asian_chicken_cabbageASIAN CABBAGE SALAD

For this dish ­ a perfect example of using ethnic pantry items with fresh ingredients – I either dice meat from a rotisserie chicken, add cooked chicken strips found in the deli section, or the canned shredded chicken, drained. It all works fine. If you prefer, replace the cabbage with glass noodles, and add Hoisin sauce at the end.

For salad:

1 green cabbage, shredded

1-2 carrots, shredded

1 lb. frozen shrimp, defrosted

1 cup cooked chicken

1 bunch cilantro, chopped

Toasted sesame seeds for garnish

For dressing:

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 lemon

½ tbsp. canola oil

1 tsp. sesame oil

½ tsp. fish sauce

dash of coarse grain salt

Mix cabbage, carrot, chicken, shrimp and cilantro together. Set aside.

Mix dressing together.

Toss salad and dressing together.

Garnish with toasted sesame seeds.



I tried to make this soup in the slow cooker. But the pantry way proved tastier. Many canned and frozen vegetables are just as healthy as fresh, so no health benefits are sacrificed by using either the canned or fresh options that I list.

4 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, divided use

2 cans white cannellini beans, drained

1 14.5 oz. can of corn, drained (fresh option: 2 ears white corn)

1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes, drained (fresh option: 2 large heirloom tomatoes, diced)

3 cloves garlic, crushed and/or minced

1 4 oz. can roasted chilies (fresh option: 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped fine)

1 onion, diced very fine

1/2 tsp. ground cumin

1/2 tsp. ground cumin

32 oz. vegetable broth or chicken broth

1/2 cup water

coarse grain salt & pepper to taste

green onions (scallions) chopped for garnish

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

If using fresh corn, cut the corn off the cob carefully.

Place corn, diced tomatoes and garlic on a cookie sheet lined with parchment or coated with non-stick spray. If using a fresh jalapeno, add it to the tomatoes and garlic as well.

Drizzle over 2 tbsp. olive oil, salt and pepper. Toss around a bit.

Roast corn, tomatoes and garlic (optional diced jalapeno) at 425 degrees for 20 – 30 minutes.

In the meantime, add diced onion to a pot and sweat in 2 tbsp. olive oil over medium heat.

When onion is soft, after about 3-5 minutes, add broth and water.

Add cumin, coriander, beans and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to simmer. Add corn, tomatoes, and pepper/can of chili peppers.

Simmer for 10-15 minutes (don’t cook too long, you just want the ingredients to get to know each other and begin to unify).

Serve with chopped green onions.

Optional garnishes – cilantro, parsley, sour cream, creme fraiche, Tabasco, shredded Cheddar cheese, crumbled goat cheese, Cotija cheese, crusty toasted baguette slices

Optional additions: roasted, torn chicken, homemade turkey meatballs, prosciutto, bacon.
Considerations: adding some heavy cream at the end.

My pantry is the proverbial closet, with not just one, but several magic worlds hidden inside.

Japan. Italy. Morocco. India. Greece. Mexico. Thailand, the Phillipines, France, Spain.

Come Spring time, the pantry starts making noises from the inside (true story), waiting to produce endless meals that exist, in unassembled form, behind its wooden doors, and in between deep shelves.

My pantry, even though you may not care, is painted white, it has pewter handles, it is actually simple and minimalistic looking. Open it up, however, and in the Mason jars, vacuum seals, and recycled boxes, there is possibility and potential hoping to take the hand of belief, experience, and commitment.

My pantry came alive several years ago, right before the Y2K hysterics in our first home, a smallish single family unit. It didn’t boast a traditional pantry, but every square inch and right angle ­ under the kitchen sink or overhead cabinets I stood on a chair to reach – soon became stocked high with canned tomatoes, packages of noodles, bottles of spring water, and canned broth.

This was my nuclear bunker. I see that now. I quickly became addicted to feeling prepared for the end of the world with foodstocks to save me. I never let my culinary inventory dwindle again after the year change from 1999 to 2000.

This foodstocking thing, when paired with spring vegetables and bright sunlight after lots of rain, equals feasts outside and happiness to spare.

So I learned that a full pantry is a metaphor for joy.

I’m not a psychologist, an Iron Chef, MBA or chicken farmer. Not that any of these things would qualify me as a sage or get me paraphrased all over the place for a thousand years. It’s just me, a home cook with a full nest, telling you from behind an apron that what we need, we have already got.

Really. I’ve done some soul searching, perhaps, and I find most answers at the helm of my own culinary providence.

As good things go, too much is never enough, happiness included. After the world didn’t end, I started buying things like sesame oil, tomato paste, every kind of flour, yeast, capers, anchovies in olive oil, canned vegetables, noodles, dried beans, bread crumbs, Hoisin sauce, peanut oil, dried mushrooms, artichoke hearts (jarred in oil, canned in water),I sshould stop now.

Actually, I should have stopped then. We outgrew our first home, the lack of cabinet space to blame. My first child turned two and I searched, then found a home with a large enough pantry.

That Spring , my mad stocking habit somewhat contained with room to grow, I began organizing shelves by ethnic cuisine type. My silent, neglected self now was given a name by the media: “foodie” A foodie who was the mother of a mobile and curious toddler, wife, and Surprise! Expecting again.

Another reason to hoard.

Pregnant and integrating playgroups, somehow I started forgetting to defrost chicken breasts or put dinner in the slow cooker each morning.

I fretted not. I reached into my pantry. I had taught myself to cook, taught my neuroses to be quiet with caper berries imported from Italy, and in the process balanced motherhood and marriage, like holding one plate shoulder level in each hand (with food plated miles high, of course.)

Cookbooks and parenting books helped, doomsday was a motivating factor, but the real answers came as instinct, as a voice in my head, or ­ on the days I was really lucky ­ naturally. Like the flower that just knows it’s time to grow and break through the soil again. In the Spring.

Spring of 2009 here – practices, games, lessons, daylight savings time †I’m not next to the pantry as often. But I still hear it knocking. Talking. Evolving.

When I tell my kids “No, we can’t go play outside, I need to constantly stir the risotto, they don’t buy it. What can I do? I give in to their whims now, but I can feed us all this way. It’s been a few Springs.

I reach in, deep inside, and grab what I need.

A stocked pantry, a good imagination, and healthy approach to things – That kind of joy can last you a really long time.


Helene Rodriques

Helene Rodriques is a chef who cares about health she is agraduate of Keiser University Center for Culinary Arts, specializing in healthy foods. She is a teacher, lecturer & consultant on cooking Her kitchen provides traditional family cooking, tips to learn how to cook as well as new twists on recipes to make them healthier.

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