For most Americans, the days are gone when one family member spends his or her time devoted to organizing the household, grocery shopping and planning of nightly meals. People live in two-income homes or they just get busy. Plans change, and chores end up forgotten or left undone. Guests stop by unexpectedly. Overall, life is less organized for the average household, and it’s important to be able to improvise when things change.
The ability to improvise is as important when it comes to mealtime as it is in any other aspect of daily life. And you’ll find you can throw together meals or snacks in a pinch if your kitchen and pantry are well prepared.
The first step toward being able to improvise in the kitchen is to have tools available that will help you produce quick, simple meals. Always have the basics on hand: mixing bowls, mixers, basic pots and pans, can openers, good knives, a cutting board and an array of spices. As far as appliances go, a microwave oven is a gift when it comes to last-minute cooking, which is why our showrooms stock a variety of models from brands such as Dacor, Jenn-Air, and Sharp.
RealSimple.com offers a great checklist of staple items you should always have available in your food cabinets or pantry. These include vegetable oil and vinegars, and basic spices such as salt and pepper. Other staples will depend on the tastes of your family and your favorite quick meals, but some examples are: canned tuna, canned beans, your favorite pasta, tomato sauce, sugar, potatoes, garlic and onions.
You’ll want to be sure your refrigerator is always stocked with basics, too, including: butter, milk, eggs, plain yogurt, Dijon mustard, carrots, lettuce, tomatoes, and lemons. As for the freezer, stock frozen vegetables, extra bread, and even nuts.
If you have all of the basic tools and staple food products in place, it should be easy to pull together a quick meal. Below are some online resources for recipes you can cook up quickly:
MyRecipes.com offers some great no-cook recipes that can be fixed in a flash. Here’s one example:
Mediterranean ChickPea Salad
- 4 ounces manchego cheese, chopped
- 1 (10.5 oz.) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1 cup loosely packed mint leaves, coarsely chopped
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- Zest of 1 lemon (1 1/2 tsp.)
- Salt and pepper
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, each cut into quarters (8 oz.)
- 2 bunches arugula or 1 (5 oz.) box baby arugula, cleaned and patted dry
AllRecipes.com offers a wide array of fast and easy recipes, including Fettucini with Sweet Pepper-Cayenne Sauce, which features the following ingredients:
- 12 ounces dry fettuccine pasta
- 2 red bell peppers, julienned
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 cup reduced fat sour cream
- 3/4 cup chicken broth
- 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- salt and pepper to taste
Check the site for preparation directions.
EatingWell.com, meanwhile offers numerous ideas for quick and easy recipes. The site’s delicious-looking “Cocoa-Nut” Bananas, for example, require just 10 minutes of preparation time and three ingredients:
- 4 teaspoons cocoa powder
- 4 teaspoons toasted unsweetened coconut
- 2 small bananas, sliced on the bias
If you’re an expert in the kitchen, you’ll have your own ideas for how to whip a few of your favorite ingredients into snacks or meals that your family or guests will enjoy in a jiffy. But everything will be easier if your kitchen and pantry are set up from the start to accommodate your busy lifestyle.
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