Tuesday, October 2, 2012

My Pantry (or How I Make It All Happen Consistently)

What's in my pantry? Having ingredients to work with on-hand is tantamount to making easy, healthy food for yourself that you feel good about.

Start with the flavors and ingredients you know. What did you grow up eating? What cuisines do you like and what ingredients do you find in them? If you don't know, google some recipes and explore.

Getting well-stocked is a really fun, adventurous project. Buy just one new thing each time you shop and do some playing and cooking with it to see what it's about.

Extra-Virgin Olive Oil (for dressings, drizzling, and medium-heat cooking)
Raw Extra-Virgin Coconut Oil (for all-purpose and high-heat cooking, roasting and salads)
Raw or Toasted Sesame Oil (look for unrefined or Hot varieties, if you're the spicy type)

Balsamic Vinegar (my go-to all-purpose for dressings and for bringing more depth of flavor when cooking)
Raw Apple Cider Vinegar (with the "mother" - read more about it's amazing array of health benefits for my favorite brand, Bragg's)
Red Wine Vinegar, Brown Rice Vinegar (secondary vinegars, great for Italian and Asian cuisines, respectively)
Lemons (in my opinion, the best, freshest way to make the flavors of any dish pop, squeeze fresh over your dish right before serving)

Natural sea salt (full of trace minerals and does not raise the blood pressure - It is the insufficiency of other minerals that cause the body to hold on to and keep water inside the cells, raising blood pressure)
Whole pepper grinder: (pepper tastes so much fresher and floral when freshly ground, try it and never go back - more on pepper and health benefits and concerns)

Natural Sweeteners
Raw honey (great for allergies and supporting the local bees)
Maple syrup (grade B is most flavorful, organic isn't necessary)
Coconut Palm Sugar (granulated, low-glycemic, my go-to replacement for white sugar in baking)
Agave Nectar or Brown Rice Syrup
Stevia (look for natural varieties, green liquid or powder is best as it is unrefined and has the same taste with way more nutritional benefits)

Tamari or soy sauce
(look for organic, as this will mean non-GMO, and wheat-free if you have gluten sensitivities) or Bragg's liquid amino acids (a savory, less salty condiment, which I love to get in a spray bottle)

Good-quality Mustard, Mayo, and Ketchup (so you feel prepared to dress things up - read the label and look out for high fructose corn syrup, anything you can't pronounce, and trans fats. For the mayo - look for one made with olive oil and cage-free eggs - Spectrum brand is fantastic)
Pickles, Sauerkraut, Olives (for extra crunch, punch and fun)

Sweet: Cinnamon, Ginger, Nutmeg, Cardamom, Allspice
Spicy: Red Chili Flakes, Cayenne, Chili Powder
Savory: Cumin, Paprika, Turmeric, Curry Powder
Italian savory: Basil, Oregano, Rosemary, Parsley
Indian: Garam Masala, Turmeric, Cumin, Cayenne, Mustard Seed

Bulb of garlic and a yellow onion (the base flavoring for most of my dishes, soups and sauces, chop and saute for added savory sweetness and complex taste)
Brown Rice, Lentils, Oats, Quinoa (or other whole grains and beans/legumes - more on their health benefits and how to ease digestion here! - that you love, I always make sure to keep quick-cooking ones on hand - oh, and popcorn kernels!)
Pasta, noodles
(for when you really need a quick meal, saute up some garlic, onion and veggies, toss in some beans, drizzle with oil and call it dinner)
Assorted raw nuts and seeds (dress up any dish with a little crunch, I also grab these for a fast snack with some fruit to tide me over) 
Canned or boxed beans, tomatoes, broth, soup (makes eating quickly in a pinch so much easier - when you use something, restock on your next shopping trip)
Whole-grain Crackers (Read the ingredient list on everything that passes your lips - if you don't know what it is, don't buy it. Look for 100% whole grains, no funny stuff.)

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