It occurred to me that some of you out there might need a helping hand in the kitchen. Well, I’m here to be your support, to help you learn, experiment and broaden your kitchen confidence. So first things first, lets talk about pantry staples. In order to rock a healthy, plant-based lifestyle, you need a rock star pantry. Your pantry is going to be your little personal staple army, standing by and ready to be called into action to make incredibly tasty food. Sounds exciting, right? I know I’m excited. So let’s get this magical journey started.
First, I’m going to start off with canned goods. Keep in mind fresh is best. Now chant it. Is it ingrained in your brain? Good. Canned goods are alright to use in a pinch. I try not to use these very often since some cans can leach toxins into your food and that’s not very snuggly. I try to get organic when possible but when the budget is tight and mama bear is hungry, I’ll take what I can get.
- Beans- Be it black, kidney, pinto, or chickpeas canned beans are convenient if you want beans but don’t have time to soak
and make dried ones. Now get whatever your heart desires but the ones that I have listed are my favorites and I usually have a can or two on hand just in case I need them.
- Tomatoes- Keep at one can of crushed, diced and whole tomatoes, as well as, tomato sauce and tomato paste on hand. These items are handy when tomatoes are out of season and you want to whip some pasta sauce, soup, or tasty rice.
Next, is your refrigerated staples. Most of these have a long shelf life and the ones that don’t are items you will use frequently enough that you’ll probably need to replace them every time you go grocery shopping.
- Condiments- First things first: ketchup and mustard. These are pretty self-explanatory and most kitchens have them. They also have a decently long shelf life. I know this is another personal preference but mayo is also quite handy especially if you are feeling like some faux egg salad or like to dip your fries in mayo (don’t judge, its delicious) Earth Balance has the best mayo hands down. I’ve tried everything else and their olive oil mayo is by far the best.
- Milk Alternative- I usually use almond, I find it had the mildest flavor, the best texture, and more budget friendly than coconut milk. It goes great with cereal and works really well in any recipe calling for milk especially baking. Here’s a health statement for you: I know alternative milks are scary for some of you. Try it and see which one you like best. Coconut is awfully tasty but is not to cost effective. I personally am not a fan of soy or rice but to each his own.
- Tofu- Tofu is bland and pliable which means it has great potential to be anything you want it to be. You can make an awesome scramble to use up odds and ends in your fridge or mold it into some tasty meatballs. In another post I’ll cover the type of tofu and how they should be used but for now make sure to get organic, non-GMO, medium and firm tofu since you’ll probably use those the most. Soft and extra firm are good but are for more specialized dishes.
On to herbs and spices. This is where the fun is. Experimenting with seasoning is a great way to transition to a more plant-based diet. Since I have a very large spice and herb supply I am only going to cover a few here. These are the ones I use the most and are the most basic. I totally support experimenting with more exotic flavors though. If you’re short on cash, you can get some of these in bulk at an ethnic food store and only buy what you need as opposed to a whole jar.
- Herbs-basil, oregano, rosemary and thyme.Try to use fresh when you can but dried is handy and keeps for longer.
- Spices- cumin, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, red pepper flakes, and cayenne. I honestly use cumin and cinnamon the most. Both are crazy diverse and can be used in any number of dishes.
Baking requires a few more staples since there are quite a few basics that go into whipping up breads, cakes, and other pastries.
- Baking Powder is a leavening agent but more acidic than baking soda. What does that mean? When baking powder is in a baked good and then moisture and heat are added, the chemical reaction produces carbon dioxide and causing the item to rise.
- Baking Soda is sodium bicarbonate and when added to an acidic ingredient (such as yogurt or chocolate) and moisture it will release bubbles of carbon dioxide and cause the baked good to rise under higher temperatures.
- Extracts- Vanilla, almond, lemon. Add amazing flavor to anything they are added to. It is important to get extracts not flavoring. They are two completely different things and in my experience, the extract has better flavor. Good quality extracts are expensive but it’s super easy to make your own. Try this one, it only requires vodka, a vanilla bean, a jar and some patience.
- Shortening- This is technically a fridge staple, especially if you get something organic. I use Earth Balance since it’s vegan.
- Sugar- Vegan white, brown, powdered. All are important for a sweet concoction. Trying to cut out sugar? Great! you can also use agave nectar and stevia in baking.
- Flour- All-purpose white flour works for pretty much everything but if you are trying to fine tune your skills like moi, then have whole wheat and pastry are also good ideas.
- Cornstarch-A very diverse ingredient. Is used as a thickening agent in liquid dishes but is also handy for some baked goods as well.
Oils. Oils add fats and flavor to your cooking. Don’t be too afraid of these fats, these are mostly the good ones.
- Olive- Food of the Gods. At least in my humble opinion. Make sure to get a high quality olive oil. You can use this to saute or just as a dip for crusty Italian bread. Just don’t over heat it, olive oil doesn’t handle high heat well.
- Vegetable- This oil is very versatile and can be used in cooking as well as baking and it’s cheaper than olive oil.
- Coconut- Coconut oil is all the craze these days touting a million health benefits. It adds tropical flavor to anything you cook but is also pretty hand in a baked good as well. It can stand fairly high temperature so experiment and see what you can do.
- Grapeseed- Grapeseed oil is great for salad dressings. Light and airy, makes leafy greens all the more yummy.
- Peanut- Great for frying and in Asian dishes. It adds peanutty flare to anything your heart desires.
- Flax- DO NOT COOK WITH THIS SUCKER. This oil is incredibly healthy but does not play well with heat and should be purely used for salad dressings.
Sundries. You know the grains, pasta and dried stuff.
- Rice- jasmine white rice, brown, wild. Brown is the healthiest but it takes a long time to cook and if you don’t cook it right can be kind of gross. I usually reach for jasmine rice when I’m feeling lazy since it cooks quickly and goes with pretty much anything.
- Beans– Black, kidney, pinto, chickpea- again solely based on preference but get whatever you like.
- Pasta- Fusilli, spaghetti, linguine, shells. Having a variety of pasta on hand can help with whipping up any type of quick dinner.
- Seeds- Pumpkin, sunflower, flax, chia. Seeds are incredibly healthy for us and should be added to leafy greens to aid in digestion and absorption of vital nutrients.
Finally, some vinegars.
- Balsamic- My favorite. I use it as a marinade and salad topping.
- Apple Cider- Apple cider vinegar is featured in many home remedies and touts amazing health benefits. You can use it in your beauty routine, in a daily health concoction or add it to any salad dressing or marinade.
- Red Wine- Also wonderful for salad dressing.
- White- Probably the most diverse staple you can have. Buy a big ass jug of it. You can use it to clean and to cook with. It’s amazing. To go over the many uses, I’ll have to write another post devoted solely to white vinegar.
Again a lot of these are personal preferences that I shared with you to give you an idea on how you should stock your rock star pantry. So adapt this list to your life and what you will use. Even if you aren’t plant-based, this is a good starting list to stock up your kitchen and take control of diet and healthy eating habits.