Saturday, March 22, 2014

10 Ingredients to Always Have On Hand.... Aside from Rice

Thinking back on how I survived the past week by rummaging and raiding my way through the freezer and cupboards to get dinner on the table, I came up with a list of ingredients I always have on hand to save you a trip to the grocery store whether it be on a rainy day, a snow day, a lazy day, and to still come up with a reasonable meal. It was a straight seven nights for us and I couldn't have done it without these stocked must-haves.

1)  Garlic and onions. These dual essentials are regularly used to start your cooking. Nothing beats the incredible aroma created when these two are dancing in oil in your pan. They add a ton of flavour and have a host of health benefits.

2)  Pasta and dried Asian noodles. Buy different pasta shapes and sizes that will accommodate a variety of recipes. Dried Asian noodles range from thin or thick vermicelli, flat rice noodles, egg noodles and chow mein to Korean noodles made from sweet potato to Japanese buckwheat and somen .

3) Canned tomato sauce. Whether it be whole, diced or crushed, it often serves as the base for a myriad of dishes and can be easily thrown in to make a simple sauce.

4)  Frozen vegetables. With such a wide range on the market, from single vegetables to blends, these are picked at their freshest and conveniently packaged in plastic bags that are easy to store even in the most crowded of freezers.

5) Frozen ground meats. There's so much you can do with ground meat, and they are cheap and accessible. Buy it in bulk and portion it out in freezer bags with meat type and date labelled, so you can track what to use first.

6) Frozen meat bones. Super cheap to purchase, especially at Asian stores where they abound, keep a few bags of these for making broth for soups. Bag enough pork neck bones and a chicken carcass or bones for one pot of soup and freeze them together. I like to look for fresh hunky meat bones so you can take off the meat and eat it too.

7) Frozen dumplings. The brands and variety are plentiful in Asian supermarkets. When I make a fresh batch I always make sure I have leftovers to freeze. You simply pan-fry, steam or boil them which makes dinner a snap.

8) Lemons. Store lemons in a plastic bag in the crisper in your fridge set on low humidity. They will last longer (about a month) and that means you can count on them up to their last drop. It's juice, rind and zest offer a myriad of uses in cooking for its fresh citrus notes whether during cooking or splashing at the end.

9) Dehydrated shiitake mushrooms. These come in a plastic package and can be stored in the cupboard for a long time. When I need a few for Asian soup and dishes, I hydrate them in water for several hours. They smell delicious and imparts the most wonderful flavour! Use these in braised dishes, soups and stir-fry noodles.

10) Eggs. When in doubt, there's always eggs! Delicious, high in protein and versatile, you don't need a recipe to make them. Simple scrambled eggs or a plain omelet is worthy of a quick dinner.

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