Happy New Year guys! Hope 2020 can be a great year for you, a year of reflection and a year when you decide to take good care of yourself and our beautiful animal friends. Today, I would like to answer a question I received by email from Neil:
“Happy new year. I want to start eating a plant based diet but I may have to have a pantry filled with the right products to help maintain. What is your idea of what a Vegan’s pantry should consist of?”
What a great question! Most of the time, when people decide to go Vegan they believe they have to purchase very expensive products and they are concerned they won’t be able to maintain this lifestyle. If you’re planning to go Vegan for 2020 please check first my blog post on How To Go Vegan In Trinidad and Tobago.
Now that you have decided to pursued this lifestyle, I am going to share with you a list of items I believe a Vegan should always have in their pantry:
This is the number one item in my pantry and every Vegan knows it is our main source of protein. I buy them dried and I use my pressure cooker to cook them. If you don’t have a pressure cooker, don’t buy dry beans such as red or pink beans because you can take hours trying to cook them in a regular pot and they will never get soft.
However, you can cook lentils and yellow split peas in a regular pot. Beans and peas are not only delicious and satisfying but also a great source of protein, antioxidants, B vitamins, dietary fiber and they help improve cholesterol levels.
I use red beans to make stews and chilies, yellow split peas to make dhal and the base for every soup I make and of course chick peas (channa) to make curry. I also love lentils and with them I make lentil burgers, lentil “meat” balls to go with spaghetti a la marinara and they are a great filling for a Vegan shepherd pie and pastelles.
Nutritional yeast is one item I believe every Vegan should have in their pantry mainly because they are a great source of vitamin B12. It contains all 9 essential amino acids that we need from food as well as very powerful antioxidants.
At home, we sprinkle nutritional yeast in all our dishes. I love to use it on top of chili or mashed potatoes because it does have a “cheesy/nutty” flavour. It is quite hard to find nutritional yeast these days in Trinidad (I usually buy the big one) so sometimes you might have no choice but to order it online.
Personally, I have never been a fan of rice but I love the basmati kind. It is so fluffy and delicious that I always make sure to have a pack in my pantry. Brown rice is also an excellent choice because it possesses greater nutritional value and it is very versatile.
Red rice, although not common, is a great choice due to its high levels of anti-oxidants. Another item I always have on my pantry is rolled and quick oats. This is perhaps the number one versatile item in my pantry. I use rolled oats to make oat milk, granola, granola bars and muffins and quick oats to make porridge, oat flour, pancakes, pizza dough and bread.
Let’s not forget cornmeal which I use to make polenta and dumplings for a delicious and hearty Vegan soup.
Dried corn kernels is another item I always have in my pantry, not the microwave kind but the one you can use a pop-corn air popper (if you don’t have one, consider getting one). The greatest thing about this item is that you won’t have to use any oil, it is a very healthy snack. If you are into quinoa, it is also a great item to have in your pantry.
NUTS AND NUT BUTTERS
This one is tricky because in Trinidad, I find nuts as a whole quite pricey (if you wish to buy in bulk) so I try my best to buy raw peanuts in a pack and get my husband to cook/roast them for me.
My top three favourite are almonds, cashews and peanuts. Nuts as a whole are an excellent source of protein, fiber and healthy fats. You can eat them as a snack, use them as toppings or (if you have a powerful blender) transform them into all-natural nut butters. If you don’t have a powerful blender, you can always buy the natural kind. I tend to stick to local natural peanut butter since almond and cashew butters are very expensive and I don’t believe in purchasing overpriced products.
The number one seeds in my pantry are chia seeds. When you go to the grocery, check all the brands. There are some local brands coming out with products that are very affordable compared to the imported ones.
Chia seeds are an excellent source of Omega 3 fatty acids, antioxidants, iron, calcium, you name it. So they are not just “trendy” items Vegans like to eat. They are also very versatile; I use them as egg replacements (1 egg= 1 tablespoon of chia seeds mixed with 3 tablespoons of water. Let the mixture sit for 15 to 20 minutes until it becomes thick and jelly-like, then add it to your recipe).
I like to also add chia seeds in smoothies and on top of oat crackers just before baking. You can also make yourself a chia pudding which is very delicious and healthy. I love to also add hemp seeds in my smoothies.
Another seed to have in your pantry are flax seeds, I tend to have flax meal which is the flax seeds but grounded. They are a great addition in baking as well as egg-replacements (same measurement as chia seeds). Sesame seeds are great to add on top of Vegan noodles, cookies or muffins.
I love to add spices in all my dishes and this is something I learned throughout the years but particularly when I went Vegan since I believe the success of every Vegan dish is in the right spices. I always ensure to have handy: Sea salt, black pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, oregano, paprika, chili powder, all-purpose seasoning, Chinese seasoning, curry powder, geera (ground cumin), cayenne pepper, cinnamon, red pepper flakes, thyme, vanilla extract, turmeric and ginger.
I try to cook everything from scratch but I also work full time so to make some days easier, I always have some canned items I can use quickly to put together dinner. You can do the same if your schedule is hectic. Some good items to have are: red beans, corn, peas and carrots, diced-tomatoes, coconut milk, spaghetti sauce, salsa, chick peas and olives.
There is Italian blood running in the veins of this Trini Vegan so pasta is something I eat quite a bit (although I must admit that I am trying to cut down and replace it for occasional rice pasta). In my pantry, I usually have macaroni, spaghetti, lasagna, and all kinds of short-shaped pastas. You can make Vegan macaroni and cheese, macaroni pie, Vegan creamy pasta, veggie lasagna, pasta salad among many other dishes.
I love baking so in my pantry, you will find all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, coconut flour, tapioca flour, corn flour and homemade oat flour. I bake Vegan breads, muffins, tarts and pies. I also make a hearty oat and coconut flour bread which smells like blueberries in the kitchen and I make my own tortillas for burritos and tacos.
Some items I also have in my pantry are: Cocoa powder (to make chocolate cake, pancakes, homemade Vegan chocolate, etc). If you love baking as much as I do make sure to have also baking soda, baking powder and instant yeast always handy.
At night, I enjoy drinking herbal infusions so I always have peppermint “tea” and decaffeinated green tea. Dried fruits are also other important items to have; they are great for snacking and to add them to muffins and granola bars. Apple cider vinegar is not only great for some recipes but it also helps your body become more alkaline.
These are just some basic items I have in my pantry, I’m sure you have other great ideas so please feel free to leave a message and let me know what other items do you have. This is the beginning of a great journey ahead of you! And remember, you don’t need to get all these items at once; you just need to start adding a couple of items at the time.
Happy 2020 my friends!