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Spring Clean …Your Pantry

It’s spring–yippee–my favorite time of year!  I always feel energized to get myself organized and clear out the clutter that has accumulated over the winter months.  One particular area I turn my attention to is my kitchen pantry.  I typically sort through half eaten cereal boxes or stale crackers, but I also use this as an opportunity to reassess what I’ve got stocked on my pantry shelves.

I try to avoid most “convenience” foods such as boxed side dishes and stick to making things myself.  They taste better, I can add veggies to my versions and I use a lot less salt than the what comes in the box!  My goal is to keep some key ingredients on hand so that I can always throw something together at the last minute.  Brown rice, whole wheat pasta, oats, whole grain cereal, canned beans, tomato sauce, canned veggies (to add to soups and stews), a variety of seasonings to spice up my meals, olive oil, balsamic and red wine vinegars, chicken broth and canned fruits are the staples in my pantry.

I think you’ll be surprised at what you can create when you  have the necessary items on hand.  Fruits & Veggies–More Matters has a terrific list, The Well-Stocked Pantry, which lists everything you could possibly need for last minute meals.  I’ll share one of my family’s favorite side dishes, Pasta Fagioli (pasta and beans), which is super easy to make and very budget friendly.  Enjoy!

Pasta Fagioli

1 3/4 cup ditalini pasta
1 can small white beans, drained
2 large garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
salt to taste (optional)
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (optional)

Boil ditalini pasta according to package directions.  While pasta is cooking, saute garlic in olive oil for a minute, just until tender (be careful because garlic can burn easily).  Pour can of tomato sauce into pot and add dried basi (and salt if you choose).  Stir and simmer while pasta finishes cooking.  Use a soup ladle and drain pasta from cooking water and add to the tomato sauce (it’s okay if some of the cooking water gets into the tomato sauce, this will help thicken it).  Add canned beans and parsley.  Heat through and serve.

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