"Pantry." It's such an old-fashioned word. But when the blizzard hit this past weekend, we were glad that we not only knew the meaning of "pantry" but the usefulness of maintaining one. Because while some of us at Gothamist were willing to brave the blizzard to partake in four-star dining, others of us (like many of you dear readers, we presume?) chose to wait out the storm, literally. And all that waiting meant that we didn't want to step out for a meal. (We even had trouble finding a place that would deliver.) Luckily for us, our pantry was relatively well stocked, as it usually is.

01_05_tin_new.jpgBut we know that many New Yorkers don't keep food on hand--unless week-old Chinese takeout and mustard count, which is what inspired us to write about two of our favorite at-home wintertime food treats that are very gourmet yet very appropriate for the (typical) New Yorker who never/hardly ever cooks: (1) The ingredients will last for several months (and don't even need refrigeration!). (2) The food preparation requires very little in the way of actual cooking skills or implements.

So, what are these two treats you ask? Stick-to-your-ribs oatmeal of the old-fashioned steel-cut variety and rich, dark hot chocolate (not cocoa) in the European style. First off, the healthy stuff: if you think you don't like oatmeal, don't knock it until you've tried the steel-cut variety (we're fans of McCann's, in the old-fashioned tin). The processing that creates "quick" and "instant" varieties literally flattens and steams out much of the nutty flavor and texture of oatmeal. Yes, it will take you 30 minutes to cook steel-cut oats. But you can make enough for leftovers for the next few days. And unlike quick/instant oatmeal, the steel-cut variety reheats beautifully and easily in the microwave, losing no flavor or texture.

Most folks like their oats a little sweet, which means you'll want brown sugar, maple syrup, honey, or your favorite artificial sweetener on hand. Raisins, nuts, and/or other dried fruits are straightforward additions that also keep well and won't spoil. If you happen to have a banana or two handy, you can slice it for a topping or mix it in if the bananas are particularly ripe and mushy.

01_05_aztec_hotchoc.jpgNext comes the hot chocolate. If you haven't yet tasted the wondrousness that is European-style hot chocolate, you might be curious as to what the fuss is all about. What's wrong with just keeping some Swiss Miss packets on hand, right?

Well, there's nothing wrong with instant hot cocoa, but European-style hot chocolate--which involves adding boiling water to high-quality bittersweet chocolate, melting it to a thick consistency--is a whole other experience. We're still fans of cocoa's milky, light texture. But when we want a pure, intense chocolate experience, very little can compete with the hot melted chocolate that is so intense it must be taken in little sips.

And while places like Chocolate Bar, MarieBelle, and Jacques Torres' Chocolate Factory and Chocolate Haven all make delicious versions of hot chocolate (including dark, extra dark, spicy), they all also offer tins that you can take home (like the Mariebelle tins in the photo). Then all you have to do is boil water, measure out the chocolate, mix and stir thoroughly. You can even do the mixing right in the mug, so you won't dirty any pots or pans.

For those on a budget, there's also the easy option of buying a chocolate bar (splurge for the good European stuff--you'll taste the difference), chop it finely, then mix with an equal amount of boiling water (and a little cinammon and chile powder if you feel like it).

With these two wintertime treats in your repertoire, you might even look forward to getting snowed in again this winter.

A recipe for Toasted Oatmeal , information about "Oat Cuisine."

Photo credits: Mariebelle.com and McCanns.ie.