding chicken and chicken stock, carrots, celery and onion as the base of the meal. I have a bag of fresh carrots. No celery or onion, as I didn’t stop by the grocery yet. So I’m making due with chicken, stock and carrots. I have dried onions, celery salt and other yummy spices so we’ll be just fine.

My spice pantry is full of flavorful goodies. Smoked paprika, basil, oregano, cumin, cilantro.. the more the merrier. For this first meal, I decided on salt, pepper, onion, cumin and garlic. Smells wonderful already.

We will have chicken and carrots, and I’ll cook up the bag of baby potatoes I have. Perfect.

It will be nice to throw together a meal from here tomorrow. I’ll add petite diced tomatoes and/or mushrooms to the chicken and stock and serve over rice or pasta in a butter sauce. I have a steamer bag of brussel sprouts I can toss with garlic and bacon to add to the meal. I always keep cornbread prep handy so that will round it out.

Lunch on day three, if there is any chicken left, can be a quick chicken salad. Just shred the chicken, add mayo, and spread onto a good artisan bread or fancy cracker, or add to a green salad. Delicious, easy.
I keep a bin of yummy spring mix for quick salads in the fridge so that will be quick and delicious.

If there isn’t any chicken left, no worries. The stock reserved from this first day meal makes for a yummy soup base. Add a handful of rice and you have a terrific chicken rice soup.

I can hear that the baby has hummed himself to sleep so I’m off to finish a project while he is napping and my dinner is simmering.

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