my plant-based pantry staples

my plant-based pantry staples

Plant-based pantry staples

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During the short time that we had lived in Ireland, I had a lot of time on my hands.  Maybe too much time on my hands. (Que Styx). So one thing I liked to do was to walk to the nearby library a few times a week, hang out there and read, and check out books.  One day I started browsing the cookbook section.  Now before this particular day, I’m not sure how many cookbooks I had cracked open.  Maybe three in my entire life.  But something made me stop and reach for a cookbook.   When I got home I started looking through it and wrote down the recipes that I thought Adam and I might like or the ones that had the most appetizing pictures.

In almost every recipe, there was at least one ingredient that I had never heard of before. Some were hard to find at the grocery store, and at times I wondered if I really needed it for the recipe, or if I could simply substitute it with something less fancy-sounding, or leave it out all together.  Nutritional yeast? Blackstrap molasses? Kombu? Agar agar?  How important were these things to the recipe and what actually were they, anyways?

With no prior cooking experience I felt at times frustrated (why did the recipe not turn out?), overwhelmed (I don’t even know what half of these ingredients are!), excited (my first quiche!)….and the list goes on.

But now, after a number years of cooking a healthy plant-based diet, I’ve settled on a system to how I stock my pantry, and I’d like to share it with you today.

Keep in mind that there are some items that may not be on the list below, but I’m just including the ones that we eat most often.

Helpful tip:

When I’m not following a recipe, my typical meal consists of a mixture of one grain, one legume, a couple of veggies, and some nuts or seeds, the last two which are most often blended with a milk or water to make a sauce.

Grains

Grains are a huge staple in my plant-based diet.  I’d say 95% of my meals contain at least one grain.  I always try to rotate the ones I eat as to avoid boredom as well as make sure I get a complete source of protein.

Always on hand:

Quinoa (technically not a grain but included here anyways), brown and white rice, bulgur, pasta (whole wheat, white, and others such as lentil, buckwheat, rice, etc.)

Used less often: Couscous, buckwheat, millet, amaranth, spelt

Legumes

Legumes include beans and lentils.  With at least one meal a day I try to add a legume to the meal in some form or other.  If I had to choose just one of each it would probably be chickpeas and red lentils, but they are all so tasty and versatile!  You can find them in cans, bulk, or in plastic bags.  For me, bulk is the most ideal as you can take as much or as little as you like, and you avoid the plastic.  But sometimes I will buy in cans, just be sure to rinse them.  If they’re not canned and pre-cooked, be sure to soak them-I like to soak them overnight. Read more about soaking times here.

Always on hand:

Beans: Canellini, Broad, Kidney, Chickpeas (garbanzo beans), Black

Lentils: Beluga, red, French/green lentils

Used less often:

Beans: Mung, Adzuki, soy,

Lentils: yellow, brown

Superfoods

I don’t make it a point to buy that many superfoods.  One they are so expensive, and two I seem to get along fine without them.  Depending on the superfood, I might add them to my breakfast smoothie or cereal (re: cacao powder/nibs, hemp seeds, chia seeds) or on top of my meal (re: nutritional yeast, chia, and hemp seeds)

Always on hand: Nutritional Yeast (not technically a superfood but still pretty super nonetheless), Cacao powder cacao nibs, hemp seeds, chia seeds

Used less often: Chlorella, spirulina, and maca powder are all a bit expensive and therefore I don’t buy them that often, however all three make great additions to smoothies and are a huge powerhouse of nutrients.

Nuts

I love toasting nuts in the oven or pan, or just soaking them before blending to make a sauce for a meal.  You can also sprout them!

Always on hand: cashews, almonds, walnuts

Used less often: pecans, pistachios, hazelnuts

Seeds

These little guys are great toasted as a snack or as toppings on salads-or really any dish!  Always make sure to buy them raw and not toasted.

Always on hand: sunflower, sesame, flax, pumpkin/pepita

Used less often: hmm….

Mock-meats

I don’t rely on substitute meats often, maybe once a week or every other week.

Always on hand: Tofu, vital wheat gluten (to make seitan)

Used less often: tempeh, lupin, jackfruit

Oils

Always check the smokepoint of an oil.  When an oil is heated too high, it has reached its smoke point and the structure will start to go cray cray, producing free radicals (which are bad for your health).

Always on hand: olive, flax, coconut

Used less often: Grapeseed, avocado, hemp (simply because of price and/or availability in Germany)

Vinegars

Vinegars add that tangy acidic flavor to a meal.  Tip: If you find yourself making a recipe that calls for white wine vinegar or rice vinegar and you don’t have it in your cupboard, you can sub in lemon for one of the two!

Always on hand: Apple cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar, white wine vinegar (used for pickling veggies)

Used less often: Rice vinegar, white wine vinegar

Seaweeds

I don’t always have them on hand, but the ones I use most often is nori or wakame to add to a salad.  I’ve also tried seaweed “noodles” which were…interesting.  They’re growing on me.

Flours

I try to use as little white flour as possible and instead reap the benefits from the other more nutritient-packed flours.  Be sure to never buy refined flours.  To get oat, buckwheat, or spelt flour, I simply grind the grains whole in my coffee grinder or in the blender and voila!

Always on hand: chickpea, spelt, whole wheat, oat

Used less often: buckwheat, white, almond

Sweeteners

I switched over from refined sugars to natural sweeteners a long time ago and have never looked back.  That means there is no white sugar in our pantry.  About 90% of the time I use maple syrup as my sweetener.

Always on hand: Maple Syrup, brown Rice Syrup, and sometimes brown cane sugar

Used less often: coconut sugar, dates, honey

Other ingredients to have on hand:

Light and dark Miso: Fermented grains or beans (usually from soy or rice) that are a great addition to sauces and marinades

Tamari Sauce: Soy sauce but with less salt

Agar agar: A vegan substitute for gelatin.  I don’t find myself using it very often, in fact I think I’ve used it just twice….

Arrowroot powder: Always have on hand. It can be used to thicken a sauce or coat tofu before frying in the pan.  A healthier substitute for cornstarch.

Baking soda and baking powder: always buy aluminum-free

Canned diced tomatoes I try to have at least 3-4 of these in my cupboard at all times!  Sometimes when I’m not sure what to do I’ll mix in a can or two with some grains and beans and call it a meal.

Black strap molasses:  You can read more about it here.  I often use it in baking, my morning cereal, and in smoothies.

A good mustard: I like Dijon with the little mustard grains in the jar if it’s to spread on a sandwich, otherwise plain Dijon mustard for sauces, dressings, etc.

Dried fruit:  Raisins, apricots, and dates.  They work well in energy bites and bars, and in granola.

My favorite plant-based cookbooks and blogs

My favorite plant-based cookbooks and blogs

My favorite plant-based bloggers and cookbooks

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A carrot cake.

That is the first recipe I made that I can remember myself feeling so proud of.  It was from the blog Love and Lemons.  It was one of my first real ventures in the kitchen, and I was making it for a potluck at a local cafe when we were living in France.  Everyone had the option of either bring a couple of euros or their own dessert to contribute.  The cafe was making the rest.  I love potlucks, and I love entertaining.    Making this cake was a big step for me, not just because it was a more difficult recipe for me at the time, but because I would be sharing it with people-others would be tasting my dish and giving me feedback.

With a whipped coconut frosting and a soft carroty inside, the other potluck attendees went crazy over it!  It wasn’t the fact that the recipe was my own that had me feeling so high and mighty (because, as I had said, it wasn’t), but that I actually had the courage to make something, and bring it to a dinner for others to taste! And, it actually tasted good. Better than good.  Heavenly.

That’s right, me, woman who once thought frosting consisted of butter and flour, had made a heavenly tasting cake.

BUT…..this post is not supposed to be about the cake.

It’s about the the time around that I had made said heavenly cake.

At that time, I was becoming ever so obssessed with looking at and discovering new food blogs and reading cookbooks.  I was so new to the whole plant-based food scene, and I could (and, um, did) spend hours bookmarking different sites and recipes.

Now I don’t want to take away any of the magic it is to discover a new favorite food blogger (much like discovering a new favorite song or band), but in case you don’t have time to search the internet for your new favorite blog or recipe, here are some of my favorite bloggers and cookbooks that could very well become your new favorites.  Enjoy!

My favorite cookbooks (in no particular order):

I’ve made note of my favorite recipes, as well as marked in parentheses if I thought the cookbook is early or intermediate, early being “look at these first if you have no experience” (like me when I first started out!), intermediate being “I pretty much know my way around the kitchen and am looking for a wider variety of recipes”.

The First Mess by Laura Wright (intermediate)

I just bought this book and am loving it so far.  Laura has a beautiful blog, and her cookbook is no different.  I have only cooked one dish in it so far (eggplant bacon), so I’ll tell you which ones I’m looking forward to cooking:  caramelized onion potato salad, eggplant “bolognese” pasta, and cauliflower and pine nut “ricotta” toasts.

Vegan Goodness by Jessica Prescott (beginner)

Jessica has a beautiful instagram and blog, both of which I follow.  I won her book from a contest a couple months back (yay! Still stoked about that) and have been able to try a few recipes since, not to mention the ones I have made on her blog.  My favorites: corn fritters, crispy cauliflower tacos (on her blog), and spring roll salad.

The Plantpower Way (intermediate)

Adam got this book for Christmas a few years back, and one month I decided to make about twenty of the recipes (so I know this cookbook pretty well).  I like this cookbook for the wealth of information and amazing pictures of the Rolls and their home and food, though it would definitely not be the first book I’d buy.  My favorite recipes:

My New Roots (early/intermediate)

This book is one of my top three I’d have to say, and I can’t wait to get my hands on her new book that came out this year!  If you’re not familiar with Sarah’s website, definitely give it a look and really, just go out and buy this book.  Or her new one.  Or both.  My favorite recipes:

The Oh She Glows Cookbook (early)

Another classic.  If you’re totally new to the plant-based world, I would start with this one.  She just came out with a new one as well which I’m still waiting to get my hands on, so I can’t officially comment on the level of it, but whatever the level I’m sure it’s great.  My favorite recipes:

Yum Universe by Heather Crosby (early)

If you’re looking for information why and how to eat a plant-based diet as well as an array of recipes, this is the book to turn to.  Favorite recipes: Buffalo roasted cauliflower, Banana Pancakes, and creamy broccoli and red pepper macaroni.  She also has a new cookbook out this year!

Vegan Richa’s Indian Kitchen by Richa Hingle (intermediate)

If you like Indian food, this is the cookbook to get.  I am pretty much obsessed with this book and her blog (which has more than just Indian food, by the way).  My favorite recipes are the Spicy South Indian Tofu Scramble, Royal Tofu and Cashews, and Tofu in Spinach Curry.

At home in the Whole Food Kitchen by Amy Chaplin (intermediate-advanced)

I love, love, love this cookbook.  The binding has broke, if that shows how much I’ve used it.  It was one of my first cookbooks I bought myself, however the recipes for me at that time were just a wee bit above my level.  I’d recommend having a little experience before diving in.  Her desserts are simply amazing (I like to call her the Queen of Tarts, both sweet and savory) and it’s really hard to narrow down my favorite to just three but here goes: herbed black quinoa muffins, squash blossom orecchiette, and coconut curry with tamarind tempeh and forbidden black rice.

The Vegetarian Flavor Bible by Karen Page

This one isn’t really a cookbook, but a matching of flavors that gives great inspiration for when you’re wondering what you could make with an eggplant (for example).  Another book I’d hold off on buying until you find yourself more independent in the kitchen.

Cookbooks I sadly don’t own but would if I had the money: 

  • My New Roots
  • One Part Plant by Jessica Murnane
  • Yum Universe
  • Oh She Glows
  • Love and Lemons
  • The Vegan Pantry
  • Arthur Kitchen

My favorite food blogs and Instagram accounts to follow:

*if not purely plant-based then they include many plant-based recipes

 

Follow my Pinterest board to get some inspiration for your next meal, and be sure to sign up to my email list to receive weekly round-ups of healthy plant-based recipes!

Seven ways to stay motivated you when you’re feeling down

Seven ways to stay motivated you when you’re feeling down

I won’t go too much in detail here (at least not yet), but as someone who has gone through depression, there are some things I’ve learned that have helped draw myself out of the funk I was in.

While these tips worked a whole lot for me, I am not you and I definitely think seeing a therapist and getting professional help is the number one option.  It is also important to remember that these tips will help make a difference only depending on the effort you’re willing to put in and the motivation to make a change in your life.

1. Make a chart with “rewards”
One day I thought about all the things I would like to accomplish in a day. Healthy habits, things that would help me on my own road to success, how to stay organized, etc.

I charted all of my goals on the bottom of a piece of paper and the days going vertically. I hung it up on the wall where I could see it (a journal or organizer also work well).  Whenever I would complete a goal, I’d check it off or color it in. After x amount of days of getting ALL my goals done, I rewarded myself with something that would motivate me to keep going, to keep fighting. A trip to the movies, a magazine, those running shoes I had my eyes on. Whatever speaks to you.

This may sound like something out of an elementary class, but for me it WORKED. It made me feel good and helped me to visually see which daily goals I’m struggling with and which ones I excel at.

2. Stick to a routine.  Then do something out of your ordinary.
This sounds a bit contradictory, but it make sense, I swear. Let me explain: By making a routine for myself, I now use the time that would have otherwise been spent ruminating over my life. As a stay-at-home mom, my schedule goes something like this:

5:30-6:30: wake up and start morning routine
1:30-4: Blog. Cook. Take pictures for blog. Work out. Clean. Daily tasks
8-10ish: Start night routine, reflect upon the day and look at tomorrow. RELAX.
(The missing hours are when Benoit is home and I am spending the time with him).

Whenever I don’t make a checklist or schedule in these activities with what I should or could be doing, I end up on the couch. Ruminating. And usually ending up not feeling so good about myself.

So make a date with yourself!  Many people who stick to their workout routines write down their workout time in their calendar-even if they’re just staying at home and not working out at the gym.

On the other hand….

It can also be nice to do things that are out of your comfort zone or out of the ordinary from your daily schedule. These can also be scheduled in your calendar so that you actually end up doing it. Make a date with yourself to go on a walk or check out that art gallery down the street.  Try out that running group you’ve been meaning to make your way to.  Doing something different outside of your normal routine helps put a little extra oomph into your life.

3. Write down and continuously glance at your favorite motivational quotes

Some of my favorite motivational quotes are up on my wall where I can see them every day. They keep me feeling optimistic and positive, and yes-they motivate me! I like to write mine on post cards and put them around the apartment, switching them out from time to time. Some I’ll take with me in my planner or keep in my purse to look at whenever I’m on the go.  And, of course, Pinterest is also a great way to find those quotes and your new favorites!

4. Ask yourself one simple question
Whenever I am refusing to do something that I know I should do, but for whatever reason (anxiety, feeling sad, laziness, fear) I am stuck to the comfort of my bed, I ask myself a simple question:

Do I want to get better?

If my answer is yes (which it always is) then 90% of the time I will go and do it. The important part of this is not overthinking it. Because when you start to think too much, you start to make excuses, and you don’t end up doing it.

For example.

Me:It’s time to go to my bootcamp class.
Also me: I make the excuse that it’s okay to stay home where I feel safe and besides I should get things done here anyways.
Me: If I go, will it take me a step further to who I want to be?
Also me: Yes.
Me: Ok then I’ll go.

And I’m one step closer to where I want to be.

5. Have a friend hold you accountable OR do it alongside a friend

Having a close friend who you can trust and be your cheerleader will be a special pick-me-up in your life. Someone who encourages you. Maybe that person’s your mom. Or your spouse. Whoever it is, ask them if they will hold you accountable for the goals you want to achieve. If they can check up on you on a weekly or every other week basis just to see if you are accomplishing your goals. All you need to do is ask them to send you an email every other Friday (for example) asking, did you get ____ done? You will automatically have a good kind of pressure put on you to get whatever it is done!

You could also team up with a friend who is also wanting to make a positive change in their life or just start getting up off the couch more often.  But remember, if the other person happens to drop out or they seem to get more accomplished than you, don’t compare and you won’t despair!

“Comparison is the thief of joy.” -Theodore Roosevelt

6. Journal

Over the past year I have re-incorporated journaling into my morning routine. Journaling whenever during the day is great to let out your frustrations and working to get past certain obstacles.  However, journaling first thing in the morning, right after you wake up, is the best. I read about doing this in the book The Artist’s Way (a life changer, by the way) and have been doing it almost every day since I first read about it. By writing right when you wake up it’s a huge release and you can get whatever it is you’re feeling out there and out of the way. It’s seriously therapy. It helps you express how you are really feeling. You needn’t share it with anyone, and you don’t have to re-read it. Actually the author forbids you to. Since I’ve been doing this, my mind has felt a million times clearer and I emotionally I feel so much better.

7.  Write out a personal mission statement 

This one right here.  It takes the cake.

When you’re depressed, you don’t have much hope for your future.  Trust me, I know.  Writing out my own personal mission statement of what I want my life/future to look like and how I could take steps to it gave me hope that my goals are possible.

So think of a goal you have in mind, and think big!  Getting into a college.  Getting that new job.  Opening up your own restaurant.  Becoming a certified personal trainer and holistic nutritionist (ha! That’s mine).  Write it down and whatever else you’d like to go with it, such as how much you want it and what it means to you.  Whenever you’re feeling stuck or lazy, take it out and read it – and get back on your feet again.

There they are! I hope these ideas may help you out the next time you need some extra motivation!