Stocking a Traditional Foods Pantry: What to Buy, Where to Buy It & How to Use It
- What to Buy: Pulses are legumes grown for human consumption, and they include lentils and beans. Pulses are affordable and, when prepared properly, deeply nutritious offering concentrated sources of food folate and minerals like phosphorus. Choose organically grown beans and lentils. For those adhering to the GAPS diet, choose navy beans, lentils and lima beans.
- Where to Buy Them: I purchase the bulk of our beans and legumes direct from a local farm producing heirloom varietals. You can also purchase them in bulk through local buying clubs like Azure Standard or through special order at your health food store. Purchasing beans, lentils and other pulses and legumes from the bulk bins at your grocery store may present problems: if turnover is low, the beans are likely to look fine but cook poorly. Legumes stored for too long have a tendency to become hard when cooked and never fully develop their tenderness.
- How to Use Them: Beans and lentils are rich in nutrients, but are also rich in naturally-occurring antinutrients like food phytate which must first be neutralized before cooking, doing so also makes these foods more easily digested and less apt to cause gas or digestive upset. For more information on soaking beans, check out the new cookbook: Nourished Kitchen: Farm-to-Table Recipes for the Traditional Foods Lifestyle.
- How to Store Them: Legumes can be stored at room temperature. Care should be taken to minimize exposure to air, light and moisture. Glass mason jars and canisters work well. They’ll keep for about 1 year, and old beans should be discarded as they may not soften adequately during cooking.
- My Favorite Recipes: We love lentil stew, curried lentil soup, kale and white bean soup and slowcooker ham and beans.
- In My Pantry Now: Anasazi Beans, French Green Lentils, Zuni Beans, Colorado River Beans, Cannellini Beans, Black Beans, Trail of Tears Beans, Marrow Beans, Black Lentils, Purple Podded Soup Pea, Goat’s Eye Beans
Nuts, Nut Flours & Seeds
- What to Buy: Purchase organic nuts in their shells when possible, as they retain a higher level of nutrients and are less apt to go rancid than shelled nuts. When purchasing nut flour, purchase blanched nut flours. Blanching a a traditional process whereby nuts are first soaked in hot or boiling water, their papery skins slipped off, are dried and ground. This improves both the nutrient profile of the nuts (by removing naturally occurring antinutrients found in the skin) and makes for better dishes.
- Where to Buy It: Purchase nuts in their shells farm-direct, through your local health food store or online. If you have neither the time nor inclination to soak and dry nuts yourself to optimize their nutrient profile, you can purchase soaked and dried as well as sprouted nuts online. Nut flours are also typically available online and may also be found at your local health food store.
- How to Use It: Nuts and seeds, like beans and grains, should be first soaked overnight which helps them to release antinutrients like phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors which make nuts difficult to digest. Subsequent to soaking, nuts can be dehydrated or roasted.
- How to Store It: Nuts in their shells can be stored at room temperature. Nuts that have been cracked open, soaked and dried should be stored in the refrigerator or freezer to prevent the oils from turning rancid. Admittedly, I don’t always do this.
- My Favorite Recipes: I’m partial to enjoying nuts plain after having first soaked and dehydrated them. They’re also excellent in salads. For an alternative to flour, try using them to bread fish or chicken as in this recipe for sole meuniere.
- In My Pantry Now: Almond Flour, Hazelnut Flour, Pumpkin Seeds, Walnuts, Hazelnuts, Pine Nuts, Sesame Seeds, Poppy Seeds
- What to Buy: Coconut is a powerfully nutritive food and while I always try to focus on local foods in my kitchen, some foods are worth the travel: coconut products and spices. Coconut flour is a grain-free alternative to regular flour and is excellent in baked goods. Contrary to some vociferous opinions, it is not heavily processed and can be made in your kitchen. It is a product of coconut milk manufacturing. Coconut milk and coconut oil are also excellent for cooking, particularly as replacements for cow’s milk and butter/margarine. Purchase organic, fair trade coconut products without additives. Avoid the boxed coconut milk found in the refrigerated section of your grocer as it is loaded with additives and synthetic vitamins.
- Where to Buy It: You can purchase coconut flour, coconut milk and coconut oil at most well-stocked health food stores. You can also order in bulk online (see sources).
- How to Use It: Coconut milk can replace regular whole milk or cream on a 1:1 ratio. Coconut oil can replace other solid fats like butter, margarine and shortening on a 1:1 ratio. Coconut flour is fibrous and a little goes a long way so make sure you’re using an established and well-tested recipe first.
- How to Store It: Coconut products can be stored at room temperature in your pantry.
- My Favorite Recipes: We love coconut flour cake and I make it for birthdays. Coconut flour bread is also an excellent option for those adhere to grain-free diet.
- In My Pantry Now: Coconut Oil and Dried Unsweetened Coconut Flakes.
Good Quality Fats
- What to Buy: Good quality fats are important in any real food diet: they provide sustenance, fat-soluble vitamins, mouth-feel and satisfaction. Choose animal fats from pasture-raised animals, coconut oil, sustainable harvested palm oil, unrefined extra virgin olive oil and sesame oils. Ghee is a clarified butter made by slowly heating butter and skimming or filtering away the milk solids, the result is a cooking fat with a deeply nutty taste and a high smoking point. I also recommend coconut ghee which is a combination of both ghee and coconut oil with excellent applications in cooking. Avoid refined oils and processed vegetable oils like soy, cottonseed, canola and corn oils.
- Where to Buy It: Most good quality health food stores stock pastured butter (Organic Valley Brand) and ghee. You can also purchase ghee or clarified butter online in bulk (see sources). While unrefined extra virgin olive oil is easy to find at grocery stores and supermakets, finding unrefined oils can be challenging and I recommend purchasing them online. Coconut ghee, a combination of coconut oil and ghee, is also available only online (see sources).
- How to Use It: I use coconut oil, coconut ghee, ghee, tallow and lard for braising vegetables, braising meats and general cooking that requires heat. Butter we use melted as a topping for vegetables. You can learn more about fats and their uses in the kitchen here.
- How to Store It: Solid fats including butter, coconut oil, lard, tallow, bacon fat, ghee, coconut ghee and palm oil can be stored at room temperature, out of light, if they’re tightly closed. Olive oil and sesame oils can be stored at room temperature, away from light and heat. Flaxseed oil must be refrigerated and used quickly. Butter should be refrigerated or kept in a butter bell (buy one online) at room temperature.
- In My Pantry Now: Coconut Oil, Ghee, Unrefined Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Pastured Lard, Pastured Bacon Fat, Sesame Oil, Raw Butter
Grains, Flours & Sprouted Flours
- What to Buy: If you tolerate grains, purchase whole organic grains, whole grain flour and sprouted flours. For pastas and noodles, purchase gluten-free brown rice pastas and use them occasionally, not as a staple. If you consume grain, take care to choose a wide variety of grainsNote that couscous is not a grain.
- Where to Buy It: Organic whole grains can be purchased at most health food stores and most grocery stores. Purchasing in bulk through food co-operatives and buying clubs like Azure Standard help to mitigate the cost. You can make your own provided you have a dehydrator and grain grinder (see sources).
- How to Use It: Grains should be soaked overnight, soured or sprouted before consuming as they are rich in enzyme inhibitors which make digestion difficult and antinutrients which bind up minerals in the digestive tract preventing their full absorption. You can learn more about soaking grains here.
- How to Store It: Grains should be stored at room temperature, out of light, heat and moisture in containers (preferably airtight). Whole-grain flours and sprouted flours are best stored in the refrigerator or freezer to prevent them from losing valuable vitamins. Alternatively, by grinding your own flours you can minimize loss of nutrients by using the freshly ground flour immediately.
- My Favorite Recipes: Sprouted Wheat Bread, Cold Quinoa Salad, Brown Soda Bread.
- In My Pantry: Brown Rice Noodles, Amaranth, Quinoa.
- What to Buy: Purchase organic, unsulphured dried fruits. Alternatively, make them yourself using fresh fruit and a dehydrator (see sources). Conventional dried fruits are often treated with sulphur dioxide which preserves the color of the fruit, but alters its flavor. Moreover, sulphur dioxide is toxic in large quantities.
- Where to Buy It: Purchase dried fruit farm-direct through farmers markets and farm stands.
- How to Use It: We typically used dried fruit as a snack when paired with raw cheese or nuts and seeds. We also enjoy dried fruit in baked goods and with braised vegetables.
- How to Store It: Store dried fruit at room temperature in closed containers away from light, heat and moisture.
- My Favorite Recipes: We enjoy dried fruit in baked goods like brown soda bread with caraway and currants or election cake. And when Christmas comes around, we serve sugarplums.
- In My Pantry Now: Thompson Raisins, Dried Apricots, Dried Apples, Dried Pears, Dried Unsweetened Sour Cherries, Dried Currants
Salt & Spices
- What to Buy: Purchase organic or responsibly wild-crafted spices and natural, unrefined sea salts. I avoid purchasing dried herbs because they typically lack the flavor of fresh herbs which can be grown outside during good weather and inside during bad weather. When purchasing spices, it’s most affordable to do so in bulk and to purchase whole spices which you can grind yourself for maximum flavor as spices lose their perfume once they’ve been ground. Unrefined sea salts offer subtle variation in flavor with dramatic differences in color ranging from light grey to pink, orange or even black. The variation in both color and flavor is do to naturally present minerals which are lacking in refined sea salt and iodized salt.
- Where to Buy It: I purchase whole organic and wild-crafted spices in bulk online from Mountain Rose Herbs, though you can purchase bulk organic spices from many online sources. I also purchase my unrefined sea salts from Mountain Rose Herbs which stocks a wide variety of culinary salts. We purchase Real Salt in 25-lb bags at a discount from our health food store.
- How to Use It: Whole spices should be toasted in a hot cast iron skillet and then ground in a spice/coffee grinder (buy it online), the resulting ground spice is rich in flavor, and where there’s flavor there’s nutrients. Unrefined sea salt can replace regular salt in all recipes, I typically use Real Salt for most dishes and for preparing fermented foods. I use the salts found at Mountain Rose Herbs like Red Alaea, Black Lava and Smoked Salt as finishing salts where their flavor and color can be most appreciated.
- How to Store It: Salt can be stored at room temperature in or out of direct light. Spices should be stored in tightly-covered containers out of direct light, heat or moisture.
- In My Pantry Now: Real Salt, Red Alaea Salt, Smoked Sea Salt, Black Lava Salt, Coarse Grey Sea Salt, Finely Ground Grey Sea Salt, Cinnamon Bark, Allspice Berries, Mustard Seed, Whole Nutmeg, File Powder, Select Whole Chilies, Cardamom Pods, Saffron Threads, Cumin Seeds, Black Cumin Seeds, Vanilla Bean, Fenugreek Seed, Fennel Seed, Juniper Berries, Turmeric, Wasabi, Black Peppercorns, Pink Peppercorns, White Peppercorns, Coriander Seed, Cloves
- What to Buy: Sweeteners, even natural sweeteners, should be kept to a minimum or avoided. Of course, it’s nice to have a treat now and then so choosing the right sweeteners is a must for celebrations. As with all foods, the sweeteners you choose should be whole and unrefined: raw honey, whole unrefined cane sugar (AKA Rapadura/Sucanat), date sugar, green stevia, palm sugar, sorghum syrup, molasses, maple syrup and maple sugar all represent good options for natural, unrefined sweeteners. Agave nectar, raw agave nectar, corn syrup, white and brown sugars should be avoided as well as liquid and white stevia, xylitol and sugar alcohols as they are all heavily processed.
- Where to Buy It: Natural, unrefined sweeteners are easily found through local farms and through local health food stores and buying clubs. Palm sugar is easily found in most Asian markets. If you cannot find raw honey and other natural sweeteners in your area, you can purchase it online. Lately, I’ve favored Jaggery in cooking. It’s a traditional Indian sweetener of whole, unrefined cane sugar, and you can find it online (see sources).
- How to Use It: You can generally substitute unrefined cane sugar and palm sugar for brown or white sugar at a 1:1 ratio. Honey can be substituted for white or brown sugar at a 3:4 ratio. Date sugar is not particularly sweet and can be substituted at a 3:1 ratio for white or brown sugar. Sorghum syrup, molasses and maple syrup tend to be strongly flavored and should only be used when their flavor is desirable.
- How to Store It: Store unrefined, natural sweeteners at room temperature in closed containers away from light, heat and moisture. Honey will crystallize as it ages and can be slightly warmed to make it pourable again.
- My Favorite Recipes: We don’t do sweets too often here, but I enjoy sharing those sweets we do prepare at Nourished Kitchen. Sesame-honey Candy is always a favorite as is molasses custard, orange creamsicles and olive oil ice cream with blood oranges. We also love this Rhubarb and Jaggery Skillet Cake.
- In My Pantry Now: Raw Local Honey, Jaggery, Whole Unrefined Cane Sugar, Molasses, Sorghum Syrup.
Herbal Teas & Coffee Substitutes
- What to Buy: Black tea and coffee contain caffeine, and we typically avoid them. Instead, we rely on herbal alternatives: red tea is a nice alternative, and both dried and fresh herbs can make lovely teas. Coffee substitutes often contain chicory root or dandelion root which impart a robust and bitter flavor to drinks.
- Where to Buy It: Many coffee substitutes and herbal teas are available through your local health food store or grocery store. To save money, I typically buy my vanilla rooibos tea online through Mountain Rose Herbs.
- How to Use It: Use herbal teas and coffee substitutes in place of caffeinated teas and coffee.
- How to Store It: Store them at room temperature away from light, heat and moisture.
- In My Pantry Now: Vanilla Rooibos Tea, Mint Tea, Nettle Tea
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