Happy New Year!
2020 has been a difficult year to say the least. We all need a break. With this in mind, this year, rather than suggesting what not to eat, I’m keeping my focus on what we can. What we can healthily enjoy, what tastes great, and importantly, what’s easy to make without a ton of skills. I’m going to use my blogs, recipes and Zoom cooking classes to give you practical tips on meal planning, on how to layer more fruits and vegetables into your meals, basically to lay the groundwork to make it easier to cook and eat a sustainable, deliciously varied plant rich diet that’s good for you, and good for the planet. You’ll find without a lot of muss or fuss that you’ll be able to cook in a flexible way that leaves more processed, convenience foods behind. For info on upcoming classes and events, follow me on Instagram!
The best place to start is in the Pantry!
If you’re not a natural cook, it can be very daunting shopping for pantry basics. There are so many herbs, spices, and other grocery items that it can be hard to know what will ultimately be useful. Below is a guide of the pantry basics, the items to always have in your cupboard, fridge or freezer that will make it possible to pull together meals on the fly without a lot of extras. You’ll see that they crop up in recipe after recipe. It may seem like a lot, but remember, you don’t have to buy it all in one go just as you need. Enjoy!
Fats & Oils:
I always use these oils. I love coconut oil too, but you don’t need it to start out with. Store olive oil in a cool dark place.
● Extra virgin olive oil; canola or grapeseed oil; ghee; unsalted butter (use these last 2 sparingly).
Dried herbs and spices:
These are the basics. Turmeric is on the list because it has definite antioxidant cancer-fighting properties. I use a lot of smoked paprika, as it adds a meaty taste to greens and soups, but you don’t need it to start out. I’ve also added basic baking items used in simple muffins, cakes and pancakes.
● Herbs: Bay leaves; rosemary; oregano
● Spices: cumin; cinnamon; cayenne; ginger; turmeric; mild curry powder; whole nutmeg;
whole black peppercorns, fine sea salt and/or kosher salt
● Baking: baking soda, baking powder
Nuts and Nut Products, Seeds, Dried Fruits:
Nuts are great as snacks, and for adding healthy oils and protein to salads, breakfast grains. If you have nut allergies, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds can be a good alternative to tree nuts. Keep all nuts, seeds and nut products in the fridge where they will keep indefinitely.
Dried fruits have all the goodness of fresh but without the water. Use them to add healthy sweetness to oatmeal and salad dressings.
- Sliced almonds; whole walnuts, pumpkin seeds, hulled sunflower seeds
- Tahini (sesame seed paste); sugar free peanut butter; coconut milk
- unsulfured raisins and cranberries
Grains & Flours:
This is a short list. As you get cooking it will lengthen. If you find you like risotto, you may want to add white Arborio rice to your list. Store whole-grain flours in the fridge. If you are gluten free, look for specialized whole grain flours and pastas in your local market.
- Rolled or steel cut oats; long grain brown rice; white rice (for when you need something easy on the stomach); quinoa; polenta
- whole-wheat pastry flour and flour products – whole wheat couscous; whole-wheat pasta;
There are SO many varieties of these to choose from. Stick to these to start out with and you’ll be golden. None of the dried legumes here need soaking. Soy products like miso, tofu and tempeh are important to a vegetarian diet, otherwise they can be bought as needed.
- Canned: Cannellini beans; black beans; chickpeas
- Dried: Red split lentils; Green French lentils; split peas; black eyed peas
- Soy products: miso; tofu; tempeh
Frozen & Canned foods:
I find frozen fruits and veg a great standby. Frozen on the farm, they often have a better nutritional value than the same fruits and veg bought out of season, plus they will keep in the freezer for months. Frozen green peas and lima beans add protein and a dash of color to pastas and soups, while spinach saves time. Fruits can brighten up a winter meal in compotes, crumbles or delicious gelato.
- Veggies: small garden peas; baby lima beans or edamame beans; leaf spinach
- Fruits: blueberries; raspberries; mango chunks or pulp; peaches
- Canned: whole peeled tomatoes; diced tomatoes
Some fresh items to keep replenished in your pantry at all times. You will always find a use for them, particularly onions, garlic, and lemons. You can always blend parsley into a pesto with a little olive oil and freeze it:
- Carrots; onions; celery, garlic; Italian parsley; ginger root, lemons
These are the last of the fresh basics to round out your list. If your pocketbook allows, buy pastured milk products and eggs, but if you can’t buy eggs anyway. They are by law antibiotic free. Please feel free to sub out milk for the unsweetened plant milks or yogurts of your choice. Soy products, like tofu and tempeh are stellar protein sources in a vegetarian diet and can be bought as needed.
- whole or 2% milk; whole or 2% plain yogurt, whole or 2% plain Greek yogurt; chunk parmesan cheese
- Eggs, cage free or pastured as possible.
- soy products: miso, tofu, tempeh, soy milk