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Let’s Peek into the Pantry

Welcome to 2021! We hope it’s off to a good start for you.

Although the world as you know it has been changing drastically for the past ten months, you can always strive to maintain a sense of normalcy and achieve balance in your life by eating healthy.

January is the perfect time to make changes and start fresh. That might mean taking on a vegan diet and lifestyle. Or it could simply mean maintaining your vegan lifestyle and adding variety to your diet. Stocking your pantry can help you maintain a healthy diet--by having foods that are good for you on hand, there’s less chance you’ll go looking for other (less healthy) options. Although fresh fruits and vegetables may be the core of a vegan diet, pantry staples are the foods that will fill you up.

A good tip for building up your pantry is to buy in bulk if possible. A dry-goods supply of grains, flours, spices and legumes are the basis for creating hearty dishes for yourself and your loved ones.

Beans are a “need”! Low in fat, and full of protein, fibre, and antioxidants, beans and legumes can help control your appetite, reduce the risk of cancer, and help maintain glucose levels. Whether dried or canned, chickpeas, kidney beans, white beans, lentils and black beans are ideal to keep in the pantry at all times. Use them to make soups, salads, casseroles, faux burgers and falafel balls, stews and chili. Adding beans to grains can help turn an incomplete protein into a complete one.

Like beans, grains are a staple in a vegan diet. When paired with nuts, seeds, vegetables, or beans, grains contribute to a protein-rich meal. Whole grains contain fibre, minerals, and vitamins, and because of their slow release of sugars into the bloodstream, whole grains keep you satiated for a long time. There are so many to choose from, including: rice, such as brown, long-grain, black or red. Rolled oats can be used in oatmeal, granola or baked goods. Some interesting whole grains to try are amaranth, freekeh, spelt, farro, millet, and buckwheat. Quinoa has gained popularity over the last few years because it’s gluten-free, has all nine essential amino acids, and is nutrient-dense. Wild rice, which is actually a grain of four specific grasses, so technically not rice, has a nutty, earthy flavour.  It is rich in nutrients and antioxidants and is  a perfect pantry staple. These days, you can even find whole-grain pasta and noodles made from spelt, rice or buckwheat. Cook up a whole batch of grains early in the week and find different ways to incorporate them into your meals throughout the week.

Nuts and seeds are ideal to have on hand. They are filling and versatile. Cashews, walnuts and almonds can be eaten by the handful, tossed into a salad or used for baking. They can also be used to make nut butters. Flax seeds contain a high source of Omega-3. They are a great alternative to eggs and are good for binding baked dishes. Chia seeds, sometimes called “superseeds,” also contain a lot of Omega-3 and can also be used as an egg substitute or added to smoothies or oatmeal. Sesame seeds, which come in black, brown or white, are high in calcium. It’s also ideal to have sunflower or pumpkin seeds in your pantry, which provide a terrific topping to a salad or can be used in a breakfast granola. Coconut flakes are also always welcome, and while you’re maintaining your supply of coconut flakes, make sure to also have canned coconut milk on your shelves.

Spices and dried herbs are the ingredients that add the most flavour to any dish. Although fresh herbs are also flavour enhancers, dried options tend to be more accessible and long-lasting. The ones you choose to stock will depend on what you like to cook and eat. Basics should include: sea salt, black pepper, garlic powder, rosemary, onion powder, paprika, chile powder, oregano, thyme, curry powder, ground coriander, smoked paprika, ginger and cinnamon. Turmeric, garam masala, and cumin are also gaining popularity, especially in preparing ethnic dishes, such as curry.  Nutritional yeast (“nooch”) is a mainstay in a vegan pantry. It comes either in powder form or flakes, and has a savory, nutty, cheesy flavour. It can be used to add extra protein, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants to meals. Sprinkle it on popcorn or on scrambled eggs. Stir it into a creamy soup to add nutrients. It offers a flavour that perks up any dish you’ve prepared.

Whole grain flour is essential for baking or as a thickening agent when making sauces or gravies. Ideal flour options include: spelt, almond, buckwheat, chickpea and whole wheat. Having almond meal, cornmeal, grits, and polenta in stock is a good idea. Whether you’re baking breads and buns, or cakes and cookies, or simply making pancakes or using these ingredients for a coating mix, it’s always smart to have a variety.

I think we’ve given you a good idea of how to stock your pantry with basic dry-good essentials for a vegan diet. We’ve got many more suggestions for you, but we’ll save them for a future blog post.

In the meantime, why not use combinations of those dry-good essentials to make side dishes, then add plant cuts or seitan from SUUP. Hey -- you’ve just created a complete meal. Or buy a ready-to-eat entrée from SUUP and enhance it with some beans or seeds.

Happy stocking -- or re-stocking -- your pantry!