Guest Author - Jason Hodge
I was recently asked to do an article on staple items for the vegetarian lifestyle; and although this serves more as a concentrated list of those items to consider, I think it fits the bill of giving you a great platform to create a limitless array of dishes. Here's what I keep on hand at home.
Flax seed Oil & Udo's Blend - a combo of omega 3s, 6s & 9s that you can add to your dressings, smoothies, entrees, etc. It tastes great and supplies you with the good fats you need for a healthy system.
I'm talking toasted sesame seed, walnut, olive oils, pumpkin seed, avocado, grape seed, peanut, almond, etc. Let your imagination run wild and then run with it!
Try these on for size: whole oats, millet, quinoa, amaranth, wild rice, brown basmati & other rices, teff, barley, emmer, buckwheat, etc. Some of them may sound different, if you're not use to them, but the flavors they bring will absolutely blow your mind. Before you get too creative with them, try by simply cooking them like you would rice. Once you get the hang of their qualities you can venture off their beaten paths.
Nuts & Seeds
almonds, pepitas [pumpkin], squash, sesame, flax, salba, chia, sunflower, apricot kernel, brazil, filberts, cashews, pecans, walnuts, pignolias [pine nuts], etc.
adzuki, mung, black, navy, fava, kidney, limas, peas, lentils, garbanzos, peanuts, pigeon peas, pinto, peruano, northern, black eye peas, etc.
I'm about to give you a shocker... I'm not only talking your wheat pastas... We rarely use wheat pasta in our house; instead, we use yam, buckwheat, rice, mung bean, occasionally wheat & etc.
I like to keep them on hand for many reasons. They're great for smoothies, an excellent cleanser and nourisher of the digestive tract, a low GI [glycemic index] and GL [glycemic load] food and they can be consumed in their three stages [green, yellow and speckled
I like seaweed for their trace minerals and when I'm making something taste like seafood, they're invaluable. I usually find them at the Asian markets I frequent and some of the health food stores.
They make meat substitutes, are packed full of helpful nutrients and or system supports, go well in sauces, soups, loaves, stuffed things, dressings, etc. They're versatile like you wouldn't believe and have a vast flavor profile.
You'd be surprised of the things you can fudge when you have the right seasonings on hand! All you need when you're trying to mimic a favorite dish is the right textures and the right seasonings; so great seasonings tend to be our most important and widely used investment. We make sure we keep all sorts of seasonings on hand and we use them liberally. We are definitely multicultural in our approach to seasonings, but that's thanks to the West Indian in me.
We use a lot of onions and shallots in our cuisine. They're not a requirement, but a preference for us. We lov'em!
We love the Thai Kitchen brand - regular and lite and also, for convenience sake use Trader Joe's brand, which we tend to think is a Thai Kitchen private label anyway.
[tomato, tamarind, curry, olive, apricot, garlic, plum, etc.] You never know when you'll need to make a great sauce base and there's nothing like having good quality, unique pastes on-hand to create a series of signature dishes.
Apple Cider Vinegar
We keep this on hand in our house for a few reasons: flavor, enzymes & potassium. We like its addition to dressings, desserts, drinks, etc. Its got great health benefits wrapped up in a tasty package.
Salts come in many different flavors, hues and regions. Start going through your market and every so often buy a new salt to play with. see if you can distinguish between their subtleties. You'll be blown away at how unique they truly are and discover a multitude of applications to use them in. You may even try them unheated over a nice plate of greens.
Sugar comes from many sources. Each sugar has its own nuance and benefit. We like to keep as many natural sugars on hand to give us a wide road to travel on. Sugars, like salts, have their own unique qualities. Some of them are very earthy and grounded anchoring the dishes they are used in to geography; others are lite, airy and non-committal and are more ubiquitous in their approaches and 'impartations'. Try them out and see which ones work best for you.
We tend to keep tofu on hand for those times we want to go that direction. We get organic in the extra firm, firm, regular, soft and silken and use it in different applications.
Frozen veggies and fruits are a fixture in our freezer for those times when our garden hasn't put out any greens and we want to be able to reach for something we don't have to take too much time prepping. They're great for smoothies, sauces, casseroles, etc.
I hope all of this helps you all stock up your pantries, fridges and freezers with 'the goods'. Let me know if you have any other questions.
As always, it's been my pleasure to write for you and help prepare your journey up this vegetarian ladder. Until next time...