The winner of KIND Bar giveaway is Hayley from Sprinkles of Sunshine. Congratulations, I will get in touch with you shortly.
Since we just talked about “Everyday Essential Kitchen Tools” yesterday, it’s a good time to share “Healthy Kitchen Staples” that I almost always have in my kitchen. Everyone has a different definition of healthy and depending upon your lifestyle, kitchen staples may vary but for the most part, it’s a good idea to stock your kitchen with mostly unprocessed ingredients in its most natural form. I have found that when I have a stocked kitchen, I am more likely to cook at home (read: no impulse eating out and take outs) which is so much healthier and cheaper. So today along with my top 5 kitchen staples, I am also sharing helpful tips and my favorite recipes with each of those staples.Oats: I have a love-hate relationship with oats but after trying almost every variety of oats, I have come to the conclusion that I can handle “Overnight Steel Cut Oatmeal” with fruits/nuts and rolled oats which are great with granola bars.If you are not a big fan of oatmeal (especially with the texture), you should at least give Chilled Swiss Oatmeal a try. No matter what type of oatmeal you eat, they are nutrient-dense providing a good source of carbohydrates, fiber and some essential vitamins. The only exception is the ‘flavored packets of oatmeal” due to its sugar content. For example – a packet of Quaker Oats’ apple and cinnamon instant contains 12 grams of sugar, as opposed to just one gram in regular oatmeal. Instead of the packet stuff, make plain oatmeal then add some chopped apples and sprinkle cinnamon powder just before eating. PS. Here is a post dedicated to 36 Ways to Eat Oats!
Eggs: My mom will flip out if she sees that eggs made this list because I absolutely hated eggs while growing up. Now I always have at least two dozen eggs in my fridge because they are versatile, nutritious, cheap, and so freaking delicious. Eggs, especially egg yolks were under scrutiny for several years due to its cholesterol content but now studies are confirming that dietary cholesterol is not a concern like once thought so please don’t fear eggs . Some of my favorite ways to enjoy eggs in the morning include scrambled eggs, fried eggs, or if I have time, a fluffy omelette (recipe coming your way soon). Since it’s such a good source of protein and very affordable, I eat eggs for lunch and dinner when possible as well. Some of my favorites include shakshuka, frittata, nourish bowl, and eggs with noodles. There are so many choices when buying eggs with different nutritional claims (organic, vegetarian fed, brown, white, cage-free etc) but since the legal definition is not very clear, if possible get pasture-raised eggs from a local farmer. Otherwise, stick with organic eggs or the ones with omega 3 and DHAs for the most bang for your buck. Veggies: I almost always have some form of veggies (frozen, fresh or canned tomatoes). It’s hard to beat the taste of fresh produce but I don’t always have an abundant supply of fresh seasonal veggies, hence frozen veggies come to the rescue. I like to have a blend of broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots to throw into a stir-fry or fried rice. While using frozen veggies, make sure they are only frozen veggies and do not have any fancy sauce. I also tend to have greens (spinach, kale, bok choy etc) that I usually buy fresh (in large quantities) and chop and freeze them for later use. You can throw a handful of frozen greens into stews, noodle dishes, and soups. It’s probably the easiest way to sneak greens (hello nutrition) into your diet. It’s also a good idea to roast a big batch of vegetables (potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, Brussel sprouts or whatever you want) and use it throughout the week. I am currently obsessed with roasted cauliflower seasoned with salt, pepper and a generous drizzle of olive oil. Canned tomatoes are another favorite of mine. I use it for shakshuka and curry dishes such as tofu tikka masala and chana masala. Here are 36 Ways to Use Canned Tomatoes. If possible look for the no-salt added variety. Cooked Chicken or Frozen Salmon: It does not always happen but nothing gives me more pleasure than roasting a whole chicken on a Sunday evening and using them throughout the week. This week I used it for a big batch of chicken noodle soup and a batch of shredded chicken salad. I use this method to roast my chicken with different herbs and spices but you can also buy a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store if you wish. Check out these 23 Easy Meals to Make with Rotisserie Chicken. Frozen salmon (preferable wild caught) is something I always like to have on hand because it literally takes me less than 30 minutes to get dinner on the table. I usually make salmon en papillote with veggies or spike it with Sriracha and garlic .
Grains and Legumes: Most whole grains and dried beans and lentils take a while to cook so I have been cooking them in advance, refrigerating (or freezing) them and re-heating them right before serving. I usually get my legumes and grain from the bulk section of a grocery store (examples of different types of whole grains) and this week was barley (a chewy, hearty, and nutty grain that reheats really well). Barley and Chickpea Salad with Dates and Goat Cheese is my all time favorite but barley in general is a good substitute for rice/quinoa and makes a hearty addition to soups/stews. Here are 15 Hearty Barley Recipes! I make an effort to eat legumes (beans and lentils) at least 2-3 times a week usually in the form canned beans (chickpeas, black beans, pinto beans, cannellini beans) and use dried lentils, mainly red and yellow ones for daal (Indian soup). Legumes are ‘poor peoples meat’ , an inexpensive but a great source of protein and packed with fiber and other essential micronutrients; it can be cooked in advance and stored for later use. Yellow split pea daal (in the slow cooker) is something I make very regularly and if you are looking for a hearty chicken dish, try Bombay-style chicken with red lentils. Last week, Cassie from Back to Her Roots planned her meals around lentils which inspired me to make lentil sloppy joes. And here are 35 more lentil recipes if you are interested, which you totally should check out!I almost always use canned beans (choose no salt added or the low sodium kind and rinse them before use) although cooking dried ones are probably cheaper and healthier. Chickpeas are probably my favorite beans of all time, especially this curried chickpeas with spinach followed by brown chickpea salad, chopped kale and chickpea salad, and of course hummus. PS. 17 more recipes with canned chickpeas!
Cooking at home is actually not that complicated, given you have essential kitchen tools and a few hours every week to plan, shop, and prepare meals. Most of the recipes I have shared above or on my blog comes together relatively quick with easy to find ingredients. Few things to remember:
- Cooking at home (especially if you already don’t) comes with time, practice, and patience.
- Start with 1-2 basic recipes every week and slowly build from there.
- It is nearly impossible to do a complete makeover of your pantry overnight; it’s a gradual change that comes with time.
- Make cooking a fun experience rather than a chore.
What are some of your pantry staples? Tell me, tell me…