Updated May 28th
By now, most of us have spent a lot of time cooking and doing dishes. You may be sick of your basic repertoire and now that the obvious use for supplies has started to dwindle, it becomes more challenging to figure out meals from what you’ve got on hand or how to use up all that rice you stockpiled or that leftover green pepper. That’s where I’m hoping this guide comes in.
I’m also going to put online some recipes from my previous books that I think will be helpful, too. If you’re staring down a ton of food in your kitchen but not mustering the confidence to cook it all, you may want to check out my second book, The Kitchen Counter Cooking School: How a Few Simple Lessons Transformed Nine Novices Into Fearless Home Cooks. It’s like a cooking class in a book, one that also teaches the concept of doing more with less, the place we’re all in right now. You can get it as an ebook so you don’t even have to wait for it to arrive.
Quick, Basic Cooking Lessons
Here are a few video lessons and primers that may be helpful. I’ll be adding some more soon. Want a video on a specific technique or recipe? Let me know.
▪ Knife Skills
How to cut up all those onions and potatoes you’ve got stockpiled.
▪ How to Make Vinaigrette
Once you learn the basics, you can use vinaigrette for everything from marinades to flavoring simple steamed or canned vegetables.
▪ How to Make Vegetable Stock
Once you start cutting up vegetables, don’t throw away the trimmings. Use them to make vegetable stock instead, and use that in place of chicken stock.
▪ How to Cook in Parchment
A very simple way for even the least confident cooks to put together simple meals.
▪ A Cheat Sheet to Flavor Profiles
Once you understand flavor profiles, you can start to concoct meals from what you’ve got assembled in your pantry and fridge.
▪ Quick Guide to Herbs & Spices
Dried herbs and spices are great to help
▪ Soup 101: How to Make Soup out of Almost Anything
From bean soup to simple vegetable soups, learn the basics to transform any number of foods from your pantry, fridge or freezer into soup.
How to Cut up a Whole Chicken
I have noticed in stores that chicken parts (especially thighs and breasts) are difficult to come by but whole chickens tend to be available the longest when meat counters get hit. Take a chance, cut up a chicken. It doesn’t have to look great. As a bonus, you’ll have bones to make stock.
Four ingredients – flour, yeast, water and salt – and you can have an unlimited supply of bread.
Do a kitchen inventory
Maybe you went panic shopping a couple of months ago. What’s left now? Consider taking everything out of your fridge cupboards. Make a mental note, or make an actual list. I made this handy checklist pdf to help you out.
Having a physical list of all the foods available can help relieve anxiety if you’re worried you don’t have enough provisions, and provide a roadmap to how much you’re eating of what types of foods. It will help you plan for the next time you go shopping and avoiding buying food that you may ultimately waste.
Are you someone who doesn’t normally cook or keep much on hand? Take a look at this Q&A.
What do you consider essential pantry items?
A guide to a well-stocked, flexible pantry with tips from fellow food writers.
Easy, Flexible Pantry-Friendly Recipes
Risotto 101: How to make it (even if you don’t have rice)
A fabulous way to use up last bits of produce or leftover meat or seafood, plus how to make it with other grains for a flexible, tasty one-pot meal.
Bean and Greens Stew
Use any combination of white or red beans and whatever greens you might have on hand, including frozen spinach.
Go with the Flow Lentil Soup
This is a great pantry basic and features a video lesson from the fabulous Cynthia Lair.
Perfect Mashed Potatoes
The first of many recipes on what to do with all those potatoes you’ve got socked away.
Chicken Braised in Wine
You can also just use broth or even water if you don’t have extra wine on hand.
Corn Flake Oven-Baked Chicken
One from the heartlands. Works well with any kind of chicken.
With hamburger in short supply, consider trying these mushroom-and-lentil burger which offer a solid, meaty taste. They could do double duty as a “meatless” meatloaf.
Chicken braised in mustard
This is an inexpensive dish that uses ingredients you probably already have on hand, provided you’ve got a chicken.
Chicken Noodle Soup
Nothing soothes like noodle soup. No noodles? Use broken spaghetti.
A very simple, inexpensive soup. No rosemary? Use the stems from a bunch of parsley tied together or plenty of dried herbs.
Braised pork, tomatoes and pasta
An inexpensive braise of pork shoulder, canned tomatoes and pasta. It can be mixed up with extra vegetables.
Send me questions or tips from your own kitchen
I’ll be posting more soon. Have any questions? Want ideas of what to do with stuff in your fridge and pantry? Need substitution ideas? Drop me a line.
We’re all in this together.