My Pantry Essentials

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I have been getting a few emails/questions from friends, families, and readers asking what do I normally have in my pantry, or what's my fridge stocked with and how do I have time to make all the food I post on the blog. So I thought it would be interesting, somewhat informational, and inspirational to share some of my pantry essentials with everyone. By no means I have a perfectly stocked kitchen nor do I use the freshest, organic ingredients all the time. I do not eat my dinner on fancy plates every day- it's mostly on a bowl in front of the TV but cooking most meals at home is a priority to me even if its means plain rice with a side of steamed broccoli.  Right now if you peek into my pantry this is pretty much what it looks like and most of the ingredients are easily available at any major grocery store.

Grains/Rice/Pasta/Flour: - rice (basmati and short grain sushi rice) - quinoa - couscous - wheat berry - whole wheat spaghetti - whole wheat lasagna  - jumbo shell pasta - pad Thai noodles - soba noodles - flour (all purpose, whole wheat, chickpea, barley) - old-fashioned oatmeal and a box of cereal - whole kernel dried corn   Tip: always aim for more 100% whole grain vs. white as it is rich in fiber, helps you keep full longer, keeps cholesterol in check, and promotes regularity. 

Lentils/Beans/Legumes:

- canned beans, variety - dried beans & lentils (mung, black split, yellow) Tip: Canned beans are available all year round, very convenient, and provides a lot of fiber, vitamins/minerals, and an inexpensive protein source in our diet but high in sodium compared to the dried ones. Choose reduced sodium when possible however, if rinsed and drained, sodium content of regular canned beans is reduced by 41% (source). 

Can/Jars: - whole tomato, tomato paste - jar of pasta sauce (look for ones with less ingredients, less sodium, sugar) - jar of roasted red pepper/olives/artichoke hearts Tip: Canned food gets a lot of bad rep but when it comes to tomatoes, it is sometimes better canned. “They’re more flavorful than fresh hothouse tomatoes, and nutritionally speaking, the body’s ability to use the heart-healthy antioxidant lycopene found in tomatoes is greater when tomatoes are cooked or canned because of the heat from the canning process. It also retains its nutrients for up to two years (source)

 Fats/Oil/vinegar - canola, olive, coconut, sesame seed - vinegar : balsamic, rice wine, apple cider - butter - cooking oil spray Tip: Smoke point is very important to consider when it comes to choosing oil in cooking because heating oil above its smoke point (the temperature at which the oil begins to smoke) produces toxic fumes and harmful free radicals. The more refined the oil, the higher its smoke point. Choose oil with high smoke point such as sunflower, light olive, or almond oil for deep frying, searing, and browning while medium-high smoke point canola, peanut, or extra virgin olive oil is better for baking or stir frying. When it comes to light sautéing, sauces and low-heat baking, choose corn, coconut, sesame. For more detail click here.

Spice Rack: I have a collection of spices that includes both whole and ground herbs/spices : cumin, coriander, anise, red chili, cinnamon, bay leaves, turmeric, garlic powder, basil, oregano, Italian spice mix, taco seasoning, table salt, sea salt, cardamom, black pepper etc and a whole section of pre-made Indian spices and it only keeps on growing!  Tip: Avoid premixed seasonings as much as possible as they are very high in sodium. If a recipe calls for tablespoon of fresh herbs - use about 1 teaspoon of dried herbs. Start with little spices/herbs in the recipe and adjust as necessary.

Dried fruits/Nuts/Seeds

- cranberries, cherries - almond, peanuts - chia seeds, sunflower seeds - peanut butter, all natural or homemade Tip: they are great add-ons for a snack, toppings on oatmeal, as a trail mix, with yogurt. Add a tablespoon of chia seeds to your smoothies & cereal for omega 3's and fiber.

Sweetener - table-sugar - brown sugar - Stevia packets - pure maple syrup - whole box of sweetener from Nu Naturals - Honey  Tip: table-sugar, honey, brown sugar, maple syrup, or agave - they all are sweeteners, have similar effect on our blood sugars, and provide similar amount of calories. Honey and agave nectar have a lower glycemic index than regular sugar. This means that regular sugar will raise blood glucose a little faster than if you were to have an equal amount of honey.  However, the rate at which these sweeteners increase blood glucose changes depending on what foods they are eaten with and several other factors (source). Use sweetners as sparingly as possible. Recommendation is 6 teaspoons for women and 9 teaspoon for men.

Crackers/Chips/Chocolate: varies but there is always some sort of crackers and dark chocolate lurking around.

Baking Basket is dedicated to things I use regularly for baking such as baking powder, vanilla/coconut extract, powdered sugar, melting chocolate, chocolate chips, shredded coconut etc.

If you are a newbie in the kitchen and the world of cooking, it's okay if you do not have a fully stock pantry yet - don't feel like you have to have everything I listed above. Start slow and depending upon your preferences, budget, and experience with cooking try with 1-2 different grains, grab two or three different canned beans, slowly build your spice rack and soon before you know it - you will be cooking delicious meals at the comfort of your own kitchen. I hope this helps to get your pantry stocked a little bit more and inspire you to start cooking! Until My Refrigerator Essentials - have some fun at the grocery store exploring :)

-what are some of your pantry essentials?