As I’ve ventured further and further down the healthy living path, there have been two questions that I regularly receive – what are my favorite cooking tools and what do I keep in my pantry? I’ve shared a lot of my favorite tools so today I want to dive into the often-overlooked but essential part of healthy cooking that is the pantry.
While the majority of my meals are A Healthy Passion recipes, I do like to keep a wide variety of pantry items on hand for those times when I need to throw something together. And by virtue of having a well-stocked pantry, it’s a whole lot easier to make a delicious meal with whatever you have lying around.
Cooking with AHP has really allowed me to streamline my oils, vinegars and spices (yay for de-cluttering) so I figured I’d share the basics with you today. While these are all the items in our AHP pantry, they are also the things I keep in my own pantry and use on a daily basis in all of my cooking. The best part is that I use these ingredients over and over again and therefore don’t have some random fancy vinegar hanging around for a year or two before having to throw it out during the spring clean!
And if you’re wondering whether you really need to use Celtic Salt, Kerrygold Butter and Edward & Sons Not-Chick’n Stock Cubes in your daily cooking, then the answer is YES, YES and YES! The quality seriously does go a long way in the outcome of your food and as soon as you make the change, you’ll never look back.
Celtic Salt is one of the best culinary salts readily available in stores. It is harvested in northern France by allowing water to come in via sluice gates over clay-lined paddies. The sea water is then raked with wooden tools to preserve its flavor. As the water evaporates, the trace minerals of the sea water (as well as the salt) are maintained, making Celtic Salt richer in trace minerals than most salts on the market.
Of all of their products, I encourage you to use the coarse ground salt! It allows you to use less sodium while not losing any of the salt flavor you want in your dishes. I keep my salt in a small uncovered dish right by the stove for easy access. And if you’re not already using Celtic Salt, add some to your next order and thank me later!
**Celtic Salt does not have iodine added. However, trace amounts of iodine are present and if you eat a variety of foods including iodine-rich vegetables and fish, you will get enough iodine in your diet.
When buying olive oil, the simplest tip is to look for oil in dark bottles. The darker glass protects the fat from breaking down and turning rancid over time from light exposure and other external factors. Olive oil is one of the few things where what you spend is equal to its relative value. Buy a good, mid-priced oil for your everyday cooking and feel free to splurge on a good finishing oil. My favorite all-around olive oil is definitely 365-brand Extra Virgin and First Fresh for raw dressings and finishing. I keep my olive oil next to the stove but I go through it pretty quickly. It can also be stored in a cool, dark place to extend the shelf life.
Red Pepper Flakes
I use red pepper flakes over black pepper in most of my dishes for added flavor and heat. They’re also an excellent metabolism booster. My biggest suggestion when using them is to taste as you go so that you don’t over-spice a dish for your personal tastes. I keep my red pepper flakes in a small uncovered dish for easy access.
This spice is most often used in my meat dishes and a good amount of it paired with Celtic Salt adds delicious depth of flavor to a wide variety of foods. I prefer coarse black pepper as I find that the finer grind can get lost beneath other flavors. I also keep my black pepper in a small uncovered dish uncovered next to the stove for easy access.
Veggie Stock Cubes
Edward & Sons is my favorite brand because of the short ingredient list. I also prefer the cubes to the boxes of stock because you don’t end up with waste. I like to keep my cubes stored in an airtight container in the pantry and just slice off as much as I need.
Kerrygold butter is a cultured-cream Irish butter made from the milk of grass-fed cows that are free of growth hormones. Compared to the normal butter varieties found at any grocery store, this stuff is a rich yellow or deep gold, depending on the season and the availability of green grass. It has a creamy texture—thanks to its high butterfat content—and an unparalleled flavor. And while it’s packed with flavor, it’s also loaded with nutrition.
Grass-fed butter is rich in conjugated linoleic acid and butyric acid, compounds that have been shown to contribute benefits on a variety of fronts from heart and colon health to fat-burning. A little bit goes a long way with this stuff and I couldn’t live without it. I keep mine stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Honestly, no other butter will do.
Whole Grain Mustard
Whole grain mustard is simply a mustard that has been ground just enough to form a paste but not so much that it fully breaks down all the mustard seeds. This then creates a thick, coarse texture which adds an earthy, rustic element to any dish. The use of wine instead of vinegar (and brown and black seeds instead of yellow) means that many whole grain mustards pack a punch, something I personally adore.
Dijon works especially well in vinaigrettes, mayonnaises and sauces, where a little can go a long way in developing flavor. I most often use it in my salad dressings to emulsify the dressing and add a creamy texture.
I love balsamic vinegar for its dark color and sweet flavor. It’s perfect for reductions and dressings as well as marinades. Vinegar should be stored in a cool, dark place. Once opened, it can be stored for about 6 months.
Tamari Soy Sauce
Traditionally tied to the Japanese (as opposed to the more common Chinese variant), Tamari is a thicker, less salty fermented soy sauce with our favorite brand also being wheat-free! It can be used to add a savory, umami flavor to your dishes. I like to keep mine in the fridge for a little extra zap!
Look for local and raw honey when possible. Avoid the crap in your grocery chains. Most of the honey sold in stores has been heated and pasteurized unless otherwise noted. Processing destroys many of the enzymes and beneficial compounds that make raw honey so nutritious.
Raw honey has anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties. It promotes digestive health, is a powerful antioxidant, boosts the immune system and is an excellent remedy for skin wounds and infections. If you pick up local honey, it can be powerful in protecting against allergies as well. I keep mine stored in a cool dark place. Again, this is an ingredient where quality really makes a big difference.
Red Wine Vinegar
As the name implies, red wine vinegar is made from red wine though the final product is non-alcoholic. The vinegar is acidic and is often used in salad dressing and marinade recipes. Beyond the trace amounts of certain nutrients, red wine vinegar offers a variety of other potential health benefits. Vinegar should be stored in a cool, dark place. Once opened, it can be stored for about 6 months.
Made from fermented rice or rice wine, this is the sweetest and most delicate vinegar. I love to add rice vinegar to cooked rice for a nice acidic, tangy flavor! Vinegar should be stored in a cool, dark place. Once opened, it can be stored for about 6 months.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar only has health benefits when it’s raw with the “mother,” strands of proteins, enzymes and friendly bacteria that give the product a murky, cobweb-like appearance. In this form, it contains acetic acid which has been shown to lower blood pressure up to 6 percent. It can also help to eat up the starches in grains and increases absorption of nutrients in your body. I love the mild sweetness and nice tang it adds to dishes. Much like all of the other vinegars mentioned, it should be stored in a cool, dark place and can be stored for about 6 months.
Sesame oil is a vegetable-based oil derived from sesame seeds. I love the deep toasted flavor it infuses into a dish. Store this oil in a cool, dark place for best results.
Tomato paste is a thick paste made from cooking tomatoes for hours to cook off all of the water content. I love using tomato paste in our recipes to add a deep, slow-cooked flavor to our generally quicker dishes! I prefer using the tubes to minimize waste. Once opened, store your tomato paste in the fridge.
And there you have it – the basic staples I always have in my pantry for daily use.
And the final question is – what’s in your pantry?
P.S. Want to streamline your pantry and simplify your life when it comes to healthy recipes? Sign up for A Healthy Passion the ultimate meal planning tool to save you time and $ while helping you stay on track with your healthy lifestyle. Get Started Today!