Pantry Clean Out

04/20/2012  

By now, you’re familiar with the amazing Pamela Salzman who not only is my cooking teacher, but my go-to guru for all things kitchen related. Pamela has taught me to cook with the best of what’s available and once my eyes were opened, I wanted to make sure everything in my kitchen was healthy and safe.  While Pamela encourages her students to buy the right types of flours, spices, oils, etc., she doesn’t expect us to overhaul our pantries over night. Her goal is for us to have all the tools to make cooking with organic, locally grown, and whole, natural foods easy. Pamela believes “it all starts with a well- stocked and perfectly planned pantry.”

Being the Virgo that I am, when I realized I wasn’t following Pamela’s pantry rules to the T, I had her come over one day and take over. She told me what to keep, what to throw away, what I needed to add, and explained the reasoning behind all of her wisdom. She emphasizes that having a well-stocked pantry gives us  “a foundation for more healthful cooking, with the right items, you won’t have to rely on convenience foods.”   This was key for me. 

The Cleanout

We started by taking everything out of the pantry and looking at the expiration dates and ingredients to see if we should keep each item or throw it out.  It was amazing how many things had gone bad and how many things were dangerous.  Pamela pointed out all the different ingredients that were just another name for MSG so that I would look for them in the future and steer clear.  We threw out all my cans with BPA as well.

Staples

Pamela has an amazing Pantry Check List on her website which served as our guide.  Once we were done purging, we went through her checklist and took a drive to Whole Foods to stock up on staples.  You can check out her tips below.

Grains

Most grains that we consume are refined.  The bran and germ layers have been removed leaving a simple starch with little nutritive value.  There is a world of tasty, hearty grains out there that give us fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals.  Be aware of how your body responds to certain grains, especially ones containing gluten. Also be aware of whether or not you're overexposing yourself to any one particular grain and seek more variety.  Once you've made the leap to whole grains, you may want to consider getting into the habit of soaking them before cooking for at least an hour.  Most grains contain phytic acid which can bind with certain minerals, such as zinc, calcium and magnesium, and prevent them from being absorbed by the body.  Soaking the grain in water helps to neutralize this effect and results in a more digestible food.  An added bonus is a slight reduction in cooking time once they’ve been soaked.

Gluten-free Grains:

amaranth, buckwheat, millet, GF oats - steel cut and rolled, quinoa, a variety of rice, brown rice pasta

Gluten-containing Grains:

barley, farro

Flour

Whole grain flours contain essential fatty acids, which can go rancid quickly.  Your best bet is to store them in the refrigerator in an airtight container. 

Gluten-containing Flours:

whole spelt flour, whole wheat flour, white whole wheat Flour, whole wheat pastry flour

Gluten-free Flours:

brown rice flour, coconut flour, finely ground almond meal/flour, oat flour, cornmeal

Legumes & Beans

Legumes are rich in protein, iron, and fiber and low in fat.  Like whole grains, legumes contain phytic acid and should be soaked before cooking.  This step will not only help make the legumes more digestible, but reduce the cooking time, as well.   To help tenderize beans and reduce gas, add a piece of kombu (a sea vegetable) to the pot.  Seek out beans from a source which has a high turnover (you don't want to buy ones that have been sitting in the grocery store for a year).  Old beans take much longer to cook and are generally more challenging to work with.

Even though I prefer beans and legumes from scratch, it is helpful to have canned beans in the pantry for last minute cooking.  I love the Eden brand because they use kombu in the cooking process and restrict the use of BPA in their cans.

Legumes that I typically cook with:

lentils, black beans, chickpeas, cannellini or Great Northern beans, pinto beans

Fats & Oils

It's so important to learn how to select, store, and use good quality fats and oils.  This is one area where many people are confused and for good reason.  There is so much contradictory information out there.  The first thing to keep in mind is that we need good quality fats as part of a healthful diet. Second, I follow the same rule of thumb with fats as I do with other foods – the closer they are to the way nature brought them to us, the more our bodies will welcome them.  That means unrefined and organic whenever possible.  Refined oils almost always rely on heat or nasty chemical solvents to strip them of flavor, color and fatty-acids that are fragile enough to keep the smoke point low.  The result is a neutral tasting oil that can withstand higher heat, but is damaged and stripped of its nutrients with a whole lot of free radicals in their place. 

Ghee and coconut oil, which are saturated fats, can handle higher heat.  But mono and polyunsaturated fats cannot. 

Olive oil,  a monounsaturated fat, should only be cooked with when the temperature will max out at 350 degrees or lower, as much as possible. 

Buy oils in glass bottles, preferably dark glass.  Store away from light and heat to prevent oxidation.

The unrefined fats/oils I use for cooking and baking are:

organic cultured unsalted butter, coconut oil, unrefined olive oil, sesame oil

The unrefined fats/oils I use only raw (never for cooking) are:

Flax seed oil, Hemp seed oil, Walnut oil

Sweeteners

I prefer to use sweeteners that have been minimally processed and are less destructive for our body’s delicate mineral balance.

The sweeteners that I use are:

brown rice syrup, unsulphured molasses, natural cane sugar, sucanat, rapadura, raw honey, 100% pure Maple syrup, Maple sugar, Coconut Palm sugar, dried dates 

Baking Essentials

A few of Pamela's baking must-haves:

aluminum-free baking soda, aluminum-free baking powder, 100% pure vanilla organic extract, dark chocolate- 70% cacao or higher

Raw Nuts and Seeds

You should refrigerate ones you don’t use frequently.

Some of Pamela's favorite nuts:

raw organic almonds by Organic Pastures, walnuts, pecans, pine nuts, Brazil nuts, pumpkin seeds (pepitas), sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, hemp seeds, chia seeds, flax seeds, gomasio

Vinegars & Wine

Pamela recommends stocking unpasteurized apple cider vinegar, the best quality balsamic vinegar you can find, unseasoned rice vinegar, sherry, red wine vinegar, white wine, and dry sherry.

 A Few More Tidbits

I love Celtic grey sea salt which contains trace minerals,as well as boxed or glass-jarred tomatoes (see my previous post), tomato paste in a glass jar, Anchovy paste, unsulphured arrowroot powder, unsweetened dried fruit, coconut milk, and unsweetened shredded coconut. XXJKE