This time of year is always a good time to clean out your pantry and stock up for the dark winter days ahead, when a good hot meal can be the difference between a good day and a bad one. Over the years, I’ve tried a lot of different organic products. A LOT. Fancy ones. Store brands. Local homemade specialties. But this list is my must-have national brands that are available almost everywhere. These are the things that are at the root of all other things.
- Heinz Organic Ketchup—This is the taste of ketchup from childhood, both sweet and slightly tangy. It’s what’s required for the proper taste for my homemade french fries and cod fish cakes.
- Organic Mustard: Woodstock Farms Yellow or Annie’s Dijon—I prefer yellow mustard, especially on hotdogs and sandwiches, but Dijon is essential for making a good French vinaigrette and my extremely popular ham glaze .
- Canned Tuna: Wild Planet or Natural Sea—For some reason, I always want a tuna fish sandwich on soft squishy whole wheat bread with potato chips when I get home from food-shopping. Made with Miracle Whip, of course (see below).
- Brown Rice: Lundberg or Village Harvest—When I was a kid, brown rice was gooey and my mother refused to make it. Now, my kids eat it like it’s normal and the only problem is remembering ahead that it takes an hour to make.
- Lentils: Shiloh Farms—For lentil soup, of course!
- Whole Wheat Pasta: Bionaturae —Tried a lot of different brands, but this one tastes the best and the whole family loves it. Elbows and spaghetti are the two shapes I can’t do without.
- Canned Beans: Eden Brand—Pinto beans for my Mexicali beans and the subsequent huevos rancheros, and then garbanzos for fried chick peas, a family favorite snack.
- Olive Oil—I like to have two kinds at all times, the kind for cooking and the kind for dipping and dressings. All the brands are good, as long as they are certified organic.
- Olives: Mediterranean Organic—Olives are one of the easiest fast and fabulous pre-dinner treats for family or parties. To gussy them up, just add some of the good olive oil and either some citrus zest or herbs, or both. Voilà, you have a party.
- Tomato Sauce and Paste: Bionaturae—Yes, I make my own sauce and freeze it, but sometimes there’s not enough. Bionaturae makes a good strained tomato sauce and paste that are in nice glass jars and are good tasting basics for any recipe, plain or doctored up.
- BONUS! POPCORN: Newman’s Own Organic Popcorn Kernels—I buy a bag and put it in a mason jar and it’s an delicious snack that’s easy, fast, and healthy. Frankly, I don’t like microwave popcorn; I put olive oil in the bottom of a pan and make it the old-fashioned way, with a lid and lots of melted organic butter and some salt.
I didn’t list coffee because I keep it in the freezer, not the pantry. And I have one nonorganic cheat: Miracle Whip. I’m still waiting for the organic version!
Check in two days for the follow up to this blog post: The Top 10 Must-Have’s For Every Sweet Organic Pantry.