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Friday, January 28, 2011

My Pantry Secrets- A fresh start to the New Year


(My sister and I taking control of the kitchen)

This New Years I made a resolution to take the clutter out of my life. So where did I start? My kitchen, naturally. The first thing I did was tackle the pantry. Between finding 2 year old flour to discovering a jar of expensive oil to realizing I had 5 bags of identical chips buried under all the mess, cleaning my pantry felt so right. Now I can actually see what's in there. And while I was at it, I decided to substitute some staples for their healthier cousin. For example, I needed to stock up on a grain so I chose quinoa instead of white rice. You know, for that healthy new years resolution crap. If you haven't taken the moment to discover what is hidden deep inside your pantry this article is meant to encourage you and give you suggestions on what to stock up with.

Here's what I bought, tossed and always love to have on hand:

Out: Bottled lemon juice
In: Fresh Lemons - I use lemons on EVERYTHING! I squeeze them in my soups, sauces, salads, fruit, sauteed vegetables, fish and chicken. This is my most used and all time favorite ingredient. It really adds a complexity to just about anything.

Out: Dusty smelling spices
In: New spices- Do yourself a favor and throw out any spices that are over a year (or smell like they are) I know spices can be expensive but its better to use nothing than to season your food with dust.

Out: Fake pancake syrup
In: Real Maple syrup- You think this is the 80's? Sorry Aunt Jemima but you just don't cut it anymore. Especially now that we've found out the truth about corn syrup. Spend a little more $ and go for the real thing, it is SO worth it.

Out: Flour pasta
In: Quinoa pasta- As much as we don't like to admit it because it's so freaking good, we know pasta is nothing but empty carbs. And whole wheat pasta is just kinda nasty. Behold a miracle- quinoa pasta! Tastes very similar to regular pasta but is so good for you.

Out: Canned vegetables
In: Frozen vegetables- If you can't make it to the grocery store every 2 days for fresh produce go the frozen route. Canned veggies are soft, mushy, and lump. 3 words that are negative in more than one way.

Out: Grated Parmesan
In: Real Parmigiano Reggiano- If you wrap this properly it can keep for a year, (just scrape off mold). Great for making anything decadent and delicious from potatoes, salads, grilled veggies, pasta, apples, eggs or whatever you can think up.

Other things I like to keep on hand:
  • Nuts- Walnuts or pine nuts are great to have. Especially for impromptu pesto.
  • Miso paste- Whip yourself up a quick miso soup or make a paste with mirin vinegar and sesame seed oil to marinate fish. Life expectancy seems to be close to that of a twinkie.
  • Dried cranberries or currents- Whether I want to whip up scones, a spinach dish or a sweet sauce for chicken and duck these dried fruits are a must.
  • Capers- Love, love, love these. Pasta, chicken, fish- all great accompaniments to these salty little gems.
  • Canned coconut milk- I always have a can or two of these handy. Just add to some veggies, tofu/meat and curry powder and you have a complete meal.
  • Yeast- One of my favorite ingredients. Does wonders for tofu and popcorn
  • High end olive oil and vinegar- Mix with salt and lemon juice to make a far better tasting and healthier salad dressing than any you can buy.
  • Spike- Best seasoning ever! Use it on tofu, avocado, salads, and meat.
Here's to a happy healthy and ORGANIZED New Year!

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