Tired of food going to waste – perpetually disappearing into in the corners of an overloaded fridge? Or maybe you’re over sifting through numerous pantry items to finally uncover what you need. If you answered “yes” to either of these questions, you may want to consider a minimalist or “Zen” approach to organizing your kitchen staples.
Less really can be more, especially if you prefer fewer items of high food value to a large clutter of packaged, prepared or single-use items. If you’re ready to simplify, the following staples are not only densely nutritious, they’re also highly versatile, making it easy to create a wide range of healthy meals, snacks and drinks.
While all beans are great for you, chickpeas feature a unique, nutty and slightly buttery flavor – plus there are so many clever ways to use them! Quickly transform chickpeas into a luscious hummus or add a handful to salads, soups and stews. You can also make rich and satisfying fish-free “tuna” salad, which is perfect for sandwiches, wraps, as a dip, over a bed of greens or stuffed into a ripe avocado. In the mood for a crunchy snack? Roast them for a satisfying, protein-rich nosh. Give these chili-lime roasted chickpeas a try!
2. Chia & hemp seeds
This is one stellar duo. For starters, chia and hemp seeds are among the few plant-based sources of complete protein – that’s a full complement of all nine essential amino acids. A mere ounce of chia seeds contains nearly five grams of protein, eight grams of healthy fat and an impressive 10 grams of fiber. Try making chia seed jam with orange and fig.
Hemp seeds offer 10 grams of solid protein per ounce and 12 grams omegas 3 & 6. Enjoy their mild, nutty flavor in plant-based milk, smoothies and condiments – you can also use them to garnish your favorite meals and snacks.
3. Raw almonds
These protein-rich nuts are a super nourishing “anchor” food with many delicious applications. Enjoy them as a grab-and-go snack, chopped in salads or sprinkled over various entrees such as soups, stews, etc. They make for easy nut milk too. Recipe: warm spiced coconut-almond milk.
Enjoy nuts and seeds raw, as heating them can reduce their nutritional quality and damage the beneficial oils they contain.
These little gems are practically invaluable in a dairy-free kitchen. They, too, make a lovely plant-based milk, alone or in conjunction with other nuts and seeds. Raw, chopped cashews are splendid over soups, salads and entrées; you can also blend them into creamy sauces, dressings, cheeses and desserts. Check out these beautiful vegan wraps with spicy cashew cheese.
Why is this spicy root a kitchen treasure? Ginger has for centuries been revered in traditional cultures – and ancient healing systems, such as Ayurveda – for good reason. Ginger has been shown to support healthy digestion and counteract nausea. It’s also rich in nutrients, antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds. Try this ginger-lemon detox drink recipe for an amazing rise-and-shine elixir.
6. Raw cacao
While commercial cocoa is chemically processed, destroying many beneficial compounds – up to 90 percent of the original antioxidants may be lost through typical “Dutch” processing – raw cacao is a bona fide superfood. Rich in key nutrients such as calcium, magnesium and iron, cacao boasts an ORAC score of 98,000 per 100 grams. That’s 40 times the antioxidants of blueberries! Savor it in beverages, shakes and desserts. Click here to make your own healthy chocolate confections.
This sunny spice has been used in India for thousands of years, both in the kitchen and therapeutically, as it contains valuable anti-inflammatory compounds such as curcumin. Since it’s traditionally considered a medicinal spice, start out with a pinch, gradually adding more to foods and beverages over time. Please note, turmeric is activated by black pepper, which contains piperine, a natural substance that enhances the absorption of curcumin by up to 2,000 percent. You can enjoy the many benefits of turmeric in capsule form as well.
8. Raw apple cider vinegar
Also known as AVC, this is one of the healthiest and most versatile players in your streamlined kitchen. Unlike most forms of vinegar, naturally fermented AVC supports intestinal wellness thanks to the enzymes, amino acids, antioxidants and friendly bacteria it contains, among other benefits. Use it in salad dressings and sauces, or to quickly “pickle” your favorite veggies. Or blend your own vegan sour crème in a snap!
These incredibly versatile, great-for-you basics are so useful in creating daily meals, snacks and beverages. You may come to find them downright priceless in your healthy, minimalist kitchen.