10 Things to Keep in Your Pantry if You Want to Make Healthy Meals Fast

The better your kitchen is stocked, the more choices you will have at dinnertime. Here is a list of 10 things to keep in your pantry if you want to make healthy meals fast.  Most are shelf-stable, but a few require refrigeration.

10 Things to Keep in Your Pantry if You Want to Make Healthy Meals Fast

  1. Canned or aseptic pack beans: versatile and convenient. Beans like chickpeas, kidney, cannellini and black beans add protein and nutrients to salads, pastas, quinoa or rice dishes and soups. Puree them to make dressings, sauces, and dips. For veggie burgers, mix with cooked rice or quinoa, mushrooms, sunflower seeds, or nuts.  Mash, shape and bake until crisp on the edges.  The recipe here is one of my favorites – if you try it, post a picture to Facebook or Instagram and tag me!
  2. Bottled/Jarred pasta sauce: great for a quick and easy pasta meal (avoid hidden sugar by reading labels!) To make sauces taste fresh, sauté minced garlic in olive oil, add the sauce and simmer. Season with dried herbs like cumin, smoked paprika and cayenne. Top with fresh basil.  A splash of wine can deepen flavor further.
  3. Quick-cooking grains and pastas: rice noodles, kelp noodles, konjac noodles, quinoa, pre-cooked brown rice, chickpea pasta, soba (buckwheat) noodles. Toss with olive oil or sauce.  Cold noodle salads with peanut sauce, sliced veggies, and torn basil.  Add to broth with a baby spinach for a quick soup.
  4. Oats: Blend oats with water to make creamy oat milk.  Mix with an equal amount of water before bed and you will have breakfast ready to go. Roll oats with nut butter and hemp seeds to form snack balls.
  5. Cooked polenta: available in a log shape that you can open and slice. Great topped with marinara sauce, chili or sautéed greens and veggies.  Polenta can be cut into crouton shapes, baked until crispy and used as a crunchy topper for salads and soups!
  6. Hemp hearts: Neutral, almost nutty tasting plant protein with healthy omega-3 fats and micronutrients. Blend with water for hemp milk or a smoothie base.  Make dips and dressings by blending with a little water until smooth.  Season with salt, pepper, and herbs for a variety of flavors!  Sprinkle on salads.  Mix with herbs and sprinkle on pasta for a cheese alternative.
  7. Boxed coconut milk: I love boxed coconut milk for a couple of reasons.  First, it is easy to separate the coconut cream from the coconut water.  Coconut cream makes a quick dessert topping sweetened with a little stevia or maple syrup.  Make a yogurt substitute by mixing coconut cream with a squeeze of lemon juice and the contents of a probiotic capsule.  The versatility does not stop there.  Coconut milk can be blended with any fruit you have on hand to make a simple smoothie.  It is a great addition to a lemony broth for noodles; just add a sprinkle of chili pepper for a Thai inspired noodle dish!  Add curry powder and a bit of plain tomato sauce for a delightful curry sauce that you will want to lick off the spoon! (The brand I linked is my favorite – no additives or preservatives.)
  8. Coconut wraps: A shelf-stable pantry alternative to tortillas. Make burritos, fajitas, and quesadillas.  Use them for wrap sandwiches, layered casseroles, or super thin and crispy pizzas.
  9. Jarred artichoke hearts: These tender veggies have great flavor and can elevate a dish from familiar to fancy!  Drain, rinse, and eat.  Add them to pasta, salads, or toss with beans to make a simple meal.
  10. Nuts: Walnuts, pistachios, almonds, pecans, cashews… Add these to salads. Blend with beans for a creamy dip or dressing.  Chop fine and add to veggie burger mix for better texture.  Make nut milk.  Blend with broth and white beans for a creamy soup.  Chop and mix with minced mushrooms, onion, and taco seasoning for an easy raw taco “meat.”

 

Build Your Pantry

Take the stress out of mealtime.  Start building your pantry.  Adding shelf-stable items that are versatile can make mealtime a breeze.  It is also a comfort to have staples on hand that are not only nourishing but also tasty.  Start with these 10 things to keep in your pantry if you want to make healthy meals fast.  Check back for the next blog in this series that will share fridge and freezer basics.

 

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I love helping to take the stress out of mealtimes!  If you have not already, signup for my mailing list below to get exclusive recipes and more simple strategies like this list of pantry staples.  I want to help you use nutrition to support and improve your health.  We are in this together!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Six Tips to Keep You Safe and Savvy in the Kitch

Six Tips to Keep You Safe and Savvy in the Kitch

When you think about kitchen safety, your mind may jump to burns and cuts, and while those certainly are serious, I want to share some insights that will help keep you safe.  Prep, storage and surfaces are as important to kitchen safety as knowing how to work around flames.  So… let’s dig into my top 6 tips for kitchen safety:

My Top 6 Kitchen Safety Tips

1. Clean Up
Ensure your foods and surfaces are free of germs, pesticides & toxic chemicals by using natural cleaning products.  Bacteria and viruses can live on surfaces for a surprisingly long time: Research shows that Salmonella and Campylobacter survive for short periods of around 1 to 4 hours on hard surfaces or fabrics. Norovirus and C. difficile, however, can survive for much longer. In one study, C. difficile was shown to survive for 5 months. Norovirus can survive for days or weeks on hard surfaces!  

Washing fruits and veggies before you eat them not only takes care of surface dirt and dust, but can safely wash away many germs too. Unfortunately, things like E.Coli cannot be washed away.   Dr. Robert Brackett, the Director of the Institute for Food Safety and Health at the Illinois Institute of Technology explains, “once the bacteria have attached themselves to the surface of a vegetable, they become much harder to kill.”  When bacteria attach to a surface, they produce a substance called “biofilm,” which encases the bacteria in a sort of shell and helps them stick to whatever they’ve latched onto. Biofilm keeps the bacteria from being washed away and also protects them from chemicals that could kill them.  In other words, adding a few drops of bleach to the water you use to wash vegetables will kill any bacteria in the water but won’t do much to the bacteria on the vegetables.

E. coli doesn’t just sit around on the surface of vegetables, either. The bacteria can also penetrate into the interior tissues of the plant, where nothing can reach them. 

So, the bottom line is that you can and should wash your produce… but there are some things that even washing won’t fix.  Good growing practices, transportation and storage all help. 

Hand washing is also key to safe and healthy cooking!  Washing with soap and water for 15-30 seconds should remove 90-100% of any bacteria and dirt on your hands.  Be sure to lather up AND use a rubbing/scrubbing motion on your palms, top of your hand, between fingers and under your finger nails.  The physical action of washing is as necessary as the soap, so think of good hand washing as a coordinated effort between soap and action!  In a pinch, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer can help you kill pathogens on your skin… but hand washing is always preferred!

As far as surfaces and produce, this is what I do:

  • I like this spray for counters but I also make my own counter cleaner with raw apple cider vinegar and hydrogen peroxide.
  • I use this wash to get my produce clean and free of waxes and pesticides. I rinse with this or soak hard-skinned fruits & vegetables in a bowl of cool water to which I’ve added a splash of raw apple cider vinegar and some baking soda.

 

2. Choose Safe Materials
Cutting boards come in various materials and in many cute shapes and sizes.  Use the wrong material, though, and you risk getting sick.  Therefore, let’s talk about what materials make for safe cutting boards.  BPA free plastics are one option, and there are companies that make cute colored ones that are popular.  I prefer tempered glass and while some people may wonder about durability, I’ll tell ya that my favorite board was a wedding gift almost 22 years ago!  Go glass, I say!  It’s eco-friendly to boot!  Wood is my second choice.  Bamboo is a renewable and sustainable option.  I like olive wood and maple boards too for veggies, fruits, nuts and grains.

 

  • When prepping raw meats or fish, it’s important to use a non-porous cutting board.  This is the non-porous board I use in my kitchen.
  • Wood boards are great for preparing veggies, fruits, nuts and grains.  I love this board!

3. Respect Raw

Raw, whole foods should be a part of every healthy diet.  With a little know-how, you can ensure that what you’re eating is as safe and healthy as it can be!

Raw veggies:
According to the Virginia Cooperative Extension, “Once microorganisms contaminate fresh produce, they are difficult to wash off. Therefore, it is important to prevent contamination in the first place! Washing (with clean running water) can reduce the number of bacteria on produce by 99 percent; however, this does not guarantee that no pathogens are present. Pathogens, even at low numbers, can still cause illness. Using proper temperature control and cleaning and sanitation practices can reduce your risk of foodborne illness.” (source: https://www.pubs.ext.vt.edu/content/dam/pubs_ext_vt_edu/FST/FST-234/FST-234-PDF.pdf)

 

Raw meats and seafood:
Meat and seafood should be wrapped separately and transported home from the market in it’s own bag. Once home, keep one shelf or one set of storage containers specifically for your raw meats and seafood.  While I am plant-based, my family enjoys some animal protein, so I am careful to follow this rule — lots of fresh veggies, greens and fruits go through our fridge so I need to be sure that it’s a safe, clean environment.

General rules:

  • Do not wash produce until you are ready to eat it.  Washing and then refrigerating adds moisture that can cause the produce to rot or harbor bacteria.
     
  • Refrigerate perishable produce (such as strawberries, leafy greens, precut and ready-to-eat bagged produce, etc.) in a clean refrigerator at 41 F or below to maintain quality and safety.

     

  • Discard produce if it has not been refrigerated within four hours after cutting, peeling, or
    cooking.

     

  • Store raw produce on shelves or in bins above meats, poultry, and seafood to reduce the risk of cross-contamination from dripping juices.

     

  • To maintain freshness and quality, place your produce in perforated bags when refrigerating.  These cotton mesh ones are what I use (they wash beautifully and last!)

     

  • Store produce that does not require refrigeration on a clean countertop or in a cupboard or pantry out of direct sunlight.  Farmer’s Almanac created a list of foods that don’t need to be in the fridge — read it here.

     

  • Separate the produce that releases ethylene gas during ripening (such as apples, pears, bananas, and mangoes) from other produce to extend its shelf life by preventing premature spoilage. This can be done by placing it in a separate refrigerator bin or by storing those fruits in “green bags” or “green bins” like these…

Tip:  I bring a cooler that has a couple of big frozen ice packs in it when I go to the market in the summer.  Makes it easy to store perishable foods for the trip home while keeping them cold.

4. Take Care of Leftovers

  • Refrigerate or Freeze Leftovers Promptly — to reduce the chance of bacteria growing, get your leftovers into the fridge or freezer within two hours of preparation (or one hour on days over 90º F). Any perishable foods sitting out at room temperature for longer than two hours should be discarded.
  • Reduce Temperature of Hot Foods Quickly — this discourages bacterial growth. To speed the cooling process, separate large quantities of leftovers into smaller containers. It is okay to place hot leftovers directly into a properly operating refrigerator, provided large quantities have been divided into shallow containers for quicker cooling. Leave hot foods partially uncovered while cooling, and then cover them completely once they reach 40º F or freeze.
  • Reheating — When reheating leftovers, get the internal temperature to at least 165º F before eating it. If using a microwave, stir the food periodically to help promote even reheating. Frozen leftovers can be thawed in the refrigerator for reheating later. You can also use a microwave to thaw frozen leftovers if the food will be consumed right away.
  • 3-day/3-month rule — If you haven’t eaten your refrigerated leftovers within 3 days, toss them.  For frozen leftovers, 3 months is the general rule of thumb.

5. Stay Sharp!

When my dad was teaching me how to cook, one of the first lessons was knife safety and knife care.  Respect is the name of the game with a knife.  I recommend having these knives (I use the first 3 regularly, but you may want the 4th!):

1. Chef’s Knife  (8” or 10″ — or both) — this is what I use for most prep work.

2. Paring Knife  (3”) — perfect for small jobs like hulling and slicing a strawberry, or peeling an apple. It’s also a good knife to have children use when they first start learning to work with knives – it allows their little hands to have more control.

This set of 4 utility paring knives will fast become your favorite in the kitchen!

3. Long Serrated Bread Knife — um… perfect for slicing bread… and exceptional for slicing tomatoes!  This one is light-weight and durable.

4. Slicing/Carving Knife (10”) — this is the one that I have but don’t use much.  If you cook meats, you will want this as it slices and carves better than the others.

 

I hope my Six Tips to Keep You Safe and Savvy in the Kitch help you enjoy season after season of safe, satisfying kitchen time. 

Healthy happens here… healthy food choices, healthy connections… it’s all self-care when you boil it down.

Now, if you’d like to enjoy some recipes to highlight the last of the fresh summer produce I’d like to offer you the opportunity to explore my favorite tasty summer dishes, cleanse your body and relax your mind with my signature Summer Cleanse.  Even though the days are not quite as hot as midsummer, the body can use the bounty of nutrition still coming from our summer gardens, Farmer’s markets and CSA’s! Let me help you take the guesswork out of health!

The Fall Detox/Whole Food Cleanse begins October 3rd and doors will be opening soon.  In the meantime, give your body the gift of summer loving with the Summer Detox —   I think it’s the perfect 7-day plan for these late Summer days!  Enjoy $30 off the Summer program in this End of Season FLASH SALE (only available until 9/18/19!)  Scoop it up for $67 for the next two weeks only! 

While you’re waiting for the Fall program to open, join me for a delicious blend of smoothies, juices, soups, salads, snacks, desserts, and other simple, satisfying, nourishing recipes.  Besides the tasty food, your digestive system will enjoy much-needed summer vacation and restoration.  You’ll release some of that BBQ bloat and the inflammation brought on by the summer ice cream stands!  You deserve to feel lighter heading into Fall.  So, join me for this fabulous week of recipes and coaching.  Let’s get together and get our glow on!

We all need a little of that!

 

Get the Summer Reset before time runs out!

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