We’ve finally had our first really big snowstorm here this past week! There were a couple of sporadic, lighter ones here or there before, but this might be the first one that actually sticks for a while (Update: It’s supposed to rain on Sunday so… bye bye snow). Even though I know driving is going to become horrendous, I really do love being able to look out the window first thing in the morning and see the ground covered in snow, Winter Wonderland style, especially the backyard that has plenty of trees that will soon get that beautiful crystallization on the branches.
Terrible driving aside, I really am ready for everything winter to be here. Is it the same for any of you or are you still holding on to fall for a little bit longer? Although it’s can be a super stressful time because of the holidays and semesters of school coming to an end, it is one of the most festive times of the year. I feel a whole lot happier doing just about anything, even running around doing errands.
I don’t know if it’s the decorations, the music, or just the energy in the air, but it completely changes my mood every time I go out. But before the snow is piled high and I begin wanting all of it to melt and for it to just be spring already, I stocked up on all of the necessary staples I need in my pantry to be ready for true winter time weather.
Although produce are still important in my day to day life, I really do find myself sticking to more pantry-food based meals. Not only because they are usually the bulk of the ingredients for any warm savory dish, but also because the ingredients take a long time to go bad, which is especially nice when the snow is coming down and you don’t even want to think about going anywhere.
NUTS, SEEDS, DRIED FRUIT & BEANS
This section is probably the most important section for me on a day to day basis. Not only do nuts, seeds, and dried fruit make for a great snack when you are in a rush out the door, but they are perfect for that final touch on so many different kinds of dishes. Especially since I tend to do a lot more baking in the winter then in the summer, I need lots of these around to be used in different desserts either as the base (like with a cheesecake) or just to spice things up (like with some delicious cashew cookies or walnut brownies).
And of course, I always have loads of dried beans, legumes, lentils, etc. smuggled away in my pantry during the winter. During the weekend, I prep and cook a lot of them so that they are all ready to go when I need them. Because no one has time to soak and cook beans on a weekday. But using dried beans instead of already cooked ones make me feel better because I am the only one controlling what is absorbed by the different beans while they wait to be used. Plus when I use them in a recipe, they have a lot ‘fresher’ and clean taste about them that I can never get with precooked beans.
Now, that being said, you can substitute several of the beans and legumes for canned varieties if you really do not have the time to soak and cook them. These are simply not my preferred style. However, before using anything canned, make sure that you thoroughly wash any that come from a can to remove all of the extra preservatives or things that may have been in the can.
HERBS & SPICES & OILS
This section may seem very self-explanatory to some, but while I was over at one of my friend’s houses this past week I discovered she didn’t have a single dried herb, spice or even an oil in her cabinets. I understand that these can end up being on the low end of your priorities to buy, but a number of times I use these in a week are insane. I could never handle not having one of them let alone all three, so I decided to include them in this list.
Unless you grow your own, fresh herbs in the winter time are either hard to come by or expensive because they are not as readily available as they are in the warmer months. So during the winter, I mainly switch over to dried herbs and spices because it makes it a lot easier to always have herbs around without spending a large amount of money on a weekly basis for the fresh ones that I’m not growing.
Along with herbs, spices for me are something I always have and always need for every meal. If something isn’t exactly tasting the way I want it to I turn to spices (along with herbs) to help change up the flavor. Sometimes it’s a success and sometimes its a failure. But in the winter when I rely more heavily on cooked foods, spices and herbs are even more important because otherwise I would go crazy having to eat the same flavors all season long without any variety. And they do say variety is the spice of life.
Oils are a bit of a side matter because even though there isn’t a big need to change up the flavors of your oils, I do recognize it when I use different ones in my recipes. Each oil has a slightly different flavor or tone to it and thus when you are using it to build a recipe from, it is good to try out a couple to get the best oil/flavor combination in your dish. Plus each oil has its own benefits for your body and health, which is an added bonus to changing them up.
Last but not least are carb bulkers. These include pastas, rice, oatmeal, potatoes, etc. All of these are definitely at the top of my list of must-haves for any meal. Especially when loads of family are coming over to eat. Any of these carbs are a great way to bulk up any dish fairly cheaply. Plus they help to build the flavor and texture of any dish and really can highlight the flavors in it.
Lately, I have really been loving sweet potatoes and yams because not only do they help keep my sweet tooth at bay, but I have constantly been making different kinds of curries and sweet potato toasts these past couple of weeks. And even though I usually use the sweet potatoes with curries, simply changing the carb I use such as rice or regular potatoes completely changes up the flavor of the dish. Whatever you use, any of these carbs are will be absolutely delicious and really help warm you up before dealing with the long cold weather months ahead of us.