A well stocked and oragnised pantry is a lifesaver for the busy cook, parent, workaholic.
UPDATE 13 October 2011: My son has decided to (finally) commit himself to a Vegetarian life! Yay! I am SO freakin’ happy. I am Vegan and feel it is right for me, but I was very mindful of my son’s right to choose for himself. This to me, is the true meaning of freedom. I never imposed any dietary restrictions on him – with the exception of fast food and foods heavily laden with artificial flavours, colourants and preservatives and sweeteners. When he was growing up, he chose to eat meat, would ask for it and so I cooked it. No, I did not like it at all. Not one bit. The antics in my kitchen, I can’t tell you. I am terribly squeamish and there was a lot of tears and squeals and swearing. I had to wear plastic gloves because I could not bare the thought of my hands touching dead, rotting flesh. So, I guess this is love. I do love my son but he is free. Free to choose. free to live by his own standards. Free to find his own path. I simply walk beside him on the journey and we keep each other’s company, talk and exchange ideas. But he is a Vegetarian now! WHOOP! Just waiting patiently and quietly for him to ditch the dairy. What about my husband, you ask? Heck no. Luckily he enjoys my Vegan cuisine and as long as he gets plenty of variety at each meal, he’s happy and won’t miss meat or even ask for it.
Having your ingredients at hand, labeled and dated means that throwing together a nutritious and exciting meal can be done in half the time spent staring mindlessly into jumbled cupboards wondering what the hell to cook and feeling more and more like dining out with each passing second. Know the feeling? Most of us do but it can be avoided and your body will thank you, your wallet will thank you and so will your family. Fresh ingredients should be purchased weekly to avoid spoilage and some fresh vegetables such as Bell Peppers, Spring Onions/Onion Tops, Tomatoes, Onions, Squash, Zuchini, Carrots etc can be purchased from the farmers market or local organic supermarket, washed, chopped, dated and placed in the freezer where they will live happily for up to three months. This is a cost effective option for large families or busy individuals and a much healthier choice than reaching for pre-packaged frozen meals that are laden with preservatives, flavour-enhancers, colourants, thickeners, bulking agents and added sugars and which are often produced in factories where wheat and dairy are also handled. Don’t forget fresh vegetables can also be pickled, canned and dried, ready to be used in the Winter months when not in season. If you can manage, buy organic produce and support your local organic farmers as much as possible. The more people buy organic, the cheaper it will become. I’m also a huge fan of kosher certified produce.
My husband is an omnivore and as much as it pains me to buy meat, I will only do so from a glatt-kosher butcher because I can be certain of the sanitary conditions of their slaughterhouses. Jewish ritual animal slaughter is known as shechitah, and the person who performs the slaughter is called a shochet. The method of slaughter is a quick, deep stroke across the throat with a perfectly sharp blade with no nicks or unevenness. This method is relatively painless, causes unconsciousness within two seconds, and is widely recognised as the most humane method of slaughter possible. Another advantage of shechitah is that it ensures rapid, complete draining of the blood, which is also necessary to render the meat kosher. The shochet is not simply a butcher; he must be a pious man, well-trained in Jewish law, particularly as it relates to kashrut (kosher). I believe farm animals should be treated well and respectfully and given a good life. Everything living deserves to be treated fairly and kindly. Those over crowded farms where animals become lame and deformed due to lack of space and an inability to sit or lie down should be outlawed and the farmers fined and jailed. These cruel practices must stop. We must not place the importance of money over quality of life, all life that is. It saddens me when I hear people shrug it off and say “well we are from this part of the world and we do things differently down here”, this is just a cop-out as far as I am concerned and an easy way to live a guilt-free, responsibility-free existence. Out of sight is indeed out of mind. Just because we might tell ourselves that something doesn’t matter, that doesn’t mean that it’s true.
In our household we also adopt the same eating restrictions of the Jewish folks by observing other Kashrut laws such as meat is not eaten together with dairy because there is evidence to show it interferes with the digestion. Pork is a no go as are crustaceans such as crab and lobster and all shellfish. The simple reason being that the pig is a dirty animal and it’s flesh harbours many parasites. Crustaceans and shellfish are natural scavengers that derive their nutrition from debris and decay.
Of course being Vegan makes me exempt from these worries, thankfully. Fruits and veg are inspected carefully for bugs and washed thoroughly. If any bug holes or signs of rot are found the produce is not eaten. We are not a Jewish family, but simply agree with this manner of eating. It is a very clean and conscientious way of living that we feel benefits our health.
I keep my pantry well stocked so I can whip up a meal or healthy snack in minutes. Useful items include:
WHOLE DRIED GRAINS
Black Rice (my husband goes crazy for the aromatic scent, sniffing each mouthful before eating).
French Puy Lentils
Yellow Split Peas
Kasha (wholegrain Buckwheat)
Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Flour
Coconut Flour ( stay away from ultra-white coconut flour, it is highly processed)
Brown Rice Flour
Flax Seed Meal (great substitute for eggs in any baking recipe)
Curry Powder (Either make my own or use Bolsts brand)
Garam Masala (make my own)
Five Spice Powder
Cinnamon Sticks and Powder
DRIED HERBS & SEEDS & NUTS
Berbere (Ethiopian spice mixture)
Black Mustard Seeds
Dried Ground Orange Peel
Dried Rose Petals
Wholegrain Dijon Mustard
Ume Plum Vinegar
Junmaisu Rice Vinegar (prefer Japanese brands over Chinese)
Benimosu, honey sweetened Vinegar
Gomashio (simple blend of sesame seeds and sea salt, great for jazzing up macrobiotic meals)
Umeboshi plum paste
Red Wine Vinegar
White Wine Vinegar