Pantry in a Bunch?
Last month, the lovely people at Refinery 29 came to my house one Saturday morning, set up their lighting and cameras, opened my fridge and began snapping away. Allowing strangers into my kitchen to photograph the inside of my fridge for this story felt akin to opening up my underwear drawer – so intimate, so personal! Of course, I am no fool. I did a quick fridge edit before writer Alina Gonzalez and photographer Marshall Johnson (pictured above in my kitchen) arrived. Out with the husband’s jar of Ragu and the two-week-old soup growing a layer of fur.
Once the full story – a feature on what’s in the fridges of three DC foodies – was released, I kept hearing the same thing over and over again: “I’ll never let you see my fridge! It’s a disaster. Yours is a work of art.” And I replied with the same refrain over and over again: “It’s all in the airbrushing and camera tricks, my friend.” Yes, the lighting was a factor. But even moreso, it was the styling. Yes, styling. For food. In my fridge. The contents of the fridge were indeed my own. Nothing was added that wasn’t already there. But the jars and packages were carefully arranged and styled with Alina’s critical eye, creating an aesthetically pleasing image. No, I don’t store lemons loose on the bottom shelf or cheese on top of the green beans. It is, after all, an online fashion magazine. Pretty matters a lot!
As long as I’m doling out disclosures, I should also note that Alina and Marshall happened to visit in the middle of my 21-day natural foods detox, which is why you see a rainbow of juices, nut milks and smoothies in labeled jars. I do not typically have such a diverse array of these items in my fridge on an average day (maybe one jar or two, most likely to be green).
As these guys styled and snapped away, it occurred to me that it might be interesting for you to have a look at my pantry – raw and unstyled. No fancy lighting. Just the real deal. So I took a few photos to show you what’s in there now. I’ve also updated the prepared pantry, my own list of must-haves for the fridge, freezer and pantry shelves. It’s changed a little over time as my cooking habits have developed and morphed.
Since these cabinets are new, I will admit they are a little neater now than is typically the case. I only restocked them about a month ago (the contents had been living in various places in my house over the course of the construction work – quinoa in my bedroom, cereal in the guest room, beans and lentils in the hall closet). On the top, you can see I have an extensive collection of nuts and nut butter. This is also where I keep cans of beans, pumpkin puree, tuna and whole grains like rice, quinoa and millet. I like the breakfasty stuff at the bottom – cereals, oats, dried fruit. Since these cabinets sit on the floor, the kids can easily reach in to choose which cereal they’d like in the morning.
The cabinet pictured above is used for starchy meal components on top (mostly) and snacks on the bottom. Yes, I feed my kids Annie’s macaroni and cheese. I’ve recently been experimenting with extra virgin coconut oil. So great for roasted sweet potatoes! The Ortega taco sauce is for my turkey taco-loving husband (he’d already eaten the Ragu in here, which would otherwise be right next to it). He’s also the one who loves Triscuits. We blow through roughly a box a week, which he happily scarfs down with about a pound of hummus. This usually happens three minutes before dinner.
Now that you’ve seen the inside of my real pantry (and my high fashion fridge), you may wonder how I use them together to make quick meals? Good question. I’m so glad you asked. Below I’ve listed my favorite pantry dinners, defined as meals made from items already in the house with the addition of just one or two fresh ingredients (i.e. a bunch of kale, a bulb of fennel, fresh mushrooms, fresh herbs).
- Lentil Tomato Soup
- Rosemary White Bean Soup with Barley
- Linguine with Pesto Rustico
- Pasta with Lentils and Kale
- Tuna Noodle Casserole
- Lemon Baked Salmon with Broccolette and Bulgur
- Shrimp Enchiladas with Corn and Black Beans
- Panko and Fresh Herb Crusted Chicken Breasts
- Spaghetti Frittata
- Herb and Scallion Frittata
What are your must-have pantry essentials and favorite pantry meals?