Every mother finds herself struggling to come up with dinner ideas from time to time. Or maybe even all the time! If you frequently stand in the pantry staring in and wondering what to do with a lone tin of tomato paste and the onions in the fridge, then there are six ingredients you should always be sure to have on hand so you can whip up amazing food in no time.
Eggs: These are so easily prepared and can be fried, scrambled, poached or even baked. Without anything but a splash of oil and a little salt, eggs can taste very different depending on how they are cooked. And, of course, they can be used with a little flour and consommé powder to create a quick batter to dip vegetables in before frying them up as fritters.
Beans: Canned beans are a wonderful investment. Look for plain beans, rather than those that come with chorizo or bacon. You can use beans with broth and any veggies to make a quick soup, puree with some oil, parsley and lemon juice in the blender to create a paste for chips, or add some browned ground beef and onions with a handful of tomatoes and you have yourself some quick chili. Beans are endlessly useful.
Pasta: Of course, this is an old standby, but you don’t always have to serve it with tomato sauce. Learn to whip up a white sauce and then change it by adding cheese, olives or any number of different ingredients. Pasta also comes in many forms, so you won’t even feel like you’re eating the same thing over and over. For a super quick dish, just squeeze some lemon juice over the pasta, add a drizzle of olive oil and some chopped basil. Or try simply tossing with oil and Parmesan cheese. The hot pasta will melt the cheese to perfection.
Rice: Another extremely versatile food that can be used as a base under more interesting foods, or serves as a main dish on its own, with a cream sauce or filled with cooked vegetables. Serve plain with soy sauce or butter, cook with broth and veggies, or turn into a dessert with cream, eggs and sugar.
Ground beef: Whether you enjoy making meatballs, hamburger patties or just adding to chili, hamburger meat is very useful and always good to have on hand. It can be frozen . . . just remember to thaw early if you plan to shape it for cooking. Use in soups, tacos, stews or on its own, ground beef is always tasty.
Frozen vegetables: These may seem like a cooking faux pas, but actually, frozen veggies are quite nutritious and they are so fast to prepare that it is well worth it. Cook them up as is, add lemon butter, garlic and olive oil or drizzle with a cheese sauce to add interest. You can also tuck these into a quiche, omelet or any number of other recipes. Vegetables are always good.
These six base ingredients form the foundation of hundreds of meals. If you keep all of them on hand, along with some basics such as flour, sugar and milk, you’ll never go hungry.