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What one has in their pantry often dictates what kinds of meals can be prepared at a moment’s notice. That is why it is so important to make sure you have the essentials that allow you to be creative, but also have a wide variety of items that go together to make something delicious and memorable! Please visit my store to purchase any of the items in the pantry, as well as other goodies!

Food Essentials:

Potatoes:

Potatoes have a very high glycemic level and therefore are not the best foods for you. Plus many people have nightshade sensitivities which means white potatoes are out. However we all enjoy potatoes from time to time. Sweet potatoes and yams do not have a high glycemic index and are rich in beta carotene and vitamins. So feel free to eat those up! For those with nightshade sensitivity, red-skinned potatoes are generally less aggrivating. So try those.

Sweet Potatoes
Red Skinned Potatoes

Rice:

Arborio - Arborio rice is used most often in the making of risotto, a northern italian dish that can be made with any combination of vegetable or meat. What makes it unique is the way in which it is cooked.

Orzo – Orzo is a small pasta that looks like rice. It is perfect for salads and soups and any recipe that calls for rice.

Brown – Brown rice is healthier than white rice, so I would recommend using this in your diet if you have problems with glycemic index.

Wild – Wild rice comes in many different colors – often times brown or black. It has a distinct nutty flavor and is great with mushrooms.

Couscous – couscous is a pasta that is used a lot in the Middle East, North African and the Mediterranean. It is small and bead-like. Very delicious.

Polenta – although polenta is not a rice, sometimes it is used in the same way, so it can be a substitute as an accompiament. Polenta is basically corn meal.

Pasta:

Pasta also has a very high glycemic index. However, used sparingly and served in its right proportions (1/2 cup cooked), it can be a great addition to any meal. De Boles is a good brand to try – they make their pastas with 1/2 artichoke flour and 1/2 semolina, making its glycemic profile much better and healthier! You can also try the wide variety of whole wheat pastas on the market. They are full of fiber, delicious and a nice change to the regular routine!

Penne – rod shaped with a hole in the center. Great for thick sauces because it gets stuck in the middle of the pasta, which is great when you bite down on it!

Spaghetti – I really only use spaghetti when I am making meatballs. But for some people it is the only pasta they use. It is also good when making an olive oil based sauce for seafood.

Farfalle – This is a bowtie shaped pasta. I like it particularly with creamy sauces and small pieces of vegetables. This shape is also good with pestos. Fun shape for kids!

Gnocchi – Gnocchi is a vegetable based pasta. It is more like a dumpling. It is made from potatoes and sometimes another vegetable, like spinach or squash. Potato gnocchi are great with red sauces – like a marinara. While a squash gnocchi would be great with a brown butter sauce and some sage!

Tortellini – Tortellini is a filled pasta, not a pocket like ravioli but a circle. This is great for any kind of sauce, or even better in soup! They can be filled with anything from cheese, to prosciutto to chicken.

Whole Wheat – I recommend trying whole what pasta which you can find many of the above mentioned shapes. It is better for you and tastes great!

Legumes:

Garbanzo also known as chick peas and ceci in Italian. Great is salads, couscous, pretty much anything!

Kidney – tried and true, known as the chili bean as that is where they most often appear.

Black Beans – delicious, good on their own as a side dish mixed with tomatoes, cumin and a squeeze of lime! Also really great mixed with sweet potatoes!

Cannellini – big white Italian beans! These are great mixed with sausage and dishes with greens, like spinach, arugala or swiss chard just to name a few. Also great as a crostini topping and can be whipped into a spread or dip!

Red Lentils – used a lot in African cooking. Great for stews, dips and anything you can think of.

Green Lentils – sometimes known as French lentils, these have a stronger flavor than regular brown lentils and are great in salads.

Brown Lentils – your standard lentil, but still good!

Nuts and Seeds:

Nuts and seeds are great to have around the house. They are wonderful to throw in salads, bean dishes, good for baking and garnishes. Even for encrusting meat with before searing. There are so many wonderful flavors here, and these are a few of my favorites that I cannot be without!

Almonds
Sun Flower Seeds
Peanuts
Sesame Seeds
Pine Nuts
Pistacchio
Hazelnuts

Dried Fruit

note: try to get dried fruit that does not contain sulphur and is organic. Again, like seeds and nuts, dried fruits are a great addition to foods you want to “wake up” a bit. A special unexpected treat for your mouth! These are my favorites:

Cranberries
Raisins
Cherries
Mango
Turkish Apricots – natural, organic Turkish apricots taste better than chocolate!
Figs
Dates

Oils:

Extra Virgin Olive Oil - in my opinion there is no need for any olive oil that is not extra virgin. There are so many affordable kinds, that you should have no trouble finding one that fits your budget. To learn more about Olive Oils, click here.

Sesame Oil – invaluable in Asian style cooking.

Canola Oil – good for frying if you don’t want to use up your Olive Oil!

Various Nut Oils: Hazelnut, Walnut, Macadamia Nut, Pumpkin Seed, etc. These are great to drizzle on salads, pastas, sauces, etc. Play around with the flavors! It’s fun!

Vinegars:

Vinegar is a great thing to add to salad dressings, sauces and anything you want to add a bit of tang to. There are millions of types of vinegars, many even infused with fruits like blood oranges, pomegranates and figs! You could spend years testing all the flavors and what they go with.

Balsamic – Balsamic vinegars are sweet and syrupy. They are delcious in salad dressings, as a marinade or even poured over berries for a delicious dessert!

Wine & Rice Wine – All wine vinegars are wonderful to have for everyday recipes. Try substituting them for white vinegar in recipes and see how the flavors change!

Sauces and Condiments:

Sauces and condiments are what makes a dish unique – what makes it taste different. It is what you can use to strectch a dish out making more servings, or how to make your own sauces just by having these around the house!

Diced Tomatoes – great for making sauces and salsas. Try mixing them in beans with spices to serve over rice for a quick and easy meal.

Crushed Tomatoes & Tomato Paste
- the foundation for making your own tomato based sauces at home. If you have these two essentials it is so easy to make your own sauce, you will never buy the jarred stuff again. Tomato paste is wonderful for thickening sauces and making them rich and hearty!

Mustard – hot, sweet, etc. it comes in many varieties. Perfect for salad dressings, marinades and delicious baked on salmon with dill!

Tahini – a ground sesame paste used in a lot of Middle Eastern cuisine. it is essentially a thinner nut butter and is great for making sauces.

Nutella – chocolate-hazelnut spread. “The peanut butter of Italy” and a lot of other European countries. Great on toast, ice cream, stuffed in crepes, spread on pancakes, you just cannot go wrong with this stuff. You can even use it as an icing for cake. Check it out here.


Spice Essentials:

Variety is the spice of life and here are the spices that are great to have on hand to create different tastes with the same ingredients as a base. When you use different spices, even with similar food ingredients, your eating experience will be very different! If you are not familiar with some of these spices, just ask me how they can be used!

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Ethnic Spice Blends: see recipe

I have bolded some that people may not be familiar with, but that have become indispensable for me!

Sea Salt - Trapani Sicilian Sea Salt, Orange & Black Hawaiian Salt, Cyprus Lava Salt and French Grey Salt are some of my favorites.

Pepper Grinder

Oregano

Cumin

Coriander

Paprika – Hot, Sweet, Smoked are some of my favorites!

Chili Powder - you can try as many varieties as there are chilis. Try somein hot chocolate or chocolate confections for a nice twist.

Hot Pepper Flakes

Tumeric

Thyme

Rosemary

Basil

Tarragon

Za’atar – Lebanese spice mix of thyme and sesame seeds

Herbs De Provence - mix of herbs used in French Cooking

Sumac – Middle Eastern spice with a lemony burst of flavor!
Cinnamon

Nutmeg

Cardamom

Pure Vanilla Extract