Beyond the staples, what kosher pantry items does Chanie love? Sneak a peak into her pantry and find out.
By: Chanie Apfelbaum
If you take a look into any basic kosher pantry, you’ll find staples like tomato sauce, canned beans, oils, vinegars, pasta, flour, and sugar. But if you look a little further, you’ll find my family’s must-haves that we come to rely on and restock again and again. These are my personal favorites!
- I’m always envious of those Mom’s who manage to pull off a breakfast of pancakes and eggs in the morning. In our house, the morning routine is hectic and I don’t have time for pots and pans. Oatmeal is my go-to and instead of resorting to the flavored packets that are full of junk, I rely on this brand because it cooks up really quickly in a bowl with hot water, no pots required. I find that it cooks quicker and is creamier than others. My kids top their oatmeal with pure maple syrup and a pinch of brown sugar, a homemade cinnamon-sugar blend, or a few mini chocolate chips and they’re on their way.
- I always drool over those Instagram posts of hot coffee dripping from a fancy coffee machine in the morning. I can almost smell it through the screen. Alas, I have no patience for the whole Nespresso thing (see #1 for why), so I resort to good old-fashioned instant coffee. Except instant coffee tastes pretty bad, unless you are using Cafe Bustelo’s instant espresso. The stuff is so delicious, you’d think you brewed it yourself.
- If you’re looking to eat clean, the best thing you can do is read the ingredients on the packaging of foods before you buy it. If the list is endlessly long, or you can’t pronounce or recognize some of the ingredients, PUT IT BACK. That’s why I love Justin’s chocolate hazelnut butter so much. It’s creamy and decadent like nutella, but it’s got zero junk. So you can have your cake, and eat it too!
- I’ve banned onion soup mix from my house years ago, and I’ve never looked back. I believe in building natural flavor and Imagine’s broths are a great way to do that. Sure, it would be great to make my own veggie and chicken broth from scratch, but we all need something quicker and easier to fall back on. These are made from organic veggies, filtered water, and spices and they taste great! I use the No-chicken stock to make creamy mashed potatoes (sans margarine!). Add it to soups, rice, gravies, and roasts. The brand also make lots of other soup flavors. The butternut squash is a family favorite!
- Healthy coconut fat is all the rage right now and kosher cooks everywhere are starting to replace dreaded margarine with coconut oil. The thing I hear the most from readers is that they worry that coconut oil is going to taste too “coconutty.” As someone who does not love the taste of coconut, I totally get that! If you want to bake up your chocolate chip cookies sans butter or margarine, but you hate coconut, do this: buy refined Spectrum coconut oil. This brand has the least coconut flavor, and the refining process takes out all the bits of coconut so it is really neutral flavored in baked goods.
- Oven ready lasagna sheets are nothing new; they’ve been on the market for quite some time, but I’ve only just started using them. After some flops, I finally learned the trick to get the pasta super soft and not chewy. After I finish layering my lasagna (which takes about 5 minutes thanks to this product), I add about 1/4 cup of water to the empty marinara sauce jar and shake it up. I pour the mixture over the top and around the sides of the lasagna and I cover it really tight with foil. The water helps steam the pasta and it comes out tender and perfect—the easiest dinner ever.
- Remember what I said about products having few ingredients in #3? That’s precisely why California Gourmet chocolate chips are the best on the market. They have very few ingredients and they taste like super rich and clean. We especially love the new mini’s and the soy-free blue bag!
- Thanks to the popularity of Ottolenghi’s cookbooks, Israeli staples are on the rise, including harissa, a North African hot pepper paste that makes everything taste better! It’s my secret to 5-minute shakshuka (I add a spoonful to jarred marinara to use as a base), the best spicy tuna sandwich, amazing tahina, and delicious lemon chicken.
- I’m a huge fan of Achva’s seasoned tahini because let’s face it—we don’t always have fresh parsley on hand. Sometimes we even run out of garlic. But if you’ve got their seasoned tahini in the pantry, all you need is some water, fresh lemon, and salt and you’ve got some seasoned tahini that tastes more than just semi-homemade.
- Anyone who’s into cooking knows about Maldon. This “truffle of all salts” takes your food to the next level. Maldon is a finishing salt, so it’s not meant for cooking (for which I use kosher salt exclusively), but it’s large flakes can be appreciated on many foods including beef, fish, cookies, caramels, and chocolate.
- Marinara sauce is one of my biggest staples, it just makes everything easier. from my 5-minute shashuka, to my lazy meatballs and my cheesy zoodle marinara to my everyday bolognese. Add it to anything and you’ve practically got dinner on the table. When I’m watching my sugar intake, I usually go for Trader Joe’s canned variety that has no added sugar, but Frescorti flavor wins overall.
- Maldon is to salt what Nielsen Massey vanilla bean paste is to vanilla extract. It just doesn’t compare. If you love to bake, you must try it. The stuff is pricey but I always load up at Marshall’s where you can find some prized bottles among the fancy jams and tapenades.
- So here’s a general rule about vinegar. White vinegar is not for cooking. It’s for pickling or for cleaning. Yes. Your toilet. Your dishwasher. Even your washing machine. When a salad dressing calls for vinegar, it’s referring to apple cider vinegar (unless red wine, white wine, or balsamic are specified). Personally, I find that apple cider vinegar can be overpowering, and I prefer something with a bit less tang. Rice vinegar is much more mild, with a subtle sweetness. I love it in salad dressings and Asian dishes.
- I’m not a fan of Pam or other cooking sprays that use propellents because I just don’t want propane and other chemicals in my food. For a while, I was using a Misto with olive oil, but it’s kind of a pain to have to pump it. I was so happy to see these new kosher oil sprays on the market! They are free of chemicals and perfect for when you want to oven-fry food with an even coating of oil.
- Don’t you hate when you open a can of something for a recipe, only to be left with most of it? That always happens to me with olives because I’m usually only adding a handful to a salad at a time. That’s why I love these 2.25 oz. easy-open cans of sliced olives. Open it up, use the whole thing, no waste. Win-win!
- I always keep dried mushrooms on hand because they offer an all natural umami-boost to stocks, quiches, roasts ,and more. I usually grind some up in a spice grinder so I can sprinkle them into a recipe for added MSG-free flavor.
- Silan, or date honey, is the molasses of the Middle East. It’s got an amazing depth of flavor that tastes great over both sweet and savory dishes. Try it in place of honey in cakes, mixed into tahina, or drizzled over yogurt. Be sure to read the label and look out for 100% natural date honey with no added sugars.
- I am not a fan of chemical sweeteners, so I was really happy to discover this all-natural 0-calorie sweetener that comes from the monk fruit. Unlike other sugar substitutes, monk fruit in the raw tastes similar to natural sugar and is available in both a white and brown version.
- Although I didn’t include basic staples in this list, I had to give a shout out to my favorite canned bean—garbanzo, otherwise known as chickpeas. Roasted chickpeas are an everyday staple in my house. I bake up all different flavors, like za’atar, smoked paprika, or cumin. I add them to soups and salads instead of croutons, sprinkle them over roasted eggplant, or just eat them straight from the pan. Now that aquafaba is trending on the food scene, you don’t even have to waste the slimy juice from the bottom of the can!
- I’m saving the best for last—medjool dates. Sweet, chewy, and caramely medjool dates are always in my pantry. I add them to muffins, granola, and salads, but most of all, I use them to make a variety of guilt-free truffles using different nuts and spices. My healthy cowboy cookie dough bites are a reader favorite!
Chanie Apfelbaum is a food blogger, recipe developer and food photographer who blogs about her cooking adventures at www.busyinbrooklyn.com. She shares her love of food, family and tradition through fun and educational cooking demos to audiences worldwide.