The DeLish Bite

Lindsay Evans blogs about food, entertaining and her favourite recipes for Green Living.

What to stock in your whole food pantry.

Trying to keep an eco-friendly and healthy kitchen can sometimes be challenging. Of course, there are some people who find the time to shop daily for fresh produce and meats and prepare from-scratch meals each night. But most of us have to pull a meal together with little or no time to spare (and rarely a fridge full of fresh ingredients).

Planning ahead and keeping certain pantry items on hand can make all the difference between a speedy home-cooked meal and takeout. By stocking these essential ingredients, you’ll avoid supper-time panic and be able to pull together quick meals that are good for you, your family and the environment. Here are my tips on what to stock in a green pantry.

Quinoa, Organic Whole Grains and Rice: Although all grains are staples in a green pantry, quinoa is worth a special mention. It is a complete protein which can substitute for less sustainable proteins, such as red meat. Compared to other grains, quinoa is a richer source of calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, iron, copper, manganese and zinc. It’s a great addition to endless foods, including stews, curries, salads and pilafs. Other essential grains include bulgur, barley, brown rice and wild rice.

Whole Grain Pasta: Thankfully we’ve moved past a time when pasta was considered “bad” for us. With so many organic, whole wheat, whole grain and multigrain varieties to choose from, it makes for a multitude of quick and healthy dinner options. For those who cannot tolerate wheat, opt for spelt and other gluten-free pasta varieties.

Organic Canned Tomatoes: Organic canned tomatoes are a must in any green pantry. There are so many varieties to choose from (think whole, plum, chopped, diced, pureed, paste and sauce), which can translate into so many speedy and nutrient-packed suppers. I always have a can of San Marzano tomatoes on hand so that I can create one of my favorite dishes, a Spanish chickpea and chorizo soup. An added bonus? Tomatoes are a rich source of lycopene, an antioxidant, which may help prevent cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Organic Lentils and Beans: Beans are a wonderful addition to any diet, especially vegetarian and vegan diets, because they are an excellent source of protein. Adzuki beans in particular have the highest levels of protein and lowest levels of fat of all bean varieties. Beans are a rich source of potassium, fiber, B vitamins, iron, zinc, and manganese. Create a warming red lentil soup, toss chickpeas into a Mediterranean salad with tomatoes and feta or create a hearty chili with adzuki, red kidney and black beans.

Sea Salt, Cracked Black Peppers and Spices: The designer salt, pepper and spice industry has exploded over the last couple of years. And, it’s for a good reason! These seasonings just make food taste better. And, with so many spice blends available today (Mexican, Indian, Italian, Mediterranean), it’s a cinch to whip up a vast array of spectacular and world cuisine-inspired dishes.

Onions, Garlic and Potatoes: Onions, garlic and potatoes are absolutely essential. They serve as the base for most great recipes including chili’s, stews, pastas, soups and even steamed veggies. Potatoes are a wonderful year-round staple that we Canadians are fortunate enough to be able to purchase locally. Varieties to look for at your farmers market include Yukon gold, white, red, mini white and red, purple and fingerling. My go-to potato is the Yukon gold, for its colour, buttery texture and versatility.

Organic Rolled Oats: Rolled oats are wholegrains that will keep you satisfied for long periods of time, making them perfect for a healthy breakfast. Toss homemade granola—one of my favourite breakfasts—or oatmeal with some vanilla yogurt and fresh berries or add oats to your favorite baked goods, including chocolate chip cookies, breads and even pancakes!

Nuts and Seeds: A good source of protein, essential fats, vitamins and minerals, nuts and seeds are a healthy high-energy food option. Keep a few containers in your pantry to add to salads, your morning cereal, baked goods and stir-fries. Choose from almonds, cashews, peanuts, Brazil nuts, walnuts, linseeds, sunflower seeds, flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds or sesame seeds. Although purchasing organic nuts and seeds is ideal, it is certainly not necessary if you are watching your wallet these days. A couple of tips? Buy your nuts and seeds in bulk to reduce cost and store them in your freezer to keep them fresh for longer! Photo credit: iStockphoto.com/lisablue