Stocking Your Pantry with Whole Foods
What a glorious fall it has been here in Upstate New York! The beauty of the leaves along the bright blue sky that only this time of year is lucky to hold has been up-lifting. Of course we have had the reminder that beauty can’t be constant; the rain reminds us to appreciate the warmth of the sun that much more when it shines through. That warmth will soon be a distant memory that even the animals can predict. They are busy this time of year: the bees getting that last bit of pollen from the occasional flower that has yet gone to seed, the squirrels finding walnuts and acorns to bring back to their nests, the bluejays hiding seeds as treasures that only they will remember, and the chipmunks with cheeks full of winter provisions. Are you too stocking your pantry for the coming winter?
Summer spoils us with the possibility of fresh ingredients. Being able to give your spice rack a rest and readily use fresh picked herbs in your marinades and dressings is quite a treat. We won’t be afforded that luxury over the winter. While making your own marinades, dressings, spice and herb mixes, tea blends, and even herbal medicines takes some work and planning, there are many advantages to stocking these things from the wilds in your pantry to use throughout the year. Below is a list of some basic things to stock a whole foods based pantry.
- Keep a good supply of herbs and spices. Dry your own herbs, make your own blends, buy them already made in the store… it’s up to you, but spices and herbs are always the missing “something” between a dish that is average to a dish that your hungry guests are devouring. Although dried, spices and herbs have many medicinal properties such as anti-inflammatories to longevity. Experiment. Get familiar with the basic herbs and spices (parsley, oregano, thyme, rosemary, sage, basil, marjoram, savory, chives, cilantro, chili powder, cayenne, turmeric, cumin, paprika, coriander, clove, cardamom) and all that they can do for your meals.
- A variety of vinegars, oils, flavorings and fats. Cooking with the right fat is a huge deal. Over-heating or burning fats causes them to oxidize, wreaking havoc to our health when consumed. Personally I use animal fats for cooking (and always the like animal it came from- tallow, pork lard, duck fat, and schmaltz), palm or coconut oil for baking (these oils can withstand the heat of the baking temperatures), and olive, avocado or sesame oil for flavoring (these oils cannot be heated over low cooking temperatures without oxidizing. Other oils such as canola, sunflower, safflower, peanut, and the like have been shown in many research studies to undergo oxidation through their processing and therefore I strictly avoid these unstable fats. A variety of vinegars can always add a little zin to meals and zang to your side dishes. A nice cooking wine is the reason your braised beef burgundy will wow your dinner date. And real flavoring extracts turn muffins, pancakes, breads, and overnight oats into memorable brunches.
- Staying saucy and keeping condiments. These are two areas in which I make an effort to keep these homemade. Some I trade with friends like pasta and Alfredo sauce, honey, maple syrup, mayo, and a tangy bar-b-q sauce. Others I keep stocked because they are frequently used in something or by someone in my home: coconut aminos (or soy sauce), teriyaki sauce, Worcestershire sauce, different mustards, horseradish sauce, and ketchup.
- Legumes, grains, and the miscellaneous stuff. This area could be a huge list depending on your family’s preferences. Personally we keep a variety of rice from basmati to wild, oats, lentils or beans to through in soups or chilis, shredded coconut, flax and chia seeds, cans of coconut milk and cream, nut butters, different flours and corn meal, coconut sugar (we mainly use honey and maple syrup to sweeten things), nutritional yeast, collagen and gelatin powder, tomato paste, and maybe a few cans of tuna, sardines, and salmon.
Start a check-list, take inventory, and make a plan to buy things over the next few weeks. Hang and dry fresh herbs to process and use within a few weeks. Getting organized and stocked now is a huge advantage. No one wants to run to the store for that missing item during a nor-easter and with the possibility of the upcoming food shortages, you have even more reason to follow nature’s lead and prepare for winter.
This post was written by our friend Amy Carlson, a nutritionist from Good Guts Wellness. If you want to know more about Amy, check out goodgutswellness.com.