Tara’s Top 10 Staples for the Successful Vegetarian Kitchen:
- Dried Beans: with a variety of dried beans readily available in your pantry you always have something to make for dinner. Beans are versatile and can be made into lunch menu items pretty quickly, are packed with protein and fiber and can be customized to any taste.
- Rice: as you already know … I am a huge fan of basmati rice but any rice of your choosing is best to have around. Pair this with beans or veggies and tofu and dinner is ready.
- Frozen veggies: as opposed to fresh veggies, the frozen ones can be bought way ahead of time and used whenever. Whole foods does a great job at making a variety of ready-to-use organic frozen veggies available even. I feel so lucky and happy when I open the freezer and there is a new veggie in there and I can create something super exciting out of it without having to make a trip to the store. (I know … people already tell me I need to get excited about more exciting things but that’s another topic all by itself!)
- Nuts and nut butters: need lunch box items? Need breakfast? Want to bake cookies? Some little vegetarian hungry and you want to offer them something that is packed with protein and healthy fats? Nuts! Peanuts, almonds, walnuts … worried about them spoiling? Put them in the freezer.
- Oil: So many oil options and so much oil controversy. Look, it has been about 20 years since we were afraid of fat in our diets. Now, scientific research has evolved into a place where we understand nutrition and the needs of the human body better … don’t be afraid of cooking with oil!! Canola, grapeseed, coconut, avocado, olive, sesame … keep them all … they all have different uses.
- Dried Herbs and Spices: I keep a traditional Indian spice tray in my refrigerator also known as Masala Dabba. It contains turmeric, red chili powder, cumin seeds and mustard seeds. Most authentic Indian kitchens are stocked with this and it works wonders to facilitate cooking with common spices. In my kitchen, you will also find mason jars with cumin, cinnamon, basil, oregano, cardamom, garam masala, and lots more. The point is … invest in these and keep them in the refrigerator so that when you need them, you have them there and aren’t scrambling around looking for the right spice.
- Garlic and Onion: This vegetarian family buys this in bulk. They last for about 2 weeks in the refrigerator so no need to worry about spoiling. Recipes can usually be altered if you are missing an ingredient … not if the ingredient is garlic or onion.
- Vegetable Broth: want easy? Vegetable broth helps with that. I use vegetable broth in soups and gravies and to cook veggies. Make your own or buy an organic concentrate that you just add water to that you can stash that small jar in your refrigerator and again … be SO happy when you remember that it is there.
- Milk: this one is controversial but this vegetarian family is not vegan and as long as you are buying organic dairy from farms you trust I think dairy is a good source of protein and vitamins. Homemade yogurt, paneer, smoothies, ice cream, in some steel cut oats, or used in baking, milk does have its place in the vegetarian kitchen but please be conscious of the dairy you support.
- Tofu: buy a few blocks and toss them in the freezer. You will be happy (like me) to find that tofu next to those veggies we are both so excited about from tip #3.
This is my list of kitchen ingredients that I find helpful to have on hand to whip up a recipe without worrying about running to the store or being creative to still make something taste good without one of the ingredients. In honor of my vegetarian Eagle Scout … always be prepared!