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Secret Weapons in Your Pantry

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When your afternoon plans run into the evening... don't panic! Here are some easy tips on which items to keep in stock at all times so you can feed your family--plus a few more--with little or no notice.

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Here's what Diana Phillips, The Diva of Do-Ahead, suggests keeping in your pantry at all times. Whether you have unexpected arrivals, or you need a jump start on planning the perfect gathering, The Diva of Do-Ahead has created a list of necessities:

Download list here


  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Good-quality all-purpose olive oil
  • Canola oil
  • Sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Red wine vinegar
  • Dijion mustard
  • Best Foods or Hellmann's mayonnaise
  • Prepared horseradish
  • Ketchup
  • Tabasco, or your favorite hot sauce
  • Anchovy Paste
  • Canned green chiles
  • Canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
  • Chicken broth
  • Beef broth
  • Lobster stock base
  • Canned chopped calms
  • Rice (converted and regular long-grain)
  • Pasta (different shapes)
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Soy sauce
  • Toasted sesame oil
  • Hoisin sauce
  • Fish sauce
  • Coconut milk
  • Peanut butter
  • Jam
  • Canned regular and marinated artichoke hearts
  • Canned plum tomatoes
  • Canned beans: black, white and pinto
  • Pimento-stuffed olives
  • Capers
  • Old Bay seasoning
  • Sea salt and coarse kosher salt
  • Peppercorns
  • Dried herbs and spices
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • Semisweet chocolate chips
  • Unsweetened chocolate bars or cocoa powder
  • Store-bought hot fudge sauce and caramel sauce
  • Vanilla paste
  • Cream sherry

Here's the list and a few examples of how you can use these items:

Sun-dried Tomatoes- These can be used in any sauce to add flavor to a simple pasta.

Italian Tuna and Artichoke Hearts- Mix these items in a green salad and it suddenly becomes a main-entree salad.

Coconut Milk and Peanut Butter- This will make an amazing sauce on top of grilled chicken.

Rice and Pasta- Can always be used as a great side dish for any meal.

Excerpt from Perfect Party Food, by Diane Phillips (c) 2005, used by permission from The Harvard Common Press


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11 comments so far | Post a comment now
Anon July 10, 2008, 9:43 PM

Who keeps (or even buys)that stuff in their house?

bonnie July 11, 2008, 11:43 AM

are you for real , how about something
that the average mom would use.
what the he** is Hoisen Sauce ?!?!?!?!?

arlene July 11, 2008, 12:33 PM

ok most of this is do-able

Judy July 12, 2008, 1:34 PM

Ok, even though I know what all the items are, I still wouldn’t have them in my house. Let’s think normal, everday people and not a celebrities kitchen please.

Kate July 15, 2008, 1:14 PM

Yeah, this list is worthless if it isn’t followed up with a list of recipes that actually use all of this stuff.

Annie July 26, 2008, 4:41 PM

Even if I had all of this in my pantry I wouldn’t know what to do with it. How ‘bout something practical like Kraft Mac&Cheese and Top Romen? Cook with some frozen mixed veggies and top of with some hot sauce and you got something with at least a little nutritional value that your kids might eat. Mine would take that over anchovy paste any day!

kilala3535 July 27, 2008, 9:13 AM

Keep things around quick to throw in a skillet together and a simple salad for impromptu dinner.

Anonymous July 27, 2008, 10:00 AM

Thank you I just got a few more thing to buy i don’t have in my pantry. I am alway looking up recipe’s. One thing i can not get was the fish sauce.Their have been times i needed it.As you can tell, I am trying new things all the times.

Anne July 28, 2008, 8:08 PM

I agree, even if you list this stuff. Without a few recipes, I wouldn’t know how to throw this stuff together. I get the olive oil, and pasta. I wouldn’t know where to get sun-dried tomatoes in oil. Throw in something like canned clams, and some garlic, I’m sure someone could come up with some sort of half decent tasting pasta dish. However, I’m not big on pasta. Without a few recipes, it’s a pointless list and you just have a pantry of stuff you’ll never use.

Anonymous July 31, 2008, 10:28 AM

i wish you could give us a few of those,that every pantry should have.
otherwise, those secret weapons will remain a secret.

Diane November 30, 2008, 5:56 PM

This is a handy list. I have had most of these item in my pantry at one time or another and they can save the day, or at least a meal.
I would add numerous whole grains (Steal cut oats, Rolled oats, bulgar wheat etc)and a couple of bulk whole grain mixes like tabuli and hummus.

Recipes would be handy. However, just having these items on hand will trigger the ideas when something is needed.


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