This morning I caught up on a few blogs, including this entry by Gluten-Free Girl, who is a Seattle woman with celiac disease (same as Chris). This post was inspired in its turn by a food blog post on the New York times website entitled "Fresh Start for a New Year." Both of these writers simply ask, what's in your pantry, what could you change, and how could you eat healthier without spending tons of money? I find this idea a good one, and so I'm going to go through some things that we keep on hand and some things I wish I could use.
Grains, Beans, and Pasta - We've always got a couple packages of gluten-free spaghetti and a nice big bin of brown rice. I've recently supplemented this with gluten-free oats (which sadly Chris still can't handle) and a bag of white Japanese rice that made absurdly creamy rice in the new cooker. I've been interested in trying quinoa and amaranth, but I'm very gunshy about things I haven't eaten before. The same thing follows for beans and lentils, although I've had them in a few dishes elsewhere I'm still quite nervous about trying them out at home.
Spices - I've slowly been moving our spices over to items from Penzey's, getting rid of old ones and replacing them with new, fresh items. Their taco spice mix is way better than Old El Paso, and much cheaper to boot, and I'm totally in love with their Beef Roast Seasoning as a mix-in for burgers. I do keep Old Bay and Lawry's Seasoned Salt on hand, although I'm thinking of trading the latter out for a new option from Penzey's with this order. Finally, we keep a can of Rudy's Rub which our friend Barbara brought back from Texas for Chris, which is his favorite thing on just about any meat. I rarely use fresh herbs, except when making specific dishes that I go to the Pike Place or farmer's markets to purchase them, as I refuse to pay the exhorbitant prices that grocery stores charge for fresh herbs.
Canned Goods - This is another area where we do tend to fall flat, as I typically keep and use only a few things, mostly again due to worries about wasting a meal on something that isn't good. I do keep chicken stock and a few soups on hand, but that's about it.
Cheese - The NYT article extolled the virtues of freshly grated Parmesan, but that just seems like way too much effort to me. I've bought the Whole Foods organic powder-grated Parmesan before and enjoyed it, although it sadly molded much faster than the canned stuff, but actual shreds makes the flavor too strong for me. We do keep many types of cheese in the house at all times, however - right now we've got medium cheddar, sharp cheddar, fromage d'affinois, havarti, mozzarella, and smoked gouda.
Maple Syrup - This is a success story for me personally, as I wanted to move away from high-fructose corn syrup filled "breakfast syrups" but found the natural maple syrups to be too strong at first. As time passed, I was able to handle the nice light grade maple syrup just fine and now enjoy it although it is a very different flavor than the cheap breakfast syrups. I've made maple-glazed pork chops before, and think I may need to bring out that recipe again.
Meat - I always keep on hand chicken (frozen in 2-person servings), ground beef, bacon, beef chunks, sausage, and some form of precooked meat (Italian dinner sausages, chicken strips, etc.). We like meat, although I do try to alternate meat and nonmeat dinners by using spaghetti or grilled cheese in the middle.
I'm definitely going to think some more on this topic, especially as I have a Penzey's order to make anyway. Perhaps I will open up some of the gluten-free cookbooks and see what I can come up with using beans or a new spice this weekend.