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Say Hello To Fresh And Fast Cooking With This Female Chef's Pantry Staples

Lifestyle

Let's face it: we're all busy – and hectic schedules can leave little time to get a “real" dinner on the table most nights. Even as a professional chef (who is also a wife and mother), I face the same challenges – the same age-old question of “what's for dinner?" night after night. My secret weapon? Keeping practical, healthy staples on hand so I'm prepared no matter what the day brings. Stock up on these pantry essentials and you'll be far less likely to reach for impulse, expensive, unhealthy buys when things get crazy. Load your shelves with foods that are filling, flavorful and non-perishable, so you can whip up something delicious in a pinch, whether craving a full-on meal or a satisfying snack.


1. Beans

Not only are beans an excellent source of protein, but they're versatile and affordable. From cannellini and black beans, to red kidney and garbanzo beans (otherwise known as chickpeas), there are endless ways to put them to use. You can use them in chili and Mexican-inspired meals like burritos and fajitas, as well as grain bowls, salads and hummus. They're also delicious when baked into desserts (hello, black bean brownies).

Claudia Sidoti, Head Chef and Recipe Developer for HelloFresh. “My secret weapon? Keeping practical, healthy staples on hand so I'm prepared no matter what the day brings"

2. Quick-Cooking Whole Grains

Quinoa, brown rice, couscous, and oats are just a few of my favorite go-to grains. Nutritionally dense and surprisingly simple to prepare, they work great in healthy side dishes, bulked-up salads, comforting soups and trendy grain bowls.

3. Canned Tomatoes

These work great for a quick pasta sauce, chili, soup or pizza topping. Alternatively, you can use canned tomatoes to braise vegetables, whip up a Bloody Mary, tomato basil muffins or even try your hand at some homemade ketchup.

4. Canned Tuna

I love a high quality Italian tuna. It's another great source of protein and perfect for making a quick and healthy tuna salad, which can be used for sandwiches or to top greens. I love to bulk up tuna salad with extra veggies to keep it on the healthier side and add fiber, so you'll stay full longer.

"Load your shelves with foods that are filling, flavorful and non-perishable, so you can whip up something delicious in a pinch, whether craving a full-on meal or a satisfying snack."

5. Olive Oil

Olive oil is a must-have for every kitchen. You'll need it for everything from sauteéing and roasting, to salad dressing, sauces, or as a finishing oil for extra flavor atop veggies and salads.

6. Maldon Sea Salt

I keep a box of Maldon sea salt flakes in my pantry at all times. I love it for finishing dishes, particularly salads, veggies or just seared proteins like steak, chicken or fish. It's an upgrade from classic kosher salt, and a little goes a long way.

7. Peanut Butter

This childhood favorite can be used for so much more than your classic PB&J. Pair a spoonful with fruit like apples or bananas for a high-protein, high-fiber snack. You can also use peanut butter to make homemade dressings and sauces like satay and Asian noodles.

"Pair a spoonful with fruit like apples or bananas for a high-protein, high-fiber snack"

8. Artichoke Hearts or Roasted Red Peppers

These delicious jarred goods are full of flavor, making them ideal for jazzing up a simple salad or pasta dish. You can also go the breakfast-for-dinner route and mix them into omelets.

9. Salsa

Think beyond the bag of chips. While Mexican dishes may seem like the obvious use for salsa, it makes a delicious topping for a range of foods. From scrambled eggs and burgers to salad dressing alternative, salsa is a guilt-free staple I can't live without.

10. Panko Breadcrumbs

This Japanese-style breadcrumb is a great addition to add crisp to a variety of recipes without having to turn to a deep fryer. I like to use it to top mac & cheese or crispy cauliflower, or crust proteins like salmon or chicken. The texture and flavor are a winning combination.

3 Min Read
Lifestyle

Tempted To Dial Your Ex: 5 Ways To Know Whether Or Not You Should Contact An Old Flame

Thinking of ringing up your ex during these uncertain times? Maybe you want an excuse to contact your ex, or maybe you genuinely feel the need to connect with someone on an emotional level. As a matchmaker and relationship expert, I was surprised at the start of the coronavirus quarantine when friends were telling me that they were contacting their exes! But as social distancing has grown to be more than a short-term situation, we must avoid seeking short-term solutions—and resist the urge to dial an ex.

It stands to reason that you would contact an ex for support. After all, who knows you and your fears better than an ex? This all translates into someone who you think can provide comfort and support. As a matchmaker, I already know that people can spark and ignite relationships virtually that can lead to offline love, but lonely singles didn't necessarily believe this or understand this initially, which drives them straight back to a familiar ex. You only need to tune into Love Is Blind to test this theory or look to Dina Lohan and her virtual boyfriend.

At the start of lockdown, singles were already feeling lonely. There were studies that said as much as 3 out of 4 people were lonely, and that was before lockdown. Singles were worried that dating someone was going to be off limits for a very long time. Now when you factor in a widespread pandemic and the psychological impact that hits when you have to be in isolation and can't see anyone but your takeout delivery person, we end up understanding this urge to contact an ex.

So, what should you do if you are tempted to ring up an old flame? How do you know if it's the wrong thing or the right thing to do in a time like this? Check out a few of my points before deciding on picking up that phone to text, much less call an ex.

Before You Dial The Ex...

First, you need to phone a friend! It's the person that got you through this breakup to begin with. Let them remind you of the good, the bad and the ugly before taking this first step and risk getting sucked back in.

What was the reason for your breakup? As I mentioned before, you could get sucked back in… but that might not be a bad thing. It depends; when you phoned that friend to remind you, did she remind you of good or bad things during the breakup? It's possible that you both just had to take jobs in different cities, and the breakup wasn't due to a problem in the relationship. Have these problems resolved if there were issues?

You want to come from a good place of reflection and not let bad habits make the choice for you.

Depending on the reason for the breakup, set your boundaries for how much contact beforehand. If there was abuse or toxic behaviors in the relationship, don't even go there. You can't afford to repeat this relationship again.

If you know you shouldn't be contacting this ex but feel lonely, set up a support system ahead of time. Set up activities or things to fall back on to resist the urge. Maybe you phone a different friend, join a virtual happy hour for singles, or binge watch Netflix. Anything else is acceptable, but don't phone that ex.

Write down your reasons for wanting to contact the ex. Ask yourself if this is worth the pain. Are you flea-bagging again, or is there a friendship to be had, which will provide you with genuine comfort? If it's the latter, it's okay to go there. If it's an excuse to go back together and make contact, don't.

Decide how far you are willing to take the relationship this time, without it being a rinse and repeat. If you broke up for reasons beyond your control, it's okay. If your ex was a serial cheater, phone a friend instead.

If there was abuse or toxic behaviors in the relationship, don't even go there. You can't afford to repeat this relationship again.

As life returns to a more normal state and you adjust to the new normal, we will slowly begin to notice more balance in our lives. You want to come from a good place of reflection and not let bad habits make the choice for you. Some do's and don'ts for this time would be:

  • Do: exercise ⁠— taking care of you is important during this time. It's self-care and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
  • Do: shower, brush your teeth, and get out of your sweats.
  • Don't: be a couch potato.
  • Don't: drink or eat excessively during this time. Again, remember to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
  • Do: think positive thoughts everyday and write down the 3 things you are grateful for. Look at the impact of John Krasinksi's SGN. It's uplifting and when you feel good, you won't want to slide backwards.
  • Don't: contact a toxic ex. It's a backward move in a moment of uncertainty that could have a long term impact. Why continue flea bagging yourself?