I know it's not technically winter yet, but the Capital District has already seen its first dumping of approximately 1.3 inches of snow... this, to me, heralds the start of the winter season that will last until mid-to-late April, when I become reasonably confident that we are unlikely (read: it's not impossible) to get any more freak snowstorms.
I should take the time to mention that I absolutely detest winter. The holidays are nice, but I could so do without the snow, sleet, ice, cold, etc.
This time of year always, without a doubt, sends me scurrying to do two things:
1. Unpack all of my huge, bulky, turtleneck sweaters. I'll start wearing them as soon as the highs reach the 30s, and won't come out until Spring.
2. I get into pack-rat mode. I mentioned that I hate snow, right? Well, my feelings for driving in snow... make that look mild. I am as much a fan of driving my four-cylinder car in the snow as... well, as tea partiers are fans of health care reform. So once it gets to this point in the year, I start obsessively stocking my pantry for the inevitable weekend snow storm that will put a crimp in our style and make it hard to go to the grocery store.
And, OK, maybe I tend to over-do it once in a while.
Anyway, here is my list of pantry must-haves for the winter. These staples can be used to whip up healthy, flavorful meals. I'm not too concerned about power - one of our stoves has a gas range, and we have a gas-powered camping burner we could use if all else failed.
So, here goes - winter provisions to have on hand at all times:
- Bell & Evans chicken nuggets and/or tenders. Great for an easy meal.
- Starfish Cod. Another easy convenience meal.
- Ore-Ida tater tots or french fries - to accompany one of the above.
- Frozen veggies: broccoli, cauliflower, peas, green beans, diced peppers, and corn.
- Bacon. Easy enough to un-thaw.
- 2 frozen wild salmon filets. Again, easy enough to un-thaw.
- Frozen raw shrimp (I stock up when there's a good sale).
- Cheese - Cheddar, Mozzarella, Monterey Jack, and anything else we pick up.
- Frank's Red Hot. Non-negotiable.
- A full box each of brown and white instant rice
- 2-4 cans of dark red kidney beans
- 2 cans of chickpeas
- Canned veggies: kernel corn, peas and carrots, sliced mushrooms
- Canned fruit: mandarin oranges, peaches, pears, mixed fruit with cherries, unsweetened applesauce, pineapple, maraschino cherries
- Progresso Soup. Especially Chicken with Rice or Chicken with Wild Rice.
- Ginger Ale.
- Some sort of chocolate.
- Gluten Free pasta (we buy cases of Bionaturae off Amazon). I always have spaghetti, fusilli, elbows, and penne on hand.
- Pasta sauce. Traditional red, spicy red, alfredo, cheese, and vodka.
- White cooking wine. I usually use something around the quality of Sutter Home Chardonnay. Not what I'd consider sippable, but passable enough to cook with
- Salsa and tortilla chips.
- Diced and stewed tomatoes.
- Penne with alfredo sauce and broccoli, sprinkled with a tiny bit of shredded cheddar cheese and cayenne pepper.
- Rice and beans - brown rice, kidney beans, salsa, diced tomatoes, peppers, onions, corn, garlic. Garnish with shredded Monterey Jack cheese. Leftovers are great with corn tortillas or scooped up with chips.
- Shrimp Fried Rice - brown rice, shrimp, peas and carrots, mushrooms, onion, and anything else that looks good. I'm a fan of adding water chestnuts, baby corn and bean sprouts when I have them on hand. This also works with leftover chicken or vegetarian.
- Baked elbow macaroni and cheese served with stewed tomatoes and a veggie.
- Buffalo shrimp - shrimp dredged in egg and some sort of flour mixture (my favorite right now is Bisquick, but I've used corn starch too), pan fried and tossed in Red Hot buffalo sauce.