Behind Closed Doors: A Well Stocked Pantry & Spice Cupboard

Thanks for checking out the third post in my series “CEBH…A Behind The Scenes Peek Inside My Kitchen”!   Today I’m sharing a list of all the highlights and must-haves that I keep stocked in my pantry and spice cupboard.  These are the items I try to have on hand pretty much all the time.  There’s nothing more frustrating than wanting to make a recipe and finding you’re lacking one or more items to make said recipe!  So over my many years of cooking and baking I’ve whittled and honed and fine-tuned my list of what constitutes a well stocked pantry and spice cupboard down to the items I stock today.  And because I hope you can benefit from my years of whittling, honing, and fine-tuning, I’m really hoping these lists will be of value to you as well!  

A Well Stocked Pantry - Baking Essentials |

I’m going to start with the ingredients I keep in my pantry for baking. I don’t do a lot of baking anymore, but there are certain items I never want to be without if my granddaughter wants to spend a day with me learning to bake, or if I’m feeling like my husband needs a little sweet treat from the kitchen! He’s super supportive and 100% on board with the whole healthy lifestyle thing…but he’s also skinny as a rail and I know he misses my baking. So, every once in a while I like to whip up a little surprise for him..he’s a good guy and deserves something made especially for him!

Baking Essentials: 

A Well Stocked Pantry ~ Sweet Things |

These are next because they quite frequently are used in baking as well.  Though honey is one of those things that I keep on he counter because of how frequently I use it!  Dates and dark chocolate are also excellent for snacking when a sweet tooth needs to be satisfied!

Sweet Things:

  • Good Quality Dark Chocolate 
  • Organic Unsweetened Coconut 
  • Raw Honey – local if possible
  • Dates

A Well Stocked Pantry ~ Oils & Vinegars |

Oils & Vinegars:

  • Organic Coconut Oil – both refined and unrefined.  I use the refined for cooking and when I don’t want a coconut flavor.  The unrefined is lovely in baked goods like muffins because it does impart a slight coconuty flavor.
  • Apple Cider Vinegar 
  • Balsamic Vinegar – For marinades, dressings, and sauces like the reduction for Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Apples with Balsamic Reduction.
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil ~ Regular for cooking and extra light tasting for mayonnaise, dressings, marinades, and hummus.

A Well Stocked Pantry ~ Nuts & Grains |

I love everything in this category and use items from it daily – sometimes many items and sometimes frequently throughout the day!

Nuts & Grains:

  • Lentils – so tasty and so versatile!  Try them in Slow Cooker Red Curry Lentils and Vegetables!
  • Rice – I have a preference for Basmati, but use what you like best!
  • Pasta – always great to have on hand for a quick last minute dinner…and for daughters who are carbaholics! 😉
  • Wheat Berries – Just plain delicious and fun to eat – they add flavor, texture, fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals!  Try them in this Apple Wheat Berry Salad!
  • Oats – both old fashioned and steel cut.
  • Quinoa – such a wonderful addition to a recipe as either a main ingredient or a co-star!  Try it in Quinoa Risotto with Mushrooms & Asparagus!
  • Pecans
  • Almonds
  • Raw Cahsews – for Cashew Cream.
  • Walnuts
  • Peanuts and Peanut Butter

A Well Stocked Pantry ~ Cans, Boxes, & Jars |

Here are some of the nitty-gritty heavy hitters in my kitchen – the ingredients that called on over and over again!

Cans, Boxes, & Jars:

  • Curry Paste – both green and red because yum – these are some of my favorite flavors!  Try it in Red Curry Lentils and Vegetables!
  • Organic Coconut Milk – perfect in savory dishes like the red curry lentils, but also so incredibly rich and creamy in dairy free desserts like Maple Walnut Ice Cream!
  • Chipotles in Adobo – perfect in so many dishes to add heat and smoky richness, like in this Butternut Soup recipe!
  • Garbanzo Beans – because homemade hummus rules!
  • Black Beans – such great flavor and added protein which is especially important when eating a diet that is light in animal protein!  Try them in Spicy Quinoa and Beans!
  • Canned Tomatoes- Diced, whole, paste, sauce, seasoned, puréed, juiced…you name it – I have it!  Tomatoes make everything better!
  • Organic Chicken and Beef Stock – one of my most essential essentials!  I use these in so many recipes, but I also use it cook rice and quinoa for a little added flavor!

A Well Stocked Pantry ~ Beverages |

Not a morning goes by that I don’t drink at least one cup of coffee, and rarely does an afternoon or evening pass without a cup of tea!


  • K-cups ~ Because coffee is a necessity!  I really love this Verena Street brand because it’s roasted and packaged locally!  Try it in my Popsicle Affogato!
  • Green Tea – like a warm embrace…I love this in the evening when all my work is done and I’m relaxing with a cup of hot tea and Netflix!
  • Espresso – Some days I just need it…no excuses!
  • Whole Bean Coffee – This is a special treat!  I grind just what I’m going to use and brew it in a French Press – it tastes fabulous and I feel so continental when I drink it!
  • Mint Tea – Also to be enjoyed in the afternoon and evening, plus I find the mint soothes my stomach if it’s a little upset!

A Well Stocked Pantry ~ Spice Cupboard |

These are the spices, dried herbs, and seasonings I turn to again and again to flavor and enhance my cooking and baking!

Spice Cupboard:

  • Curry Powder – use it to season this Grilled Sweet Potato Salad!
  • Rosemary – try it in this bread!
  • Oregano 
  • Thyme
  • Red Pepper Flake – Because if you know me, you know I like it hot! 😉 I use this in many of my main dish recipes as well as sprinkling it on pizza, pasta, and avocado toast!
  • Cayenne Pepper – See above! 😉
  • Ginger – I added it to my Roasted Beet Salad
  • Sage – One of the herbs in these Homemade Herbed Noodles!
  • Black Pepper
  • Salt – I keep many kinds…kosher, pink Himalayan, smoked, truffle – each has a special place in my heart!
  • Cumin – How do I love thee?  So much so that I’d be lost without it! I used it to season these sweet potato curls!
  • Basil 
  • Turmeric 
  • Poppy Seeds – Such a fun addition to baked goods and dressings like this raspberry vinaigrette!
  • Cinnamon
  • Fresh Nutmeg
  • Cloves

So there you have it…a long and if not exhaustive, then definitely exhausting list of what I keep stocked in my pantry and spice cupboard! Now you can say you really do know what goes on here behind closed doors ~ at least behind my pantry door!

And now it’s your turn – what do you keep in your pantry and spice cupboard? I’d really like to see what you keep that’s different from my list – or what I have included that you’d never dream of keeping!  GO!!!!

Let’s Get Fresh In The Kitchen

C’mon…get your minds outta the gutter! 😉  By fresh, I mean all those perishable items that need to be refrigerated, frozen, or stored in cool dry places!  Today I’m moving on to the second post in the series CEBH…A Behind The Scenes Peek Into My Kitchen!  Whether new to cooking, or a seasoned pro with many years of experience, every home cook has certain ingredients that they always like to keep on hand.  The following lists are what I like to keep stocked in my kitchen.  I’ve been cooking long enough to know that with a few basics always at the ready I’m guaranteed to be able to whip up a healthy and delicious meal whenever the mood strikes!  Are these lists all inclusive?  Heaven’s no!  But they’re a great foundation upon which many healthy and delicious meals are built!  In subsequent posts I’ll be talking about pantry staples and spices/herbs/seasonings, but today I’m going to focus on what I keep stocked in my fridge, freezer, and produce bin!

Refrigerator Basics |

These are the things I keep stocked in my fridge at all times – the items that I consider basics that I automatically replace when I’m running low.  I like knowing that I can make a recipe which calls for any of these ingredients and be confident that I’ve always got them at the ready!


  • Almond Milk ~ Used for Smoothies, and preparing Oatmeal, Soups, sauces, etc.
  • 1% Dairy Milk ~ I avoid most dairy, so this is for my family.
  • Parmesean Cheese ~ The one little dairy indulgence I allow myself.
  • Eggs ~ Excellent for a quick breakfast or lunch, and a great source of protein.  Plus I really love them!
  • Butter ~ Once again…mostly for my family.  I have a hard time eating just a little, so I try to not eat any!
  • Real Maple Syrup ~ A natural sweetener to use instead of sugar.
  • Mayonnaise ~ I like to keep Homemade Mayo on hand as a base for sauces, dips, and dressings.
  • Tahini ~ I’m addicted to homemade Hummus, so I always have tahini on hand to add to my hummus.
  • Worcestershire Sauce ~ I keep this to add extra flavor to sauces and beef or bison dishes.
  • Dijon Mustard ~ Because mustard is life!  And it’s also good on sandwiches, and in dressings and marinades.
  • Soy Sauce ~ A necessity for any Asian dish.
  • Chia & Hemp Seeds ~ A little extra boost of protein, omega acids, and all sorts of good things…plus I really like the way they taste when added to a smoothie or my oatmeal!   

Go-To Freezer Items |

It’s confession time…I’m pretty sure there are things in the bottom of our chest freezer that haven’t seen the light of day in many years.  I love having the extra freezer storage space, especially around the holidays or when I binge shop for frozen vegetables and fruits at Sam’s Club.  But the real problem with a chest freezer is that items just continue to get buried deeper and deeper until I forget what I’ve got down there!  My freezer in the kitchen is much neater and the stock gets rotated much more frequently.  The list of what I consider my Go-To Freezer Items are always in my kitchen’s freezer…along with dishes of leftovers that are perfect for work day lunches, cold packs for injuries, and usually leftover bananas which I freeze for smoothies or baking.

Go-To Freezer Items:

  • Frozen Vegetables ~ Peas, Corn, and Broccoli…all perfect as a quick side dish or to add to recipes like Cashew Creamed Peas & Potatoes or Spicy Quinoa & Beans.
  • Fish Fillets ~ typically I like to keep a mild white fish for recipes like Grilled Fish Taco Lettuce Wraps or for a quick dinner of baked or grilled fish.
  • Chicken Breasts ~ My favorite meat, and the one I use most frequently in soups, casseroles, salads,  and when the weather is nice my favorite dinner is grilled chicken and fresh vegetables!
  • Fruit ~ I always keep sweet cherries, wild blueberries, and mixed berries in the freezer.  I add them to smoothies, to oatmeal, and to the occasional baked goods like muffins when I don’t have or can’t find quality fresh fruit. We live in Iowa and quality fresh fruit can be hard to come by certain times of the year, but frozen is always a great option because it’s picked at it’s peak of freshness and maintains its flavor and nutritional benefits despite being frozen.  Obviously the texture changes, but in things like oatmeal or baked goods I don’t find that to be an issue – at least not one that bothers me when the alternative means not having certain fruits available! 


Produce Bin Staples |

The final list in today’s post includes the produce items that I always keep on hand in my kitchen.  As with the list of Refrigerator Basics and Go-To Freezer Must Haves, this list is far from all inclusive as I buy seasonal fruits and vegetables when available.  Thankfully I’m able to stock my kitchen with the following list of fresh produce all year round!  And for my style of cooking, as long as I’m stocked up on these few fresh produce items I consider myself well prepared!

Produce Bin Staples:

  • Onions & Garlic ~ There are very few dishes I make that don’t include one or both of these items.  In fact I love garlic so much that if a recipe calls for 2 cloves, you can bet I’ll use 4 – and probably even add one more for good luck! 😉
  • Jalapeños ~ I use these in soups, stir fries, casseroles, sliced in wraps, in hummus…I just love the perfect level of heat these little beauties impart to my recipes!
  • Bananas ~ Probably my favorite fruit, though I am very particular about the level of ripeness at which I’ll eat them.  Once they get too ripe for me I peel them, cut them into 4th’s and freeze them for smoothies or to use in baking.
  • Lemons & Limes ~ I use these daily for flavoring water and tea, and adding zip to marinades and dressings.  
  • Apples ~ Perfect for snacking, making applesauce, delicious salads…plus…an apple a day keeps the doctor away!
  • Potatoes ~ I would write a love song for potatoes if I were musically gifted!  This starchy little blob of deliciousness is so versatile, and only unhealthy if loaded with gobs of butter, sour cream, cheese, or gravy!  There are plenty of ways to prepare potatoes that won’t bust your healthy eating plan!
  • Sweet Potatoes ~ Packed with Vitamin C and fiber, these are so delicious and healthy that I have been known to make an entire meal out of just sweet potatoes!  Try them curled, roasted, in a salad, or any way you prefer…just make them a regular on your dinner table!
  • Celery, Carrots, & Bell Peppers ~ Much like onions and garlic these 3 veggies end up in most all my recipes!  Plus – they’re all delicious eaten raw as well!
  • Tomatoes ~ I always have cherry tomatoes on the counter.  They are perfect for snacking, yummy on sandwiches, and even in the dead of winter in Iowa we manage to get tasty cherry tomatoes.  Come farmers market season my preference switches to whatever variety is fresh.  Is there anything more delicious than a fresh tomato just picked from the garden?!?
  • Avocado ~ How do people (Mr. CEBH) not like avocado??? It’s creamy, buttery texture and delicious flavor makes me incredibly happy!  I love it on toast, spread on a sandwich, sliced in a salad, added as a topping to soups and casseroles, and of course…guacamole!  Yum!!!
  • Mushrooms ~ I buy huge containers of mushrooms at Sam’s Club and put them in so many recipes! I prefer baby bellas because the flavor is slightly more intense and they hold up well to cooking.  Earthy and delicious…mushrooms have a constant presence in my kitchen!

So there you have it…a fairly comprehensive list of fresh ingredients I like to keep stocked in my kitchen all year round!  With these items, plus additional seasonal selections,  I’m able to keep things “fresh” in the kitchen!  What are your favorite items that you keep in your fridge, freezer, and produce bin?!?