Hi Sweet Friends,
My pantry is the trusty scout leader of my kitchen — always prepared!
Over time, I’ve stocked my pantry with items that are the foundation for my meals and can be used in a variety of recipes or all on their own. Once you begin to collect your own favorite pantry pals, you’ll see a few things shrink: your grocery bill, your shopping list and your meal planning woes. Suddenly, half your recipe ingredients are already on hand and all you need at the store are fresh herbs and produce, some toilet paper and a trashy magazine every once in awhile (come on, you know you read them!).
This week, I’m making good use of my pantry with a south of the border inspired dinner — taco night! Psst … Don’t miss the Crazy Sexy Refried Beans recipe at the end of this blog. De nada.
Here are some of my must-have pantry items:
- Coconut Oil: Coconut oil (aka coconut butter) has a sweet, light, buttery flavor. Make sure to choose organic unrefined extra virgin coconut oil, since the hydrogenated kind contains trans fats (boo!). The saturated fat in coconut oil is mostly lauric acid, which supports thyroid function and raises good cholesterol. I spread it on my morning waffles, add a dollop to my veggie sautes or use it as an oil substitute while baking. Oh! And it’s also a divine skin moisturizer (we have a tub of it in the bathroom).
- Protein Powder: Since proteins are the building blocks of every cell in your body, adding a scoop of plant-based protein powder to your smoothies is an awesome way to give your muscles and organs a little extra lovin’. At the moment, my favorite brand is PlantFusion.
- Almond Milk: Almond milk has a sweet, creamy taste that’s perfect for hot breakfasts (oatmeal, millet or quinoa), tasty smoothies and sauces. Did I mention iced chai lattes? Yeah, that too. Word to the wise: If you’re watching your sugar intake, opt for the unsweetened variety, it tastes just as good, if not better. Nutrition label tip: 4 grams of sugar equals 1 teaspoon. The American Heart Association recommends (at most) 5 teaspoons of sugar for gals, 9 teaspoons for guys and 3 teaspoons for kids.
- Buckwheat Soba Noodles: I adore these gluten-free noodles in chilled salads or tossed with an Asian-style stir fry. Soba noodles cook in a snap, but be careful not to overcook them — they’ll turn to mush. Buckwheat is also a complete protein, which makes this noodle a no-brainer in my kitchen.
- Nutritional Yeast: Fondly known as “nooch,” this cheese-flavored powder has been a longtime comrade of vegetarians and vegans. Nutritional yeast is full of B vitamins and it’s another (you guessed it!) complete protein to add to your repertoire. I love using nutritional yeast in sauces, salad dressings, soups and even in my organic tofu scramble. Go ahead and smooch the nooch, you won’t be sorry — lordy, I crack myself up!
- Rice Pasta: I usually reach for Tinkyada brand rice pasta, but there are a variety of brands out there. Choose brown rice pasta if you can, since we all know that whole grains are better than the white stuff. Rice pasta can be used as a gluten-free substitute for any wheat pasta, but I use it most often in my Penne a la Vodka recipe.
- Quinoa: In addition to being a plant-based protein powerhouse, quinoa is also high in magnesium (great for your bone health) and iron (immune system supporter). It’s the main ingredient in easy-peasy buddha bowl — a big serving of cooked quinoa topped with diced raw veggies, avocado, hemp seeds, olive or flax oil and an hefty squirt of Bragg’s amino acids or organic tamari. Heaven.
- Pinto Beans: Dried and canned beans are a fiber-filled friend that I always have on hand. Just keep in mind that you should choose a BPA-free brand whenever possible. And when you go for dried beans, head for the bulk aisle to save some bucks. Worried about gas? Soak your beans overnight and cook them with a strip of kombu (seaweed) to tame those pesky toots.
- Lentils: Colorful, protein-rich legumes make mealtime a snap. All you need is a simple sauce, veggies and lentils to create a fabulous one-pot meal, which also means less dishes (halle-frickin-lu-yah!). And if you’re in a pinch for time use red lentils; they cook in a jiffy.
- Sea Vegetables: These sassy sea plants are packed with marvelous minerals, including potassium, calcium and magnesium. It’s also one of the best sources of iodine, which is crucial to thyroid health. I sprinkle dulse flakes on my salads, nibble on sea veggie chips as a snack and roll up veggies and brown rice in nori sheets for some sushi.
- Rice Crackers: The big dipper! Rice crackers are a crispy and delicious gluten-free option when you’re looking for something to munch on. I dip them in hummus, guacamole, organic tofu eggless salad and beyond.
- Goji Berries: Reach for goji berries next time you’re putting together a trail mix or topping your oatmeal. They’re lower in sugar and packed with antioxidants.