A well-stocked pantry makes dinner a snap

  • Article by: BY MEREDITH DEEDS , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 7, 2012 - 3:08 PM

The motto of a busy cook: Be prepared. With staples on hand, mealtime is only minutes away.

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Smoky Black Bean and Butternut Squash Chili

Photo: Meredith Deeds, Special to the Star Tribune

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Whew, another election cycle is over. No matter whom you voted for or how you feel about the results, one thing remains unchanged: Your family will be hungry for dinner.

This time of year presents more than just political choices. With the holiday craziness on the horizon, in addition to the busy schedules that most families contend with, it often seems easier to stop at a fast-food restaurant than to buy something for dinner at a grocery store.

To eliminate that spur-of-the-moment temptation, why not have a few options for a quick and easy dinner waiting at home for you in your pantry? I've mentioned this before, but during this busy time of year, it's a concept that merits revisiting.

There are so many things you can have on hand that will make your life easier amid the shopping, chauffeuring, wrapping, cleaning and entertaining. For me, if I know I have the ingredients to whip up a satisfying dinner at home, faster than I can run out for a burger and fries or call for a pizza, I'll usually make the right choice.

A family favorite

One of the easiest and most delicious meals I make for my family, Smoky Black Bean and Butternut Squash Chili, comes from items I almost always keep in my pantry: canned beans, tomatoes, chipotle chiles in adobo sauce and winter squash. The balance of spicy, smoky, earthy and sweet is perfect in this quick and easy dish, and nothing is more satisfying on a cold night. It makes a fairly large amount and is even better on Day 2, so I know I can get a couple of meals out of one batch, and that's something that will always get my vote.

Meredith Deeds of Edina is the author of "Everyday to Entertaining" and "The Big Book of Appetizers." Reach her at mere dith@meredithdeeds.com. Follow her on Twitter @meredithdeeds.

  • PANTRY STAPLES

    • Whole-wheat pasta

    • Brown rice, barley or other grains

    • Cornmeal

    • Low-sodium broths

    • Canned beans

    • Canned tomatoes

    • Tuna

    • Spices and dried herbs

    • Chile powders or canned chiles

    • Nuts

    • Dried fruits

    • Soy sauce

    • Vinegars

    • Oils

    • Winter squashes

    • Garlic

    • Ginger root

    • Onions and shallots

    REFRIGERATOR/FREEZER BASICS

    • Eggs

    • Milk

    • Cheese

    • Pesto

    • Mustards

    • Barbecue sauces

    • Frozen meats

    • Frozen vegetables

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