Pantry Cooking

Last month I had a request to share my go-to meals we make from the ingredients in our minimal pantry and today I’m sharing the best of the best with you! We do not use a recipe when we cook these meals as they are very simple and lend themselves to endless variation. I feel a great deal of satisfaction knowing I always have food on hand to cook up a satisfying meal at any time. With our well stocked but minimal pantry I’m prepared for the unexpected whether that is surprise guests or a snowstorm that keeps us home for days. Click here
to see my blog post about what is in our minimal pantry. Below are three meals that are in an endless rotation at our house.


Risotto is a delicious creamy rice full of umami thanks to the stock used to cook the grain and it makes a great vegetarian main course (if you use veggie stock). Traditionally Arborio rice is used, but we also love to replace it with barley for variety. We keep canned spinach on hand in case there is an emergency and we have no other vegetables available, but we add just about anything from the fridge or garden like: peas, green beans, mushrooms, broccoli, brussel sprouts or squash.

This recipe feeds two very hungry adults with some leftovers.

  • First get a 12″ cast iron pan heating on medium heat on the cooktop with 2 teaspoons of olive oil Next get 4 cups of stock in a pot with a cover warming on low.

  • Add a chopped onion to the pan and get it caramelizing, stir frequently. Once onions are caramelized (about 20 minutes) remove them from pan and set aside for later.

  • Return pan to cooktop and turn heat to high. Add a teaspoon of olive oil to the pan and then add 1 cup of rice (or barley). Stir the grain constantly for about 2 minutes. If using Arborio rice you will see a white dot form in the middle of the rice.
  • Add one cup of the warming stock. Stir constantly until stock is completely absorbed.
  • Turn cooktop down to medium and continue adding stock in 1/4 cup amounts allowing each 1/4 cup to totally absorb before adding more and stir frequently.
  • When you have 1/2 cup left of the stock add the vegetable (except squash which should be roasted separately), caramelized onions and the rest of the stock at once and gently stir until stock is absorbed.
  • Remove from heat and fold in 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese. Season to taste and Serve!


Chili is a great meal as it is full of protein to fill an empty stomach. We cook up a batch and eat it for a few days. We may have chili baked potatoes the second night and a chili casserole with cornbread topping the third night to keep it interesting.

Dried black and kidney beans
  • First get your beans cooking. You can use any beans you like. We use black and kidney or red beans. Put in 2 cup of beans in 5 cups of water with a generous amount of salt in a covered pot. Over high heat bring the water to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for 30 minutes. If you are sensitive to beans you may want to drain and fill with new water and return to a simmer. continue to cook until done (depending on age of the beans it will take around 2 hours) Do not stop until the beans are fully cooked! top off water if needed.
  • In a large stock pot on high heat cook finely chopped 2 garlic cloves, 3 carrots and 1 large onion. Reduce heat to medium and cook carrots and onions for 15 minutes.
  • Add to the stock pot (with the garlic, carrots, and onions) the cooked beans and two 27 ounce can of whole tomatoes and one can tomato paste. Add 1 tablespoon of cumin, 1 tablespoon of chili powder (add more to taste), 1 tablespoon of honey and salt to taste
Pantry items for chili


I got the nickname Auntie Pasta after I took a cruise with my whole family and ate pasta every lunch and dinner for two weeks. I really love pasta….like L.O.V.E. So it is important I always have a pasta meal on hand for those cold nights when the pasta is just a necessity!

First get out a large pot. We do not use our cast iron when cooking with tomatoes so this is the rare time we reach for our stainless steel stock pot. Put potn on medium high heat with 1 tablespoon olive oil

Finely chop 1 onions, 2 carrots, 3 cloves of garlic (adjust to your level of love for the garlic) and VERY finely chop 1/8 cup of dried mushrooms. Add all of this to your pot with hot oil. Stir regularly for about 15 minutes until vegetables have softened.

Add (2) 28 ounce cans of whole tomatoes (break up the tomatoes with your hands as you add to the pot) and 1 can of tomatoes paste.

Add salt and pepper to taste, 1 teaspoon of dried Italian herbs and 1 tablespoon of sugar (we use honey but I admit white sugar tastes better) and if you like you can add a pinch of red pepper flakes.

Add to cooked pasta or spaghetti squash and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

Spaghetti Squash growing in the 2018 garden

All of these meals are made even better if you can add some vegetables or meat, but they are pretty tasty on their own. Even if these meals do not fit your family’s taste buds take some time to find a couple that you all love, but has very few ingredients that can be kept in the pantry. You will always know you have on hand what you need to make a satisfying meal. For me that means a bit of peace of mind!

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