Stories From a Stocked Kitchen - Capital Area Food Bank
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Stories From a Stocked Kitchen

By Jodi Balis July 12, 2012

Jodi Balis is Capital Area Food Bank’s Resident Dietitian. Follow her on Twitter at @TheRedLentil
Last week at the grocery store, I was on a mission. I walked through the doors, passed the colorful fruits and veggies, turned away from tempting snacks and went straight to the dry goods section.
The task at hand: stock my kitchen with dry goods that would sustain my family and serve as the basis for meals this month. This shopping trip was an attempt to get into the habit of purchasing one batch of dry goods for the month and test whether a stocked kitchen could save time and money.
Having dry goods in stock would mean weekly grocery trips would start in the kitchen with a peek in the pantry. Before pen hits paper, meal ideas would be inspired, and the grocery list would write itself. I envisioned my inner monologue to play out like this:

Oh, there are oats here, time for a summer peach crumble! And, oh, here’s some whole grain pasta on the shelf; let’s put summer tomatoes and zucchini on the list for a sauce.

An idyllic scenario, I know, but I was allowing myself to dream big.
However, as I stood in the aisle at the grocery store staring at the grains and the sea of dried beans, food dreams turned into nightmares. Well maybe not that bad, but I started feeling overwhelmed.
With the help of some deep breathing, reason took over. Food ideas began to pop into my mind like pizza, casserole and salad, and I began making my selections. Some draft picks were traded out for others, like kidney beans for black beans. Others didn’t make it on the list at all, but I left the store with two full shopping bags of dried goods that would occupy $15 a week on our weekly grocery bill. . . pre-paid, stocked in the pantry and ready to go.
Cornmeal Bake
Here is one meal that came out of my stocked pantry this month using coarse cornmeal. When cooked on the stove and allowed to solidify, the dish can then be baked like a casserole, grilled or browned on the stove. Take liberties and top it with things like veggies, cheese, cooked meat and the like.
My kitchen pantry now flows with ideas and more food stories are in the making.
The Basics
Makes one, 8×8 pan
1 cup coarse cornmeal
2 cups water
3 Tablespoons Butter
Salt and pepper to taste
In a non-stick saucepan, bring water to a boil. Slowly pour in coarse cornmeal and turn heat to medium low. Stir a few minutes until thickens. Cover with a lid and allow to cook 20 minutes,stirring every 5 minutes. Pour in 8×8 baking dish, cover, and allow to solidify.
Make It A Meal
Bake: Top with tomato sauce, veggies, and cheese and bake in oven 400 degrees for 25 minutes.
Grill: Cut into large squares and grill. Top with vegetables, cheese, sauce, and/or meat.
Brown on Stove Top: Add canola oil to a non-stick skillet and brown cornmeal squares over medium heat. Top with vegetables, cheese, sauce, and/or meat.
Time Saving Tip: Prepare now, eat later.
Prepare the basics over the weekend and make it into a meal later in the week.