PHOTO LENNY MULLINS
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And like that, summer is over and everyone is back to the grind. Just like winter, it happens every year but always seems to bushwhack even the most prepared. Back to school is daunting for some and sheer frustration for others. Laundry will no longer magically appear washed and folded at the foot of the bed and the refrigerator won’t seemingly restock itself. Sigh.
In order to make the transition from doing things in one’s own sweet time and back to a life of multiple deadlines and heated group projects meetings, we have a list of pantry essentials that will keep you well fed and happy. Somewhat.
Boxes of stock
Whether vegetable, chicken or beef, keep ’em handy to make quick soups, add some flavour to sauces or punch up your rice by cooking it in stock instead of water. You’re welcome.
Good soy sauce
Not that we’re endorsing brands, but PC Naturally Brewed Soy Sauce is, as the kids say, fire. Dark, rich, full of flavour and salty goodness. Drizzle it on scrambled or fried eggs.
Sriracha is so last year. Sambal Oelek is an Indonesian chilli paste that is brimming with flavour. Made with fish sauce, palm sugar, vinegar and chillies, this condiment can easily elevate even the humblest of dishes. Mix with sour cream for a quick and easy dip.
Indomie Mi Goreng Fried Noodles
Not your average instant noodles. These come with a flavoured oil, seasoning, chilli sauce and hoisin sauce packets. When mixed together it tastes like a low-brow Pad Thai, but so delicious you’ll never go back to Top Ramen. Add a teaspoon of peanut butter to transform it into a satay.
Learn to cook it. Rice is delicious, filling and cheap. Get a rice cooker to make life easier. Add grated cheddar, chili flakes and some scallions for a zesty and cheesy rice dish.
Boxed mac and cheese
Another no-brainer. Add a bit of ranch dressing for depth of flavour and that little secret touch that will have your roommates guessing why yours tastes so good.
Whether raisins, figs, prunes, dates or apricots, use these to satiate those sugar cravings. Your parents and the dentist will thank you. You can also put dried apricots, raisins, chicken legs, spices and some stock into a skillet for a Moroccan-style meal.
One tub of this Korean chilli paste will probably last you all semester. It can be used as an all-purpose seasoning on pretty much everything. Add to ground beef or chicken and make your own at-home bibimbap.
This is not just for cooking but is great in moisturizing dry skin come winter. That’s if you enjoy smelling tropical (and, really who wouldn’t?). Mix with baking soda for a DIY natural deodorant if you’ve run out and can’t get to the drug store.
Cans of coconut milk
From vegan stews to Asian-style curries to Jamaican rice and peas, this ingredient is tremendously versatile. Substitute for water when making Jell-O for a creamy dessert treat.
Whenever they are on sale, stock up. Don’t feel burdened to do the whole sour cream, caramelized onions, bacon thing. Boil then sauté with a little curry powder or Montreal steak spice for a quick and delicious meal. Or sauté in chili oil and top with soy.
Brothers World- Famous pepperoni
Honestly, these are life-savers. One Brothers pepperoni is the difference between a hanger meltdown on the Route 7 bus and getting enough energy to breeze through a mid-term. Chop one up and add it to your mac and cheese.
Whether to eat a few with cheese, jam or by the box in one sitting, crackers are cheap (well, most of them are) and with so many varieties you’ll never get bored of eating them. For a fancier snack, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with parmesan and bake for a few minutes in the oven.
Boneless salt cod
Lasts forever and so easy to use. Sautee with tomatoes, onions and bell peppers and serve over rice for a quick and nutritious mid-week meal. Or combine with chopped avocado and a can of lima beans for a tasty and satisfying salad. Don’t forget to soak overnight to get rid of the extra salt, though.
Because life is hard. Also useful to numb toothaches and as an antiseptic. Swish swish.