In My Pantry: Staple Foods

There are a few must have ingredients when it comes to eating well. I hope I can give those of you who are new to this lifestyle some inspiration and insight into my pantry staples and why I love them. I've tried to keep this list fairly basic (nothing obscure, I promise!), so you shouldn't have much trouble finding these items wherever you live. Happy shopping!

Quinoa

Quinoa is such a versatile ingredient - it'll take you from chilli to burgers and back again! I love buying black, red and white quinoa in bulk (it's so much cheaper that way) and mixing it all together in a gorgeous old jar ready to bulk up any dish. It's really easy to prepare too and I especially love it paired with smoked paprika and fresh herbs from the garden.

Cashews

Luckily for us dairy free folk, cashews lend an incredible creamy texture to many dishes sans dairy. My favourite ways to use cashews are in a cashew "sour cream" and as the creamy "cheese" component of raw cheesecakes. The texture these lend truly is remarkable! I buy big 1 kilo bags of cashews at a discounted price from a bulk food store (an incredibly cost-effective way to buy nuts and seeds).

Cinnamon

There's something about the scent of cinnamon that's just so comforting! If buying your spices pre-ground, buy them in small quantities to retain freshness and optimal flavour. Alternatively you can buy them whole and grind them in a coffee grinder as you need them. Whole cinnamon quills are also fantastic left to seep in your herbal tea (a licorice teabag, a quarter of a vanilla pod and a cinnamon quill left to infuse in a mug of boiling water is divine). Cinnamon has healing properties too - the most noted being that it can help stabilise blood sugar.

Raw Cacao

Raw cacao is widely available in three forms (butter, nibs and powder) and I love to use all of them! Cacao butter is the fat portion of the cacao bean, the nibs are made from the husk and the powder is the nibs blitzed up. Cacao is one of the richest sources of antioxidants and a very pure way to enjoy chocolate - there are many raw chocolates out on the market now that are such a wonderful alternative to the refined sugar and dairy laden bars that are unfortunately so common.

Pure Maple Syrup

I have a sweet tooth - always have and always will! Pure maple syrup is made from the sap of maple trees with no nasties added (unlike the "maple flavoured" syrups that are most common in supermarkets). While I will acknowledge that it is expensive to buy, a little goes a long way and unlike refined sugar, this natural sweetener contains some trace minerals such as calcium and magnesium. Save money by sourcing non-organic pure maple syrup - pesticides are seldom used on maple trees and so is a safe product to buy conventionally.

Medjool Dates

I did warn you that I have a sweet tooth! Medjool dates are a very plump and sticky variety of date that are wonderful on their own filled with nut butter or as a sweetener and binder in raw desserts. They contain vitamin A and potassium and are also a plant-based source of iron!

Avocado Oil

A point of difference I have noticed between myself and others who follow a plant-based diet is that I use very little coconut oil in comparison. I use coconut oil only when it serves a purpose, such as setting raw desserts (like butter, it hardens at low temperatures due to its high saturated fat content). In my day to day cooking, I use avocado oil due to its high smoke point (meaning it does not lose its goodness when heated, unlike olive oil) and for its stellar levels of monounsaturated fat, which has been shown to help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol. Fats are such an integral part of a healthy diet as they help you to absorb fat-soluble vitamins such as A, D and E.

Apple Cider Vinegar

Being the serious foodie that I am, what drew me to apple cider vinegar was the tangy flavour it could add to my cooking. Turns out, it actually has some incredible health benefits - my favourite being that it physically stimulates stomach acid production and therefore is fantastic for those who struggle with digestive issues. Make sure to buy apple cider vinegar described as being "with the mother" (a.k.a the good stuff) to reap the full benefits.

Chia Seeds

Chia is an incredibly versatile little seed. Able to hold somewhere around 9 times its own weight in water, it can be made in a gel that works to replace eggs as the binder in vegan baking. They are high in fibre to enhance your gut health and are one of the few sources of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids (along with flaxseeds and walnuts). In fact, gram for gram, these mighty little seeds pack in more omega-3 than salmon!

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Gemma McLeodComment