One of the first questions a new home cook asks when they join the Personal Chef Approach is what do I need to have in my pantry? Stocking a pantry should be viewed as an investment. You’ll use these items over and over again – they’re your secret weapon when it comes to creating flavorful variety in your meals.

Your pantry is your secret weapon to creating flavorful variety

Your pantry is your secret weapon to creating flavorful variety

If you are on a budget, this is the basic pantry I suggest you begin with. You can build into a well stocked pantry over time. These herbs and spices will get you well on your way to “painting with flavor”.  As budget allows, each herb and spice you add to your repertoire will help you add yet another detail to those dinners.

Spices and herbs

Spices and herbs

Here are my basics for the Starter Dry Pantry:

Spices & Herbs

Kosher salt
Black pepper corns (you will need a good pepper grinder) or already ground black pepper
Granulated garlic
Dried oregano
Ground cumin
Chili powder
Cayenne pepper and/or red pepper flakes
Ground cinnamon

Adding these extras can save you money in the long run when a recipe calls for fresh herbs. The general rule of thumb would be to substitute 1 teaspoon dried herbs per 1 tablespoon fresh called for in the recipe.

Dried thyme
Dried Rosemary
Dried basil
Ground ginger (instead of fresh ginger)

Oils, vinegars, and other sauces

Cooking spray
Extra-virgin olive oil
Peanut, coconut oil, and/or canola oil
Dijon mustard
Tomato paste
Cider vinegar
Balsamic vinegar
Soy sauce

Jar, Box, and canned goods

Tomato sauce and/or crushed tomatoes
Diced tomatoes
Chicken, beef, and vegetable broth
Peanut butter
Chickpeas (and any other beans you like)

Other staples

Granulated sugar
Brown sugar
Baking soda
Baking powder
All-purpose flour
Pasta and/or couscous
Panko breadcrumbs

I like to think of it as "painting with flavor"

I like to think of it as “painting with flavor”

Even if you do not like a herb, spice, or another ingredient listed, I suggest you keep an open mind (and palate), because you may not have tried them in the in the combinations they will be used in here. Having said that, remember you are in control, and may adjust or omit ingredients as you see fit.
For instance, I’m not a huge ground cumin fan on it’s own, but my tastebuds jump for joy when I try it mixed with all the other herbs and spices in this Mexican Roast Chicken recipe, because the flavors are well balanced and meld together so well. As a member, my recipes will ensure you become a master of putting that investment in your pantry to good use.

Mexican-Style Roast Chicken

Roast chicken is not only the ultimate comfort food in my book, it’s also a one pan meal (gotta love that) when you throw potatoes and vegetables in to roast along side of the chicken. This version kicks the classic recipe up a notch in both flavor and color to add a little variety to your repertoire.

Servings: 4
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 1.5 hours


Mexican-Style Roast Chicken

  • nonstick spray
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons oregano
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 3 1/2 pound whole chicken (I prefer a fryer to roasting chicken)
  • 1 medium onion quartered
  • 1 fresh cilantro divided, optional
  • 1 pound red potatoes scrubbed and quartered
  • 6 large carrots peeled and cut into 1
  • 4 large zucchini removed ends and quarter


Mexican-Style Roast Chicken

  1. Preheat oven to 375° F. Spray the rack of a roasting pan with nonstick spray; set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the dry spices and brown sugar, then mix well with minced garlic and red wine vinegar to make a spice paste. Rub half of the mixture generously all over the chicken (top and bottom), and place on the rack in the roasting pan. Stuff the cavity of the chicken with the onion quarters and half of the cilantro, reserving the remaining cilantro for garnish on the platter.
  3. Now stir in the olive oil to the remaining spice mixture, add the vegetables to the bowl and toss well to coat. Pour the vegetables into the roasting pan around the chicken. Roast until the chicken is cooked, juices run clear and the chicken reaches 165° F when placing a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh without touching the bone, about 75-90 minutes. Lower oven to 200° F, remove chicken from oven and let rest 10 minutes before carving, and place the vegetables back into the oven to keep warm until ready to serve. Remove and discard the onion.

Serving Suggestions

Carve and arrange on platter to serve with the roasted vegetables, and cilantro for garnish.

Heat To Eat

Vent lid of container and heat in microwave on 50% power for 3-5 minutes, turning pieces midway to distribute heat evenly; or wrap in foil and place on roasting pan to heat in a preheated 375° F oven until just heated through, about 12-15 minutes.


I am not a huge fan of onion, so I usually use lemon to stuff the cavity (to keep the breast meat from drying out) instead.


For a lower fat version - gently loosen the skin from the breast and leg portions of the chicken; rub the paste evenly under the skin, and roast. Once the chicken is cooked, remove the skin before serving. It won't look as pretty, but you will have chicken that is moist and permeated with delicious flavor.

Next week, I’ll focus on that Well Stocked Pantry list, and the week after I’ll list my pick of perishable pantry items (ie. eggs, garlic, onions etc.) I like to keep on hand for convenience. Do you have something you couldn’t live without in your pantry? Please do let us know in the comment section below.

« Previous PostNext Post »