10 Pantry Essentials to Always Have on Hand

Today, we’re excited to team up with Joy of Mom as they reveal the 10 pantry items they suggest we always have on hand. The timing for this post feels perfect because we’re all spending more time at home, and our kitchens feel like they’ve never been used more as we continue to whip up new recipes for our families. Below, Joy of Mom shares their top staples as well as why they are important and how you can use them to make your own recipes. We hope you will feel newly inspired in your kitchen!

1. Flour

We always have all purpose flour on hand, and I try to keep 00 flour and gluten free flour on hand. We use these to make homemade pastas, bread, flour tortillas, and anything that has a roux base like a lasagna or mac n cheese. 

2. Olive Oil

We try to buy organic when we can. We use extra virgin olive oil for salad dressing, marinating, sautéing vegetables, prepping anything that is going to go on the grill, as well as browning meats. 

3. Kosher Salt

We try to purchase a really good brand of salt,  I use it for cooking, marinades, salad dressings and table side to add extra seasoning to anything we are eating. 

4. Rice

I try to keep a couple of different varieties of rice on hand. We always have Jasmine rice on hand because I think it is the most versatile. I love Forbidden rice cooked in coconut milk. It’s an amazing rice to make risotto and as a side or base for a lot of recipes. 

5. Diced Tomatoes

I use this to make homemade spaghetti sauce and shakshuka, in any kind of soup that has a tomato base, as well as to thicken up things like stews. 

6. Coconut Milk

I try to buy organic when I can. It is great to cook your rice in this! Anytime I am doing an asian dish, I cook the rice with ½ coconut milk and ½ water, and it adds great flavor. It is a great base for currys – we make a lot of fish and chicken curry. It is also a great staple for baking.

7. Quinoa

My favorite is the Tri-Color Quinoa. We cook this in broth to add flavor and like to add a tiny bit of diced onions, spinach, and parmesan while it is cooking. It is a great side for salmon and chicken, and you can use it as a base for chili as well as some soup recipes. 

8. Beans

I always have garbanzo (chickpeas) on hand. We use this for homemade hummus or toast them up and put them with sautéed mushrooms and kale with pasta or throw them on a salad. Any kind of butter beans, Italian beans, or kidney beans can be used in soups or chili or can make a great side if you add a little bit of spice. 

9. Olives

I usually try to keep two types on hand – Castelvetrano and Greek olives. I usually buy the pitted kind because they are easier to work with. I use them for cocktails- but you can also slice them up and add them to your pastas, put them on top of avocado toast, or on a cheese board. 

10. Tahini   

Tahini, which is just crushed up sesame seeds, is a staple for us. It is a base ingredient for hummus which we make often.  You can use it as a base to make a bunch of salad dressings if you mix it with a little bit of sriracha, miso paste, or lemon juice. We also love to spread it on toast with a little bit of honey! 

Make sure to visit the app to view Joy of Mom’s video about pantry staples, and check out our Facebook community for more inspiration.

Barbecue basics: setting up for BBQ grilling success

It’s summertime, and you know what that means – it’s time to break out the barbecue! Whether you are a seasoned expert when it comes to seasoning, or a novice grill-master in the making, we’ve got some tricks and tips to help you cook up the perfect smoky meal for your friends and family.

Grilling Preparation:

How to BBQ

Plan Barbecue Cleanup Now

To make cleaning a breeze, line the inside bottom of the cooker with a few sheets of aluminum foil. This means a quicker cleanup of used coals and ash when you are finished barbecuing.

Don’t Confuse your Tools

Beyond your grill, there are two must-have tools: two types of BBQ tongs – one with insulated handles and one set with grips. Use the insulated set to handle and turn coals, and the one with grips to turn and handle food. Make sure these two tools are easy for you to visibly identify (that way the food grease won’t cause the coals to flare up, and your meal won’t get ashy).

Gas vs. Charcoal

Although there are a number of ways to cook ‘cue, (charcoal, wood chips, split logs…) a purely gas grill is not the best way to go. That’s because the smoke produced by burning wood is an ingredient in itself. Without smoke, you’re heating your meat but missing out on flavor. If you use gas, think about adding smoking chips the next time you hit the grill.

Safety First

To handle any flare-ups, keep a spray bottle full of water nearby.

Ready to Grill:

BBQ hacks

Grease Up The Grill

Before you add anything to the BBQ, make sure to grease the grill. Not only will it help the food cook, it will prevent residue from adhering to the grill and stop your food from getting stuck. This means you’ll hold on to the charred flavor that makes barbecue so tasty. To grease the grill, you can use garlic-marinated oil to add a touch of flavor to the food.

Cook Slow and Low

The perfect barbecue meal takes time and patience when in doubt aim for a lower temperature and a longer grill time. Once you’ve decided on a set temperature and time try not to check on the meat more than every half an hour.

Have a Secret Ingredient

As your meat cooks, spray it with a squirt bottle full of apple juice. This adds an extra kick to the flavor and keeps the meat moist.

Don’t Play with Your Food

Piercing your meat with a fork will cause the juices to escape, making the meat less flavorful and drier. Instead, use tongs or a spatula to flip or move your food.

Serving your Barbecue

Barbecue kebabs for summer picinic

Serving Grilled Meat

When you remove your meat from the grill, allow it to sit for a couple of minutes. That way the juices will seal and the meat will be prevented from drying out. In fact, you should refrain from cutting until you are ready to serve and eat immediately.

Get Creative with Sauces

You can flavor it with booze, by adding bourbon, beer, wine or rum to your standard sauce, branch out with new sauces you haven’t tried like jerk sauce, teriyaki or hot sauce, or add in lemon juice, red peppers or chopped onions for an extra kick.

To master the art of barbecue, you need an adventurous spirit and a good deal of trial and error. Use these tips and hacks to experiment, and you’ll be an expert in no time.



4 cooking games to make meals more fun together

When family and friends gather in the kitchen, there are bound to be plenty of laughs and great dishes. Sometimes, though, the party could use some “oomph” and that’s where playing fun cooking games can be your secret weapon. Start planning your next get-together with a cooking theme and play one of these fun kitchen games.

Mystery Ingredient Challenge 

We’re all familiar with popular cooking television shows, so imagine bringing those shows to life in your own home! Invite a few friends over for a themed night surrounding a mystery ingredient. A few days before the party assign each guest to create either an appetizer, main course, or dessert featuring the mystery ingredient. You could also focus on just one dish (like the dessert) and have everyone create their own unique and fun version.

Cooking Show Charades

Another great idea to combine cooking with a traditional group game is Cooking Show Charades. This will work best if you are familiar with popular cooking shows, but the options should be some kind of TV personality or show styles like a southern chef, homemaker, cake decorator or grill master.

4 Cooking Games to Make Meals More Fun Together

Try it with specific ingredients or dishes if you’re brave! You’ll have to decide if talking is allowed, but acting out your charades pick while your dinner guests try to guess who or what you are is a recipe for a good time. Get into it and have fun!

Cooking Bingo

A great game to play with kids in the kitchen is Cooking Bingo! You’ll need to create a few bingo boards ahead of time with squares consisting of common ingredients, utensils, cooking methods, and phrases like “preheat the oven.” As you make dinner, you’ll go about your business and talk your way through the recipe while the kids keep their eyes and ears open so they can mark their bingo squares — and maybe learn a little! Laminate the bingo cards and have them use stickers, small candies, etc as markers. The first one to yell “Bingo” gets a prize – maybe the dessert of their choice!

Play Dough Chef

4 Cooking Games to Make Meals More Fun Together

This one is for the younger crowd, the ones who are a bit impatient while you prep and prep — keep them busy creating their OWN dish. This works great for pizza night – supply some extra pizza dough and let them play with the stretchy, sturdy dough, making shapes, sculptures, and animals. Throw in a few cookie cutters, and they’ll be fully entertained ”cooking” alongside you. While you focus on the main course, they’ll be safe from the hot oven, sharp knives, and other kitchen hazards.

The best part is that you’ll be able to bake their finished creations, and they’ll be able to eat them! Supply some dipping sauces and turn their entertainment into a perfect pre-dinner snack to tide them over. Heck, you might even find this a hit with older kids and young adults!

Entertaining your dinner guests does not have to be expensive or elaborate by any means. By simply being creative in the kitchen and using one of these fun cooking games, you can create memories and delicious meals anytime!