Shop from a grocery list, stick to it and cook from what you have in your pantry. It's hardly a new concept for solving mealtime dilemmas.
Sarah Kallio says we look into our pantries "like you look into your clothes closet, saying, 'I don't have anything to wear.'" That's because most people have no clue what to make or how to use the fundamentals.
Kallio and her friend Stacey Krastins think they've solved the problem with "One grocery list ... endless recipes." That's the subtitle of their cookbook The Stocked Kitchen (Stock, $27), which the authors say is a new way to cook.
Their solution? Take one part problem-solving abilities, mix it with a passion for cooking and stir in a standard ingredient list, and you, too, can make any of the 300-plus recipes in the self-published cookbook.
Recipes include appetizers, salads and desserts. The roster includes paella, feta chicken and shrimp seviche, sloppy joes and tacos.
Kallio, 35, and Krastins, 39, met several years ago at their children's play date and found they had similar aspirations for cooking and entertaining.
The mothers have engineering degrees, worked outside the home, have four kids between them and had meal-preparation issues.
Krastins knew there had to be an easier way to get dinner on the table.
"On Sundays, I would typically make a list from the recipes I chose for that week and go to the store," she says. "But plans would inevitably change through the week."
Kallio was determined not to go to the grocery store between paychecks; she wanted to better use the ingredients she had at home.
Their first book, The Stocked Host Taste, published two years ago, featured an ingredient list and 100 recipes. They sold 900 copies.
Sticking to the list and recipes, they found they made fewer trips to the grocery store, saved money and eliminated specialty ingredients they might buy for one recipe and never use again.
In The Stocked Kitchen, about 140 items are listed in categories including pantry, produce and freezer items. "We like to say you probably already have 80 to 85 percent of these items always in the kitchen," Krastins says.
Some items they deem freezer- or pantry-worthy include frozen puff pastry sheets, jars of roasted red peppers and marinated artichoke hearts and herbes de Provence.
Once you stick to a list, Krastins says, you will see your grocery bill go down.
You also will avoid what the two call the "$30 grocery trip" that happens when your plan is to buy only a rotisserie chicken but you end up spending $30 to $50.
"It's a system, regardless of how good of a cook you are," Kallio says. "It's how you get the right items at the right time in your kitchen to make dishes you want."
To serve as a main dish, top this salad with diced ham, grilled chicken or flank steak, or grilled or sautéed shrimp.
Honey apricot salad
¼ cup apricot preserves
1 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
¼ cup honey
1 tablespoon lemon juice
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
8 ounces lettuce or mixed greens
½ cup frozen peas, thawed
10-ounce can Mandarin oranges, drained
4 tablespoons blue or Gorgonzola cheese
Sugared nuts, optional (see below)
In a small bowl, mix together all dressing ingredients. Layer salad ingredients among four plates. Drizzle with dressing.
To make sugared nuts: In a skillet, stir together ¼ cup sugar and ½ cup almonds, pecans or peanuts over medium heat until sugar is melted and coats the nuts. Toss hot nuts onto a sheet of parchment paper; set aside until cool. Once cooled, break apart nuts to separate. Serve or store until ready to use.
Makes 4 servings.
Nutrition information per serving: 187 calories, 7 g. fat, 26 g. carbohydrates, 6 g. protein, 216 mg. sodium, 18 mg. cholesterol, 2 g. fiber.
½ pound ground breakfast sausage
2 tablespoons white vinegar
6 drops hot red pepper sauce
½ pound boneless, skinless chicken, cubed
½ bell pepper, chopped
2 shallots or 1 onion, peeled, chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled, minced
15-ounce can diced tomatoes with liquid
10-ounce can mandarin oranges (in juice) with liquid
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
½ teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup white rice
15.5-ounce can or 2 cups chicken broth
½ cup frozen peas
6 ounces raw shrimp, tails on, shells peeled, deveined
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease or spray a deep-dish pizza pan or 9-by-13-inch baking dish; set aside.
In a large skillet over medium heat, brown sausage with vinegar and hot sauce. Add cubed chicken and cook thoroughly. Add bell pepper, shallots or onions and garlic, and cook until vegetables are tender.
In a large mixing bowl, combine canned tomatoes and mandarin oranges with their juices. Stir in chili powder, poultry seasoning, pumpkin pie spice, cumin, salt, rice and broth. Add cooked sausage and chicken mixture, and mix well.
Pour mixture into prepared dish. Place in oven and bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes.
Remove pan from oven, stir in peas, and tuck shrimp throughout dish. Place pan back in oven and bake for 10 to 15 minutes more, or until rice is tender and shrimp are cooked through.
Makes 8 servings.
Nutrition information per serving: 313 calories, 12 g. fat, 30 g. carbohydrates, 21 g. protein, 858 mg. sodium, 76 mg. cholesterol, 3 g. fiber.
Egg rolls with sweet and sour sauce
1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon minced ginger
½ teaspoon garlic powder
4-ounce (net weight) can chopped mushrooms
1 cup cabbage and carrot mix (cole slaw)
1 green onion, washed, ends removed, finely chopped
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1⁄8 teaspoon black pepper
1 egg white, lightly beaten
sweet and sour sauce (see below)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On a lightly floured work surface, unfold puff pastry sheet and press out the seams. Roll out pastry sheet to about an 11-by-14-inch rectangle.
Using pizza cutter, cut sheet into 24 squares. Stretch pastry squares and place them in a mini muffin pan so they just stick outside the cups.
In a skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add ginger, garlic powder, mushrooms, cabbage mix and green onion. Cook 2 to 3 minutes, until vegetables soften. Mix in soy sauce, pepper and egg white until egg is cooked; about 2 minutes.
Evenly divide mixture into each pastry cup.
Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until corners begin to brown. Remove from oven and serve with sweet and sour sauce.
To make sweet and sour sauce: Mix together 3 tablespoons apricot preserves, 2 tablespoons ketchup, 2 tablespoons brown sugar and 2 tablespoons soy sauce. Mix until sugar is dissolved, and chill before serving.
Makes 24 servings.
Nutrition information per serving: 65 calories, 5 g. fat, 5 g. carbohydrates, 1 g. protein, 65 mg. sodium, 0 mg. cholesterol, 0 g. fiber.