Essentials for a well-stocked pantry – Part 4

These items could well be called a pantry essential essential! I’m talking about two kinds of meal-makers that are quite simple, nutritious and easy to find.

One is ready-to-use broth and the other canned tomatoes.

OK, so what can you do with broth? It’s not really meant to be just heated and eaten like soup. Think of it as a speed pass to making a meal more delicious. It’s a quick start to more complicated dishes, as well as an easy way to flavor up simples dishes like rice and couscous.

First, don’t mistake broth (that comes in aseptic packaging) for bouillon cubes. Those have no nutritional value, are super high in sodium, and almost always have added monosodium glutamate in them.

A good (organic) broth, on the other hand, is made when vegetables or meats have been simmered with added spices and natural flavorings.

Here are some ways to use broth to get in – and out – of the kitchen faster, with a delicious meal, of course!

  • For reheating leftovers;
  • For cooking rice (use instead of water);
  • As a fast base for homemade soup or sauces;
  • Added to mashed potatoes for a kind of “gravy” flavor.

And for leftover broth, just pour into an ice-cube tray and freeze. That way, you’ll have frozen cubes to use whenever needed.

Canned tomatoes are an interesting exception to the “fresh is more nutritious” rule. They actually have more lycopene than fresh – one study found tomato paste to have six times the lycopene of fresh tomatoes. (Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant found in red fruits and vegetables).

My favorite canned variety are chopped tomatoes. You can use them in omelets, guacamole, soups and sauces. And to really make an impression, my favorite (easy) tomato recipe is bruschetta. You can make it with canned and drained diced tomatoes, olive oil, minced garlic and fresh chopped basil leaves and a touch of vinegar. When combined and used as a topping on toasted French or Italian bread, it makes a super-fancy appetizer.

Diced tomatoes can also be added to ready-made spaghetti sauce to give it a more “homemade” look and taste.

These are definitely two staple items that any “on demand” cook shouldn’t be without.

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