Pantry Basics to elevate your cooking game!
When I started my healing journey - eating clean seemed kind of boring. I didn't really try and new recipes - just omitted all the things I couldn't eat anymore - so basically my diet was plain veggies and salads with a chicken breast here and there. Blah!
I thought I was a decent home cook, however the previous flavoring I added to my meals usually contained ingredients that I just cannot / will not consume anymore.
I was your typical comfort food cook; making casseroles using canned soups, spaghetti and meat sauce with packaged or jarred sauces, lasagna, Roast beef dinner with onion soup gravy...you get the idea. Honestly, I should have been a Brand Ambassador for Campbell's soups, because I put that sh*t in everything!
If I can say one very positive thing that has come out of a forced diet change - My hubby pretty much thinks I am a gourmet chef now! Well...not quite...but I have definitely elevated my cooking game big time and now use many herbs, spices and other ingredients that never were on my radar before.
Having a well stocked pantry allows me to easily prepare a healthy, flavorful dish without a lot of effort.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil -best used for low heat cooking and in salads and dressings. Be sure to buy "cold pressed, extra virgin" olive oil.
Avocado Oil - an excellent oil for high heat cooking due to its high smoke point.
Organic Coconut oil - high in medium chain triglycerides - coconut oil is a good source of energy and with a high smoke point - makes it an excellent oil for all cooking .
Sesame Oil - Also a high smoke point oil, making it great for all methods of cooking- it adds a nutty flavor to your meal and is particularly good in Asian style dishes.
Vinegars are excellent flavor enhancers to have on hand. I use them regularly in salad dressings and marinades, or even for a quick "pickled onion". I have used them in combination with other ingredients - or just a quick splash on my salad when I am in too big of a hurry to mix up a dressing.
The vinegars you will find in my pantry are : Balsamic, Rice Vinegar, Apple Cider Vinegar, White vinegar, Red / white wine vinegar.
Sugar was a big source of inflammation for me - so finding alternatives to sweeten was necessary. I still don't go too overboard with adding sweetness, as once you remove sugar from your pallette, you find that a little goes a long way! And while most of the sweetness in my diet comes from fresh fruit- once in awhile an added enhancer will be appreciated.
I use these natural products when a little extra sweetness is needed ; Pure Maple Syrup, Raw organic honey, dates
Being gluten free - the usual cupboard full of assorted pastas is now replaced with healthier choices. typically I have Quinoa, lentils, Sprouted rice with quinoa, Brown Rice Ramen, GF Oats, Almond Flour and Coconut Flour
Nuts and Seeds:
Nuts and seeds are so versatile - you can add them to salads, oatmeal, make protein balls, blend them in smoothies - make chia seed pudding, nut butters - the options are endless...or how about just eating a small handful for a snack?
I am never without the following in my pantry cupboard - pecans, walnuts, almonds, Brazil nuts ( great for thyroid support - though do not eat more than 5 / day), pine nuts, sesame seeds, hemp and chia seeds, ground flax seeds.
Canned / Jar foods:
My cupboard always has stewed tomatoes, tomato paste, assorted beans
( garbanzo, black beans, cannelloni beans), coconut milk / cream ( great for curries and asian dishes- also if stored in the fridge, coconut cream can be used to make a whipped topping in place of whipping cream)
Herbs and Spices:
My spice cupboard has grown from the typical Costco sized bottle of seasoning salt and Montreal steak spice to include a vast array of aromatic herbs and spices. GAME CHANGER! -this is what makes my Hubby think I am a gourmet chef !
I ALWAYS have fresh garlic cloves and ginger on hand ( there is no comparison to dried or previously processed jarred garlic than fresh - fresh is 1000x better) - as well, I always have lemons and limes to use their juice and "zest" for cooking and to add juice to my drinking water as a detox.
Dried herbs and spices I typically use on a regular basis are : turmeric, cumin, curry, cayenne, paprika, thyme, oregano, cinnamon, chili, basil, dried mustard, black pepper, pink himilayan salt. While fresh is best - dried works just fine. I love to grow my own herbs - however I have yet to master the art - so often revert back to my dry spice stock.
Cilantro and Parsley are also an excellent addition to many different dishes.
If you have no idea how to use these herbs and spices - remember google and Pinterest are your friend! A wealth of delicious recipes at your finger tips!
Additional items :
Aside form the above mentioned pantry items - I also always have coconut aminos, (healthy substitute for soy sauce), dijon mustard and assorted organic - sugar free broths / stock ( beef, chicken, vegetable), Nutritional Yeast ( good B12 source for Vegans - great nutty/ cheesy flavor addition to salads, oven roasted veggies, soups and sauces)
If cooking scares you a little - start small with easy things like making your own salad dressings - all you need is a few of the pantry staples and a jar with a lid to shake to up!
from there make a meat marinade, and then start experimenting with new recipes where you add a spice you've never tried before. Soon you will open up a whole new world of exciting, delicious and healthy home cooked meals! Happy cooking! :)