While cleaning my kitchen/fridge the other day, it occurred to me that I've grown to rely on a few steadfast ingredients in my life. In a moment of reflection, I also realized how much different the food items in my fridge and cupboards are now than my "self" of years ago. I'm by no means perfect. But it feels good to know I've come to a place in my life where I'm no longer intimidated by creating new dishes. Really, being of Greek descent, I always thought I should've popped out of the womb with mad kitchen skills and somehow failed as a result of not being more of a natural. The skills I have I've worked hard to attain, and continue to do so. As a nutritionist, I know the excellent properties of many foods, but learning how to put them all together has been a constant growing experience. In fact, my food and nutrition students often give me ideas of new cooking methods! I avoided okra for many years because of their texture until one of my students gave me some insight into how to make them less slimy (drying them after washing and adding a liberal amount of lemon!). My lack of "natural" cooking abilities has, in the past, has led me to be a bit of a "lazier" (but still healthy!) eater. So, while I vary my diet regularly to keep things fresh and nutrtious, there are a few things I would be lost without. Here is a small list:
Matcha--This powdered green tea is filled with antioxidants and is extremely tasty for those who enjoy an earthier flavour. I use a tablespoon of it in my smoothies or dairy-free lattes, and I sometimes add it to my gluten-free pancakes. I was first introduce to it during a traditional Japanese tea ceremony and found its bitteness a bit overwhelming on its own at first, but now I can't live without it!It's a fantastic way to energize in the morning. I keep it in the fridge to preserve its freshness.
Ruth's Chia Goodness--This is a gluten-free mixture of chia seeds and many other delights, depending on the one I buy. My favourite is the Cranberry Ginger mix, which (other than the three obvious ingredients in its namesake) has other goodness such as pumpkin seeds, buckwheat, hulled hemp seeds, organic cane sugar, currants, and Celtic sea salt. It's a non-gmo'd product, and the beauty of chia seeds is that they their protein and fantastic essential fats are liberated when they become wet, so it's not necessary to ground them, like flax seeds. This product's super versatility means I can eat it as I would a cold or hot cereal, or I add it to salads, smoothies, or even my pancakes! It adds an extra kick of fibre, too, so I don't think twice about using it as often as the urge strikes! Keep it refridgerated once it's opened to keep the nuts and seed fresher for longer.
Coconut Oil--This not only adds a sweet flavoury goodness to stirfries, pastas, or pretty much anything else, I will use this oil to cook with because it has an extremely high cooking point, so I don't worry about its properties turning carcinogenic. PLUS it's great for the brain! Remember, "fat" is NOT a bad word when it's the good kind. In fact, it's NECESSARY!
Umeboshi Plums--These Japanese fermented plums are super alkalanizing, so I keep them around either for mornings after I've over-indulged, or I add one to my rice dish to flavour it up (probably a throw-back to my days living in Japan).
Greek Yogurt--It tastes like dessert, even though it's much lower in sugar than regular yogurt! Many people have an intolerance to lactose because they don't have the enzyme that makes it possible to digest this milk sugar, so plain Greek yogurt can sometimes be enjoyed by people with an intolerance to dairy. I wouldn't go crazy with it and have tonnes, though, because it is high in fat. It's also high in live bacterial cultures (probiotics!), and I eat it any way I can! Sometimes on its own or as a side, sometimes mixed with nuts/seeds/fruits, or I'll add it to a rice pasta dish to give it a creamy flavour. My favourite way to eat it this time of year is with a ripe avocado...creamy, heavenly goodness. And I will give a small amount to Riley (our bassett hound). He loves it! When he had swollen lymph glands from an infection, I fed it to him for about a week consistently and he got better! My vet laughed at me, but it worked.
Rice or Almond Milk--I ALWAYS have one of these in my fridge. I love my lattes, and I use it for anything as a substitute for a recipe that may call for milk. It won't have the hormones or antibiotics that are often found in milk, and it's great for anyone who might be lactose intolerant. It comes with "peace" of mind and a lot of yumminess! Just be sure to get one that does NOT contain carrageenan. Carrageenan is added to a lot of non-fat/low-fat foods, as well as milk substitutes, as a thickener, and it can cause digestive upset as it can coat the intestinal walls and make nutrient absorption more difficult.
So, these are just a few of my favourite staples. The more I type, the more I know this list can go on, but if any of these aren't on your grocery lists yet, try one and see how it goes. Not everything is for everyone, that's for sure, but if you're looking to kick things up a notch and want to try something different, then I say go for it! Experimentation is how each of these foods came into my life, and I'm better (and healthier!) for it!