Making the transition to a vegetarian diet will mean that you have to cook more often than you may do now. So if you have made the important decisions to stay away from fast food and to eat more than just pasta all the time, then the next step is to transform your pantry!
Because let’s face it. If you have a variety ingredients on hand at any given time, you will cook more.
First of all, before you undergo your pantry makeover, take inventory of what you have and make it your goal to get rid of anything with more than 5 ingredients. That is the simplest way to “detox” yourself from all the processed foods we Americans consume. This will move you toward a whole foods approach which is the philosophy I am constantly striving for myself and my family.
And yes, this includes sugar cereals, anything containing high fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oils, processed cakes, cookies or crackers.
You don’t have to do this all at once either, you can transition out your old foods and transition in a new set of healthy items – believe me- its fun and exciting!
Here is a list of items I think are important to have on hand to begin cooking a variety of healthy, vegetarian meals:
Nuts and seeds
Almonds, Walnuts, Pine Nuts (but you will need to sell your first born for those!) Sunflower Seeds, Peanuts out of the shell (and IN – what a great snack!)
Quinoa, Millet, Barley (quick cooking for adding to soups and chili), Brown Rice
Whole Wheat Flour, Whole Wheat Pastry Flour, All-Purpose Unbleached Flour, Old Fashioned Oats
Beans (Dried & Canned)
Garbanzo Beans, Black Beans, Pinto Beans, Red & Brown Lentils
Balsamic Vinegar, Red Wine Vinegar, White Wine Vinegar, Rice Vinegar, Sesame Oil, Soy Sauce (or Tamari), Vegetarian Worcestershire (Annie’s is a great one!)
Organic Tofu both Extra Firm and Silken Soft, Tempeh (Fermented Soybeans – a great meat alternative), Vegannaise, Earth Balance butter (and butter sticks if you can find them!), Non-Dairy Milk (Almond Milk is my personal favorite, but don’t be afraid to try Rice, Soy and Coconut!), all natural Peanut Butter, Organic no sugar Jam or Jelly, Farm Fresh Eggs, Pickles, Olives, Capers, All-Natural Ketchup, Mustard (whole grain, yellow and Dijon)
Carrots, Celery, Onion, Lemons, Limes, Fresh Herbs ~ and then whatever is in season to add weekly to your fridge!
Honey, Agave Nectar, Organic Cane Sugar, Brown Sugar
Over the coming weeks, I will be taking some of the items listed above that may be less known and talk about what they are in detail, their nutritional value and how to prepare them. Start stocking your pantry with the things you know and are familiar with first, and as you get more confident in the kitchen, start adding the ingredients you aren’t as familiar with and get ready to experiment.
Once you’ve stocked your pantry you are ready to get cooking!
I will leave you with the words of the late (and awesome) Julia Child ~ “Do not be afraid!”