Thursday, January 13, 2011

Cooking from the Pantry

I read a challenge somewhere - can't remember - to cook from your pantry for a week.  Since I was going through post-holiday doldrums and cooking overload, this sounded pretty appealing to me.  No grocery shopping, just use what you have.

Usually about once a week - often on Mondays - I make lentil soup or some other dish that can be constructed from ingredients I always have on hand.  The lentil soup recipe is basic - lentils, canned tomatoes, carrots, onions, couple dried herbs and stock.  If there is a melty cheese in the house, that is the garnish.  Simple, tasty, and especially appealing in the winter.  But a whole week of pantry cooking?  Could I do that?

Well, yes I could when motivated by a distinct aversion to going grocery shopping or doing anything labor-intensive.  It would mean a largely meatless week because I rarely have frozen meat in the house, but nothing wrong with that! 

We had ham and beans and dumplings one night, made with the ham bone I had saved from the holiday ham (see for Winter Solstice Ham).  I soaked the white beans overnight and cooked them with the ham bone, some scraps of ham, onion, and carrot.  The dumplings were the shortcut version - I just used Bisquick (I know, I know, but it's fast and easy).

Other nights we had black beans, brown rice, salsa and cheddar casserole; veggie omelets; black bean enchiladas.  I have lots of Rancho Gordo beans, which are incredible - fresh and interesting varieties - so beans are always an option.  And I read that cooking beans with salt makes them much more tender.  I tried it and I agree, although there are two camps in this debate - some are completely opposed to salting the water.  Passions run high in cooking!

Now I'm back to my regular "plan the week's menus, make the grocery list and shop" routine, which works well most of the time.  But every once in a while, a meat-light week using what you have on hand is a great way to make room for even more good stuff in the pantry!


  1. I really need to cook from my pantry more often. It would be a big challenge for me. Although I do usually have frozen chicken breasts in the freezer. In fact, I might have better luck cooking from my freezer for a week. lol

  2. Cooking from the pantry is amazing. I haven't bought main-course meat in I don't know how long! We've been doing lots of homemade pizza, risotto, frittatas and pasta. Salads too, cuz I always keep spinach on hand for all of the above! Yum!