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


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.

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2020 is Around the Corner: Here's How To Design Your Next Decade

Personally, I am over the top excited that we are on the cusp of turning the page on not only a new year but also on a new 10-year window of opportunities and possibilities!

You may be thinking, whoa…I am just embracing the fall season…yikes… it is tough to think about a new decade!

Yet it is this groundwork, this forward thought that you put in place TODAY that will propel you and lead you into greatness in 2020 and beyond. Designing a new decade rests in your ability to vision, in your willingness to be curious, in your awareness of where you are now and what you most want to curate. Essentially, curating what's next is about tapping into today with confidence, conviction, and decision. Leading YOU starts now. This is your new next. It is your choice.

Sometimes to get to that 'next', you need to take a step back to reflect. Please pardon my asking you to spend time in yesterday. Those who know me personally, know that I created and continue to grow my business based on enabling the present moment as a springboard for living your legacy. So, indulge me here! True, I am asking you to peek into the past, yet it is only in order for you to bring the essence of that past forward into this moment called NOW.

One of the best ways to tap into what's next is to clarify what drives you. To design a new decade, ask yourself this question about the past ten years:

What worked? What were my successes?

Make a list of your achievements big and small. Don't type them, but rather use ink and paper and sit with and savor them. Move your thoughts and your successes from your head, to your heart, to your pen, to the paper. Remember that on the flip side of goals not attained and New Year's resolutions abandoned, there was more than likely some traction and action that moved you forward, even if the end result was not what you expected. Once you have a full list of a decade's worth of personal and professional accomplishments, think about how this makes you feel. Do you remember celebrating all of them? My guess is no. So, celebrate them now. Give them new life by validating them. Circle the successes that resonate with you most right now. Where can you lean into those accomplishments as you power into the decade ahead?

Now comes a tougher question, one that I used myself in my own mid-life reinvention and a question I adore because in a moment's time it provides you with a quick reconnect to your unique inner voice.

If it were 10 years ago and nothing were standing in your way, no fear or excuses to contend with…what would you do?

Don't overthink it. The brilliance of this question is that it refocuses purpose. Whatever first came to mind when you answered this for yourself is at its core a powerful insight into defining and redefining the FUTURE decade. Bring your answer into the light of today and what small piece of it is actionable NOW? Where is this resonating and aligning with a 2019 version of yourself?

Then, based on your success list and your answer to the above question, what is your 2020 vision for your business and for the business of YOU?

Designing a new decade begins as a collection of 3,650 opportunities. 3,650 blank slates of new days ahead in which to pivot and propel yourself forward. Every single one of those days is a window into your legacy. An invitation to be, create, explore, and chip away at this thing we call life. One 24-hour segment at a time.

While you have a decade ahead to work on design improvements, you have the ability to begin manifesting this project of YOU Version 2020 right NOW. Based on exploring the exercises in this post, begin executing your vision. Ask questions. Be present. Let go of 2019 and the past 10 years so that you can embrace the next 10. Position acceptance and self-trust at the forefront of how you lead you. One choice at a time.

Don't get bogged down in the concept of the next 10 years. Instead position clarity and intention into each new day, starting today. Then chase every one of those intentions with an in-the-moment commitment and solution toward living a legendary life!