Essentials for a Well-Stocked Pantry – Part 2

These pantry essentials will give you all the options you need to put together a healthy meal, even if you haven’t been to the store in a while!

With these basics on hand, you can add many extras to round out a dinner – be it chicken, fish, cheese, or even some steamed veggies.

Beans: Canned beans are about the easiest item you can find to make a nutritious dish. I’m talking about kidney, black and pinto beans. And there’s no excuse not to get the organic variety.

These beans are high in fiber, protein, iron and B vitamins, and add flavor, texture and a nutrient boost to a meal without significantly upping the caloric content.  Their health benefits include lowering the risk of heart disease, colorectal cancer, obesity and Type 2 diabetes.

With beans on hand you can make hot dishes like chili, or almost any kind of cold salad. My favorite is a combo of tossed red kidney beans with nuts (pecans or walnuts), radishes, cilantro, spices, vinegar and olive oil.

Whole grain staples: These include pasta, rice, couscous and quinoa: Whole grains are best in their most basic forms, of which brown rice and quinoa are especially ideal. One of the best things about using whole grains, rather than the refined kind, is that they can serve as a foundation for so many different dishes, ranging from cold salads to sandwiches to Italian cuisine.

How about some sun-dried tomatoes (another good staple!) and steamed or sautéed kale over whole-wheat pasta topped with grated cheese? Leftover cooked pastas like rigatoni are perfect for a cold next-day salad. Try tossing the noodles with tomatoes, peppers, spices, and of course, topped with olive oil.

Rice: This staple can be used as the foundation for almost any meal. The main feature can be chicken or fish, or the rice can be the main course itself – that is, a traditional “rice bowl.” Just add steamed or sautéed veggies and any other additions you might like. I always top mine with a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil. Rice can be easily prepared in a rice cooker, which is one kitchen appliance that won’t just be gathering dust in your kitchen.

Stay tuned for another pantry essential – one that might have you going gourmet without even realizing it!

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