Sunday, February 3, 2013

Stock the Pantry: Out with the Old, In with the New

Commitment is key to any practice. Supporting a vegetable based, whole grain kitchen requires the same clarity and expediency that any kitchen does. There is no point in forcing yourself to bypass the mayonnaise each time you reach into the refrigerator.

After our decision was made that first morning, we began immediately. The next day we weeded out everything in the kitchen that we were no longer going to need. This meant anything with wheat gluten in it, oil, high fructose corn syrup, sugars and dairy products. We kept one very nice bottle of olive oil, one of roasted sesame oil, and what was left of our whole wheat flour and (delicious molasses-rich) brown sugar, along with a couple bottles of store bought salad dressings, and some powdered nonfat milk. That made us feel that we were able to accommodate others who might want "real" milk in coffee or sugar in their oatmeal. Out with the mayo! Amazed at the amount of bread, including in the freezer, pasta, crackers, oils, cereal, salad dressings, yogurt, cheeses, eggs and such, we decided to give them away.

The new team in the kitchen must have flavors and textures ready to go. We invested in some new items as well as replacing old ones, buying Mirin, Ume Plum Vinegar, Black Vinegar, Low Sodium Organic Tamari, unsweetened soy milk, vanilla almond milk, good balsamic vinegar, Brown Rice Wine Vinegar, and seaweed Gomasio. We use our own tarragon vinegar (just put several sprigs of washed fresh tarragon into a  corkable dark glass bottle of white distilled vinegar and let it sit a while) for salad dressings too. Read the labels, some sauces have surprising ingredients.
Then we made sure we had some new flours along with our usual texturized vegetable protein, real maple syrup and cornmeal, we bought the coarse meal that I used in the polenta, chickpea flour, brown rice flour, Teff flour (a real experiment to use this Moroccan favorite), fresh tahini, agave syrup,  dry roasted almonds, fresh walnut pieces, unsalted roasted sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, an extra jar of peanut butter, fresh horseradish, and several new types of hot sauce.
Along with a wide variety of fresh perishables, like vegetables and tofu in different textures, it is critical that you have a ready supply of onions, garlic, winter squash, potatoes of various types (red or yukon gold, russets for baking, sweet potato), and materials that will make delicious smoothies for a quick breakfast. My husband is up at 5:15AM and though he does still have his cereal, he will alternate with a smoothie made with almond milk, that might have kiwi, banana, strawberry, blueberry, apple, cucumber, plus a heaping tablespoon of vegetable-based protein powder. Some would prefer a more pungent smoothie with spinach and kale, ginger and beets, but so far, my guy likes his a little sweet.

Of course you will need an array of foods you like to eat, and some to try out. We made sure we had green, red and Le Puy lentils, along with many types of dry and organic low-salt beans. For us that includes lots of black beans, limas, dark red kidney beans, garbanzo beans (chick peas), adzuki beans, navy beans, cannelloni beans, and mung beans. Don't forget the whole grain rices! You can use brown basmati, short and long grain brown rice, and we went ahead and got sushi rice too, along with Canadian wild rice, and a gorgeous heirloom black rice. Our recent discovery is farro, an Italian grain that is an early form of wheat without much if any of the gluten that seems to trouble so many people. This has made for lots of fun and it all tastes great. It's good to have a wide range of motion to start with, as you will be discovering what you like better and best.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, nor must you ever have all of these particular things, or all of them at once. That said, it is VERY IMPORTANT that you supply yourself over the first couple of weeks with the materials that will make this easier to do. There were truly NO moments so far in this first month when I have stood in the kitchen and felt that I had nothing to work with. The hardest part is sometimes keeping it simple, to grate that daikon radish on that arugula, throw on some pomegranate seeds and leave it just like that!

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