In my last blog I mentioned that I try to keep my kitchen stocked with some staples that allow me to make a healthy meal or snack at any time. I thought that it might be helpful for you if I shared what some of those staples are and how I use them.
In the pantry:
Vegetable Stock – I cook so many things in vegetable stock that I do my best to make sure I always have some on hand. I know that if I don’t I can use water, but the stock brings added depth to the flavor of soups, lentils, and whole grains when being used for savory dishes. My favorite in Imagine Organic low sodium.
Whole grains – I used to eat a lot of pasta. So much so that growing up I was a self-proclaimed noodletarian. I’ve done lots of experimenting in recent months with whole grains and there are a few that I always make sure to have: steel cut oats, quinoa, millet, amaranth, brown rice. In the winter, steel cut oats are my breakfast 90% of the time. I use my rice cooker so I have a warm meal ready when I wake up in the morning. On days when I want something a bit lighter, I make a porridge with amaranth, quinoa and millet, and save the leftovers for future use (see my blog about that here). Brown rice is perfect for a stir-fry. The closer to whole grain you can get, the more nutrients will be in the food. Once you turn something into flour, pasta, or bread, you’ve broken down the grain and lost some of the goodness so try to incorporate whole grains when you can.
Lentils – I love lentils. They are so simple to prepare and you can do so much with them. They are great cooked in some vegetable stock and served as a side. They are a perfect quick meal mixed with some tomato sauce with whole-wheat cous cous (a Chloe favorite). They are also a wonderful addition to soup. They are packed with folate, dietary fiber, iron and protein, making them an incredibly nutrient dense choice.
Nuts – Nuts are a great source of protein, especially in our vegetarian household. I love to have walnuts and cashews around, but my #1 favorite nut to keep in the house is almonds. Not only do a few almonds make a great go-to snack, but I’ve been making almond milk and almond butter recently, so we’ve been going through them at a steady pace. If you drink nut milk regularly, I recommend you try making it yourself. It’s easy and you can save a lot of packaging (and money)!
Dried Fruit – My 3 favorite dried fruits to have on hand are raisins, strawberries, and bananas. I bought some of each of these in bulk recently when I was getting ready to make some granola bars. I use all three in baking and as an addition to oatmeal. The freeze-dried strawberries have become one of Chloe’s favorite snacks. It’s a great way to get her to eat organic strawberries when they’re out of season. Two notes about dried fruit: aim for organic, and watch out for sugar. Lots of dried fruits have added sugar, and it’s best to avoid that if you can. I had switched to cranberries over raisins in my oatmeal for a while until I realized how much added sugar was in them. As with anything else, don’t deprive yourself of something you love, just remember that moderation is important.
Honey – Local honey has so many benefits. It can help relieve seasonal allergies as your body gets used to local pollen, it supports your local economy, and it’s actually honey.
I use raw honey when I’m putting it in oatmeal, tea, yogurt etc. My honey farmer recently told me that raw isn’t necessary for baking because the honey gets heated in baking beyond what the non-raw has been heated to anyway, so I keep a supply of that for cookies, granola bars, breads and other baked goods.
Oils – My top 3 oils are extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, and flax seed oil. Olive oil and coconut oil are great for cooking. Depending on the flavor in each particular dish that I’m making, I vary which of the two I use. I add some coconut oil to my oatmeal most mornings because it’s a great immunity booster. Flax seed oil gets used most in smoothies. I started using it in Chloe’s smoothies to help her get a healthy dose of omega 3s and we still use it regularly.
Seeds – I always make sure that I have chia and flax seeds in my pantry. Both are great sources of omega 3s and they are an easy addition to many dishes including smoothies and oatmeal. Chia pudding is also a favorite around here, and simple to make.
Spices – Salt and pepper of course. A note about salt: I use Himalayan salt. I recently learned that it is best to use salt that has some color to it, because plain white salt does not have the minerals that we need in our salt (see this article). I also have to have cinnamon at all times, because I add it to everything. It has great health benefits too, which is a plus.
Click here for Part 2 of my top kitchen staples, where I tell you what fresh foods I like to have on hand.
Peace, Love, and Wellness,