Cooking at home can be healthy, flavorful, and cost-effective. Planning a menu, writing a grocery list, and keeping some kitchen pantry staples on hand can help you can make a rewarding meal every night of the week.
A combination of classic pantry staples (canned tomatoes and canned beans) and flavor-boosting convenience items (herb mixes, soy sauce, and vinegars) are key to keeping your kitchen dinner-ready.
- The aromatics and seasonings
This is the foundation of many recipes. These foods—such as onions and garlic—are the first things you should throw in the pot to start simmering. They add a depth of flavor and heft too many dishes (even fast ones), so keeping them on hand can help you turn basic soup into a filling meal rich in vegetables and whole grains.
- Canned foods
While your first inclination may say otherwise, some canned foods are indispensable in healthy cooking. Canned tomatoes, for example, can be used in soups and stews, but they're also a boon to many quick and healthy skillet meals and one-pot pastas.
- Beans, lentils, rice, and whole grains
These items can be added to many dishes for instant protein and filling fiber. They also store well, so you can keep them on hand for a considerable time. They go from season to season—in soups and stews in the winter and in light grain sides in spring and summer. You can use some of these pantry staples to turn basic chicken breasts into crispy oven-fried pieces, leftover steak into a hearty burrito bowls, or roasted vegetables into a quesadilla or pizza. Fresh and colorful garnishes such as avocado, red onion, fresh cilantro or basil can further whet your appetite with visual appeal.
Life is busy, but dinner doesn't have to be. No need for expensive takeout when you have what you need to make a healthy and flavorful dinner at home.
Chicken Coconut Soup
A slow-cooker chicken coconut soup inspired by Tom Kha Gai, with the addition of healthy vegetables, and gluten-free cellophane noodles to make it a hearty meal for a busy weeknight.
• 4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth or home-made chicken stock
• 14-ounce can coconut milk
• 3 tablespoons pure maple syrup, dark or amber
• 4 teaspoons fish sauce, such as Golden Boy
• 1 lime, zested and juiced
• 1 clove garlic, chopped
• ½ hot red chili, minced, or to taste
• ½ teaspoon salt
• 1 2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and split lengthwise
• 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs
• 1 red bell pepper, diced
• 5 ounces sliced stemmed shiitake mushrooms
• 2 ounces rice cellophane noodles
• 3 cups shredded Napa cabbage
• 4 scallions, chopped
• 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
• 3 tablespoons chopped basil or Thai basil
- 1. Whisk broth, coconut milk, maple syrup, fish sauce, lime zest and juice, garlic, hot chili and salt in the insert of a large slow cooker. Add ginger and chicken thighs.
- 2. Add bell pepper and mushrooms on top. Cover and cook on low for 7 1/2 hours.
- 3. Remove 2 pieces of ginger. Stir in Napa cabbage and scallions. Break cellophane noodles into two pieces and submerge into liquid as much as possible. Continue cooking on low for 30 more minutes.
- 4. Stir to combine, breaking up large chunks of chicken. Stir in cilantro and basil. Serve hot.
SERVING SIZE: 2 1/2 cups, CALORIES: 459, SUGAR: 16g, FAT: 28g, CARBOHYDRATES: 33g, FIBER 3, PROTEIN: 20g