Has your pantry been collecting dust? As summer turns to fall, our attention turns from the sunny immediacy of fresh summer produce to the cool darkness of the winter pantry. It’s the perfect time to turn your cupboard from a storage area for long forgotten and outdated foods to a health reservoir for inspiring meals. Take a peek inside my pantry and get excited about cooking this fall!
Beans and Legumes
Whether they are canned or dried, bean and legumes are an important staple in a balanced diet. They are an excellent protein source and are also high in soluble fiber and iron. Whether you are a home cook or you are looking for meals on the fly, beans are simple and satisfying. Some of my favorites include black beans, pinto beans, garbanzo beans, Great Northern beans, and lentils of all colors and sizes!
Alongside beans and legumes, whole grains offer many important nutrients. They are especially rich in B vitamins, which play a large role in metabolism. Grains also offer a great source of insoluble fiber, a fiber that helps bulk stool and clean the colon. In combination with a bean or legume, grains form a complete protein. Most importantly they are versatile, being utilized in both sweet and savory dishes. Delicious gluten-free grains include gluten-free oats, quinoa, millet, corn, buckwheat, amaranth, and brown and wild rice. Some tasty grains that are not gluten free include wheat berries, bulgur, spelt berries, and farro.
Nuts and Seeds
A nutritionist pantry would not be complete without a whole host of different nuts and seeds. These small and delicious fruits of nature are powerhouses of nutrition, stocked full of healthy fats, protein, fiber, and minerals. However, because raw nuts are full of unsaturated fats, they can easily become rancid. Rancid oils can increase inflammation in the body, which underlies many disease states. However, by storing your nuts in an airtight container in the refrigerator you can not only increase their shelf life but also maintain their quality. My go-to stash includes almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, cashews, pistachios, flaxseeds, hempseeds, chia seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, and last but not least pumpkin seeds.
Flours and Sweeteners
Whether you are gluten-free or not, there are many wonderful flours to stock in your pantry. Because whole flours are simply ground up grains, they too can be susceptible to rancidity if exposed to light, air, or heat. Therefore it is important to keep your lesser-used flours in the freezer, or if used more often in an airtight bag, container, or jar in your pantry. Some of my favorite gluten-free flours include brown rice flour, ground almond meal, garbanzo flour, sorghum flour, and a simple gluten-free mix. Some more common whole-grain gluten flours include whole-wheat flour, spelt flour, and rye flour.
As for sweeteners, I love to have organic maple syrup, agave nectar, raw local honey, coconut sugar, coconut nectar, brown rice syrup and medjool dates on hand. Each has their own unique flavor and baking capabilities.
Besides nuts and seeds, quick easy snacks that incorporate a balance of hearty grains, protein, and fat usually are the best. A great example would be a Zing Bar! Dried fruit such as unsweetened mangos, dates, or raisins are also great to have on hand. Whole grain organic corn chips and rice cakes topped with cheese or peanut butter are quick and easy for snacks. Seaweeds, which are rich in trace minerals, can also be incorporated as part of a healthy snack. These cucumber sesame seaweed snacks are easy and delicious.
Who’s inspired to wipe those dusty shelves clean and start your fall cooking and baking?
All photos by Selva Wohlgemuth
Zing intern Selva Wohlgemuth is working on her Master’s degree in Nutrition from Bastyr University. She is an avid cook and blogger, and you can find out about her latest culinary adventures and see more of her food photography at Poppies and Papayas.