Staple Foods: A Story about Humility

I’ve mentioned before the sticky veggies and rice we ate our first year of marriage like it was a thing of the past…but that dish made an encore appearance the first few months of our transition to a plant-strong diet as well. This is a story about humility.

When we made the final step into the plant-based world, I wasn’t quite sure what most of the ingredients were in the recipes I looked up: nutritional yeast, liquid aminos (liquid what?), fennel, chia seeds, etc. So instead of mustering my courage to ask a nice Whole Foods associate what those things were, I tried to do plant-strong on my own. I mean, I had been eating my whole life–shouldn’t I know food?

But I have been a meat-eating, processed-food-loving, refined-sugar-addict my entire life. That was not the knowledge I needed. I remember thinking canned vegetables grew out of the ground when I was really young and that red delicious apples were the only apples out there (and they lie–they are the opposite of delicious).

Despite my clear inexperience with whole foods (not the amazing franchise, but actual food), I arrogantly and foolishly thought I would tackle plant-based meals on my own. Ha.

So that’s how we got to the sticky veggies and rice. Mushy brown rice–think mashed potato consistency–soggy carrots and broccoli (the only vegetables I knew well), and bland tofu. We had that mixture too often in the early days. JD, of course, was kind about it, commenting on the quality of the vegetables being the problem, our stove acting up, etc.

But we both knew the truth–I didn’t know what I was doing.

As we washed down that slimy concoction with green tea for the 5th time in a month’s span, I swallowed my pride and resolved to ask for help next time we were at the grocery store.

That was over a year ago, and I still don’t know a lot about plant-based cooking, but I do know more now. I actually blend in with the hipsters drinking their soy lattes and grabbing gluten-free cookies at Whole Foods, and I never end up ordering pizza because I don’t understand the food in my kitchen.

I did a lot of reading and experimenting–two of my favorite things–and I feel so much more confident preparing meals each week.

Because I didn’t know how to transform meals into plant-strong, one of the biggest challenges I faced transitioning into a whole foods, plant-based diet was figuring out what to keep in my kitchen. Most of the staple foods we had known before our diet change were no longer an option, and we’ve found this is a common question with people making the transition.

I thought I’d share with you some of the staple foods we keep in our kitchen and some food tricks to survive that transition into a plant-based lifestyle over the next few weeks.

Today, I’m sharing a list of the staple foods that you’ll typically find in our kitchen with some ideas for how to use them.

Dry food:
Nutritional yeast: supplement nut cheeses, use as Parmesan or corn starch (only in salty foods), use as a cheese base for pesto, mix with avocado and lemon juice to make some yummy sandwich spread

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Brown rice/quinoa: tacos, chilis, curries, veggie burgers, stir-fries. There are lots of different kinds of rice out there, so try something new!

Oats: oatmeal, muffins, veggie burgers, pancakes, oat flour

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Whole wheat pastry flour: shortcakes, pancakes, scones, pizza dough
-Whole Foods, Sprouts, and any natural food store will have this

Almonds: milk, nut cheese, pesto, bars, snacks
-raw or roasted, just not salted!

Black beans: tacos, burgers, chilis, salsa over beans

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Red lentils: filler for chili and stir-fry, soups (mixed with sweet potato is delish)

Honey: sweetener for coffee, muffins, pancakes, teas, etc.

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Flaxseed meal: mix 1 tbs. with 3 tbs. water and you’ve got a substitute for one egg; add to muffins/pancakes to make them fluffier; beef up your veggie burgers

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Cold food:
Bragg’s Liquid Aminos: use as soy sauce (but use less of it than you would soy sauce)

Salsa: baked potatoes, chilis, tacos, beans

Organic soy milk unsweetened: if you’re a milk person like us, you need a replacement. Always get organic with soy.

Fresh peanut butter: toast, muffins, pancakes, stir-fry, bars, smoothies

Organic bagged mixed veggies: stir-fries, pastas, tacos, pizzas, enchiladas, steamed veggies

Produce (all organic):
Bananas: muffins, pancakes, snacks, cookies, smoothies, bars

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Onions: easy flavor for tacos, chilis, burgers, pasta, pizza, stir-fry, etc

Garlic: same as onions

Carrots: snacks, sandwich salad, puree to soften tomato sauce, juices, smoothies
-Whole Foods sells 5-lb. bags of carrots for really cheap. If you think that’s a lot of carrots (JD laughs at me every time I haul one of those babies into the cart), remember that they last for a long time in the fridge.

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Red potatoes: baked potatoes, potato soup, tacos, baked fries

Lemon: saute oil substitute, water/tea enhancer, fresh pastas and salads, dressings

What foods do you keep in your kitchen?


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