Say Hello To Fresh And Fast Cooking With This Female Chef’s Pantry Staples Say Hello To Fresh And Fast Cooking With This Female Chef’s Pantry Staples Let’s face it: we’re all busy – and hectic schedules can leave little time to get a “real” dinner on the table most nights. Even as a professional chef (who is also a wife and mother), I face the same challenges – the same age-old question of “what’s for dinner?” night after night. My secret weapon? Keeping practical, healthy staples on hand so I’m prepared no matter what the day brings. Stock up on these pantry essentials and you’ll be far less likely to reach for impulse, expensive, unhealthy buys when things get crazy. Load your shelves with foods that are filling, flavorful and non-perishable, so you can whip up something delicious in a pinch, whether craving a full-on meal or a satisfying snack. 1. Beans Not only are beans an excellent source of protein, but they’re versatile and affordable. From cannellini and black beans, to red kidney and garbanzo beans (otherwise known as chickpeas), there are endless ways to put them to use. You can use them in chili and Mexican-inspired meals like burritos and fajitas, as well as grain bowls, salads and hummus. They’re also delicious when baked into desserts (hello, black bean brownies). Claudia Sidoti, Head Chef and Recipe Developer for HelloFresh. “My secret weapon? Keeping practical, healthy staples on hand so I’m prepared no matter what the day brings” 2. Quick-Cooking Whole Grains Quinoa, brown rice, couscous, and oats are just a few of my favorite go-to grains. Nutritionally dense and surprisingly simple to prepare, they work great in healthy side dishes, bulked-up salads, comforting soups and trendy grain bowls. 3. Canned Tomatoes These work great for a quick pasta sauce, chili, soup or pizza topping. Alternatively, you can use canned tomatoes to braise vegetables, whip up a Bloody Mary, tomato basil muffins or even try your hand at some homemade ketchup. 4. Canned Tuna I love a high quality Italian tuna. It’s another great source of protein and perfect for making a quick and healthy tuna salad, which can be used for sandwiches or to top greens. I love to bulk up tuna salad with extra veggies to keep it on the healthier side and add fiber, so you’ll stay full longer. “Load your shelves with foods that are filling, flavorful and non-perishable, so you can whip up something delicious in a pinch, whether craving a full-on meal or a satisfying snack.” 5. Olive Oil Olive oil is a must-have for every kitchen. You’ll need it for everything from sauteéing and roasting, to salad dressing, sauces, or as a finishing oil for extra flavor atop veggies and salads. 6. Maldon Sea Salt I keep a box of Maldon sea salt flakes in my pantry at all times. I love it for finishing dishes, particularly salads, veggies or just seared proteins like steak, chicken or fish. It’s an upgrade from classic kosher salt, and a little goes a long way. 7. Peanut Butter This childhood favorite can be used for so much more than your classic PB&J. Pair a spoonful with fruit like apples or bananas for a high-protein, high-fiber snack. You can also use peanut butter to make homemade dressings and sauces like satay and Asian noodles. "Pair a spoonful with fruit like apples or bananas for a high-protein, high-fiber snack" 8. Artichoke Hearts or Roasted Red Peppers These delicious jarred goods are full of flavor, making them ideal for jazzing up a simple salad or pasta dish. You can also go the breakfast-for-dinner route and mix them into omelets. 9. Salsa Think beyond the bag of chips. While Mexican dishes may seem like the obvious use for salsa, it makes a delicious topping for a range of foods. From scrambled eggs and burgers to salad dressing alternative, salsa is a guilt-free staple I can’t live without. 10. Panko Breadcrumbs This Japanese-style breadcrumb is a great addition to add crisp to a variety of recipes without having to turn to a deep fryer. I like to use it to top mac & cheese or crispy cauliflower, or crust proteins like salmon or chicken. The texture and flavor are a winning combination. Claudia Sidoti Claudia Sidoti is Head Chef and Recipe Developer at global meal kit leader HelloFresh. At the helm of the test kitchen, Claudia leads a team of seasoned recipe developers to create simple and delicious meals that hundreds of thousands of home cooks across the country can make in 30 minutes or less every night. Prior to joining HelloFresh, Claudia was Test Kitchen Director at Food Network Magazine.