My Kitchen Staples

**My mom and I decided that she and my stepdad would act as the gatekeepers for this blog. My stepdad can’t imagine life without meat and my mom is picky about flavors, textures and green things. I got her to drink a smoothie with spinach in it because I added enough berries so it was more purple than green. The small things matter when dealing with a Black mom. When I eventually send her this link, I’m sure she will get a kick out of this particular paragraph. Also, hi Mom!**

In the past six months that I’ve been serious about a plant based diet, I’ve noticed some food items that I do not like living without and need to be replenished ASAP when I start to run low.

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This is just a section of my pantry. I like the aesthetic and simplicity of mason jars. They make me feel like I’m super organized.

Chia Seeds

If you follow me on Instagram, you know I put chia seeds in everything from my smoothies, to oatmeal, to my banana nut bread. They’re great little powerhouses of energy, fiber, antioxidants, and Omega-3s. They won’t give me the instant boost (and following crash) of coffee but they do a much better job of sustained energy. Oh, and the best part is they barely taste like anything and if soaked before blending they break down easier and you get to bypass the texture issue some people have. Also, chia pudding is an excellent snack. *whispers* TJ Maxx is the secret plug of chia seeds, flax seeds, vegan snacks, himalayan pink salt, meal prep plastic containers and other random kitchen utensils.

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Oats

Oatmeal. The second best breakfast food, after breakfast potatoes in all forms. Steel cut oatmeal doesn’t get as mushy as rolled oats or quick oats. I get the quick cook steel cut oats because I like the hearty texture better and I don’t have an instant pot yet. Rolled oats are used for granola, energy bars and a flour replacement (when I remember that I can do that now).

Bananas (frozen after ripening)

Bananas already have potassium, fiber, vitamin B6, and vitamin C, but most importantly they are delicious and one my favorite fruits. The nutrients are just a bonus. They are also a good creamy replacement for yogurt in smoothies while being super cheap to buy.

Spinach

I keep spinach on hand for smoothies, usually in my freezer. Spinach is loaded with nutrients and doesn’t have a strong taste which make sit excellent for fruit smoothies.

Kale

A handful of raw kale can go on most things, it’s more filling than spinach and only needs a pinch of salt.

Brown Rice

Rice is an excellent food, brown rice has a bunch of nutrients, is a whole grain and is gluten free. I really love rice and beans as a meal. Cooking brown rice with dried herbs like thyme and rosemary is one of the smartest things I’ve ever done. It has a heartier texture than white rice but my mom approves and she’s picky about most things.

Beans

They’re cheap, simple to make and require very little active cooking time. They can be made into beans and rice, tostadas, soups, hummus, salsa, vegan alfredo sauce and a multitude of other things. There are black, pinto, fava, kidney, garbanzo, black eyed peas, and so many more. It’s really just a matter of which beans you prefer. I like black beans and garbanzo beans (aka chickpeas). I either get them dried from the bulk bin section or Freshfields in a 3-4 pound bag. They don’t go bad and having them as a back up dinner when you couldn’t make it to the grocery store yet is a time saver. One day, I’ll be a real grown up and not have to quick soak my beans all the time because I forgot to soak them the night before.

Plant Milks

I’m certain there is a plant milk option for everyone. Almond, macadamia, cashew, hemp, flax, soy, coconut, oat, rice, pea, hazelnut, and I’m sure the list continues. I like to read ingredient labels. Trader Joe’s has an organic soy milk that is literally water and organic soybeans. Carrageenan is an ingredient I prefer to avoid. Some studies link it to various dysfunctions and inflammation, it offers no nutritional value and it is not easily digestible. I try to steer clear of it because I want to fuel my body the best I can. Carrageenan is found in some store-bought plant milks but one could always make them at home, if desired. I do this occasionally but I don’t drink enough “milk” to justify making it so I open a one quart carton when baking or cooking with it. (I’m still working on getting my stepdad to drink plant based milk . . . he’s a work in progress.)

Frozen Fruit

Frozen fruit can go into smoothies, chia pudding, parfaits and oatmeal. I find frozen fruit to be a more frugal option, especially for people like me who struggle to eat fresh fruit before it goes bad. The fruit is frozen soon after ripening and stays good for months while frozen. This is a really easy way to keep a variety of fruit without your bank account giving you a strong side eye. Sometimes, I’ll buy fresh fruit while on sale or in season to chop and then freeze it myself. I’m still working through the two pineapples I bought and froze a month ago. Freezing my fruit reduces my stress levels because there isn’t a rush to finish it before it goes bad. If I don’t drink a smoothie for a few days, all of my ingredients are still there and still good to use. No wasted money.

Nuts

I recently discovered how much I enjoy nuts. I find almonds and walnuts to be my current favorites. It’s easy to grab a handful for a snack or to make granola with them added to some rolled oats and baked in the oven. You can make a bomb banana nut smoothie with them, just soak the walnuts for 10-20 minutes beforehand so they blend a little easier. If you want the benefits of the nuts but don’t really want to taste them, add a splash of lemon juice. I have no idea how or why it works (yet) but I’ve had success with it.

Lemon juice / Lime juice (or the fruits themselves)

Everyone should always have lemon juice on hand. It can be used in tea, warm water in the morning, salads, smoothies, chia beverages, salad dressings, etc. If I’m feeling fancy, I’ll slice some lemons, or quarter some limes, and freeze them for use later. I specifically get juices not from concentrate and organic. The ingredient tends to be simpler.

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That’s it! Those are my current “yes, I need these in my kitchen at all times” items. I’m still hungry after typing this, so I’m going to make a easy salad with kale, some peppers, almonds, cilantro lime brown rice and some balsamic vinaigrette.

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