6 Unexpected Items to Add to Your Healthy Pantry/Fridge Staples
Too often, we mindlessly grab the basic items at the market, such as milk, eggs, bread and chicken, in order to ensure we can provide a healthy meal for our families and ourselves. (If you’re not sure at all what to buy–contact me right away at firstname.lastname@example.org, and schedule an appointment with me!) Eggs, milks, basic spices, brown rice, potatoes and canned beans are scored as must-haves for easy-to-make healthy meals. But the 6 items listed below, which are a little more unique and unexpected, are great additions for creating flavorful and satisfying meals, while still remaining healthy and without breaking the calorie bank.
Dried Cellophane noodles
Cellophane noodles (also called Chinese vermicelli, bean threads, bean thread noodles, crystal noodles, or glass noodles) and are actually made out of beans; most of the time mung beans, but can also be made out of yams or potato starch. Often used in Asian dishes, they are translucent noodles that can be reconstituted to be put into soups or made into spring or summer rolls, or simply provides a base for a simple Asian sauce; e.g. soy, sesame oil, sesame seeds or peanuts and scallions or garlic. (You get the idea.) They have a mild taste and are quite slippery in consistency. Best part of all is that they can satisfy your noodle cravings without adding all the extra carbs and calories. The nice thing about these is that they can remain on your pantry shelf for many months, so they are always on hand and you simply have to pour hot water over them to reconstitute.
Pomegranate molasses is a syrupy and tangy condiment made by reducing pomegranate juice. It can easily be made at home by slowly reducing pomegranate juice until it becomes thick. It offers a certain fragrance and acidity to your dishes that really livens up lackluster food. Use it in your next salad dressing, as a glaze mixed with soy sauce for lamb, poultry or fish and tofu, add to sauces and stews or even add it to iced beverages such as iced tea. Try it in your sparkling water with a little simple syrup or Stevia and fresh mint. It’s unusual enough to bring some brightness and sparkle to your everyday dishes. No longer an obscure mid-Eastern staple, you should easily find it in your local supermarket, and certainly on line. It has a long shelf life and will be a surprisingly versatile addition to your pantry.
Ever wonder why the sauces in dishes you get at Italian restaurants are so much better than at home? Believe it or not, it’s due to a little smidge of anchovy paste. Many people cringe at the thought of anchovies and I’ve met many a friend for lunch who gingerly picks them out of Caesar salads. But even just the slightest amount of this paste can add a depth of flavor and a special “fifth” flavor, i.e. umami, to many dishes. Add it to marinara sauce, or saute some garlic and onion in olive oil and then add a slight amount of the paste to it for a delicious flavor booster. You can even add scant amounts to soups, stews and braises to add more depth.
Don’t forget to take advantage of the extra umami that good, imported Parmesan can provide. Save the rinds and put them in sauces, soups, stews and braises. Grated Parmesan will round out your vinaigrettes and vegetables as well. Don’t forget to use it in your fricos.
We’re often accustomed to using only a few different oils in our cooking, namely the ever present extra-virgin olive oil, which certainly boasts taste and a good health profile. But an often-overlooked alternative is grapeseed oil. Made out of grape seeds, it’s a polyunsaturated oil which is neutral in flavor and has a high smoking point and is ideal for cooking foods at high heat, like searing meat, since the oil won’t break down easily. It’s also as healthy, if not healthier, than olive oil. A 1993 study supports the claim that grape seed oil increases high-density lipoprotein (HDL-C or “good cholesterol”) levels and reduces LDL levels. (Nash, DT (2004). “Cardiovascular risk beyond LDL-C levels: Other lipids are performers in cholesterol story”. Postgraduate Medicine 116)
Like kale of the green leafy veggies category, turmeric has become the darling of rhizomes of late. Don’t be alarmed by the fact that the fresh roots look like slugs. The little gems contain myriad properties that aid in digestion, act as a strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant and are quite versatile in their use in the kitchen. Shred some into smoothies, add to Indian dishes and curries and make fresh hot tea. They are becoming more available in the produce section of supermarkets. Click here for more suggestions on how to use turmeric in your cooking.
And to get a complete list of essential pantry items, click the image below!
What are some unexpected, yet healthy condiments or pantry staples that are in your kitchen? Let me know in the comments section!