Friday, July 31, 2009

Retooling The Pantry: Six Kitchen Staples With Surprising Uses

By Matthew Kaplan

Every kitchen pantry is stocked full of items that do not go bad that we buy for those rare occasions when we need them in a recipe. For most people, the cupboards full of canned goods, non-perishable items and other food stuffs, and those food stuffs are mostly unused. Don't let your pantry go to waste. Pantry staples are tasty and cheap and don't deserve to stand idle in culinary purgatory. Pantry staples can have some unique cooking applications. Follow these tips to learn how to add interesting touches to your meals with everyday pantry staples.

Peanut Butter: In almost every cupboard sits a half-eaten jar of peanut butter. The pantry staple is rich, creamy and tasty, but most people only use peanut butter for sandwiches and occasionally dessert. The creamy richness of peanut butter is great in savory applications too. Add peanut butter to your next stir fry to give it a Thai-inspired flavor. Use peanut butter as the base to a peanut sauce, which goes perfectly with pasta and vegetables.

Soy Sauce: Almost every East Asian dish calls for soy sauce. Soy sauce adds a salty taste to any recipe, but most people only cook with soy sauce when making an Asian-style dish. However, soy sauce is a versatile ingredient that can work well in many recipes. Try using soy sauce instead of salt in your favorite recipes to add some depth to the recipe. Soy sauce tastes great in barbecue sauces.

Almonds: Like with most nuts, many people only buy almonds to snack on or for the occasional dessert. Almonds can be ground up into a fine powder to create almond flour, a delicious, protein-rich and gluten-free alternative to wheat flour. You can also blend almonds with water to create almond milk, a creamy and delicious beverage that is a great alternative to milk.

Bisquick: Originally intended for biscuits, many people now use Bisquick as the base to make pancakes at home. Bisquick has a wide variety of uses outside of just pancakes and biscuits. Use Bisquick as part of the dry base ingredients for a host of desserts, from cakes and pies to muffins and tarts. It also works great in casseroles too.

Cashews: Similar to almonds, cashews have a wide array of culinary uses, but most only use them in the occasional dessert. Besides being a tasty out-of-hand snack, cashews add a rich crunchiness to vegetable dishes like a stir fry, a pasta dish or even a casserole. Additionally, you can blend cashews in a food processor to make cashew butter, a tasty spread similar to peanut butter.

Cocoa Powder: This chocolaty powder only gets used in most kitchens to add a touch of flavor to the occasional dessert. Don't let the rich chocolate flavor cocoa powder adds to go to waste. Use it as part of the base for homemade hot chocolate mix. Chocolate works well in spicy applications as well, lending a sweet bitter note to a spicy dish. Use cocoa powder to make a traditional Mexican mole sauce or add it to your favorite chili recipe.

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